Free MMORPG & Free MMOs

Archive for September 2010

Remember games like Evony, Caesary and Tribal Wars? Or how about Dark Orbit, SeaFight and Deepolis? These are six popular browser based MMORPGs of this generation. The next generation of browser based MMORPGs will mop the floor with these old games. Why you ask? Simple. Technology. Newer games like Nanovor Evolutions, Tiger Woods Online and Battlestar Galactica Online which are powered by the Unity Player have much better graphics and gameplay than older browser based games. The Unity engine allows real 3D graphics on the web browser – which looks awesome. And when I say 3D, I mean actual good looking 3D – not blocky 3D like Roblox and RuneScape.

Even on the strategy MMO front, games like Evony are in trouble. WarStory from BigPoint is a new strategy themed browser MMO with much crisper graphics and more in depth gameplay. WarStory is being powered by Microsoft Silverlight, not Unity though. BigPoint has had a lot of success with their older MMORPGs, but even they are embracing new technologies. Battlestar Galactica Online will be powered by Unity. Games like Farmerma, War of Legends and Xblaster will still be around, but the next wave of games will feature rich 3D graphics.

I suspect that new browser MMORPGs will be equal in terms of graphics quality with current-gen client based MMORPGs. There’s no reason that older popular MMORPGs like MapleStory and even Runes of Magic can’t run through Unity or on the web browser. I think client based games will eventually be extinct. Everything will be streaming through the internet – sort of how Second Life actually streams player made content on the fly. Somewhere someplace there will be a datacenter of PCs doing all the heavy lifting for generating good graphics and cpu power. The results will be transmitted through the net on end-user monitors. This way, all the CPU and GPU computing is outsourced to a datacenter, where it can be done more efficiently. This would make browser based MMOs and client based games equal on graphics.  This is probably many years away though, but browser based games will continue to get better and better.

I think PoisonVille, Neverland Online, Pirate Galaxy and even World of Cars is testament that newer browser based games look great and will only continue to get better. Client based games are of course improving too. I mean just look at Vindictus and EverQuest 2 – these games are absolutely stunning. The only thing is, I hope MMORPG music quality also  continues to improve. I don’t think I’ve ever played a browser MMO with good music quality. MMO music is definitely important too. At least graphics will only continue to improve

BigPoint – the MMO publisher behind numerous browser based games including SeaFight, Dark Orbit and Deepolis announced many new free to play MMORPGs recently. BigPoint is probably best known for their simple 2D browser based games, but they’ve recently begun embracing more complex 3D MMORPGs. Maestia is one of these games. I’m pretty sure BigPoint didn’t actually develop Maestia, but they will be the company publishing the game in Europe. Maestia finished its closed beta testing in August and launched into open beta on September 15, 2010. Unfortunately, Maestia seems to be EU only – so North American players won’t get a chance to play it.

BigPoint also launched Poisonville into open beta recently. Poisonville is a game fully developed and published by BigPoint. It’s actually their most expensive MMO ever developed – clocking in at around $2 million in developments costs. The game isn’t too impressive visually, even though its 3D, but its gameplay looks like a lot of fun. Poisonville is trying to capture the “fun” of Grand Theft Auto and APB and bring it to a much more accessible level on the web browser. Unfortunately APB shut down recently and was a big MMORPG flop, so hopefully Poisonville doesn’t meet the same fate. Aside from these two games though, BigPoint has been expanding like crazy.

They launched a slew of new games in 2010 including Farmerama – a browser based farming MMO that was designed to compete with Farmville which Zynga makes. So it looks like BigPoint is entering Zynga’s turf. Farmerma isn’t exactly a social game the same way Mafia Wars, Pet Society and NightClub city is, but it still competes with FarmVille – which is Zynga’s most popular game. I’d like to see BigPoint launch some facebook games too – as browser based MMOs can easily be integrated into facebook.

So with BigPoint rocking the browser game space, launching 3D games and publishing popular third party MMORPGs like Maestia – what’s next? I’d like to see BigPoint focus more on launching and licensing games globally though. I Feel that’s what made Dark Orbit and SeaFight super popular – global access. Maestia is EU only at the moment – the same way Martial Empires from Gamigo is EU only. Also the same way GamerKraft has Priston Tale 2 in EU only and Suba Games has it in the U.S. One large server would definitely have been better for both the developers and players.

