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Comparison of Browser-Based and Client-Based / Downloadable MMOs

by: Finn Orfano ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

How do you make a choice when it comes to selecting an MMO? Do you prefer a completely online MMO, or do you prefer the one which can be installed directly into your PC? Let me compare the Browser-based and the Downloadable MMOs for you.

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    The types of MMOs

    You all must be familiar with the term MMOs and MMORPGs - Massively Multiplayer Online games and Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Games. Who isn’t aware of these addictive games that allow you to play with other real players online, not having the automated computer as an opponent? But how do you choose which MMO game is better for you?

    Broadly speaking there are two types of MMOs – Browser-based MMOs and Downloadable or Client-based MMOs. Browser-based MMOs are those which do not require a download. All you need is a stable and working internet connection and a good Internet browser. As long as you fulfill these requirements, you can simply create an account and play these games. Downloadable MMOs however require a game client to be downloaded and installed on your PC before you can log on and play them. Which one is better? Let me just explain their features for you.

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    Downloadable, client based MMOs generally have an advantage when it comes to graphics and aesthetic appeal. The best part of playing a client-based MMO is that you would be awed by the excellent dynamic graphics that are available to you. Just look at any of the screenshots (sample pictures) of the popular MMOs and you’ll see what I mean. World of Warcraft, Saga, City of Heroes, Second Life, EVE Online, and Warhammer Online ­— these are some of the popular MMOs that require a download.

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    Screenshot from a downloadable MMO - SAGA

    The rich graphics of SAGA
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    System requirements

    Regarding system requirements, the Browser-based MMOs definitely win out over the Client based ones. There is rarely a need to check your graphics card and almost definitely no need to worry about disk space. All you need is a regular web browser and preferably Java and Flash Player installed.

    You can rarely enjoy a Client-based MMO if your graphics card is outdated or if your system does not meet or exceed the game's basic requirements. For one, the game would not install properly. Otherwise, it may simply freeze up at the oddest of times or may even cause a system crash. Further, many of these games perform extremely poorly at anything lower than their recommend settings requirements (forget minimum hardware requirements). Lag, system slowdowns, crashes, graphical artifacts, and other problems are common unless you have hardware that is near their recommendations.

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    Other major differences

    If you are playing a Downloadable MMO you start by downloading a large file the first time you play. After that, if the game ends up becoming popular, it is highly likely there will be continual development and the distribution of regular patches. This could mean frequent downloads of new content. This is good since it means you get more game to play, but the hassles can be frustrating sometimes. This is one thing you cannot skip, as a lot of gameplay features may not work on an outdated version. A new class of creatures – check. New maps and locations – check. Simply a couple of new items for your character – check.

    Browser-based MMOs on the other hand have their negative points in terms of server issues. If the game is that popular, it would require a dedicated set of servers, which may not work all smoothly every time. Each new development may mean a downtime of a few hours.

    Not all Browser-based MMOs are without good graphics (see the available image from Tribal Wars). Colourful graphics of Tribal Wars But those which have good graphics, may take time to load fully. Good examples of MMOs which have focus on the graphics are – Habbo Hotel, Renaissance Kingdoms, Fallen Sword, and Tribal Wars. Habbo Hotel incidentally, is famous for its dynamic graphics.

    Now it’s up to you to decide what kind of MMO game you want to play. The choice is yours.

    (Images taken from the respective game sites)

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    Subscriptions, Free to Play, Microtransactions

    One other significant common difference between client-based MMOs and browser based MMOs is the business plan. Client based MMOs typically have a subscripion fee in addition to an up front fee for the client and the box. Many browser based MMOs are free to play with optional, purchasable extras, microtransactions, or other business models that let you play for free until you decide you want something extra for the game. This is certainly something to consider when looking for an MMO to play.

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    In the end, both types of MMOs have their pros and cons. There are high quality, entertaining, and fun MMOs of both types. The decision ultimately comes down to the type of user experience you prefer, the type of payment plan you like, and the actual game design and features that appeal to you. It is wise to try both types of MMOs, as most people find the way they interface with the game is not nearly as important as the gameplay once you are connected.