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MMO Gaming Dictionary - Character Terminology

by: Michael Hartman ; edited by: Michele McDonough ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

This section of the MMO Gaming Dictionary focuses on terms related to characters, avatars, and character development.

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    Character Terminology in MMORPGs

    The MMO Gaming Dictionary is an ongoing project here at Bright Hub. It was originally begun on my blog, Muckbeast. It has been expanded here on Bright Hub and is updated periodically. This section of the dictionary is related to online avatars, characters, and character development.

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    Ability through Level

    Ability - This generally refers to the special actions your character can take to interact with the game world, fight mobs, buff or debuff people, etc.

    Alliance - This is a formal or informal group of guilds or clans that band together for a common purpose. Some games support alliances through code. On games that do not, guilds often form alliances and maintain them through web forums or mailing lists.

    Avatar - Your in game representation of your character persona.

    Build - SEE: Specialization

    Clan - Player formed organization that is designed to facilitate teamwork in PvE or PvP. Clans can be simply a group of friends who want an easier way to communicate, or they can be a highly formalized group of individuals with a specific goal (like a raid clan).

    Class - Classes are the most common term for the job or profession of an MMO character. The class usually determines the majority of a character's skills and abilities.

    Ding - To gain a level or advance your character in some significant way. This term originated from the musical "ding" sound effect most MMOs have when you gain a level. Players would then often announce on a chat channel "DING!" to tell friends they had gained a level. Frequently, people then respond "Grats!" Some people will jokingly refer to this phenomenon as "DING GRATS!"

    EXP - See: Experience Points.

    Experience Points - Also EXP or XP, these are points that you earn from things like killing NPCs, completing quests, or other tasks. XP is generally used to gain levels, train skills, or somehow represent an improvement in your character's ability or level.

    Faction - MMOs often have groups or organizations of NPCs that are called a Faction. Your character then can perform quests or tasks that can improve your standing with that faction (reputation). You can also improve your reputation sometimes by simply killing the right kind of mobs. As you improve your reputation with a faction, you often unlock access to additional content, items, or features. Some factions are diametrically opposed. So gaining reputation with one faction will lower your reputation with another.

    Group - A number of players, generally ranging from 1 to 8, who formally join forces to complete shared goals. Groups generally share xp and loot, quest updates, and similar accomplishments. There is typically a group leader who handles invites, loot settings, and dismissals. Raid groups are generally multiple groups that are unified for significant goals (e.g. raids).

    Guild - In some games, like Threshold RPG, your guild is your class or profession. In other games, your guild is like a Clan. See: Clan.

    Healer - This is an extremely general category of class role that includes any classes or characters that can provide healing to a group. A current absurd trend in online games is to give healers a lot of DPS/damage abilities. This is a lame attempt to make healing classes more popular. People don’t play healers because they want to do damage. If your game is hindered by a lack of healers, find ways to make them more fun or design your game not to absolutely require their presence in every team.

    Hybrid - Hybrid classes generally combine two or more aspects of other types of classes. They may combine tanking and dps, support and dps, support and tanking, ranged and melee dps, etc. Unfortunately, hybrid classes tend to be very difficult to balance for most MMO designers, and they often just give up and accept hybrid class inferiority (e.g. Thanes on DAoC). This is a shame, because hybrids appeal to a very large segment of the gaming population and they really should not be ignored.

    Level - In level based games, your level is an abstract representation of how powerful or experienced you character is. Typically, a higher level character is more powerful than a lower level character. But in some games, player skill is of such importance that a lower level player can actually be more useful or effective than a higher level one. Sadly, this is pretty rare in the current MMO climate.

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    Profession through XP

    Party - SEE: Group.

    Profession - Some games use professions for their classes. SEE: Class.

    PUG - Acronym that stands for Pick Up Group. This type of group is formed by people who do not consistently play together, and may even be meeting for the first time. They are often formed through the use of in-game "group finding" tools, or by just going to the location where you want to do something and pick group members from people that happen to be in the same place at the same time. PUGs are typically less organized and less proficient than regular groups, since the members do not have practice working with each other.

    Race - Some games only have humans, but many have a wide variety of other playable races. Races can include the traditional elf and dwarf, or sometimes more exotic races like catfolk, trulloc, minotaur, lizardman, etc.

    Spec - SEE: Specialization

    Specialization - Many games give you the ability to specialize your character in a number of ways. You can improve certain abilities at the expense of others, you can choose different paths of advancement, etc. This is often referred to as your spec or your build.

    Skills - Sometimes skills are the same as abilities (SEE: Ability), but in other games your skills are statistics that affect or enhance your abilities.

    Stats - SEE: Statistics

    Statistics - Not all games use statistics, but those that do generally use them as numerical representations of core attributes of your character - things like strength, intelligence, dexterity, constitution, etc. These statistics are then used to determine success or failure of other actions, or they might determine things like your total health, total mana, chance to critically hit, etc.

    Stealth - Certain character types have the ability to "hide in shadows" or enter a "stealth mode." In MMORPGs, this is usually a type of invisibility that lets stealth characters sneak up on others for large critical strikes or for scouting. Implementation of stealth varies enormously from MMO to MMO. Some stealth powers are pure toggles. Others are cast and have a limited duration.

    Support - Support is a class role that is designed to support or assist other class roles. Healers, buffers, and crowd controllers are traditionally the main types of support. Some hybrid classes also provide support.

    Tank - A character or class that is designed for Tanking.

    Tanking - This is the class role that involves holding aggro and absorbing damage so other team members can deliver DPS, debuffs, crowd control, and so forth to take down opponents. Tanking is mainly about two things: threat/aggro generation (holding the attention of a foe) and damage absorption/mitigation. It is a sad trend in modern online games that tanks are often very weak at dealing damage. This makes tank characters very group oriented as solo or small group play is frustrating since it takes them forever to kill things. This is, in my opinion, a flawed and anti-fun way to design “tanks."

    Toon - This is another term for a character or online avatar. It is a shortened version of the word "cartoon." Since many early MMO characters were very cartoonish looking, this term evolved.

    Twink - A character/player who engages in Twinking.

    Twinking - The process of artificially or excessively buffing up a character using resources from a higher level character, a higher level friend, gold bought from an RMT site, or any method other than normal play of that character. The classic example of twinking is using your own high level character to farm or buy full sets of powerful gear for a lower level character of your own.

    XP - See: Experience Points.

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    Visit Our Blog and Add Your Own Terms

    The MMO Gaming Dictionary is a work in constant progress. We invite all of our readers to visit the blog post connected to this project and suggest other terms that should be included. Please visit the MMO Gaming Dictionary blog post.

    Thank you!

MMO Gaming Terminology

MMORPGs have a language all of their own. It is heavy on acronyms, backronyms, and other confusing terms. This series of articles is a handy reference that explains many MMO terms.
  1. MMO Gaming Dictionary - Combat Terminology
  2. MMO Gaming Dictionary - Character Terminology
  3. MMO Gaming Dictionary - General Terminology

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