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Free for All

Free for All: Ten of my favorite in-game items

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Ryzom, Opinion, Ultima Online, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Mabinogi, Allods Online, Free for All, Battlestar Galactica Online, Miscellaneous, PlanetSide 2, Sandbox, Subscription

RuneScape inventory screenshot
I love things. Truly I do. Only specific things, though. Over the last year I have doubled my efforts to catalog most of the best things in my life, from pictures and artwork to writings and songs I have played on. It's a sort of meta-hobby. As part of the effort I want to organize many of my favorite MMO in-game items, simply because I have played MMOs for so long and they are such a part of my life. I have a lot of favorite items, but some tend to stick out in my memory like a favorite smell or place.

After I finished an initial list of MMO items (it was well over 50 items in the beginning), I was surprised at how much variety there was in the items and in the games I listed. I think it reflects my character a lot, but also shows that I am a sentimental plod most of the time. I cut the list down to these 10, but I am sure I will wish to adjust the list again in the future. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section!

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Free for All: MMORPGs for your new console

Betas, Fantasy, Super-hero, EVE Online, Launches, New Titles, Previews, PvP, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, Consoles, Casual, Virtual Worlds, MMOFPS, Free Realms, Rumors, Warhammer 40k, Kids, DC Universe Online, Final Fantasy XIV, DUST 514, World of Tanks, Free for All, Family, EverQuest Next, PlanetSide 2, Sandbox, Diablo III, Defiance, The Elder Scrolls Online, Destiny, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

PS4 and Xbox One picture
Consoles and MMOs do not have the stand-offish relationship that they used to have. In fact, there are so many different MMOs to choose from on consoles that it's seriously tempting to pick up one of the new ones -- the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 -- even though I wasn't planning on it for a long, long time. I enjoy using a controller with MMOs so much that I plan on covering the subject more in the future.

So let's get to the list of MMOs that are currently on consoles or that will be coming out on consoles in the near(ish) future. Massively's own Mike Foster put together a fantastic list last summer, but I thought I would update and pass it on. After all, the new consoles are officially here... so be sure to reference the list when you need a new MMO to play on your shiny new console!

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Free for All: Five MMOs that deserve more of my time

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Polls, Culture, Wurm Online, Opinion, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Casual, MMOFPS, MMORTS, RIFT, Free for All, Sandbox, Buy-to-Play

Five MMOs screenshot
There's only so much time in the world for playing video games. Yes, yes, I know it pains us to admit it, but it's true: We really can't sit around and explore MMOs all day long. Well, we could, but it probably wouldn't be very good for our relationships or health or finances. For me, this means that I have to balance playing MMOs for work and playing them for the sake of the hobby. I typically take one of my weekend days to jump into any number of MMOs. I might even spend a good hour just updating them all.

Let me tell you, it's plain painful to log into an MMO and realize just how much good content, events, and player interaction I have been missing. I'm sure this is a common issue though, right? In today's Free for All, I want to take a look at five MMOs that deserve more of my time.

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Free for All: Five ways to create immersion in MMOs

Fantasy, Screenshots, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Sandbox

Second Life screenshot
Immersion. I've used the word so much over the past several years that it has almost lost all meaning. I've played around with my Immersion Project, a set of rules designed to force me to play in a way that creates an almost physical connection with my characters. I've written about immersion and why it is important. I've even played the other side and fell in love with MMOs that are seemingly designed to be anything but immersive. It's one of those flashy terms that sounds more complicated than it is.

The fact is that it's important only to those who value it. And those who value it do not value it all the time. Immersion is simply a feeling of being lost in an MMO. It's the same feeling we get when reading a good book or when completely entrenched in a good movie. It's a feeling that designers must pay attention to, but if you pay too much attention to it, the game you design can miss the mark.

So what defines immersion for me? Well, it's easier to list off some specific game elements that help me feel immersed.

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Free for All: Why MMOs are still the greatest value in gaming

Screenshots, Business Models, Culture, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Free-to-Play, Mobile, The Secret World, Consoles, Casual, Free for All, Buy-to-Play

Vanguard Saga of Heroes screenshot
If you are the type of gamer who has access to a number of ways to game, then you probably do not need me to remind you that the hobby can be an expensive one. Consoles are becoming slicker, and the games they run are sure to go up in price, maybe someday soon close to $100 for a single game. A good gaming PC can still be an expensive thing to build and maintain especially as newer and better graphics cards and processors are introduced at a higher rate than we've ever seen before.

Luckily, we have outlets like Steam that offer staggering sales and indie titles that can be bought for close to nothing. There's also the mobile market with its tens of thousands of games that can be played essentially for free. So while the prices at the highest end of technology go up, there are still plenty of places to get a cheap yet fulfilling gaming fix.

Even with all of the deals out there, however, there is no better value than a modern MMO.

