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In Pictures: 20 MMOG Realms You Should Explore

Atlantica Online

Atlantica Online offered a twist on the typical MMORPG, merging the first-person aspects found in most other MMORPGs with old-school turn-based game play.

Think of it this way: you're wandering around a transformed North America (more on that below) and you come across a beast. Rather than initiating the traditional one-on-one encounter, another screen loads and reveals an isometric view consisting of a whole group of enemies, including your party. This is where the old-school turn-based role-playing game (RPG) element comes in. You decide the action of each team player and then execute. The game does the same with the enemy AI. This cycle continues until the battle is completed, and then returns the gamer to the standard MMORPG first- and third-person perspective.

The story itself centers around Atlantis and its greedy inhabitants. The premise of the story begins when Atlantians create a powerful substance called Oriharukon that other nations want to use. The Atlantians then eventually destroy the four great nations of the Earth, as well as themselves. As a descendant, the player's ultimate destiny is to save humankind from the legacy the Atlantians left behind, the Oriharukon.

Atlantica Online is free to play and thrives on player micro-transactions.

Dungeons & Dragons Online

Turbine launched Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach (DDO) in 2006, relying loosely on the D&D tabletop 3.5 rule-set. The game initially had a claustrophobic feel. Gamers were seemingly locked in one endless city environment called Stormreach. Missing were the deserts, mountains, lakes, and oceans, thus making a very drab and boring experience.

That all changed when DDO went free-to-play with the launch of Dungeons & Dragons Online: Ebarron Unlimited. Players no longer start within the city, but rather on the shores of Eberron.

As for the actual game play, the title uses standard MMORPG mechanics (although the rule-set is turn-based). However, most encounter areas are loaded as miniature modules. An example is how the player's character takes on a quest within a cave. The character approaches the cave and selects the level of difficulty: solo, normal, hard, elite, and epic.

During character generation, DDO offers six races (humans, elves, dwarves, half-lings, Warforged, and Drow) and 11 classes (fighter, paladin, barbarian, ranger, monk, favored soul, rogue, bard, wizard, sorcerer, and cleric), as well as a handful of alignments.

Free-to-play gamers have access to a majority of the content, while this model thrives on micro-transactions. Gamers wanting VIP content can subscribe for $14.99 per month.

Free Realms

In 2009 Sony Online Entertainment broke away from its traditional MMORPG model and launched the family-friendly Free Realms.

While the title will obviously not cater to the hardcore gamer, there is something to be said about the world's overall design and "soft" presentation. On a visual level, the game is quite attractive and should certainly keep new and experienced MMORPG gamers interested.

Rather than relying on the usual level grind, Free Realms instead makes the MMORPG more social, providing mini-games and a surprisingly entertaining trading card game. But don't let the rated "G" appearance fool you. The game does have the more traditional MMORPG traits, such as combat and quests for the older, more serious player.

On the business end, the game seems to mostly thrive on the microtransaction structure, enticing players to purchase items within the game. Free Realms also offers a subscription-based service, charging players $5 per month for five extra jobs, rankings on the Free Realms leaderboards, three character slots, and more.

Free Realms will also be available on the PlayStation 3 on November 5, 2010, and on the Mac in Q3 2010.

Guild Wars

Developed by ArenaNet and published by NCsoft, Guild Wars: Prophecies originally launched as Guild Wars back in 2005. The game set out to bring the MMORPG experience to PC gamers, but without the monthly subscription fees. Typically the game is referred to as a competitive online role-playing game (CORPG).

While gamers still had to buy the retail game, the difference between Guild Wars and the typical MMORPG was that the game didn't offer a persistent world. Instead, NCSoft servers hosted public communities within each virtual settlement. When players left the settlement, quests and encounters were endured in private, "instanced" areas supplied by the servers. Guild Wars servers also played "matchmaker" for players wanting to adventure together in co-op mode by linking them together into an "instanced" quest.

