The world of massively multiplayer games is an incredibly saturated one; full of fantasy worlds to grind through, aliens to blast and adventures just waiting to be had. With a market chalked to the brim with different titles it’s no doubt some might pass you by. This week on MMOgames we take a look at five titles that might have passed you by. In no particular order we'll look at 5 Retro MMOs you probably haven't played. All the games featured here are at least a decade old and are still running in some form. We think they are well worth your time and energy. The best part, most of them are free. Without further ado, let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
Asheron’s Call One and Two
Asheron's Call was originally launched in 1999. Developed by Turbine and published by Microsoft, this was one of the first 3D MMORPGs to hit the market. Don’t let the outdated graphics fool you, Asheron’s Call has aged remarkably well. It features a huge world and several boat loads of content. For the first several years of its life Turbine managed to release monthly content updates, and they were often pretty large too. Asheron’s Call is also one of the only games still to this date that has some form of non instanced player housing
In 2002 Turbine released Asheron’s Call 2. This highly anticipated sequel pleased many people and upset quite a few others. It veers off from the original title in a few ways. The combat system is more familiar to ones we see today. It was one of the earlier games to implement a hot key centric combat system. Unlike the first game it also uses a class based system; Asheron’s Call 2 introduced several different playable races. It doesn't stop it from being a great game in its own right.
It’s always amusing to hear the two separate fan bases argue back and forth why their particular game is the better rendition of the franchise. Bottom line, they are both great! Even better yet, Turbine is releasing both of these games for a singular ten dollar buy to play. In the near future they plan on releasing the server code for Asheron’s Call. Players will soon be able to run their own customized versions of the game.
Star Wars Galaxies
Yes, I understand a lot of you have probably played this one, and if you haven’t you are at least aware of its existence. It’s the arguably the most popular game on the list. Star Wars Galaxies was released by Sony Online Entertainment in 2003. By Sony’s standards the game didn't live up. Failing to meet its overly high expectations for subscriptions and they attempted to remedy this several times. After some time Sony decided to revamp the combat system. This is infamously referred to as the “the combat upgrade” or CU for short. Players bickered but for the most part got used to the change, and SWG kept on ticking.
The final blow came when SOE implemented “The new game experience” or NGE. This was the final straw for the user base. NGE completely gutted the original progression system in favor of something far more streamlined. Jedi became a starting class and almost everything the community loved about the game was destroyed in a heartbeat.
The game officially shut down in December of 2011. That wouldn't stop SWG from living though. A non profit community started a server emulation project to recreate the original game in all of its pre CU glory. www.swgemu.com is alive and well, it boasts an active community with servers peaking out at over 2000 players. If you own a legal copy of the game or wish to purchase one off an online retailer you can play this beloved MMORPG for free.
Originally called Project Entropia, the team over at MindArk decided they would try a different business model. While Entropia Universe is technically free, players can purchase PED at a rate of 10 for a dollar and use them for anything and everything in the game. The flip side, everything in the game can drop PED as well, with top loots having been several thousand dollars. You can even withdraw money out of the game straight to your bank account. Don’t think you can just log in and start making serious cash though, the game is essentially a virtual casino.
Entropia is huge, it’s almost mind-blowing. The game has several planets, each one is rather large. One of the cool things is Entropia is really several games in one, each one of the planets is owned by a different company or group of players. The community is really solid, new players find their way in all the time and are treated pretty well by the veterans. Many people in the community have been playing Entropia since its inception.
In game real estate has even sold for huge chunks of cash; with the biggest pieces going for over 300,000USD. This game isn’t for everybody, but it can be quite enjoyable and has a fantastic community. The game can be enjoyed on some level for free and most players have no issues playing for just a few dollars a month. Buyer, beware on this one though; if you aren’t careful you could end up spending huge chunks of cash.
The Saga of Ryzom
Saga of Ryzom is the only game currently “pay to play” that made our list. While technically free, players without a subscription can only advance to level 125, the current cap is 250.This is a title that has seen its ups and downs over the years. Ryzom came out in 2004 and never really caught on in the mainstream. It suffered from low subscription numbers and the game ended up changing hands a couple times. That doesn't stop this from being a standout title. It features a stellar community, and still regularly runs events.
Ryzom also has a slew of stuff that sets it apart from a lot of games in the genre. The art direction alone is worth giving this title an install. Even today it has moments that are nothing short of breathtaking. The world of Atys moves and changes, animals migrate, flowers bloom and some of the more pesky beasts are known to invade the cities.
The progression system is also one of the better ones I have seen in an MMO. All weapons are leveled independently and progress at a very reasonable rate. The level system really gives you a sense of openness and freedom rarely seen in online games. One of the most unique things Ryzom has to offer is its custom content creation system. Players can create their own instanced quests, scenarios and encounters. This is one for the ages and a game I genuinely hope lives on for a long time to come. The game has recently gone open source and has a community development team working on adding new content and zones.
The last groups of titles on our list aren’t really MMORPGs. As the precursor to the current trends in the industry, MUDs laid the ground work for everything we know and love today. The group over at Iron Realms is one of the last remaining in this bunch. MUDs are like modern MMOs in many ways. They have quests, a progression system and a community; the difference? They are text based.
Not having to spend time on pesky graphics allows MUDs to efficiently add lots of unique and engaging content. If you are looking for something incredibly engaging, look no further. Iron Realms games allow the wings of your imagination to spread. These titles thrive on their communities and deep mechanics. Achaea for instance has a very well developed series of mechanics devoted to politics. Save those fancy polygons for the kids; Iron Realms is for the more sophisticated player.
Iron Realms currently runs five different MUDs. Each one has a slightly unique take on mechanics and lore. Aetolia has player run factions, Achaea features no level cap and Imperian offers a unique siege warfare mechanic. All of these titles have a pretty steep learning curve; but if you are looking for something a bit more mentally stimulating than your average themepark grinder, then this might just be your new home.
Attention: Our time machine has reached its final destination - The Present
It’s crazy how the years seem to fly on by. It doesn’t seem like that long since some of these games were shiny and had that new game smell. The clocks may have not stopped ticking, but one thing is for sure; the motors are still running on these fine machines. If you have never played them before, maybe it’s time to give them a test drive. If you have, another lap around the track might be in order.
I’m sure some for some of you, your favorite lesser known titles may not of made this list. If you enjoyed this article, we hope to bring you another installment soon. We thank you for reading and please feel free to leave some of your favorites in the comments below.