Another stop during my investigation into MMORPGs: Maple Story. This is an amazingly popular MMORPG supposedly with over 50 millions of players worldwide! In contrast, World of Warcraft "only" has about 8 million players. So why did you never hear about it? Because it's originally Korean and was only released in English about a year or two ago (after already being a hit in other Asian countries).
What's interesting is that Maple Story has deliberately pixelated hand-drawn ("8-bit retro") graphics and the game is presented as 2D side-scroller (also very "8-bit retro"-ish). In other words, it's exceedingly cute and clean, with no bothersome 3D controls.
It's fairly standard fare. You have to download about 500MB client (Windows only!) and then kill hundreds and thousands of monsters in what basically looks like cute shareware scrolling game. There are all the usual shops with equipment, teleports, leveling up, special events etc...
You can play for free but if you want to own a virtual pet or some extra special equipment, you have to pay in cash.
The problems: Some English texts look awkward and have errors in them. The instructions are sometimes insufficient. For example, I didn't know that there are different worlds and your character cannot be moved from one world to another. That means, after I reached level 16 (after 15 hours of playing) in the "Bellocan" world on "Maple Global" server, I discovered that my friends are in fact playing in different world and if I want to meet them online, I have to start playing in their world, with a different character, from scratch. The different worlds seem to be completely similar in their contents. They only exist in order to handle the amazing number of people playing. And still, some locations seem rather crowded (and this is in the newest, the least populated world).
Again, as with Second Life, I don't expect to devote my life to this game. But if you don't know what to do with your spare time and you like big-eyed pixelated sprites, you might give Maple Story a try.
By the way, if you enjoy larger pixelated things for your apartment, you might enjoy www.pixelblocks.com.