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MMORPG.com Staff Blog

The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Definition Insanity: What is an MMO?

Posted by Dana Wednesday October 14 2009 at 4:32PM
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Every time we post about Global Agenda, Guild Wars or CitiesXL, I can write the first, second and third forum response myself.

“This isn’t an MMO!”

“Yes it is, read the FAQ!”

“I disagree with what you said.”

We get it. They’re not exactly Ultima Online. Yes, Global Agenda has a lot of instancing, and yes CitiesXL is a city-building game.

The question our community asks is why we list and cover them, and there is a simple answer: We take a feed them to the sharks mentality.

So long as it’s within the realm of common sense, we let the game companies decide what to call their games. Now, of course we are not going to go list Monopoly here, but when a game provides shared common areas or a highly online, cooperative experience, and wants to call themselves an MMO… who are we to say no?

So why is this feeding them to the sharks? Well, the truth is, you guys are the best judges. When a game really shouldn’t be on the list, you hound them mercilessly until they go away. You vote with your clicks, or lack thereof, and sometimes listing a game here (and I tell companies this) can do more harm than good if they’re not really what they claim to be.

This is a double edged sword, though. With almost 400 games on our list, sometimes games sneak through that really shouldn’t be there. It happens, we admit it, and we try to remove them as we find them. Let’s be honest here: We cannot possibly properly play every game on the list, so when someone from Company X we’ve never heard of says they have an MMO, write MMO all over their website and provide us a fact sheet tailored to our basic FAQ requirements… we basically take them at their word.

Yet, while you weed out the pretenders, there also seems to be a certain MMO snobbery that has developed in this community and that worries me. I’ve begun to wonder if people are not so caught up in what an MMO is – or should be – that they sometimes forget that a fun video game is a fun video game.

I’m not advocating PacMan for the list here, but if a game calls itself an MMO and has core MMO elements (progression, persistence, and online common areas) why can’t people look at it for what it is, instead of what it isn’t?

Take Global Agenda. The core of that game is instanced FPS style PvP. Yes, that caps out at no larger than 24 in a single instance (12 vs. 12) right now. Does that matter? You could argue we could toss Battlefield in, sure, but that’s a non-starter for a few reasons: Battlefield may have some progression (weapon unlocks), but not the extent of character progression in GA; BF has absolutely no persistence to the encounters and what they mean for the larger world; and BF has no common areas for people to explore.

Hi-Rez, for good or bad, has chosen an MMO community as its target and feels their game fits that group. I’m not here to tell you its good or bad, but I don’t think the debate should be about the game’s category, but rather its quality. If in the end, the persistent elements they’re selling are not enough to justify the monthly fees. Then they made a mistake, but outright dismissing it based on an arbitrary set of rules is a bit extreme. Too often, we get lost in the details and forget to just ask the only question that matters: will I enjoy this game?

An even more extreme example this week came when one poster got riled up that we had Dragon Age advertisements on the page. Generally, we try to keep our ads limited to MMOs and MMO related things, so yes, a single-player RPG that no one argues is even close to an MMO is not the norm, but really? It’s an RPG, it’s made by people making an MMO, and it’s even in a fantasy setting many of our readers love. It’s not a stretch to think that a few MMOers might go buy the game, so what exactly is the harm of letting them advertise? It didn’t blink, it didn’t flash and it didn’t take over your computer. It just sits in the background for people to click or not as they choose.

The industry in changing. Each generation, the definition of what is an is not an MMO gets blurrier and blurrier. So, moving forward, what would you rather see? Would you rather us be more inclusive and – within reason – include games that make sense or would you rather us tighten up and only include games that can be called MMOs in the classical sense?

neonwire writes:

Bravo! Very well said. The brainless unthinking response to Global Agenda purely due to its instanced gameplay has been rather mind boggling to say the least. The people who say incredibly stupid things like "Its just like Counterstrike" have not even read about the game at all and all the great features it is offering. They arent even aware that the game has a complete world that the players can have an impact on......something which none of the standard mmos have ever been able to offer with their static story driven copouts.

