More MMOs you’ve never heard of: PlaneShift, Stendhal, Ashen Empires, Zezenia, and Project Diaspora


Think you’ve seen it all and played it all in regards to MMORPGs? There’s always a lot of smaller and lesser-known games out there, and once in a while we like to do a small roundup to bring your attention to these titles.

So what do we have today? We’ll start with PlaneShift, a 2004-era fantasy game from Italy that is most notable these days for being a true open-source MMO. Seriously, we don’t get too many of those! Development is predictably slow as a result, but at least it’s still rolling forward and events are happening all of the time.

“Cute” and “retro” are terms best applied to Stendhal, a game that describes itself as “a fun friendly and free multiplayer online adventure game with an old school feel.” There’s a beginner’s guide if you’re just getting started, but advanced users might want to tinker around with the open source code. Hey, I think there’s a theme going on today!

Another old school indie MMO that you may have skipped in the day is Ashen Empires. As long as you have Windows 98 or better, kids, you can play this one! Oh, and 100MB of hard drive space. It’s hard to tell if Ashen Empires is still running; it went completely free back in 2009 shortly after its Dungeons of Dransik expansion but hasn’t tweeted or updated since.

Zezenia Online probably looks very familiar to any Ultima Online and Tibia vets. This title boasts very aggressive development and over 3,100 monthly active players. PvP is a big draw here, as is exploration throughout the 18,000,000 square meter world.

If space trading is your thing and you don’t mind a rather simple layout, then Project Diaspora might warrant a look. Suit up and fly a ship around the galaxy to make money, transport cargo, and fight a bit. One interesting twist is that players can create their own custom servers and connect them to the larger game.

Thanks so much, Panagiotis!

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Fenrir Wolf

Lawdy, PlaneShift. The hopes and dreams of the open source community back in the day, when idealism and faith in ‘free as in speech’ was at an all time high.

Massively, please do stop making me lament the loss of so many good things! >:I

Loyal Patron
Christopher Angeles

I’m really loving this column! Thanks Justin!

Downloading plane shift now

Daniel Solorzano

Cool download Planeshift now

Tee Parsley

Last I heard, Ashen Empires was still operational, running out of a computer in someone’s closet. No ongoing support or anything with it though.

Despite all the clamor for old school MMOs, it got built and not enough came…..


It runs from the same company it used to run for years, which is Pixel Mine, and you can log and play. The game is a bit UOish and quite deep in gameplay. Has a PVP and a PVE server and a small community that still plays it. Unfortunately the one who has it doesnt seem to have much knowledge coding it to expand it. All you can see is some events every now and then announced in forums. Also he hasnt updated the website in ages but you can see also its operational cause it has the green server status in its page. Pixel Mine launcher also can download the original Dransik too should someone choose to do so.

In my opinion its one of the deepest gameplay oldschool games that are in deep maintainance which is a pity cause most in-work oldschool style mmorpgs in steam arent as good as Ashen. You can see it’s info here , including who created it and which companies published it. Oneye and Pixel Mine are those who got it currently last time I checked


AE has SO much potential. I wish the devs would either support it or release it to the community. But I guess they’re still making a few bucks off the diehard VIP members and are content with letting the game rot. Bummer.


I wish PlaneShift would get more volunteers. It’s such a nice project, and you can tell it was built with ambition despite its libre nature.


The fanbase is mostly RP based really, I had played a bit, a lot of nice people in there