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The Top 26 MMORPGs And Why I Don't Play Them

I miss the days when I could have a nice virtual world to log into.  A game in which I could feel like I'm making real progress in life, even if that progress was entirely virtual.  Something I can feel good about coming home to after a long day of doing my work, secure in my belief that quality entertainment awaits me.

I have not been able to do that for a long, long time  Looking down's released MMORPG list organized by current rating/hype, it wasn't from lack of trying on my part.

Expand: The Top 26 List.

  1. EVE Online

    I can appreciate that EVE Online is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous, open-ended, truly virtual worldly experience where the very drama of what goes on inside makes it worth playing for many. 

    However, for a new player trying to get in this game, it's a bit like you're an illegal immigrant trying to make a living washing the cars that stop at intergalactic stop lights.  You could work your fingers to bloody nubs trying to turn asteroids to gold, but there's a glass ceiling firmly in place.  The newbies' main source of credits is facilitating resource gathering to make the existing players even richer.

    Something that bothers me even more than the class difference is that the gameplay itself is often a matter of pushing a few buttons and waiting.  Beep: you move to within 50 km of an asteroid.  Boop: your mining lasers are now turning that asteroid into minerals.  Beep: You are now returning to a starbase.  Boop: You have now docked at the starbase.  Repeat until you start hallucinating you are playing an entertaining game.

    If I had to play this game, I think I would prefer to multibox the hell out of it.  If the amount of interaction I'm getting out of each ship is about the same as a single unit in a real time strategy game, I might as well control several of them at once.  Besides, considering a lot of EVE Online players do multibox, this would be the only way to put myself on a relatively even playing field with them.  Somehow, I lack adequate incentive to dump $120/mo on a game so I can keep 8 accounts running simultaniously on 8 seperate computers like I am some kind of cybernetic one-man band entertaining my cats in the privacy of my home.

    What would get me back into the game: Either introduce a way to control multiple ships at once from a single client or beef up the number of necessary interactions per ship.  Put some mechanics in place that prevent a handful of fat cats with hoarded ISK, skills, and equipment from dominating the universe solely by sitting on their asses.
  2. Lord Of The Rings Online

    How it is that Turbine ended up simultaneously making the MMORPG based on the mother of all RPGs, Dungeons and Dragons Online, and then the MMORPG based on the books that the mother of all RPGs is based upon, Lord of the Rings Online, is an incredible fluke of fate.  Perhaps even more incredible is that Turbine managed to actually make Lord of the Rings Online meet fan expectations while juggling all those balls.

    Lord of the Rings Online a beautiful, well-rendered and pretty much completely open world without much instancing.  However, as Shamus Young has been outlining in his series about his adventures lately, player density so is very low that you end up trying to make up a story just to justify the existence of this gaping empty world.  You're more likely to encounter a ringwraith than another player.  I could forgive this if the game was a fabulous single player experience but, like most MMORPGs, this game was designed to be played with others.

    What would get me back into the game: A trial that demonstrated that there are, in fact, adequate number of players in the game... followed by a lifetime subscription offer because, if that's the case, I'll move right in.
  3. League Of Legends - Clash of Fate

    The #1 non-subscription based MMORPG listed on is not an MMORPG at all.  I hear it's quite good, I'll give it a spin if I'm in the mood for fantasy RTS.

  4. Atlantica Online

    Actually, this is a pretty decent game.  You wander the world and perform quests in fairly standard MMORPG manner, but combat and character advancement is a whole lot more interesting. Turn-based combat is an apt description, but it's more like chess where the pieces have been replaced with monsters and members of your party which you can create and advance however you see fit.

    Perhaps the main reason I don't play Atlantica Online is because of the massive time sink I could see myself getting into. That and it's not exactly an MMORPG in the same sense of having that feeling of single person immersion. It's more like you're a tiny roaming army in a world of tiny roaming armies.

