Massively multiplayer online role-playing game

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Daimonin (Beta 3), 2004
Stendhal (0.65.5, 2007), an open source MMORPG
Screenshot of an event of the open-source MMORPG Ryzom (2014)

A massively multiplayer online role-playing game (also called "Massive" instead of massively abbreviated MMORPG translated massively multiplayer online role-playing game ) is a special form of a massively multiplayer online game , while an exclusively over the Internet playable computer role-playing game , in which several thousand players can populate a persistent virtual world at the same time . The actual game world and the avatar characters of the players mentioned are on servers managed. The player typically connects to the server via a client program . The client usually only contains the data for displaying the game world (graphics, objects, music, ...), while the game mechanics are managed and processed on the server.

Content and technology

In terms of content, an MMORPG is comparable to other computer role-playing games, but the focus is more on the interaction between players and groups of players ( guilds ). Alone or in groups, the players fight either against opponents who are controlled by the game Player versus Environment (PvE) or against other players Player versus Player (PvP). A variant of PvP is the realm versus realm (RvR), in which entire factions fight against each other. Finally, players can also fight opponents and solve tasks in instances , i.e. closed dungeons (caves) or areas. As is usual in role-playing games, by solving tasks or missions ( quests ) or killing mobs (mostly monsters and other creatures) points are collected, which can be used to unlock new avatar skills or improve existing ones.

Financing and costs

Usually, MMORPGs are constantly being developed by the operating companies and can change slightly, but also very strongly, in the game design over time. New content (e.g. new continents in the virtual world) is usually added via paid extensions that only buyers of the extension can access. The costs for maintenance and operation of the servers as well as for new developments are usually passed on to the customers in the form of monthly fees. These usually vary according to the duration of the subscription and the game title between 10 and 15 euros per month. There are also other business models in which z. B. rare weapons or armor are chargeable.

In contrast to computer games for single users ("single user games"), with most MMORPGs, in addition to the simple purchase price, additional monthly fees are due. The large commercial providers charge between € 10 and € 22 per month. In addition to these basic fees, additional monthly fees are charged for playing multiple characters (as in Final Fantasy XI ) or for the use of additional functions such as extended character sheets (as in Everquest II ) for individual titles . While payment usually works with a credit card or direct debit, there are more and more games that sell game cards - a type of prepaid card for MMORPGs - or offer other unconventional payment methods.

With this money, the providers operate and maintain the server farms with which the players connect, expand the game content in the form of new items, characters, quests and maintain existing content with regular software corrections . Other cost factors for the provider are the heavy data traffic between the servers and the thousands of players as well as the provision of professional service personnel in every virtual world.

The expansions, which mostly appear annually, are a safe source of money for the game manufacturers and distributors, as they usually offer improved graphics, new game elements, an expansion of the upper level limit of the game characters and more powerful items to improve the properties. which the established players do not want to do without ( level (game section) ).

Conditionally free games

There are also MMORPGs that do not charge regular fees, such as B. Guild Wars . Guild Wars has different types of expansions: free program updates, chargeable new chapters (autonomously playable) such as Factions and Nightfall or chargeable additional modules (not autonomously playable) such as Eye of the North .

Other games allow players to upgrade their characters against payment, for example with equipment that is actually paid for ( micro transactions ). The first usable games included Gunbound (2D), KAL-Online , Knight Online , MapleStory (2D), Fly for Fun and Project Entropia (MMORPG / MMOFPS ).


The beginnings

MMORPGs emerged from the Multi User Dungeons (MUDs) in the early 1990s . One of the first graphic MMORPGs can be called Neverwinter Nights , which appeared in 1991. It offered the player the advantages of a single player title (acceptable graphics, simple and intuitive operation) together with the interaction with other players that was previously only known from MUDs. The limits for players who were simultaneously present in a game world were much narrower than today. So you started with about 50 players at the same time, which increased in the course of time to the later usual 300 players and on individual servers up to 500 players at the same time. However, attempting to continue using old games as the basis for playing with other players over the internet suffered a setback when the long-awaited Dark Sun Online: Crimson Sands came out in 1996 and was very poorly received by gamers. Here it became very clear that the code from games cannot easily be used by individuals for games that several hundred people want to play at the same time. In the same year Meridian 59 appeared , which was the first multi-user game to use a 3D graphics client to display the game world. The number of players per server was still relatively small at 250, but Meridian was advertised to the public as the first massively multiplayer game. Also The Realm Online was released in 1996 - on 31 December.

In South Korea , Kingdom of the Winds appeared in the same year as the first multi-user game that can be played over the Internet, with a relatively simple view in which the playing field is always viewed from above. Since the import of game consoles was banned in South Korea , but the country was already supplied with Internet connections across the board, the new game reached a large number of new players. Over the next four years, over a million Koreans played the Kingdom of the Winds . The game was invented by Jake Song .

