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Since going free to play Pirates of the Burning Sea, published by Sony Online Entertainment, has experienced a surge in active players. Whether this surge will remain permanent or not is too soon to call. What I find fascinating is that Pirates of the Burning Sea’s playerbase increased quite a bit when going free to play while EverQuest 2, also by Sony, didn’t enjoy the same kind of increase in playerbase. Don’t get me wrong, since going free to play EQ2 also had a spike in playerbase, but the spike wasn’t nearly as large as the one Pirates of the Burning Sea Enjoyed. We all know that Turbine had a ton of success with the whole free to play conversion with both Dungeons and Dragons Online and The Lord of the Rings Online, but much of that can be attributed to heavy advertising. Neither Potbs or EverQuest 2 spent much on advertising. I personally hope PotbS will be a success as a free to play title, as if more pay to play games gone free to play become successful, it may pave the way for Age of Conan, Lineage 2 and other pay to play MMORPGs to adopt the same F2P business model. Champions Online from Cryptic, the superhero MMORPG, announced that they too would embrace free to play starting in early 2011. What’s confusing about that announcement is that Cryptic is making Champions Online free to play before City of Heroes – which might mean that Champions Online hasn’t been that profitable as a pay to play game. Cryptic did say though that if Champions Online does well as a free to play game, they would eventually make their newest game, Star Trek Online free to play as well.

The thing about pay to play games going free to play is that many of them expect too much. Look at games like Archlord and RF Online. They were both pay to play games for a short while, but failed miserably. They relaunched as free to play games, and even though they didn’t have the same kind of success as DDO or LOTRO, both games are STILL in existence today and chugging along. CrimeCraft is another good example. They launched originally as a retail pay to play MMO, but quickly realized that they couldn’t compete with other subscription games, so they dropped their subscription all together. A much older pay to play MMO, Istaria, sort of went free to play as well, as it launched an unlimited free trial which had minimal restrictions.

Newer games like Terra and RIFT which are launching as pay to play games are doing so at their own peril in my opinion. The pay to play model isn’t “dead”, but I think it’s on its way to extinction, as more and more game developers are realizing this and adopting the free to play model. Too many western game developers think that the free to play business model is exclusively for social games like Frontierville and Cupcake Corner. Obviously the social games like Endless Chaos and Vikings of Thule have been successful as F2P games, but there are a ton of real, 3D, downloadable F2P games as well.

 

The closed beta for CardMon Hero which is by T3Fun officially ended on November 17, but when will the open beta actually begin? No one knows. I can’t imagine it’ll take longer than a few weeks, but you never know. Especially since the transition from closed beta to open beta can stall indefinitely sometimes. I mean just look at Erebus: Travia Reborn from OutSpark. The game launched into closed beta 6+ months ago, but it’s still nowhere near open beta. In fact, the MMO closed beta has ended too, so no one even knows if the game itself is ever going to come out. I’m not too surprised with Travia though, as the game’s developer – Zemi Interactive, seems to be more focused on 4Story, which is a much bigger project than Erebus. Unlike Erebus, 4Story is already available world-wide and has been in release for quite a while. Divine Souls from OutSpark has had the same issue as Erebus. The game has enjoyed 3 rounds of closed beta testing so far, the first one was 3+ months ago, and currently the closed beta is over and players are waiting for the open beta to begin. Too bad OutSpark hasn’t said anything about when the open beta would actually begin. After waiting for over a month, many players just stopped waiting and downloaded Vindictus – a competing 3D fantasy action MMORPG from Nexon.

The problem with the transition between closed beta and open beta is that if it drags on or simply takes too long, players will get upset and just quit. No one wants to “wait” for a game after closed beta begins for more than a month. A lot of people are already extremely frustrated with Forsaken World, which is by Perfect World Entertainment. The game just launched its second “phase” of closed beta testing, with no clear release schedule. No one actually knows when the game will come out into open beta, but at least the game is progressing smoothly. Legend of Martial Arts from the same company actually managed to reach closed beta just last week. This game had its own troubled history, as the game was officially announced over 6 months ago, and has since went through a name change and a redevelopment.

There are numerous MMORPGs that launched after having troubled closed beta testing phases. Fists of Fu from OutSpark is one example. The game’s first closed beta test and open beta were months apart from each other. Dreamland Online from IGG was originally announced over 16 months (over a year) ago, but the game just launched into closed beta. It’s sort of a fake closed beta, as just about anyone can play and there won’t be any character wipes. Any closed beta without character wipes and an open cash shop is a fake closed beta in my book. I don’t think IGG will have the same success with Dreamland Online as they did with Wonderland Online or Tales of Pirates 2, as Dreamland Online isn’t that good of a game, but that’s a discussion for another day.

So when do you think Cardmon Hero will begin its open beta. Will it begin its open beta? I hope they do, as I’d hate to see another MMORPG go down the Erebus route again.

