Ok, I guess it’s time to pull out this old chestnut again. Have you ever noticed that every single time a new game launches on this site, one of our staff members has to come out and write some kind of post or article defending the way that we categorize MMOs, or how to determine if something is indeed an MMORPG?
Well, it’s that time of year again and I suppose this time around the duty falls to me, so I’m going to get into it… Yet again.
First of all, no, we will not be de-listing Star Trek Online because a group of readers feel that it isn’t an MMORPG, and so shouldn’t be listed here on the site. We heard this same argument about Age of Conan when it launched due to its extreme use of instancing. We didn’t de-list Conan, and we’re not de-listing Star Trek.
Yes, I am aware that in his recent column, our own Scott Jennings said the following: “Guild Wars doesn’t call itself an MMO. It may be that Star Trek Online shouldn’t, either.” And I think that he has a point. Star Trek Online (and Age of Conan for that matter) does indeed have far more in common with Guild Wars than, say, EVE Online.
So, why do we list it here at MMORPG.com? Why do we list a number of games that maybe don’t quite fit the exact and rigid definition brought on by what the acronym stands for: Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game?
We don’t do that because it isn’t a hard and fast, rigid definition that we’re looking for. The games that we cover are constantly evolving and developers are always trying new approaches and new ways of doing things. We don’t want this site to impose restrictions and instead shoot for rules that embrace the spirit of what an MMORPG is rather than trying to directly define it.
Still, I know some of you would like a better explanation than that, so here goes:
Generally speaking, there are two stumbling points that we come across in the name of our genre, and our site. The first, is Massively and the second is Role Playing. We’re going to discuss the massive part of things today and if people want to hear my rant on the role playing aspect, that can be a topic for next week.
The word Massively or Massive would seem to mean different things to different people. To some, it means nothing less than a world where every single player can interact with every single other player any time and any place. To others, it means a large shared space world that houses thousands upon thousands of players, even if they can’t always interact with one another.
So how do we, at MMORPG.com, actually make our decision? We’ve placed the requirement on “500 congruent users on a single server.” We left it there and didn’t include a requirement about the number of players who might happen to accidentally run into each other all in the same place at the same time because that is a stylistic choice left up to the developers. We just want to know if that massive number of players can play together on the same server or not. This discounts games like, for example, Battlefield 2142 because even though the game supports large scale battles, it does so on different individual servers (that’s to say nothing of the fact that we discount non-graphical lobbies, the lack of any over-arcing story tying to all together, etc. etc. etc.).
Star Trek Online and Age of Conan both offer servers that carry more than 500 congruent users and even though the games compartmentalize their players into smaller instances that allow more players to be in a single area at a time without causing the unnecessary headaches associated with too many characters being on the same screen in an MMO. Players can still communicate with others outside of their instance and can move between instances freely.
So, are they Massive on the scale that some people would like? No, they’re not. They don’t pretend to be, but neither are they the same as a multiple small server game like Battlefield. They are still in tune with what, at heart, makes an MMO an MMO by today’s standards and so will stay.
Will that explanation make people happy? No, probably not, but in the end we want to be a site that grows and evolves along with the genre that it represents and that includes being open to new ideas.
With all of that said, I fully respect and endorse each and every player’s right to not like these games, or any of the games on our list. Contrary to the beliefs of some, a listing on MMORPG.com isn’t an endorsement of the product, merely a recognition that the title fits within an intentionally broad definition laid out for listing. So, hate Star Trek Online if you want, but telling us to remove it from the site just isn’t going to happen.