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MMORPG History
by Kilivin, Contributor — Category: Editorials
MMORPGs have been around for a while now, a whole 17 years! While many have heard of the big titles coming from the MMORPG genre, this article is meant to give you the grand scope. In conclusion, Feel free to use the links in the Table Of Contents below to easily get from each topic prior or subsequent to this one!

TABLE OF CONTENTS
1) An Introduction To MMORPGs
2) MMORPG History
3) MMORPG Gaming Community
4) MMORPG Mechanics & Game Design
5) MMORPG Lore & Quests
6) MMORPG End Games

[Image: Pre-Final.jpg?t=1389474830]

MMORPG History

As you might recall back to the introduction to this article, MMORPGs have been around for a long time. While the term was first coined by the creator of Ultima Online, Richard Garriott, the MMO name goes back a long way before that. I am not one to think that an MMORPG is your regular MMO, however. MMORPGs have spanned from the good, the bad, and even the revolutionary ever since the start of their existence. From this, it makes for a very vast history. Like any good history lesson, we will start from the beginning.

MMORPGs all began in 1997, or that's at least what mainstream media might tell you. Ultima Online began the genre as a top down fantasy MMORPG. It started off the basic aspects that people come to expect from an MMORPG. Some of those being the player mechanic of MMORPGS, random player interaction in the world, guilds, group questing, and more. The issues Ultima Online faced, however, was that it was the first game to ever have social interaction, economy, and the psychology of players in their game. From this, the game suffered in correctly supporting what would become very vital issues for all MMORPGs. The game did, however, make an impression for future games such as DAoC & Shadowbane with what would become the "hardcore PvP" community through it's unforgiving player-versus-player system.

As the years progressed - more attention was brought toward the MMORPG world of gaming. This brought in games with more mainstream attention such as EverQuest & Asheron's Call in 1999. These marked the first third-person view MMORPGs which became a trend for all MMORPGs to follow up to today. EverQuest was more towards an evolutionary advancement to MUDs (Multi-User-Dungeons) which date back to the late 70s & early 80s. Where its focus was the traditional D&D dungeon of sorts, Asheron's Call focused on creating an open world in which players could traverse the massive 500sq. miles without a single loading screen. Both of these systems made their way into future MMORPGs and some consider that they being implemented incorrectly can ruin a game entirely.

In those days, The number of subscribers both of these games received were considered monstrous. However, EverQuest was ahead of Asheron's Call with 225,000 subscribers compared to their 100,000. This is likely because EverQuest developed a genre which was familiar to players but improved any quirks that MUDs had. While both games moved on to make both EverQuest 2 & Asheron's Call 2, other games were moving in on this rich market of gaming.

One game that made a huge impact on PvP in MMORPGs to this day is Dark Age of Camelot. Released in 2001, DAoC raised over 50,000 subscribers within the first week which was 20,000 more than their estimate, and it capped off at around 250,000 subscribers by the summer of 2002. DAoC received this influx of players from being one of the first to introduce a good global economy and mass scale PvP. Both of which helped evolve the community of the game to make for a strong player-base which was second only to EverQuest which rose from it's release until it capped off at around 450,000 Subscribers by 2003.

During this time, Asheron's Call 2 - the awaited sequel to fix the problems of Asheron's Call - had finally been released by the end of 2002. While the game had a great community, it brought up the first aspects of grinding that became detrimental to its success. While other MMORPGs during this time period had this aspect as well, none were the match of Asheron's Call 2. On top of this, given the rising success of DAoC and EverQuest, Asheron's Call 2 never achieved the player-base needed to support it. Following the massive influx of players towards WoW, Asheron's Call 2 would be the first MMORPG to shut down its servers entirely by 2005.

With EverQuest and DAoC in the lead for the top MMOs of the time, the upcoming EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft were both greatly anticipated. While World of Warcraft had 3 previous RTS games which spanned back to the early 90s, EverQuest was the biggest MMORPG of the time. This left most MMORPG players skeptical that a new MMORPG could push out the "reigning champ" of EverQuest & its sequel, EverQuest 2. The release dates for both were in November of 2004, creating an obvious competition between both games.

EverQuest 2 focused on what it did best. The sequel merely upgraded graphics & gameplay. It also focused heavily on questing and continued with the PvE aspect of MMORPGs. While it was given a warm reception, nothing could prepare them for the monster Blizzard was releasing a mere 3 weeks later.

World of Warcraft released November 23rd 2004, and has dominated the world of MMORPGs ever since. During the initial launch of many titles at the time, the expected influx of subscribers as you now know were around 50-100k. The expected player base would have been perhaps half a million or more if they had a good game. Before 2004 ended, WoW had already released a million copies of the game, which is 10x more than the expected number, and double the number of the top MMORPG of the time. To put this into perspective for today's numbers, that would be like if a modern day MMORPG were to get 15 million subscribers within a month.