These narrow minded people have become obessed with the category of a game and ANYTHING which deviates from what we have been seeing in mmos over the years gets looked upon with contempt.......and yet at the same time those same people constantly complain that there isnt enough inovation in the mmo genre and that it is growing stagnant. WTF?!

You are totally correct to refer to mmo fans as sharks, although I personally have more respect for sharks. I think of them more as a ravenous horde of screeching snotlings. That game is a WoW clone! Waaagghh!! That game isnt like WoW! Waaaaghh!

Wed Oct 14 2009 5:18PM Report
Ruyn writes:

I think the fierce debate of MMO's stems from the first "M."  Massive.

Massive to me implies how many players I will be playing with at the same time.  Not in different servers, instances or zones.

There are a lot of lazy developers making overly instanced, poor excuse of mmo's and trying to pass them off as MASSIVE.  This is wrong and the community is right to reject it.

CCP to me seems to be the only company out there applying the proper respect to the term, MMO.

Wed Oct 14 2009 5:46PM Report
darealkillax writes:

I dont see how there is any grey area when deciding a game to be an MMORPG or a non-MMORPG. It seems pretty black and white. If you start putting a standard on how good the MMORPG has to be until it can be called one you're changing it to a nickname and not a genre. It's comparable to when "hardcore" fans of a music genre (let's use rock as an example) denounce a band as not being rock because they don't think they're good enough. Let's open our minds.

Wed Oct 14 2009 6:12PM Report
Samhael writes:

 Good article/blogthing.  I happen to believe Global Agenda *is* a MMO (I got hands on at DragonCon) although it has many features that are primarily found in FPS-only games.  I'd like a breath of fresh air to be honest.  

However, the Dragon Age ads (no matter who they were made by) don't belong on the site. They just don't make sense. I had to explain to a couple of folks that it is single player and by no means a MMO.  However, if it pays yours bills, you guys get to make those calls. Everyone has their price.  (yes, I have mine too but it's very very high)  ;>

Wed Oct 14 2009 6:36PM Report
nate1980 writes:

Ruyn has a good point. MMORPG actually stands for something. The word massive, as he says, suggests that the game can be played with a massive amount of people simultaneously. Otherwise, you might as well call the genre MORPG. Then we have the RPG part, which suggests that you're playing a role in the game. Traditionally, this means you create a character, instead of logging into a premade character whose story is already written for him, such as God of War or Prince of Persia. You create the character, and you name him. You then develop his abilities the way you see fit, within the paremeters the game sets forth. So while I do think players in this genre are snobby and go overboard, let's not forget that the term MMORPG is actually an acronym for something. A company should label their game what it should be labeled, whether that's: MMORPG, MORPG, CORPG, MMOFPS, MMORTS, MOFPS, MORTS, COFPS, CORTS...you get the picture. We don't place God of War in the RPG genre, just because it has a story and because you unlock powers as you grow; we label it as an Adventure game, because the labels RPG and Adventure actually tell a person what they can expect out of a game. When you start blurring the lines between genres, you lose the reason to have genres in the first place. You might as well just label all games online as Online Games, and drop the whole MMORPG label all together.

Wed Oct 14 2009 6:54PM Report
nate1980 writes:

I also agree with the author of the article. I'm not going to turn a blind eye to a game, just because it doesn't fit a certain mold. If the game is fun or sounds fun, I'll play it, no matter if they placed the wrong genre label on it.

Wed Oct 14 2009 6:57PM Report
Harabeck writes:

Who cares about the ad? Why do the ads on the site have to be for MMO's? I go to other sites and see advertisements for things completely unrelated to the site's contents.

Wed Oct 14 2009 6:57PM Report
EricDanie writes:

Honestly, I could care less if its an ad about a high quality game, even if its not a MMO but made by a developer that makes MMOs.

I would be more worried with illegal stuff like scam-ads and third-party RMT-ads, which isn't the case for this website.