Guild Wars took on the "Prophecies" name after NCsoft launched the next campaign, Factions. The third campaign, Nightfall, launched in 2006, followed by the campaign/expansion pack combo Eye of the North in 2007.

The biggest selling point for the Guild Wars series is that it caters to both the solo and guild player, offering the ability to hire NPC mercenaries to fill any gaps. The series is also incredibly beautiful and greatly varies in style as the player traverses across its virtual terrain.

Lord Of The Rings Online

Turbine's latest MMORPG Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (LOTRO) originally launched back in 2007. As the name implies, the game is based on J.R.R. Tolkien's popular fantasy-based Middle-earth realm and takes place within the time-period of the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring.

As Turbine states, the overall storyline "snakes" through the Fellowship's quest, intersecting with it at key points and allowing for contributions that supplement the lore in exciting and "believable" ways. The epic storyline is broken up into books, each of which is broken up into chapters.

Underneath the Middle-earth exterior, LOTRO is your typical MMORPG featuring various races (man, elf, dwarf, and Hobbit), classes (burglar, captain, champion, guardian, hunter, lore-master, and minstrel), quests, and level grinding. Fans of the franchise can adventure through popular spots like the Shire, the Misty Mountains, Mirkwood, and more.

In June, Turbine announced that the game will incorporate the free-to-play model, but they will be required to purchase expansions, quest packs, items, and account services. The typical subscription rate is $14.99, while LOTRO also offers additional methods of payment for gamers who want more than the free service.

Turbine officially launched the free-to-play model on September 10, 2010.


Rappelz was originally launched as an open beta back in 2006 and has since branched out into 14 different languages.

The overall story reveals that the gods didn't believe the human Gaia race could develop a civilization on its own. To aid in their efforts, the gods sent in the Deva and the Asura to assist. A witch soon arrived and deceived the Gaia, turning them against each other, and against the Deva and Asura. Eventually all three races banded together to defeat the witch. However, she returned again years later.

Players create characters based on three races: Deva (representing light), Asura (representing darkness), and Gaia (represents the four elements). Each race plays host to three major starting classes: warrior, magician, and summoner; but each begins the game with a basic class with limited skills.

As players advance in experience, they can take on a specialized job class. Later on, they can pick up a second. As an example, the Deva race is a "guide" by default, bred with smite and minor-healing abilities. However, if the player chooses cleric as its starting class, then the character can become a priest at level 10 and a Bishop at level 50.

Although the game is free-to-play, Rappelz employs micro-transactions within the item shop.

Runes Of Magic

Developed by Taiwanese studio Runewaker Entertainment, Runes of Magic was adapted for the English and German markets by Frogster Interactive and launched in North America by Frogster America on March 2009.

Deemed a World of Warcraft clone, Runes of Magic's biggest "selling point" is that it's free-to-play, thriving on micro-transations that take place within the Runes of Magic item shop.

Runes of Magic also offers the ability to pick two classes at once--knight, warrior, rogue, scout, priest, druid, mage, and warden, with a possible 28 combinations. The drawback is that class depends on race. Although the game offers only humans and elves, the latter race can't play as a knight or a priest, and the human can't become a druid or warden.

As the story goes, the god Ayvenas created the world in book form (Taborea). When it grew out of control, Ayvenas ripped the future chapters (oracles) out and scattered them about its "virtual" lands so that the inhabitants could shape its future. After a long string of wars, humans began to use runes to battle against evil, but mankind was soon wiped out, ending the era of the Ancient Kingdoms.

The game takes place in a new civilization and it looks to discover the secrets of the runes.


Jagex's browser-based MMORPG RuneScape originally launched back in 2001. The game isn't exactly hardcore. Like Sony's Free Realms, RuneScape is geared toward a general audience, young and old.

The overall backdrop takes place in the medieval fantasy realm of Gielinor, which is split into different kingdoms, regions, and cities. There is no overlaying storyline. Rather, users set their own goals and objectives.