    Already considering playing this game.
  5. EverQuest II

    Sony Online Entertainment has refined a double-prong approach to profit in their EverQuest series. First, charge a monthly fee under the justification that you're supporting the server maintenance and developer fees.  Second, charge for a periodically released expansions under the justification that you're supporting those other developers.  Though this practice has caught on nearly everywhere, it's perhaps out of karmic retribution that SOE is left with horrendously bloated, over-expanded games in EverQuest and EverQuest II.

    When is expansion too much?  When I last played the game, I soon got bored of soloing and so spent a lot of time trying to find players who were interested in grouping up with me - last I checked, playing with other players was the whole draw of a MMORPG.  However, thanks to all the expansion, they're spread very thin over the massive amount of land in this game.  About the only place you can reliably find other players is at the town auction houses, where they've other things on their mind than adventure.

    After weeks of searching, I finally got into a group.  That was a mistake.  I found that the the content was completely trivialized, with the group wiping out small rooms of monsters before I could barely get a spell off.   Maybe it was because item power creep is as prevalent in EverQuest II as it was in the original, but I expect the greater body of it was because the developers have been flipping back and forth between the game being groupable and soloable and have left quite a few parameters well out of whack.

    What would get me back into the game: Shrink the world down to its essentials in order to concentrate the userbase. Balance it so soloing isn't the predominant activity.
  6. Fallen Earth

    I'm going to come right out and say it: Fallen Earth is the most MMORPG-ish MMORPG released in a long time.  By that I mean it has a completely seamless world and the acquisition of items and power really seem to matter here.  When it takes 80 hours of grinding resources to advance your crafting skills far enough to craft yourself a pistol, it's clear you're looking at no casual gamer sell out here.

    On the other hand, certain aspects of Fallen Earth are very crudely realized - monsters don't so much engage you in combat as they do slide on the ground near to you and start making your hitpoints decrease.  A very PvP-centric end game without any kind of mechanic to make sure the sides are fair assures it's something I would not enjoy in the long run.

    What would get me back into the game: Either a PvE alternative method to advancement or fair and balanced PvP, a smaller subscription price per month that properly reflects the quality of the thing.
  7. Guild Wars

    In some ways, ArenaNet's classic is the best MMORPG on the market.  The customizable card-deck approach to character skill building is undoubtedly one of the most meaningful approaches out there.  The PvP end game is very well regulated to assure the fairest matches possible, right down to dynamically handled ladders of PvP.  What the hell is my problem with the game?

    Well, it's just that.. Guild Wars is not an MMORPG.  Call me old fashioned, but I really can't feel excited about the comings and goings of a virtual world when it's so heavily virtualized that walking from one city to the next can be done by clicking somewhere on a map.  Actually, you could force yourself to walk to the next city manually, but you'll just find yourself facilitated with your own private zone.  Even with breathtaking graphics and cutting edge content distribution mechanisms, a virtual world this is not.

    What would get me back into the game: Dynamic content generation systems that simulate actual changes to the game based off of player actions. If you're going to have a heavily instanced world, you can at least provide concessions to pretend it isn't.
  8. Vanguard: Saga Of Heroes

    I am very impressed with Vanguard's tri-focus of Adventuring, Trade, and Diplomacy, very worldly-feeling world, and so on.  The gameplay mechanics of the individual character classes is a cut above the rest as well - I actually have to think when I'm fighting things.  A pity the whole thing pervades a feeling of being fundamentally unfinished.

    Vanguard is a classic example of a potentially great game ruined by being rushed to market because it tried to be too "epic."   The environment is very "cut and pasty," with too much land and too little unique about it.  It was released over-expanded, and consequently is sorely lacking in that all-too-vital central resource that makes MMORPGs work: other players.