Such a boom in server population crippled WoW's servers for weeks, but by the time the new year rolled around - people were as happy as ever in what will possibly maintain itself as the biggest MMORPG of the century. WoW, unlike many other MMORPGS at the time, did not focus on one core aspect of gameplay. Instead, it pulled in PvP players by allowing players to play on PvP servers which they could kill the enemy alliance wherever they saw fit. It also offered the player a huge world of varied areas, each traveled to by flight path or by foot without a single loading screen. The ability to recover health quickly, die without major penalization, and get to areas without any delay made the game have 0 downtime to it.

From this MMORPG boom, players from other MMORPGs such as DAoC, EverQuest, Asheron's Call 2, and even the less popular ones at the time flocked toward WoW. To get an even greater idea of how popularized WoW is - after a patch which added a 20 man raid called Zul'Gurub, an outbreak started. This outbreak was caused by the final boss of the instance which casted onto players "Corrupted Blood." The ability spread from players near to one another dealing damage to them, but due to poor development - the plague was not contained within the instance. Pets from Warlocks and Hunters would retain the plague and it spread into cities of massive population. The amazing thing about this is, real scientists used the data of how what would be known as "The Corrupted Blood Plague" spread to aid in a real life scenario of that happening.

Let's take a look at a graph spanning the rise and current fall of WoW's subscriber base from its release to get an idea of the numbers it reached in such a short period of time compared to other MMORPGs of the time.

[Image: 3pVGRAe.jpg?t=1389387825]

From WoW's extreme rising subscription base, all games after WoW became flops no matter how good or bad the game was. It was merely that they never "beat WoW" which by all the numbers, would be near impossible. The more well-known of these games include LOTRO, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, SWTOR, and Rift - all but 1 are free to play now because the subscription base for each game could not sustain itself. This includes less popularized games such as Tabula Rasa, Shadowbane, Ryzom, DDO, Vanguard, etc.

Conclusion
While many hold grudges to WoW for almost breaking MMORPGs into the theme-park knockoffs that we see now, I see it as a revolutionary step towards something greater in which TESO can achieve. Through a DAoC AvA system, a rich fan base of players from previous ES games (similar to the fan base that WoW had with their Warcraft trilogy), and through its Elder Scrolls style gameplay which will give all other PvE style MMORPGs a run for their money.

Join me next week where I will talk about gaming community within MMORPGs as well as the social implications of MMORPGs as a whole. Smiling
The following 10 users Like Kilivin's post:
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Comments on MMORPG History
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Very nicely done, I can't wait until the next article.
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Another great article @Kilivin !
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Another great read and in my case great memories of MMORPG evolution
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Great read, Kilivin!
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The problem I have concluded is mmos go after people newbies I hated running into complete noobs new to mmos period mmos have one difficulty set for everyone cata was blizzard getting greedy noobs and kids dont stay from launch till death they get bored move on after cata all my friends left and after the first patch I left 2 they undermined our years of hard word for a buck that didnt come this series is ready too die 2 skyrim was its peak not due too lack of creativity but greed it doesn't help that bethesda is using matt frior whos daoc formula didnt work for that mmo anyways players are mad because one side gets strong and dominates the other 2. Sure for a couple of months it will be fun till the ald takes the win daggerfall as much as I love it will be the first to die then eh pact either way it has to go f2p otherwise it will die swtor failed for the same reason eso will not listen I dont care if it doesn't come out this year due to a overhaul im really not impressed 5 years going on 6 and this is the best they had? Really? Swtor was 2 years and it has alot more complex choice system maybe its bugged but this will be 2 and it sucks to be out done by swtor when es had a killer track record for impressing fans I hope they can do an overhaul asap hopefully have the same team and lead who normally does the es games even though he refused to do this one I hope he does it for the fans because hes wanted and needed by bethesda so that this game doesnt go f2p with 500.000 players thats terrible this could have killed wow its just killing fans right now
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Nice article! I wanted to be a writer but I wouldn't be able to write regularly to this standard (I'd have like one every 1-2 months xD) thanks for the great articles non the less though. Very professional like.
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Hate how my comments dissappear off here anyways whats the point if input is not acceptable this is not a forum its trash for fanboys if anyone truly loved the tes series mmos as a whole the last comment I posted wouldnt be taken down delete this delete my account go ahead
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Having played many of the precursor games to fantasy roll playing online I have to agree with all the points made in the article on the origins and history of mmorpg. Although I feel WoW is the equivilent of Macdonalds, and there for not really fit for human consumption, Blizzard has taken the gaming genre main-stream to the point where budgets are comparable in scale to block buster movies.
What I note is that TESO has taken many of the best features from all the fantasy mmorpgs of the last ten years and brought them to the Morrowind world.
There are aspects of D&DO, Guildwars, LOTRO, DAoC, (and many other titles, not so well recognised for what they have introduced to the genre because of WoW's domination of that market) easily recognisable in TESO. Also the influence of console gaming should not be underestimated.
Of course there are aspects of WoW in TESO too but no game is perfect }:)_

N.B. Great Article!
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(January 13th 2014 09:34 AM)Jorvaskaar Wrote:  Nice article! I wanted to be a writer but I wouldn't be able to write regularly to this standard (I'd have like one every 1-2 months xD) thanks for the great articles non the less though. Very professional like.

