At What Point Is A MMO Not A MMO?

MMO

As games start crossing platforms and genres the lines of what made a Massively Multiplayer Online game different from just regular multiplayer games is getting more and more blurry.

There’s a lot of debate going around with newer MMOs regarding if they are “real” MMOs and astonishingly it isn’t all debate created by the players. Recently Matt Firor, Game Director of The Elder Scrolls Online referred to ESO as being more of a multiplayer game than a MMO. Just a couple of days ago Division was announced and people are already debating if it is actually a MMO or not. So what makes a MMO?

mmorpg     At What Point Is A MMO Not A MMO?

Massively Multiplayer…

The first characteristic, which seems simple but isn’t, is there should a massive number of real people playing in the game world. The crux here is massive is sort of a subjective term, and what does it mean in terms of numbers of people who play the game or the numbers of people you see in game?

For me the key here is there needs to be people who can just run through your game without you having to invite them. Part of what makes Diablo 3 and SimCity not MMOs is because you only ever will come across another player if you invite them to play with you. In a real MMO even if you choose to play through all the content solo, you will still encounter other players out in the world.

mmorpg     At What Point Is A MMO Not A MMO?

Must have an open world!

Another argument some people make is “a MMO needs to have an open world”. Open world refers to a world where you can roam around and not have to zone everywhere. When it comes to MMORPGs the number of truly open world MMOs is staggeringly small (when you consider how many MMORPGs have or do exist). An example of a totally open world MMO is Asheron’s Call. You could wander from one end of that game to the other without ever seeing a loading screen. Even World of Warcraft forces you to zone into certain areas of the game. Sure it’s mostly when you are switching continents and it is done to speed up travel, but it does make it not a fully open world game.

On the other hand there are games like Neverwinter where the world is almost completely instanced. You can’t walk from say Protector’s Enclave to the Black Lake District without going to a loading screen first. Another current game with a lot of loading screens is Star Wars: The Old Republic. SWTOR does have some larger zones than Neverwinter, but you still have to go through loading screens to go between zones. In fact the list of MMOs which do not have an open world is longer than the list of those which do.

Give me levels, classes, and roles!

A criticism many people had with Age of Wushu is there are no classes or levels. This is also something people are pointing to in Division to say it isn’t really a MMO. Now if your experience with MMOs consists of games like WoW and Dark Age of Camalot then it might seem like a valid complaint. However, let us recall a little game called Ultima Online. In UO characters were advanced through improving skills not by selecting a class and leveling. I’m not sure anyone would even bother trying to make the argument Ultima Online not only was a MMO but also was a successful one… Well Strauss Zelnick probably would but that’s a whole different thing. Classes and levels merely give players one way of playing their characters, not having these things actually opens up more play options and definitely does not disqualify a game as an MMO.

MMOs are played on computers not consoles!

The most baseless criticism of some MMOs is they can’t be MMOs if they are played on consoles. I don’t even get why this is a thing. Final Fantasy XI was one of the first MMOs to be played solely on a console and it was pretty successful. IT reached 500,000 subscribers in April 2009 which is a really good showing for any MMO outside of WoW. There is also another point of view to consider when thinking about console MMOs. By more MMOs going to both PC and Consoles developers are complicating things a bit, but what they are also doing is increasing their pool of people who would play their games which in the long haul makes it more likely for more MMOs to be successful. Which is a big part of why i don’t think we should be discounting consoles MMOs.

Must have endgame!

What about endgame?? Endgame is one of the few things I don’t think we can really hedge on when talking about MMOs. One of the amazing things about the whole MMO genre is the game never ends. You fight a boss, but then you can go do it again or do something completely different. The issue comes in when people say there is no endgame, but what they really mean is there is no endgame they want to do.

Guild Wars 2 has had its fair share of the misdirected ‘there’s no endgame!!” complaints thrown at it. Examples of things to do at max level are finish the storyline if you didn’t do it while leveling, explorable dungeons, fractals, WvW, sPvP, working on making a legendary (which can take a lot of time if you don’t toss real money at the game), and there are regular content updates (that are free!) which add new things to do. I get if these things aren’t appealing to you, that’s fine. Making the claim there is no endgame in GW2 however is just not at all accurate.

