The Ten Ton Hammer Best of 2009 Awards

[premium]If you're looking for the 2010 MMOG predictions article, click here.

[/premium]


back at the past 12 months, 2009 was an interesting year in the MMOG industry. We didn't see a lot of new titles but we did see a lot of expansions and updates that pushed the genre closer to its next evolutionary stage. A few new things were tried and some classic ideas were revisited.



PROBABLY the most noticeable shift we saw this year was towards microtransactions. Though they're nothing new to the industry, a lot of developing companies got their feet wet this year with in game real cash markets. The concept is still what we would consider to be in infancy but it has become a lot more apparent this year that the model can, and does, work. The misconception that if a game is free-to-play it must be poor quality is fading.



PVP is also gaining popularity. Several titles this year focused heavily on PvP which we also saw in 2008. The difference this year is that developers seem to really be trying to build their PvP games as PvP games from the ground up. We saw more PvP-centric titles launch this year than we have in the past with games like Aion, CrimeCraft, Darkfall, and Fallen Earth.



WHILE we could give almost every game an award of some sort this year, we thought that would be a little self-defeating. It is worth mentioning though that almost every game or expansion launched this year did bring at least one positive element to the genre. However, the purpose of these awards is to recognize excellence in 2009.

SO without further ado, roll out the red carpet. Pop open some champagne. Get your cameras ready for the glitter and glamor of the Ten Ton Hammer Best of 2009 Awards.





is a tough thing to measure. What makes a good community and how do we deem a community excellent? This award gives us a chance to recognize the players of the games that we all enjoy. Let's face it; without the players there wouldn't be much fun in any game.

A good community, to us, is one that is friendly. It's one where players can log into a chat channel and be met with welcoming messages from online friends. It's a place where reputation means a lot and names are remembered. It's a community that has its friendly competition and maybe even some outright rivalry, but remains fun. It is constructive, offering potential solutions to game and community issues instead of shouting "foul!" and "I'm going to sue!" In short, it's a place anyone would feel at home and have fun for most of the time they're logged on.

That said, there's always going to be exceptions. There will always be players who can't see beyond their own noses. There will always be players who believe their $15 per month (or their ability to click a download link for free-to-play games) entitles them to an engraved marble plaque hand delivered by nine virgins in gold-trimmed chiffon to inform them the server will be down for ten minutes next July. No game we've ever encountered is free of these sorts of players. The only question is which type of player is the majority and which is the exception.

So, with all that in mind, the award for Best Community of 2009 goes to...



EVE ONLINE
(CCP)

With one single server on which all players play, the community is very centralized. This helps a lot in promoting a community. Corporations make names for themselves; some good, some not so good. When it comes right down to it, EVE players are really EVE players. They share a commonality in interest and everyone knows what's going on in their virtual world.

Beyond this, the EVE community has an untamed drive to improve the game. And the developers are a part of that community. Players and developers banter back and forth on forums, suggestions are made, implemented, tested and executed, and everyone wins. The recent Dominion expansion is a perfect example of developers working together with the community to evolve the game in a positive direction.

In the end, it's hard to play EVE without becoming a part of the larger community. And for that, many congratulations go to EVE Online, CCP, and the players for making it that way.

Be sure to visit our EVE Online Community Site to find guides, previews, interviews, blogs and more.




 has been the driving force behind MMO Gaming and we would be amiss if we were to not recognize the roleplaying genre. Only recently have some MMOGs started to veer away from the roleplaying aspect but most games still promote it heavily. After all, who wants to be some average Joe in a game when they can do that themselves in their everday lives?

Massively multiplayer games are not necessarily always the best conduit for the roleplayer. It can often be hard to immerse yourself fully if thousands of players around you are not participating in your joy of talking like a dwarf. So, for a complete roleplaying experience it makes sense that we have to look away from MMO games and more towards single player or small group based games.

A good roleplaying game will keep a gamer enthralled for weeks or even months at a time. You simply cannot get into a character you've only played for five hours. The longer you have to become attached to your in game character, the more you'll begin to feel a part of the virtual world in which you play.

