The Ten Ton Hammer MMOG Decade Awards 2001-2010
After we finished up last year's href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/awards/2009/best_of">Best
of 2009 awards we knew that this year we wanted to do things
a little differently. The end of the decade has come, and if we look
back over the last ten years between 2001 and 2010 a lot of signifcant
things have happened in the MMOG industry. Heck, the genre was only
really recognized in 1997 or 1999 (depending which game you consider
the first MMOG).
So throughout the year the staff at Ten Ton Hammer has been giving a
lot of consideration to the games we've played over the past decade.
There's no denying we've seen the genre evolve into something that has
become much larger than anyone may have thought possible last millenium.
So which games have really made their mark? There are a lot of MMOGs
out there now. We have 421 of them listed on Ten Ton Hammer alone. But
over the past decade some of those games have really impacted the
industry in one way or another. We've considered each element and have
come up with a short list of eight awards for this decade. There's no
doubt we could have had 100 more awards, but this ain't a seven hour
Academy Award Marathon. This is about recognizing excellence in the
past 10 years and celebrating that excellence.
While we would have loved to have been able to include all MMO games
for award consideration, only games or expansions that were released
between 2001 and 2010 were eligible.
For your convenience each award has been set up on its own page with an
easy drop-box navigation. So, skip to the award of your choice, or flip
through each page. It's all up to you. Let's celebrate the MMOG Decade
Awards at Ten Ton Hammer.
The foundation of the MMO genre can easily be said to lay within the
walls of the community. After all, without a massive in-game community,
it's just another game.
This decade's winner is far from "just another game." The player
community, coupled with heavy developer community involvement truly set
this game apart from the rest. It also certainly doesn't hurt that
every player in the world shares the same
universe, unseparated by artificial barriers like servers or
alt="Best Community 2001-2010"
alt="EVE Online logo"
style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest II
(Sony Online Entertainment)
The Lord of the
Rings Online (Turbine)
continues to prove that you just can't have a more involved community
than when you have all players on the same server. Player actions send
waves throughout the community, whether it be the actions of a hero or those of notorious villains.
CCP has also set the bar high in terms of community involvement
as developers. It is safe to say that the community has really shaped
the game since its launch of May 6, 2003. CCP has not only listened to
the feedback of the community, but have taken their words to heart to
such a degree that EVE Online is very much the player's game.
Perhaps this is the secret to EVE's success in the MMOG space.
Few games make it eight years with a steady increase in player
subscriptions from month to month, but EVE has done it.
While considering our choices for Best PvP Game of the Decade, we
really had to go back to the roots of PvP. style="font-style: italic;">Ultima Online
certainly offered unregulated PvP but by today's standards, that's very
little fun for everyone but the top gankers. Conversely, the
introduction of Battlegrounds and Scenarios as seen in many of today's
MMOGs do offer quick match-up fun, but they lack the true spirit of
PvP, in our opinion, which should be a constant struggle for power. The
pendulum should swing hard, and it should swing often. Players should
always feel a need to defend or attack in a well-developed PvP game.
Perhaps PvP isn't the right term, after all. Perhaps the ultimate PvP
experience isn't PvP at all, but rather a game that pits several
factions against each other. Perhaps this type of combat is better
referred to Realm vs. Realm, or RvR.
That certainly narrows the options, and leaves us with an obvious
alt="Dark Age of Camelot Logo"
style="color: rgb(255, 204, 51);">
Up: style="color: rgb(255, 204, 51);">
style="color: rgb(255, 204, 51);"> style="font-style: italic;">Shadowbane (Stray
style="font-style: italic;">Lineage (NCsoft)
Dark Age of Camelot
was a brilliant success in the PvP, or RvR market. Having launched in
October of 2001, nine years later it's still considered by many to be
the ultimate player versus player combat of any MMO game. This was no
mistake. It was a careful consideration by the BioWare Mythic team (at
the time known as Mythic Entertainment) and the secret of its success
may have very well been a simple addition of a third faction.
When a game only has two factions battling against each other,
balancing becomes very difficult without imposing artificial rules and
enticements, like bonus experience for the underdog, to try to lure
more players to that faction. With three factions though, the entire
community becomes self-policing. If one faction becomes too powerful,
they'll have a much more difficult time fending off two opposing
factions instead of holding their ground against one.
