The word game has started, are you all paying attention?
A massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) is a genre of computer role-playing games (CRPGs) in which a large number of players interact with one another in a virtual world. The term MMORPG was coined by Richard Garriott, the creator of Ultima Online, the game credited with popularizing the genre in 1997.
As in all RPGs, players assume the role of a fictional character (often in a fantasy world),and take control over many of that character's actions. MMORPGs are distinguished from single-player or small multi-player CRPGs by the number of players, and by the game's persistent world, usually hosted by the game's publisher, which continues to exist and evolve while the player is away from the game.
MMORPGs are very popular throughout the world. Worldwide revenues for MMORPGs exceeded half a billion dollars in 2005,and Western revenues exceeded US$1 billion in 2006. In 2007 and 2008 the virtual goods buying and trading has taken an amazing increase. Next to the more traditional subscription model, virtual goods are a second source of revenues for publishers.
Although modern MMORPGs sometimes differ dramatically from their antecedents, many of them share some basic characteristics. These include several common themes: some form of progression, social interaction within the game, in-game culture, system architecture, and character customization. Characters can often be customized quite extensively, both in the technical and visual aspects, with new choices often added over time by the developers. Many games also offer some form of modding in order to allow for even greater flexibility of choice.
Character abilities are often very specific due to this. Depending on the particular game, the specialties might be as basic as simply having a greater affinity in one statistic, gaining certain bonuses of in-game resources related in-game race, job, etc.
The majority of popular MMORPGs are based on traditional fantasy themes, often occurring in an in-game universe comparable to that of Dungeons & Dragons. Some employ hybrid themes that either merge or substitute fantasy elements with those of science fiction, sword and sorcery, or crime fiction. Still others use more obscure themes, including American comic books, the occult, and other recognizable literary genres. Often these elements are developed using similar tasks and scenarios involving quests, monsters, and loot. As the MMORPG genre matures, and the search for new consumer niches continues, this variety can only be expected to diversify.