OCC E3 2013 AwardsClayMeow -
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Best Free-to-Play Game
Winner: Project Spark (Windows 8, 360, XBO)
When you look at Project Spark, you may see a lot of similarities with LittleBigPlanet on the PlayStation 3. I sure did, but the more I watched the more I saw Project Spark is something else entirely. Sure, it's a game where you basically have free reign to create whatever type of game you want in it, but there's more to it. Maybe you create the template for a game, drop in some towns, creatures, and then upload it with the community. From there community members can play around with the level, and you their's, to create and add more stuff to it. In the demo shown at E3, a fairly basic level was created, but when gone back to after some other people had played around with it, it became this massive adventure where you have to defend the town from an army of goblins. It truly was amazing seeing what could be done, and it's basically like those choose your own adventure stories, just on a whole new level.
Perhaps the best part of Project Spark is that while it was shown on the Xbox One, it'll also be coming out to the Xbox 360 and the PC. The PC version kind of requires Windows 8, and actually beta testing begins for the Win8 version before either console one. It's a grand idea, and could be the final reason gamers need to switch over to the newest OS if they were delaying.
Runner-Up: Mighty Quest for Epic Loot (PC)
The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is a game all about excess, where the more loot you have, the higher your status in society. It's a hack and slash game where you battle monsters and obtain some sweet loot, but also a tower defense game where you design your very own keep in order to keep out others. In this game, the keeps you explore are designed by other players, so you can be sure some will be extremely devious in order to keep you from the loot. Manage to reach the treasure room, however, and you'll be richly rewarded. Conversely, it's your duty to keep others from reaching your treasure room, and the more deaths in your keep, the larger your treasure pile.
It's currently in a closed beta right now, so you can register to try and get a key for it. There's also various contests to get a key, plus you can always buy a Double-O pack for as little as $10 (with higher ones available) to gain immediate access. The game will remain free-to-play once it officially launches, just there's a way to support the developer and get into the closed beta right away.
Winner: Project Spark (Windows 8, 360, XBO)
Project Spark isn't a game so much as a game creation platform, but when I heard it would be free-to-play, there was no way I could select anything else for this category. Project Spark was one of the most impressive and ambitious projects shown at E3. When it was unveiled during the Microsoft Press Conference, I believe my exact words to Troy via Steam chat was, "OMG, this is like LBP on crack!" LBP, or LittleBigPlanet, may be a platformer on the surface, but its huge success is because of the user-generated content it fosters. Project Spark is like the next evolutionary step in the game-making genre. If you're not the creative type, you can always just download other people's creations, which can then be modified.
Project Spark would have been one of the biggest reasons to get an Xbox One, but it was later revealed that it would be coming to Windows 8 and the Xbox 360 as well. In fact, beta testing will occur on Windows 8 before either console. Of course that would actually mean "upgrading" to the insufferable Windows 8. But if anything would make me switch, it's Project Spark.
Runners-Up: ChronoBlade (PC, Mobile, Ouya), ArcheAge (PC)
ChronoBlade is a free-to-play, cross-platform, online action-RPG. Similar to Dragon's Crown, ChronoBlade plays like a side-scrolling beat 'em up, but features a skill and loot system. On the PC, the game is played entirely in your browser using Flash. There are currently two characters to choose from, Aurok and Lophi, but more will come later. Aurok is the "main pugilist, punching guy" while Lophi is a caster with an orb-like companion. Each character can equip four skills and four items at a time. The skill tree seems rather elaborate, while the loot is equally extensive. In fact, as of E3 there are 2377 unique pieces of equipment, and that's just counting unique looks, not all the variations on stats. The game features a multiverse of various dimensions, each with different aesthetics. Best of all, the loot from each dimension matches the look, so if you're in the steampunk dimension, expect the item drops to look decidedly steampunk. It's a promising game and hey, it's free-to-play, so what do you have to lose? You know, other than all the hours collecting loot.
Lastly, I just wanted to give a nod to ArcheAge. You can check out Best MMO to read all about it. While it hasn't officially been confirmed as free-to-play when it comes to North America, it's switching over to a free-to-play model in Korea next month, so odds are good.