If you feel like writing, you should start with writing a story on tesof to get your feet wet in the whole writing idea! The deadline is actually only 1 month to my knowledge. However, I promised in the Introduction that I'd have a lot of the answers that some people were looking for in this article. So, it only seemed fitting to make it only a week from now. Thank you! Smiling

(January 13th 2014 04:36 PM)jaeger303 Wrote:  Hate how my comments dissappear off here anyways whats the point if input is not acceptable this is not a forum its trash for fanboys if anyone truly loved the tes series mmos as a whole the last comment I posted wouldnt be taken down delete this delete my account go ahead

Apologies. From what I could gather from your first comment, I will attempt a response. WoW has been dropping off over the years due to a lack of correct timing with their expansions. Warcraft 3, a hugely popular RTS before WoW had even existed, had two very popular characters within that series. I'm not saying Cata or MoP were bad expansions, but I am saying that most players will feel more attached to fighting against Arthas & Illidan. This is because they were such prominent characters in Warcraft 3 & Warcraft 3 Frozen Throne. I feel that in using the main characters for their first two expansions amplified the amount of players. The picture of their subs over time support this idea as well. The reason the game maxed out before Cata is because of new players (such as myself) rejoining the game to say goodbye to the better past versions of it.

As far as SWTOR's failure, it underestimated its fans & had a very poor/unprepared endgame because of it. They expected it to take months for players to reach the max level, but that never happens in MMORPGs. People raced to max level within the month of release, and this caused Bioware to be stuck with what little they had for end game until they could patch the game up. However, no amount of patches can add an entire end game they were expecting to put in an expansion. It was their first MMORPG and they weren't prepared for the type of community MMORPGs bring is all.

As far as TESO "killing WoW," I have stated before that isn't possible by the numbers. That is, if I am correct on the definition of "killing WoW." To me, that would mean to do what WoW did to every other MMORPG around its release and around 4 or so years to other MMORPGs by making them go Free-To-Play. This will likely never happen. Blizzard has made an amount of money at this point where the only way that WoW will be "killed" is by a new MMORPG of their making. This is due to WoW being one of the only western MMORPGs which has a majority of the Eastern World's community of players. That kind of playerbase, which I believe takes up over 60% or something insane, is not going to vanish for an ES game as ES isn't THAT big over there. However, TESO could surely make a dent on the other 2-3 million subs from everywhere else that WoW has right now.

Irregardless, the make or break of an MMORPG is usually in one key feature. It's a very picky market even though it doesn't seem like it. If there is one thing majorly wrong with the game, it will be picked upon and a large reason why people leave. What I fear for TESO is that that one thing will be its lack of a real Auction House that people are used to. . we'll have to see about that one though.

(January 13th 2014 05:40 PM)Yax Te Saxhleel Wrote:  Having played many of the precursor games to fantasy roll playing online I have to agree with all the points made in the article on the origins and history of mmorpg. Although I feel WoW is the equivilent of Macdonalds, and there for not really fit for human consumption, Blizzard has taken the gaming genre main-stream to the point where budgets are comparable in scale to block buster movies.
What I note is that TESO has taken many of the best features from all the fantasy mmorpgs of the last ten years and brought them to the Morrowind world.
There are aspects of D&DO, Guildwars, LOTRO, DAoC, (and many other titles, not so well recognised for what they have introduced to the genre because of WoW's domination of that market) easily recognisable in TESO. Also the influence of console gaming should not be underestimated.
Of course there are aspects of WoW in TESO too but no game is perfect }:)_

N.B. Great Article!

"There are aspects of D&DO, Guildwars, LOTRO, DAoC, (and many other titles, not so well recognised for what they have introduced to the genre because of WoW's domination of that market) easily recognisable in TESO. Also the influence of console gaming should not be underestimated." You just about nailed my conclusion right here. WoW rode off the backs of many great MMORPGs, and it rode off the back of the Warcraft series. While TESO is in a completely different timeline (which honestly disappoints me), it can still ride off the backs of the ES community & the MMORPG community that will flock to any good MMORPG they can find. Trust me, we are desperate to find a good MMORPG after WoW. . . I like to think of WoW more like drugs. The first time you play it is amazing and every time there's an MMORPG after that you're trying to re-achieve that amazing first week or month in WoW.

As far as there being WoW aspect in TESO, I wouldn't consider that a bad thing. While many MMORPGs suffer from "WoW Clones" where people are trying to mimic WoW entirely, there are big aspects to WoW that should be used in any MMORPG if you ask me. Of all the fond memories I had of WoW, I would have to say what made said memories so memorable is that it was all seamless to go from place to place. Leaving the starting place for the dwarves/gnomes in Dun Morogh to meet a vast open landscape of mountains & snow. At level 10, running from Dun Morogh to Loch Modan, not even aware of what was on the other side of that tunnel. Suddenly, lush green meadows & hills with giant stone dwarven giants caught my eyes. To me, WoW captured players by offering variety in the landscape and having not even a drop of framerate in going into new areas. The concept of a seamless world, while it doesn't seem like much to players, is one that is needed greater by having a beautiful world. Obviously, TESO will have this beautiful world, but will it be seamless is the question? Smiling
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