Great New MMORPGs Coming Soon

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m extremely excited about all the new free to play MMORPGs coming out in the next few months. gPotato’s PvP heavy Aika just entered closed beta a few days ago. For those that haven’t heard of Aika, it’s a PvP heavy MMORPG inspired by ‘Realm vs Realm’ games like Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online. I’m excited about Aika because I was always a big fan of the large scale Realm vs Realm battles in Dark Age of Camelot. I played a level 50 Sorcerer in that game. Two more games I’m excited about are Kung Fuu and Battle of the Immortals. Kung Foo is a light hearted humorous MMORPG written by comic book writers. Even though the game is humorous, it’s still supposed to be an in-depth content rich MMORPG. The second game I mentioned is called Battle of the Immortals and it’s supposed to be a World of Warcraft / Runes of Magic ‘like’ fantasy MMORPG. The main reason I’m excited about these two games is that they’re both published by one of my favorite MMORPG publishers – Perfect World Co. In case you couldn’t connect the dots, Perfect World Co publishes ‘Perfect World’ as well as Jade Dynasty and Ether Saga Online.

Obviously gPotato and Perfect World Co aren’t the only publishers with some awesome new MMORPGs in the pipeline. Games like ‘Allods Online’ and ‘Mabinogi Heroes’ also look awesome. I’m looking forward to Allods because it’s apparently one of the highest budget ‘free to play’ MMORPGs ever. It cost well over $10M+ USD to develop it. Mabinogi Heroes is almost guaranteed to be awesome because it’s published by Nexon and they have a track record for putting out some of the highest quality games ever. Come to think of it, with all of these new games coming out, I may need to buy a bigger hard drive. My current one is starting to get full.

2D MMORPGs Rock

I’m not sure why – but I tend to prefer 2D graphics over 3D ones. I guess it’s because a lot of MMOs that try going all out 3D have such poor graphics. Relatively new games like Ran Online, Nida Online and Red War all have 3D graphics – but BAD 3D graphics.  Don’t get me wrong – some 2D MMOs have ‘BAD’ 2D graphics as well – but that many. I guess this is true because it’s harder to ‘screw up’ 2D graphics than it is for 3D graphics. The only really ‘ugly’ 2D MMORPGs out there are Mir2 and GodsWar – but that’s because both of those games are pretty old. I actually prefer the 2D graphics of games like LaTale and MapleStory to most 3D MMORPGs – even the good ones. I guess it’s because I feel that 2D graphics are just easier on the eyes. So many 3D MMORPGs are buggy and jagged – that it really takes away from the game’s overall presentation.

Another issue I have with 3D MMORPGs is that they’re almost always ‘buggy’ when it comes to terrain. In a lot of games it’s impossible to ‘jump over’ simple things like fences and rocks – because the programmers and designers never coded such simple movements into the game. This is rarely the case in 2D MMORPGs. I know it’s not exactly a huge deal – but once you’ve played as many free MMORPGs as I have – the small things begin to matter.

One of my favorite free to play MMORPGs though is a 3D game – Runes of Magic. I like Runes of Magic because the game itself feels like a mix between the 2D ‘cartoony’ graphics of anime inspired games like MapleStory and Wind Slayer with the 3D ‘western’ graphics of World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online.

Sports MMOs – Some Fresh Air

After playing through so many ‘grindy’ and repetitive fantasy MMORPGs I decided to venture into the big ol world of Sports MMOs. I’ve never been a huge fan of sports games on traditional consoles – but I’ve grown to like them on the PC. I guess it’s because I’ve grown tired of playing the same old MMORPGs over and over again. Personally – my favorite sports MMO is FreeStyle: Street Basketball – a fairly unknown little sports MMO by GameKiss – the same people behind Nida Online and GhostX. I don’t even watch Basketball on TV or let alone any sport on TV – but I still really enjoyed FreeStyle. It’s actually the only basketball MMO out there, which makes it kind of unique as well.

Currently there are two Tennis MMOs out there as well – both of which are pretty good. Fantasy Tennis is an anime inspired tennis MMO and Smash Online is a bit more realistic. Think of Fantasy Tennis as a Mario Tennis like MMO and Smash Online as a more realistic game. Fantasy Tennis has all sorts of whacky game modes and special skills which helps spice up the game. AeriaGames used to have their own Tennis MMO called GoldSlam, but unfortunately that shut down a few years ago.

There are a boat load of fighting games out there. I’m not talking ‘sports’ fighting games like boxing either. I’m talking Super Smash Brothers style fighting games. Games like Rumble Fighter and Splash Fighters play a lot like an anime version of Super Smash, with RPG elements while Lost Saga and Mini Fighter are more team oriented games. Honestly though – they have sports games for practically every sport. There are TWO golf games out there – shot online and Pangya as well as countless dancing games – my favorite being Audition Online and Dance Online. Anyway though – my point is there are A LOT of sports games and they’re all welcomed changes from the more generic grind oriented fantasy MMORPGs.

Top 10 Best Free MMORPGs

There are sooooo many free to play MMORPGs out there so it’s hard to find the best ones. I’ve played so many of them in the past that I feel that I can rank the best 10 of them. Below is my list of top 10 best free MMORPG games.

