Interactive-fiction-game makers Simogo have coded up a free, five-minute long story as a a gift to fans: The Sensational December Machine. (Download required, but worth it.)
Here is Dungeon Squad! A simple, free role-playing game intended for younger players (but enjoyable by older ones), with lots of dice rolling and action. Here's a couple of adventures for it, here's an expansion, and here's a more complex version. Here's the expansion Adventure Squad, in three PDFs: Core - Abilities - D&D 3E Classes. Here's yet another expansion. [more inside]
The official Google Earth plugin is one free download that makes all sorts of cool stuff possible in your browser. There's a full screen version of the program (complete with underwater views and 3D buildings) which can be searched by entering queries at the end of the URL. There's a framed version with support for layers, historical imagery, day/night cycles, and the Google Sky starmap. Less useful but more fun are Google's collection of "experiments" demonstrating the possibilities of the Earth API, including a "Geo Whiz" geography quiz, an antipode locater, a 3D first-person view of San Francisco, a virtual route-follower, and MONSTER MILKTRUCK!, a crazy fun driving simulator that lets you careen a virtual milk truck through the Googleplex campus, ricochet off the Himalayas, or explore any other place you care to name. Lots more can be found in the Google Earth Gallery -- highlights include a look at mountaintop removal mining, a real-time flight tracker, a guide to trails and outdoor recreation, a 360 panorama catalog, geotagged Panoramio photos, and the comprehensive crowdsourced Google Earth Community Layer. And while it's too large to view online, don't miss loading the Metafilter user location map into a desktop version of Google Earth! [more inside]
NationStates is a free political simulation game founded by author Max Barry back in 2002 (previously). Loosely based on his dystopian corporate thriller Jennifer Government, the game starts by asking players to provide some national trappings and answer a few civics questions, then generates a virtual country with a matching political outlook. Periodic policy decisions like mining rights and compulsory voting allow players to further modify their country along axes of social, political, and economic freedom, arriving at one of twenty-seven colorful government types like Tyranny By Majority or Scandinavian Liberal Paradise. There's also a healthy roleplaying community -- players can discuss current events in the General forum, practice wargaming in International Incidents, form cooperative Regions to debate internal affairs (many of which form their own communities), and elect Delegates to send to the World Assembly (so renamed after an amusing cease-and-desist from the real-world U.N.). Their collective history is thoroughly recorded in the 35,000-article NSWiki, which provides a detailed legislative record, gameplay guide, and profiles on many of the 90,000 active nations, 8,000 player regions, and countless characters that currently make up the game world.
You are in a warm, dark, comfortable place. This has been your place since you became aware that you are alive. It's almost time to enter a different world now. In 1986, Activision published a roleplaying computer game called Alter Ego. Unlike the action and fantasy titles that ruled the day, this game simulated the course of a single ordinary life. Beginning at birth, players navigated a series of vignettes: learning to crawl, reacting to strangers, getting a first haircut. The outcome of each scenario subtly influenced one's path, and with every choice players slowly progressed through infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. Graphically minimalist -- one's lifestream is represented by simple icons, and the scenarios are all text -- the game was nevertheless engaging, describing the world in a playful, good-natured tone tinged by darkness and melancholy. And it had quite a pedigree; developer and psychology PhD Peter Favaro interviewed hundreds of people on their most memorable life experiences to generate the game's 1,200 pages of material. Unfortunately for Dr. Favaro, the game didn't sell very well. But it lives on through the web -- PlayAlterEgo.com offers a full copy of the game free to play in your browser, and the same port is available as a $5 app for iPhone and Android. More: Port discussion group - Wishlist - Vintage review - Original game manual (text or scans)
Hetherdale is a full scale point and click adventure, for free. Don't forget to use the map option when it arrives in order to travel faster.
Flash Friday RPG Fun: Hands of War. Set in a kingdom in the midst of a civil war, choose the factions you support while re-assembling the Heartstone.
Alien Breed + arena shooter + online highscores = Alien Deathmatch 2. Windows only.
Nano War: Infectious Flash Fun. Colonize blobs, send swarms, and win superior numbers. Free multi-player and level editor. Dangerously addictive. [more inside]
Aether: lonely boy befriends a mysterious monster, leaves Earth to explore the galaxy. A quick, relaxing, hypnotic, motion-aftereffect-inducing flash game. Programming/music/design by Tyler Glaiel with further art/design by Edmund McMillen. [more inside]
Superstruct: An alternate reality game of future survival from the woman who brought you I Love Bees. Starting soon.
Halo 3? Phooey! Sure, Bungie's latest title in greatest series for the Xbox is released tomorrow, but for some perspective, take a look at Marathon: Aleph One — the free, open source engine to Bungie's first achievement, the Marathon Trilogy. [more inside]
Crystal Clear A sliding tile-matching game that allows addictive heads-up play. (Pretty sure it's flash).
Anarchy Online is free until January!...but is it worth it?