What Is An MMO? To Be Honest I’m Not Even Sure Anymore
By Kei Beneza (dividelife), OnRPG Journalist
MMOs have been around for a very long time, serving their massively multiplayer goodness to players all over the world. It’s amazing how MMOs have managed to evolve through the years, unleashing an unforgiving barrage of patches and updates to keep gamers entertained. Used to be, MMOs were played in small chat room interfaces, allowing players to team up with each other in order to beat whatever the dungeon master threw at them. Like an online version of pen and paper RPGs where players roll electronic dice in order to resolve in game situations.
Now we have tons of MMOs squirming all over the place. MMO Shooters, MMORPGs, MMORTSes, MMO Fighting Games, damn! That’s a lot of MMOs. If you think about it, most of these up to date MMOs no longer have anything in common with their ancestors. So what exactly is an MMO? To be honest, I’m not even sure anymore. Note that I really didn’t know what to write down when I started this article. It’s a journey for the truth! Join me?
What Is An MMO?
MMOs are online multiplayer video games that allow hundreds or thousands of players to interact with each other inside the game. Here players are taken to a persistent, living, and breathing world where one’s decisions can greatly affect the people around them. It’s almost like a real world simulator. Here, players are given a mock economy which is also being run by the virtual population. The game is played through personal computers, allowing players to both play and converse with each other through the keyboard or voice chat. Here players also level up as they work their way through the game, allowing them to gain skills to combat higher and more powerful monsters or players.
Let’s Set Things Straight
So let me get things straight… MMOs, meaning massively multiplayer online are games, allow players to enter an online world where they are free to interact and play with other gamers. Whether it’s a racing MMO like Crazy Kart, or a fighting game like Rumble Fighter Online, anything that lets players interact with tons of players ONLINE can be considered as an MMO.
Exploiting The Term
If that definition is true, then what’s stopping console games or perhaps other PC games like StarCraft from being an MMO? Call of Duty lets you rank up, allowing you to gain access to different items like guns and armor. You can even get new skills (perks, as they call them ) upon leveling up just like an MMO. The thing is, the line between MMOs and other genres is starting to deplete. If it’s leveling up that makes an MMO what it is, then what’s stopping Demon Souls from becoming an MMO?
Lack Of Persistence?
After dwelling on this topic for more than 24 hours, I decided to ask various MMO players about what makes an MMO an MMO. According to one of them, “Persistence” is what truly makes this genre unique. Of course I couldn’t simply accept this as fact without stating my counter argument, so I asked him about the difference between Guild Wars and Demon Souls (PS3), and no, I wasn’t referring to the differences in gameplay. The thing is, both games let players invite other players and allow them to share the same scenario. Both games also give access to various items and gimmicks upon leveling, so what’s the difference? Well, I guess you could say that I didn’t get the answer I was looking for, and so, the search for truth continues.
Player Base! Definitely the Player Base!
Of course! It’s called Massively Multiplayer Online because of its huge player base! Well, Blade Mistress Online didn’t have much of a player base; In fact, I think Warhawk (PS3) had more players than BMO, so I guess it’s not the player base that makes it what it is. Don’t even get me started with the fact that these games can only be played online, because I can name a couple of non-MMO games that share the same type of requirement before playing. I see around two hundred thousand players playing Halo 3 (Xbox 360), but that doesn’t make it an MMO right?
I’ll Kill You If You Say Item Mall Or Subscription
No, seriously! If you say that monthly subscriptions and item malls make this genre, then I will craft an almighty sword and make you sleep with the fishes. Errrhm… about that answer regarding persistence… the dude said Item Mall… forgive me for the sudden rant. Oh wait, could it be that an MMO is a game that carries the word ONLINE along with the title? It sort of makes sense you know. Ragnarok Online, RF Online, Whatever Online. 😛
*POOF* And Then It Hit Me
Yes, the term MMO can have various meanings, and simply going online to play doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re playing an MMO. It wasn’t the persistence factor or online game play that makes an MMO what it is. It’s how the world is presented. In other games, you simply connect to other players to fight and pwn noobs. In real MMOs, players take part in a persistent STORYLINE, which literally means that each of them has their own role to play in the game. The same can be said for shooters as non-MMO games don’t really have a specific storyline that revolves entirely on its multiplayer function. This isn’t about a sudden versus mode between terrorist and counter terrorists. This is about a group of players entering a specific world where they are instantly absorbed by the said storyline. This is a world where they can make tons of virtual life-changing choices. One more thing, in this world, they make characters to represent themselves, not the other way around. It’s not about the population but rather the way the world is designed to fit a large number of players, not as a squad instantly, but as individuals with individual choices and destinies. As the line between MMOs and other genres thins, at least we’re still able to see what a true MMO is. It’s a living and breathing world, not a linear “Round One, FIGHT” session.