RPG MO by Marxnet is a free browser-based multiplayer RPG reminiscent of early Runescape. Playing the role of a nondescript fightin' man, you can explore 25 different maps, fight a variety of creatures, and craft your own weapons, jewelry, and more.

RPG MO "Tutorial Island"
Big-picture, RPG MO is very similar to classic Runescape in aesthetic and player activities (fishing, mining, crafting, cooking), but differentiates itself partially with a gridded-map and a hybrid WASD/point-and-click movement scheme.

As an early access game, RPG MO has ample room for improvement in its accessibility, clarity, and accuracy.


Accessibility Issues

Players with poor eyesight may have difficulty playing RPG MO due to its widespread use of small font (definitely less than 10 pt. font, smallest probably 4 pt.). Even as someone with decent vision, it was uncomfortable to read even the largest font RPG MO offered.


  • Increase the font size to at least 12 pt., ideally 14 pt. 
  • Try not to use neon-colored fonts (like lime green and bright red -- they're uncomfortable to read on a dark background.



There were a few game elements that confused me. First, the difference between 'use' and 'equip.' In some cases, right-clicking and selecting 'use' equips an item, but in other cases 'use' consumes an item. This gets tricky for cooking: in order to cook a fish, for example, the player must equip (actual word used) the fish and then click on a campfire. But in multiple instances, when equipping an item (by left-clicking in the inventory), I ate the fish raw rather than equip it. This ended up being pretty quirky -- before I completed the tutorial successfully (still not exactly sure how I did that), my avatar probably ended up eating four fish and a frog raw. Yum.

Second, the mage tutorial didn't make a ton of sense. In order to cast a spell, you had to equip/use a Magic Bag, and then equip a spell. It wasn't clear where I could find my spellbook (if there is one?), if I could eventually equip more than one spell, or if I could dual-wield a spell and one-handed weapon. In the inventory, it appeared I had both a spell and a 1H dagger equipped, but I couldn't figure out how to use both in combat.

Third, it wasn't clear how to turn quests in. After killing a few giant rats, I automatically received a new quest to kill chickens (?) from an NPC (that I didn't remember talking to), and couldn't see any chickens.


  • Equipping a fish to cook was really weird. Why not use a format similar to the anvil-activation? Have a table where you place the item you'd like to cook, plus any other ingredients? 
  • Separate out 'use' and 'equip.' One way to do this is to have a separate character page that shows what items a character has equipped (as is done in Diablo III, WoW, and so many other classic games). When a player 'uses' a weapon/armor/trinket/whatever, it appears to be removed from their inventory, and is added to the character page. That way you know that you've used the item properly.
  • The magic tutorial needs to be clarified. Can I duel-wield? Can I equip more than one spell? The cooldown icon is also really small and in a strange place. Can you move that to next to the health bar or something?
  • You could use the typical '?' and '!' icons to signify which NPCs are giving/accepting quests. Other icons could also be used -- just having something to easily determine who you should be talking to is nice.



Movement in RPG MO was not as I expected, and often acted opposite to what I (thought) I had commanded. Unlike Runescape, where movement was governed alone by pointing & clicking on the map, this game combines the point & click movement with the WASD navigation scheme.

Now, imagine you're pressing 'D' to go right. Would you land on the circle or the square in the picture on the left?

You'd land on the square. (For those who haven't played many games, WASD typically moves an avatar in a '+' shape, but in RPG MO, it moves the player in an 'X' shape.)

Now, I'm sure I could get used to moving in X-shape with some practice (even though it feels like trying to hold a pencil and write with my left hand, being right-handed), but it's the combination of using both keys and a mouse to move that's killer.

When I would move to the wrong spot, I would use the mouse to compensate and relocate. But -- the mouse isn't used for relocation alone -- it is also used to interact with objects. So navigation in the mining tutorial section went something like this:

  1. Try to move using WASD, moving to the wrong spot
  2. Compensate movement with mouse
  3. Move to intended space, but have accidentally activated a mining node
  4. Use mouse again to move to a different space to spot mining (and sometimes accidentally activate another node)
I ended up with an inventory full of clay, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I ended up feeling very frustrated with the game. The thing is -- I believe this issue can be easily resolved.

