The Four Categories of MMOs and their relation to each other

Yesterday in class, my professor was talking about Worldiness vs. Gaminess in MMOs and categorized EQ as more of a worldey game and WoW as more of a gamey game. The second part I don’t really mind, but the first part I thought was odd as while EQ does indeed have more of a world to it, it certainly isn’t world based, it is still a very gamey game. So during class, making good use of the time, I drew an outline rating what I felt was the most worldey and gamey games in the MMO world and what I realized on this list was that there was a tendency for them to be grouped by some very specific types.

Virtual Worlds

This type of MMO is classified by the fact that they actually seem to have an intent to be as realistic with their world. Almost to the extent that there is little game involved other than the ones you create as the player. Examples of this type of world would be Ultima Online, Eve Online, and Star Wars Galaxies. You can use UO as a pretty prime example, there were no quests in this game. You ran around in a seamless world, killing stuff and harvesting, bringing it back to a tradeskiller who will make you better stuff. It doesn’t seem different on the surface, but everything really was planned to make it seem like a real working world, in beta they even had a virtual ecology working somewhat that they had to take out of the game due to technical issues.

PvP Worlds

These are worlds that specialize in bringing meaningful PvP to players. As such, there are more worldey like features to these games in order to make the PvP more substantial. For instance, Lineage has castles to defend and certain areas drop certain types of resources. This type of feature makes sense for a PvP world, but it also makes the game much more worldey and real than another game may. Examples of this type of game include Lineage, Shadowbane, and Dark Age of Camelot.

Core Worlds

The name of this category isn’t to infer that these are where core players play, but rather these are the type of worlds that really stereotype what it means to be an MMO and previously to WoW they were the most popular type of world. They are a lot more quest-based and even adventure-based than the above two categories, but still hold some sort of open feel. Games like Everquest 1 & 2, Asheron’s Call, and Anarchy Online really typify this category and if you notice most people would likely call these fairly standard MMOs in almost every sense of the word.

Single Player Worlds

These worlds are the most gamey of MMOs. The makers of them essentially took a single-player game and put it online to play. Examples for this type are World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, and ToonTown Online. One of the features that comes with throwing a single-player game and putting it online is that these games are very very solo friendly, almost to the extent that many people don’t even bother grouping.

Further Clarification

Certainly there is cross-over here. For instance, SWG, WoW and AO all have PvP in them, but the intent of these three games was never PvP and they have more to do with an added feature than anything else. Another example of a cross-over is Dark Age of Camelot which I categorize as PvP largely due to the relic and fort capturing that occurs in the game, but it certainly leans more towards a Core game than Lineage and Shadowbane might. In order to really categorize these games well, you have to really look not at every little feature in the game but first what the developers were trying to do with the game, as well as whether they pulled it off. For instance, the original developers of Anarchy Online may very well have intended it to be a more PvP game, but in the end it turned out to be more of a core game than a PvP game. This kind of difference in category can be very tricky and really requires playtime in a game for at least a few months.