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Free for All: MMOs for players with a penchant for The Wolf Among Us

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Screenshots, Culture, Opinion, Star Trek Online, Guild Wars 2, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, Free Realms, Champions Online, Free for All, EverQuest Next, WildStar, Firefall

The Wolf Among Us screenshot
Ah, graphics. It's hard to describe why we like the graphical styles we do. I like the stylings of many games, but some are just so perfect that the graphics reach beyond a visual style and become a sort of textural memory in my gamer's heart. Each year, scores of games come out, and though I enjoy many of them, most do not affect me the way the look of games like The Chronicles of Spellborn or even Free Realms does.

There are a lot of single-player titles that just blow me away as well. Recently I was absolutely transfixed by Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. I stayed up late one night to finish it, and the graphics just kept getting better the entire time. Then there's The Wolf Among Us, a new title by Telltale Games, the same studio that made The Walking Dead series. It's made me remember just how amazing graphics can be without requiring a massive gaming rig.

Did you like the look of The Wolf Among Us as well? Here are some MMOs that feel similar.

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Free for All: The other side of MMO leveling

Business Models, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, Free for All

Free Realms screenshot
As I pointed out in last week's column, I am more fond of spending money to obtain a high-level character than I am grinding out levels to gain one. As usual, I put out my opinion without considering how many people might take it the wrong way. To set the record straight and to give some evidence to the pro-leveling side of the argument, I would like to list off some of the reasons leveling is important. (Also in my opinion, of course.)

While I did refer to leveling as drudgery, my opinion does not automatically set some universal definition. What can be drudgery to me can be bliss to someone else, and so -- because it is gaming -- the impact of leveling can be felt differently by different people. It's not science; it's opinion.

Besides, it's not all drudgery anyway.

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Free for All: Why I'd love to buy high-level characters

EverQuest II, Business Models, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, DC Universe Online, Free for All, Buy-to-Play

DC Universe Online screenshot
There is a seedling of a possibility of an up-and-coming trend that I've noticed lately, one that has some players' hackles raised. It's just one of many trends that have shaped MMOs over the last several years. Some of those trends include the massive market switch to free-to-play models, social gaming's influence on the MMO industry, the continuing popularity of selling power even by publishers who seem set against selling power, and the ever-growing mobile market and switch to mobile devices as favorite gaming destinations.

But to me, this new trend is one of the most exciting: the recent trend of giving away or selling high-level characters in games that require leveling. When I really think about it, it's been going on in some form for a long time, but the different designs and systems of all of the different MMOs we play have hidden it for much of that time.

I'll tell you why I love a free or paid-for high-level character.

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Free for All: Playing the eternal noob

Culture, Ryzom, Opinion, Casual, Humor, DC Universe Online, Free for All, PlanetSide 2, Age of Wushu

Crime Craft screenshot
As I just finished up my Age of Wushu livestream with Massively's own Patrick Mackey and Age of Wushu Community Manager Earthquake last night, I realize once again that most people do not look at MMO gaming as I do. Of course, I am basing this only on my existence as an island of a person, someone who spends most of his time soloing through content and generally getting lost in one game after another, after another and another.

Patrick is a lively personality who is what players would call a min-maxer. A theory-crafter. He is someone who takes hold of a game and learns it backward and forward, something I can only wish I could do. Not only do I not have the mental ability to sit still that long (and no, that's not an attempt at bragging about the size of my brain), but I physically cannot read that much text or spend more than several hours online without taking a break for fear of a days-destroying migraine.

This physical inability to study up came well after my already-established love for virtual travel, however. I am an explorer of virtual worlds, an occupation that does not permit sitting at one stop for long. But this hurts me as a player. I realize this and accept it.

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Free for All: What a Memoria MMO might look like

Fantasy, Video, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Miscellaneous

Memoria screenshot
There are a few styles of gaming that we just don't see much of anymore, and point-and-click adventure games has been one of those. The good news is that compared to other older styles like text-based or email-gaming, point-and-click adventuring is making a comeback. Thanks to the mobile market and its resurrected titles like Broken Sword and amazing newer games like The Walking Dead, adventure-lovers have much to do. Personally, I find adventure gaming to be a thrilling experience because they generally allow a player to use her brain more than her reflexes, and the experiences are usually quite beautiful too.

Memoria is Daedalic Entertainment's latest adventure game set in The Dark Eye universe. It's often described as "the German Dungeons and Dragons." I'm not sure that the description gives either IP full credit, but The Dark Eye is one interesting universe.

As usual, though, my mind wondered how the game could be worked into a multiplayer version. A massively multiplayer version. I've asked the same question of other games before, so let's look at how Memoria might make a killer MMO!

