What is an MMORPG?

MMO stands for massively multiplayer online, the most common format of this is the role-playing game or RPG.

The first MMORPG is probably Neverwinter Nights which was released in 1991.  It was nothing compared to today, somewhere between 50 and 500 players could play at a time before the server was full.  The current model of MMORPG descends from Everquest and Ultima Online.  These games had a very unique system.  Instead of flat out leveling from a level to another you also had to level up every single thing you wanted to do.  You would level up walking, swimming, eating, shooting, throwing, tossing, etc.  It was also in these sorts of games that people developed the first ever gaming bots.  Bots designed to do redundant monotonous tasks for hours and days on end.  All encounters were in an out-door environment and people would have to wait on world bosses to respawn once a week in order to kill them.

World of Warcraft was an innovation in the MMORPG format.  Instead of having a world environment to operate on the entire game was operated through different servers that a person would transfer between.  At launch there were two continents you could move between that existed on separate servers.  As well every boss fight came in the format of a dungeon with mobs and a few final bosses.  This was called “instancing” a game.  The instance was separate from the game.  This made the game lag less and it made gear more accessible to people.

MMOs have moved in two common directions:

  1. Casual style game play with more content but content requiring less time.
  2. Entirely instanced game. People queue from a common point for a dungeon or a pvp encounter and are transferred to it when some kind of group making system has completed building a group.
  3. Easier gearing.

MMOs in general are going to have a few common themes:

  1. A rewarding leveling system.  Whereas in other games when you level up you sort of just become a more notorious player or have money systems that allow you to get new weapons.  When you move up a level in an MMO it is almost like you are winning the lottery.  Everything lights up sending positive signals to your brain about continuing leveling.  You also become a better player.  Mobs of NPCs that used to be hard become easier.  Players that were giving you trouble before change from farming to being farmed.
  2. The game never ends.  Whereas with most game developers they sell a game with an end so that they can go about selling sequels or other similar clone versions of the game.  It takes roughly five years to develop a half decent MMORPG simply because the world you are creating is vast and overly complicated.  Because of this it simply would not be profitable to create an MMORPG with the intention of starting a new one as soon as this one begins.  Instead the hook for an MMORPG is paying for the development of the game by either donating to the developers, paying a subscription or operating an in-game store.  This money is used to create new content to keep the player hooked into playing the game.  The only end game to the game is when the designers decide they are not going to release any new content.  The MMO dies off but even without new content coming out maintaining the servers is affordable and for the average gamer there is still enough content to make the game practically endless. Example: World of Warcraft has over 40 dungeons, over 30 raids, over 6,000 quests, and over 2,000 achievements… only two people in the world have ever 100% it but by then the game has new content.
  3. Your character is not some story you are going along with, your character is you.  You are able to customize it in multiple ways giving it your personal touch.  The most basic MMOs will have at least four ways to customize your characters.  The standards are choosing your gear, choosing your class, choosing how you look, and choosing what your stat bonuses are.  Customization is important because it connects you to your character and makes you want to play it more and more.  This is also why character selling web sites do not do so well but gold selling ones do amazingly.
  4. The game has some sort of in-game economic system that works based on supply and demand similar to a real world one.  The acquisition of wealth in the game is important because a person must be made to feel that they are leaving something behind if they quit.  It’s like a very long game of craps.  In craps the dice roller rolls between 1 and 16 with two dice.  People can bet on a number of elements with different rules to them.  But the main betting is done on the numbers 1-16.  A person gets multiple dice throws to hit one of these numbers.  If within three throws you don’t make it, you lose your chips.  In an MMO you are always made to feel like you still have some more throws I mean why accumulate all that wealth for nothing?
  5. There needs to be a separation of classes in the game.  Classes in every single MMORPG are going to be broken down into three basic categories: tank, healer and damage-dealer.  The tank’s job is to absorb damage and try to get the enemy to hit him/her as much as possible.  The healer’s job is to regenerate hit points for the team.  The damage-dealer’s job is to kill enemies.  Games tend to divide these rolls differently.  In some games everyone is a DPS but some people can take damage better than others and some people can regenerate hit points with their attacks.  Star Trek Online makes it so one class can make people tank damage better (by granting people shields), every class heals itself and one grants a single target heal.  Everyone in the game had the ability to use their 7 customizable and equal powered weapon’s… meaning that everyone played all three roles but each class got a piece of the entire puzzle.
  6. It has to be addicting.  MMOs are known as being the cocaine of the gaming industry.  At the end there has to be a reason to never ever turn off an MMO.  Most games do it through a linked questing system.  A person is always left at a cliff hanger that makes them want to continue more.  As well games can have XP bars that don’t show numbers but instead show a % of how close you are.  The game needs to give you every reason to do another quest, play another pvp match, or run around killing random things until you hit that level.
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