Free for All: Why these are my top five

Runescape screenshot
For some time now, my gaming habits have been morphing. I was worried that I might start having more issues gaming and with finding enough time to cover the games I wanted, but lately the opposite is happening. I have less physical issues now and I tend to do more gaming than ever before. Why is that, I wonder?

I decided to sit down and look at my top five most-played games over, say, this last month or two. I love analyzing my own playing because I am a pretty honest gamer. I will never feel obliged to a game or a group of friends; I never log in to grind or raid simply because everyone else does. If I find a game boring, or if it doesn't work out for any number of reasons, I don't play it.

Click past the cut to see my list and be sure to leave your top five games in the comments! (If you play that many.)

Glitch screenshot
1) Glitch: I just got done writing up my week-long first impressions of the game, but I have probably put more hours into this wacky little MMO than I have in any game in a long time. It's fun, it's easy to understand (yet hard to master), and it's full of players. Sure, it might be the flavor of the week right now, but it does have enough staying-power and a caring enough developer that I will be playing this for a long time.

Illyriad screenshot
2) Illyriad: I have talked about this game more than almost any on my list. Why? I am not sure. It's hard to describe, but where other games sometimes seem to be pressed out of metal from a machine, Illyriad has a hand-made feel to it that is attractive. To me, a game that allows you to see the hands of its developers all over it while still maintaining a level of polish is a win.

Milmo screenshot
3) Milmo: Milmo might be dismissed as a kiddie platformer, but to me it feels like a collection-obsessed, graphically compact, exploration fanatic's dream. I can log into Milmo and get something done within a few minutes or play it for hours and hunt down entire mysteries.

Runescape screenshot
4) RuneScape: I play RuneScape some, but not as much as I would like. It takes time to play this game, and it is one of the most hardcore games on the planet (and I am not the first person to say so -- just ask John Smedley!). I like to log in and see all of the activity, and despite the fact that many of its players whine more about bots and cheaters more than in any game I've ever played (and all while they stay and enjoy the game), I have met some really cool people while playing.

Spiral Knights screenshot
5) Spiral Knights: This game reminds me of Glitch in several ways. First of all, it seems whimsical and light but offers a bit of lore that is actually quite bittersweet and tragic. The game is well-made, all of its corners are rounded off, and it looks like nothing you will ever see. Also, it will suck away hours of your life before you know it.

OK, so there's my list. Of course, I am leaving off the games that I cover in my columns, mainly because I wanted this list to show what I play when I am "off work." Wurm Online, for example, used to feature prominently on my list, but when my in-game city became a series of rules and guidelines and more like Work Online, I decided to abandon it until I could find my own little spot once again.

So why do I play these games? What are some of the connecting features?

The main reason is simple. All of these titles will run on my very basic laptop, with no problems. Spiral Knights gets the device heated up pretty well, but the rest of them perform great. I first started trying to craft my gaming to fit on my laptop. I deliberately pursued games that would work on this device (I do all of my writing on this device, too). But now, I just sort of ignore games that require me to sit down at my gaming PC. This doesn't mean that I never play them; it just means that I enjoy the gaming I do now, on this laptop, and I do not need to find games that require a beefier PC. Trust me, no would be more surprised at this than the Beau from two years ago. I love the fact that most of these titles can be loaded from any browser, anywhere in the world, within seconds.

The next reason is that they all mostly allow for different control schemes. I can play with a mouse, the touchpad or with keyboard controls. This is important to someone like me who has had wrist pain and troubles from years of drumming, art and PC use. If you are a gamer, you will eventually have the same issue. Trust me.


"I've found that many MMOs, indie or not, seem to be have been art-directed by someone who couldn't draw a thing or recognize a good drawing."

I also love the way these games look. While I am also a fan of immersive, realistic graphics, I am so turned off by the idea of upgrading my PC anymore that when I see graphics that require an upgrade, I am turned off. I have OnLive to get my realistic graphics grub on, but other than that I am simply turned on more by graphics that have character. I adore how RuneScape looks, Milmo looks almost perfect, Spiral Knights feels like an animated movie, Illyriad is like a hand-drawn map you found as a kid, and Glitch is witty and bright. I meet people all the time who seem to boggle at the fact that I think Milmo character models blow away many "AAA" character models, but they do. Good art design has a collective feel to it, and that is not something that happens in many MMOs. I've found that many MMOs, indie or not, seem to be have been art directed by someone who couldn't draw a thing or recognize a good drawing.

Last but certainly not least, all of these titles have nice payment models. Free-to-play, freemium, cash-shop or microtransaction-based, they have something for everyone. I never feel as though I have to spend money to enjoy these titles, which will usually make me feel better about spending money. I don't want to be tricked or coerced; don't hide certain cash-shop items from me or give me awkward schemes of transferring one type of cash into another into another. Just give me your client and let me spend my money when I want.

There is always a chance that my tastes will change once again, but the self-contained worlds of my laptop are fitting my personality so perfectly right now. I am finally finding games that feature a pace and a look that I love. I wonder if I had a more powerful gaming laptop, would that change anything?

I'm not about to find out. If anything, my next purchase is going to be a less powerful, lighter device. What about you? What does your top five list say about you?

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to beau@massively.com!
This article was originally published on Massively.