A small apology to my readers: I've been going through a move and it has prevented me from concentrating on my writing. Settled in now, so posts should be more frequent.
That aside, I wanted to talk about a game I've been spending time with recently called Spiral Knights. For those who keep up with that sort of thing, Steam has started offering F2P titles and this was the only one offered that has Steam support: Achievements, use your Steam Account, that sort of thing. And from my point of view, the integration was not only successful but could be a step in a new direction for MMO's and Steam in general.
Let's start with the game itself. Spiral Knights is a top down hack and slash game in the vein of Diablo and Torchlight. You play as a cartoon androgynous knight and you venture into dungeons to gain gear and money and you know the drill by now. The cash shop uses its own currency, though it is nice to see you can also buy that currency using in-game money. Much more time consuming, of course, but very possible. The features that make it different are how dungeons are created and the grouping system.
When inside a dungeon, you can find large crystals that you break down, and out of which will pop out a colored crystal of varying size. You're encouraged to take the bigger ones, as you can only carry one at a time on your back. At the end of the level you put it into a pool and everyone gets the crystals, so no need to fight over them. Regardless, you can put these crystals in a terminal at the dungeon selection area to create a new dungeon. The crystals you (and everyone else) puts in determines the qualities of the dungeon. A nice feature, but currently the lack of coordination between players makes dungeon creation more than a little random. Also, each dungeon is set up into three tiers with a boss at the end. Your level of gear determines which tier you can get into.
The grouping system, unless you have friend you specifically invite, throws you in with three other random people. The players I've encountered have mostly been helpful, and splitting up isn't penalized too much due to there being no assigned roles (no classes, everyone is a "knight") but sticking together makes the dungeon go much much faster. Also, there is integrated voice chat, with which I was treated to an entire dungeon run of a British teenager saying "Spinney Pots" over and over.
Over all, the game is easy to get into and a good time. The dungeon floors are small enough that you can play for fifteen minutes, do a single floor and leave your party and still have some sort of progress.
As for the effect Steam has on MMO's? I think I'll break that off into a post of its own.