However not all complaints about a game not having an endgame are unfounded. When SWTOR first launched its endgame was a complete mess. Its heroic flashpoints were far more difficult than the ops were to start with, but at the same time doing ops was a pain because there were so many bugs. As a result people ignored heroic flashpoints, finished gearing up in ops pretty quickly, and then didn’t have much to do. The PvP was fun but that was about all there was to do. There were no mini games to pass the time but there were dailies. The real issue was there just wasn’t enough things to do after 50, which was partly related to the Developers thinking it would take players five months to reach 50.

What really matters for a MMO?

Clearly there are many other categories I could break things down to, and there are many games I haven’t mentioned. I have tried to hit most of the big points with the most appropriately fitting game as an example, and I haven’t even gotten into what makes a good MMO. As far what makes a game a MMO, I have narrowed the important qualifications to two main categories. Many other players and a game that doesn’t end are the two foundations all MMOs should be built on. If either of those things are missing you don’t have a MMO.

When do you consider a game a MMO?

Robin has been playing video games her entire life, but fell down the well of MMOs in 2005 and only recently has she reemerged to play other types of games as well. When Robin isn't playing games or writing articles she can often be found moderating on MMO-Champion or talking about Shadow Priests on How to Priest.

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  • Tommy O’Callaghan

    when games stop facilitating the need for social interaction to achieve a set of goals or a goal, then the game stops being an mmo. To me wow pretty much solidified the single player rpg with multiplayer elements but its barely an mmo anymore.

    • Dularr

      Clearly someone is not running normal or heroic raid content. If you are, then why do you care if Blizzard is providing content for people that cannot maintain a raiding schedule?

      • Tommy O’Callaghan

        assuming much?

  • http://twitter.com/parkkway Mike Ekert

    I am going back and playing a free UO product right now, and I forgot how interesting an MMO can be when it’s nothing like today’s template MMO.

    As much as I love EQ/DAoC/Wow, they really hammered into the player’s minds what these games have to do. It’s a shame that nothing else will succeed because it’s too different.

  • Dularr

    Sorry, when half your list of end game content includes pvp content, the MMO has an end game problem.

    When you list leveling content as end game content, the MMO has an end game problem.

    When you can buy end game gear with real money, the MMO has an end game problem.

    • http://www.JKKennedyTV.com/ Justin Kennedy

      Dularr I will disagree with you on your first part. PvP can be the end game content and not be a problem. In fact, I prefer if most of the end game content is PvP and there is a large group of people that do. Remember, just because you do not like it that way, does not make it wrong.

      • Enricola

        I don’t think he was saying PvP isn’t good endgame content, but that when you have PvP activities making up half the list of what you call endgame content, it indicates a problem with the variety of content you are offering.

        • http://www.JKKennedyTV.com/ Justin Kennedy

          Yeah I am just saying it depends on the game. If you are talking about a theme park game or a heavily PvE oriented game for most of the leveling process then yes it is a problem to suddenly make PvP the majority, but not all games focus PvE so we have to remember that.

          EvE, Darkfall, and in the future Camelot Unchained etc. They may be niche, but that does not mean they are a problem.

          • Kevin J. Redmond

            Shadowbane was pvp at endgame, and it was awesome despite the bugs/server issues. I’m with Justin on this one.

          • Enricola

            Yeah, I’ll agree about those games being good. I suppose a big part of it is the expectation of the gamer of what the endgame content will be, and that matching up with the reality.

  • Vahlir

    Rewards and stakes. Make them more costly while preventing trolling. Want interaction? Make the stakes so high that the only way it’s accomplished is through a lot of players working together. Then give them rewards at decent intervals to keep them interested. Most importantly make the end reward huge. And allow for users to contribute in a variety of means. Unlocking AQ is something my friends still talk about.

    • Robin Baird

      Opening the gates of AQ is also something I remember really clearly even all these years later. Just the effort that everyone put into getting it done, and then the actual event was just all around crazy. A ton of lag but I clearly remember everyone being on Teamspeak and just going crazy over it :)

      One time events (especially ones where it takes real time and effort to accomplish) can go a long way to creating really memories and enjoyment in a MMO. On the other hand, for people who miss those one time events it does suck. It’s a hard balance and I certainly understand why MMOs have moved away from those events.