    What would get me back into the game: Give Brad McQuaid a time machine and enough funding to have given this game the added development time it needed. Oh, and a cure for Keith Parkinson's leukemia. Frankly, this game's main enemy was life's crueler realities.
  9. Dark Age Of Camelot

    Oh, whoopee, number 9 on the list is a nine-year-old fossil of a game.  Dark Age of Camelot is an EverQuest clone with a King Authurian background.  Its main innovation is a "realm versus realm" PvP battle system.  Its main niche is historical significance, since its release broke what was for the longest time the "big three" of Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Asheron's call.  Now, it's pretty much a played out ghost town - the busiest server peaks at about 300 players - but it is still enjoyed by a small handful of hardcore PvPers... which I am not.

    What would get me back into the game: A memory wipe that causes me to forget how bored I am of this ancient game.
  10. Ryzom

    Ryzom is a rather odd duck, and it's quite proud of its oddness.  In some ways it's quite traditional, with an adventure mechanic and crafting mechanic that is both overly familiar and time-tested.  In other ways, it seems to be trying to break the mold, such as with its pastel-colored Sci-Fi world and fauna that sometimes behaves in a manner other than trying to kill you. 

    I played it back near it's original release, and perhaps the main reason I remember it as being so weird was because it really felt as though it has no point other than to make my character's numbers go up.  Its lackluster launch originally got it closed down, but I hear it managed to prop itself up again and has been steadily improved since.

    What would get me back into the game: A relaunch under a different name and a better-structured play experience.

  11. Final Fantasy XI

    When everybody else was busily trying to copy EverQuest, Square-Enix pulled the unusual move of copying what was actually good about the game.  Final Fantasy XI is a highly group-focused fantasy combat game with just the right balance for a challenging, rewarding experience.  Leave it to some of the best CGI experts in the business to create one of the most worldly-feeling virtual worlds there are.  It also features a job switching mechanic that facilitated my natural alt-a-holic tendencies quite well.

    Final Fantasy XI's main downside is that it eschews the typical mouse and keyboard interface for a rather-well-designed but awkward-until-you-get-used-to-it console-like interface.  This is very off-putting to players who prefer the standard mouse and keyboard interface... although personally I sort of enjoyed this because it forced the game to play differently even if it was the same game on the other side of the interface.

    Although I think Final Fantasy XI is super keen, and may or may not have constructed a Square-Enix love shrine in my closet, I don't play Final Fantasy XI because it requires a massive time investment on behalf of the player.  This is not only to grind up the levels (which you can lose by dying enough) but simply to find a group may take hours.  Even the economy is merciless - the last time I played the game, I had spent myself into the poor house on Yugudo drinks trying to unlock some more summoned monsters.

    Aside from that, I mostly stay away from Final Fantasy XI due to suspicions that concessions made to allow for solo play in recent expansions have sabotaged the group dependence that made the game interesting.  I also suspect that the release of several expansions have left substantial tracts of the world a ghost town.  To an extent, this game's time has passed... but I eagerly look forward to getting in on the ground floor of Final Fantasy XIV.

    What would get me back into the game: Shrink the world down to relevant zones or make them more accessible, make groups easier to find but require them for most activities (this best realized as a social game).
  12. Warhammer Online: Age Of Reckoning

    Part of the reason why Dark Age Of Camelot should be considered a fossil is because its foremost developers have moved on to another project entirely, and this was it.  Consequently, Warhammer Online has the unusual benefit of being a MMORPG made by people who knew how to make MMORPGs.  They chose to play primarily to their strengths: the realm versus realm combat they perfected in Dark Age of Camelot.  Only this time the perpetually warring forces are Order and Chaos from Games Workshop's Warhammer series.

    Unfortunately, Warhammer Online was sabotaged by a desire to become World of Warcraft (which ironically bore a striking resemblance to Games Workshop's earlier propertly).  Like any other game that has tried to become World of Warcraft, this backfired because people who want to play WoW simply keep playing it.  Though copying WoW probably wasn't his idea, Mark Jacobs ended up taking the fall for it, and now the game limps along on a humbly-sized playerbase.

