Free MMORPG & Free MMOs

Archive for July 2009

Why is it that more than one MMORPG game publisher publishes the same game? It doesn’t make any sense. Games like Nostale for example are available in the United States through two different publishers. Players can sign up for the game on nostale.net or on nostale.uforia.com. Isn’t it weird that the same game is available on two different websites? On two completely different servers?  I’m not sure what Nostale’s developers were thinking by licensing their game to two different companies in the same region, because as it stands the game’s playerbase is now divided. This really hurts the ‘user experience’ as a game’s community is a big part of MMO games, and having a game’s community split totally sucks for players. To be fair though, NosTale isn’t the only game that’s published by more than one company. La Tale for example is currently being published by the folks over at OGPlanet for North American users, but it looks like Aeriagames will also begin publishing the same exact game soon, as La Tale is currently in Closed beta over at Aeria. Another game, Luminary: Rise of the Goonzu used to be published by both Ndoors and IJJI, but luckily the folks over at IJJI merged their servers with the Ndoors game.

The question now is, why on earth do game developers license their games to multiple publishers? Heck, if I was OG Planet, I would be furious at La Tale’s developers for giving their game to Aeria, especially after initially giving it to OG Planet! Successful games like Atlantica Online, Runes of Magic and Fiesta Online for example don’t license their games to multiple publishers for a reason, so why do some people do it? I’m pretty sure this practice has a lot to do with greed. Developers are looking to milk their games as much as possible, but I feel that this practice will only end up hurting everyone, as a divided community will hurt the user experience causing some people to quit, less players will hurt the publisher and the less revenue publishers make the less the developers make. So, what’s the point of this article? To urge developers to stop licensing their games to multiple publishers!

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Honestly, I think the free to play MMORPG game market is growing way too fast. It seems like every month a n ambitious new game publisher opens its doors for the first time in hopes of making it big in a market overflowing with MMORPGs. Companies like Aeria Games that have multiple successful titles like Last Chaos, Twelve Sky and Shaiya are making money hand over fist in the lucrative micro-transaction based business, but other smaller companies like Uforia who only publish smaller less known games like Red War, Three Kingdoms and Nostale are in risk of going bankrupt. The fact is, there are far more online games out there than the amount of players needed to make them all profitable. What this means is that some of these free MMORPG publishers are doomed to failure.

Now, I bet a lot of readers are thinking, “where are the facts? The numbers?”,  Well  I don’t have any numbers in front of me, but I can say from firsthand experience that a LOT of MMORPG games are deserted. Stone Age 2 for example, only has a handful of players online at any given time. A HANDFUL of players. There’s no way the game’s publisher can recoup their expenses for the game with only a dozen or so players online at any given time. I’ve personally played dozens of games where the total number of players online were less than 100. Personally, I’d love to see every game bustling with activity, but with so many Free MMO games on the market, this isn’t possible. Surprisingly, there are very few major browser games with this problem, as almost every browsed based MMORPG I played had a healthy playerbase.

For as long as I can remember, Bit Torrent has been a tool used by pirates to illicitly ‘acquire’ music and movies. Just recently though, over the last year or so, Bit Torrent has grown to become one of the primary download methods for several big MMORPGs. World of Warcraft for example, uses bit torrent for patching while games like Project Powder,  Fiesta Online, and GodsWar utilize bit torrent to transfer the entire game client over to players. Personally, I feel that even though bit torrent can speed up downloads on some occasions, it’s almost always slower than a mediocre HTTP direct download. For extremely popular games like Atlantica Online, a bit torrent based downloader could work, as the game has millions of players, but for smaller titles like Wolfteam and Angels Online I’d much rather prefer a reliable direct download than bit torrent.

As I mentioned earlier, bit torrent can be helpful in some cases, but in most cases it’s a lot slower. I can bet that the reason for implementing a bit torrent type solution has a lot more to do with saving bandwidth for the publisher than improving the user experience. I Have nothing against trying to cut costs, but I think publishers should use HTTP direct downloads for their games over bit torrent, as it’s almost always faster. This is sort of a pointless rant, as almost every game publisher offers both options. I guess my what I’m trying to get at is that publishers should make the ‘default’ download option the more familiar direct download method while having the bit torrent option there but secondary. As it stands, a lot of MMORPG games have torrents as the primary download method. At least browser games don’t have this issue!