  • Aleksey Surnin

    Champions of Regnum Best!!!

  • McGamer

    I think it’s laughable when some MMO devs try to claim a game is not MMO when it meets the definition of an MMO really. Especially so when a dev tries to claim an MMO is not P2W simply by only saying it isn’t, as if that magically makes it not P2W. Both instances are only marketing ploys imo.

  • Talos

    Should we come up with a new term for traditional pc only MMOs as opposed to those who are integrating with consoles? I mean it’s hard to put your finger on the exact problem but there’s definite differences to me, for example the ui and controls are far more simplistic on cross console mmos and lack the detail of having multiple pieces of armour to upgrade.

    What’s clear is certain companies would rather not confirm they are mmos as mmos do not appeal to console audiences “they ain’t cool” So maybe they should come up with a different term for them and we can keep MMORPG, either way there’s a clear problem and as part of the community I think we should do something to rectify it.

    • http://www.JKKennedyTV.com/ Justin Kennedy

      I find it honestly disappointing that you just based it on the number of buttons or the UI. Never have I thought the UI defined an MMO, and I certainly prefer minimalist UI over a screen cluttered so I can not enjoy the game.

      • Talos

        In fairness that was just one of the difference I was using as an example. As I said it’s hard to put your finger on the problem but there definitely is one, at least from my point of view. I was only using the UI difference as an example.

        • Robin Baird

          I actually had a similar reaction when I first started thinking about console MMOs… they just felt inherently different and weird too me, barely MMOs at all. Then as I started to think about it I realized all of my ill feelings stemmed from FFXI and how I didn’t like it and how that particular game felt clunky to me.

          Then I watched the preview for Division… and let me tell you that had me immediately considering buying a console for the first time since the PS2, so I once again had to start reevaluating my position on consoles and MMOs. As I rewatched various parts of the demo and thought about the implications of how things were set-up, I really realized my opinions on the matter were just outdated and wrong.

          Not saying this your issue, just explaining how my thoughts about console MMOs has really changed in the last few days. It would be really cool if you could think about it more and possibly narrow down what feels wrong about it to you. That could be a particularly interesting conversation :)

          • Talos

            So far a lot of my grievances have arisen after playing Defiance. My worries stem from the belief that due to the need for cross platform integration, one side will necessarily be hindered by the other in several ways and in some cases aspects of games that are pretty necessary for prolonged PC MMO gaming are kind changed for the worse or perhaps entirely removed.

            Now some of these changes I can live with, I honestly don’t mind the smaller UI, Guild Wars 2 and Tera were fine to play with smaller UI, however they were designed to be used that way on the PC. As noted in other articles though smaller UI interface can also lead to complicated ways of getting to the menu like in Skyrim.

            Other aspects that could feel the problems of the cross platform design is the chat system, Defiance’s was terrible, the chat function came across almost an afterthought tbh.

            Another aspect is if the game is the support of the game. With MMOs you tend to have dedicated GMs and if problems occured they will usually get hot fixed etc. This may be a problem as I imagine it’s harder to update a console game than it is a pc game.

            The fact the balance is leaning towards Consoles and getting their player base involved in “MMOs” makes me think pc players may end up becoming second class customers, where patches and updates and fixes will only occur when console.

            So in the end the very fact it’s cross platform will make the mmos who work on cross platform different than what we currently know as MMOs.

          • Robin Baird

            I agree with you on the Chat system, it is definitely something which needs to be worked out some way to make cross platform work well. I just think of Neverwinter’s built in voice chat and how many people disable it because some people are obnoxious on it. But there has to be a good solution out there which would work for people.

            The support thing is another valid concern, though I feel like other games are getting more into the sort of CM interactions that those of us who have played computer MMOs are used to.

            As for being sort of a second class of players I think that could be an issue in certain games, but it definitely something the devs and community teams should be on top of.

            But yea I agree there are definitely some concerns, but I also don’t think they are insurmountable.