An aging game, but one well deserving of Best PvP Game of the Decade.
Well done, Mythic!
Making a game pretty to look at may not guarantee its top placement in
gamers' homes, but it is something deserving of an award.
The Art & Animation award is a tricky category to consider.
Obviously newer games with newer technology will look better than most
older games. But instead of just considering the obvious current
"prettiness" of the game, we needed to look at the thought and design
behind the art and animation that went into the games we play.
The winner this decade was a relatively newer one, having launched in
May of 2008, but the reason it won the award was plainly due to the
attention the art team put into the detail of the game.
alt="Best Art & Animation 2001-2010"
alt="Age of Conan Logo"
style="font-weight: bold;">Runner Up:
style="font-style: italic;">Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
is undoubtedly one of the best looking games MMO gamers have played
this decade. From tiny pock-marks in skin textures to underwater
god-rays in the DirectX 10 client, detail was a top concern for Funcom
in the development of the game.
Smooth animations of avatars and environmental entities pushed the game
beyond anything we had ever seen before in an MMO game. Hyboria is
truly a beautiful, yet brutal world.
If you're one of those gamers who installs a game and immediately
disables the music and sound effects, you could be missing out.
We took a look at several games this decade that really stood out in
terms of musical score and sound effects. We wanted to award the winner
as one that not only had an emotional, powerful score, but one that
would be remembered for years to come.
The winner this year did just that. A powerful musical composition only
heightened the experience of the game itself, often becoming an
auditory experience that could be likened to a cinematic feature film.
The Best Sound & Score of the Decade goes to...
alt="Best Sound & Score 2001-2010"
alt="Guild Wars Logo"
style="font-weight: bold;">Runners Up:
Conan: Hyborian Adventures (Funcom)
The Lord of the Rings
had such a powerful score it prompted many players to get a copy of the
soundtrack on CD. It's no wonder, considering the talent behind the
soundtrack. British Academy Award winner Jeremy Soule was able to
capture and immortalize the gaming experience behind style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars. The
score is appropriately suspenseful in tense combat, and airy, but no
less potent in exploration.
Guild Wars is not only able to tell a story well, but the music and
sound wins a well-earned spot in the Ten Ton Hammer Decade Awards.
MMOGs are at their very core, innovative. However, some games over the
past ten years have really pushed the envelope and molded the present
and the future of online gaming.
Innovation comes in many forms, sometimes subtle, sometimes very
obvious. There has been no shortage of innovation in gaming in the MMO
sphere. However, for a game to win "Most Innovative MMOG of the Decade"
it had to be a game that changed the way people play MMOGs entirely. It
had to be a game that not only introduced new exciting gameplay, but
became a foundation for many games to follow.
There were several titles that impressed us since 2001, but the winner
this decade continued to innovate and push the genre forward years
after its initial launch.
alt="Most Innovative MMO 2001-2010"
alt="Dungeons & Dragons Online Logo"
style="font-weight: bold;">Runners Up:
Guild Wars (ArenaNet)
style="font-style: italic;">Anarchy Online
Dragons Online is a testament to innovation in MMOGs. At
its launch in early 2006 it was a culmination of great ideas in one
single game. Storytelling had become vastly more effective by creating
entire instances to tell the story. Action combat saw its first
incarnation with DDO's active combat system. And later on, DDO was the
first Western MMOG to successfully migrate from a subscription-based
service to a free-to-play model, turning the game around from being on
its last legs to becoming one of the most popular Western MMO
free-to-play games in history.
Turbine's continued dedication to the game has marked the game forever
to be known as the Most Innovative MMOG of the decade.
Few MMO games survive without at some point adding an expansion. By
their very nature, the virtual worlds in which we play must continue to
evolve to keep player interest.
However, developing an expansion for a game is no easy task. In order
for it to be successful a lot of consideration needs to be given to
where players are in the game, and what is needed the most at the time
of the expansion. Perhaps most importantly, for players to feel like
they've spent their money well in buying the expansion, it needs to
have satisfying content - and lots of it.
