by: MD Weems
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 4/17/2012
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Ever wonder just what the difference is in a normal pc game and an MMO? Well, search no further, here is your explanation of what an MMO game really is.
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So What Is An MMO?
An MMO, or massively multiplayer online game, is basically a video game that has the ability to support hundreds, or even thousands, of different players online at any one time. For this reason, these games are normally played over the Internet and will always have at least one common “world" in the game. In today's market, these MMO games are no longer just on the PC, but many console games are now falling under the MMO category, as console makers utilize new technology and Internet links to allow gamers to play with other gamers all over the world on several different consoles, such as the Playstation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS, and the Xbox 360. In an MMO, gamers can play with other gamers all over the world, allowing them to compete (Player versus Player) and cooperate in different ways, such as finishing up quests, defeating hard NPC's (non-player characters), and creating items that other players can use. There is a wide variety of gaming types when it comes to MMOs that are spread all over different video game genres.
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What Makes An MMO Different Than Other Games?
Well, there are actually a number of different characteristics that are shared by the vast majority of MMOs that make them completely different than other games out there on the market. For example, MMOs offer a stable, alter-universe that will exist and continue playing no matter if gamers are online or not – the sun sets, the sun rises, and it doesn't matter who is there to see it. While the majority of MMO games emphasize multiplayer options and play, these games will continue to run with artificial intelligence on the client that the game is set on, which allows players to log in and play, but also does not allow players to “beat" the game as they would in a normal PC or console game.
But, MMO's also share several other characteristics between them that set them apart from other games. For example, they host a large group of players in one game area, or world, and all of these players can play together – either on the same side or against them – at any time they log into the game. So, what constitutes an MMO and just a game that offers multiplayer action? Well, typically, MMO games have over 50 players online at any time, per server or client, according to Wikipedia. Those games that have under 50 players online at any time and play on private servers, such as Half-Life.
There are many people out there in the game industry who are still debating whether a high player count on each server is the qualifying mark that will classify a game as an MMO or not, while others argue that it is the size of the in-game world itself and the ability of that world to support a large number of players, no matter if it does or not. The reason behind the last argument is that most games that fall right on the line of the MMO definition, usually have the ability to support a large number of gamers, such as in the thousands, on one server at any time.
Now, to help support all of the masses of players on an MMO, the game will need several servers that can support the online gamers and worlds, unlike a normal pc or console game that only needs the game itself to support one player. Most MMO games feature multiple servers, where the world is always the same, but different players play on different servers and the players on one server don't come into contact with players on another server. These are called “sharded" universes, and many of the more popular MMO games on the market will have over 10 of these servers, sometimes up towards a hundred servers running at one time.
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In The End
In the end, there are still more differences between normal games and MMO games. For example, MMO games normally charge the player a monthly fee so that they can have access to the servers, or they will offer another type of incentive for the players to purchase “gold" or items from the game company to use in the game to get the character ahead of others. Another difference is that the “game" of the MMO never resets when the player logs out. This means that when a player completes special levels or quests, that same accomplishment will still be there tomorrow. Also, MMO games offer gamers the ability to band together, usually in the form of a guild or clan. This helps those gamers gear up together and get special areas of the game completed. But, sometimes the boundaries of these MMO games are a bit hard to determine, as some games will fall into both categories. In those cases, it is best to go with what the manufacturer deems the game to be.