    What would get me back into the game: I'm not a big PvP aficionado and that's basically all this game has going for it.  Either add a good PvE endgame or a less population-based endgame.  Implement a player churn mechanic so the pre-endgame zones are adequately populated.

  13. City Of Heroes

    I am undoubtedly biased in favor of the City of Heroes/Villains games, as X-Fire has about 1600 hours logged in them for me... and I'm pretty sure X-Fire wasn't running a great deal of the time I played it. 

    Players who have come to City of Heroes/Villains from other MMORPGs have a hard time seeing what's so special about it, but that's probably because they were conditioned to sit there and soak damage in standard MMORPG manner.  This is a game that invites you to mix things up a bit, engage several foes at once, and knock them around with a whole lot more power than you're normally allowed.  The incredible appearance customization and remarkable freedom to mix and match power sets make this alt-a-holic paradise... I only managed to stick to a single character long enough to hit the level cap about 24 months into the game.

    I wish I never did hit that level cap - it's there that I encountered the end game, and it sucks.  There's nothing there!  You're essentially just running around grabbing the badges/missions/etc you didn't grab on the way up.  I also found that the architect expansion was a major step in the wrong direction - I was oft frustrated that Paragon City stopped short producing genuine spoils of super-heroics, and pulling people out of that world into their own scenarios made it seem even more artificial and pointless than its static representation made it already.

    What would get me back into the game: Release Going Rogue so I can have my Paragon City Mastermind.  Shut down Architect - it's a distraction from the real game.  Instead, make the real game matter by adding an end game involving copious amounts of world-shaking zone events.
  14. City Of Villains - See #13. The main difference: it's a bit grittier.
  15. Guild Wars Factions - See #7. Expansion to Guild Wars.
  16. Guild Wars Nightfall - See #7. Expansion to Guild Wars.
  17. Ultima Online

    Originally released in 1997 (they actually own "") Ultima Online is among the oldest graphical MMORPGs in existence, its original competitors being along the lines of Meridian 59 and The Realm.  It took the legendary Ultima series online and in a radically different direction away from avatarhood and into choose your own adventure.  Players logged in to find a true virtual world where they could become animal trainers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and so on in addition to the various flavor of adventurer.

    The game took a turn for the worse when griefing turned out to be more entertaining than playing house and the resulting bloodbath drove away the victims in droves.  The ultimate solution to solve this problem was segregation, but this removed a great deal of magic from the idea of a virtual world, and this is an omission from which mainstream MMORPG development has never recovered (with the possible exception of EVE Online, currently heralded as the #1 MMORPG on the list for this reason alone).  Perhaps it was out of karma that EA obliterated Origin Systems by telling them they no longer create worlds.

    However, the reason I'm not playing this game has nothing to do with all the skeletons in its collective closet.  The reason I'm not playing this game is because it's so old that you can almost hear the server creaking when you queue a movement and the gameplay is a ridiculous bunch of pointing, clicking, and tedious inventory management that is sorely bereft of the foremost thing I look for in a game: depth.  Recent expansions (which remarkably are still being made) have tried to bring the game "up to date," but I am under the opinion that they've done little more than put new faces on the ruins of what was once a promising virtual world.

    What would get me back into the game: Net code that feels like it was not written in COBOL. Alienate your entire existing playerbase by killing Trammel and instead implementing realistic-feeling solutions that prevent griefing from going out of control without neutering the players. There was a point in which the playerbase was attempting the police themselves... what if you gave them more power than the griefers?
  18. Anarchy Online

    Whenever a new MMORPG comes out, there is inevitably some whining twit who says that this game had the worst launch ever.  Whatever might be wrong with that game, chances are that you can snub them and tell them that no, they're wrong, Anarchy Online holds that dubious honor.   It was a game so poorly launched that, for several weeks after release, it was either down or rubber-banding to unplayability at nearly all hours of the day.  It would have died then and there if Funcom's government didn't put them on life support. 

