The Golden Age of MMOs was in the 1990s, where games like Ultima Online and Warcraft appeared on the market. The concepts that were first explored in the ’70s and ’80s took a more solid form on the ’90s as the development of technologies far more advanced than in previous decades, and Internet was more common in every household.
As we discussed in part two of the History of MMORPGs, the game that popularized the MMO genre was Ultima Online in 1997. Not even Warcraft 1, 2, or 3 had this much success as the gameplay was simpler when it was released in 1994. The success of Ultima was credited to it being the first online game to have a complete 3D environment.
The first game to claim critical and popular success was the MUD text based game, Legends of Future Past. The game was similar to MUD and MAD but it had lower fees than its predecessors and it was easier to understand. The biggest innovation of Legends was that Game Masters conducted events periodically, been the first online game to have live online event interaction.
The boom in MMOs didn’t just happen in the US and Europe, either. In 1996 the beta stage of Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds was launched in Korea. Nexus was based on Korean mythology and some of the novels by Korean writer Kim Jin. Being one of the first games made internationally, it was subject of many controversies and hard critique.
Another game that launched in 1996 was The Realm Online, by Sierra Entertainment. The game didn’t have any novelty, but rather it gained popularity due the soft and simple graphics and the user friendly interface. The Realm is still alive on the Internet, although it has far less players than it had before. It’s small fan-base is dedicated to keeping the game alive as The Realm is considered by many to be one of the last classic MMOs that can be played today.
The last big MMO of the ’90s, Everquest, was launched in 1999. It is said to be the second most popular game after Warcraft because of its Dungeons and Dragons -like themes. The only major problem with Everquest was that most computers didn’t meet the minimum requirements for gameplay.
In terms of games, the ’90s saw major developments in new games as well as in gaming technology. For the very first time during the 90’s in-game play time was sold in electronic convenient stores, giving players an alternative to buying it online.
Another major breakthrough was the improvement of gaming servers, allowing multiple physical servers to be clustered so more players could play together in the same game world. With the servers’ technological upgrades, the gameplay improved. One big enhancement was the speed of games, but that didn’t happened in one night. It was a process that took half the decade to develop.
In the next article we are going to do a brief walkthrough of the state gaming today and what future developments are on the way.