I’m really not sure why a lot of free MMORPG / MMO games utilize web based client launchers, but so many of them do and they’re all incredibly annoying. After I download and install a game, I expect to be able to launch it by double clicking the game’s icon on my desktop, having to go to the game’s official website, logging in, and then click launch game is a bit tedious. You’d imagine ‘newer’ games wouldn’t  employ such a silly and annoying login method, but they do. Battlefield Heroes for example, a relatively new MMOFPS game, requires users to login to their account on the game’s official website before being able to launch the game. A few other game’s that employ similar techniques are Rohan Online, Soldier Front, GunZ, Drift City, Lunia, and Gunbound.

The reason why I’m not a big fan of the whole ‘log in to website, then launch game’ system is that it usually requires some sort of ‘ActiveX’ plugin to be downloaded before a game can be launched through a web browser. As a tech savvy gamer myself, I understand that ActiveX plugins through reputable gaming websites won’t do anything to harm my computer, but I fear that a lot of younger gamers or those that aren’t tech savvy would be too scared to download an ‘ActiveX’ plugin just to launch a game, especially since all of the newer web browsers prompt scary warning messages when a site asks a user to download any sort of plugin. I feel that MMO Games that require users to launch the game through a website deters some people from ever downloading the game, which ultimately hurts that particular game’s playerbase. At least Browser Based MMORPG games don’t have this issue, because they never require ActiveX installs. Game publishers, please don’t require users to launch games through your websites, it’s terribly annoying!

So many people complain that leveling in some MMORPG games can take too long, and those that complain do have valid reasons, but one argument that I rarely hear is that grinding ‘crafting skills’ takes too long. In all honesty, I feel that improving crafting skills in most MMO Games is a complete waste of time, as its 100% mindless grind. At least when you ‘grind experience’, you’re actually doing something, killing monsters. Grinding crafting skills on the other hand usually involves watching a little ‘progress’ meter fill up over and over again for countless hours. It’s even worse if you have to ‘farm’ the materials yourself, as killing low level monsters just for their raw resources is incredibly boring.

Not only does mastering a crafting skill take countless hours, it’s also extremely expensive. In games like World of Warcraft and EverQuest, mastering a crafting skill is enormously expensive, as countless ‘materials’ are needed to max out even a single crafting skills. On top of crafting being expensive, it’s almost always useless. I actually grinded up my Mining and Blacksmithy skills in World of Warcraft once, and I found that blacksmithy was an absolute waste of time. 90% of the time, in order to craft a piece of armor or equipment it would cost MORE to buy all the materials and craft it myself than just buying the piece of armor pre-made from another player. Very few games actually make crafting rewarding and the only game that comes to mind in this regard is a Free MMORPG called Luminary: Rise of the Goonzu and that’s only because players can ONLY acquire equipment from other players. Monsters don’t even drop equipment. Honestly, grinding experience points is boring enough, I don’t see why anyone would bother to grind up trade skills as well.

I must have ranted about this before, but I dislike it a lot when I play an MMORPG with a low or medium playerbase. MMORPGs are supposed to be massively multiplayer. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words massively multiplayer, I’d like to expect to see a ‘massive’ amount of players running around me doing things, but this is rarely the case, especially as a newbie. If you’re a newbie in established free MMORPG games like Rappelz, Last Chaos or even Twelve Sky,  odds are you won’t bump into any other newbies remotely close to your level, as everyone is already ‘omg leet level 80+’ or at least that’s how it seems.

The only games that really feel ‘massively multiplayer’, at least to me, are brand spankin’ new ones. I remember when Luna Online and Red War first came out, the newbie areas were so incredibly packed that the game actually felt truly massive. I Can’t say these two particular games themselves were great, Luna Online being much better than Red War, but they felt massive, and for me that in and of itself was good. I remember everything a monster spawned, 5 newbies, myself included, would run at it to try and be the first one to attack it in order to secure myself some experience points. Aside from just trying to steal other people’s kills, a game with a large community, is just a more ‘complete’ MMO. More players means more interaction and isn’t interaction the purpose of playing an MMORPG?

Okay okay, I’m going to do something that I don’t usually do in my rants. I’m going to actually offer a solution to this particular issue, rather than just complain about it. I actually talked about this in another rant, but MMORPG publishers should just combine some of their servers into one or two big ones rather than 10-20 medium sized ones. This would instantly ‘grow’ the game’s community, as it would certainly boost player interaction. Super popular MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Silkroad Online don’t have to do this, as almost all their servers are loaded anyway, but smaller Free MMOs like Luminary: Rise of the Goonzu and EuDemons Online would certainly benefit. One good thing about Browser Games is that they tend to only have one or two servers, which ensures for a better community.