Free MMORPG & Free MMOs

Archive for August 2009

MMORPG developers have gotten way too lazy when it comes to designing quests. Almost every single quest in any MMORPG involves either role playing as a FedEx driver [Take this item and give it to an NPC named John Thunderhoof across town!] or a genocidal maniac [Kill 50 Baby Gnolls, 20 Mother Gnolls and 10 Gnoll Brutes]. Personally, kill quests in MMORPGs are an excellent distraction from mindless grinding, but I feel that quests should add a little more variety to the game. MMORPGs like Runes of Magic, Fiesta Online and WindSlayer are genuinely good games, but they have rather dull quests. To be fair though, 95% of MMORPGs have this same issue, I just used the three games mentioned as examples.

There’s nothing wrong with delivery and kill quests, but there’s no excuse for developers to use only these kinds of quests. Games like MapleStory and Dragonica Online for example, really take questing to the next level because they have a lot of unique quests. MapleStory has a boat load of ‘plat forming’ quests which require players to make it from one end of the screen to the other by dodging obstacles, sort of like a stage in Super Mario. Keep in mind MapleStory has the generic ‘go kill X amount of Y monsters’ and ‘fed ex’ like quests, but the fact that it also has other types of quests makes the game a lot more enjoyable.

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There are quite a bit of MMO shooters on the market, most of them first person, some of them third person. Everyone has their preference, but I feel that third person shooters require more skill, mainly because players have a lot more to focus on than just a cross hair. Using the camera effectively in a third person shooter is extremely important and can be the difference between a kill and a death. This is especially true in games like Battlefield Heroes and GunZ where players are given such flexible control of the camera. The ability to control and use the camera effectively adds another layer of gameplay to an otherwise simple genre.

Even though I feel that third person shooters demand more skill from players, there’s no doubt that first person MMO shooters also require some skill. This is especially true in tactical MMOFPS games like Sudden Attack and Soldier Front where players literally die in a single shot or two. Normally in these types of games, players with the fastest reaction times almost always win, making them extremely brutal for newbies. The only way for newbies to actually do well in a lot of tactical MMOFPS games is to fire rapidly towards their opponent’s general direction hoping for a headshot. Players new the MMO shooter genre should stick with games like Combat Arms and WolfTeam, because headshots are much more difficult to get, allowing newbies to stay alive longer and enjoy the game a bit more. WolfTeam is actually one of the most unique MMOFPS games out there because it allows players transform at any time into a melee oriented werewolf with superior speed and attack.

For a long time, pay to play games like World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online were considered untouchable, but as it stands the MMORPG market is evolving. More and more free MMORPG games are being released every week while only one or two major pay to play MMORPGs are being released every year. Just because there are a lot of free to play games though doesn’t mean any of them are really ‘great’, but I can safely say that the ‘latest generation’ of free to play titles are downright amazing.

New free to play titles like Atlantica Online, Runes of Magic and Dragonica Online can actually stand toe-to-toe against pay to play MMO juggernauts like World of Warcraft and Eve Online. These game’s aren’t ‘cheap’, as they have great production values. Heck, Runes of Magic looks just as good as World of Warcraft graphic wise.  Those who have played Dragonica Online will vouch for me when I say that game is downright amazing for a free to play title. Heck, it’s a lot better than some pay to play games like EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies.

The real question is, when will pay to play games die off? The free to play market is just growing way too fast while free to play games are only getting better and better. Games like World of Warcraft and Eve online won’t be able to charge $15 a month when there are literally hundreds of free alternatives that are equally as good.

Ever since the free MMORPG / MMO market exploded, the gaming market has been flooded with new titles. There is literally a new MMORPG coming out every month now, but even with all of these new games being released, only a handful are truly unique. For some reason game developers like releasing cookie cutter generic grind fests that most gamers are tired of rather than genuinely different games. Personally, I’m tired of playing generic fantasy games like Last Chaos and Dragon Sky. I’m not saying these games are bad, because they aren’t. In fact a lot of ‘cookie cutter’ fantasy games are quite good, but they feel too much like ‘the same old thing’.

There are only a handful of ‘fantasy MMORPGs’ that I would actually play and they are Runes of Magic, Atlantica Online and Fiesta Online. I personally love these games, but not because they’re unique, but because they’re incredibly polished. Sure Runes of Magic is a knock off of World of Warcraft, but it’s still a fun game.  Now that I’m done playing these games though, I want something unique… something different.

Over the last year or so, there has only been three or four genuinely ‘different’ games to be released. The latest one being GhostX. For those of you that haven’t heard of or played it, I strongly recommend giving the game a download as it’s one of the most unique games of 2009, at least in my opinion. In short, it’s an action rpg with MMO elements. Another genuinely ‘different’ game that I’ve played recently is Battlefield Heroes, which is a 3D third person MMO shooter with Team Fortress 2 like cartoony graphics. Sure the game looks like Team Fortress 2, but it’s different, mainly because of its MMO elements. Battlefield Heroes is the first ‘free to play’ game in the now critically acclaimed ‘Battlefield’ franchise. Unfortunately though, there are very few games these days that feel ‘fresh’. I guess the point of this article is to urge developers to stop making cookie cutter fantasy grindfests and start making games that are different!