The Ten Ton Hammer MMOG Decade Awards 2001-2010
After we finished up last year's Best of 2009 awards we knew that this year we wanted to do things a little differently. The end of the decade has come, and if we look back over the last ten years between 2001 and 2010 a lot of signifcant things have happened in the MMOG industry. Heck, the genre was only really recognized in 1997 or 1999 (depending which game you consider the first MMOG).
So throughout the year the staff at Ten Ton Hammer has been giving a lot of consideration to the games we've played over the past decade. There's no denying we've seen the genre evolve into something that has become much larger than anyone may have thought possible last millenium.
So which games have really made their mark? There are a lot of MMOGs out there now. We have 421 of them listed on Ten Ton Hammer alone. But over the past decade some of those games have really impacted the industry in one way or another. We've considered each element and have come up with a short list of eight awards for this decade. There's no doubt we could have had 100 more awards, but this ain't a seven hour Academy Award Marathon. This is about recognizing excellence in the past 10 years and celebrating that excellence.
While we would have loved to have been able to include all MMO games for award consideration, only games or expansions that were released between 2001 and 2010 were eligible.
For your convenience each award has been set up on its own page with an easy drop-box navigation. So, skip to the award of your choice, or flip through each page. It's all up to you. Let's celebrate the MMOG Decade Awards at Ten Ton Hammer.
The foundation of the MMO genre can easily be said to lay within the walls of the community. After all, without a massive in-game community, it's just another game.
This decade's winner is far from "just another game." The player community, coupled with heavy developer community involvement truly set this game apart from the rest. It also certainly doesn't hurt that every player in the world shares the same universe, unseparated by artificial barriers like servers or shards.
EverQuest II (Sony Online Entertainment)
The Lord of the Rings Online (Turbine)
EVE Online continues to prove that you just can't have a more involved community than when you have all players on the same server. Player actions send waves throughout the community, whether it be the actions of a hero or those of notorious villains.
CCP has also set the bar high in terms of community involvement as developers. It is safe to say that the community has really shaped the game since its launch of May 6, 2003. CCP has not only listened to the feedback of the community, but have taken their words to heart to such a degree that EVE Online is very much the player's game.
Perhaps this is the secret to EVE's success in the MMOG space. Few games make it eight years with a steady increase in player subscriptions from month to month, but EVE has done it.
While considering our choices for Best PvP Game of the Decade, we really had to go back to the roots of PvP. Ultima Online certainly offered unregulated PvP but by today's standards, that's very little fun for everyone but the top gankers. Conversely, the introduction of Battlegrounds and Scenarios as seen in many of today's MMOGs do offer quick match-up fun, but they lack the true spirit of PvP, in our opinion, which should be a constant struggle for power. The pendulum should swing hard, and it should swing often. Players should always feel a need to defend or attack in a well-developed PvP game.
Perhaps PvP isn't the right term, after all. Perhaps the ultimate PvP experience isn't PvP at all, but rather a game that pits several factions against each other. Perhaps this type of combat is better referred to Realm vs. Realm, or RvR.
That certainly narrows the options, and leaves us with an obvious winner.
Shadowbane (Stray Bullet Games)
Dark Age of Camelot was a brilliant success in the PvP, or RvR market. Having launched in October of 2001, nine years later it's still considered by many to be the ultimate player versus player combat of any MMO game. This was no mistake. It was a careful consideration by the BioWare Mythic team (at the time known as Mythic Entertainment) and the secret of its success may have very well been a simple addition of a third faction.
When a game only has two factions battling against each other, balancing becomes very difficult without imposing artificial rules and enticements, like bonus experience for the underdog, to try to lure more players to that faction. With three factions though, the entire community becomes self-policing. If one faction becomes too powerful, they'll have a much more difficult time fending off two opposing factions instead of holding their ground against one.
An aging game, but one well deserving of Best PvP Game of the Decade. Well done, Mythic!
Making a game pretty to look at may not guarantee its top placement in gamers' homes, but it is something deserving of an award.
The Art & Animation award is a tricky category to consider. Obviously newer games with newer technology will look better than most older games. But instead of just considering the obvious current "prettiness" of the game, we needed to look at the thought and design behind the art and animation that went into the games we play.
The winner this decade was a relatively newer one, having launched in May of 2008, but the reason it won the award was plainly due to the attention the art team put into the detail of the game.
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is undoubtedly one of the best looking games MMO gamers have played this decade. From tiny pock-marks in skin textures to underwater god-rays in the DirectX 10 client, detail was a top concern for Funcom in the development of the game.
Smooth animations of avatars and environmental entities pushed the game beyond anything we had ever seen before in an MMO game. Hyboria is truly a beautiful, yet brutal world.
If you're one of those gamers who installs a game and immediately disables the music and sound effects, you could be missing out.
We took a look at several games this decade that really stood out in terms of musical score and sound effects. We wanted to award the winner as one that not only had an emotional, powerful score, but one that would be remembered for years to come.
The winner this year did just that. A powerful musical composition only heightened the experience of the game itself, often becoming an auditory experience that could be likened to a cinematic feature film.
The Best Sound & Score of the Decade goes to...
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (Funcom)
The Lord of the Rings Online (Turbine)
Guild Wars had such a powerful score it prompted many players to get a copy of the soundtrack on CD. It's no wonder, considering the talent behind the soundtrack. British Academy Award winner Jeremy Soule was able to capture and immortalize the gaming experience behind Guild Wars. The score is appropriately suspenseful in tense combat, and airy, but no less potent in exploration.
