Free MMORPG & Free MMOs

Archive for January 2009

By Cody ‘Neramaar’ Hargreaves

Fantasy Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Quite the mouthful, isn’t it? Due to the staggering amount of these game types in today’s world, we simply refer to them as MMORPGs now, as there is little in the way of other branches of the genre. Knowing this, I am saddened greatly when I think of the wasted potential in the genre – multiplied tenfold by the sheer influx of the fantasy themed variations.

Shaiya, Last Chaos, Silkroad Online, Lineage 2, World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, Lord of the Rings Online, Atlantica Online, 2Moons, 4Story, 9Dragons, Runes of Magic, Requiem, Rohan… and the list goes on. All of these games have been categorized as Fantasy MMORPGs – and all of them are more of less the exact same thing. Sure, they each of their own standout features, some more easily noticed than others – but when you break it down, they aren’t really that different at all.

The process is simple; you begin by creating an alter-ego from a list of standard archetypes, customize them to your liking, and proceed through the game by completing quests and killing NPC (non-player character) monsters to gain in strength. Some of the better developed games provide more content, such as dungeons and PvP variations to offer players a better experience, but still, it’s basically the same thing. Why? Well, my guess would be because they are all fantasy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fantasy themed games as much as the next guy, and I think games like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online mark the dawn of a new era of fantasy gaming – but the countless clones flooding the field are drawing greatly from the effect, and drowning the genre as a whole. What we need is some variation in the genre.

Sci-Fi MMORPGs would be a great candidate for features like perma-death, and squad based FPS gaming in an RPG environment. Players would need to form a crew (guild) in order to fly a space craft to other planets, and would need different classes to operate the ship.

Racing MMORPGs (not racing MMOs) could allow players to race against each other for ‘pink slips’ giving the winner their car at the end of the race – but also building up massive car collections for themselves while navigating vast life-like cities and fighting for survival in the Tokyo Underground.

Adventure MMORPGs could see Mario style platform games used in an online MMO environment crossing RPG strategy with Platform skill and perseverance. This is all off the top of my head, but I honestly believe that this type of innovative thinking will be the savior of the genre. We need to work together and combine our support for such games – let’s get off the fantasy train for a while and explore a few other scenarios, I reckon it could be a lot of fun.

Source:

http://mmohut.com/editorials/fantasy-mmorpgs-is-it-time-for-a-change

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By Cody ‘Neramaar’ Hargreaves

I’m a sucker for a good story, and I have been for as long as I can remember. It started when I was very young, watching Disney movies on my VCR. I would watch the same one over and over again, there was a certain magic about them that I just couldn’t describe. As I grew older, and started to read, I realized that the magic was in the story. The characters were loveable, the worlds were amazing, and the plots were captivating to the very end.

Video games were simply the next step, allowing me to take part in the story myself, play the lead role, and join in the adventure. Of course, I could never shape the story, and I had no control over the outcome. Dungeons and Dragons (the pen and paper version) was a godsend for me after playing so many Final Fantasy games. I not only shaped the story, but I created the characters and the worlds in which they lived too. I played D&D for many years, but nothing could have prepared me for my first MMO.

Lineage 2 – the game that changed my life forever – was my first MMO experience. It’s funny when I look back, because even though the point I will come to make later in this article revolves around the lack of storyline in today’s MMORPGs, Lineage 2 also had none. Instead, we made our own story. Our characters may as well have been real people – they had friends and enemies, strengths and weaknesses – but most importantly, they had a story. My friend and I, who played Lineage 2 together, have since written a book (three actually) on our adventures playing as these characters. It really was the most important part of the entire game for us, and still remains that way now.

The problem now though, is that the MMORPG scene has changed drastically since that time. Back then the whole ‘online world’ idea was still quite new, and as such, people respected it a great deal more. Now days, people don’t create stories in an MMORPG, they rush to the finish as fast as possible, and try endlessly to kill each other for no apparent reason at all. People can’t create their own stories anymore even when they want to; there are too many distractions to break the immersion. We need to take a step back, we need to look at the past – we need a storyline.