  • BabyChooChoo

    …uh…an “MMO” isn’t an “MMO” if it isn’t massive on some meaningful , gameplay-related scale, a multiplayer game, and online.

    Seriously, I think that’s about it. When you start getting into open-world or not and what platform it’s on and whether or not is has levels and endgame and blahblahblah, you start debating details that don’t really matter.

    All of those things are in MMOs, yes. However, they do not, or rather, they SHOULD not define an MMO. They are simply popular design choices of a very broad genre.

    I’ve question calling games, like Vindictus and PSO, MMOs, but, well…I’ve come to realize that they are. They may not be “traditional” MMOs, but the fact remains, they embody the qualities of (the M, the M, and the O part) of being an MMO.

    • Enricola

      Did you say debate details that don’t matter Choochy? Here I come.
      I’ve come to think that the “Massively” component is hurt by games where the main zones are instanced and not able to be traveled to on foot, as it were.
      Granted, it’s somewhat of a stretch, but I’m trying to get at why “those games” make me feel like I’m waiting for someone to bust down the castle portcullis and say “Ride Free my Friend!”

    • John Fireraven Barnett

      I should really note to you that Massively is a modifier for Multiplayer in the term MMO.

  • Zo

    MMO is short for Massively Multiplayer Online. As long as you have players online that number in the hundreds (or even thousands) you meet the definition of an MMO. Everything else are just design choices.

  • Hicks64

    We need more terms and acronyms for MMOs/Online games. Probably need to send ambassadors from /r/games, neogaf, etc. to a summit and 4 new acronyms shall arise.

  • Enricola

    SwTor and Neverwinter’s zoning system has really bothered me. I honestly didn’t mind it in either while I was leveling the first time, but it’s started to really bug me and make me feel like I’m not in a connected world. It seems silly to criticize games for not taking months to create basically empty content that will rarely be used, unfortunately it takes a lot away from the long term appeal of those games for me.

    As for the definition of an MMO to me, I really liked the way Arlee phrased it “there needs to be people who can just run through your game without you having to invite them.” So I’ll just say I agree with that, with the caveat that it has to hold true in as many areas as possible, even though that’s frequently a population numbers issue after that.

  • Robert Caliolo

    When it comes down to it Everquest is the staple MMO. Instanced or not. An MMO does not HAVE to be open world. World of Warcraft is an MMO, plenty of open world yet still has instancing to separate raiding from other content. But in EQ the fact that dungeons were open to everyone that “zoned” into one. No other MMO’s these days use this concept because players think it was unfair. Camping, stealing kills, training npc’s upon other groups or solos….but that was the point. Players could do things like that because it was an MMO like no others back then.
    Ultima Online, many think was a great game because it also did these things, but what UO had was FULL ON Open World PvP. You were not safe anywhere in the game.
    What truly makes an MMO is the concept of various amounts of players that gather in an area and can play either together as a group, raid or work together as a mob too take on some major content that has to have multiple players to do so. The issue that plagued ALL mmo’s is the structure of the games. LAG always kills an mmo game. UO had lag, EQ had lag, WoW had lag, Aion had lag, GW2 has lag…all these”mmo” have trouble with the game running WITHOUT lag when a large number of players gather in one “zone” area to take on any content….
    Even with todays tech the developers can not eliminate lag from their game because of all the various server combatibilities with players service providers. Sure if players can afford a 10k computer they can maybe handles some but this is and will always be the trouble with an MMO…the ability to have hundreds of players in a small area trying to take down a “World Boss” thus they have to instance off a zone or limit the amount of players allowed into a specific zone to handle lag.
    Back to EQ…even with instancing there was a very high population cap in a zone and allowed for 200-300 players in that zone , yet had lag. Today those numbers have not changed much and yet the lag is still there. GW2 the latest example and they limit the number to 200 in a zone I believe.

    So all this ramble is saying is that to have an MMO you must have the ability to have “massive” amounts of players doing Mulitple things “online” at the same time in the same place.

    Oh and of course an endless stream of end game content….in this day and age that end game content should never be an issue…it should be planned well ahead of release and portioned out properly.
    This last part being that the developers understand that in this day and age, players have figured out that getting there is no longer the point…the END is the goal, and getting there as fast as possible is the only goal. Once there if the game has nothing to do then the game fails.

