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The Beginning and Present of MMORPG.com

William Murphy Posted:
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Earlier this week, Nilden had an awesome idea and one that we honestly should have been doing sooner. Basically, we’re going to start using my column space here as a “Letter to the Editor” sort of piece. For this week, we’re going back to 2001 and the beginning of MMORPG.com. Read on to learn some history of our site and some perspective on its future as well.

Honestly, I began MMO gaming not long after this site was started, but truth be told I was still in high school and MMORPG.com hadn’t become a mainstay in my life just yet. So for the real story on how this site began, I asked our President and Co-Founder Craig McGregor to pen a short recap. Below is Craig’s story:

“I was an avid EQ player in the 1999-2001 era.  In game and on various gaming forums I had often heard the term "MMORPG" being thrown around to describe games such as EverQuest, Meridian 59, Ultima Online and Asheron’s Call (about the only MMO's happening at the time).  I had reached a point where I was tired of EQ and looking for something new.  I was killing time online and decided to type http://www.mmorpg.com into a browser, hoping to get a list of games or information on something new.

The site in June of 2002.

Instead, a page came up saying "this domain is for sale on eBay" - I tucked this somewhere into the back of my brain and carried on to new tasks (probably playing EQ back then).  I had just moved with my new wife to Hawaii and we were sitting in our hotel killing time when the thought of that domain popped back into my head.  I decided to pull up the auction again - just 10 minutes remaining!  After a small bidding war with another eBay user I ended up with the domain for a bargain.

At the time I had a very small web design/consulting business where I built and maintained some small sites for clients.  I always had a desire to build my own forums from the ground up and was disappointed with the current forum offerings at the time, so I figured this new MMORPG.com domain might be a good test bed for such a project.  I quickly setup a "coming soon" splash page with a link to email me and went about building a forum.  I kept an eye on the hit counter on the splash page and was alarmed to see 500-1000 people per day were typing in this domain from thin air.  In addition, I received many emails per week with people asking what I was up to and offering suggestions.  After about 4 months I had a basic forum ready to deploy and once live things took root quickly.  From this point I more or less fed off the suggestions of the community, building in the game list, game details pages and news area.  This all took place from 2002-2003.

In 2004 things had grown to a point where I could no longer run the site as a solo operation with our volunteer pool and my limited time.  I called upon my long time best friend since high school - Ben Krueger (also an avid MMO gamer).  He had been working as a web developer in the Phoenix area for the past few years and had all the skills needed to take the site to the next level.  He decided to move his family to Hawaii and join the madness. At this time the EQ2/WoW war was reaching an all-time high with both games were bringing massive amounts of new MMO fans and heated debate into our forums.  It was at this point that we both realized this was going to be a very big gaming market and we saw the site grow over 500% in the following decade.”

Now back to Bill’s tale. It was around this time that I began working voluntarily at IGN’s Vault on games like LotRO, Auto Assault, and a few others in minor capacity. Eventually that led me to work for TenTonHammer as an assistant site manager, and then just a plain old cartoonist. But when TTH’s network took some hits and had to make layoffs, the crappy cartoon guy was one of the first to go.  I applied with Jon Wood and Dana Massey here to start writing as a freelancer, and when Jon left in 2010, I took over as Managing Editor. 

One of my first online workplaces.

In terms of full staff, we’re actually a pretty small bunch. There’s Ben and Craig (the above-mentioned owners), Evan Wilkinson on Design and Art Direction, Garrett Fuller as Industry Relations Manager, Suzie Ford as Associate Editor, Mike Bitton as Community Manager, and myself as Managing Editor. Mike has two moderators hired to work for him, and I have a large pool of freelance writers and content creators that make articles and videos for you all to enjoy (or endure).  But in terms of actual “full-timers” there are really only a handful of us. Garrett and I both work relaxed day jobs alongside MMORPG.com work, for example.  And almost all of our writers and video makers have jobs outside of MMORPG.com as well.  And we wouldn’t be half the presence on Twitch that we are if it weren’t for our team of volunteer streamers.

But we’re a close-knit group all the same. We regularly email, chat, and some of us even game together. Though admittedly, most of us are all over the map from the West Coast to the UK and even the Philippines.  If there’s one common tie that binds us all, it’s a love for the MMORPG.

And yet, we’re in trying times as a genre. More and more, developers are straying from the term “MMO” or “MMORPG” in an effort to make sure people don’t automatically assume their game will be “just like WoW”.  Big AAA MMORPGs after Azeroth haven’t fared as well as Blizzard’s lightning bolt, and to investors that puts MMOs in the “risky” category. So we’re left watching as designers, publishers, and players alike all struggle to find what they truly want out of the next generation of online worlds.

I used to make these awful comics for TTH…

But if there’s any one thing you can count on in the next 5, 10, 15 years? It’s that MMORPG.com will always be right here bringing you a place to call home between games, when you’d rather be questing while at work, or when you’re on the hunt for the next big title to knock your socks off. Yes we may cover RPGs too, but that’s really just a sign of the times. In short, we need stuff you all will care to read to keep us going between the big releases. We hope that you’ll enjoy that coverage as well, while we work tirelessly to get you the kind of content only we can offer.

And on that note, I’ll just end by saying that yes the brand new MMORPG.com is still coming. We have a damned-near final look for the thing, and we’re already working with a contract web developer to port the existing content database from Cold Fusion to Drupal (yes, it’s about time). The new site will be something far more modern, but without sacrificing the information at your fingertips that’s always been a hallmark of MMORPG.com.  A better game list, a better search, better readability, more choices for different displays, better forums, responsive design, one site for mobile and desktop displays, the ability to filter only the content you want to see, the ability to add your own articles and videos and to submit them for front page placement, and the list goes on. It’s a huge overhaul and one I frankly cannot wait to show you. Evan, the above-mentioned Art Director, deserves the most praise possible as the design is all him.

We may be at an MMORPG lull in terms of new hot games to watch for, but there’s a lot going on within the genre and its existing games, and the new site in 2015 will be something absolutely perfect to reflect the renewed vision we all have to keep being your online home for the next decade and more.

Do you have questions for next week’s column? Ask ‘em in the comments and I’ll pick one to chatter about then. It can be literally anything about MMORPG.com or videogames in general. Fire away!


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.