  • I would love it if movement was +-shaped instead of X-shaped (or at least if there was a way in the options to alter how WASD functions)
  • Consider having an 'activation' key (such as E), rather than automatically initiating combat or using Mouse 1 to activate a mining node/campfire/whatever. 


Final Thoughts

  • I understand wanting to prevent players from moving on in the tutorial without learning certain skills (the gates work for that), but I don't understand preventing players from going backwards through the gates. The options were 'use' and 'inspect' for older gates, but I couldn't actually return to earlier areas. I found this out after receiving the chicken-killing quest -- I thought maybe I could return to the first penned-in area to talk to the first quest-giver -- but then was prevented from leaving. I thought this was very odd.
  • I really wish you would put a way to make a female character. I doubt it'll take much effort to make a female-shaped model (different body shape, no option to change facial hair). I'm always disappointed when there's no options when it should be *so* easy to implement. Just don't make a way to change breast size, or add skimpy clothing, and you'll be all set.
  • There are quite a few grammatical errors throughout the tutorial text. Broadly, numbers under 10 should be spelled out ("two items", not "2 items"). If you're talking about something that would be tangible (like items), spell it out. If you're talking about something intangible (like HP, or mana), use the numerical format. Other errors include missing words (usually 'the,' 'your,' and 'a') and missing kernings between words and parentheses.

All-in-all, it isn't bad for an early access game. While there's certainly a lot of room for improvement, it's very apparent that Marxnet is listening to its fan-base and is dedicated to adding to RPG MO over time. If you're wanting to go on a nostalgia-kick, and don't want to spend money, I'd recommend this game.

I'll see how this game grows over time.

GamesCampus' Karos Returns (PC only) is a free, fantasy MMORPG which hosts an open world and PvP system. The game has not been well-received, and currently holds a 37% approval rate on Steam. Including this, and six other, "positive" reviews:

Reading through the reviews, the primary complaints are that the graphics are outdated (think ~2003), the UI is clunky, and that the game offers little autonomy to the player. And I'm very inclined to agree.

From a usability, and really a fun standpoint, Karos' shortcomings stem from a design that is simultaneously constricting and hands-off -- an unpleasant cocktail that has driven players away. I'll cover how Karos is limiting its players, and what GamesCampus can do about it.


Locked In!

One way that Karos limits players is through its character creation. For the last few years, most RPGs have introduced increasingly detailed character customization menus, allowing players to alter anything between a character's eyelash style to their voices. As time moves on, the more nuanced character creation menus become.

Of course, not all studios can keep up with this rate of change, or effort: the more customization a game offers, the more developers must work on model development and animation. And with a limited budget, as many indie companies have, it doesn't make sense to spend oodles of time generating content to enable customization.

Karos Returns opted to limit the number of character models players can use. The only aspects a player may alter are their character's class, hair, and facial structure. Each class has a predetermined gender and race, set in stone and unchangeable by the player. Though rationally, I understand why GamesCampus might choose to lock gender and race, my first reaction as a player was, "Hey, that's not fair."

With introspection, I've realized that my knee-jerk reaction can be attributed to how Karos' character selection screen is set up. Right now, Karos' screen follows convention, placing the character model in the center of the screen, with customization options presented on a side banner. As comparison, I've provided a screenshot from the character creation screen from Elder Scrolls Online.

Karos Returns: Character Creation Screen
Elder Scrolls Online: Character Creation Screen
While falling back on the classic character creation UI makes page wire-framing easy, it has one major downside: using the most common creation setup confers with it certain expectations. Coming into Karos, I subconsciously compared the character selection screen to previous games (such as ESO), and made specific assumptions about what options I would be provided. And when I discovered that my assumptions were wrong, I was not only disappointed, but almost felt slighted.

As the character selection is currently set up, Karos Returns seems to be a hybrid between Diablo III/Path of Exile's strategy of presenting players with a specific cast of characters in that world, and RPGs method of allowing extensive character customization. In linear stories such as DIII/PoE, race and gender locking a class makes sense, as players are assuming a specific role. But players in Karos Returns aren't playing specific story heroes -- and so race/gender locking a specific class doesn't make sense.