On September 26, 1997, Origin Systems published Ultima Online . It was a successful combination of the successful Ultima RPG series with the elements of the MUD. The popularity of the Ultima brand made the game so successful that it led to enormous technical problems in the early days. However, this was not an isolated incident. Even today, an MMORPG can rarely be played without problems in the first few days after publication.

Ultima Online has become a prototype of the genre, the concepts of which are still valid today and are copied , thanks to its well thought-out game concepts, which are largely based on the work of Richard Garriott .

In 1998, Lineage appeared in South Korea , as developed by Jake Song for Kingdom of the Wind . In Lineage, unlike in Western MMORPGs, the focus is not on the character's own development, but on the collective conquest and management of areas. Lineage reached around 3.5 million players, 2.5 million of them in South Korea, the rest for the most part in Taiwan and other Asian countries. In November 2004, Lineage II, the successor to Lineage , was published, which also received a lot of attention in German-speaking countries. At the beginning of 2005, both titles reached a number of two million players.

In 2001, gamigo AG launched the first fully German-language MMORPG with the name The 4th Revelation , which is how the genre was also introduced in Germany. At the same time, the longest persistent MMORP Jumpgate was released in English and German.

The Everquest Age

In 1999 Sony Online Entertainment ushered in the age of modern MMORPGs with EverQuest . It consistently continued the ideas of Meridian 59 and used the three pillars of an MMORPG - appealing 3D graphics, persistent world , social player interaction - according to the state of the art at the time. So far (as of June 2018) 24 extensions have been released that introduced new game elements and further improved the client. The basic concept of EverQuest can be found in most of the MMORPGs available today. EverQuest reached around 500,000 players worldwide in 2004.

EverQuest led to online games gaining wider attention in the US and Europe. The press reported on the new addiction and that on eBay virtual items and credits , i.e. play money, were being sold at face value.

The successor EverQuest II has been on the market since November 2004, and is characterized by simpler operation than its predecessor and contemporary graphics.

Final Fantasy XI

With Final Fantasy XI , the first cross-platform MMORPG was published in Japan in 2002 . Final Fantasy has been released for the PlayStation 2 , Microsoft Windows and the Xbox .

A special feature is that there are no regional servers, but all players, regardless of where they are playing and what language they speak, playing on the same servers regardless of platform, and Final Fantasy XI more than any other MMORPG promotes cooperation and communication between the players, Which is expressed, among other things, in the regular events, which are based on Western and Japanese holidays, with team tasks. In contrast to other MMORPGs, there are only two strictly regulated PvP variants designed as team sports . Another special feature of Final Fantasy XI are the stories that tell the past and present of the game world Vana'diel in several cutscenes in missions and quests . For the final video sequence of the main story of the expansion Chains of Promathia , for example, the song Distant Worlds was specially composed by Nobuo Uematsu and sung by Izumi Masuda .

With the XBox 360 version in April 2006, the third expansion Treasures of Aht Urhgan appeared alongside Rise of Zilart and Chains of Promathia with new areas, professions (classes), as well as new additional game principles, tasks and missions. Regardless of this, the game world is updated at regular intervals and expanded with new tasks and game principles. At the last count in May 2006, there were more than 500,000 active players worldwide.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft (WoW) is the most successful MMORPG and was published in early 2005 (in the USA in late 2004) by Blizzard Entertainment . Within five weeks it was sold 200,000 times in Germany alone. In July 2005, it recorded its 3,500,000 worldwide. Player and was named the most successful MMORPG of all time. In December 2005 this game passed the five million mark, and by the end of 2006 there were already over seven million players registered. At the beginning of 2007, when the expansion The Burning Crusade was released, it was also possible to announce that the 8,000,000 player mark had been cracked. Furthermore, the latter sold 2,400,000 times in the first week. In July 2007 WoW had nine million players, at the end of 2008 over eleven million and in October 2010 the 12 million player mark was cracked, which was mainly due to the release of Wrath of the Lich King in China. In the following months there was a significant decrease in membership. According to the quarterly report, they amounted to 9.1 million users in June 2012.

The success of World of Warcraft highlighted the commercial potential of MMORPGs. As a result, many more games of this type appeared - both on the basis of a subscription payment system and as free (" free-to-play ") games. In early May 2013, Blizzard Entertainment announced a membership of 8.3 million players. The subscriber numbers were after a short increase for the release of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria again sharply declined (as of May 24, 2013). In late January 2014, Blizzard Entertainment published the first official World of Warcraft statistics .


According to a study by the outpatient clinic for computer game and internet addiction at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz , 6 to 9 percent of the adolescents and young adults examined who consume computer games were considered addicts. Neuroscientific evidence suggests that it could actually be an addiction disorder. For more details on this issue, see Computer Game Addiction .

Another problem in MMORPGs is inflation , known as mudflation , in the gaming world.