Guild Wars is not only able to tell a story well, but the music and sound wins a well-earned spot in the Ten Ton Hammer Decade Awards.
MMOGs are at their very core, innovative. However, some games over the past ten years have really pushed the envelope and molded the present and the future of online gaming.
Innovation comes in many forms, sometimes subtle, sometimes very obvious. There has been no shortage of innovation in gaming in the MMO sphere. However, for a game to win "Most Innovative MMOG of the Decade" it had to be a game that changed the way people play MMOGs entirely. It had to be a game that not only introduced new exciting gameplay, but became a foundation for many games to follow.
There were several titles that impressed us since 2001, but the winner this decade continued to innovate and push the genre forward years after its initial launch.
Guild Wars (ArenaNet)
Warhammer Online (BioWare Mythic)
Anarchy Online (Funcom)
Dungeons & Dragons Online is a testament to innovation in MMOGs. At its launch in early 2006 it was a culmination of great ideas in one single game. Storytelling had become vastly more effective by creating entire instances to tell the story. Action combat saw its first incarnation with DDO's active combat system. And later on, DDO was the first Western MMOG to successfully migrate from a subscription-based service to a free-to-play model, turning the game around from being on its last legs to becoming one of the most popular Western MMO free-to-play games in history.
Turbine's continued dedication to the game has marked the game forever to be known as the Most Innovative MMOG of the decade.
Few MMO games survive without at some point adding an expansion. By their very nature, the virtual worlds in which we play must continue to evolve to keep player interest.
However, developing an expansion for a game is no easy task. In order for it to be successful a lot of consideration needs to be given to where players are in the game, and what is needed the most at the time of the expansion. Perhaps most importantly, for players to feel like they've spent their money well in buying the expansion, it needs to have satisfying content - and lots of it.
Over the past ten years we've seen hundreds of expansions, but for our gaming buck there really was a short list of expansions we felt really brought well-timed value to the game, forever changing it in a positive way.
Sony Online Entertainment
City of Villains (Paragon Studios)
Wrath of the Lich King (Blizzard Entertainment)
EverQuest: The Planes of Power came at a time when raiding was a somewhat new, but major focus in MMO games. Shortly after EverQuest had introduced raids for the first time ever gamers couldn't stop talking about raiding and focused their entire gaming time on getting well enough geared to be able to raid.
Planes of Power was perfectly timed. In addition to adding some of the best raid zones in any game to date, the entire expansion was progression based. Your raiding guild or group had to successfully complete trials and raids in order to gain access to the next zone. And if you were the top raiding guild on the server? You had the entire zone to yourself. This expansion was a way to finally indisputably compare e-peens worldwide. This wasn't something that could be done in a week. No, to progress through PoP, it took months, or even years.
Progression raiding and unlocking has been drastically tuned down in our games over the years, if not all together brought to near extinction. But in 2002, and arguably to date, there was no greater satisfaction than being able to defeat Quarm, the final boss of EverQuest in The Plane of Time.
At Ten Ton Hammer, we believe we have the best jobs in the world. Why? Because we get to play almost every MMOG that comes around.
The past decade has given us a lot of games to play, and between the editors, we have a lot of gaming hours logged. When considering a game for nomination for the Editor's Choice Award of the Decade, we asked ourselves one simple question: "Which game has given us the most full MMOG experience?" We looked for a game that had a huge world that was easy to immerse ourselves into. We wanted a game that had a rich history and lore. The Editor's Choice Award had to go to the most complete, fully featured, rich world that had the whole package, from crafting, to adventuring, to raiding, to social tools.
For a game that had it all, our choice became clear.
EverQuest II is perhaps the most fully featured MMOG on the market today. Since its launch in 2004 it has seen six expansions with a seventh on its way. This game offers players an incredible story, a welcoming newbie experience, joyful leveling, and rewarding raiding. Not only that, but we found its crafting to be among the most enjoyable.
Sony Online Entertainment
Weighing in other great mechanics like an unmatched Broker system, fully customizable personal homes and guild halls, guild leveling, Heritage Quests and rewards, gritty group instances, newly spiced-up PvP, creative quest design, humorous stories, effective progression tracking and a plethora of other features, there is no other game on the market that has as much pure content to offer as EverQuest II.
The ballots are in, and the results have been tallied. We recently asked our Premium Members to vote on the Best MMO Game of the Decade, and we couldn't agree more with the choice. In fact, we had already discussed the Best Game of 2001-2010 prior to asking our readers, and were pleased, but not all together surprised, that they felt the same way we did.
There is no argument to be had that one game that launched this decade has had more success than any MMO previous or since. It has gained millions of players worldwide and has become the 'standard' of MMO gaming.
It should come as no surprise, and a well-earned achievement, the Best MMO Game of the Decade Award goes to none other than...
World of Warcraft is undeniably the most played Western MMOG of all time. Boasting millions of subscribers, this behemoth has made a permanent mark on the MMO gaming space. A careful design of accessibility along with a sense of achievement and progression rocketed the game to the top of the list since its launch in 2004.
Six years later, the game community continues to grow. The recent launch of its newest expansion, Cataclysm, sold a record-breaking number of copies to earn its spot as the fastest selling PC game of all time - not just MMO games. In fact, the game is so well-known, that it is virtually impossible for anyone to have ever played an MMOG without knowing about WoW. If those numbers aren't enough, just ask any of the 35 million + characters in the game.
Whether you're a casual player who enjoys exploration, or a hard-core raider, chances are you'll find a place in World of Warcraft to keep you entertained.