Free MMORPG & Free MMOs

Archive for April 2010

You guys know the drill. Swat gear. AK-47s and M16s. That describes just about every single MMOFPS currently available. They all seem to mimic counter-strike with a few MMO elements (experience and shopping). Games like Operation 7, Mercenary Wars, Soldier Front and Sudden Attack are all practically identical. Heck, just about every MMOFPS is identical to every other MMOFPS. It’s safe to say once you’ve played one, you’ve played them all.

As a big fan of FPS in general, I’m always looking for new games to try, but I’m constantly disappointed by the lack of innovation out there. Only after learning about Battlefield Heroes did I regain some of my lost confidence in the free to play shooter market. For those that haven’t heard of Battlefield Heroes, it’s a f2p cartoony game based off the incredibly popular Battlefield franchise from Electronic Arts. The game is both light hearted and fun. It both looks and feels genuinely different from all the tactical Counter-Strike clones out there, which in and of itself respectable. Aside from Battlefield Heroes the only other genuinely ‘unique’ games in the free to play MMOFPS genre are Quake Live and America’s Army. Quake live is different because it doesn’t try to be realistic. It’s a bit sci-fi themed and crazy. America’s Army is different because it focuses on realism and teamwork.

On the other hand, the Operation 7’s and Soldier Front’s of this world are carbon copies of each other. I’m actually convinced that every single one of these tactical MMOFPS games are built off of Sudden Attack. Developers just grab the Sudden Attack source code and modify a few things here and there and label their modification a new game. I used Sudden Attack in this example because as far as I know it’s the oldest MMOFPS game out there. In fact, if you look at the interface in games like Combat Arms and practically every other MMOFPS, you’ll notice how similar the interface is to Sudden Attack, especially in the ‘equipment’ and ’store’ areas of the game. The fact that all of these games are copying Sudden Attack reminds me of how nearly every MMORPG is a WoW clone.

Anyone else here tired of all these generic tactical MMOFPS games? I know I am. I guess I can still look forward to Huxley: The Dystopia, Genesis A.D and Metal Rage as those games are supposed to be different (based on the screenshots I’ve seen and info I’ve read).

There are surprisingly only a handful of really big budget free to play MMORPGs. Nowdays, it seems like every big console game costs tens of millions to develop. Premium pay to play MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Eve Online are also costly to develop. In fact, Bioware’s upcoming pay to play MMORPG ‘The Old Republic’ is rumored to cost nearly 100 million to develop. When it comes to free to play games, the only ‘really’ big budget game is Allods Online, which is a 3D Fantasy MMORPG developed by a Russian game development firm, and that had a 12 million dollar development budget. $12 million may seem like a lot of money, but compared to the cost of developing console games, $12 million really isn’t that much. The latest Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy XIII, cost Square-Enix at least 40 million to develop. Now, it isn’t exactly fair comparing apples to oranges, but what I’m trying to get at is $12 million isn’t a lot of money compared to console games.  I’d also like to point out that Allods Online was one of the most expensive free to play games ever developed.

So if Allods Online costs $12 million to develop, how much did it cost to develop MapleStory? Or Dungeons and Dragons Online or something less known like Rappelz? Who knows. These companies never reveal their actual development costs. My guess is that most of these games cost peanuts to develop. I say peanuts compared to console games. Millions of dollars is not peanuts =].  On the other hand though, there are many… many low budget free to play MMORPGs as well. Games like Magic World Online, Great Merchant and Mercenary Wars are all low budget titles. Now, this doesn’t make them ‘bad’ games, as Mercenary Wars is a pretty interesting MMOFPS game. What I’m trying to get at is that there are a disproportional amount of ‘low budget’ games in the free to play MMO space and only a handful of moderate to high budget titles.

