Saturday, December 11, 2010

Best MMOs of 2010

The year 2010 is almost over. It has been a pretty good year for free to play MMORPG and MMO players. We got a lot of great new games, and even a few previously pay to play games were converted to free to play. Let’s take a look back at the year and highlight some of the best games.
Something I find very exciting is the growth of genres other than RPGs in the f2p MMO sector. Racing games, Shooting games, Sports games, Strategy games, we saw great new free to play games that fall into all these genres. Let’s start with racing. Need for Speed is perhaps one of the most popular video game franchises of all time. Many gamers will find it surprising that a free to play version of Need for Speed is now available online, for free. That game is called Need for Speed World and can be downloaded on EA’s new f2p portal – Amazing right? Need for Speed World has great graphics, realistic cars, and even a persistent world city to explore. There’s a night/day system, and plenty of customization options. Most free to play games are still coming out of Asia so lets take a look at some Asian racers. FreeJack is a parkour themed MMO racing. That means players have to race across urban settings filled with streets, traffic, tunnels, railing, and so forth. Its based on a real sport, but has stylized anime graphics. Its a very appealing game, and the mechanics require some practice to master.
Moving right along, 2010 has been a good year for MMO shooters. MMOFPS games like Combat Arms, Operation 7, or Cross Fire are pretty common and we saw a bunch of new ones come out in 2010. Some of these include Mission Against Terror, K.O.S. Secret Operations, and my personal favorite of the year — Genesis A.D by ijji. Unlike most shooters, Genesis AD has a sci-fi theme, but is more realistic than S4 League. The graphics are top notch since the game uses the latest Unreal Engine. It has some cool mechanics like wall jumps, jet packs, and futuristic weapons. The interface is very similar to that of Alliance of Valiant Arms (AVA), also published by NHN on their ijji portal.
One of my favorite genres, especially as a PC gamer, has always been RTS. Its rare to find a free to play RTS games, but we’ve gotten two great ones in the past two year. Last year we had EA’s BattleForge and this year we’ve got Company of Heroes Online by THQ. Its a world war 2 themed game with fast paced gameplay, and less emphasis placed on resource management and building construction. It comes with a single player campaign so beginners can learn the basics before subjecting themselves to humiliation against other players.
There were many other MMOs in 2010, so be sure to check out all of them! If you're looking for something else, check out this huge list of MMOs which include mobile, browser, client, and more.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Conquer Online is Really Popular

Apparently the 2D MMORPG Conquer Online from TQ Digital is incredibly popular. I’ve heard of the game before and have played several other TQ Digital games including Eudemons Online and Zero Online, but never Conquer Online. Just yesterday I decided to give the game a try, as I’ve seen ads for it on a few sites and wanted to see what the big deal was. To no surprise, the game’s visuals were very much similar to both Eudemons and Zero Online. It seems like all the games from TQ Digital run off of the same exact engine game engine. The Way of the Five, The Warlords, Crazy Tao and the other MMORPGs published by TQ Digital are the exact same way. I don’t mean to say this in a bad way, as the visuals in Conquer Online aren’t bad. I say not bad, because even though the graphics aren’t Karos Online or The Pirates of the Burning Sea style “shiny”, the visuals are good enough to get the job done. To be honest, I don’t like it when games dedicate all their resources to trying have the newest and best possible graphics out there. I mean just look at games like Archlord from Webzen and RF Online. Both games launched as great looking MMORPGs, but over time their graphics lost their flare. Both games are considered fairly “ugly” by today’s standards, especially with games like Vindictus and to a lesser degree Dynasty Warriors Online pushing the boundaries of graphics.

The way I look at it – if a game is 2D, the graphics won’t really age that much over time. 2D games most certainly age better than 3D ones. I mean just look at Istaria and Planetside – both games launched as games with ground-breaking graphics, but today they’re nothing special. Personally, I think the visuals in some 2D MMORPGs like WonderKing, MapleStory and Fists of Fu to be great. New MMORPGs with 2D graphics like Angels Online from IGG and Myth Angels Online from UserJoy pull off solid 2D visuals. One huge, huge, advantage (notice how I said huge twice to emphasize the importance?) of 2D games over 3D ones is that they’re more compatible with older PCs. Not every PC in the world can play Alliance of Valiant Arms, but MOST PCs can handle Dragon Raja or Destiny Online from EnjoyMMO. A lot of my friends actually can’t play Runes of Magic, even though they want to. This makes me question whether it was a good idea for the game’s devs to make the game so good looking. This might sound a bit ridiculous, but it makes sense. Games like Final Fantasy 14 which demand absurdly powerful PCs are sort of screwing themselves over. People who want to play these game’s cant, because they don’t have amazing graphics cards – so what do these people do instead? They download and play games that their computers can handle. Games like Mission Against Terror and War of Angels which don’t demand $2,000 PCs to play. Because MOST gamers can’t always keep up with the latest technologies.

