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Free games a-comin'

Free games a-comin'

Online game company NCsoft is working on four new games that can be had without even reaching for your wallet. Dungeon Runners, Exteel, Soccer Fury, and Star Smash will be completely free for anyone who wants to play them. Rather than charge for the game itself--or even for subscription time--NCsoft will make its money by charging for additional content through the games. Initial gameplay will be completely free, but price tags will start to appear as more quests, items, and features develop.

Dungeon Runners is the most conventional of the four free NCsoft games. As its name implies, it's a dungeon-crawling MMORPG. Its dungeons are all instanced and procedurally generated, giving players a slightly different experience every time they step through a portal. The demo we saw was extremely click-happy, reminding us more of Diablo than of World of Warcraft.

Exteel is a third-person shooter in which players pilot giant mechs and try to blow each other up. Customizable giant robots and tons of online combat make Exteel look appealing to anyone who ever wanted a Gundam of their own.

NCsoft's other two free titles are very different, very strange takes on sports. Soccer Fury combines the competition of soccer with the stylized action of a kung fu movie. Players will kick, block, and head-butt each other as well as the soccer ball as they play three-on-three matches all over a detailed city. NCsoft is also working on an anime-style, cel-shaded, too-cute-for-its-own-good arcade tennis game called Star Smash. Players will be able to customize the look and skills of their own cartoony tennis players before taking their rackets to crazy courts ranging from school yards to pirate ships.

Additional content for all of these games will cost actual money, although NCsoft hasn't finalized the pricing plans for any of them. Still, free online gaming sounds pretty sweet, even if players will have to eventually shell out for higher levels and more skills and items.