Top Ten Free-to-Play Games - Lobbies in, Jillions of Beta "Testers" out

By Danny "Ralsu" Gourley

Lobbies in,
Jillions of Beta "Testers" out

Last
week
,
I asked readers to weigh in on their view of games that use a lobby to
join players. Should they be given consideration as true
massively-multiplayer online games? Only style="font-weight: bold;">megaflux was brave
enough href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=37476">to
respond. I prefer thinking that more than one person reads
the Top Ten Free-to-Play Games each week to asphyxiating myself with
my mouse cord, so I'll assume megaflux speaks for everyone or that no
one cares. Henceforth, I will consider games with a lobby as viable for
this list, which means I will spend more time in the future with games
like Warrior Epic,
Rakion, and
Exteel.
Case closed. Moving on.

As style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic
gets set to roll into Closed Beta Phase III in early November, I have
been pondering the importance of a solid beta test for a free-to-play
(F2P) game. Ever seen a free-to-play game advertised on television? I
have seen ads for Maple
Story
and maybe Dungeon
Runners
. That's it. And that's my point. With hundreds
(maybe thousands) of F2P games out there, and little startup money left
after development for marketing, it is critical that companies generate
some positive word-of-mouth prior to the official launch of their games.

The best way to create buzz for a game is to get people to
play it, so FTP games typically have huge beta tests with thousands
upon thousands--possibly href="http://www.answers.com/topic/jillion" target="_blank">jillions!--of
"testers" who are really there to try the game instead of help make it
better. Quite honestly, the strategy fails much of the time. The
so-called testers don't bother to report bugs. They play until they
encounter something that turns them off to the game and leave. They
tell their friends only about the offensive gameplay element, and the
game is relegated to the anonymity that comes with a glutted market.

Frogster Interactive, the folks behind style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic,
wanted a different fate for their game. When Closed Beta started, Ten
Ton Hammer was fortunate enough to receive href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=35541">50
guaranteed invitations for its readers. The small number was
part of Frogster's strategy to make sure the game had dedicated
testers. The goal was to refine the content and fix bugs. It was not
the normal advertising scheme employed by so many competitors.

Only after it was satisfied that the foundation for Runes of
Magic was polished and solid did Frogster admit a large number of new
testers to perform stress tests and fill the servers. This time, Ten
Ton Hammer was granted up to href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=37353">1500
beta slots. Closed Beta III in November looks to be the last
invitation-only phase of beta for Runes
of Magic
. December will likely bring the open beta for the
window shoppers of the internet.

Frogster deserves praise for treating its game like a real
game where production value matters. Free-to-play does not have to mean
low budget and poor quality, and the careful approach Frogster used
with beta will ensure the release product is one worth playing. Since
the Closed Beta is under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), I can't say
what I have or have not seen in the game--or that I have seen anything
at all. Instead, I will drop a few links to some public information
that should properly showcase the potential of this game and help
readers understand why I am so excited about it:

  • Aslan
    Valley Zone Preview
    - Note the attention to detail for the
    lore. A game with a solid story will keep players hooked instead of
    feeling the grind.
  • href="http://www.runesofmagic.com/en/articles,id13,0,fighting.html">Combat
    Dev Journal
    - Since much of a gamer's time is spent in
    combat, the system needs to be good.
  • Combat
    Screenshots
    - We can see enough here to understand the
    comparison to World of
    Warcraft
    (WoW) in the area of graphics. If the rest of the
    game is as good as WoW, can Frogster go wrong?
  • Combat
    Video
    - Stills are great, but you know you want to see it in
    action.
  • Faction
    Screenshots
    - Further proof of a detailed backstory. A world
    with conflicting factions feels more alive.
  • Armor
    Screenshots
    - We're all vain when it comes to our virtual
    avatars. We want people to be jealous of us just by looking at our cool
    characters.
  • Dungeon
    Screenshots
    - This collection only has four screens, but each
    dungeon looks distinct. Nobody wants to play the game where every new
    dungeon looks like the one he just left.
  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/leipzig08/awards">GCDC
    2008 Awards - Runes
    of Magic
    won the Best Free-to-Play award from Ten Ton
    Hammer.

Are you excited about Runes
of Magic
? Think you know how F2P games should handle beta
testing? Let us know href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=37765">in
our forums.