Over the past ten years we've seen hundreds of expansions, but for our
gaming buck there really was a short list of expansions we felt really
brought well-timed value to the game, forever changing it in a positive
alt="Best Expansion 2001-2010"
alt="EverQuest Planes of Power Logo"
style="font-weight: bold;">Runners Up:
Villains (Paragon Studios)
Wrath of the Lich King
(Blizzard Entertainment) style="color: rgb(255, 204, 51);"> style="font-style: italic;">
EverQuest: The Planes of
Power came at a time when raiding was a somewhat new, but
major focus in MMO games. Shortly after style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest had
introduced raids for the first time ever gamers couldn't stop talking
about raiding and focused their entire gaming time on getting well
enough geared to be able to raid.
Planes of Power
was perfectly timed. In addition to adding some of the best raid zones
in any game to date, the entire expansion was progression based. Your
raiding guild or group had to successfully complete trials and raids in
order to gain access to the next zone. And if you were the top raiding
guild on the server? You had the entire zone to yourself. This
expansion was a way to finally indisputably compare e-peens
worldwide. This wasn't something that could be done in a week. No, to
progress through PoP, it took months, or even years.
Progression raiding and unlocking has been drastically tuned down in
our games over the years, if not all together brought to near
extinction. But in 2002, and arguably to date, there was no greater
satisfaction than being able to defeat Quarm, the final boss of
EverQuest in The Plane of Time.
At Ten Ton Hammer, we believe we have the best jobs in the world. Why?
Because we get to play almost every MMOG that comes around.
The past decade has given us a lot of games to play, and between the
editors, we have a lot of gaming hours logged. When considering a game
for nomination for the Editor's Choice Award of the Decade, we asked
ourselves one simple question: "Which game has given us the most full
MMOG experience?" We looked for a game that had a huge world that was
easy to immerse ourselves into. We wanted a game that had a rich
history and lore. The Editor's Choice Award had to go to the most
complete, fully featured, rich world that had the whole package, from
crafting, to adventuring, to raiding, to social tools.
For a game that had it all, our choice became clear.
alt="Editor's Choice 2001-2010"
alt="EverQuest II logo"
is perhaps the most fully featured MMOG on the market today. Since its
launch in 2004 it has seen six expansions with a seventh on its way.
This game offers players an incredible story, a welcoming newbie
experience, joyful leveling, and rewarding raiding. Not only
that, but we found its crafting to be among the most enjoyable.
Weighing in other great mechanics like an unmatched Broker system,
fully customizable personal homes and guild halls, guild leveling,
Heritage Quests and rewards, gritty group instances, newly spiced-up
PvP, creative quest design, humorous stories, effective progression
tracking and a plethora of other features, there is no other game on
the market that has as much pure content to offer as style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest II.
The ballots are in, and the results have been tallied. We recently
asked our Premium Members to vote on the Best MMO Game of the Decade,
and we couldn't agree more with the choice. In fact, we had already
discussed the Best Game of 2001-2010 prior to asking our readers, and
were pleased, but not all together surprised, that they felt the same
way we did.
There is no argument to be had that one game that launched this decade
has had more success than any MMO previous or since. It has gained
millions of players worldwide and has become the 'standard' of MMO
It should come as no surprise, and a well-earned achievement, the Best
MMO Game of the Decade Award goes to none other than...
style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft
is undeniably the most played Western MMOG of all time. Boasting
millions of subscribers, this behemoth has made a permanent mark on the
MMO gaming space. A careful design of accessibility along with a sense
of achievement and progression rocketed the game to the top of the list
since its launch in 2004.
Six years later, the game community continues to grow. The recent
launch of its newest expansion, Cataclysm,
sold a record-breaking number of copies to earn its spot as the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/92971">fastest
selling PC game of all time - not just MMO games. In fact,
the game is so well-known, that it is virtually impossible for anyone
to have ever played an MMOG without knowing about WoW. If those numbers
aren't enough, just ask any of the href="http://www.playerscore.com">35 million + characters
in the game.
Whether you're a casual player who enjoys exploration, or a hard-core
raider, chances are you'll find a place in style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft
to keep you entertained.