The slumping economy here in the northwestern US has driven
down the price of real estate. The market favors buyers right now with
more property going for less money. The flailing financial system tends
to have an opposite effect on the gaming industry. Developers have a
harder time raising cash and must cut corners or reduce content to get
a game done and playable, so the formula works out to be a little less
real estate for the money. Interestingly, F2P developers may have an
easier time dealing with monetary limitations than their P2P
counterparts because they already tend to make smaller games. When I
ponder the smaller size of F2P worlds in comparison to those of P2P
games, I realize that maybe bigger isnt really better in the long run.
Have you seen the 1986 Tom Hanks film
style="font-style: italic;">The Money Pit?
Hanks buys a very large house with a good bit of real estate for what
he believes is a bargain price. As the plot unfolds, he realizes the
house is one big money pit as he has to pour in resources to make
repairs. While The
Money Pit is a comedy where viewers laugh at the hapless
character portrayed by Hanks, no one laughs at the game developer who
designs a large game and cant keep up with repairs.
style="font-style: italic;">Vangaurd: Saga of Heroes,
a game near and dear to my heart. The top brass at Sigil Games, the
original developers for Vanguard,
had what seemed to be unlimited capital for a while, and the design
team was wildly ambitious. Telon was a huge world at style="font-style: italic;">Vanguards launch
(bigger than any Ive ever seen), but even its massive launch size was
a truncated version of the dream. The continent of Kojan, for instance,
had to be scaled down as time and development dollars ran out for the
project. I remember my beta experience in style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard when
players would fall through the world. While this is a common occurrence
for any 3D game in beta, can you imagine how hard it is to track down
all of the holes in your world when its as massive as Telon? Now take
the number of instances of that one problem and increase it by some
exponent and youve got your own money pit where things are breaking
faster than you can fix them. Its a bit like playing in the backyard
versus mowing the lawn: bigger is better until you have to take care of
as its no fun for the owner to have to mow a lot the size of a
football field, it can be a little daunting for the children to go
outside and play in such a big yard, especially if they enter the
grounds from opposite ends. At launch, getting your Orc from Kojan to
meet up with a friends Dwarf on Thestra in style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard was a
pain. Again because of funding shortfalls at the end of development, style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard was
missing key elements intended by the design team to make travel
meaningful. The result was laborious travel. SOE has since fixed the
problem, but just about every P2P game ends up with ghost town starter
cities after a while.
takes place on
earth, so it feels pretty big.
I havent encountered a world as sprawling as Telon in any F2P
have tried. There are some big worlds out there ( href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1303"
Online feels pretty large at times), but a scant
few add square mileage as a bullet point on the website. F2P games tend
to use more instancing and deliver an episodic experience. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1234"
of Magic offers a good example of a F2P that
blends instances with an over world and open dungeons, but Taborea is
not large. Frogster knows its lawn isnt as big as others, so the focus
is on keeping the landscaping immaculate.
The smaller worlds designed in F2P games like
style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic have
some noteworthy benefits, but the pressure is on P2P developers to
build bigger. Grouping is a little easier when gamers play in a smaller
area. As already noted, its easier to care for a smaller world, too.
At the same time, P2P gamers often stick with one game for longer
periods than do F2P gamers, making a lot of real estate to explore a
real boon. Larger worlds also spread out content to give smoother
transitions between areas with encounters for different level ranges.
The wider dispersion of content further reduces competition for the
limited assets (mobs, dungeons, and harvesting resources) of the world;
instead of only one zone for levels 20-25, a P2P game might have five
with vastly different quest lines. This all makes a big difference in a
P2P game that has a larger player base than a F2P game. If this all
makes it sound as though more is better, what about games with a lower
Im back to Vanguard
again. Even with all of the improved methods of travel and global chat,
Telon can be a lonely place at times. SOE has a terrific game on its
hands, but its a bit like watching two-on-two football using a full
regulation field; a lot of the space is wasted. As MMOGs continue to
saturate the market, even P2P gamers are starting to hop from one game
to the next a little more often. Four extra zones of level 20-25
content means nothing if you dont stay with a game long enough to make
an alt. Some P2P games have started releasing with smaller worlds
already to defray costs, and the lagging economy may mean a trend
looking ahead. At the very least, the idea of releasing part of the
content at launch and continuing to develop the rest for an expansion
or patch is sure to be on the table.