With legend of Edda, Iris Online, CosmicBreak and a ton of other new MMORPGs coming out, a lot of people forget about the older MMORPGs that are still alive and kicking. Archlord and Mu Online on the Webzen gaming portal for example are still alive and kicking. Mu Online is actually a really old Diablo inspired MMORPG with a sizable playerbase. Battle of the Immortals and even Erebus Travia Reborn are both newer and better titles – but people are still sticking with the game. Archlord is an old 3D fantasy MMORPG that used to be pay to play, but went free to play. The game has been out for well over 4 years now and it’s still around. Ace Online and Luminary: Rise of the Goonzy both borrowed the whole “Rule the server” feature from Archlord.

Other older MMORPGs like AstroN, 9Dragons and Cabal Online are around too. AstroN is published by GameIs the same company behind the Carom3D billiards MMO. It’s a sci-fi MMORPG thats been around since 2006 or so. 9Dragons used to be published by Acclaim, but it’s now being published by GamersFirst – as they bought the license for the game after Acclaim went bankrupt. Cabal Online used to be published by Ogplanet, but the developer of the game yanked the license from them. Now it’s being published world-wide on the developer’s own website. Which is sort of neat I guess.

Newer MMOs are fun and all, but I think too many people are ignoring some of the great older games. New doesn’t always mean better either. The Fists of Fu game from Outspark and Mission Against Terror FPS from Suba Games for example are two brand spankin new MMOs that are absolute trash. Both games releaed in late 2010 too! Some newer games are great, but I like to stick with some of the classics that helped re-define the genre. Maplestory and RuneScape are two such games. They were really the first mega popular free to play games. After they had huge success in North America – other companies starting launching their games here. Nowdays we have all sorts of free to play MMOs from the golfing MMO Pangya to a DotA like Avalon Heroes. There are well over 200 free to play titles out there – not counting browser based games.

So which game should you play? Old or new? Both.I personally like to play games with large playerbases, as I feel that an MMO isn’t worth playing if it doesn’t have a large and growing playerbase. So I like to play all sorts of games. I’m looking forward to that new action MMORPG from Nexon though – the one everyone really wants to play – Vindictus. Any new MMORPGs you guys are looking forward to?

As more and more free to play MMORPGs launch, it seems like they’re all getting bigger and bigger in size. No, i’m not talking about content, I’m talking about file size. Runes of Magic from Frogster is 7GB, The Lord of the Rings Online from Turbine is a whopping 8GB big, and Age of Conan from Funcom is some 14+gb big. It seems like as games get more and more advanced, their file sizes also continue to grow. Even WonderKing from Ndoors is 1.2GB – and that’s a 2D side scrolling MMORPG! How can a 2D side scrolling game be that big is beyond me.

I find it ridiculous that so many free to play MMOs are over 1 GB in size – especially really basic looking ones like Fiesta Online from Outspark is 1.2GB and Dungeon Fighter Online from Nexon is 2GB in size. Dungeon Fighter Online – for those that don’t know is a RETRO 2D side-scrolling brawler MMORPG. It plays like the old Gauntlet Legends game in the arcades. It’s actually more like Golden-Axe than anything else. So why is it that the game is a whopping 2GB in size? I have no idea. As is, the game is much bigger in size than NUMEROUS 3D MMORPGs like Metin 2, Hero Online and Karos Online. Heck, the graphics in Karos Online are GORGEOUS and the game is only 950 MB in size. So why is that NHN was able to create a gorgeous game like Karos Online at under 1GB and Nexon couldn’t make Dungeon Fighter Online smaller? It’s beyond me.

Some reasonably sized free to play MMMORPGs include games like Grand Chase and Conquer Online. Both of these games are less than 600 MB in size. Grand Chase is by Ntrev and is a fun side scrolling MMORPG with fun cooperative elements. Conquer Online is from TQ Digital and offers a ton of content. Another example of a game that has a huge file size is Company of Heroes Online from THQ. The game Is quite fun, but the file size is so big.

The problem with huge file sizes is that downloading these games can take ages – especially for those on slower internet connections. It took me like 5 hours to Download The Lord of the Rings Online and another hour or so to patch it. Huge file sizes are perfectly fine if the game actually downloads fast, but download speeds are usually limited by the server you’re downloading it from. If thousands of people are tryign to download the same game, it could take forever for it to finish. A few other games with reasonable file sizes include Battle of the Immortals from Perfect World Entertainment and Lunia from ijji.