    Since then, Anarchy Online has bounced back considerably and is a pretty decent product.  Though this game came out at about the same time as Dark Age of Camelot, I really don't feel comfortable in referring to it as a fossil.  Despite its crippling problems at release, this game was quite a bit ahead of its time and has aged better than its former competitors.

    The main reason I'm not playing it is because I prefer more depth to the game mechanic.  When this game came out, copying EverQuest was everybody's goal, and Anarchy Online's version went Sci-Fi with some instanced dungeons, and a less complicated skill system.  Though I enjoyed their improvements to where the action took place, that the action was that much less satisfying made this a step in the wrong direction.

    What would get me back into the game: Implement a core combat mechanic that is actually competitive with a modern game in terms of meaningful interaction.

  19. Lineage 2

    There exists an entire genre of games who feel that putting the players through a torturous grind is a rite of passage in becoming a big bad contender in end game PvP.  RF Online and Archlord are two such games... going pay-to-play didn't work out for them.  This genre of game often attempts to hide this masochistic focus behind remarkably beautiful graphics - that's been Aion Online's approach.  The important thing to remember about Lineage 2 (whose approach to distraction was gratuitous use of undergarments) is that the Lineage series was the pioneer that solidified this genre.

    It doesn't particularly matter to me, considering I've better things to do than deal with a deliberate torturous grind to be competitive in massive PvP combat that I had zero interest in to begin with.  I prefer my PvP balanced and fair and my gameplay not prone to make a botter out of an otherwise virtuous individual.

    What would get me back into the game: I don't have the patience for a 300 hour tutorial before I get to play the "real" game.  Cut the grind down to a quarter of what it is now. Then cut the later game grind down to a quarter again. Shrink the newbie zones, which are ghost towns. Give me more tactically interesting powers up front.   Provide some fair matchmaking practices for your PvP endgame.
  20. World Of Warcraft

    To most people, World of Warcraft has a special place in their heart.  This is because it was the first MMORPG they ever played.  All Blizzard had to do was take the EverQuest formula and spend millions of dollars buffing it until it was remarkably free of imperfection.  The Blizzard brand-name appeal did the rest. Bam: 20 times more players than EverQuest ever had.  The game is largely regarded as being the best MMORPG ever... sure, if by best MMORPG ever you mean most casually accessible and bug-free EverQuest clone with brand name appeal.

    I got bored with it 4 weeks after release because it really didn't do enough from the various EverQuest clones I had already played for me to be entertained for long.  I predicted it would tank because it has very little lasting MMORPG appeal.  When it didn't, I thought I was wrong.  A Blizzard CEO recently revealed only 30 percent of players even get past level 10.  Now, I wonder how right I might have been after all.

    What would get me back into the game: After my original cancellation, I tried to go back to World of Warcraft a couple times. No dice: it was still as derivative as I remembered it.  Maybe I'll give it another try when Cataclysm comes out, since that does revamp the whole new player experience that bores me so.

  21. EverQuest

    EverQuest - whose main precursor could probably be considered Merdian 59 but there is a considerable jump in tech there that causes a certain cognitive disconnect - was the big man on campus among MMORPGs before World of Warcraft came along (at least in the western world).   Now, I have to level the same critique against it that I would against Dark Age of Camelot or Ultima Online: it's really old. 

    Still, there's some merit to be found in giving it a play, if only because of the great historical significance it offers.  In the same way as Ultima Online, EverQuest still thrives on a core fan base even today, and they just keep releasing expansions for it.  They're up to their 16th expansion now.  As you can imagine, as I feel overexpansion is a problem, I believe this game has a fatal case of it.

    EverQuest II is generally better than the original, but be wary of such a comparison: they're radically different games.  EverQuest really has more in common with Vanguard: Saga Of Heroes (made by the same designer, Brad McQuaid) but Final Fantasy XI and World of Warcraft did the formula better in different ways.