Wed Oct 14 2009 7:14PM Report
ronpack writes:

I'm on your side Dana. Don't worry about too much about the trolls. They will never be happy. It's one thing to voice your opinion but it's another thing to do it trying to cause misery on others. This may be a forum but it doesn't matter. Trolls will be in MMO's and in forums. Don't let it get to you and display any ad you want to. I certainly don't mind!

Wed Oct 14 2009 9:36PM Report
Yoottos'Horg writes:

I see both sides but I'm leaning more towards what nate1980 said. I'm not terribly bothered by everyone and their mother calling their game an MMORPG, really, I'm not. But I would much prefer they label as what it really is (i.e. MMOFPS-Planetside, MOFPS-Global Agenda, etc).

Thu Oct 15 2009 12:32AM Report
Dawnsinger writes:

...The Guild Wars developers stated themselves that it ISN'T an MMO, so surely that should be removed?

Thu Oct 15 2009 12:51AM Report
therez0 writes:

So, by Dawnsinger's logic, UO shouldn't be on the list either since Garriot didn't say it was an MMO when he developed it?

Just because the developer doesn't say the game is an MMO, doesn't mean its not one.  I'm sure there are number of games on the list have never even used 'MMO' in their data-spread or marketing, but are on the list because of community following and mechanics that are suitable to the genre.

Thu Oct 15 2009 4:39AM Report
Greyed writes:

Neonwire, I take offense to your characature of those who feel that these games are not MMO.  I have been vocal against GW, GA and a few other games listed as MMOs and none of it, none, have been "unthinking" nor "brainless".  This is something that I have thought of, and written about, for over a year.  See this post from 12/22/08: http://greydmiyu.wordpress.com/2008/12/22/massively-forgotten-features-the-massive/

As Ruyn pointed out the issue at hand is the first M in the genre's name.  MASSIVE.

12 x 12 doesn't come close to the 32 x 32 provided by  games which are excluded (rightly so) on other grounds.  It certainly doesn't come close to the 300x300x200 (I think) of Planetside or hundreds on hundreds that WWIIOL provides.  How then can you, or the staff here at Mmorpg.com, call that "massive" when it doesn't even compare to what FPSes were doing almost a decade ago nor what MMOFPSes have provided for that same near decade?

"Shared spaces" that "one can explore" is not enough.  Fury and GW are prime examples of this.  The "shared space" one could "explore" were the towns/hubs.  IE, the spaces that held the few NPCs those games needed and exploation amounted to running around for 2 minutes finding those NPCs and then spending the rest of the time trying to ignore the spam of the chat channel.  Again, that utterly fails massive on another front.

There is a litmus test these games should be upheld.  The most important of which isn't instances, isn't RPG, isn't "shared spaces".  It is simply this:

MASSIVELY

MULTIPLAYER

ONLINE

If it is online and multiplayer but not massive, it does not belong here, period.  The sharks have spoken.

Thu Oct 15 2009 7:29AM Report
hogscraper writes:

Our country is filled with sad angry people. That's the problem. 

Thu Oct 15 2009 8:10AM Report
Yamota writes:

This article highlights some interesting points but in the very name of the therm. MASSIVELY multiplayer online game you kinda get what it is.

And as someone above said if it is a multiplayer online game but not massively then it is not an MMO. Having 12v12 is hardly massively amount of people is it? And having a common chat zone really should not qualify it as such because alot of games have heavy restrictions on how many you can similtaneously play with but have a common chat zone. That does not qualify them to be an MMO.

There is a difference between a multiplayer online game and massively multiplayer online game, if this site does not make the distinction then it should remove the first M in MMORPG and the site should be called MORPG.

Thu Oct 15 2009 8:33AM Report
Dana writes:

Yamota: Most MMOs don't let you play with more than 12 people in most practical situations. Due to bugs, I can think of one major MMO launched recently that no one here would deny is an MMO that capped out at 24 in an instance.

Some games are bigger than others, but the average traditional MMO is usually played by 1 to 8 people together cooperatively. They meet in towns, go do content.

That same logic can be applied equally to Global Agenda as it can EverQuest II.

