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Free for All: News roundup from some of my favorite free-to-plays

Beau Hindman
Beau Hindman|@Beau_Hindman|September 14, 2011 3:00 PM
Istaria screenshot
Interesting stuff is happening all of the time in the world of indie, free-to-play, and browser-based gaming. In fact, it's hard for me to keep up with it all. I have to say that some developers make it much easier on me by contacting us here at Massively or by maintaining a good news feed on their website. Some developers (*ahem*) make tracking down news harder than it should be. Still, it's out there, and I decided to recap some of my favorites over the last few weeks.

Of course, I will always miss something or just forget to put something in. The search bar is always good for finding bits of news, or you could just visit us here every single day. Several times. And leave comments about how cool I am.

Click past the cut and let's get to it!

Starjack Online header
Starjack Online

I'll be taking a deeper look at this game in a few weeks, but so far I have been having a blast just slowly going through the newbie levels. It's a simple game in a lot of ways and immensely complex in others. They call it a 4X MMORTS, basically. What that means is that you'll be exploring, socializing, conquering and automating your empire. It makes for a great laptop game, as well. Anyway, it looks like the developers have released build v1.1.2.0... even their build titles are complicated.

The update includes pirate invasions, alien artifacts, bug fixes, and a couple of invention changes. I have barely began to scrape the surface of the new player content and here I am being presented with all of this! For a smaller developer with a smaller community, Starjack does a good job of keeping players in the loop. Good for it, especially since good communication can often separate the games that thrive and the games that remain in the "Who is that?" category forever.

Illyriad header

One of my favorite games, browser-based or not, has been maintaining a pretty cool new blog for a while now. It's good to see Illyriad being treated as seriously as it is by the developer. The official blog Beneath the Misted Land lets players look behind the scenes into the nitty-gritty world of coding and development, something I would love to see more developers do. Sure, it might seem like all players want to read about is the next big patch, but many of us love reading about style guides, artwork, and coding too. It's interesting.

In the latest update on the blog, we get to see a preview of the new HTML5-based models. Essentially, the game has always been able to run on any device, thanks to its HTML5 origins, but now we are starting to see actual three-dimensional renderings of buildings. I got to check out a preview myself, and it felt great to actually spin the buildings while the lighting changed. It's exciting to see developers pushing such new boundaries!

Istaria header

We've reported on the latest patches for this wonderful older game, but the last one was a doozy. Not only were new quests, new events and new housing items added, but so were many bug fixes and world changes! If you are interested in the game, you'll be happy to know that it offers many options for play time. You can play a 14-day trial, free forever within a limited account, or you can pay a subscription and get everything unlocked. I try to always keep my free client up to date... it's a great game and definitely worth the download.

Ryzom header

Ryzom is on the list with games like Oblivion that demand you go log in. I can be in the middle of a diner and bring up Ryzom and I immediately want to go home and update it. Unfortunately, I have not been able to dedicate as much time to it as possible, but that hasn't stopped the developers from continuing to develop the game. It's strange to think back to the days of no development at all, now that patches and updates have been coming pretty steadily.

In one of the latest (but older) announcements, the developers hinted at what might be arriving in future updates. I've learned to take what they say and trust it. The announcement talks about the return of Marauders and Kitins, both part of the third installment of the game. It's complicated, so let's just say that lore and roleplay have an important place in the world of Atys. Sometimes it can be frustrating when I've missed news because it was only published on the in-game forum, but it looks like that might be changing. Ryzom is free-to-play to level 125, halfway to max level.

Alganon title

Alganon is still a great free-to-play game that simply does not receive the attention that it should. The team has been hard at work adding patches and events to the game and even publishing a comic book! The latest forum announcement points out that Lusha' Aton, a favorite player instance, has been given a high-level workover. Seems like the highbies will have plenty to do with this one.

Spiral Knights title
Spiral Knights

Spiral Knights is simply one of the most entertaining games I have played in a while. Much of the time I spend gaming, I'm in a pretty serious mode. Calculating risks, chatting with fellow players, and attempting to conquer entire worlds are all in a normal day for me. It's such a refreshing change of pace to log into a game that is bright, colorful, easy to run and downright a blast to play. I can sit at my machine, open-mouthed, for hours at a time killing ghosts and chopping blocks with my killer wolf sword (it barks and growls as it chops!).

The latest update added Candlestick Keep, a new ghastly instance chock-full of new puzzles, mobs and goals. The Clockworks are expanding! There are also some new updates and tweaks included in this update, so go check it out. It runs great and works fine on even a basic laptop like mine, so don't worry about system requirements. You might want to invest in some sort of wrist brace or ice pack, though... this game can hurt.

Ablegamers icon
Ablegamer's new controller

In a last bit of game-related news, Ablegamers.com, a site for disabled gamers, has partnered with Evil Controllers to make a better and more accessible gaming device. The Adroit will offer more flexibility and opportunities for customization for players who might not have the dexterity that many of us take for granted every day. Often the one thing standing in the way of a disabled gamer is simply the device that connects him to the games. Good luck to Ablegamers. Here's hoping that the new device, slated for this fall, will make a big difference. Disabled gamers have been left out of the hobby for too long... let's hope that changes soon.

All right, there's plenty news, and some to spare! If you have a bit of indie or free-to-play gaming news, feel free to send it to our tip line or email me directly.

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!