Fixing this issue, assuming adding more models isn't an option, is tricky. My suggestions hinge not on adding more models, but instead fundamentally changing how character customization is presented.
  • For example, you could take a route similar to Diablo III, where each class has a male and female model (and there's little customization on top of that). You could still have the race locked for each class.
  • Scrap the classic character model in center, customization bar on the side. While character creation is presented in this way, players are likely to make assumptions about what options they'll be given. How you then choose to configure characters is your choice -- maybe even placing the character customization on the left (instead of usual right) might be different enough to break expectations. Testing would be needed.

Too Hands-Off

There are some people who enjoy figuring out how to play a game through reading the rules. I'm the kind of person who likes to pick it up as I go along. Karos is strange in that it tries to teach you how to play by bribing you with quest rewards to read the rules.

This could have worked okay had the rules and explanations been clear. But instead, the rules are poorly organized (have no flow of what information you need to know first) and rambling.

Really, part of the problem is that it seems the developers put the game together and assumed players would understand what was going on or even read the rules. As a fledgling boardgame designer, I've learned that it's best to blind playtest your game and rules (give it to someone who hasn't played the game before, and have them learn from the rulebook) before sending it out into the wild. It feels as if GamesCampus didn't truly think about how the game would be taught -- and so they shoehorned some incomplete ideas together. Instead of writing the rules more clearly, they opted to bribe players with items instead to learn to play the game.

I question how effective this tactic actually is, and wonder why the developers decided to put it in place. Did they not want to devise more clever ways to introduce players to the mechanics? Did they assume players would pick up the game easily?

Either way, my recommendation here is simple: streamline how the game is taught.

  • Remove the "Entire Interface" tab in the rules --  I think anyone who has played games recently know what a minimap and a chat bar look like)
  • Instead of having the beginning quests require players to kill a bunch of spiders and owl bear cubs, develop one that is built to level the player, and then send them to an NPC that teaches them to assign fletta points.
  • In general, use the starting quests to teach beginning concepts and mechanics. TERA (also F2P) does a good job with this.


Other Features I Find Odd

"Auto-Pilot":  If someone is playing for lore -- Karos really isn't the game for it. Players can opt into what is essentially auto-pilot for their character: once activated, their character will automatically attack nearby enemies and loot them. It's strange -- because though the game advertises itself as "hardcore," even a mindless AI can accomplish the same task that I've been sent out on.

Confusing Map Icons: Looking at the mini-map is absolutely baffling. In cities, there are dozens of icons on the map that aren't explained, or self-explanatory, and clog up the screen.

Playtime Rewards: The game rewards players with items for playing for more than an hour, or for logging in a few days in a row. If developers need to bribe players to continue playing the game, they should probably consider and explore why players don't play for extended periods of time. Sure, just giving players a flat reward is easy on the developer's end -- but it's not a sustainable way to retain players.

No Differentiation: I'm not entirely sure how Karos Returns varies from other MMORPGs in its mechanics, story, or really anything. Nothing feels innovative (except maybe the auto-pilot feature, but I'd say that's a poor design choice), or really challenging.

No 'Interact' Key: Karos differs from recent RPGs in that it doesn't give players an 'interact' key (such as E in Fallout/Skyrim, F in TERA, etc.). Instead, players must click on NPCs to speak with them. I think this is another poor design choice: using an interact key feels less error-prone. When using a mouse to click, players can miss, and just spend more time trying to line up their cursor with the NPC. Interact keys ask less of the player.

Font and Spelling Difficulties: At times, the font is difficult to read (too small, bad coloring) and there are occasional spelling errors peppered throughout. There's really no excuse for that.


I feel like there could've been a lot more to write about with Karos Returns (I could've expanded upon the previous section), but the game just feels so rough, and the problems so deep, that this post could've been thrice the length.

All in all, I don't recommend Karos Returns. From a non-usability standpoint, the combat is boring, the graphics are terrible, and it's just markedly worse than any MMOs I've played. If the game was in alpha, maybe I could see it being this rough. But in full release, this game is just entirely sub-par. Good thing it was free.

0/10 do not recommend.