2008 Best of F2P Awards

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src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/52216/preview"> style="vertical-align: middle; width: 375px; text-align: left;">The
most appealing aspect of the story for Aeria Games &
Entertainment’s Dream
of Mirror Online

(DOMO) is the source of the tale. Steeped in Chinese mythology, DOMO
gives players a chance to step outside of the Western themes that have
been done to death. While the game offers plenty of things to do
besides the main story arc, the inclusion of special story-based quests
projects a clear message that the story and your actions in it are the
most important things happening in the game. Judicious use of instances
allows each player to feel special without taking away from social
aspects of the game.

about this game

Honorable Mention: href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1234"> style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic
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I started playing free-to-play (F2P) games in March
2008. I was sick of paying subscriptions for games I had too little
time to play. I expected to find low quality titles filled with
adolescents who couldn’t persuade their parents to pay for a
subscription game. Despite my lowered expectations, I found a handful
of games that were better than I anticipated and communities of players
just like me. I met moms and dads who struggled to find precious time
for gaming and could not justify the expense of buying a game at the
retailer and paying a monthly fee. I encountered college students
trying to scrape by on minimum wage who deserve a little down time now
and again.

Best of all, I discovered a portion of the F2P player
base that had
plenty of time and money but enjoyed the more intimate communities of
F2P games, communities where developers frequently drop posts in the
forums and participate with the players. My pleasant experiences in the
F2P market inspired me to help others like me find the finest titles
available (and there are some duds!), so my href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/Top10F2P">Top Ten
Free-to-Play Games
was born in April 2008.

As this year comes to a close, I want to celebrate the
best of the best
that I played and offer my personal applause to the developers
responsible for the last nine months of my enjoyment with online
gaming. Thus, I offer the 2008 Best of Free-to-Play Awards. I’ll be
recognizing games in several categories by drawing from my personal
experience in F2P gaming this year, so some titles may have launched
prior to 2008. I further made a personal rule that the same game cannot
win two awards. I want to spread the love.

This year’s lovely winners don’t really get anything, so
let’s say I
gave them a Ralsu, which obviously would be a trophy of a devilishly
handsome man leaning toward his computer as he plays some of the games
mentioned here. Enjoy your Ralsus developers, and thanks for a great
year in gaming!

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Best Game for Beginners – style="font-style: italic;">Fiesta Online

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of the benefits of
free-to-play games is that you can share them with a loved one without
any monetary investment. In a sense, F2P games can be the perfect
gateway to more intensive experiences. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/34624">The entire
time I played Fiesta,
I was aware of how perfect the game would be for the budding MMOG
player. The tutorial quests, which progress smoothly in complexity, do
an excellent job of getting players acclimated to the standard elements
of MMOGs. All of the interfaces are clean and easy to use, and the NPCs
are memorable characters. My daughter is only six years old now, but
I’ll be looking for a game just like style="font-style: italic;">Fiesta
to train her on in a few years. The best part of the game is that it
has the complexity to last beyond the training cycle. Try this game
from Outspark with a younger relative to get the most out of it.

about this game

Honorable Mention: href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1155"> style="font-style: italic;">Deco Online

Best New Feature –
Warrior Spirit System, Warrior

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style="font-style: italic;">Warrior Epic
has a few novel features that could qualify for this award. Download on
Demand allows players to download content as they need it and uses a
type of peer sharing to take the load off of the servers. The Warrior
Hall pleases gamers who like a lot of alts and allows players to unlock
bonuses for their warriors and teammates. The Warrior Spirit System
stands out as the best new feature in F2P games because it has the
potential to add so much strategy to your experience. You might choose
to resurrect your hired warrior when he dies, but a more intriguing
option is to fuse his spirit with your gear to make it more powerful
and to unlock special abilities. In href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/52140">a recent
interview, Warrior
Brice Lucas indicated the system is still expanding while in
development. Beta testers are not allowed to talk about what they saw
in the first stage of closed beta, but the promise of this system is
very exciting. Look for the second round of closed beta from
Possibility Space and True Games Interactive in early 2009.

about this game

Honorable Mention: DNA System, href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/769"> style="font-style: italic;">Requiem: Bloodymare

Most Innovative
Gameplay – Mabinogi

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the uneducated observer, Mabinogi
is a simple game. Don’t let the pastoral setting fool you. Nexon
started from the ground up to create a fantasy life with their game.
Combat involves strategy but plays out in real time based on the
stances and special moves you have ready. In your down time, you can go
to school, learn to fish, farm, or take part in any number of other
activities that don’t involve combat. In a market that trains us to
believe that progression through combat is the only possibility, style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi brings
innovation to the scene.

