Due to the nature of an MMORPG, an internet connection is an obvious necessity to play. As the acronym suggests, these games were created to be played by thousands of players, at the same time, on the same server. That means that at any given time a player has the chance to interact with any number of thousands of different players.
MMORPG server sizes ranges from a few hundred players, to over 60,000 players logged in and playing at the same time. In fact, the MMORPG Eve Online, because it only has one server, broke the 60,000 player mark in June of 2010. Eve Online is the only mainstream MMO to use this single server architecture; other games, such as the immensely successful World of Warcraft, spread players over a large number of servers.
The Massive Appeal of MMORPGs
Players find these games appealing because they offer a sense of satisfaction often not found in other types of games. In MMORPGs, for example, players often spend hundreds or thousands of hours forming their characters and then living out those character’s fantasy lives. They can then share this experience with other players, often friends, who also play.
Basically, the creators of MMORPGs try to develop a game that is unending. They accomplish this in various ways and often blend together multiple techniques to cater to all types of players. The three biggest factors that developers do to make massively multiplayer games unending are:
Incorporate a strong PvE (player versus environment) endgame – This includes a variety of different ways of grouping with other players to hunt and kill computer controlled characters, often for the purpose of looting them. This loot is then used to upgrade the player’s character. Getting the best gear or loot, is often the driving force behind many people’s desire to keep playing the game.
Incorporate a strong PvP (player versus player) endgame – This is all about players killing one another, in game, of course. This is often the biggest draw of many MMORPGs. The best PvP MMOs find a way to let players decide how and when this PvP will take place. It is important to note that some MMOs leave out PvP entirely or have it in an extremely limited form and in some games it is the major draw for most players. Most games fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
Develop updates and expansions on a regular basis. Most MMOs are updated regularly, through patches, based on feedback from players and game testers. The biggest updates happen through expansion packs, which usually add a huge chunk of gameplay. Patches are always free, while expansion packs almost always require a player to pay for the substantial upgrade.
The previous three factors are usually a major part of keeping a game’s “endgame” alive. Endgame refers to the part of an MMO after a player’s character has reached the maximum level allowed. For example, if a certain game puts its level cap at 100, then level 100 is where that game’s endgame would begin.
As was previously mentioned, depending on the game, the endgame of an MMORPG is all about acquiring better gear (items for a player’s in game character), engaging other players in combat, conquering other player’s territory or engaging with the in game economy. The best games allow a player to mix and match all of these, at will.
The Leveling Process
Before the endgame, MMORPGs usually incorporate some sort of leveling or character building experience. Different games handle this process in different ways. For example, one game may use a leveling system with a hard cap of level 100, while another game may forgo a “level” system altogether, for something else. A different game, for example, may use a skill based system in which a character improves in the areas it focuses on. In this system, if a character picks up a sword and uses it, the character will slowly gain efficiency in the sword skill.
The leveling, or character improvement process is not limited to the two methods mentioned above, but they are the most common. At any rate, one thing most MMOs do have in common is that the character building process is capped at a certain point. This is not true for every MMORPG, but it is a common link for most.
MMOs and MMORPGs are Here to Stay
For many people these games can become quite addictive, not only because they are very fun and competitive, but because of the seemingly endless experience that these games naturally provide. The negative aspects of the addictiveness will not be looked into in this article; the reason the addictiveness of MMOs was mentioned was only to point out that once people try these games, they are usually hooked. MMORPGs are here to stay.
MMORPGs are constantly changing and being reinvented with every new game; it is impossible to tell what the future will bring for this genre, but one thing is certain, these games will only continue to grow in popularity. Happy gaming!
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