    SO…my reply is NO LEVELS. Skill based mmo’s are the only future of success where repeating content over and over, via raids, dailies and “new” content et all reaps rewards, ie. gear and skill points that improve the development of your character in a never ending process. The process of “leveling” should be left to “newbie island” where a tutorial teaches a player how to play and what the game mechanics are. After that off you go.

    • Jeremy Keat

      Asheron’s Call is typical for people to brush over when looking for a “staple” MMO, it was one of the original 3 major MMOs released, with the greatest sandbox experience to this date. Over 12 years of raw development, the world and content dynamically changes, the mob levels in certain regions change along with the weather.

      The market only went the more EQ style direction because WoW made it popular, though doing it its own way.

  • Sally Bowls

    I think open world would be nice but is extremely low priority feature and certainly not a requirement to be a MMO.

    Persistence and affecting and affecting others are my only two requirements. Note that this does not mean playing with or seeing other players. I.e., if I were playing a Wall Street MMO, then I may never see another player. But their actions, perhaps even after i log off for the night, will affect me and my world. Someone posting in Jita today may never see another player but they affect other players and bots throughout EVE.

    • Deathstar2x

      This sounds like Farmville after the update allowing non-friends to affect your farm, or “world” as you call it.

  • Rasmus Nielsen

    Wasn’t Matt Firrors comment about ESO not being an MMO as much as a Multiplayer game, in regards to the levelling experience? *that’s* what I read

    • Guest

      His comment about being able to solo pretty much the entire game was directly related to leveling. He said the part about the game being more of a multiplayer game than a MMO right at the beginning of the interview and never added the qualification that was just in regards to leveling.

  • Kevin J. Redmond

    I like this Robin Baird guy… good op/ed piece.

  • Techkey1

    “there needs to be people who can just run through your game without you having to invite them”. I think that quote really says it all, I agree. To add to that. Even if its on a typing/chat screen with no 2/3d characters. Providing people can think that broad and outside the box that is.

    Hmmm…..Are we in an mmo now? Does it have to be 3d or 2d game to be an mmo? Or could it not be a game and still be an mmo? lol

    As far as voice chatting is concerned, it’s not that hard to have a vent (Ventrilo type) app on the consoles for communication. Especially on the XB1 seeing you can Skype and game and do any other luxury the system offers at the same time. Im sure the ps4 can do it. So cross communication is not a problem. Think outside the box.

    Wow’s internal chat system sucked. So I chose third party, and I believe the consoles can do it too. I never had a problem playing FFXI using live chat on xbox 360 to talk to pc gamers and vice versa. So it can be done.

  • Deathstar2x

    When players use the term MMO in the past, they usually mean “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game”. It was shorten to MMO due to its acronym lengthiness. Think back to the “old days” of Ultima Online, Everquest, World of Warcraft and others, the definition of MMO(RPG) is a multiplayer online game that has a massive amount of players with one classification that isn’t included in the acronym— It was the persistent world. Most people don’t argues that those games aren’t MMOs, so If you had remove the RPG elements from those classic games by replacing it with FPS (RTS, etc.) elements, it should still be a MMO.

    The continuation of the usage of the term MMO without its persistent world component would be a bastardization of the original term. If you would use the term without the inclusion of a persistent world, the following games would all be MMOs: League of Legends, Starcraft 2, Call of Duty, Path of Exile, Diablo 3, and Halo 4.

    At that point, people like BabyChooChoo and Zo should just call them by another name. A online multiplayer game that’s popular is all it means at that point. Why not just call it an Online Multiplayer Game (OMG :) at that point since it’s size (massively; thus its popularity) is subjective. Isn’t that true?

    The other points besides MMO & persistent world shouldn’t be included in its prerequisites for the acronym.

    Consoles: If EQ/UO/WOW was ported to the consoles, it would be a MMO. The only thing stopping that in the past was technical limitations and/or financial requirements.

    Endgame: This is not required, it’s provided due to the cyclical business model of MMOs. Just because “there’s nothing to do now!” doesn’t mean it stops being a MMO all of a sudden.

