The world of online gaming is a way for gamers to connect with one another, challenge each other’s abilities, and gain internet fame.

Massively multiplayer online games, or MMO for short, have gained popularity and notoriety in the past two decades. Whether you’re brand new to online gaming or are a well-established member of your online community, there’s always something new to learn about the video games that are an integral part of our lives.

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What’s an MMO?

This type of game is an online world that supports hundreds to thousands of players on a single server. You can create and level up a character, interact with other players, and interact with the world around you.

Depending on the game, you might team up with other players to take on challenges and complete quests. Sometimes, you might find yourself fighting other players one on one or partaking in clan wars. Other times, you might want to have your character cook, craft items, or even become a merchant.

The possibilities in an online game are near endless, but each game has its own world with its own capabilities, story, and features. These differences often depend on the style of game, and there are at least a dozen.

Role-Playing (MMORPG)

These are the most popular types of massive online games. They usually revolve around fantasy themes, and players can do as they please with their character as they level up various skills. World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, and The Elder Scrolls Online all fall into this category.

First-Person Shooter (MMOFPS)

Quickly gaining popularity, FPS style games pit massive numbers of players against one another in either team-based or every man for themselves style combat. Instead of relying on a leveling system, your skill as a player is what makes you successful.

PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds, Destiny 2, and Hellgate: London are all MMOFPS titles.

Real-Time Strategy (MMORTS)

These titles are often played as a general or king that controls large armies and resources for their kingdom. They can be sci-fi or fantasy based, and players generally try to conquer one another. Age of Empires Online, Boom Beach, and Company of Heroes are popular titles within this category.

Turn-Based Strategy

Both UltaCorps and Darkwind: War on Wheels make use of this combat system. The idea is similar to an MMORTS with players controlling large armies, but each army has its own turn to move. Think of it like the board game Risk, but online and ten thousand times more fun.


Simulators are an ever-advancing field in the MMO genre, pushing to create the most realistic worlds possible from war to flying a Boeing 747. The Sims Online is a place where gamers can live out real-life scenarios, while World of Tanks allows gamers to duel one another.

Motor City Online is a place for gamers around the world to race one another, while Jumpgate provides a sci-fi flight and battle simulator. These unique takes on MMO gaming are slowly working their way to full-fledged worlds, but who knows what the future might bring.

Other Categories

You can also find a variety of titles that feature MMO elements. Some of these are music based, like Audition Online, while others are similar to the concept of The Sims.

Smartphone apps have also made it possible for people around the world to play games with one another. Yu-Gi-Oh! saw a reemergence through a popular Android app, while others offer gambling, puzzle, or strategy-based gameplay.

The Dawn of Online Gaming

It’s hard to imagine life without the ability to hop online and join our friends in epic quests or thwart them in combat, but gaming wasn’t always such an interconnected playground. The newest generation might find it impossible to remember a time when they had to head over to a friend’s house to play the hottest new title.

While MMO games might have gained popularity thanks to the advancements on the Xbox and PS3, they started all the way back in 1980 with a genre of games titled MUD after the game Multi-User Dungeon. These mostly text-based titles featured elements from D&D, allowing gamers to explore dungeons filled with monsters, magic, and treasure.

Highly popular with computer gamers, students at Essex University turned Multi-User Dungeon into the first MMORPG through their school’s ARPA Network. Now, students could hop online and play through these dungeons with their friends.

From 1980 until 1991, an influx of MUD style games was created featuring everything from Lord of The Rings fantasy to sci-fi themes. One space-themed title, Federation II, was so popular that AOL began offering it before they had unlimited service. Top titles of the time included:

  • MUD 1
  • MIST
  • MirrorWorld
  • Scepter of Goth
  • Swords of Chaos
  • Dragon’s Gate

The last standing of these titles, Dragon’s Gate, closed down in 2007. However, you can still find and play several MUDs run by the incredible fanbase these games created with a quick Google search, or by heading to r/MUD on Reddit.

Advancing Technology

While these early titles are all considered MMO games, the majority were only able to host 16 players at a time. As technology advanced, the old servers that hosted these MUDs shut down and made way for a new era of online gaming.

New tech of the late 90’s gave developers a way to incorporate graphics into these online games, ending the strictly text-based gameplay of the past decade. The term MUD gave way to MMO, and online gamers explored new worlds such as Meridian 59, RuneScape, and EverQuest.

By 2000, game servers were capable of hosting thousands of players at once. This gave way to popular titles like World of Warcraft and EVE Online, where gamers from around the globe could connect and play with one another in real-time, detailed fantasy worlds.

Thanks to the popularity of Sony’s EverQuest, consoles soon caught onto the profitable world of MMO games online. PlayStation 2 featured both EverQuest Online Adventures and Final Fantasy XI, while Xbox’s Live feature allowed gamers to connect over games like Monster Hunter.

The Modern Age

With PC and console gamers across the world now able to play with one another, Massively Multiplayer Online games have become a staple within the gaming community. Games like Final Fantasy and World of Warcraft are still incredibly popular, while new games outside of the RPG realm are also latching onto online features.

PlayerUnkown Battlegrounds has created an entirely online, PvP shooter world that pits players against one another in a fight to the last man. SkyForge continues to push the boundaries of sci-fi fantasy, while The Elder Scrolls Online and a slew of other titles stay true to fantasy roleplaying. Other popular titles out today, besides EVE and WoW, include:

  • TERA
  • Blade & Soul
  • Neverwinter
  • Star Trek Online
  • Guild Wars 2
  • Rift
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • ArcheAge
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • The Secret World

Competitive Gaming

Challenging other gamers and rising to the top of the charts has been an integral part of gaming since the days of arcades. Thanks to MMOs, gamers can prove their skills worldwide on leaderboards and in competitions.

Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, or MOBAs, have become increasingly popular around the world with League of Legends spearheading their popularity. PUBG is considered a MOBA, along with titles like Paladins and Valve’s Dota 2.

Competition amongst gamers is so popular that these titles are now considered eSports, each with their own championships. Anyone confident enough in their skill as a player can take on other competitors for cash prizes in small circuit tournaments, eventually working their way up to major televised events.

Just to make that clear, you can pursue a career as a professional gamer thanks to MMO titles. The fifteen highest paid players earned between $226,776 and $454,544 since 2013, which is a luxuriously nice payout just for playing games.

These gamers are often sponsored by tech companies who provide them with the latest in PC upgrades and items ranging from ergonomic keyboards to an MMO mouse designed for smooth gameplay. While making it as a pro gamer is a tough challenge, it might be worth considering if you already play MOBA titles.

The Future of Online Gaming

Technology is constantly improving, allowing developers to push the boundaries of what a game can be and what players can do. Virtual worlds are becoming larger, simulators are pushing the boundary between real-life and program, and servers are making it possible for near millions of players to come together in one game.

Developers are actively working on revolutionizing the centralized system employed by MMO servers today by converting them into peer-to-peer networks where players can share resources with one another, ungoverned by a centralized administrative system. Ultimately, this would create a brand new virtual community.

Meanwhile, eSports are quickly gaining popularity, rivaling viewership of several popular “real-life” sports. New stadiums are being constructed as gamers jump at the chance to be titled champion.

What does all of this mean for the future of gaming? No one knows just yet, but it looks like a promising future for the world of MMOs, all thanks to the inception of early text-based MUDs.

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