Story is also among the chief components of a good RPG. And there's only a few studios who know how to tell a great story. If done well the story of the world, its history, and the heroes and villains will become as much a part of your life while playing the game as your neighbors and friends in the real world. This kind of game is one that you simply can't stop playing and find yourself staying up much longer than you should just to unravel the next arc.

This year's winner is an obvious pick, and the congratulations go to...



DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS
(BioWare)

BioWare did so much right with this title. From the first ten minutes in the game until its climactic ending 40-60 played hours later, the story will keep you involved. The characters are so rich in depth and personality that you really will believe they've taken on a life of their own. The world changes around you based on your actions, and the quests will have you wearing your adventure hat right in your own living room.

The gameplay is solid and thoughtful. Varying challenge levels make it a lot of fun to play for any degree of roleplaying fans, from casual to hardcore. Prefer a more action packed game? No problem. Can't get enough strategizing and number crunching? It can do that too. Rarely has a game of such profundity been so accessible to so many playstyles that we believe BioWare has very likely earned Dragon Age: Origins a spot in the top ten games of the decade.

Find more Dragon Age: Origins content at our DA:O Portal.





of Ten Ton Hammer's Premium program got their say this year. We asked our readers to pick their favorite game or expansion that launched this year, and the results were quite spread out.

Some members enjoyed the thrill of a brand new game with a new world, new quests and new adventures, while others found their favorite somewhat closer to home and within an expansion. Some picked free-to-play titles and some others preferred games with a subscription model. Lore and story of the world played a part to some of our members. Others were more interested in PvP and other gameplay aspects.

Our readers tastes vary as widely as the games themselves, so this year's winner was anyone's guess. We didn't know if they were going to vote for the graphics, gameplay, class choice, combat, crafting mechanics, or the coolest and/or funniest title. We left it up to them, and they made their choice.

The votes have been cast and the winner of the 2009 Ten Ton Hammer Member's Choice award goes to...



CHAMPIONS ONLINE
(Cryptic Studios)

What's not to love about being a superhero?

The genre of Superheroes and Super Villains is nothing new to Cryptic Studios. Having developed City of Heroes before Champions Online, these guys are well familiar with super powers and how fun it can be to design your own hero and let him or her loose in the world.

Champions Online offers one of the most amazingly customizable character creation systems in the industry. There are literally thousands of options to make your hero look and feel just the way you want him/her to. We bet you'll spend several hours in the character customization alone.

And then the real fun begins. Make your way through Millenium City as it's under attack and travel to distant places to continue your adventure. Meet thousands of other heroes along the way who all have their own unique look and powers. Prove yourself in PvP battles or save a city. There's always something to do in Champions Online. And our readers love it.

If you're looking for CO guides, interviews, videos and more, look no further than our Champions Online Community Site.




are something all MMO Gamers look forward to. They make the old new again. Nowadays when a game launches, it is pretty much expected by its fans that it will see an expansion every year or two.

Excellence in an expansion can be measured by its innovation, attention to player requests and implementation. It's almost universally true that expansions incorporate new systems or new content of some sort apart from just adding new playfields. Whether the new content comes with a new playable class, a new achievements system, new forms of PvP, or the ability to create your own customizable soldier to lead, there's always something players can look forward to.

An expansion that adds new systems and new ideas that both work well and are cutting edge is a real sign of inventive genius. Several games suffer from lackluster expansions, so when a good one is launched, it can be appreciated by all--fans and casual observers alike.

This year saw a few good expansions, but there was one in particular that rose above the rest. The Ten Ton Hammer Best Expansion of 2009 Award goes to...



THE LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE: SIEGE OF MIRKWOOD
(Turbine)

Siege of Mirkwood offers players the usual gambit of content one can expect of an expansion. It includes new quests and new zones and dungeons, a level cap increase, and new raids.

However, what makes this expansion the top on our list of 2009 is the upgrade to the combat system and the Skirmishes. We always felt a little disconnected with the combat in LotRO, and the new system just feels right. Combat is responsive and exciting.

The Skirmish system is one of the most fun ideas we've seen in the industry this year. Players can create and lead their own soldier in randomized instances. The soldier can be trained and skill up. Joining a skirmish is easy and provides quick, raw entertainment. As an added incentive, purchasing Siege of Mirkwood also includes all previous expansions and content updates.

