NCsoft brought Aion, a fantasy-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) to the States on September 29, 2009. The game centers around a conflict between the Asmodians and the Elyos and combines player-versus-player and player-versus-environment game play. As both factions sport wings, flight also takes on a major role in the game, used not only for travel but for battling enemies, completing quests, and more. Since its launch, Aion has received one major expansion called Assault on Balaurea.
The game still costs $39.99 and requires a $14.99 monthly fee.
Microsoft originally published this MMORPG on November 2, 1999, following the release of Electronic Arts' (EA) Ultima Online and Sony Online Entertainment's EverQuest. Turbine Entertainment purchased the rights from Microsoft in 2003 and has kept the servers running ever since.
Asheron's Call was also Turbine's first MMORPG, taking place on an original, fictional planet called Auberean, rather than drawing from trademarked content in Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online. The company now offers a 14-day trial. The retail version costs $9.99 with an additional $12.95 monthly fee.
Published by Atari, Cryptic Studios' superhero-themed Champions Online launched on September 1, 2009. Unlike Cryptic's other City of Heroes superhero MMORPG, this title is based on the Champions license using rules and settings loosely based on the Hero System. What also makes it different than City of Heroes is its use of cel-shading, presenting a comic book-style appearance rather than mimicking realistic environments and objects.
Gamers can jump into a demo with unlimited play time, offering content within the Millennium City crisis. The full version costs $19.99 and a $14.99 monthly fee.
Crowns Of Power
Crowns of Power is a fantasy-themed MMORPG that was launched on August 21, 2008. The game was supposedly developed by a team of five people--Peter Simard, Matt Ensign, Matt Tapply, Bogdan Iliesiu, and Chris Bechard--and was distributed through Rampid Interactive's free-to-play gaming network.
Instead of relying on the typical class system, Crowns of Power uses five starter schools of magic: White (light), Red (fire), Green (nature), Blue (mind), and Black (death). Crowns of Power is free to download and play, and offers an optional "Point Store" allowing players to buy Crowns of Power points for purchasing virtual enhancements.
As its name suggests, Entropia Universe isn't an MMORPG based on one particular realm. Instead, it consists of several worlds within a virtual universe and relies on a micro-payment model. This means that players can purchase in-game currency and then convert the virtual funds back into real cash using a fixed exchange rate. Like Second Life, players can make and sell virtual goods, creating a virtual, thriving economy without the typical questing and character leveling seen in standard MMORPGs.
Current planets include the sci-fi themed Calypso and the rock-n-roll themed Rocktropia. Planet Michael--a world based on Michael Jackson--is expected to launch in late 2011.
EVE Online takes a different approach than Anarchy Online and other sci-fi MMORPGs by removing the first-person perspective and placing gamers in control of a customizable ship. The title was developed by CCP Games and originally published by Simon & Schuster Interactive from May to December 2003. However, CCP eventually regained the rights and self-published EVE Online via digital distribution channels. Eventually, EVE Online was made available on Steam in 2008, and then as a boxed retail game--published by Atari--in 2009.
Currently, gamers can get a small taste by downloading the 14-day free trial. The full version can be purchased from Steam for $19.99 and requires the typical $14.95 monthly subscription fee. The game's 14th free expansion, called EVE Online: Incursion, was officially launched last November.
Fans of anime may find Outsparks' MMORPG Fiesta Online charming based on its overall cel-shaded (hand-drawn) presentation. The game is one of many free-to-play MMORPGs that makes a chunk of its profits from in-game microtransactions. However, the title’s notoriety stems from actual in-game weddings. Players must purchase a wedding application and a virtual ring before proposing, and the couple is eventually allowed to invite up to 30 guests.
Despite that, Fiesta Online is a pure MMORPG at heart, offering player-versus-player combat, quests, guilds, and four player classes: archers, fighters, mages, and clerics.
Final Fantasy XI
Square originally launched its Final Fantasy-themed MMORPG for the PC in North America on October 28, 2003, and followed up with a PlayStation 2 client on March 23, 2004 and an Xbox 360 client in April 2006, making it the first cross-platform MMORPG. Taking place on the fantasy world of Vana'diel, Final Fantasy XI Online has received four expansion packs since its release and has over two million active players.
PlayStation 2 owners wanting to play the MMORPG are required to purchase an additional external hard drive and a network adapter--the Xbox 360 already has both of these components. Although Xbox 360 gamers don't need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play (meaning they can use the free Silver version of Microsoft's network), subscription fees for all three platforms cost $12.95 per month, with an additional $1.00 monthly fee per extra character.
Created by Japanese developer NETTS, Florensia is a free-to-play MMORPG that features both land and sea exploration and combat. However, unlike Fiesta Online's cel-shaded approach, Florensia offers toned-down, less cartoon-like anime characters using vibrant, pastel-shaded 3D graphics.
Players choose between four classes: explorer, noble, mercenary, and "elementalist." In addition to the typical questing on land and sea, players can also build their own ships with five basic classes, offer stores for selling hand-made goods, go fishing, and explore the seas.
Player-versus-player fights range from one-on-one combat to massive fleet battles. The game is free to download and play, while microtransactions serve as the revenue base for the game’s developers.
Short for "Fly for Fun," Gala Labs' fantasy-based, anime-themed MMORPG Flyff was launched here in the States in December 2005. The game relies on character flight as the main method of transportation, but players don't actually choose a job (class) until level 15--these include the mercenary (tank), the magician, the assist (priest), and the acrobat (rogue).
Actual flight doesn't take place until players reach level 20, after which they can purchase flying mounts like skateboards and brooms. Other notable Flyff features include the Lord System, which allows an elected player to introduce events on the server and rake in taxes from other gamers. Guilds can also declare war on each other and have massive battles called "guild duels."
The game is free to download and play and relies on microtransactions as a means of revenue.
Unlike the typical 3D MMORPG, MapleStory takes a console-like approach using 2D, side-scrolling graphics. Yet, despite its visual simplicity, MapleStory has over 100 million user accounts (both subscriber and free members) worldwide. It also offers many of the features shared with its 3D counterparts, including character leveling, a quest system, trading, chatting, and grouping together into a party of adventurers.
Players can join guilds, participate in marriages, and even pop a squat to do a little fishing, although they don't take on classes (jobs) before reaching level 10 (unless they want to become a magician, which qualifies at level eight). Thanks to its overall design, MapleStory doesn't require hefty hardware, with recommended settings in the range of a Pentium 4 at 1.8 GHz, 256 MB of RAM, an unspecified GPU, and 3 GB of free HDD space.
MapleStory is free to download and play, and player microtransactions serve as the source of revenue for the developers.