#10 – Cabal Online

Cabal Online is a fun fast paced action MMORPG game by OG Planet. The game’s graphics are pretty dated compared to the newer MMORPGs – but it’s still a great game. I say great because it’s still pretty popular and has a lot of content.

#9 – Gates of Andaron

Gates of Andaron is a neat 3D Fantasy MMORPG made by GameForge. Without a doubt – much of the game’s graphics and gameplay were inspired by World of Warcraft – but in my book, that’s a good thing. You’d imagine copying an incredible game would result in GOOD things. If you haven’t played Gates of Andaron Yet – check it out.

#8 – LaTale

LaTale is a fun 2D side scrolling MMORPG that plays a lot like… well.. every other side scrolling MMORPG! Much of the game’s inspiration comes directly from other 2D side scrollers like MapleStory and Wind Slayer. It’s one of the most popular 2D side scrolling games out there though.

#7 – Fiesta Online

Fiesta Online is a cool cel-shaded free to play MMORPG by Outspark. The game’s graphics are very anime inspired – but the cel-shading makes the game look awesome. In terms of overall content – Fiesta Online ranks way up there as the game has been out for a few years now – so Outspark has added boat loads of new content to the game! Check it out.

#6 – Dungeons and Dragons Online

D&D Online is a new comer to the free to play MMORPG realm. The game originally launched as a pay to play game by Turbine – the folks who also make Lord of the Rings Online. Upon going free to play tough – the game has experienced enormous success. Hopefully other pay to play games will follow suit and go free to play. D&D Online is one of the best looking and highest quality free MMO games out there.

#5 – Runes of Magic

Without a doubt – Runes of Magic is the best dang WoW clone out there. Everything in this game including graphics, gameplay and interface are practically identical to Blizzard’s epic MMORPG. I say all of this in a ‘positive’ way because WoW is such a great game – so a game copying WoW should be good as well, and it is! The only major difference between Runes of Magic and WoW is that Runes of Magic offers an interesting dual classing system. This one’s WELL worth checking out.

#4 – Perfect World

Perfect World is one of the best looking free to play MMORPGs out there. The game is best known for its incredibly awesome and in depth character customization options. Players have nearly infinite different ways to customize their character. The game is published by the same folks who make Ether Saga Online and Jade Dynasty, so make sure to check out those games as well – as they’re also great.

#3 – Last Chaos

Anyone who has played Last Chaos will tell you that this game is pretty deep. The overall gameplay though is pretty grindy and generic – but in terms of overall content – the game is definitely impressive. If you’re looking for a new game to check out – do try Last Chaos.

#2 – Shaiya

This one’s a bit of an oldie – but still a goodie. Shaiya is a 3D fantasy MMORPG published by Aeria Games. The game plays a lot like Lineage 2 and offers a lot of content. The game does have a pretty strong emphasis on PvP combat as well. Perhaps Shaiya’s most unique aspect though is the ability to set the game’s ‘difficulty’ level when creating a character. Harder difficulty options result in better loot and new skills, but slower experience. Lower difficulty results in faster XP gain but access to less skills and worse gear.

#1 – Atlantica Online

In my opinion – the best free to play MMORPG out there is definitely Atlantica Online. Anyone who has played it will likely agree with me that the game is definitely ‘top notch’ in terms of both gameplay and graphics. The game is published by Ndoors – the same folks who created Luminary: Rise of the Goonzu. Definitely check out Atlantica! It’s awesome.

Even though there are a lot of free MMORPG games out there these days – they just don’t have the same ‘quality’ as pay to play games like World of Warcraft and Eve Online. The best part of these pay to play games is that nearly every single one of them have mmorpg free trials. The beauty of these free trials is that none of them require credit cards either. I remember playing Dark Age of Camelot just the other day and the 14 day trial is pretty neat because there are zero restrictions. Sure there are ‘alternatives’ to pay to play games – like Runes of Magic is a good free alternative to World of Warcraft while Dragon Oath is a good alternative to Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures – but they’re still not the same.

Nowdays there’s no reason to go out and ‘purchase’ an MMORPG in the store – because you never know if you’ll actually ‘like’ the game. Buying a $50 game and playing it for a day is a total waste of money. Best check if there’s a free trial available before commiting to a purchase. Even newer games like Pirates of the Burning Sea and Warhammer Online have free trials – so it doesn’t hurt to check. The only ‘new’ game that I know that doesn’t have a free trial is Aion – but I’m sure one will be released for it soon – and if you wait long enough that pay to play game just might become free to play! It happened with Dungeons and Dragons Online and RF online – so it could happen to other games as well.

If you really want to be cheap though – there are always private servers out there for practically every pay to play game – though I urge gamers to stay away from them because they’re nothing like the real thing. Private servers never have the same amount of content as the official servers and are usually extremely laggy / buggy. For this reason alone – I recommend cheap gamers to stick with free to play MMORPGs over private servers. Games like Last Chaos and Shaiya are great alternatives to generic fantasy pay to play games. They’re great time sinks to boot.

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