We need developers to make an MMORPG that has a solid and involving storyline, one that develops with further updates and patches. Sure, WoW does this quite well, but we need to start seeing it in the F2P area quite a lot more. Free MMORPGs like Shaiya and Last Chaos are perfect examples of games that while they include a back-story, don’t continue it as the game progresses. We need quests that make sense, missions that make a difference, and weapons that have been passed down through generations. We need a reason to play these games again other than simply becoming the best. I’m tired of endlessly trying to achieve that goal; I want to start playing games again that allow me to escape to another place, another time – and another world. I want games that have a story.

Source:

http://mmohut.com/editorials/subtracting-the-story

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By Cody ‘Neramaar’ Hargreaves

It could just be me, but I’ve begun to notice lately that in MMORPGs, character customization is a bit of a sliding scale when it comes to face, hair and body options. On the one hand, you have games like Perfect World and Runes of Magic that offer amazing customization across a wide variety of fields. On the other, there’s Last Chaos and Atlantica Online that offer practically none. Last Chaos in particular, along with several other games I might add, doesn’t even offer a choice of gender.

To put my point in perspective, the core feature in an MMORPG lies in the ability to create an alter-ego, and for however many hours a day you choose to play, become that alter-ego. Of course, single-player games have been giving us this option by way of an engaging protagonist for years, MMORPGs however were the first to really allow us to craft our own.

When I fist created LynianWinderfall, a quiet and selfless Elven Archer in Lineage 2, I had a feeling of accomplishment that surpassed any I had ever felt before. Lynian wasn’t simply another character in the game, he represented me (more accurately, everything I wanted to be), and I was solely responsible for his actions. Asking for a turn while I was playing was on par with stabbing me in the arm and asking if it hurt. No-one played LynianWinderfall but me, simply thinking such things was punishable by an in-game arrow barrage resulting in death.

My friends at the time, having created their own alter-egos in Lineage 2 felt exactly the same way. They were hand crafted by them personally, and they may as well have been real people as far as they were concerned. Now days, I’m finding it hard to find a game that simply allows me to play as a male! Sure, female Rogues probably look better than male ones, I’m not going to deny that, but that’s not us to you! It’s up to me! Surely allowing players the option to choose their damn sex can’t be such a hurdle in game development. I mean, okay, if there are story elements involved that limit such things I might be able to allow some leeway, but since when did an MMORPG have a consistent storyline? Well, that’s another rant for another day I suppose.

When it comes to choosing the shape and size of your body, or the color of your hair, not even Lineage 2 offered any real form of customization. From memory there were only six different types of hair and face options available. Do the math and you’ll soon find that there are a lot of people running around that look the exact same as you do. I don’t know about you, but bumping into a look-alike in the middle of an open plain ends my freakin world. The façade I have created for myself, the tale of an adventurer exploring the world is all but entirely ruined, and I am sent hurtling back toward the real world – no more than a guy in an arm chair sitting in my room playing computer.

Bottom line is, character customization allows us to be different. It allows us to assume the role of someone else for a while. It’s the very reason why so many people, perhaps even you, enjoying playing that brand new MMORPG so damn much.

Source:

http://mmohut.com/editorials/mmorpg-customization-crisis

By Cody ‘Neramaar’ Hargreaves

It’s a well known fact among many gaming circles now days that the Fantasy MMORPG genre may very well be coming to an end. The simple, repetitive process of creating a character, and grinding (the process of killing enemies over an over repeatedly) to become more powerful is becoming beginning to feel stale, and many gamers are asking for more.

The only true advancement made to the genre as a whole these past five years has been the jump from pay to play, to free to play. Games like Lineage 2 that require a purchase and monthly subscription fee have been overthrown by those like Last Chaos, Silkroad Online and Shaiya, that offer better graphics and gameplay, and are entirely free to play.

Of course, these games offer little in the way of innovation, and for the most part act as nothing more than copies of their former subscription based models, and while the simple fact that these game require no purchase or payment to play feels quite exciting and new right now, it wont be long before players realize that they are still essentially playing the same thing – and will begin to crave something new.

What the genre needs is change – not simply a new world with new characters, but something entirely new, something completely different, something to inject life back into an otherwise dead style of gaming. Knowing this (by way of the ability to peer into the future, of course) I have begun to search for developers with a like mind. Developers that have seen the future as I have, and are craving something more. At this point in time, that developer is Adventurine, and their game is Darkfall.