I’d like to see more ‘big budget’ free to play games, as Allods Online is awesome and I’d like to see more games like it. For those that haven’t heard of Allods, it’s basically a WoW clone, but a damn good one.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that 2D MMORPGs seem to age much better than 3D MMORPGs. This is likely because 2D games don’t rely too heavily on realistic ‘good’ graphics. This is definitely a good thing, because as graphics get better and better, games like Runes of Magic and Dungeons and Dragons Online which once had ‘top notch’ graphics, now only have ‘decent’ graphics. In a couple of years, these games will have ‘bad’ graphics. Games like MapleStory and Wonderking on the other hand had ‘decent’ graphics when they were first released, and still have ‘decent’ graphics today and will have ‘decent’ graphics in the future. If I were an MMORPG developer, I’d opt to do something 2D, as it’s guaranteed to survive longer, provided that my game is actually decent.

I don’t mean to bash on 3D games, as I love games like Allods Online and Aika, but in five years time, so many people won’t even try these games because they’ll have such lousy graphics. It’s awesome that technology is advancing so fast, but it’s also a bad thing for these games. Big budget pay to play MMORPGs like World of Warcraft can afford to update their graphics engine every couple of years, but for free to play games, it’s a rarity. I actually prefer cute MMORPGs or Anime MMORPGs, as I just find games with brightly themed graphics to be easier on the eyes.

There are so many older 3D MMORPGs that looked great when they first came out, but look terrible today. I know it’s hard to imagine people saying “Dungeons and Dragons Online has bad graphics”, but in the future, when graphics improve, it’s going to happen.

Well, what does everyone else thing? Do you folks prefer 2D or 3D games? any why?

How awesome would it be if Nintendo released an MMORPG? They have so many well known game franchises to work with, so they could definitely release something awesome. Just imagine how cool a Pokemon MMORPG would be or even a casual Mario Party MMO. It seems like there are hundreds of Korean MMORPGs and Chinese MMORPGs on the market but not that many Japanese ones. I know Square Enix has Final Fantasy 11 and Final Fantasy 14 (In development), but both of those are pay to play. Final Fantasy 11 does have a free trial though.

Come to think of it, very few mainstream video game publishers have their own free MMORPG. Electronic Arts, the second biggest game publisher in North America, only has two free to play MMOs – Battleforge and Battlefield Heroes. Sony only has ONE – Free Realms. Activision Blizzard only has one game, and it’s pay to play. There are 200+ free to play MMOs available to gamers in North America, but very few of them are published by traditional game publishers. Outspark – the guys behind Fiesta Online, Erebus and Secret of the Solstice, are starting to get bigger, but they’re nowhere near mainstream. Nexon has proven with the success of MapleStory and Mabinogi that free to play ‘works’, so why are western developers and publishers ignoring this space all together?

Guys seriously. Nintendo should make an MMORPG. I know for a fact Nintendo would make a killing off of a Pokemon MMORPG. A company called WeMade released Digimon Battle in the United States a few months ago, and the game is fairly popular. The game is like 8+ years old, but people play the game because they like the Digimon franchise. Pokemon is 1000x bigger than Digimon, so the game would definitely be instant hit. Heck, the Pokemon MMORPG could even be a browser game, and it would still be awesome. Nintendo could even make an MMOFPS with their Metroid franchise.

What do you guys think? How amazing would it be if Nintendo made their own MMORPG?

As free to play MMORPGs and MMO games get better and better, their file sizes also seem to get bigger. I remember just 3-4 years ago when the only popular MMORPGs were Ragnarok Online, GunZ and MapleStory most games were under 1 GB. Today, most games are well over 1 GB. It seems like even the newer ‘cartoony’ games are huge as well. WonderKing and Fantasy Earth Zero which both have pretty lame graphics are well over 1GB. This isn’t exactly a big deal for most people, but some folks have small hard drives, so every megabyte counts.

