The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Guildhall Game Corner

The ABC’s of MMOs

The computer gaming world is full of acronyms – RTS, FPS, RPG, LOL, ROFL, and more. The list is seemingly endless. But one of the more confusing acronyms, and the worst one to try to pronounce, is MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.

What’s an MMO?

It’s difficult for most people to pronounce “MMORPG,” so I’ll use the generally-accepted “MMO.” The acronym comes from the individual words making up the name; Massively Multiplayer Online means more than 20 people come together at the same time from all over the world. Games like EverQuest, World of Warcraft, Lineage II and City of Heroes often have 20,000 – 200,000 people playing at one time. Essentially an MMO is a game that is played by many people at the same time using the Internet. They form groups to fight monsters and complete quests.

Role-Playing Game is almost a misnomer in today’s game world as many people still relate it to the old D&D paper-games or LARP (Live-Action Role Playing; people in costumes who pretend they are wizards or trolls and actually act out their characters in a scene). The RPG genre lets you pretend you’re another type of character, like an orc or mage, and decide that character’s personality.

MMO worlds are large landscapes filled with a variety of monsters. There are usually many quests to complete — these quests allow you to get experience and increase your level. Some quests may give you magic items or weapons.

I fully understand that this may not sound like fun, and for a long time I would have agreed with you. So what turned me from MMO-hater into MMO-champion?

Where MMOs came from

We have to look back to the paper-based Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) games for the inspiration behind today’s games. These are considered the first generation of MMO, and they established all of the ground rules for how role-playing games should function — combat systems, monetary system, world complexity, the experience and leveling systems (the more experience you get, the higher level you can be; the higher level you are, the more powerful monsters you can fight) being the core gameplay elements.

During the ’80s and ’90s, there was an explosion in online play as basic Internet usage became widespread. Computer power was tiny compared to today’s standards, but innovative developers transported the core D&D gameplay elements to the computer – thus the MUD was born. MUD stands for Multi-User Dungeon, and it was the first real incarnation of today’s MMO structure.

MUDs were (and still are as some still exist) purely text-based games — everything was done through words and descriptions. I remember my classmate leaning over in computer science class and whispering, “Dammit, I died to a troll.” Needless to say, that confused me, but it also served as my introduction to the world of MMORPGs.

MUDs were immersive and people played them incessantly, but soon computer power reached the level where rudimentary graphics began to take over from text-based description.

In 1997, the Internet was stable and accessible enough to the general public. Computer power and availability had reached a standard, and the general level of computer knowledge was high enough (this was roughly the first generation to have grown up with computers, becoming familiar and comfortable with them from an early age.)

Some readers may remember the Ultima series of games that emerged from Origin around that time, taking advantage of the then-hot EGA/VGA graphics power. Ultima was a very popular series but it was always an offline single-player game, until it evolved into Ultima Online (UO) — the game that popularized the MMO genre in 1997. UO allowed the player to wander a huge landscape, perform quests and group with other players to take on harder quests or monsters.

What’s next for MMOs

Were does the MMO genre go in the next 10 years? Accurate predictions are difficult in gaming as computer power doubles every few years and new applications and implementation methods are developed. Hopefully, developers will introduce virtual reality (VR) technology to MMOs. This could allow players to slip on a VR headset to “enter” the game. Only time will tell.

Next Week: The Guildhall’s Game Corner takes a closer look at MMO addiction.

The Guildhall at SMU is an intense 18-month certificate program in digital game development. The curriculum was designed by expert teachers working with leaders in the gaming industry to provide students with a solid foundation in game development. Visit

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