    What would get me back into the game: A memory wipe that causes me to forget how bored I am of this ancient game.

  22. Dungeons and Dragons Online

    There was no nerd anticipation like there was for Dungeons and Dragons Online, the MMORPG to be based on the biggest pencil and paper RPG there ever was.  However, when the game arrived, there was great chagrin when it was realized that this was hardly an MMORPG.  Turbine had fallen for the instancing bug, nearly every zone that was not a town existed in a separate slice reserved for the player and his or her party - in this way, it was no more massively multiplayer than Guild Wars.

    A few years later, Turbine made a very wise decision: they made the game "free to play" with an item mall.  I was suddenly very interested in the game. Highly instanced games really feel just plain wrong when you try to charge the players subscription for them.  The makers of Guild Wars knew this in advance.  (Now, if only Cryptic Studios would catch on that this is what they are required to do with Champions Online and Star Trek Online.)

    Anyway, I can't say that I'm not playing Dungeons and Dragons Online.  Its icon is on my desktop, and every great once in awhile I'll log in. I've even spent about $50 in the item mall.  The overall gameplay, while not entirely faithful to D20 rules, is actually a pretty good action-based hybrid that makes good use of feats, spells, and traps.

    Already considering playing this game.
  23. Wonderking

    I did not play it, but one look at the screenshots reveals it for what it is: a MapleStory clone.  Why not?  Although it is basically a cartoony platform fighter RPG with an item mall, MapleStory has managed to get millions of subscribers.  Getting a piece of that seems like an easy cash grab for me.  However, I won't be playing it, because I'm twice the age this game would appeal to. I suspect that Dragonica Online offers superior gameplay (although its kid-friendliness would leave me just as embarrassed to play it).

    What would get me back into the game: Water from the fountain of youth or a thug who gives me lots of head trauma.  Whatever it takes to bring me back to that special state of mind that fosters both a love for wantonly kitschy sprites and a naive desire to engage in mindlessly simple activities.
  24. Asheron's Call

    Another fossil, I had adequate time to decide if I wanted to play Asheron's Call when it, EverQuest, and Ultima Online were the main MMORPGs in town.  Though it was #3 behind Everquest and Ultima Online, Asheron's Call nonetheless had quite a few core fans.  It definitely took a different approach than the other two games:
    • Characters were not class-based but rather were customized by whatever skills and attributes you invested in (though Ultima Online did this as well, it was through actual use of skills while Asherons Call had you distribute points into skills).
    • It had a combat system that involved attacking "high, low, middle" at varying speeds and you need to memorize which mobs are weak against which attacks.
    • It had a magic system where you find new spells through experimenting with components. Once you found a spell, you needed to keep it a secret, because that spell gets weaker the more players who use it.
    • It boasted little to no zoning - a truly seamless world.

    I preferred EverQuest.
    • The combat skills were more interesting than high/medium/low/speed to me. 
    • The classes introduced unique skills and interdependance.  
    • The spells were considerably less copy/pasty and you earned them more reliably.  
    • The world was more personalized than a bunch of barren hills sprinkled with an occasional settlement.  
    • I encountered a lot more rubber-banding in Asheron's Call.
    I haven't looked back since, and I certainly don't have time to do so now.
    What would get me back into the game: Go back in time and prevent EverQuest from ever being released.
  25. Planetside

    Planetside is a highly unique Massively Multiplayer First Person Shooter.  It's not like there haven't been online combat simulators in the past, but this one pushed for relatively limitless numbers of players (the zones cap at about 150 players per side per map) and it had the deeper FPS elements of Tribes.  For the first time, it felt like fast-paced, massively multiplayer combat, with vehicles, was here.   World War II Online's developers referred to themselves as a cornered rat for a reason.