Thu Oct 15 2009 9:21AM Report
Delvie writes:

It all depends on what an MMORPG is to you.  For me if I can:

1.  Make a character and name it.

2.  Log in and play with others.

3.  Progress in some fashion.

4.  Have stuff - I actually argue that this is what MMO's of any flavor are all about - acquiring, manufacturing, sharing, and displaying our stuff.  I marvel at the amount of time I spend juggling my stuff.  Between inventory and bank and alts and guildies and selling/buying my stuff gets more attention than any other aspect of game play.

Those are my four criteria - notice that I did not say combat, crafting, instances, story, or the lack thereof.  I've found that I can have fun in any number of MMOs.

The only other item that I look for in an MMO is community.  I am very suspicious of any game that doesn't have official forums, even though forums can be poisonous.  If a game company isn't going to even attempt to have a conversation with its players then I expect that all other aspects of customer service will be lacking.  The lack of forums has never stopped me from trying a game, but it is almost always one of the factors of why I stop playing a game.

Thu Oct 15 2009 10:42AM Report
Yamota writes:

Dana: Just because an MMORPG doesnt allow you to simultanously interact with more than, say 12 people, that does not mean it is the game as a multiplayer game with only 12 people in the warzone and a public lobby.

The reasons is that, in an MMORPG, your characters coexist in the same world and can theoretically bump into others at any time. Where as in a multiplayer game only you and the eleven others exist in that a closed private area. No others can enter or exit and there is no world which is shared by a massive amount of people.

In Everquest II you can run around in the persistant world and bump into houndreds of people doing various tasks, killing mobs, finishing quests or whatever. Where as in Global Agenda a private instance is created when you want to actually play the game, and not just chat. That is a huge difference than being in a world where you can go to different parts of it and find virtually houndreds of different people.

There is a difference between playing in your private instance and soloing in a world where you can potentially meet a massive amount of people (altough not at the same time).

If your definition of MMORPG would be true then Diablo should then also be an MMORPG. It has persistant elements (your character), it has a public meeting area (the battle.net) and you can form teams in private instances to actually play the game.

So, according, to your very broad definition Diablo should be listed here as well.

Thu Oct 15 2009 11:11AM Report
jusagamfrek writes:

I agree with Dana, and I find it rather strange that a community so adept at murdering the language (myself included) would undertake such a vociferous semantic argument.

Using the term "mmorpg" is typically a starting point for the conversation.  Yes, it's true that it's a partial descriptive, but we all know games to be evolutionary by nature - they are going to change slightly.  (We want them to change!!)  If they didn't this community would not be so quick to label a game as a "WOW-clone".  Let's face it - if a game finally evolves to the point where it gives us everything we could ever want, do we really think it will fit into the "classic mmorpg" mold, or will it simply incorporate elements of the mmorpg genre along with countless others?  I use the term "mmorpg" as a frame of reference for the uninitiated or uninformed.
 

As for being more descriptive with our acronyms, this is a bit of a non sequitur.  Following the stated vernacular, if I called Gobal Agenda an IMOPWFPS, would you know what I was talking about?  More importantly, would my console-loving friend whom I'm trying to bring over to the dark-side understand?  Again, I use the term "mmorpg" as a frame of reference for the uninitiated or uninformed.
 

Everyone here likes mmorpg's - that's a given.  If a developer has a game that incorporates elements that may appeal to us as genre-fans, let them in the door, let them advertise, put them on the game list.  Yes, that includes Diablo, Dragon Age, Global Agenda, or any other game the owners of this site think we might like.  It's that simple.

P.S. Thanks for posting Global Agenda.  It might not have come up on my radar, but it's now in my short-list of games to watch.

Thu Oct 15 2009 2:03PM Report
biofellis writes:

You guys are right. Playing online backgammon, or spades should be called MMOs. I mean it's obvious that you have hundreds if not thousands of simultaneous players, and many of the rooms or suites or watever allow for 'interaction' between all potential players. Just because 'checkers' is 'instanced' to two players at a time doesn't remove the fact that it's a 'massive' game. Those people who think that the 'Massive' means 'big crusafes' and epic battles- maybe even huge cooperative ventures are just kidding themselves. If your vision of an MMO is rising over the crest of a hill because you saw the smoke, to be awd by the vision of an epic battle in progress with carnage everywhere, stop messing up the dream- 'Massive' is here.