Anyway, I ranted for quite a while. What I really wanted to say is that Conquer Online isn’t a bad game. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, as the experience rate is way too fast. It’s almost Jade Dynasty or Magic World Online style throwaway because you can pretty much kill everything on the screen with your most basic attacks. I Think game developers need a better way to eliminate grind from MMORPGs without doing it with a built in bot.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Wave of Browser MMORPGs

I’ve talked about browser MMORPGs and MMOs in the past, but it’s outright remarkable how many new browser games are launching each and every week. Even though these numbers are impressive, it’s a bit sad that every single new game launching is pretty much the same old thing we’ve seen before. DDTank – one of the newer browsed based games that launched on Aeria Games and numerous other portals, is a shameless Gunbound clone that makes no attempt to hide that fact. If you’ve ever played Gunbound, it’s downright funny how similar DDTank is to Gunbound. I guess it’s better than seeing yet another WoW Clone – as there are countless WoW clones already. I think 4Story, Runes of Magic and Allods Online are all pretty shameless, but at least these games are genuinely fun to play. DDTank isn’t bad, but Gunbound is much better imho.

Gamigo released the browser based strategy MMO Cultures Online last month, and even though it does make an effort to differentiate itself, the game still looks and feels like every other strategy game. To be fair, it’s a tad bit original as it does mix Shakes and Fidget style slow paced RPG gameplay with Ministry of War style strategy elements. Might and Magic Heroes Kingdoms launched 2 months ago, and the game seemed promising. Too bad after playing it for a few weeks, the game really didn’t offer anything original. For a game built on such an epic franchise, I expected a lot more out of it. I mean aside from a handful of unique browser based MMOs like Urban Rivals, Adventure Quest Worlds and Roblox, it’s fair to say that the genre has a definite lack of originality. I can’t be the only one this burnt out of strategy games…

I think the problem is that every game company is trying to make a quick buck – so instead of investing a lot of time and money into making a new product, they figure that making a cookie cutter strategy game like Grepolis or Travian is the way to go. In their defense, developing a totally original game like Pirate Galaxy or Nadirim could be very expensive. Just look at BigPoint – they spent over $5 million developing PoisonVille and the game has been an utter failure so far. BigPoint is making a ton of money off of Deepolis and Dark Orbit, which were both much cheaper to develop! Making a cheesy strategy game is the easy way out for most developers. Too bad most of these strategy games are failures – as games like King and Conqueror and World of LordCraft simply cannot compete with the more established games.

So hopefully the next few months will bring some much needed innovation to the browser game platform, because as is, I’m really disappointed. I think the only really impressive game that launched on the browser recently is Sacred Seasons 2, but it’s not entirely original either. It plays a lot like an regular MMORPG.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Why are there so many free to play dancing MMOs? I honestly have no idea. I think the first dancing game (not MMO, just game) was Dance Dance Revolution. The first dancing MMO I played was Dance Online back when Acclaim Games published it. Ever since they went bankrupt, the game did eventually relaunch as Super Dance Online through Cubizone – a Malaysian MMO publisher. Luckily, the game itself didn’t change much. In fact, the Malaysian version was much more popular than the U.S. Version Acclaim had. For some reason, every MMO publisher decided that they needed a dancing game. Snail Games launched ShowUp (which actually launched as 5Street. It changed its name to Showup much later). Even the Korean MMO juggernaut Nexon jumped onto the bandwagon when they launched Audition Online. Now I played audition Online for a while, and I do have to admit the gameplay and visuals were faily polished. After all, Nexon has always been known for publishing some of the highest quality free to play titles out there. Their current portfolio of titles by itself is very impressive actually. They have Vindictus, MapleStory, Combat Arms, Mabinogi and Dungeon Fighter Online. Notice I left out Audition Online from that list? That’s because Nexon eventually shut audition Online down, but luckily the game didn’t shut down for good. Just as Acclaim Games closed Dance Online and it relaunched sometime later, Audition Online relaunched through RedBana – which is actually owned by T3Fun which publishes CardMon Hero and Aika Global.

