Microcosms - GDC 2010 - The Year of the Free-to-Plays

Well GDC 2010 has come and gone, and while this year’s iteration may not have provided any stunning reveals or long awaited announcements, it was a coming of age party for free-to-play games. Everywhere you went this week the prevailing theme, in the MMOG genre, was that the next Big Thing was going to be microtransaction based free-to-plays. What really accentuated this point wasn’t the usual self promotion of the companies making these games, but the comments made by some of the biggest names in the industry heralding it as the wave of the future. Everyone from Cryptic to Turbine to Lucas Arts was singing the same refrain, that the quality gap has been bridged, that free-to-play is the way of the future.

While Asian markets have completely accepted this business model and actually revel in it, we here in the west still have the misconception that the games are of poor quality and the payment method is more scam than potential savings. While several recently released titles have already begun to remove the stigma that has been placed on free-to-plays, the vast majority of games that we previewed at GDC proved that those games aren’t an anomaly but just the first in a growing trend of great games that don’t require a subscription to play. Read up on some of the highlights in this weeks feature .

We here at Ten Ton Hammer remain committed to covering and chronicling these games and this column will strive to be the focal point of that coverage. Look for some exciting changes coming soon, and as always let us know what you like, dislike or would like to see improved in our forums.

As gaming continues to grow at a pace more rapid than the expansion of Kevin Smith’s waistline, so too grow the number of conferences and special events that are dedicated to it. While we here at Ten Ton Hammer would love to attend every single one of them (and we do attend the vast majority) concessions must sometimes be made in terms of how many people we can send to any given event.  When the initial assessment was made of GDC in San Francisco it was decided that we would be able to get the stories that mattered most to our readers with but a single representative, but as the conference grew closer it became evident that a larger contingent should be dispatched. The main reason that the away team was able to triple in size was due almost exclusively to the number of requests we got for meetings from free-to-play game publishers and developers, which means I had to don the red shirt and set off on my fact gathering mission in a hurry.

During my short stay in the bay area I managed to cram in four meetings with free-to-play publishers in addition to other duties I had to perform, and I was able to check out some very cool games in the process, read on for a highlight of those titles and click the games title for a link to the full article from GDC

Sword of the New World

Sword of the New World is truly multi-layered with players participating not only in combat, both PvP and PvE based, but also in politics as the game centers on a political PvP system that features players running for office in an effort to control the colonies.  Jon-En?e Merriex  stated that “Many people view it (Sword of the New World) as an MMORPG, but really there are so many more strategy elements to it and the Political PvP system is the crowning point of the strategy elements.“ Merriex also piqued our interest when he expanded on the weekly faction based colony battles; these skirmishes take place every Saturday and the winning faction is rewarded via a percentage of the game’s auction house sales for that week. 


GamersFirst is rolling out a new title that fits the bill of innovation in the form of Victory, a racing game set in post-apocalyptic world of 2062. With Victory, players can select a male or female avatar to pilot their vehicle, but the real avatar to identify with will be the car itself. The vehicles will be fully customizable and will feature three separate blocks that can be tailor made to the player’s exact desire; going with the three distinct blocks allows for the customization to be nearly limitless. The game will feature an item shop that will feature some of the more advanced customization options but will not offer any advantages to paying customers that non-paying players wouldn’t be able to attain with an investment of time. Brian Konar ran me through a quick demo video of the game that featured in-game action that should easily satisfy players need for speed. The game features multiple tracks that are all based on real world race tracks, but have been re-imagined to fit within the post-apocalyptic theme.


Continuing in the vein of non-fantasy based gaming, Joseph Willmon introduced us to Takiodom, an online space themed MMOG that features a PvP centric style of play.  Similar to Black Prophecy, Takiodom incorporates twitch based ship to ship combat that can be played with standard keyboard/mouse controls or a game pad. The game world is large and complex with multiple systems in place to satisfy everyone from hardcore PvP junkies to the economics major who is running a commodities spreadsheet on their second monitor.  There are no classes in the game which opens up the game to customization as players can assign their skill points and build their ship to fill the role they feel most comfortable in, such as a long range sniper with limited mobility, a heavy bomber that can lay the hurt on space stations or ground based targets, or a nimble and deadly dogfighter that likes to get up close and personal.

Black Prophecy

Black Prophecy is without a doubt one of the more exciting titles on the horizon for release this year, combing all the hallmarks of MMOG gameplay with a Wing Commander style combat system, but if you aren’t a fan of the genre and space games don’t appeal to you don’t expect Black Prophecy to convert you. “If you are only about fantasy and traditional RPG MMOGs, maybe Black Prophecy is not for you” stated Böcker. “It is aimed at the action player who wants exciting combat and space fighting.” While this may seem a harsh stance on the surface, it really epitomizes why this will be a great game; a highly polished concept that doesn’t attempt to be something it isn’t but rather revels in everything that is, a beautiful MMOG with a whole universe of addicting high speed space combat.

City of Eternals

City of Eternals is a browser based, free-to-play MMOG currently in beta testing that features a highly social core and uses a player’s facebook profile to auto populate both your avatar and your friends list. City of Eternals isn’t a facebook game however, it is flash based clientless game that exists on its own web site and can be hosted through HTML embedding by anyone who wishes to add it to their own pages.  The game is set in a vampire themed world that blends many core values of the popular vampire mythos, including the uber-popular romance of Twilight.

Divine Souls

A title so new, it doesn’t even yet have its own website, Divine Souls is an action packed game that combines elements of MMOGs and 3D fighting games into an extremely fun package.  Players will be able to choose from one of five classes at launch while our playable version featured three classes, the Mage, Fighter and Slasher, to either band together to defeat powerful NPC monsters or gang up on each other in PvP action.

Erebus: Travia Reborn

Originally launched in Asia as Travia, Erebus: Travia Reborn is pretty true to its new title—a rebirth of the popular Korean Action RPG-MMOG. Instantly recognizable by fans of Diablo, this game has a similar look and feel of the popular Blizzard classic, but with an MMOG style twist. Players will have four basic combat classes to select from that can eventually be expanded to one of 18 unique “master classes” as you advance your character through a staggering 400 levels

The stars continue to align for free-to-play gaming and this year’s GDC went a long way to confirm it. Stay tuned to Ten Ton Hammer and Microcosms for all the latest news and articles on this exciting segment of MMOGs.


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