The best MMO for a new player?

Reader Velmonte asks:

Tipa, what game would you consider for a person who is just breaking into the world of mmo’s? One of my friends, has been wanting to try one, but I need to suggest a game that has basic quests, but is still fun, colorful, and immersive. I was hoping you could help me out! Thanks!

This is a really great question. With new MMOs coming out every day and hundreds to choose from, it can be crazy trying to find the perfect game. Fact is, maybe you can’t find the perfect game first try, or maybe after playing an MMO a bit, you find yourself ready for something new.

The most important question to ask when looking for a MMO is, are my friends playing this game? MMOs are all meant to be played with other people; otherwise, single player RPGs like Bioware’s excellent Dragon Age: Origins will give the adventure, quests and party building without worrying about finding other players.

The second consideration is, will this game work on my machine? If you have a MacBook and don’t want to use Boot Camp to boot into Windows, your choices are very limited (but there are some options). If you have an older machine, you may not have a great experience with some of the later games.

I haven’t played every MMO out there, but I’d like to go through some of the games I have played with an eye toward the things (aside from friends playing) that would be most inviting to a new player. I’d look for interesting game play, games that start off easy and gradually show their depth, great graphics, great character customization, and active new player communities.

World of Warcraft must be mentioned first; it’s the MMO so popular that when most people think of the genre, they think of WoW. WoW’s content is famously easy, with the changes made to the game over the past few years making it one of the easiest MMOs to play, ever. It is colorful and runs on most any computer, even the Macs. Character customization isn’t the best — you will find your character’s face on lots of other people’s characters — and the community at this point is expert at WoW and unforgiving of new players. The newbie areas are also largely empty, though that should change when the next expansion adds two new races and completely redesigned newbie areas. Also, the Looking For Dungeon (LFD) tool makes finding groups automatic, but you will find that most dungeon groups expect every member to be extremely familiar with each dungeon and able to handle each encounter with little or no discussion. WoW does so many things right, that it’s easy to overlook the very few things it does wrong.

Lord of the Rings Online started out playing much like WoW, but in the years since has found its own niche. LotRO is deeply based on the lore of J.R.R. Tolkein’s books, and your character will follow, lead and meet the Fellowship and together you fight the evil legions of Mordor and restore peace to Middle Earth. Your character is far more customizable, and you can equip gear just for show to give you complete control over your character’s appearance. With housing, frequent festivals and celebrations and a variety of non-combat skills like playing actual music on in-game instruments, LotRO has built itself a strong and newbie-friendly community. Its high system requirements are the only blemish on this excellent game.

The sequel to the grandfather of 3D MMORPGs, EverQuest 2 takes customizability to an entirely new level. Its housing and massive guild halls make interior decorating a popular player occupation, supported by many trade skills. Crafting is a respected career path, with no combat at all required if you want to pursue that path (although most crafters mix adventuring in with their knitting). EQ2 boasts several stellar newbie experiences deep with plot and lore, so you are immediately immersed in the world. From the faerie-like Fae to the dark and manipulative dark elves to the wandering frogloks to the conniving ratonga, no other MMO gives you the number of classes, races and individuality of EQ2. This does mean that EQ2 can seem daunting to a new player. Like many older MMOs, the newbie areas will be largely desolate and the groups you do find will assume you know the game well. The game also requires a fairly hefty computer, and few would call EQ2 colorful.

Wizard101 is one of my favorites. The game is colorful, features a unique combat mechanic involving playing cards and building decks that starts out simple but leads to great depth, and has a variety of non-combat activities like home decoration and crafting. Though the game is nominally a subscription game, you can play the first several areas for free to get a taste, and have the option of purchasing access to new areas instead of subscribing. The characters, though colorful, have little individuality — you’ll see many copies of your character in the world. The game is also targeted for children and young teens, though many adults do play. The chat censoring and other kid-friendly features may be off-putting to older players. The game runs well on low system requirements, and I considered W101 to be the best new MMO of 2008.

