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I Intend to use this blog towards the primary ends of clearing up misconceptions. Diffusing Buzz Words. And, providing viable definition for otherwise watered down terminology. It is also opinion based. Though sometimes very assertive, take it as such.

Author: Helleri

The first MMORPG?

Posted by Helleri Monday November 19 2012 at 10:26PM
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Firstly, lets not start off by confusing our terminology.

  MMO is not a contraction of MMORPG. MMO stands for Massive/Massively, Multi/Multi-player, Online...It is a stem term that requires an affix in the form of a preffix or suffix in order to be anything more then a generalization and an umbrella term.  Though there are many sub genre we ar talking about the MMORPG in specific

  Where an MMORPG sets itself apart is in the acronym (Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game). In an MMORPG the player takes on a role that they play out (usually an anacronistic or high fantasy role that is played out through a storyline). This lends itself to the institutions of character customization and development, questing, item creation and a lot of other things that other games don't have to have to still be just MMO's.


  This also lends itself to taking the player for the sake of storyline into an alternate dimesion, time/place (High fantasy worlds loosely based on real world historical, present, and futuristic paralels). But, in any case it puts the player in a role, that they play through along side many other players, in a content rich and expansive world.

So, with this in mind...


What was the first MMORPG?

  Well By our modern definition the First MMORPG, the first game (or series of games rather) that had all the elements of what defines an MMORPG, lacking only the scale on which MMORPG's are done was the MUD, which stands for Multi-User Dungeon. These arrived on the scene in the mid 1970's to late 80's. They started as largely text based roleplaying over precursors to our modern internet. they varied in their level of graphical capabilities and displays, but on the whole were largely 2d and low bit/low colors (when they did occur as a graphical game. Some of the earliest graphical versions even used ascci as apposed to real images to create their visuals.

  Slowly, these began to evolve (as did the internet) and by the mid to late 90's there were several fully graphical MUD's. And given their expansion with size, content and player base they began to be called MORPG's.

Then came a point In the history that has been heavily debated upon....

  Even though Neverwinter Nights (lauhching in 1991) could possibly be considered the first true MMORPG. Ultima Online (Launching 1997) is largely pointed to as the first MMORPG. And this is likely because it's creator Richard Garriott coined  the phrase for the game. Since NeverWinter Nights no longer existed after July of 1997... And Ultima Online released in september of that year as a (arguably) more advanced game...


   The argument is that the term MMORPG and it's conditions can't be applied to a game that wasn't around when they were established, and especially for a game which may not have quite fit the definition. This is a fair argument as the phrase was coined to describe how Ultima Online was decidedly different to begin with.

It seems pretty easy to Say that Ultima Online was the First MMORPG at this point...At the very least it is not completely unfair to drop Never winter nights from contending. The problem is that a game called Tibia came out in January of 1997 (months before ultima). Tibia fit the definition of an MMORPG from launch. 


And like Ultima Online continues to run relatively unchaged to this day (though both have advanced their content and graphical quality...even if only slightly). And, one could argue that since Ultima online was an adaption of earlier offline games and emerged as an MMORPG, where-as tibia was encarnated from the start as one (albiet before the phrase was coined) that Tibia may infact be the first true MMORPG.


In conclusion:

If we can agree that Never Winter Nights can be fairly dropped from the race we'releft with two contenders...


which came out first and fits the bill.


Ultima Online


which coined the phrase to define itself and of course having set the definition for itself, fits it.


But which deserves the title of first?

Well, let me ask you something else...why do you think I ended the title of this blog post with question mark :P




I didn't mention a lot of noteable games, events and people in this blog post. I put in what I felt was most relevant and to the point as I am not attempting to do something as grand as writing a novel. I left out a lot of what some articles had to say on the basis of them being incorrect according to their own sourcing and citations...I did do plenty of research, cross referencing, and drafts of this article with complete re-writes and feel what I have said to be crediable. However, if any would like to check my sources I am providing them here:

Basic historical overview of MMORPG's And related MUD's -

(from this article I read articles on alll relevent links to the point of my blog post) (and related subsequent videos by the same channle)

Tibian History: (you goto really dig to find the relevent points here).