    • Robin Baird

      I get what you are saying about the persistent world but I do disagree slightly. What’s the point of a persistent world if nothing changes when you are gone. There are a number of MMOs where if you logout for days when you come back everything around you will still be the same. WoW is probably the easiest example there.

      Like I said in my article games like Diablo 3 can’t be considered MMOs because you’d never see another player in game if you never grouped with anyone. One of the hallmarks of a MMO is other players running around and affecting things regardless of you wanting them there or not.

      • Jeremy Keat

        Usually I mention that it isn’t like CoD, LoL or Battlefield, because your presence there isn’t a necessary slot in which means you have to act once in the world which is just going to reset and have no affect on your long term gameplay.

  • Fencers

    The real issue here is whether we are applying the term MMO as game genre or as type.

    One of those is mostly technological and factual. The other is stylistic.

  • Ordegar

    The term was first used to differentiate online multiplayer games like Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot from online multiplayer games that were also out at the time such as Dungeon Siege, Diablo II, and Neverwinter Nights which were much more limited with regard to how many people you could actually be in a game with (the most of those was Dungeon Siege which I believe allowed up to 64 players).

    So my single requirement for a game to be called an mmo is that it has to allow me to do gameplay with more than 64 people at once; and standing around in a 3D lobby does not count as gameplay, since you basically did that in Diablo II just without the graphics.

  • John Fireraven Barnett

    An MMO only needs to meet a few requirements to be an MMO.

    1.) It must be online, with all character saves, and such must be stored on a remote server.
    2.) It must have multiplayer.
    3.) It must support the ability for a massive* number of people to be able to play and interact simultaneously.

    Legend:
    * = Subject to personal opinion.

  • Jeremy Keat

    Finally somebody out there giving AC some love. Asheron’s call was the greatest of the original MMO models I have ever played and nobody bothered to go with that. Once WoW ran with the EQ model, everybody ignore the sandbox open world and projectile based attacks or some basic level physics in the world.

    I would love to see another Asheron’s Call game, perhaps more dynamic in combat for melee and not target reliant but Asheron’s call has an epic open world, great open instance/dungeon design, best dynamic arsenal of spells ever and an extremely customizable character. Heck it is still kicking, it is just hard to go back to 1999 tech gaming for me.

  • Jeremy Keat

    Also the artical points out something quite so I have been trying to say despite the whole mike B and Lore or Gary trying to call everything an MMO like CoD or LoL.

    The open world part is vital. I would make a separate distinction though, the open world doesn’t have to be massive or anything significant it just has to be an intractable lobby at it’s minimum where your presence doesn’t require you to act (you are not filling in some slot) and you can meet with anybody in the game represented by the actual avatar they play. Of course it has to be persistent too, regardless of who’s in it.

    By this a game like Vindictus may even be an MMO, because although mostly dungeon based, in your time throughout the game you WILL encounter other players, if not only by seeing them. 20 man raids don’t seem to be a joke either.

    I would stop there though, I think we have to clarify and make a distinction between an RPG characteristic (MMORPG) and an MMO.

    • John Fireraven Barnett

      See now here’s where there’s a perspective issue. The fact that games like CoD and LoL, not entirely certain on CoD here to be honest, have chat rooms for players to interact and form parties make it to where you have player interaction on a massive scale and it is part of the game. Mind you in LoL there is a level of persistence, at least lore wise, because you and ever other player are taking part in what is more or less a gladiator sport. So, there’s no need for persistence beyond that for persistence to exist.

      • Jeremy Keat

        But you have no interaction with any world, to say well alone, reading or by text in a chat box constitutes and MMO is a bit of a stretch.

        You can’t play the first person shooter that is CoD while waiting in a lobby, there is no interaction with an avatar or any part of the challenge or goal within the game.

        When defining an MMO you have to set up a precedence, of which an MMO as it has been termed not merely by semantics reflects a somewhat persistent game space (world server), an interactive avatar within the game world and that it is gameplay with a large, and varying playerbase.

  • Evan D. Lewellen

    The only thing an ‘MMO’ needs is the ‘massively multiplayer online’ element. LoL is an ‘MMO’. People are confusing ‘MMO’ as only able to be ‘MMORPG’. That’s not the case.

