The 2009 ZAM Awards

We've concluded our inaugural end of the year awards, which featured the best-of-the-best in massively multiplayer online gaming. Read more to find out which title won our Game of the Year!


The Star Wars IP was first licensed out to the MMO industry in 2001, when Sony Online Entertainment developed Star Wars Galaxies, published by LucasArts Entertainment in a staggered release until 2003. Today, the SWG community is polarized into two camps; those who love it and those who hate it. Most of the latter attribute SWG's alleged downfall to its later years, when Sony led the MMO down a path that alienated its core audience for the sake of accessibility.

That's one of the reasons why millions of Star Wars fans across the globe simultaneously hyperventilated on a pandemic scale on Oct. 21, 2008: LucasArts announced its next MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, with industry-renowned game developer BioWare at the helm. Not only was LucasArts giving the Star Wars universe a second chance, but the makers of the highly-successful Knights of the Old Republic series would be developing it.

Also on the list of "epic win" is the setting and story of SW:TOR; unlike most MMOs that use an IP's established time and place as a launching pad, BioWare is plunging us backwards in time, long before any of the events we've seen in the Star Wars movies (3,500 years back, to be precise). SW:TOR explores uncharted territory within the annals of Star Wars lore and canon; future players will finally get the chance to witness the war between the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic in the immersive environment of an MMO, as well as play an active role in historical events that 'Wars fans have only dreamed about up until now.

Throughout the course of 2009, we gradually learned the extent of BioWare's commitment to SW:TOR's production, which rivals many veteran MMO developers. Last summer, at E3 we learned that SW:TOR will be the world's first fully-voiced MMO. A dedicated stable of writers had already produced the equivalent of more than a dozen scripts' worth of Star Wars movies, promising an unparalleled level of immersion in the story.

Fans saw the launch of the HoloNet web app; a massive, virtual encyclopedia of all things SW:TOR, including information on class and factions, planets, story and timelines—all of which will be linked into the MMO and accessible in-game, eventually. We waited with bated breath as BioWare gradually released class details, announcing the Trooper, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter, Sith Inquisitor and more.

Finally, in early autumn, the SW:TOR fan community reached the boiling point when BioWare announced it was accepting applications for the MMO's first closed beta test. Testing hasn't started yet, but the developer's call for applicants was all it took to kick the hype into high gear, solidifying SW:TOR as the most-anticipated MMO from a known IP throughout 2009.


Star Trek fans have waited a long time for an MMO of their own, and it's been roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. The IP was licensed out more than five years ago; the community watched in horror as its original developer (Perpetual Entertainment) crashed and burned. Fans were left in the dark, skeptical of STO's future—until Cryptic Studios picked up the rights-to-develop in 2008, offering a glimmer of hope that fans might someday get the chance to pilot their own starship, exploring the final frontier at Warp 9.

And considering the amount of time STO had floundered up until then, Cryptic's development seemed like it was moving at "warp speed" as well. The community went from knowing virtually nothing about the upcoming MMO in early 2009 to learning a wealth of information about its premise and gameplay within nine months. Today, STO's first round of closed beta testing is already underway, and gamers finally have answers to the biggest questions they've so desperately ached for.

Set in the year 2409, STO picks up where the last Next Generation-series film (Star Trek: Nemesis) left off. In early summer, after J.J. Abrams' re-imagined Star Trek rebooted the franchise, Cryptic released a graphic timeline to help explain how the "new" and "prime" universes would co-exist. Soon after, we found out that the events in Abrams' new movie will eventually have some sort of impact on STO's story (which revolves around a renewed war between the Klingons and the Federation—initially, at least).

Similar to the outlook shared by SW:TOR's followers, most 'Trek fans have faith that their beloved IP is safe in the hands of Cryptic Studios. We've already seen evidence of the writing and story details in The Path to 2409 fiction series, and Cryptic has recognized how important that lore and canon is to fans.

Gameplay features just about everything a fan could wish for in a Star Trek MMO; players assume the role of a ship Captain, leading their crew into epic space battles in both PvE and PvP content. A more "traditional" style of MMO combat is an equal part of the game, as players lead the classic "away team" on a variety of missions. It's been a long and tiresome ride, but 2009 was the year that finally gave 'Trekkers a reason to dream of the stars again.


This year wasn't quite as overtly-vital for DC Universe Online as our first and second place winners, but that doesn't mean 2009 wasn't an important year for the most-anticipated superhero MMO in gaming history. Officially announced in 2008, SoE trudged through the lion's share of DCUO's development this year, prepping it for a solid release in 2010.

NCsoft helped pave the way for superhero MMOs back in 2004 with the City of Heroes series, illustrating the viability and demand for the genre. And while Cryptic Studios wasn't able to seal the deal with Marvel to develop Marvel Universe Online, it accomplished the first of the "next-gen" superhero MMOs with Champions Online.

One thing that Champions Online taught us is that no matter how well-designed the MMO, there's just no substitute for the "big-name" heroes and villains that we grew up with. That's one of the main reasons why DCUO is so anticipated within the MMO community; in a sense, Champions Online actually reinforced DCUO's fans in 2009, whetting our appetite to fly through the skies of Metropolis and Gotham City that much more.


Most MMO fans are familiar with the Warhammer IP these days, if for no other reason than Mythic Entertainment's Warhammer Online, released in 2008. But Games Workshop owns another successful game within the Warhammer IP that MMO fans might not recognize as easily, though, called Warhammer 40k. In a nutshell, it's the sci-fi equivalent to the Warhammer Fantasy universe, set 38,000 in the future. During the late-80s and early-90s, Warhammer 40k became insanely popular among Games Workshop fans; it defied convention and bridged the gap between high fantasy and futuristic sci-fi, portrayed in a darkly-gothic and gritty universe.

Actually, part of the reason it was so influential was that it shared the same universe as its fantasy counterpart, featuring Tolkien-esque characters with highly advanced technology: tribal and barbaric Orks armed with heavy bolters and mech-suit Dreadnoughts, and graceful, psychic Eldar (Elves) harnessing the power of the Warp to create intricate laser weaponry. The most iconic of all are the Imperial Space Marines; super-humans equipped with massive Power Armor, carrying Chainswords and Boltguns, zealously following a religious order that worships a God-Emperor.

If the thought of an IP like this developed into an MMO doesn't provoke you to salivate profusely, we don't know what will. Honestly…we can't imagine what could turn you on more than an MMO set in the '40k universe. That's why many of us were so excited when Vigil Games acquired the licensing rights to develop Warhammer 40k into an MMO, and finally released the first few pieces of concept art last month. Sure, we probably won't be seeing screenshots and videos for another year or two, but we're giving this kick-ass IP an honorable mention for reminding us—at the very end of 2009—that it's alive and kicking.


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The 2009 ZAM Awards
# Dec 11 2012 at 9:38 AM Rating: Decent
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# Jan 04 2010 at 11:16 AM Rating: Decent
D&D online won an award for being free to use.

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D&D free?
# Jan 04 2010 at 2:21 PM Rating: Excellent
295 posts
sunwolfy wrote:
D&D online won an award for being free to use.

When i goto there website it is talking about a monthly fee to play.

So my question is, is it free or not?

DDO Unlimited is free-to-play. However, players can choose to pay a subscription to become a VIP member and gain access to extra content.

But yes, just to make it clear, DDO Unlimited can be played for free. All you need to do is create a free account and then download the game.
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