Using the Java platform, the game has gone through three stages of development, but has thus remained consistent in regards to keeping it playable within any browser and on most PCs. The most recent overhaul boosted the game's visual aspect to some degree (RuneScape HD), while PC gamers won't see eye-popping graphics as they would in World of Warcraft or Guild Wars. Still, the game has come a long way, and it's surprisingly addictive once you get past the simplified, old-school appearance.

As always, RuneScape is free-to-play by default, while paid subscriptions bring more content to players, including over 100 extra quests, no advertising, a personalized home to decorate, full-screen mode, a 3x larger world to explore, and more. The subscription costs $5.95 per month.

Minions Of Mirth

Fantasy-based Minions of Mirth, developed and published by Prairie Games, launched in 2006 and offers both single-player and MMORPG gameplay.

The game is probably one of the least-known MMORPGs out there, possibly due to its outdated graphics engine. Then again, this could be one of its biggest selling points, as (like RuneScape) the game can play on machines with low-end hardware specs (like netbooks).

Outside the visuals, the game provides a massive persistent world containing 14 "diverse" regions that don't need loading. For the player, this means that the journey is continuous and doesn't require a long pause while the engine loads the next zone.

Although Prairie offers Minion of Mirth as a free-to-play MMORPG, gamers can purchase the premium version for $29.99. This version, applied as a patch, adds a multi-class system, the ability to play as an evil character, use premium equipment, guild creation and joining, and means to play the MMORPG on other servers.

The base free-to-play model provides 12 unique races (elves, dwarves, orcs, ogres, etc.) and 16 classes (warriors, clerics, bards, etc.), hundreds of quests, thousands of monsters, and more.

  • haze4peace
    As an avid MMORPG player I am really excited about late 2010/2011. There are multiple AAA mmorpgs being released. If you are interested in experiencing a new world, do some research on the upcoming games. Guild Wars 2, SW:TOR, Rift: Planes of Talara, Vindictus, TERA and more. Things are looking good for mmorpg players.
  • asty234
    you guys have DAOC labeled as launched in oct was 2001
  • tstng
    I would have expected Aion to be in the list as well.
  • Firehead2k
    Concerning GuildWars:
    "quests and encounters were endured locally on the gamer's PC"
    All non-town areas are instanced, meaning you won't run into other players that are not in your party. The player still plays online, nothing is done "locally".

    "Servers also played matchmaker for players wanting to quest in co-op mode"
    Not true. Only Random Arena (pvp) and the factions battles (also pvp) (from Factions) is where people are randomly paired. Other than that, people can take NPC heros or group with people (or solo) to go kill stuff.

    Additionaly worth mentioning is that GW has no grind. Level cap is low (20) and usually reached within a week. There is no 'uber-leet-gear', all gear performs essentially the same, depending on what one needs. Once items have the maximum stats, they only differ by their looks.
  • mathiasschnell
    Am I the only one who doesn't see a title to each picture and has the whole article off to the side and getting cut-off a bit?

    I'm using Chrome BTW and zoomed in a bit, but even zoomed out I think it does this.
  • Judguh
    I find it interesting the picture for the article on the homepage is of Final Fantasy Tactics for Playstation when the article is all about PC MMORPGS's....
  • haplo602
    no EVE Online ?
  • kkiddu
    The interface of these picture stories isn't very user-friendly. I'd suggest TomsHardware to rework on this section, and add a 'View All' button so that all the pictures can be viewed on a single page.

    There's a lot of treasure that's difficult to access owing to the flawed interface of Picture Stories.
  • Fokissed
    Anarchy Online has been free to play for the entire 6 years that I have played it. The "until Feb 20XX" has been around for as long as I can remember and its always extended before the freeness expires.

    DAOC came out in 2001, not 2009.
  • Unbelievable, Ultima Online is missing...