    • Brandon Evans

      LoL is a Moba ….

      • John Fireraven Barnett

        Moba is a genre of game just like MMO Evan, and things can have multiple genres. LoL is an MMO because it is a game which supports a massive number of players all coexisting in a game world simultaneously. Remember the key words in MMO are ‘Massively Multiplayer’ not World of Warcraft and its subsidiary clones. Certainly there are features some of us would prefer to see in every MMO, but that doesn’t make the games that don’t contain those elements or that simply display them differently not an MMO.

        • Brandon Evans

          Well you said “It must support the ability for a massive* number of people to be able to play and interact simultaneously.” You can’t “interact” with more then 9 other players in LoL when your actually playing the game. Are we now counting game lobbies as part of the game world?

          That being said even Riot refers to LoL as a Moba and I’ve never seen them once say its a MMO. I think we should also add – needs to be more then one way to progress in the game – to the MMO qualifications. Like in EvE Online, You can mine asteroids, run missions, go after bounties, ninja salvage wreaks from other peoples missions, form massive fleets, run a corp, play the market etc etc.

          I think if say, Blizzard came out and said Starcraft 2 or Diablo 3 was a MMO, it would be false advertising. This is also one of the reasons why this debate actually has some teeth to it. When a developer labels something as a MMO we expect certain things form the game. Being a Moba or a RTS is not one of them. If I saw a Craigs List post for someone selling a street bike for 3500 dollars, then drove 30 minutes to look at it and it turned out to be a Moped, I would be upset to say the least. Same thing with a MMO, if I spent an hour downloading/updating a MMO and it turns out to be RTS with a lobby I would be upset.

          • John Fireraven Barnett

            Now you see here’s the thing with that the lobby is part of the game and allows for interaction with a multitude of people. As such it qualifies it for the massively multiplayer and online parts of the word (on a side note LoL has a fairly standard 10 players on the screen at once except in AI matches.) In addition just because a game isn’t advertised as something doesn’t mean it can not also be classified as something else. I do remain firm the belief that the “massively multiplayer” part is subjective though and can see how having to allow a massive number of players on the screen at once can instead of simply being able to interact with a massive number of players via the game client. As such I’m not saying that you a necessarily wrong, but that more generic things can also hold to be true.
            As far as progression goes that would be for an RPG. MMOs are not all RPGs, only MMORPGs are MMOs and RPGs. I’m not saying that progression isn’t a good thing to have in most any game, but it’s not a requirement for games that aren’t RPGs.
            On a final note, it’s not false advertising to say a game with the ability to play with a massive number of people is an MMO simply because it’s not like WoW or Eve and doesn’t have a persistent world. Things like that should be documented by the company at the very least to clear up confusion that might be caused, but beyond that as a consumer it’s your duty to research what you want to buy to ensure it fits into what you want in a product.

          • Brandon Evans

            Good debate mate, I do see your points but I think this one has run it’s course. Maybe we can find another topic later on.

    • Guest

      If you are using the term MMO, how do you determine what is “massive”? Person A will argue a game is a MMO, Person B will disagree. This will always occur as long as “massively” is a undefined or subjective term:

      999 people playing your game: Not a MMO.
      1000 people playing your game: MMO.

      You are saying League of Legends and all browser games that’s “massive”, are MMOs. What you’re referring to is a Multiplayer Online Game (MOG). If there are MOG and single-player games, referring to them by such is pointless in everyday conversations.

  • k3rc

    Do labels matter?

  • Brandon Evans

    Few things here, most MMOs have features or content that none MMO games also have. The term was coined in a time when you where more likely to go to a LAN party to play multiplayer games then to “dial in.” You know, back in the day when Roger Wilco was the voice chat program of choice. Which is why the “online” part was such an important distinction at the time. Today we are always online and there are tons of multiplayer games we play over the internet, this is where the debate now comes from. Someone saying they are playing or developing a MMO is kinda like someone asking you what you had for breakfast and answering with food.

    To me there have only been two types of games that can fall under the title of “MMO” which are MMORPGs and MMOFPS. There also isn’t any one thing that makes a game an MMO or not. This really needs to be done on a game to game basis. I will have to make a list for each type of MMO since a MMOFPS has some elements in it that a MMORPG can’t have and vise versa.