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Free for All: Recapping the vastness of Mabinogi's Saga Iria

Fantasy, Video, Events (In-Game), PvE, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Mabinogi, Free for All, Livestream, Sandbox

Mabinogi artwork
My summer has been filled with a massive, 10-part adventure called The Saga Iria. It's an event that happened inside the world of Mabinogi, one of my favorite free-to-play sandbox MMOs. Once a week Nexon released a new chapter, and each time I streamed my first few steps into it, often resulting in my immediate and embarrassing death. Actually, make that deaths. I died a lot.

My companion for this wild ride was Mabinogi Community Manager Sabina. Sabina is a "fashionogi" (as they call it in-game), someone who enjoys customizing her characters more than sending them into battle. Mabinogi allows for almost any style of play, from combat mastery to roleplay to fashion obsession.

The community showed up during my livestreams to give me plenty of advice during my hard times in combat because the game is known for its challenge level. It's time to recap some of my favorite moments of those times and discuss what I liked... and didn't like.

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Free for All: The truth behind the importance of community

Culture, PvP, Opinion, Roleplaying, Free for All

MMO screenshot
I've talked about community in the past, and it's still an important topic. The fact is that defining community or what makes a good community -- or even what qualifies as an MMORPG -- has come up for discussion many, many times on this site. For those who might still be confused, I can say that the reason the discussion keeps cropping up is due to the ever-changing market. If we didn't attempt to dissect the new genres and changes that come to this genre, then we would be doing a disservice to our readers. That's why we cover MOBAs, pseudo-MMOs, semi-MMOs, MMO-like games, social games, multiplayer shooters, and even the occasional lobby-based action title.

The only thing I can assure you of is that Massively (and that includes me, of course) knows the true meaning of MMORPG. When I say true meaning, you either know what I mean or you don't.

Having said that, I'd like to ask whether community and the multiplayer aspect is really that important beyond the reason that it must be considered in order to categorize games. Is having many other players around you really that big a deal?

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Free for All: My top four MMOs for relaxation

Trailers, Video, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, Wurm Online, Opinion, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free Realms, Free for All, Livestream, Sandbox, Housing, Player-Generated Content

Wurm Online screenshot
Say you come home from a long day's work, dreaming about the vacation that you've yet to take and how nice it would be to turn off your brain for a while, to kick back and watch the wide world walk by. Unfortunately, vacations cost a pile of money. You have to pay someone to watch the dogs and water your plants and work is a real pain about letting you out of the shackles even for a week.

The good news is that much of the benefit of vacation comes from the mental release. Sure, nothing beats the real, true feeling of pressing your toes into warm water and sand, but it can be fun and relaxing to visit virtual worlds, to take in virtual sights and sounds. MMOs are perfect for blowing off some steam, for taking a moment to realize just how nice it is to have access to such landscapes from the comfort of your desk.

Here are some of my favorite virtual worlds that bring on that feeling of relaxation.

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Free for All: Recapping Mabinogi Iria Saga chapters four to six

Fantasy, Video, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Lore, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Mabinogi, Events (Massively's Coverage), Free for All, Livestream, Sandbox

Mabinogi screenshot
It's time for another recap of the last three Mabinogi Saga Iria chapters. If you'd like a full recap of what exactly the Saga Iria is, check in on our previous coverage, but the short verions is that it's a grand, sweeping saga that is spread out over 12 episodes. In it, the player is cast into not only the role of the hero but the role of the villain. It's a complicated story, so you could also get caught up via the livestreams embedded past the cut (and the previous ones as well).

Of course, the very best way to enjoy the chapters is to play through them yourself. But Mabinogi Community Manager Sabina won't be joining you as she joined me in the livestreams, will she? So, watch on for her take on the game! I found some familiar challenges in these chapters, challenges that pushed my abilities as a player. I wouldn't have been able to survive these chapters without the help of the community and the advice of fantastic players. Thanks to them, I have learned things about the game and its systems that I would have never experienced on my time budget. So let's get to the recap! (Just be very aware: This article contains many spoilers!)

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Free for All: The Castle Doctrine takes griefing and grieving to a new level

Betas, Culture, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Opinion, Free for All

The Castle Doctrine screenshot
The Castle Doctrine, the new pseudo-MMO by indie star Jason Rohrer, asks players to fill the shoes of a paranoid home owner who needs to protect his wife, kids, and home at almost any cost. Even the title of the game is based on a law that states that a person has the right to use force to defend personal space or abode, which should help you understand what Rohrer is trying to create. If you look at his official blog, you'll find out that his family was the victim of a dog attack while living in a New Mexico neighborhood. His experiences led to the creation of this art project.

In the game, players build up home defenses but also try to break into neighbor's houses, dodging menacing dogs and traps. Imagine a game that plays a bit like tower defense with permadeath: If you are unsuccessful in breaking in to a house, you have to start over with a brand-new home and family. Of course, the title has brewed plenty of controversy, especially considering that you can play only as a man and that the highest in-game payout comes when you murder someone else's wife. The game is a man-on-man murder simulation where the woman and children are all property.

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