Free Realms is an odd little nugget of an MMO. The developers couldn’t decide upon just one theme to the game, so they put in everything they could think of to make a game where the only goal is to make sure you are never more than ten seconds from doing something new. Characters can have one or many jobs, evenly split between combat jobs like brawler and ninja and non combat jobs like miner and postman. Each non-combat job opens mini-games, often themed for the area, based on some of the most famous casual games ever made. Add in player housing, pet training, the occasional live band performance, everywhere a new game to play, and a player population recently reported to be 10 million strong, and you have an unmatched new player experience. You will find clones of your character everywhere, and the highly stylized player characters may not be to everyone’s tastes. The game is free to play, though the cash shop is heavily promoted.

Out of all the Asian imports I’ve played, Dream of Mirror Online was probably for me the most successful. Your character is drawn from the real world into a mirror world full of Mirror Kings and only you (naturally) can save the world. Follow the plot through cut scenes, mysteries, and bizarre and over-the-top boss battles in various parallel universes, or discover and breed rare pets and hang out in town socializing, it’s up to you. The fairly unique class system lets your character take on any role and mix and match the abilities from any two classes to make your character your own. (This system is somewhat similar to FFXI Online’s, and Free Realms has echoes of it as well). Since each new class means going back through the newbie areas, even a couple of years into the game’s Western launch, the newbie areas are still full of players. The real-time harvesting is a way to get some of the drudgery of harvesting done without having to be physically present at the computer. If you don’t mind a strong anime/manga bend to the graphics, this might be the game for you.

Any of these would, I think, be an excellent introduction to the world of MMOs, and perhaps a permanent home for a new player. Other games, like Dungeons and Dragons Online, EVE Online, the original EverQuest, Aion, Warhammer, Age of Conan, Darkfall and Allods Online would appeal more to the experienced gamer. Most of these games have demos or free trials, and I’d urge a new player to give a couple of them a try to find out which appeals to them most. If you aren’t having fun in a game, it’s best to just move on. There’s so many choices available these days that there’s bound to be a fit for everyone.

If someone is looking for a deep game full of story and lore and “worldness”, and their computer can handle it, I’d recommend Lord of the Rings Online. For sheer casual fun, Free Realms. For kids or adults looking for a more strategic but always fun game, Wizard101. For the most freedom and individuality, EQ2. For the best social tools, DoMO. For the easiest game that can run on anything, WoW. Whatever you are looking for, one of these games likely has it.

Daily Blogroll 8/19 – L2Test edition

Wormhole diving in EVE Online

Having heard about the EVE Fitting Tool from a helpful commentator, I spent a lot of time last night working some Battle Clinic builds into viable builds for me. VERY happy. Later on, the corps went on an impromptu trip through a wormhole, where we were relentlessly shadowed by the corp (Bones) who had staked it out. They allowed us to take on a Sleeper cell before we left. We got some T3 loot, but since we’d all brought expendable ships (that’s my Exequoror “The Liberator” hovering outside the wormhole), we weren’t up for taking out the second wave, which included a battleship. (Drew at Wizard of Duke Street has a little more about wormholing).

The biggest news in the EVE realm had nothing (or little) to do with the space game. Yesterday, at GDC Europe, EVE developers CCP announced Dust 514, a dirtside FPS for consoles where success on the ground leads to success ij space based planetary and system control.

Not much is known about the title. The teaser video shows standard FPS action on the ground, with two frigates trading shots overhead. I get that Starship Troopers feeling from it, and it’s a good feeling. Darren of Common Sense Gamer doesn’t see any way they can pull off a new MMO in the current generation of consoles. Heartless_ wonders at the connection between Dust 514 and the technology for EVE’s announced “ambulation” mode, where players can walk about on space stations.

With Blizzcon only days away, bloggers have been speculating endlessly about rumors that the next World of Warcraft expansion will bring a complete revamping of the old world. That didn’t go over so well when EverQuest started on that path with the Prophecy of Ro and Depths of Darkhollow expansion, but maybe Blizzard can succeed where SOE failed. Spinks wonders if even a total revamp could get people back into the old zones again, especially if flying mounts and other modern features were brought into the old world. Damion of Zen of Design doubts people will want to revisit zones they were already quite tired of before.