As a gamer who played P2P MMOGs for five years and then
switched to F2P games in the last year, the idea of smaller worlds
doesnt bother me much. I am fine with a relatively small world so long
as it means fewer bugs (or faster bug fixes) and a better community
experience. Bigger is not always better.
Do you see any advantages to smaller worlds, or is Ralsu
your thoughts or post them href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=40987"
target="_blank">in our forums!
The Top Ten
to page two to see Ralsu's
latest Top Ten list.
This week, I spent most of my time beta testing games. Some
are protected by an NDA, so I cant talk about them. One of the
enjoyable ones that allows me to at least mention I am playing
Saga Online (ESO) by Perfect World
Entertainment. I wont say much more except that I already find ESO to
be built with the same quality as href="http://tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/771" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Perfect World International,
a game that has been on my Top Ten before. Given a little more time
with it, I might need to find it a spot on this list.
Looking ahead, I am wrapping up my time with
and youll see my review soon. I hope to review DOMO in the near
future, too. The games been on my Top Ten for a long time, so it
deserves a review. Finally, look for a style="font-style: italic;">Shin Megami Tensei Online
preview to round out some coverage on the games that consistently show
up in this list.
February 23, 2009
is a squad-based fantasy strategy game that breaks the mold. Players
can control up to nine characters at once in fast-paced turn-based
combat. A lot of the systems in Atlantica
are different from the standard fare on the market.
Ton Hammer Review
( href="http://www.runesofmagic.com/">www.runesofmagic.com style="font-weight: bold;">)
Runes of Magic
is a traditional fantasy game that uses a Dual Class system to inject a
little strategy into character planning and a lot of flexibility into
grouping. RoM has all of the features gamers want in a
subscription-based game, but theyll enjoy them for free here.
( target="_blank">http://www.dungeonrunners.com style="font-weight: bold;">) NCSoft
is a hack and slash fantasy game that infuses every aspect of gameplay
with humor. DR makes fun of other games, the genre, and even itself.
This is the perfect game for a player looking to blow off steam after a
rough day at work.
Ton Hammer Review
provides so many things to do that it earns its self-appointed moniker
of A Fantasy Life. Players can farm, play music, hunt, craft, go to
school and more in this fantasy land. In style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi, combat is
not the only way to advance.
is a horror-themed game that blends the traditional elements of MMOGs
with the visceral feel of a gore film. style="font-style: italic;">Requiem is worth a
look because of its fresh take on setting in MMOGs.
( href="http://warriorepic.com/">http://warriorepic.com style="font-weight: bold;">)
Epic is ready to begin the next round of closed beta soon.
It provides a fantasy hack and slash dungeon crawler experience with
some very innovative features, including the ability to choose
different character classes for each dungeon and a Warrior Hall that
grows with the player.
Aeria Games &
Dream of Mirror
Online puts the player in the starring role of a classic
Chinese myth. The eastern-based lore provides a refreshing twist on
MMOGs, and the multi-class system makes character development in this
fantasy game fun.
( target="_blank">www.freerealms.com style="font-weight: bold;">) Sony Online Entertainment
is a a 3D fantasy
world designed to encourage exploration and support casual play. With
graphics similar to WoW and all the gameplay of a standard MMOG, style="font-style: italic;">Free Realms could
appeal to adults. Its many minigames and events are designed to please
Megami Tensei: Imagine Online brings the popular RPG to
life in the MMOG sphere. Players can use friendly persuasion or
aggressive coercion to get demons to fight by their side. The dark
subject matter and modern setting of the game is a welcome contrast to
the enchanted glens filled with pixies we often find in MMOGs. style="font-weight: bold;">
(www.exteel.com style="font-weight: bold;">)
is a lobby-based fragfest featuring customizable mechs. The graphics
are top-notch, and the action is heart-pounding.
Ton Hammer Review
Please refer to the Top
Free-to-Play Games Portal to find out how to get a game you
make or like on this list.
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