style="background: rgb(57, 65, 76) none repeat scroll 0% 50%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial; overflow: hidden; float: right; display: table; width: 300px;">

style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(255, 204, 51);">Top
Free-to-Play Games

of Jan 24 - Jan 30 , 2010

1. style="text-decoration: underline;">Allods Online

2.  style="text-decoration: underline;">Runes of Magic href="" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href=""> style="text-decoration: underline;"> style="text-decoration: underline;">

3.  Dungeons
and Dragons
Online: Eberron Unlimited
href=""> style="text-decoration: underline;"> style="text-decoration: underline;">

4. Earth
href="" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;"> href="" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;">

5.  href=""
href="" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;">

6. style="text-decoration: underline;">FreeRealms href="" target="_blank"> style="text-decoration: underline;">

7. style="text-decoration: underline;">Heroes of Gaia

8.  target="_blank">Cabal

9. Dragonica


Welcome to the second weekly installment of Microcosms, where we
explore all things pertaining to free-to-play and
microtransaction-based MMOGs. 

The headlines and editorials from the past week here at Ten Ton Hammer
have also, oddly enough, seemed to focus on subscription-free gaming -
bringing us one step closer to total world domination! (ok, well, maybe
not, but at least one step closer to mainstream acceptance.)

Is this heightened free-to-play awareness a coincidence? I don't think
so at all; I think it’s the shape of things to come. In fact I think
free-to-play games themselves will become the shape of things to come,
which will be the focus of the column this week.


Before we get to that however, I am going to change it up a bit, in a
modified suggestion from one of our esteemed forum members, Mckimmins.
I will now highlight some titles in my weekly top ten list and give
some insight as to what makes them noteworthy.

Allods Online -
This highly anticipated title href="" target="_top">entered
into close beta test version 4 this week and the future has
never looked brighter. Featuring polished graphics, a solid feel, and
an amazing budget, Allods Online is the newest title in North America
that is raising the bar on free-to-play expectations.

Earth Eternal
- Not only is Earth Eternal free-to-play, but it is also browser-based,
and while this combination is typically a death knell to serious
gamers, EE delivers a solid gaming experience that features pretty
standard mechanics with a href="" target="_top">fuzzy twist.

Kung Foo!
Adding a bit of levity to this week’s list is Kung Foo, a satirical
game that takes shots at MMOGs as well as kung fu movies. The game
comes from Asian powerhouse Perfect World Entertainment and spotlights
again the target="_top">diversity that can only be found in
a free-to-play environment.

Pattern Recognition

Pattern recognition is often a subtle art that when mastered can make
the astute investor rich or make the observant athlete a hero. There
are other times when the patterns are so obvious that they seem to rise
up and smack you in the face, which is exactly what happened to me this
week as I perused several articles here at Ten Ton Hammer starting with
an amazing article from Sardu asking the question -  href="" target="_top">Can
MMOGs avoid falling into their own progress trap? The next
item that caught my attention was a timely bit in href="" target="_top">Loading
from Shayalyn that pondered what the secret of long-term MMOG success
was. An target="_top">interview with Blizzard's Paul Sams
that Martuk happened upon illuminated the pattern a little further when
the COO of the gaming giant divulged that releasing unfinished products
was killing the industry. And finally a premium piece that Ethec
published on Friday - " href="" target="_top">Rise
of the Free-to-Play" (those of you who aren't Premium Members
will gain access to this on the same day I publish this column) brought
it all together in a sort of gaming epiphany for me when industry
experts revealed some promising trends in the free-to-play realm.

Brought what together you might ask? I’ll phrase my question in the
form of an answer -- free-to-play MMOGs will become the innovators and
saviors of the genre.

AAA developers are increasingly leery of taking any sort of risk for
fear of releasing a product that doesn't resemble WoW closely enough,
and gamers are href=""
target="_top">loathe to play another WoW clone,
creating a never ending catch-22. Rueben Waters pointed this very
phenomenon out in his piece last week:

The end
result is that development of most MMOGs has taken a much more
cautionary approach, leading to a much more stagnant overall market
where players are less inclined to pick up a new title for fear of it
being too similar to what's come before to offer any new entertainment

Value often times is what it boils down to. The past few years of MMOG
releases, for many gamers, have mostly worked out to being a $50.00
investment for 30 days of gameplay. Free-to-play games can break that
cycle but it requires an upgrade in overall quality of product to gain
the public’s trust. Quality has been the major down side to the
free-to-play experience, but recent titles have helped turn that
around, as noted by Jeff Woleslagle in his article:

The first
wave of free-to-play games in North America had a huge trust barrier to
overcome and were typically published by companies with little to
lose.  Bjorn continued: “There are a lot of crappy games that
never really made money in Korea or elsewhere, and those guys decided
to bring the games to the rest of the world." These games met with
predictable results, and unfortunately, free-to-play came to mean bad
localization, wacky translations, poor graphics, and backward gameplay.

Publishers like
GamersFirst, Frogster (Runes of Magic), Nexon (Maple Story and
Mabinogi), nDoors (Atlantica Online), and Perfect World (PWI, 
Jade Dynasty, Kung Foo!) eventually rode to the rescue, hoping to
salvage free-to-play's reputation with higher quality localization
efforts, but it took Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited to
turn the corner and open up North America the idea of gaming a la carte.

With free-to-play games making quality improvements, and consequently
making inroads into the gamer’s circle of trust, the groundwork is laid
for the next step in their evolution. One name that is absent from the
quoted list above is Allods
, a Russian import that goes toe-to-toe, budget
wise, with the AAA titles. Allods
has, for the most part, stuck to the tried and true
formula that defines the genre, but they have made an interesting
modification to the mechanics-- there is no auto attack or macro making
ability in the game. While some would see this as a negative, I prefer
to think of it as addition by subtraction--the loss of these two
features also means the loss of exploiters’ ability to bot in game

As overall quality improves and perhaps as other established games make
the switch and drop their subscription model, free-to-play games may
finally become synonymous with quality and innovation and cease being
the yellow-arrow-over-the-head copycats that they have become known as.
With the added benefits of pressure-free gaming, due to the lack of a
money factor hanging over players’ heads, and the ability to grow the
player base due to the lesser expectations, free-to-play games will be
able to take risks and reap their rewards much easier than their
subscription-based counterparts

alt="" style="border: 0px solid ; width: 600px; height: 319px;"

style="font-style: italic; color: rgb(255, 204, 51);">
Allods Online brings a AAA budget to the free-to-play market

style="background: rgb(57, 65, 76) none no-repeat scroll 0% 50%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial; overflow: hidden; display: table; width: 632px;">

style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(255, 204, 51);">Hot
off the Press!

  • href="">Allods
    Kicks Off Closed Beta Test #4

    Allod's Online is entering into it the next
    phase of beta, opening up the final levels of the game for exploration.
    Hopefully combat speeds up!

  • HanibSoft
    to Bring Hellgate Back to North America

    Hellgate franchise rights sold to South Korean Developer. The upside is
    that it couldn't possibly be any worse than the last itteration.
  • Feature
    Article - "The Rise of Free-to-Play"

    If you only read one other article this week, make this the one. A
    comprehensive look at the future of gaming.
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016