The Cataclysm rumors also suggest that many new previously forbidden (by lore) race and class combinations will get WoW players back in the alts game. Green Armadillo wonders why developers are all so eager to cite lore as reasons for something they didn’t want players doing, but have no problems breaking it at their whim if they change their minds.

Writing about Lord of the Rings Online, Armadillo says:

The problem? This game is set in Middle Earth. I don’t remember Gimli’s axes bursting into flames as he fought the malevolent ice wraiths of Caradhras. (Actually, I don’t remember the malevolent ice wraiths of Caradhras either, maybe Gandalf was busy whining to Aragorn about being forced to go to Moria while the battle raged off camera. Of course, if the game stuck to just foes the Fellowship actually fought during the story, the beastiary would be very repetitive indeed, especially in the context of a game full of “kill 360 of this type of enemy” deeds.)

Naamah at Aionic Thoughts has a new video courtesy of Kotaku about the game’s 1.5 patch, the one that will launch with the game in September and has never been played by Western testers. The developers say there is no grind in Aion? That’s good news. WoW-like gaming has been synonymous with grind for so many years.

And speaking of videos, Werit has been going all Stephen Spielberg lately with Fallen Earth, the post-apocalyptic MMO which has largely been overshadowed by higher-profile releases. Wanna kill posthuman mutants and zombies and save the scattered fragments of humanity? Fallen Earth might be your game.

A fan of Wizard101, but upset because you can’t get anyone to team up with you for arena dueling? Stingite of The Friendly Necromancer advises sitting down with your friends and finding what it would take to get them into the arena, or why they may be reluctant to go. Seven hour duels would be reason enough for me.

F2P game correspondent Warhammermer has a Dream of Mirror Online AMV to the tune of The Killers’ “Human”. The line, “Are we human, or are we dancer?” refers here to DOMO’s Dancer job. Yes! Dancer is a job in DOMO! Warhammermer also has some news of a movie tie-in within SOE’s Free Realms which left those outside of the US without meatballs.

Anjin at Bullet Points has been spending a bit of time in the F2P version of Dungeons & Dragons Online, and aside from a few crashes, kinda likes how DDO mixes up the standard dungeon crawler with more action.

Spellborn has officially become a Free to Play game, says Acclaim Games’ Community Manager, David “Historian” DeWald:

At point, you checked out The Chronicles of Spellborn. Today, as you read this, Spellborn as it currently exists is now free to play. Keep in mind that there will be no upgrades and no patches. It has become in effect, an Action RPG with superior Multiplayer. The only thing it will cost you to play is the time it takes to download.

So play it.

Now because it is frozen in time, we will be creating events for the players and we will help support any players that want to make their own events. And if you have thoughts on how we might make this version more enjoyable as we wait for the New free to play version, we are glad to listen.

Is that enough news for you? It’s just gonna keep flooding in as the games we’ve been waiting all year to play start hitting the shelves. So happy hump day, and keep gaming!

Daily Blogroll 5/4 — Dragon Claw Style edition

I'm still pumped I can remember enough Japanese to read the first two kanji as 'mainichi' :D

Yes, this is the Daily Blogroll MY OWN BLOG didn’t want you to see!

I’m kinda tired of Free Realms. Not the game; heck, considering my computer now refuses to run Lord of the Rings Online for long, I’ve been spending most of my gaming time in Free Realms. Beau is having fun playing. Pete at Dragonchasers took a 75 degree turn and went from being marginal about the game to a fan in just three short days. Syp of Bio Break is still dubious, but what does he care — his wife is Tinker Bell!

MBP at Mind-Bending Puzzles writes about a traditional Irish card game named “Twenty-Five”, the second most complicated card game in the world. The first most complicated? The Free Realms trading card game.

As far as I know, Station Access members are still NOT members in Free Realms, even though we were told we would be. This is still annoying me even as I work on the non-member jobs, Ninja (lv 7), Miner (lv 11) and Cook (lv 8).

Sure, some goof in World of Warcraft may have gone around using a GM item to one-shot every raid in the game, but did you realize that an NPC in Wizard 101 was giving out free dragon pets? So take THAT, WoW!