Anyway, the purpose of this entry is to talk about how all of these dancing MMOs are all the same. Obviously they’re not all identical, but they’re just as similar as Combat Arms from Nexon and Sudden Attack from GameHi are similar. They’re basically the same games, except with slightly different visuals. Even Perfect World jumped on the whole dancing game bandwagon when they launched Hot Dance Party (Steps). Unfortunately, this one isn’t available in North America. It’s published through Cubizoe in Malaysia, but those in North America can still access it, as it has no IP blocks. I actually played every single one of these games, as I generally enjoy these rhythm based titles, as I think they require a lot of skill. They’re also very much competitive. In fact, you could argue that they’re just as competitive as any FPS or League of Legends style Aeon of Strife game. Unlike FPS games though, these dancing MMOs don’t differentiate themselves in gameplay. They all share the same button pushing DDR style gameplay mechanics. The only thing that really separates Super Dance Online from Hot Dance Party is its visuals. MMO Shooters like Alliance of Valiant Arms and Genesis A.D. Although similar, so have some different gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately these dancing games don’t.

The thing about dancing MMOs is that not a single one is particularly successful in North America. So I’m not sure why there are so many of them. I think Osu! Is the most popular rhythm based multiplayer game, but it’s not even a traditional dancing game. I think it’s popular because it’s actually does something different while everyone else is off copying each other.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Garena Getting into the F2P MMO Business?

It seems like Garena, the app best known for allowing gamers to compete against each other via a hamachii sort of Lan, is getting into the free to play MMO business. I remember using Garena to play Defense of the Ancients (DotA) with my friends and others back when my buddies didn’t all have CD keys to play on Nowadays we can play free to play aion of strife games like League of Legends from Riot Games and Land of Chaos Online from Alaplaya, so we don’t exactly need to use Garena anymore. But thousands of people, mostly outside of the U.S, still use it to play various games with each other. I think most people use it when they pirate games and don’t have CD Keys – playing through Garena allows them to play multiplayer without a cd key or a valid account. Garena is quite big today but it’s slowly transforming itself into an MMO publisher. The company already publishes the MMOFPS Blackshot in both Europe and Asia (No U.S. Version of the game exists. Outspark, best known for Fiesta Online and Fists of Fu was supposed to publish it, but they never did.).

Aside from Blackshot, Garena also has Go Kart, which is the same exact game as GoGo Racer, which GamersFirst published for a short while. The game never launched in North America, as GamersFirst postponed it, along with Parabellum, delayed Go Kart indefinitely. It’s too bad actually, as the game itself wasn’t that bad. I mean aside from Racing Star: Come on Baby, it was the only silly Kart Racing MMO out there. Nexon used to have Kart Rider, but they shut that down years ago (In North America. It remains popular in South Korea). Unfortunately, like Blackshot – Go Kart isn’t available world-wide. Instead, the game is restricted to only a handful of regions. Another neat thing about Garena is that they inked a deal with S2 Games to publish Heroes of Newerth in certain regions as a Avalon Heroes / League of Legends style free to play game. In Europe and North America, the game remains buy to play – just like Guild Wars.

I think the biggest problem Garena has having is the lack of global licenses. If Garena published say Priston Tale 2 world-wide, I think the game would be quite successful. Currently the game is ONLY available in EU and South East Asia. No one in North America can play it. The cool thing about Netmarble and Aeria Games is that they have a lot of games available on the international level. Netmarble for example publishes Uncharted Waters Online, a Voyage Century / Pirates of the burning Sea style game world-wide with no IP restrictions (Except Japan / Korea). Aeria Games has several IP restriction free games too including the new Legendary Champions and Dynasty Warriors Online. Having games without IP restrictions is a big deal, as everyone can play on the same service. Having the game’s audience fragmented only makes the game feel more empty. At least that’s how I feel on the whole MMO IP ban thing. I sort of hope someone offers Argo Online or Luvinia Online world-wide as I don’t want that game to have IP restrictions. Garena offered their VPN / LAN services world-wide, so seeing them publish games is cool, but it sucks that all of their games have so many IP restrictions. I don’t think they have any game published in North America.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Camon Hero Revived as CardMon Hero

Remember Camon Hero from Uforia? It’s a card based fantasy MMORPG that was supposed to begin open beta testing in early June 2010, but never did. Months went by with no word about when the game is actually going to launch or if it will ever launch. Then – out of the blue T3Fun announced that they would be launching Camon Hero World-wide as “Cardmon Hero”. Uforia left a lot of gamers upset when they completely abandoned Camon Hero back in June 2010. I’m actually not too surprised they pulled a stunt like this, as they’re not exactly well known for their class. Their Game Masters in Mercenary Wars and Red War (two games published by Uforia) are extremely unprofessional. I think the only playable MMORPG they have on their website is NosTale. Everything else they publish is trash. I think Mercenary Wars is actually the worst MMOFPS out there – much worse than Mission Against Terror from Suba Games. Anyway, I’m getting distracted (again). I’m just glad that Camon Hero isn’t dead and it’s actually going to release. The game’s closed beta began on November 9 or so, but there’s no word on when the open beta will begin yet.

