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Ultima Online Column: Ten MMOs and Their Place In History

By Jon Wood on November 18, 2009

#5 Dungeons and Dragons Online

Dungeons and Dragons Online launched in 2006 to less than glowing reviews both professional and player made with criticisms focusing on the instanced nature of the game and the subscription fee that came along with it, combine that with the extraordinarily high and varied expectations of a group of people who grew up with the franchise and the result was a game in trouble.

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Recently though, D&D Online solidified its place in MMO history by successfully moving from a subscription online revenue model to a free-to-play item shop model.

The move, made nearly seamlessly, came at a time when the subscription vs. item shop debate among players was at its height. Meeting with very little initial criticism, probably given primarily to the fact that the game had been dismissed by many as "failed," the revamp seems to be having a positive effect on the game and its players, giving the struggling MMO a second change at life.

Turbine's move with DDO is already being discussed by players and developers alike as a way to bolster flagging subscription-based MMOs. Whether this comes to fruition as a common practice or not remains to be seen.

Screenshot

#4 Ultima Online

Ultima Online's place in history was solidified a long time ago. While it may not have been the first MMO ever released, it has developed a reputation over the last decade plus if it life as the grandfather of the modern MMO.

UO may be the single MMO with the most overall influence on every game that came after it in its genre. Many of today's development talent, for example, played and loved the game and often get together to tell stories of the "good old days" when they come together at conventions and trade shows.

#3 EverQuest

While Ultima Online may be the game that get a generation of fantasy RPG gamers into the idea of MMOs, EverQuest was the game that popularized the genre with the general gaming public and beyond.

It could be said that EverQuest, launched in 1999, was the genre's World of Warcraft before Blizzard ever even thought about making its way into the MMO industry. Known affectionately by players as "EverCrack," the original game finally brought the 3D perspective RPG to the online world.

Historically, EverQuest was the first MMO to really shout beyond the walls of the genre and out into the world of the general public, convincing games who were used to paying nothing beyond the price of a box to shell out for a monthly subscription and really gave birth to the MMO phenomenon, paving the way for the next big game, World of Warcraft, to be the massive success that it was.

#2 Star Wars Galaxies

Most of the games on this list earned their place by doing something positive for the genre, and SOE's Star Wars Galaxies is no exception. The difference though is that while SWG's impact was a positive learning experience for the genre as a whole, their contribution was, in the end, anything but positive for those involved.

I won't waste your time or mine on explaining the nitty gritty details of the Galaxies NGE other than to say that when Sony Online Entertainment radically changed the design and function of their already pre-existing game, the entire industry took notice. It's a classic case of learning from the mistakes of others as players who were negatively impacted by the sudden and radical change rose up to very vocally berate the decision and even today, mere mention of this debacle sparks strong and passionate responses.

So, in the end, the entire industry now knows enough not to mess with the major design of a game post-launch and at the very least the makers of the next Star Wars MMO know enough to make it "feel starwarsy enough" the first time around.

#1 World of Warcraft

It's not like we could have a conversation about history making MMORPGs without giving the top spot to the single most influential MMO ever created in Blizzard's World of Warcraft. For better or worse, this game in particular has become synonymous with the name of the genre.

When Blizzard set their eyes of making an MMO, they did so by examining the games that came before it, by looking at the very history that has been partially laid out in this list, and taking what their developers felt were the best and most successful aspects of each. They were, and continue to be, informed by what came before them.

When World of Warcraft subscription numbers began to roll out, with numbers in the millions that were unheard of before, the whole world took notice.

The success of World of Warcraft has expanded the MMORPG genre by making the space more appealing for major financial investment and today, in the era of WoW's dominance, we are seeing more MMOs produced than ever before.

Now, whether this fact is a positive or a negative in your books is entirely up to you. The undeniable fact is though, that no matter what you opinion is, you can't deny the mark that WoW has left and continues to leave on the world of MMOs.

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