Ultima Online History: (again you really ened to dig to find information here)



nirvanet writes:

As what I tested Ultima was the first to offer graphic mmo experience (immersiv world killed your nights)

Tibia existed first but in my region no one heard about it O.o!

Dunno for most of you all but it's hard to me to say MUD are mmo.

You'll say "OMFG WTF you crazy !" maybe but...

How can I call a world an "Immersiv World" with text only ? Ok we know all books are a jewel for imagination but I will not call it mmo (interaction with people isn't the unique parameter).

Opinion is an opinion :P

Wed Nov 21 2012 10:44AM Report
Helleri writes:

Not to be mean but could you restate yourself a bit more clearly? I really am not seing the point your trying to make.

- Tibia was made first and there were plenty of people who had not heard about it...true.

- No one is saying MUD's are MMO's.

- No one is denying that being Graphical is a qualifying factor (if only by proxy to achieve being both Massive in world size and player base).

- Yes opinions are opinions. And facts are facts. And dogs are dogs. And cats are cats....

Please be clear from the start that you don't intend to actually make a point if you are not going to. Not trying to be outright mean (ok maybe a little) but I feel an obligation to respond to posts on my blog as part of staying current with it. And, talking with out saying anything makes it a lot harder on me to do that.

Wed Nov 21 2012 8:04PM Report
Mavolence writes: wow, this is a huge necro but what about Meridian 59, Realm, Nexus? Thu Mar 27 2014 2:56AM Report
Helleri writes:

Well lets talk about those....

It's a difficult thing. Deciding where to draw the line. And, then to say "This is the point where we begin to see coalescence."

One of the lines I have drawn (and sort of used NWN as an example as to why), is the point of longevity. Games like meridian 59 have a bad history of closing and then opening again. Struggling to convince people that are what they are trying to be. And, a lot of this is because they were to heavily based on the work of predecessors.

Meridian 59 for instance was built on the DOOM engine. Along with this came things like the inability to jump and a first person perspective (in the majority of what we commonly accept as MMORPG the standard is 3rd person). Was it an MMO? Yes, assuredly so. Was it the first MMORPG? I really don't think so.

And, something like The Realm Online had turn based combat (another thing we don't commonly associate with the concept of an MMORPG given the necessity for real time interactions on all levels).

But, when we get to games like UO and Tibia. We do see a coalescence of most of the features we now associate with this specific genre. They were (and still are) primitive. But, it was there; That being, the right formula.

It is also of no small importance that the term MMORPG was coined to describe how UO was different (namely...different from it's 1-2 year predators). And, it was really only wrong about that in the Instance of Tibia. It had established that point well enough that every MMORPG that has followed has chased that original glory.

The question of what was the first MMORPG comes down not to a point of 'when did we lay hands on the rock that sits on the very top of the mountain' but rather 'when did we surmount that stone and take our first step down the other side of the mountain'.

We are talking about really narrow margins here. So, it's understandable that any judgment made won't stand completely unchallenged. Because, after we lay down very strict perimeters and make a decision about it. We will invariably ask our selves if we picked the right cut off points to begin with.

It's the same reason why Pluto may have been a planet. then a planet for sure. then only just maybe? then totally not a planet. But, even this far removed. I think I gave this subject a pretty fair treatment. Of course you may disagree. You may even come up with some great points that force me to reconsider. But, that is why this is a for 'for your consideration venue.'

Sat Mar 29 2014 9:50AM Report
Evardune writes: The first MMORPG was NOT ultima online. If you leave Neverwinter Nights out, then i say that Meridian59 was the first. Tue Dec 15 2015 10:20AM Report writes:
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