I think independent game developers can be very successful if they make free to play MMORPGs. Forget developing regular PC games or console games – MMOs are the way to go. Why? Because one successful game can bring in a steady stream of revenue. Just look at Eternal Lands – the 3D fantasy MMORPG that looks a lot like RuneScape from Jagex – the game is very popular. It has some 400+ users online at all times. That’s more than ACTUAL MMORPGs like Robo Smasher from KRU Interactive and Outer Galaxies – a sci-fi themed browser based game. So how is it that an indy game like Eternal Lands can have so many players while commercial games can’t? Well – it’s simple. Indy developers tend to pay more attention to what their community actually wants. Companies like Aeria Games, Uforia and gPotato can’t always do this – especially since they publish more than one game. Just look at gPotato – they publish Luna Online, Aika Online, Allods Online, Fly For Fun, Iris Online and numerous other free to play games. They can’t just focus on one game – they’re always looking to launch new games and try to make more money, so it’s hard to focus on just one thing.

So where are all the indy game developers? They’re off making games for the Xbox-live arcade or launching flash games on sites like Newgrounds. I think they can be much more successful if they focus on free to play games. There are quite a bit of Indy browser based games like Fallen Sword and Dragon Fable, but there are very few client based indy MMOs. Earth Eternal is like the only one. Dreamlords and Saga are two others, but that’s it. All the major games, such as Battlefield Heroes, Rappelz, Metin 2 and Wizard101 are all developed and published by major companies. Games by big companies aren’t bad, but indy games tend to bring more innovation – as major game studios have been releasing the same old wow clones over and over again.

I think the future for indy free to play MMOs is with the Unity Web Player. The Unity Web Player is capable of rendering gorgeous 3D graphics on web browsers and game developers can use the Unity Web Development platform to design their games for free. That’s right, game developers can develop full 3D games entirely for free on the Unity Web player. This isn’t some cheap game development software like RPG Maker either. This is the real deal. It’s the same platform Captains of Darktide and Fusionfall use – two major browser based MMOs. Both with top notch graphics too.

Anyway. Indy game developers… you guys need to start embracing the free to play MMO model.

Well, It looks like it’s official OutSpark will be bought out by another company. Well, the deal hasn’t been inked yet, but they did confirm they were in late-stage talks with their suitor. Yeah, I’m talking about the same OutSpark who’s best known for publishing Fiesta Online – an anime inspired 3D MMORPG and Secret of the Solstice – a Ragnarok Online like game. Of course they publish other games too – like the upcoming Erebus Travia Reborn and Divine Souls – but I wanted to focus on their two most popular games which are Fiesta and Secret of the Solstice. Word on the street is that Shanda Games – a large Chinese MMORPG developer and publisher will be acquiring them.

Why is this company buying OutSpark? To expand into the free to play market most likely. OutSpark is a pretty big publisher too. Aside from the games they currently have on the market – they’re releasing Luvinia Online and Divine Souls soon. Plus, they announced that they would release many more games in the near future. The fact that they’re being bought out is a big vote of confidence for free to play games in North America. These games have always been popular in Asia, but the concept of free to play with micro-transactions is still fairly new to the West. In fact, these games are so big in Asia, that there really aren’t any pay to play games in Asia, aside from a few really high quality games. One game in South Korea – Kart Rider from Nexon is so popular that nearly a third of South Korea’s entire population has played the racing game at least once. It’s much more popular than more realistic racing games like Need for Speed World or Ray City from Electronic Arts. So for those that say Graphics do matter, Why is Kart Rider – a much worse looking game than Need for Speed so successful?

Aside from OutSpark being bought, EverQuest II re-launching as a free to play game has also been a big vote of confidence for the industry. The Lord of the Rings Online from Turbine is also set to go free to play on September 10. Remember when Turbine launched Dungeons and Dragons Online as a free to play game? I remember their CEO saying something like their revenues have increased over 500% since going free to play. I really hope that they have success with The Lord of the Rings Online, as if it does well – it would pave the way for Lineage 2 and Warhammer Online to go free to play. Regardless of its success, I actually thing Lineage 2 will go free to play. Even Warhammer Online will go free to play in the not so distance future. That’s a story for another day though.

I think Electronic Arts will soon be focusing more on free to play games. Their Lord of Ultima browser MMO and Battlefield Heroes MMOFPS have done quite well so far. I Can’t say the same for FIFA Online or Battleforge, as they both have very few players. I think the blame there lies in EA though for not properly marketing these games. I bet if more people played them, they would be hooked.