by Cody "Micajah" Bye

In the MMOG industry, free-to-play games are deemed by many to be
“second rate” titles. Whether these games are
imported or made locally, the term “free-to-play”
seems to run almost in conjunction with terms like “needs
localization”, “already past its prime”,
and “not a top-tier game.” While this attitude has
started to dissipate with the release of a few well-received imported
titles, it still remains a stigma for many MMOG press, developers, and

That attitude took a huge blow, however, when NCsoft – a
top-tier development company – announced that one of its
upcoming titles, Dungeon
, was going to be free-to-play. While many
poo-pooed the idea, NCsoft CEO Robert
kept the game going and when Dungeon Runners
released, it was the surprise hit of 2007.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 136px; height: 165px;"

title="Killing some Shadow Mutant Pukers"> src="/image/view/14559/preview"

style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners
certainly has its own unique personality

Far from your typical free-to-play game, style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners is
a fast-action, dungeon-crawling MMO. Unleashed by NCsoft in May 2007, style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners has
put up some fairly remarkable numbers. Sporting hundreds of thousands
of downloads and the retention rate of the style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes
franchise, Dungeon
certainly can’t be looked at as anything
but a phenomenally successful small project for the ever-growing

So what makes Dungeon
so special? “With style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners, we
really wanted to remove the downtime,” said Mark Tucker, lead
designer for Dungeon
. “The game is really designed around 15
minute experiences, so you can get in the game, play it, and get out.
We wanted to get away from the ‘wait around for a
group’ mentality. The game also has its own 'unique'

But perhaps the most intriguing part of style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners is
their ability to still create huge free expansions, called Chunks, for
their player base. Our visit to the NCsoft Studios provided the perfect
opportunity for the DR developers to promote Chunk #2, an incredibly
immense update that will change the way many of the current style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners
play the game, hopefully for the better. Chunk #1 already provided many
players with the changes and fixes they needed to really enjoy the
fantastic worlds of DR.

“If you played the game in May and step into the world
now,” Mark continued, “you’d really be
playing a much more refined experience. We’ve added voice
chat, dynamic difficulty, PvP, solid WASD movement, and lots of other
things. This is definitely not a static game.”

This statement by Mark is completely true; after I returned from my
NCsoft trip, I downloaded all the new patches for the game and stepped
into the world for the first time in months. I found the game to be
just as compelling, yet with a sort of refined quality that I
hadn’t felt in the first few days of the game. DR had come a
long way.

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style="font-style: italic;">The biggest change
with Chunk #2 will be the around-the-game ad.

Thankfully, the improvements to DR will continue into the unforeseeable
future. Chunk #2, the second content update to the game, includes a
fantastic list of features. However, the list isn’t simply
compiled from a numbers database or where the developers would like to
see the game go; it comes from the player community itself.

“Many of the features that are being added were requested by
the players,” Mark said. “We really make an effort
to approach the players – as a dev team – and see
what they would like in the game. We read the message boards on a daily
basis. We try to find out what’s bothering them, how things
could be made better, that sort of thing.”

With that, Mark went over a number of the features that are going to be
included in Chunk #2. Probably the biggest change to style="font-style: italic;"> Dungeon Runners that
is going into Chunk #2 will be the “Around-the-Game
Ads” that are being introduced. Rather than simply have ads
on the load screens (which they will also have) style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners is
going to have around-the-game ads, meaning that an ad will be
permanently present at the top of your gaming screen. Very similar to
the banner ad you find at the top of most web pages, the
around-the-game ad will open a browser window underneath your game, so
you won’t be forced out of the game if you accidentally click
the banner ad.

Of course, members will have the option to turn the banner off, but the
developers at DR haven’t ignored the free play populace when
making this decision. Although non-members will still have to deal with
not being able to use every item in the game, they now will have a
chance to use the Rare (yellow), Unique (purple), and Special (rainbow)
items in the game. “We understand that ads have a negative
connotation,” Mark said. “So we’re
definitely trying to ease the pain as much as we can for our free

According to Mark, when a weapon of this sort drops for the player,
they’ll have a percentage chance to actually be able to use
that piece of equipment. The percentage simply goes down the rarer that

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style="font-style: italic;">Non-paying players
will now have a bank page where they can store items.

item is. All players will now be able to use King’s Coins and
every item dropped from a vendor. Minor potions will also become
stackable with the new in-game ads, which is a huge boon for all the
free players who have inventories full of minor potions.

Non-members will also receive a single bank page with the coming of
in-game ads, which again is an upgrade from what they had previously.
Members will continue to have three pages of bank space, but the single
bank page for non-members is a major step forward for those gamers who
were looking to have an in-depth experience with style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners.

The final piece on the list was item bartering, which he made sure to
point out was simply item-based; there would be no gold changing hands.
“It’s your standard trading type
scenario,” Mark said. “But we wanted to avoid some
of the issues that come up with the trading of gold. This way we can
avoid that completely.”

While no date for Chunk #2 has been set, the developers are hoping to
get the update released before the end of the year. “Every
time I promise a date, something terrible happens and things get pushed
back two months, but we’re going to Q&A next week so
it had better be ready,” Mark said.

By the end of the presentation, I was sold. While I originally gave
Runners a 3.5 / 5 Hammers
, I’d probably have to
seriously reconsider that score these days. Most of my complaints seem
to have been addressed, and it may be worth my time to dive back into
the free-to-play NCsoft game and give it a second round of dungeon

Ready for the style="font-style: italic;"> Dungeon Runner devs
to blow more Chunks? Have you played DR? href="">Give
us your opinion on the

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016