Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Massively multiplayer online game
A massive multiplayer online game (MMOG) is a type of computer game that enables hundreds or thousands of players to simultaneously interact in a game world they are connected to via the Internet. Typically this kind of game is played in an online, multiplayer-only persistent world. Some MMOGs are played on a mobile device (usually a phone) and are thus Mobile MMOG or MMMOG or 3MOG.
The first and most popular type of MMOG is the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) genre that became popular in the late 1990s. The more general concept emerged as more non-RPG massively multiplayer games were developed later.
Despite the genre's focus on multiplayer gaming, AI-controlled characters are still common. NPCs and mobs who give out quests or serve as opponents are typical mostly in MMORPGs. AI-controlled characters are not as common in action-based MMOGs.
The popularity of MMOGs is mostly restricted to the computer game market. Online games have not yet gained huge audiences on console game systems. Nevertheless, there have been several console MMOGs, including Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast), EverQuest Online Adventures (PlayStation 2), and the multiplatform Final Fantasy XI (PC and PS2).
Compared to other computer games
There are a number of factors shared by most MMOGs that make them different from other types of computer games. MMOGs create a persistent universe where the game continues playing regardless of whether or not anyone else is. Since these games strongly or exclusively emphasize multiplayer gameplay, few of them have any significant single-player aspects or client-side artificial intelligence. As a result, players cannot "beat" MMOGs in the typical sense of single-player games. Some MMOGs, such as Star Sonata, do have an end condition that includes awarding a "winner" based on a player's standing in the game at the finale.
Most MMOGs also share characteristics that make them different from other multiplayer online games. MMOGs host a large number of players in a single game world where all those players can interact. Popular MMOGs might have thousands of players online at any given time usually exclusively on a company owned server. Non-MMOs, such as Battlefield 1942 or Half-Life ususally have less than 50 players online and are usually played on private servers. Also, MMOs usually do not have any significant mods since the game must work on company servers. There is some debate if a high head-count is the requirement to be a MMO. Some say that it is the size of the game world and its capability to support a large number of players that should matter. For example, despite technology and content constraints, most MMOGs can fit up to a few thousand players on a single game server at a time.
To support all those players, MMOGs need large-scale game worlds. In MMOGs, large areas of the game are interconnected within the game such that a player can traverse vast distances without having to switch servers manually. For example, Tribes comes with a number of large maps a server plays in rotation (one at a time), but in the MMOG PlanetSide all map-like areas of the game are accessible via flying, driving, or teleporting.
There are few more common differences between MMOGs and other online games. Most MMOGs charge the player a monthly fee to have access to the exclusive servers. The game state in a MMOG rarely resets; what the player earned yesterday is with them still today. MMOGs often feature in-game support for clans and guilds, such as the ability to manage an association with in-game tools.
The boundaries between multiplayer online games and MMOGs are not always clear or obvious. Neverwinter Nights (2002) and Diablo II are usually called online role-playing games (RPGs) but are also sometimes called MMORPGs (a type of MMOG). Guild Wars has been called an MMORPG, but most of its gameplay involves small groups of players in private areas. That game's developer prefers the term "competitive online role-playing game".
Types of MMOGs
There are several types of massively multiplayer online games.
- Massive multiplayer online role-playing games, known as MMORPGs, are perhaps the most famous type of MMOG. See MMORPG and list of MMORPGs for more information.
- Several MMO first-person shooters have been made. These games provide large-scale, team-based combat. The addition of persistence in the game world means that these games add elements typically found in RPGs, such as experience points. The first MMOFPS was probably 10SIX, released in 2000. Other popular MMOFPS games include World War II Online and PlanetSide. See massively multiplayer online first-person shooter for more information.
- A number of developers have attempted to bring real-time strategy games into the MMOG fray. Some notable MMORTS games include Mankind and Shattered Galaxy. See massively multiplayer online real-time strategy for more information.
Most other MMOs are apparently simulation games, such as Motor City Online , The Sims Online (though this is often called an MMORPG), Ace of Angels , and Jumpgate. There are also games like Second Life and There that derive from the tradition of MUSHes, emphasizing socializing and world-building.
In April 2004, the United States Army announced that it is developing a massively multiplayer training simulation called AWE (asymmetric warfare environment) that was expected to begin operation among soldiers by June. The purpose of AWE is to train soldiers for urban warfare and there are no plans for a public commercial release. Forterra Systems Inc. is developing it for the Army based on the There engine. 
Alternate reality games (ARGs) can be massively multiplayer, allowing thousands of players worldwide to co-operate in puzzle trails and mystery solving. ARGs take place in a unique mixture of online and real-world play that usually does not involve a persistent world, and are not necessarily multiplayer, making them different from MMOGs.
The first type of MMOG was the MMORPG. MMORPGs themselves trace their roots to MUDs, BBS games, and browser-based games. As computer game developers applied MMO ideas to other computer and video game genres, new acronyms started to develop, such as MMORTS. MMOG emerged as a generic term to cover this growing class of games. These games became so popular that a magazine, called Massive Online Gaming, released an issue in October 2002 hoping to cover MMOG topics exclusively, but it never released its second issue.
The term massively multiplayer in relation to online games began appearing in 1996. The term was supposedly created by 3DO and used by the company's founder Trip Hawkins to promote Meridian 59. Raph Koster believes it might have spawned from EA's marketing department to describe Ultima Online, which had begun development in 1995.
By applying MMO (i.e., "Massively Multiplayer Online") to a number of different genres, and sometimes to multiple genres at once, game developers, gamers, and marketing departments have created long and obscure acronyms. One humorous example is "SFMMORPGRTSFPS" once used to describe PlanetSide ("sci-fi, MMORPG, RTS, FPS").  There have been a number of attempts to popularize new names, but "MMO" and "massively multiplayer" became gaming buzzwords in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Massive Online Gaming magazine attempted to shorten the name to just "massive online gaming" (or "MOG"), but few used this version. MMO had entrenched itself as a selling point for many games.
Another small controversy exists over whether it is "massively multiplayer" or "massive multiplayer" (without the '-ly'). Many gamers feel that the issue is trivial. Some say that massive multiplayer emphasizes the nature of the game over how many players actually play it. Others also prefer massive since they believe that multiplayer is an absolute adjective and cannot be sensibly modified by the adverb massively (e.g., just like "very dead"). This is questionable, as the number of players permitted is a matter of degree, not an absolute which suggests one game can be more multiplayer than another. Analogies might be drawn with the word forms "participation", "many participant" and "participatory". Further, the word multi-player, though widely accepted, is a portmanteau of multiple and players and thus is quite gramatically weak.
- Kent, Steven L. "Alternate Reality: The history of massively multiplayer online games". September 23, 2003. GameSpy.
- Massive Multiplayer Hell, news and information for fans of the genre
- ODP: Massive Multiplayer Online category
- Terra Nova, a blog on massively multiplayer games and virtual worlds
- MMOG Chart, MMOG subscription counts
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