Turbine continues to deliver on their commitment to their games. LotRO is no exception as its story-telling is among the best. The Siege of Mirkwood story concludes the events that began in the previous expansion and every step draws you deeper into the world.

Read more about LotRO at our LotRO Portal.





games have boomed in popularity over the past few years. 2009 saw more quality subscription free games than ever before. The misconception that if it's free it must be bad is fading and more and more players are seeing free-to-play games as a valid MMOG choice.

We can't argue with the players. We've seen some excellent titles this year, some of which are as polished and chock-full of content as any subscription modeled game.

The measurement for excellence in the free-to-play market works a little differently than other categories as the entire success of the game depends upon the enjoyability of the game. To quantify this statement, subscription games obviously should be enjoyable, but pre-launch marketing can boost box sales, earning revenue apart from subscriptions. Free-to-play games don't have that luxury. They need to captivate players by their gameplay alone and need to be so entertaining that players will want to spend money on microtransactions.

This year we witnessed one game that has captivated a lot of players. The development team continues to work at a furious pace, bringing in new adventures, classes, and content on a monthly basis. No other game in the industry produces as much quality in such quantities as quickly as the winner of this year's award.

You've guessed it by now. The Ten Ton Hammer Best Free-to-Play Game of 2009 Award goes to...



DUNGEONS & DRAGONS ONLINE: EBERRON UNLIMITED
(Turbine)

Turbine really earned their second Ten Ton Hammer Award of 2009 with DDO Unlimited. Every month as their player numbers and optional subscription numbers increase, they prove that the right game and right amount of commitment from the developing team can make for a blockbuster success.

Perhaps DDO had an ace up its sleeve from its Stormreach launch, when it was a subscription only game. But that point is also what makes this title a particularly commendable game. Where other companies may have given up on a game after its initial population waned, Turbine believed in the franchise and figured out a way to get the game back on the charts. Who knew it would have climbed so rapidly on the list of player favorites?

Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited has several options for players on any budget. There's tons of free enjoyable content, and every month Turbine adds exceptional new dungeons and quests that is either available to all, or can be purchased through the in-game store, or is included in their optional subscription choices. It enables the player to play and pay for only the content they want.

Congratulations Turbine for making the most accessible online game of the decade.

Find out all about DDO at our DDO Portal.





games are the ones that have you so excited to play that you lose sleep, take time off work or school, and make sure your schedule is clear for several days to play come launch.

They're also the games that keep you playing. They have some elements of all of the other awards listed today. They need to have a great community to keep things fun. They need the captivating story and lore of roleplaying games. They need to be anticipated and enjoyed by the audience. They need to have a healthy dose of content and continued dedication from the developers for updates to the game.

And they need to give the player the ability to grow wings and fly.

One game did all of that this year. It's been enjoyed by thousands of players around the world and saw one of the smoothest MMO launches in history. We had to wait in line to play, but we were willing to do so, because the game was a good one.

The Ten Ton Hammer Best Subscription Based Game of 2009 goes to none other than...



AION
(NCsoft)


Aion was a surprise hit to many this year. Unlike many other triple A titles the marketing blitz for the game didn't really start to gain momentum until just a few months before its release. The game was coming, and players had heard about it, but it was still a little outside the radar for many until it was near completion.

And what a wonderful surprise it was! The game was very well polished from the get go. The interface is clean and intuitive. Any player can boot up the game for the first time and instantly get into the action without having to fight awkward controls or alien UI settings. The art of the game is glorious and vibrant while not being overly demanding of system specs. We wouldn't recommend it on a mid-range laptop, but most desktop computers should be able to run the game well.

Apart from all that, the game is just fun. The story has you getting into the lore of the world swiftly, and by the time you're ready to leave the newbie area, you'll have your wings. Literally. You can sprout your wings to fly over the playfield. Cool factor: 10.

Aion is very PvP focused. Balancing is always a challenge for any game, but even so, a flight through the Abyss and sieging PvP goals is rich, thrilling and rewarding. Fight enemy players on all three axes to get a truly unique PvP experience that will keep you logging in day after day.

Head on over to our Aion Community Site for guides, tutorials, and more.

About the Author

Last Updated:

Around the Web