MMOs, or massively multiplayer online games, are hardly new in the world of digital entertainment. The earliest of these existed decades ago in the form of text-based Multiplayer User Dungeons (MUDs). A classic example of these, Colossal Cave Adventure, was officially released all the way back in 1975. This idea proved popular that it began an entire cultural gaming shift, creating a legacy so strong that ports of this original game exist even today. Despite such early beginnings, it was decades before technology reached a point where MMO games became feasible on a mass scale. This primary development on this front was that of the internet and its shift from niche to necessity.
The Big Names
Most famous among early MMO pop-culture was the goliath of Everquest. Released in March of 1999, Everquest was a revelation in large-scale 3D gaming. With server numbers peaking above 3,000 simultaneous players, Everquest brought together people from all over the world. Having recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, Everquest is still going strong.
Taking a cue from this came a game which made Everquest’s at that time record-setting popularity seem quaint in comparison. Based off of the existing real-time strategy games, World of Warcraft quickly became an international phenomenon by incorporating these elements into an RPG format, drawing attention to MMO possibilities like nothing before. Since the release of WoW in November of 2004, it has remained the most popular MMO available. Games such as Final Fantasy 14 have come close, but none have yet usurped the king.
A Shift in the Traditional
As online became an increasingly important part of gaming, there have been considerable efforts from a range of non-traditionally MMO related genres to win a piece of the MMO popularity pie. From MMORPGs (role-playing games) came attempts at MMOFPS (first-person shooters), MMORTS (real-time strategy), and even MMO racing games. These were based on the idea that the community aspect of MMO’s has been what has allowed them to become such a dominant force in initial success and in maintaining player numbers. Some, like the MMOFPS Destiny, have adopted this inspiration to great success, themselves raising the bar of what is possible.
Others, like MMO racing games, have had a harder time integrating their gaming modes into always-online systems. Former efforts like Need for Speed World attempted and failed a more traditional MMO approach to racing worlds. Current online racing games, like Trackmania Forever, have seen greater success through a more traditional online infrastructure.
For Better or Worse
It’s almost indisputable that some games, like RPGs and RTS games, are well suited to an MMO environment if properly designed. There are cases, however, where MMO-type integration within traditional series has been an area of contention. Modern gaming has seen many issues of developers and publishers following fads, pushing for popularity despite how ill-suited some games might be for MMO elements. Lobby systems, like those in Call of Duty: WWII, have drawn criticism for poor integration, which seems to go against the traditional simplicity on which some games have previously been built.
As this is a trend which doesn’t seem to be going away, gaming enthusiasts are hoping that developers and publishers will only learn from the mistakes of the past. The future is increasingly multiplayer, whatever form that might take.