Lars of MMOment of Zen has a final verdict on the City of Heroes Architect system: No matter how innovative the missions, they still work like every other CoH mission — run through a maze, hunting randomly placed stuff.

Psychochild looks at crafting through the ages, with a deeper look at how EverQuest II’s crafting has changed since launch, what they did right and how it could still be improved.

When I read that Aventurine was adding solo-friendly islands to Darkfall, my first thought was, “go here to find a lot of solo people to gank”. Syncaine, however, is liking these new changes to the Darkfall PvE experience. I’m betting Syncaine is secretly thinking “target-rich environment”…

Beau waxes quixotic about Aeria Game’s Dream of Mirror Online, especially about the cut-scene heavy epic quest that takes you through the game. I’ve written lots about my own adventures in the game.

I STILL think DOMO is one of the best social MMOs going. I’m still looking for a decent exploration MMO. No, EVE Online is NOT an exploration MMO… it’s an Achiever MMO, exploration doesn’t really mean that much when everyplace you go is pretty much just like every other place. It comes closest, though. I’m desperately hoping Cryptic’s Star Trek Online IS, though. I’m tired of Achiever MMOs.

Lastly, Runes of Magic is in danger of becoming last week’s fad, but Scopique is right in there playing and wondering just how long Runes of Magic can keep skimming the best parts of other MMOs into itself to become the All-Devouring Uber MMO.

See ya tomorrow! Keep gaming!

Oh, and Wizard 101 and Star Trek Online devs? I apologize in advance, okay? You’ll see what I mean… later…

Wizard 101: Plague Oni, why can’t I quit you?

Check out that xp bar! Less than one bubble to 46…

I was tired and tuckered out last night from two late nights of programming image filters (the latest result is the candy-colored candy shop seen in my ShutterCal widget), but while a test image rendered, I thought maybe I’d just jump into Wizard 101 and see if Suri was up for a trip through Big Ben or Kensington. I love running through Big Ben.

She wasn’t on, so I do what I normally do when I’m bored and running around Moo Shu. Head to Shirataki Temple and take on, once again, the Plague Oni. Takes about 45 minutes.

There are four mini-bosses and two major bosses in Shirataki, but the best loot is saved for the very last. The Plague Oni can drop a nice sword, a pet, and a wide variety of end game gear. But the past half dozen or so times I’ve killed it (as I creep toward level 46 from the xp gained killing the mobs along the way), I’ve gotten just one loot, and that one loot has always been trash. The Footwraps of Pictures that was the sole loot from Plague Oni? +21 health and +2% Storm resistance, Storm school only. I wouldn’t wear that if I were a Storm wizard. It’s trash loot.

Plague Oni used to drop good stuff — I got my second sword here — but now he drops nothing. My theory? The RMT NPCs that drop by to sell holiday gear also place some of that gear on NPCs. The Onis were said to drop some of it, sometimes. I think that screwed up their loot tables. Plague Oni supposedly drops my Life shoes. I’ve even GOTTEN THEM with my alt when I was two boxing, but of course there is no item trading in the game. But since Harvest Hannah arrived, it seems neither the Plage Oni nor the Jade Oni drop loot.

Anyway, after that disappointing run, I went to bed at 9PM and didn’t wake up until 6AM.

This weekend I have to bring my son back to Warwick. I’ve been doing a lot of that. Last Sunday I drove him to RI. Wednesday I brought him back for a dentist appointment. Sunday I’ll bring him back AGAIN. Two hours each way leaves me totally dead and exhausted.

I imagine this weekend I will re-install Lord of the Rings Online and check in on my Captain. I don’t think I am going to restart on another server, but I might see what’s happening on Winfola. I think my Captain was level 34 or so? There’s been a lot of new stuff since I last played, and the North Downs grind might be a little more manageable.

Definitely going to get back into DOMO. I WANT TO PLAY SPELLBORN SO MUCH! I am trying my hardest not to get too involved in Spellborn because it all has to restart whenever Acclaim brings it to the States.

I hate having taken a taste and forced to wait for the meal.

Isis says Hi. Rendered with the Candyshop filter.