    Lets start with MMORPGs, if the only way to make your character look different, is with a “skin”, then your not playing a MMO. If the first screen you see after logging in, is a lobby instead of character select, then your not playing a MMO. If you have to invite someone to group to see their avatar, then your not playing a MMO. If you can “beat” the game, then your not playing a MMO. If the internet is only required for multiplayer, then your not playing a MMO. If you are controlling units instead of an avatar, then your not playing a MMO. If you can’t customize your avatars hair, then your not playing a MMO.

    Now lets move on to MMOFPS. If you can be the “host” then your not playing a MMO. If you can select campaign or multiplayer, then your not playing a MMO. If there are no zones on your map, then your not playing a MMO. If you can chose the number of players, then your not playing a MMO. If you can select “co-op” then your not playing an MMO.

    One last thing here, I don’t really think the ActionRPG/Diablo multiplayer games need to
    label themselves as MMOs (Realm of the Mad God / Marvel Heros.) They really need to be under a different heading like Moba is to Dota and LoL. Not sure what it would be, just know it doesn’t need to be MMO.

  • Xoa Wolf

    Whoa whoa whoa, ok. Since when are games that support a massive amount of people a MMO? To clarify my question, why would a game that can have many people playing it (not at the same time in the same “realm, shard, server”) be considered a MMO? That would imply that Halo is a MMO, which I think we can all agree isn’t. Neiter is CoD or Marvel vs Capcom… All these games have ALOT of people playing online against eachother but they aren’t ALL fighting at the same time on the same… match?

    Yes these people CAN play with eachother and yes they CAN all play at the same time, but they aren’t all playing on the same server at the same time. LoL is NOT a MMO… it’s a moba. It only supports a maximum of 10 people on a single game (spectators not included).

    My “qualifications” for a MMO:

    1 – Massive – Must be a open world for players to explore, instancing could blur this line but take it with a grain of salt. And the world should have a sort of life of its own, to be able to change and bring forth new content.

    2 – Gratuitous amounts of players – To me a MMO is a MMO when atleast 100 players can play on a single server at any given point in time, at the SAME time. I feel I’m being VERY lenient here, but the author is right, lines are getting blurred

    3 – Customization (My personal criteria, not really a qualification) – I personally feel that MMOs are meant to have a ridiculous amount of players playing them, so being able to create the avatar YOU want to play, in the WAY you want to play it, is important… but not mandatory.

    Lines ARE getting blurry but guys… lets not get absurd here. LoL =/= MMO just like WoW =/= 3rd person shooter, just cause I can run around with a hunter and shoot things…

    • Jeremy Keat

      I think another distinction that can be made is MMOs are limited in size by technical limits not by design. LoL doesn’t work even if you could cram 30 players on a map.

      A game like call of duty is more scalable but still suffers in the aspect much of what makes the game what it is and enjoyable, particularly its level design has to be totally expanded and revamped to fit larger player numbers.

      MMOs even those like Vindictus that just have lobbies and dissect the playerbase into grouped instances and channels can still find it that there are a hundred people standing in the same zone as you, that are either AFK and doing their own thing not to compete against another team or a clock to get something done either when they enter the world.

  • Simon

    Frankly “MMOs” have become less “massively multiplayer” over time, things like instanced dungeons, dungeon finders, faceroll open world content, seperation of PvP/PvE servers, etc has made most of them more like co-ops with a huge 3d world as a glorifed lobby, with a minimal level of anonymous interaction tacked on for things like dynamic events.

    About the only aspect that involves interaction meaningful enough on a “massive multiplayer” is mass PvP, I would barely classify most MMOs as MMOs these days, at least how many people play them, with the odd exception like EVE Online.

  • King_Anonymous

    Fix your misleading Google+ picture. You’re not the girl in the photo. You’re not a girl at all. Also, a major grammar fail on the title. It’s supposed to be “At What Point Is An MMO Not A MMO?” instead of the shit you put. Yes, it is correct if MMO is not abbreviated but since it is, it’s wrong and you are an idiot.