Developed by Turbine and Published by Midway Games and Codemasters, Lord of the Rings Online started out as a pay-to-play MMO but changed models to free-to-play in September of 2010—a move that reportedly tripled their revenue. During its debut and lifetime the game has received tremendous acclaim, supports a thriving community, and continues to produce content. The game provides a deep, scintillating experience within the story lore of J.R.R. Tolkein, PvP and PvE, a great deal of social involvement, and even a game mechanic for playing music. In the recent January, LotRO received MMO of the year from PC Gamer Magazine.
Developed by Turbine and published by Atari and Codemasters, Dungeons & Dragons Online is another example of a pay-to-play game that became a free-to-play game. After becoming free in September 2009, DDO has continued to receive updates and now stands at almost nine in total. The game also features the voice of the late Gary Gygax of D&D fame. DDO received a giant number of accolades and best free to play MMO awards during 2009.
Running on Valve’s beautiful Source engine, Vindictus is published by Nexon. Based on the Korean Mabinogi Heroes series but set hundreds of years before, it presents an active combat system with a lot of environmental interaction. It currently boasts seven episodes for players to play through. IGN awarded it Best Free-to-Play MMO Game of 2010.
This entry jumps to this place in the listing because of sheer interest by both the MMO community and the GameOgre community. Published by Perfect World Entertainment, Rusty Hearts cultivates inspired and innovative gameplay along with a strong storytelling aspects with a vampire-gothic atmosphere. Developed by Stairway Games, it mimics a lot of gameplay reminiscent of Castlevenia with a massively-multiplayer approach. Players get to select between four, gender-locked, characters who tell the story of the game as they advance through the ghoulish environments of a Eastern European hamlet besieged by an evil vampire. The game is currently in open beta as of September 13th so it’s available to the public and doing extremely well.
Another new and extremely popular contender in the GameOgre community, Dragon Nest is published by Nexon in the US and developed by Eyedentity Games. It brings an interesting MMO world to the ecology alongside a non-targeting combat system and a multitude of character classes—the dungeons are sectioned off reminiscent of Vindictus, another Nexon game also on the list; but the game is much more lighthearted and cartoonish. The game won three awards in late 2011 from the Hong Kong Game Industry Association: “China’s Most Popular Online Game Award,” “Asia Best Design Award,” and “Asia Best Technology Award.”
As another property of Perfect World Entertainment, Forsaken World as recent to the scene is still building its community and popularity but it comes with a solid foundation of tried-and-true gameplay and most players first comment on the detailed graphics engine. The graphical detail (especially in character costuming) provide a powerful backdrop for epic, sweeping storylines and tale telling that hold the fascination of many of the players. Forsaken World won the 2010 Golden Plume Award for the Most Original MMORPG.
Coming in a tentative position, Hellgate: Global recently made its debut into the free-to-play MMO community after spending a long time as a pay-to-play MMO and it’s made a surprising splash with the GameOgre community. Its position is tentative, but it has a strong playerbase and a lot of good gameplay going for it so it might make a good run on the leaderboard. The game’s exciting fast-paced gameplay–developed by Flagship Studios in 2007 and now published by T3fun HanbitSoft as a free-to-play MMOFPS/RPG–put this demon-splattering FPS on the map.
An oldie but goodie that has yet to wane in popularity, RuneScape is published by Jagex Games Studio and arrived on the scene in 2001. It is recognized by the Guiness Book of World records as the world’s most popular free MMORPG with over 156 million subscribers.
Developed by JoyImpact and published by Gala-Net, AIKA Online presents largely PvP gameplay with a very friendly community. The developers spent a long time making a game worth playing for the PvP elements by giving life to battlegrounds, castle sieges, and relic wars. The latter type of PvP engagement can involve as many as 1000-strong to a side in across a massive battle.
Developed by Runewalker Entertainment and published by Frogster Interactive, Runes of Magic has been touted as something of a free-to-play clone of Blizzard’s popular World of Warcraft. It has exceeded one million users across North America and Europe.