Although Darkfall has been in development for almost 9 years, the strict beta access and impenetrable NDA protecting it has left those wanting more information on Darkfall with empty pockets. From what do we know, Darkfall is a highly PvP orientated ‘carebear free’ game, with a world bigger than the majority of us could even imagine. Combat will be carried out in real time, requiring players to actually aim their bow and spells in a third-person perspective, as there will be no auto-attack function featured at all.

There will be no safe zones, and PvP will always be enabled. Additionally, defeating another player in PvP combat will see you able to loot their corpse, allowing you to take their gold, weapons, armor, and anything else they may be carrying at the time. Of course, the same rules apply to you, and if you are killed, expect to lose everything. All weapons, armor and items however are both designed and created by players in the game, so provided you have the required skill and materials, re-equipping yourself may not be such a difficult task.

The standard leveling system has been thrown out entirely, as have classes, allowing players to create their own classes by simply learning to use anything they wish. Pick up a sword and practice with it and you will soon find that you can purchase new skills for the sword, and the same goes with everything else. The dynamic environment and weather systems will see players that want to stealth being required to actually hide – in long grass, bushes, tress – using the cover of darkness to annihilate their enemies.

Of course, a full PvE Quest system will be included, and players in guilds are free to create not only their own homes and castles, but their own cities too. There is simply too much information to describe here, and anything more would be doing Darkfall little justice. If you too have begun to find that the Fantasy MMORPG genre feels stale, if you too are becoming bored with doing the same thing again and again, Darkfall may be the answer to your prayers too. Darkfall is due for release on the 25th of February – check out http://www.darkfallonline.com for more information.

Source:

http://mmohut.com/editorials/mmorip-the-death-of-a-genre

By, Omer Altay

Awesome… another lame item shop
Every time I download a new MMO, I’m usually disappointed to learn that the game’s store only has a handful of items for sale. After I finished racing through a few games of Outspark’s exciting new snowboarding MMO, Project Powder, I was excited about the game because the gameplay was incredibly fun and it had a fairly sized community. After I learned that the game’s store only had a handful of t-shirts and pants for sale, my earlier enthusiasm had quickly died down. How on earth could the developers of Project Powder spend so much time and effort creating a marvelously addicting and fun snowboarding game, but fail to create more virtual t-shirts and accessories? I mean come on, how difficult could it be to add more t-shirts and pants to the game? What’s the point of spending countless hours playing a game and earning virtual money that can only be spent on five different t-shirts and 3 pants? If I play a game for hours on end, I want to at least buy some stylish clothes and snazzy accessories.

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No Excuse.
There’s simply no excuse for Project Powder or any other MMO to offer anything less than a hundred articles of clothing / accessories at the game’s store, because if they don’t, players are going to starting quitting and moving onto games with more customization and things to do, like Exteel. That game really nailed the concept of having a lot of things to purchase in the game’s store, as it literally has hundreds of different items to buy. 5Street did the same thing, as the store has countless different t-shirts, pants, hats and goodies to purchase. I shouldn’t be picking solely on Project Powder, because even other games like Tales Runner and Project Torque also have this same issue, in fact almost every MMO game does.  Developers and publishers need to get their acts together, as the free MMORPG and MMO genre is starting to get competitive, so they’ll need to start appeasing players if they want to stay in business.

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Hurrah! Playing housing… oh wait….. This sucks.
A lot of newer games are starting to include the very basics of player housing, where everyone gets to own their very own home in the game’s virtual world. The concept itself has limitless potential, but so far I’ve yet to see any free MMORPG really put any effort into developing the concept. Games like Runes of Magic, Pi Story, Nostale and 5Street all have player housing, but players can’t really do anything with their homes, as customization is usually extremely limited. So what SHOULD player housing have to make it better? Well, here’s a freebie for all you game developers out there, player housing should have almost limitless ‘upgrades’. When I say almost limitless upgrades, I don’t mean an elaborate system of complex customization; I mean a boatload of house size upgrades. Imagine playing a game like Runes of Magic, but instead of having nothing to spend your money on, you every let’s say 100k gold makes your house physically bigger, and after a thousand or so upgrades, your house transforms into a multi-story flying castle with huge cannons and tons of awesome cosmetics. This may sound pretty ‘useless’, as it wouldn’t affect the actual gameplay, but simply having another way to spend money in an MMORPG would only enhance the enjoyment of that game and add a whole lot more playability to it.

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Source:

http://mmohut.com/editorials/two-things-i-hate-about-most-mmos