One of the more interesting sessions at E3 this year was with NCSoft, who showed off four free MMOs at the expo. These games will be free to download and free to play, but bonus features and content will be payable. The games are of professional quality, and though they do not obviously aspire to the same level as World of WarCraft, they are far beyond your regular MUDs and freeware projects.
The first game in the demo was Dungeon Runners, essentially a Diablo-style game brought to 3D and secure servers. It sounds simple, but when you consider the Diablo and Diablo II cheating issues, who could want more? Like Diablo, it generates content on the fly, meaning that whenever you enter a level, it is different from before. The game aims to minimize downtime and will offer plenty of potions, teleports, and no death penalty. The graphics arenít stellar but did portray the lush environments in an attractive fashion. One key difference from most MMOs is that it is an action RPG Ė you can maneuver around and avoid attacks.
Exteel is the second free game demonstrated by NCSoft. It focuses on combat between mecha (giant robots), but in the fashion of Gundam rather than MechWarrior. Perhaps the best comparisons for Exteel are the cult classic Virtual On series from Sega. Action was equally fast-paced and will feature up to 16 players per match, engaging in a variety of game modes. The fights are very dynamic, with melee combat using swords, or ranged fights. Jet packs and jumps add a vertical element to spice the scenarios up.
Soccer Fury is perhaps the most original game we saw at the entire show. Best described as combat soccer, it is almost as much about curb stomping your opponent as it is about scoring goals. Well, curb stomping may be extreme, but this form of soccer is so violent we doubt itís played even in Russian prisons.
The game has matches between 3 players on each side and an AI goalie, set in chique urban environs and oozing style. Despite the anime-ish look to the characters, it is in fact developed in Barcelona, a hotbed of soccer. There are a variety of skills to develop and players are encouraged to play as squads, with squad bonuses, squad experience, and logos.
Smash Star is the working title of a tennis game thatís already been released in Asia. It has more in common with Mario Tennis than Top Spin, with cartoonish kiddie characters who are set on gaining powers and gear. The gear will give bonuses and abilities, presumably like Hot Shots Golf on the PSP. In fact, the neat little PSP game is perhaps the best comparison for this quirky tennis title.