Was my sarcasm thick enough?

And if you call me a 'troll' because I have a 'contrary' viewpoint to the OP, then say it loud, so you can be right. This is the internet. If you want nothing but 'me too's' then you don't get what discussion forums are about.

I am not the 'MMO police' I think words are useful for describing things, and many people forget that. MMO has become 'defacto' multiplayer online game- and that's too bad. Developers who should be trying to deliver a better experience are now delivering better experiences for your party. Maybe that's just the first step forward, and I'm allright with that- but don't forget what MMO actually means. All this instancing? Not massive. Not by a long shot. But it can be fun, so let's just be happy what we're getting, even if we should still call it like we see it.

Just my 2 cents.

Thu Oct 15 2009 2:04PM Report
tommh writes:

Any hard set of rules that are propsoed can lead to a counter example that makes them look either too inclusinve or too exclusive. While it's easy to come up with examples of a genre that are solidly in or out, theres always a are at the firnges where the lines are blurred.

All games have limits to how many players can be at one place at one time.  Even EVE which does everything it can to fight this law of physics has had to lock the door to Jita and is constantly plagued with issues revolving around large scale battles. Other MMOs don't even come close.

In fact you often find yourself trading one sort of massive for another. Champions is fully instanced with the current max in a zone is 240 (I believe). This is obviously less of a MMO then say WOW. But wait WOW servers are limited to a few thousand players for that specific economy and community, while all Champions players form one MASSIVE community. 

 

Is one better then the other or more MMO?  No, each approach has advantages and disadvantages. If you want tightly controlled action you have to limit the number of players involved in a combat, this isthe current physical reality and is not likely to significantly change. Starting with that as one of your goals, instances of one sort or another are simply inevitable.  But thats just one aspect of the game, the game as a whole needs to be judged to see if it is a MMORPG.

 

 

Thu Oct 15 2009 4:36PM Report
elderotter writes:

How about online Poker then? Just kidding.  I think that MMORPG should cover any game/ and ads for games they feel like.  IT IS THEIR SITE.  I bought Dragon Ages, but not because I saw it here.  Games like that get their own word out, and if this site wants to make some money for showing their ads, more power to them.  That goes for any SPRPG that they feel is worthy to be here.  I think this argument is really kind of futile given that so many people can not agree if solability should be part of a MMORPG, since we cannot even agree among ourselves the exact nature of the beast why judge Gaming Companies for not being able to figure it out either.

Thu Oct 15 2009 4:48PM Report
Dana writes:

Yamota: The difference between Diablo (and games like Battlefield) and say Global Agenda is that the common areas are graphical in one and not the other and the world you play in has more persistence in GA. The ability to capture territory, have guild driven wars, etc. That, combined with graphical common areas (IE: You could just "run into someone") is where we tend to draw the line.

Fri Oct 16 2009 9:21AM Report
biofellis writes:

If you saw an ad that said:

HUGE LAN PARTY- BIGGEST LAN PARTY EVER!

and bought a ticket, grabbed your computer and showerd up, then were showed to a small hotel room with 4 other peopl in it and a 4 port switch on the floor in the middle of the room, you might feel let down.

"Sir, every room in this hotel has up to 8 people in it, every room is networked to the entral hub, and the total turnout this year is 3000 people. This is a huge lan party." you'd be assured.

And he'd be right. And it'd be perfectly legal to advertise it that way. And you'd probably feel more than a little disappointed regardless.

So you talk to your 3 roomates and play a few games. I don't know what you dreamed might happen at the huge lan party you anticipated, but you'll learn.

"I don't know what art is, but I know what I like."

It's amazing how terms that everyone understands gets dilluted by manufacturers/corporations. Not even talking about 'hazy' definitions- like what 'Massive" means- How about 'Kilobyte"- the lowly 'k'? Manufacturers took it from 1024 to 1000- shave a few bytes between friends. And KB is KiloBYTE while Kb is KiloBIT- 8 times as small. Not always- but if they want it to be.