about this game

Honorable Mention: href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1303"> style="font-style: italic;">Atlantica Online

Most Original
Setting – Requiem:

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buffs know that setting includes both time and place. In the case of
Gravity Interactive’s Requiem,
the time is “at any moment all sentient life will be wiped out by
demonic beasts and plague-infested humanoids.” The place is a dark
world dripping with blood and bristling with danger. In short, style="font-style: italic;">Requiem
is a horror-themed MMOG, a setting underutilized by MMO developers.
While traditional games always put players in a fantasy forest brimming
with elves and pixies or a futuristic society that travels through
space, Requiem
takes us to undiscovered places. The apocalypse is upon us and nothing
is beautiful or majestic.

about this game

Honorable Mention: href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/181"> style="font-style: italic;">Sword of the New World

Best Story – style="font-style: italic;">Dream
of Mirror Online


Best Graphics – style="font-style: italic;">Rohan:
Blood Feud

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some gamers, graphics
are the most important element of a game, and even those who don’t care
about graphics can’t help but marvel at href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/35638">the beauty of
water in Rohan.
YNK Interactive’s ambitious game features polished character models,
nice lighting effects, gorgeous outdoor environments, and a
lush-but-not-loud color palette. Rohan
looks so good (and the first ten to twenty levels are so well designed)
that it’s hard to remember you’re playing a F2P game.

about this game

Honorable Mention: href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/181"> style="font-style: italic;">Sword of the New World

Best Game That
Failed – Mythos

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cannot weep enough for what the loss of developer Flagship Studios and style="font-style: italic;">Mythos means to me.
Sporting a team comprised largely of style="font-style: italic;">Diablo and style="font-style: italic;">Fate designers, style="font-style: italic;">Mythos
was built to bring the frenetic fun of hack and slash to the MMOG realm
in a grand scale. The game dominated my play time while its beta lived,
and the Flagship staff was a dream to work with; they were courteous,
responsive, and honest. I became worried about the game’s fate when
production halted after a decision was made to switch from instances to
a large, open world. It wasn’t long until the crew had to pull the plug
and kill the dream. Even then, it took some time for href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/41388">the full story
to coalesce. To this day, Mythos
is the third best F2P title I have ever played.

about this game

Honorable Mention: N/A

Surprise Hit – style="font-style: italic;">Runes
of Magic

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I use the word
“surprise,” I feel confident it strikes a nerve with some very
hard-working developers out there. For sure, nobody at Frogster
Interactive would say she is surprised by the early success of style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic
(RoM). I don’t mean my award to be insulting, but RoM has been a
surprise for me. I mistakenly assumed based on its stylized graphics
that RoM was yet another style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft
clone trying to cash in on folks who couldn’t afford the real thing. I
became cautiously optimistic when Frogster started releasing gameplay
details and lore. It was clear there was meat to the game. Now that I
have played it, I am sold fully on the concept and think the game will
continue to grow in a way F2P titles normally don’t. Using a complex
Dual Class System and story-driven progression, RoM offers all of the
features of a pay-to-play game in a F2P package. Frogster also is
committed to quality and longevity as evidenced by href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/52097">the founding
of an office in the US. This is one game everyone should try.

about this game

Honorable Mention: href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1303"> style="font-style: italic;">Atlantica Online

Best F2P Game of
2008 – Atlantica Online

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could write many pages about my love for style="font-style: italic;">Atlantica Online ( href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/49577">and have in
the past).
The title from NDOORS has quality features from crafting to weapon
upgrading. It offers innovative gameplay with its squad-based battles
that play out in short turns. Gamers get a little bit different setting
with Atlantica;
mercenaries use guns but others cast powerful spells. The feeling is
one of a fantasy version of Earth on the verge of becoming
industrialized, and the search for Atlantis is a story far outside the
norm. The graphics are good (though they aren’t superb), and the
community is active. Atlantica
easily is one of the two best F2P games I have ever tried, and I
believe only its defiance of convention and difficulty will keep it
from reaching the same mass audience I expect style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic to
capture. In fact, Atlantica
can be so brutal in the early levels that I wrote a href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/50981">1-15 Leveling
Guide, and I find players who could benefit from it in chat
each time I play. Without a doubt, Altantica
is worth a try for anyone. Thanks for the awesome game, NDOORS!

about this game

Honorable Mention: href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/110"> style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners

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