This week I've been doing that whole massively multiplayer thing with not one, but two games: Eternal Lands and PlaneShift.
The beta for Eternal Lands is definitely the more playable of the two. The game is in 3D, but it's got an old-school isometric feel to it so it's not exactly eye candy. What this game lacks in graphical prowess, it makes up for in gameplay. With large areas to explore, lots of leveling up to be done, harvesting, manufacturing, alchemy, and magic casting to be done. You'll also get your ass kicked by a beaver if you're not too careful. It kinda sucks, but hey, that's to be expected in a game of this type. Here's the downer: While at least the basics of the game are expected to remain free, a paid "extra-features" version will be available for those who want to pay 5 or 6 bucks. I'm not a big fan of paying for things in general anyway, but this game just feels like a free game in it's current state. There's also a slightly sinister tone that goes along with downloading the game, thanks to a lot of hoopla on the message boards over at the Linux Game Tome about the author(s) of this game being assholes and some issues with the game's license. It sort of seems like bullshit to me, whatever, I'm still playing the fucking game. So there.
The more promising of the two games is PlaneShift: Molecular Blue (the "blue" thing is sort of a weird versioning system, the next release will be Crystal Blue). Now, it's just a tech demo so there's not an awful lot to do right now. Basically, when the lag isn't too bad, you're able to walk around talking to people, and search for rubies. It's not a huge area you get to explore, but it's not going to take you 10 minutes to see everything this tech demo has to offer either. This game seems a lot deeper than Eternal Lands when it comes to creating and customizing your character in general, but that's nothing but a theory right now as I can't really test that out in the current tech demo. I suppose I'll see when the Crystal Blue release comes out, which is supposed to (at the very least) add combat and try to fix some lag issues. I'm looking forward to it. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention: this one is and (hopefully) always will be free. And part of it (the code) is GPL'd,
the artwork is all under the PlaneShift license.
Here's how I'd put it: If you're looking for a game to play right now, go get Eternal Lands right now. It's fun, there's a lot of stuff to do, and most of the people playing the game are very, very nice people who'll be happy to help you out if you're in need. If you're looking ahead a little bit, PlaneShift looks very promising. One note about PlaneShift though, the binaries they provide for linux (there's a Windows version too by the way) didn't work for me, and they probably won't work for a lot of people. There is a guide to downloading/installing PlaneShift from CVS, and there's even a handy script available which will do everything for you.