Video games 101: what is the history of mmo's?

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Massively Multi-player Online Games (MMOG's or MMO's) are becoming the most popular and successful games on the market today. Companionship is the main source of this huge boom. Camaraderie has always been a powerful emotion in the minds of people. To be able to talk and share experiences with another is one of the greatest joys in life. Even the earliest forms of games are more entertaining when you can test your skill against another. With all that goes on in the world today, it is often hard to gather even just one friend to come and enjoy a quick game, thus the time of the Internet game has come.

The first semblance of an MMO appeared in 1987 from a company called Kesmai. Their creation, "Air Warrior", sported wire frame graphics and involved online dogfights. This game also introduced a Pay-to-Play requirement, weighing in at a whopping $10 an hour! Compared with the now standard $13 per month most MMO's charge, it seems like an extremely expensive and unworthy way to spend your time. The heaping price did nothing to dissuade the players, as they felt they were truly on the cutting edge of gaming technology, and in truth they were.

Leaps and bounds were then taken when Wizards of the Coast and AOL introduced Neverwinter Nights. Neverwinter Nights was the first MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). Based heavily on Dungeons and Dragons, Neverwinter Nights implemented a turn-based system that allowed a high amount of strategy to enter into the game play. This game also supported large PVP (Player Versus Player) tournaments. The price started at $6 per hour, but as more people subscribed, the price eventually dwindled and became free. The "Stone Age" of MMORPG's was ended in 1997 when Neverwinter Nights was cancelled, but from the ashes of that revolutionary game came the phoenix that are the MMORPG's of today.

In 1999, the MMOG market skyrocketed when Verant Interactive released its crown achievement, Everquest. While Everquest wasn't the first 3D MMOG, it was the first one to experience success. Everquest continually broke subscription records, from its conception through the first five years
of its life. During this time period, the developers worked almost non-stop, constantly releasing patches and expansion packs to keep the players happy. Within two years of release, three full length expansions had been released with completely new continents and the ability to travel to and explore the depths of the moon, Luclin. Everquest also spawned the first third-party information sites that provided information in the form of a constantly updated, free strategy guide.

The next breakthrough in the MMO world came from Blizzard in 2004 with the launch of World of Warcraft
. Drawing on the huge fan bases of discontented Everquest players and the growing masses of Blizzard fanatics, World of Warcraft quickly took the throne that previously belonged to Everquest.

World of Warcraft featured a more simplistic approach to the MMORPG genre, in an attempt to draw a larger crowd. Complete with colorful cartoon-like graphics, World of Warcraft's hold on the young and old was complete. In the few short years after it was released, World of Warcraft soon surpassed all old records and exceeded 10 million subscribers world-wide.

Today, every company is looking to take a piece of the MMO pie, but few are successful in drawing the huge player base from the existing dynasties. As the years go by, more and more MMO's are being released, and inevitably, the quality of these games are decreasing. Developers seeking the quick buck are taking the easy way to draw away the crowds with different themes and worlds, without success. The only games that break the mold and take a firm grasp on the population already have many dedicated fans.

Many of the elements that made World of Warcraft and Everquest popular are overdone, leaving little hope for the future of MMO's. A lack of fresh ideas has been consistently flooding the market with under-par games. Sequels and expansions of established titles will likely become the future of the genre. Many players are reluctant to leave their work, but are still hungry for fresh gaming experiences. The future is never a sure thing, but what remains certain is the need for companionship that will likely drive MMO's to new and exciting heights.

By Author: Andrew Lattie



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