Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are a combination of role-playing video games and massively multiplayer online games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a perpetual game world. This means that MMORPGs are online games where a player is able to play with other people all around the world.
As in all RPGs, the player assume the role of a character (often in a fantasy world or science-fiction world) and takes control over many of that character’s actions. MMORPGs are distinguished from single-player or small multi-player online RPGs by the number of players able to interact together, and by the game’s persistent world (usually hosted by the game’s publisher), which continues to exist and evolve while the player is offline and away from the game.
MMORPGs are played throughout the world. Worldwide revenues for MMORPGs exceeded half a billion dollars in 2005,and Western revenues exceeded US$1 billion in 2006.In 2008, Western consumer spending on subscription MMOGs grew to $1.4 billion.World of Warcraft, a popular MMORPG, had over 10 million subscribers as of November 2014.World of Warcraft’s total revenue was $1.04 billion US dollars in 2014.Star Wars: The Old Republic, released in 2011, became the world’s ‘Fastest-Growing MMO Ever’ after gaining 1 million subscribers within the first three days of its launch.
In nearly all MMORPGs, the development of the player’s character is a primary goal. Nearly all MMORPGs feature a character progression system in which players earn experience points for their actions and use those points to reach character “levels”, which makes them better at whatever they do. Traditionally, combat with monsters and completing quests for non-player characters, either alone or in groups, are the primary ways to earn experience points. The accumulation of wealth (including combat-useful items) is also a way to progress in many MMORPGs, and this is also traditionally best accomplished via combat. The cycle produced by these conditions, combat leading to new items allowing for more combat with no change in gameplay, is sometimes pejoratively referred to as the level treadmill, or “grinding”. The role-playing game Progress Quest was created as a parody of this trend. Eve Online trains skills in real time rather than using experience points as a meter of progression.
In some MMORPGs, there is no limit to a player’s level, allowing the grinding experience to continue indefinitely. MMORPGs that use this model often glorify top ranked players by displaying their avatars on the game’s website or posting their stats on a high score screen. Another common practice is to enforce a maximum reachable level for all players, often referred to as a level cap. Once reached, the definition of a player’s progression changes. Instead of being awarded primarily with experience for completing quests and dungeons, collecting money and equipment will replace the player’s motivation to continue playing.
Often, the widened range of equipment available at the maximum level will have increased aesthetic value to distinguish high ranking players in game. Colloquially known as endgame gear, this set of empowered weapons and armor adds a competitive edge to both scripted boss encounters as well as player vs. player combat. Player motivation to outperform others is fueled by acquiring such items and is a significant determining factor in their success or failure in combat related situations.
Also, traditional in the genre is the eventual demand on players to team up with others in order to progress at the optimal rate. This sometimes forces players to change their real-world schedules in order to “keep up” within the game-world. A good example of this is the need to trade items to achieve certain goals, or teaming up to kill a powerful enemy.
Most MMORPGs provide different types of classes that players can choose. Among those classes, a small portion of players choose to roleplay their characters, and there are rules that provide functionality and content to this end. Community resources such as forums and guides exist in support of this play style.
For example, if a player wants to play a priest role in his MMORPG world, he might buy a cope from a shop and learn priestly skills, proceeding to speak, act, and interact with others as their character would. This may or may not include pursuing other goals such as wealth or experience. Guilds or similar groups with a focus on roleplaying may develop extended in-depth narratives using the setting and resources of the game world.
Over time, the MMORPG community has developed a sub-culture with its own slang and metaphor, as well as an unwritten list of social rules and taboos. Players will often complain about ‘grind’ (a slang term for any repetitive, time-consuming activity in an MMORPG), or talk about ‘buffs’ and ‘nerfs’ (respectively an upgrade or downgrade of a particular game mechanic). Beyond this, further sub-cultures exist which can be specific to particular games, and even particular modes within a game. As with all such cultures, social rules exist for such things as invitations to join an adventuring party, the proper division of treasure, and how a player is expected to behave while grouped with other players.
Debate rages in various gaming media over the long-term impact of video game overuse. The On-Line Gamers Anonymous forums are filled with stories of players that have neglected social, employment and/or family responsibilities in favor of their ‘virtual lives’.