The 1GB games aren’t really a big deal though. The problem is that some games are over 4GB! That’s HUGE! A lot of the ‘great’ games tend to be big as well. Newer epic 3D MMORPGs like Runes of Magic and Karos Online are big games. They have gorgeous realistic graphics, so it’s fine that they’re big. I just wish game developers utilized a sort of ‘download as you go’ system, so those with slower internet connections don’t have to wait days to download one game. The problem with today’s system is that most people will never reach the super end game for most MMORPGs, so there’s no point in ‘downloading’ all of that content. Instead, players should download content as they progress in a game.

This would work remarkably well in linear games like Lunia and Dungeon Fighter Online. As players complete stages, they can download the next stage as they play. This would allow new players to enter the game right away, without ever having to download an enormous file. This could DEFINITELY work. I know a few games that do this, but not nearly enough. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Wizard101. The game downloads new areas as you progress.

What do you guys think? Wouldn’t this just be… better?

It looks like Huxley: The Dystopia is going to join Priston Tale 2 and Dreamland Online in the ‘never going to be released’ club. I remember YEARS ago, Huxley was announced as an MMO shooter for consoles, but has since transformed into a free to play MMOFPS for the PC. ijji, the folks behind GunZ, Lunia, Soul of the Ultimate Nation, Soldier Front and Drift City, were supposed to publish the game. Unfortunately, Huxley has remained in closed beta testing for over a year now without ANY updates. As a big fan of MMOFPS games, I’m a bit disappointed that Huxley may never get released. Obviously, this is only speculation, but from what I’ve observed, games that go years without any real production updates are the games that never come out.

The concept of an MMOFPS with an actual persistent world sounds awesome. Huxley was supposed to have many more ‘RPG’ elements than other shooters. The game was supposed to be a bit like Planet Side, a relatively unknown subscription based MMOFPS by Sony Online Entertainment. If you’ve ever played Planet Side, you’ll definitely agree with me that it was an awesome game. Even if you didn’t like the game’s mechanics, the concept of a persistent world MMO shooter is awesome. Huxley is still being developed by Webzen and uses the Unreal Engine 3 – so the graphics are definitely top notch.

Come to think of it, there are a numerous games in the ‘never going to be released’ club. Kart Rider, by Nexon (The same guys behind Mabinogi, Combat Arms and MapleStory), had its open beta back in 2007 and has since disappeared without any formal announcement. Dance Groove Online has been ‘coming soon’ on Outspark’s (Guys behind Fiesta Online, Erebus: Travia Reborn and Secret of the Solstice), portal for ages. Priston Tale 2 has also been coming soon forever.

I don’t really care too much about the other delayed MMORPGs, but I really want to see Huxley get released. I’m confident that if ijji just launches the open beta for the game, it could be hugely popular.

One thing I’ve noticed in the free to play space is the growing number of MMORPGs that try to mimick Diablo 2’s incredible gameplay. Just yesterday, Perfect World Entertainment released Battle of the Immortals, which both looks and plays like an improved version of the hit classic. Before Battle of the Immortals, there were numerous other free to play MMORPGs that were similar to Diablo 2. Mu Online for example is a fairly old game, but generally plays a lot like Diablo 2.

TQ Digital also has a few games that play a bit like Diablo 2. Conquer Online and EuDemons Online for example have the same general isometric Diablo 2 look and action oriented gameplay, but the visuals are lacking. I find it fascinating that even though Diablo 2 has been around for 8+ years, modern games are still typing to copy its success. As a gamer, I actually like seeing Diablo 2 style games, as I feel there aren’t enough action MMORPGs out there. Come to  think of it, the only really good action MMORPGs I can think of off the top of my head are Dragonica Online and GhostX.

What do you guys think of Battle of the Immortals? I’m quite excited about it. I logged on the other day and I made a level 20 Magus character in a matter of a few hours. The experience rate is quite fast and the maximum level is 90+. One thing, I don’t like about Battle of the Immortals is its in game ‘bot’ system. The bot system works like the bot system in Magic World Online and Godswar – in that the game plays itself. Luckily, players are only given the chance to use the bot only 30 minutes or so each day.