A Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) is a Massively Multiplayer Online role-playing game in which a large number of players interact with one another in a virtual world. As in all role-playing game (RPGs), players assume the role of a fictional character (often in a fantasy setting) and take control over most of that character's actions. MMORPGs are distinguished from single-player or small multi-player RPGs by the game's persistent world, usually hosted by the game's publisher, which continues to exist and evolve while the player is away from the game.
Though MMORPGs have evolved considerably, many of them share various characteristics.
- A system for character development, usually involving levels and experience points.
- An economy, based on trading of items (such as weapons and armor) and a regular currency.
- Clans or Guilds, which are organizations of players, whether or not the game supports them.
- Game Moderators (or Game Masters), who are in charge of supervising the world.
As most MMORPGs are commercial, like EverQuest and World of Warcraft, players must either purchase the client software for a one-time fee or pay a monthly subscription fee to play. Most major MMORPGs require players do both these things. By nature, "massively multiplayer" games are online, and require monthly subscriptions due to the needs of the design and development process. With this in mind, the alternate term MMGS, standing for Massively Multiplayer Gaming Service, is also appropriate for describing MMOGs in general and MMORPGs in particular.
MMORPGs, as we define them today, have existed since the early 1990s. However, they have a history that extends back into the late 1970s.
The beginning of the MMORPG genre can be traced back to text-based (entirely non-graphical) Multi-User Domains, or MUDs, the first of which was developed by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw in 1978. These were games that ran on private servers (usually at a university, sometimes without the knowledge of the system's administrators); players would connect to the games using a TELNET client. Gameplay was usually similar to tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons; by typing commands into a parser, players would enter a dungeon, fight monsters, gain experience, and acquire loot.
Similar games quickly developed around the same time for the PLATO System. MUDs (and later descendants such as MUSHes and MOOs) were sometimes wildly different from one another, but shared many basic interface elements - for example, a player would usually navigate his or her character around the gameworld by typing in compass directions ("n", "se", etc.)
- MMORPG Games - Articles and reviews of mmorpg games.
- MMOGChart.com - Bruce Woodcock's analysis of MMOG subscription counts based on figures reported by the games' developers. Last updated in November of 2005.
- Wage Slaves - 1UP.COM article on farming.
- The Daedalus Project - Nick Yee's ongoing survey study of MMORPG players. Demographics, narratives and essays.
- Massively Multiplayer Online Games - A set of articles posted at Gamespy.com, concerning the past, present, and future of the genre.
- OnRPG.com - A massive listing of free and Pay to Play MMORPGs