There is no truth in advertising. Just remember that.

Fri Oct 16 2009 2:44PM Report
Mequellios writes:

 The only game I've ever really disagreed with was one small "MMOFPS" to which I can't remember the name. It was only slightly persistent character-wise, but the rest was regular FPS. It used lobbies and only had a limited amount of maps and they were instanced every time.

While I do enjoy FPSs they are not MMOs. You have to draw the line somewhere and I will. My rules are basic and reasonable: Parts of the world need to be persistent, accessible to multiple players and the characters advance long-term.

I have nothing against instancing myself. I only believe in using it for some missions/dungeons, and performance boosting.

Sat Oct 17 2009 3:39PM Report
MadnessRealm writes:

I understand the whole "The first M in MMO stands for massively" and "Dragon Age doesn't belong to this site" and then it got myself thinking....

I've played several "true MMOs" and in way too many of those MMOs, I came to realise that it felt....empty. 4-5 people running around in every zones, no one talking to each others, most people are in one of the major town and that's about it. If that's what an MMO is, than I don't want an MMO.

Of course everyone has their own definition of MMOs but especially on this site can we see members bash other member's definition of an MMO because it doesn't fit hit definition. It's annoying.

Many hold grudges against companies for dick move they pulled (UO, SWG, etc) and even in 2009, you can still hear their cries as if they finally realised the world doesn't rotate around them and are now at a loss.

I picture many members on this site as the annoying rich woman in a classy restaurant that puts an hair in her soup and then call the waiter complaining about how dirty this restaurant is, that she want a refund and that she will never come back here! Oh and I forgot to say that she will tell all her friends how bad this restaurant is.

Odly enough, I'm pretty sure many of you will recognize this woman in many members here.

---

As for Dragon Age, I recall reading an article 1 or 2 months ago. The article mentionned that BioWare had invited many reporters for their new single-player game, Dragon Age and they also invited MMORPG.com. The writer also mentionned that he saw many MMORPG elements in Dragon Age despite the fact that this game is a Single Player RPG. He also said that it would be great if MMORPG designer would be inspired by such RPG.

Even though Dragon Age is clearly not an MMO, I believe it does fit on this website as advertisement.

Sat Oct 17 2009 7:27PM Report
battleaxe writes:

MMO - Massively Multi-player Online.  Progression and Persistence aren't part of the definition until you add 'RPG' to the end.

A chat room with a game attached isn't an MMO - Battle.Net games don't count, so it sounds like Global Agenda and Guild Wars don't quite make the cut.  If we want to split definition hairs - Guild Wars is an MORPG...just not MMORPG.

Mon Oct 19 2009 10:11AM Report
Jairoe03 writes:

When did we have a committee that got to decide what's an MMORPG and what isn't? It's a loose term used to describe the general basis behind a game, its a name for a genre. 

The point of the article was to point out that some people are spending a bit too much time arguing the semantics and literal meanings of the words used rather than actually acknowledging the games themselves. Frankly, who cares, it really doesn't matter. Check out the games listed and if you like it because its missing X, Y and Z elements then complain, moan, debate or ignore it rather than sit here and try to place a set definition for "MMO" or "MMORPG". The writer is right and the comments lised here proves it, there is a bit of MMO snobbery developing and it is disappointing.

Fri Oct 23 2009 3:51PM Report
Jairoe03 writes:

 Correction: "Check out the games listed and if you DON'T like it because its missing X, Y and Z elements then complain, moan, debate, or ignore it..."

Fri Oct 23 2009 3:53PM Report
HiHoEskimo writes:

So then STO and all games like it should not be listed on MMORPG! Come on MMORPG man up! If STO and all games like it are not MMORPGs stop covering them! What's wrong? Don't want to bite the hand that feeds you?

OR

This is simiply one person's narrow idea of what a mass online role playing game is based on the type of game they want to play not on the different types of MMORPG which exist.

At least now we know why there is such a strong bias against STO on MMORPG.
 

Fri Feb 12 2010 8:34AM Report

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