Free for All: Zeroing in on my favorite free-to-play mains

My Vanguard main
I felt a little nostalgic this week. Heck, at my age, I feel nostalgic every time I smell chimney smoke or hear Christmas music. I suspect it will only grow more common with age. MMOs have been such a huge part of my life for well over a decade now that I feel nostalgic about many of the things that happened during that time, and for many of the characters I have grown -- and lost.

I'm not overly sentimental about it, but it is interesting how we feel about the pixelated versions of ourselves, the ones we control while sitting at a keyboard or while touching a tablet. I don't want to downplay how important gaming can be for many of us, either. Once, years ago, I met a fellow player in a social game called There. She was a wonderful person who had over time lost the ability to walk. She loved the freedom that the avatar gave her. Needless to say, she was very connected to her character.

I made a short list of some of my favorite characters from the years. As I think about it, this list says a lot about me as a gamer and about the types of games I love.

My Ryzom mainBeau in Ryzom

Beau is a Tryker, the shortest race in one of my indie favorites. The Tryker are essentially a sci-fantasy version of every other halfling or hobbit race we have seen before but with an extra twist. Their lands are filled with interesting gadgets like windmills and floating cities, sort of like an organic steampunk variety, minus the annoying gnomes.

I came into my own as a podcaster and writer with this character, and I used to love covering live events in Ryzom with him. He's not very powerful, but he manages to survive. That's saying a lot if you consider how dangerous the planet of Atys is.

My Vanguard mainRikoo Rakoo in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

I used to game by a set of rules that permitted me to play this character only in a certain way. If it rained, he had to find shelter or walk. He had to eat every few hours. I would allow him to log out only when I had found an inn or tavern. He also suffered from a horn to the gut while exploring a strange desert region near Qa Riverbank. If he died in the game, I had to delete him and all of his items, so I did. I eventually resurrected him and continued to play him, but he's not the same. Still, Rikoo Rakoo was responsible for some of the greatest moments of my gaming life. Sure, Vanguard isn't free-to-play yet, but it will be soon!

My RuneScape mainBeau in RuneScape

My RuneScape main is the epitome of explorer. He tries anything once (or more) and usually fails. But he learns from his mistakes and has recently come into his own. RuneScape provides characters the options to become whatever they want, and the recent FPS boost patch (more on that later) has made exploring the world even better.

My Glitch mainBeau in Glitch

I feel as though my little Glitchen is literally an extension of my imagination. After all, he was created from the imagination of 12 gods, and so I took it from there. I have tweaked him, clothed him, and provided a home for him. Somehow his cuteness doesn't feel silly, and his stylized look doesn't feel juvenile. There is a real sweetness to the tale of how the Glitchen came to be, and playing the game just makes me feel good. Well, unless a Rook shows up... then I feel a bit more than panicky.

My Spellborn mainBeau in The Chronicles of Spellborn

I cannot express enough how important it is to be able to make an ugly character. My main from the Chronicles of Spellborn was as ugly as I will be in 20 more years. His skin was worn, he was rail thin, and he fought with only a dagger and a bit of magic. It didn't hurt that he could transform into some sort of magical wolf. As a dog-owner and dog-lover, I felt transformation was a special treat. Spellborn is the first game I would bring back if I had the money and ability. Sure, it needed some tweaks and adjustments, but there hasn't been a more original world since. All I have left of this main is a few videos, but I'm glad I have those.

My MilMo mainBeau in MilMo

Art design is very easy to screw up. Indie games are often the result of more mathematical-minded individuals, but MilMo defies that stereotype. My character in this game is curious and capable. He can overcome anything with time. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he has a killer sense of style. I'm not sure why MilMo continues to pass under the radar of so many gaming sites, especially in this age of side-scrollers and platformers. Luckily, it appears to be going strong, and my character continues to conquer the world when he can, all while sporting a pair of glasses.

My Free Realms mainBeau Turkey in Free Realms

I remember Free Realms from the very beginning of beta. I have seen it go through many changes and many controversies, but it is still a world where you can simply relax, watch a sunset, or explore to your heart's content. My character loves to look for the smallest details in the world, and there are many: benches tucked behind wooden beach shacks, tiny ponds filled with colorful fish, and mysterious swamplands packed with danger. Every time I log into Free Realms, I wonder, "Can you imagine if I had this game when I was a kid?!" I would have never left the house.

My Zentia mainBeau in Zentia

Zentia is the shadowy figure in this bunch. It seems pretty tame on its surface, but there are moments in this game that are filled with drama. My character is a big doofus but recently found a mask that transformed him into a silent warrior. There are also strange spirits in the world of Zentia, and my character has graduated from a goofy adventurer to a cousin of the wild. This is one of those games that does not require roleplay because the world instantly puts you in a role you've never been in. It's subtle, but Zentia is as unique as anything I have found yet, and my character reflects that. He is what I would be if I had been raised in the dark, dark woods.

I have a much larger list, but these are some of my favorites. It's easy enough for a man of my age to say that playing some of these titles feels silly. After all, they're all fantasy, and some are made for younger audiences. But I find those silly games the best games to play. All of these titles are imaginative, and our imaginations are eternal. I have crafted characters in these games that are essentially me -- if I existed in those worlds. I think I'll always enjoy imagining myself in other situations, no matter how fantastical, until the day I die.

What are some of your favorites? Do you have as many as I do? Please say yes so that I feel somewhat normal.

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.