Disclaimer:
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed are those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of
the Ten Ton Hammer network or staff.


cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2">
style="text-align: center; width: 75px; background-color: rgb(114, 105, 62); font-weight: bold; color: white;">Rank style="text-align: center; width: 105px; background-color: rgb(114, 105, 62); font-weight: bold; color: white;"> style="width: 334px; background-color: rgb(114, 105, 62); font-weight: bold; color: white;">Game
colspan="3" rowspan="1"> style="color: white; font-weight: bold;">Top Ten
Free-to-Play Games

October 30 2008

1


Last
week: 1
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/38580"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/38580/preview">
style="width: 334px; vertical-align: top;"> style="font-weight: bold;">Atlantica Online - ( style="font-weight: bold;"
href="http://atlantica.ndoorsgames.com/" target="_blank">http://atlantica.ndoorsgames.com/)

NDOORS

  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1303">Atlantica
    Portal

Why you should try
it:
Atlantica
requires players to think. Yes, think! Every time I play, I see a
newbie ask how to defeat Hellish Fairy (the first boss) in Peer chat.
Age old tactics of "whack it until it's dead" do not apply to this game.

2


Last
week: 2
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/41097"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/41097/preview">
style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;">Wizard101 - ( style="font-weight: bold;" href="https://www.wizard101.com/"
target="_blank">www.wizard101.com)

KingsIsle Entertainment, Inc.

  • href="http://tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1186">Magic101
    Portal

style="font-weight: bold;">Why you should try it:
Eventually,
you will have to pay to unlock all of the content in style="font-style: italic;">Wizard101.
Meanwhile, the content available for free is polished, balanced, and
fun. Read the first impressions href="http://www.tentonhamster.com/node/2632">over
on the Hamster and check out the href="http://www.tentonhamster.com/node/2664">Halloween video.

3


Last
week: 3
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/31567"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/31567/preview">
style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;">Mabinogi - ( href="http://mabinogi.nexon.net/">http://mabinogi.nexon.net)

NEXON

  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/856">Mabonogi
    Portal

style="font-weight: bold;">Why you should try it:
style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi has a
deceptively simple combat mechanic that stays fun for a long time.

4


Last
week: 4
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/33602"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/33602/preview">
style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;">Dungeon Runners -
( target="_blank">http://www.dungeonrunners.com style="font-weight: bold;">) NCSoft

  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/110">Dungeon
    Runners Portal

Why you should try
it:
style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon
Runners has the best sense of humor of any game you can
play. The game even makes fun of itself. style="font-weight: bold;">

5


Last
week: 8
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/36886"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/36886/preview">
style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;">Runes of Magic -
( href="http://www.runesofmagic.com/">www.runesofmagic.com style="font-weight: bold;">)

Frogster

  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1234">Runes
    of Magic Portal

Why you should try
it:
style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic has
a lot of promise. When Open Beta comes, the world will get to see if
Frogster can deliver on that promise.

6


Last
week: 5
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/30838"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/30838/preview">
style="font-weight: bold;">Magic World
Online
- ( href="http://mwo.enjoymmo.com/" target="_blank">http://mwo.enjoymmo.com style="font-weight: bold;">)

Goldcool Games

  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/983">Magic
    World Online Portal

Why you should try
it:
style="font-style: italic;">Magic World Online
tells a tale and puts your character at the center of it all. In doing
so, it provides an element that is missing from so many other games on
the market--even subscription games.

7


Last
week: 6
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/35119"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/35119/preview">
style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;">Rohan: Blood Feud - ( href="http://www.playrohan.com/" target="_blank"> style="font-weight: bold;">www.playrohan.com style="font-weight: bold;">)

YNK Interactive

  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/906">Rohan
    Portal

Why you should try
it:
style="font-style: italic;">Rohan is as solid a
game as any for the first 20 levels. The graphics are nice, and the
world feels alive because of the factions. The player base continues to
dwindle, though.

8


Last
week: N/A
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/30841/preview"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/30841/preview">
style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;">Warrior Epic -
( href="http://warriorepic.com/">http://warriorepic.com style="font-weight: bold;">)
Possibility Space

  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/691">Warrior
    Epic Portal

Why you should try
it:
style="font-style: italic;">Warrior Epic is
poised to offer a fine dungeon romp with unique character classes and a
grand story. The Closed Beta ended some time ago, and little had been
heard from the game until the recent href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/47187">promotional
video.

9


Last
week: 7
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/32333"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/32333/preview">
style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;">Dream of Mirror Online - ( style="font-weight: bold;" target="_blank"
href="http://domo.aeriagames.com/">http://domo.aeriagames.com style="font-weight: bold;">)

Aeria Games &
Entertainment

  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/997">DOMO
    Portal

Why you should try
it:
style="font-style: italic;">Dream of Mirror
Online features a lively and active player base. The
players are pretty generous, too. The dual class system is fun and
allows more versatility in a group. Good thing, too, because you style="font-style: italic;">must have a group
to progress.

10


Last
week: 9
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/45940"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/45940/preview">
style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;">Florensia -
(http://en.florensia-online.com/)
Burda:ic GmbH

  • href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1647">Florensia
    Portal

Why you should try
it:
style="font-style: italic;">Florensia allows
players to break the tedium of land adventures with sea combat and
travel. It makes the world seem more realistic and gives players with
limited time options.



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