CardMon Hero is one of the few card based MMORPGs out there. I think aside from CardMon Hero – the only other client based card game is Wizard101 – but that’s more of a kids MMORPG than CardMon. Plus it’s a turn based MMORPG, Cardmon is a bit more actiony. There are a few browser based MMOs with card mechanics – such as Urban Rivals, but those are completely different than Cardmon Hero. Cardmon Hero is a game that I think will appeal to a lot of people. It has low system requirements, fairly crisp anime inspired graphics, and a ton of unique skills. What I personally really like about EverQuest 2 from Sony Online Entertainment and The Lord of the Rings Online from Turbine is their unique skill systems. Cardmon Hero has a classless system where players have access to EVERY skill in the game. However, players can only equip skills if they’re using the appropriate weapon. Certain skills can only be equipped if you’re using a 2H sword, 1H sword, Staff, Etc. Skills in CardMon hero are in the form of cards. You don’t start with very many cards, so while you’re grinding and exploring, you’re also finding new cards, which are basically new skills. I think the only other MMORPGs without set classes are Uncharted Waters Online from Netmarble and Ultima Online from Electronic Arts.

I had a chance to play Cardmon Hero in its closed beta phase and I was quite impressed. The game has some 100+ skill cards and an equal amount of summon cards for a total of 200+ skills. The thing that makes the game really interesting is that each character has access to hundreds of skills. If you want to use some ranged attacks – simply equip a staff. If you want to use some melee AOE attacks simply equip a 2H sword. Your weapon type determines which skills you have access too, which is an incredible dynamic. Even though the game’s graphics aren’t nearly as pretty as Heroes of Three Kingdoms or Jade Dynasty, the game still offers a lot to do. It’s a game I’ll make sure to play in open beta.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Soul Master Dead. But It's Relaunching

GamesCampus recently announced that their new side scrolling MMORPG Soul Master would be shutting down and entering the MMO Graveyard. Even though Soul Master is a 3D side scrolling game, much like Dragon Saga, it’s still a game that has appealed to the 2D MMORPG crowd quite a bit, mostly because of its graphics and flat plane style. So even though it’s technically 3D, it plays like a 2D game. The reason GamesCampus gave for shutting the game down was because the game didn’t meet their quality standards. They said that the game will relaunch 6-8 months down the road with new graphics, more content and a better interface. Basically it’ll be completely redeveloped and then relaunched. I guess now that they’re closing the game down, they’ll be able to divert their attention to their other games including Legend of Edda, Shot Online, Drift City, Asda Story. They also publish the World War 2 MMO Heroes in the Sky.

Since Soul Master will be shutting down on the GamesCampus service, but I wonder what’s going to happen to the Gamigo version of the game, for the European market. Gamigo largely publishes European MMORPGs, but they have several games available in North America, such as King of Kings 3 and the browser MMO Cultures Online. Soul Master on Gamigo never launched into release the same way the GamesCampus version did, so whether Gamigo will hold off on releasing the game remains to be seen. It’s always upsetting to see an MMORPG game shut down, whether it’s permanent or just temporarily. Luckily for Soul Master it should be temporary. I played Soul Master for a while and really liked its unique blend of Battleforge style RTS and Dungeon Fighter Online style action oriented gameplay. What really sucks about Soul Master shutting down is that it was a really unique MMORPG. Seeing unique games shut down is terrible, especially when very generic 3D fantasy games like Hero Online from Netgame and Conquer Online from TQ Digital thrive. Though not every generic fantasy MMORPG is thriving – just look at Craft of Gods from Kalicantus and Archlord from Webzen. These once pay to play MMORPGs haven’t exactly been thriving as free to play games, the same way The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online have prospered.

I’m getting a bit side tracked though. I think anyone who bought premium currency through the Soul Master MMO cash shop should be upset. Heck, anyone that even PLAYED Soul Master has the right to be upset. Odds are when the game is relaunched, if its relaunched, player characters will be wiped. So not only did people lose their money in the game’s cash shop, they lost their characters, which I’m sure some people have invested hundreds of hours into. If my MapleStory or Wonderking Online character was wiped, odds are I’d never play those games again. I think everyone who got “screwed” by GamesCampus is not going to play the new Soul Master game again, regardless of how good it is, as getting their characters wiped left players with a bad taste in their mouth. I sort liked the anime MMORPG graphics in Soul Master too. I’m just happy I didn’t commit to my character on there. I’ve actually been playing some Fists of Fu lately from Outspark, and I’d be furious if my character on there got deleted.