In the earliest days of Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs), the biggest game I remember of the time was EverQuest. This game was one of the first few of a kind of game that would come to define it’s own genre. It was totally 3D, had options and depth not really seen before.
As the MMO advanced, it would come to be dominated by games that had awesome graphic effects, millions of other players, and one major thing in common: Subscriptions. Everyone was used to games costing an initial investment but a game that charged you every month to play it? It seemed ludicrous to some, at the time, but it has come to be the norm in the MMO genre.
Lately that has begun to change. These days, there are MMOs and games like MMOs all over the internet that require nothing beyond an internet connection and browser to play them.
Three of the most notable in my experience are Godville, Dead Frontier, and Battlestar Galactica. Each of them has it’s own claim to fame in the realm of MMOs and each of them is entirely free to download and free to play.
[Note: this post was written by Freewaregenius contributor B.C. Tietjens.]
Godville is one of the most unique free games out there. It’s also referred to as a ZPG, or “Zero-Player-Game”. It’s also one of the most fun games I never really played. The game requires an email address to register, and then one can create a character and begin not playing. Yes, that’s what I said. Not playing. See, there’s not much to do in the game, after you create the “Hero”. That’s really most of the game right there, naming the character and then sitting back and watching it get into adventures, fights, even dying sometimes. The player acts as this character’s Deity and has little to no control over the character directly. It lets the player speak to the character via a “Godvoice” feature, but the character may or may not listen to this voice at any one time. Overall, it’s almost like a simulation program that has gaming overtones. It’s quite amusing and is constantly being expanded by both the creators and even the players’ suggestions. Personally, I have had my Godville character, “Morganna Kickyertail” for about 5 months now and I still go and check on her now and again. Sometimes she needs some help with a fight or needs me to resurrect her, and sometimes I find she has adopted a pet or defeated some great monster or other player’s Hero or Heroine. It hasn’t cost me a dime yet, and has been one of the most fun games I have found. They even offer a “3D window”! It’s a great addition to your casual gaming collection and an excellent example of what great freeware games can be. Additionally, even the “3D window” has such low requirements that it can be played on nearly any machine and there is even a player created Android app to keep an eye on your hero when you’re on the move. The game’s website is found at HTTP://www.Godvillegame.com as well as the app.
Dead Frontier is certainly more involved than Godville but still has the same price tag. Currently in an open beta, “bare bones” state, it’s shaping up to be a fun game with some decent graphics and enough depth to keep the player interested without becoming repetitious. It’s a survival horror game, which is almost unique in the MMO world, but with a pretty typical storyline. The player takes the role of a survivor of the Zombie Apocalypse, fighting for survival amidst other survivors and hordes of blood and brain starved monsters. The thing that makes it different and worth playing is its very nicely rendered graphics, combined with the co-operative style of its gameplay. Players can team up with each other to accomplish the various goals of the game, which include finishing quests, finding and buying better equipment, and so on. The graphics themselves are shot from a top down perspective which is pretty unique for an MMO, but they are rendered beautifully. Dead Frontier also differs from traditional MMOs in that it costs nothing to play but it does have optional ‘expanded content’ that players can purchase with real money. These include things like better weapons and armor, skills, etc. None of these things are absolutely required to play the game and progress, but they do offer a nice way to reward those who decide to donate to the game’s development. Many traditional MMOs have begun to adopt a similar policy, but most of them limit the player to the first 20 levels or so, and then force them to begin paying the monthly subscription if they want to progress. Dead Frontier doesn’t limit your levels or progression at all, they just offer bonuses to those who do want to spend money. It’s a nice compromise and makes the game far more accessible. You can join the fight against the zombie hordes at http://www.deadfrontier.com/
Finally, I want to bring up Battlestar Galactica. Anyone who has seen the series on television knows the game is about a war between “cylons” and humans. Cylons are a form of cybernetic life that the humans are in conflict with and the story itself is quite robust, especially for a free MMO. The game runs on a fairly new platform called the “Unity Player” which allows players to experience full MMOs without the hassle of downloading five hundred patches and forty gigabytes of information to play. Basically, it contains the whole game within your web-browser, which is very cool if you want to play it somewhere other than home. At a friend’s house, for example, if you didn’t bring your computer, you can just load up the Unity Player and sign into your account from your friend’s computer. The Unity Player and the game itself are both free. The graphics and sound are superb and while the quest-style gameplay can sometimes seem a bit repetative, the rewards are usually worth it, in loot and progess of the plot. The scenes are rendered in full 3D and the graphics are scalable so those without uber-gaming systems can still enjoy what it has to offer. Rumor has it the game even lets you command the Battlestar Galactica itself at some point. All of this used to be pretty unusual for an MMO but the Unity Player is rapidly making more of these kinds of games available to the more casual MMO player. I found the average quest in B.G. took me about thirty minutes to complete. Another fun option in Battlestar Galactica is playing the side of the Cylons. Want to be a homicidal cyborg out to destroy the human race? Well you can. They even give bonuses to the players who choose to be the bad guys! While Battlestar Galactica also offers the expanded content options we see in other games, they still don’t prevent you from progressing if you don’t feel like buying the extras. You can download and play the game at http://us.battlestar-galactica.bigpoint.com
So those are three of my favorite freeware MMO games lately. Where can you find these types of games? Well the good news is that there are a number of websites out there that specialize in carrying info on what free MMOs are available. http://www.whatmmorpg.com/ carries a healthy list of free MMOs beside their list of paid subscription ones, and http://www.freemmorpglist.com/ also has a robust amount of content on completely free MMOs. There are many other sites that do the same thing. All these games were tested on Windows 7 32-Bit Home Edition.
The world of Massive Multiplayer Online games is changing, evolving, becoming more accessible and much easier to dive into, now that there are so many free options out there. I, for one, look forward to see what’s on the horizon for MMOs. I hear there’s a pretty awesome Star Trek MMO coming out that is going to be free, running on the Unity Player. I think I will go see if they are taking applications for Beta testers. Until next time, my friends, keep seeking free software! Someday, all of it will be free.