A basic function of every MMORPG is a built-in chat function for communication with fellow players. Similar to the IRC networks , a separate jargon has developed from abbreviations and technical terms. The most important of these terms are explained in the MMORPG jargon article .

In MMORPGs, the player usually has the option of communicating on several channels at the same time in one window. For example, in most games there are multiple channels for each region or district. Each of these channels is then intended for a specific type of news (group search, trade offers, etc.). Opening your own channels is also possible depending on the game or a channel is automatically opened only for group members.

In addition, chatting via headset is becoming more and more established . For this, the players have to set up a chat server independently of the actual game and provide the required software, such as TeamSpeak or Ventrilo , themselves. In some cases, the appropriate software is included in the game, so players only need a headset.

In most MMOGs , this form of communication is very important, as the participants in the advanced game, be it fighting computer-controlled opponents ( NPCs ) in player versus environment mode (PvE), the fight of two players or several against each other in PvP temporarily have to strategically realign within seconds. Players who rely on the use of a keyboard to chat are usually at a disadvantage.

Content created by players

User generated content can be another aspect of MMORPGs. In the beginning there was the Ultima Online World, which provided blank, 30-page books in which players could write themselves. These could be collected in personal libraries and exchanged with other players. In the years that followed, players could design and build houses. Some non-combat-based massively multiplayer online role-playing games rely heavily on player-generated game content, starting with simple animations up to complete buildings including textures like in A Tale in the Desert . These games are very different from the more popular "standard" MMORPGs, which are all about combat and trade. Player-designed content in these games would mean new explorable regions, new monsters, new quests, and new special items. "The Saga of Ryzom " was the first of these "standard" MMORPGs, which allowed players to bring their own expansions into the game.

City of Heroes and Villains City of Heroes released an expansion on April 8, 2009 that included a "Mission Architect" and enabled players to add new "quests" to the game. One problem with player-generated content was immediately apparent: some players were trying to take advantage of themselves by creating very easy missions that offered an unfair risk-to-reward factor. Solving such problems is an ongoing issue in these MMORPGs.

User communities

In the course of time, an active community has been formed around the various MMORPGs. In the beginning there were clans , today there are forums with the main topic "MMORPG". The community has done a lot to transform the games. On the mostly independent forums, extremely harsh criticism of certain games and their operators can be expressed without having to reckon with a ban or deletion. The communities also developed a number of modifications that make the game easier and do not violate the rules of use, but also numerous hacks and the exploitation of program errors ( bug using ).

Division into theme park and sandbox MMORPGs

The genre of MMORPGs has changed a lot over the years. While at the beginning players were basically only given virtual worlds in which they could do what they wanted, the trend with the advent of the MMORPG Everquest moved more towards a system in which the players were based on missions and stories were guided through the game world. MMORPG fans differentiate between sandbox and theme park MMORPGs.

In a sandbox MMO , playful freedom is paramount. In a character of your own, which you develop further in the course of the game, players can often work together with others or form groups. Players don't want to be pushed in one direction by missions or storylines. They also don't want to be assigned to a faction in the game world. They want to live in this world, play their own adventures and enjoy every freedom to belong to good or bad.

A theme park MMORPG, on the other hand, is driven by quests. There are parties that the players must irrevocably join. In principle, the players of a Themepark MMO are guided through the game "by hand" and experience exciting adventures, but they have to give up playful freedom.

Mixtures can often be found that sometimes emphasize one, sometimes the other.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. On "Pay To Play" Or, MMORPG Business Models 101 : Execution about the costs of an MMOG on the homepage of Raph Koster (English, accessed on February 3, 2008)
  2. Square Enix: Vana'diel 2006 census . (accessed on February 6, 2008)
  3. Blizzard Entertainment : Nine Million Player Press Release, July 24, 2007 (accessed February 21, 2014)
  4. Blizzard Entertainment : Press release on eleven million players dated December 23, 2008 (accessed February 21, 2014)
  5. Blizzard Entertainment : Twelve Million Player Press Release, October 7, 2010 (accessed February 21, 2014)
  6. World of Warcraft: Falling Membership Entry on
  7. World of Warcraft - First official infographic. Blizzard Entertainment , January 28, 2014, accessed March 1, 2014 .
  8. ^ Outpatient clinic for computer game and internet addiction at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz
  9. Jon Radoff (March 20, 2007), Gamasutra, Five Prescriptions for Viral Games,


  • RV Kelly 2: Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games: The People, the Addiction and the Playing Experience . McFarland, 2004, ISBN 978-0-7864-1915-9 .
  • Sebastian Ackermann, Nancy V. Wünderlich, Florian von Wangenheim: Business models in virtual game worlds: A brochure from the research project Second Business . Books on Demand , Norderstedt 2010, ISBN 978-3-8370-8166-4 .

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