    I stopped playing Planetside because of two big reasons:
    • First, because there was never that essential something worth striving for that other MMORPGs had.  On a personal level, you could get the same things at level 1 as you could at 20, just you would get more of them in time.  This was good for the balance but it left nothing to look forward to.  On a virtual world level, complexes we fought for hours to take would be taken back in minutes by a small team attacking in the middle of the night.  There was no point to fighting at all, nothing would change, not personally, not virtual worldly.
    • Second, the massively multiplayer combat didn't work under closer scrutiny.  Once you get enough players together, there are so many dropped packets that skill went completely out the window. For the longest time, before they nerfed surge, the winning tactic was to charge people with an assault weapon, something they were largely helpless against because you were warping around on their client so much.

    If only they had kept their original focus back in beta, where armor piercing ammo felt like it had a point, and the cone of fire was considerably looser.  Under this balance, the winning tactic was to find some cover and take short bursts from it at enemies.  How many armored suits am I likely to encounter - should I take more armor piercing or standard ammo?  Does the enemy have better cover - can I flank them?  Is it worth wasting my ammo at this range - should I fire when I can see the chrome off their helmets?  Release day never saw the deeper, more-satisfying Planetside, and it's a pity - the world seemed to breath under it.

    What would get me back into the game: Better net code, a more meaningful balance (e.g. the beta balance mentioned above), and more attention to the world as a dynamic content generation engine.
  26. Runes Of Magic

    Why the top 26 and not the top 25?  Because Runes of Magic deserves to be on this list.  It's a free to play game that has the flow of World of Warcraft and some of the best features from Final Fantasy XI.  I might just go back to play it because, insofar as having an online 3D fantasy MMORPG is concerned, this is probably the best bet for the lowest price.

    Runes of Magic also features a "job switching" system like (and suspiciously similarly implemented to) Final Fantasy XI, which suits my alt-a-holic mindset well. Considering the gameplay is so reminiscent of World of Warcraft, I can consider it just as annoyingly derivative, but actually the unique fusion of primary and secondary jobs does bring enough new material to bear that I could enjoy this game.

    Already considering playing this game.
Dis/Honorable mentions:
  • Chronicles Of Spellborn (#27) - A more interesting fantasy RPG than most in that your hotbar actually automatically changes from 1 to 4 as you fight so that you can set up effective combo attacks with specially chaining abilities.  It was largely snubbed as it feels like a lower-budget production than most, and that's a pity, because the game play is actually a lot more interesting.  In response, it went free to play.

    What would get me back into the game: An alternative PvE end game or mechanics that make the PvP end game matches fair.
  • Cabal Online (#31) - Generally speaking, this is the very model of a cheap Korean cybercafe grind, but it's made more interesting than most because of a combo system that involves tapping your attack when you're on the right part of a timing meter.  It is a gigantic grind, but I was willing to humor that... right up to the point where I earned a "battle mode" and found this disabled the combo mechanic which was the sole reason I thought the game was interesting.

    What would get me back into the game: Prevent the disabling the combo mechanic regardless of what modes may be active. Make the combo mechanic less prone to lag (it's mostly a frame skipping problem). Provide a PvE end game or balanced PvP end game.
  • Champions Online (#41) - After logging 1600 hours in City of Heroes/Villains, I had high hopes for Champions Online. Unfortunately, they decided to make the game compatible with the X-Box 360 (which they have yet to actually release the game on) and that was the start of a long downhill side that the game suffers from today.
    • Initially, they limited themselves to a 7 move hotbar to facilitate the X-Box Controller. This was okay because the idea was that they would allow various moves to be bound to each power and which one activates depends on how you activate it (e.g. rapid tapping, holding down the button, ect).
    • Making things even more interesting, you would have up to four "builds" of which 7 powers were active.  Thus, you would be able to build your character's "decks" like a collectable card game.
    When that failed to immediately bring about fun, they switched the hotbar from 7 to 14 moves and broke the individual effects that made up each move of a power into multiple powers. This rapid switching of gears completely devastated the RPG mechanic. There were now far too many attacks, many of them feeling redundant and consequently not worth taking. Having multiple builds no longer mattered because, with 14 powers to a hotbar, you might as well just pick your favorite stance and stick with it for most characters.

    Then Bill Roper was hired to try to fix the mess, a move that immediately sparked even more controversy since his company, Flagship, had sunk.  To his credit, I think that the addition of power tiers and removal of universal power selection did add some needed structure. However, when taking the larger snafu of the above list into consideration, it was just another wrong turn to cover up a previous wrong turn.

    I tried to like this game.  I tried really hard.  I generated over a dozen characters and earned perhaps 200 levels between them.  I was just finding to find one that "worked."  Yet, despite my best efforts, all my characters were doubly damned in the end.  Damned by not being able to take the powers they need to support their concept due to tier restrictions.  Damned by the powers that were available typically being made obsolete by inferior (usually, but not always, higher-tier) alternatives.  My 6-month discounted subscription expires today. I am not renewing.

    What would get me back into the game: Significantly reduce the amount of instancing, add some aspects to make this game feel virtual worldly, and/or make this game free to play. Alienate your existing customers by ripping out the bastardized heart and soul of your existing game: remove tiers and go back to a single power point system where players can expand their characters in any direction they have the points for.
  • Mabinogi (#75) - A rather interesting game, although a little dated (the original Korean version was released in 2004).  It is notable because the virtual world mechanics involving crafting (they refer to this as "fantasy life") is as important as combat.  We have seen that only a few times since Ultima Online, and then it was not nearly as entertaining as Mabinogi's implementation.

    It has quite a number of interesting features besides this:
    • A macro music system.  Similar mechanics have also seen in Lord of the Rings Online and the (new defunct) Asheron's Call 2.  Mabinogi's is unique in that it involves arranging notes on a song sheet (which you can sell to other players) and then attempting to play it (success of each note based on your music skill).
    • Combat is actually unpredictable and timing-based, which is quite refreshing over the usual "sandwich combat." (Turn on auto-attack, go make a sandwich, come back when battle is completed.) 
    • Your character actually ages one year a week.  You eventually reach a point in which you need to "rebirth" to gain more ability points.

    Is Athena alive and inspiring a game company in Korea?  Other than the general monotony of grinding common to most MMORPGs, perhaps the main downside of the game is all characters are portayed as being age 10-19.  This would have been a more interesting if a wider life cycle were represented - it's almost like you're being asked to leave if you're older than that.  Why - does only the next generation deserve this much thought put to virtual world mechanics?
    Already considering playing this game.
  • Star Trek Online (#Really far down the list) - Another Cryptic Studios game, another game I really wanted to like and have been unable to bring myself to.   It's based on the Star Trek license.   It has ship-based and ground-based aspects to the game - something I think would make for an excellent MMORPG.   Unfortunately, it just doesn't feel like an MMORPG.  It's a single player experience with some vague MMORPG trappings.

    Worst lifetime subscription investment ever. My reasoning was that I could overlook that it wasn't free to play if that was no longer a factor, but it backfired because there's really not enough here to have a reason to play it for more than a week or two.  It gets boring quick, and boredom is a death knell for any game, MMORPG or not.
  • Playing this game whether I want to or not. However, if I had my way: Significantly reduce the amount of instancing, add some aspects to make this game feel virtual worldly or make this game free to play. Add difficulty slider so I can make the gameplay feel remotely challenging (some mention has been made this may be getting done).  More depth or socialization could help with the boredom.
The title is a bit of misnomer - there are a few I'm willing to play.  Remarkably, they're all free to play titles: Atlantica Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Runes Of Magic, and Mabinogi. Still, considering what I've been through, mediocre grinds upon mediocre grinds, so many promises of cool virtual worlds only to be disappointed by shallow cash grabs, it's little wonder I've cultivated such a surly mindset towards games.
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