A massively multiplayer online role-playing game is a computer game that combines role-playing and online multiplayer components. Players take on the role of a character in an often fantastical or sci-fi-like world and control their actions. The distinguishing feature of MMORPG from single-player or small multiplayer online role-playing games lies in the number of interacting players and the persistent game world that continues to exist and evolve even when the player is offline.
One of the most famous representatives of the genre is World of Warcraft (2004), which at times had more than 10 million subscribers worldwide.
Common features include a persistent game environment, character development, social interaction, in-game culture, system architecture, group membership, and character customization. Players strive for character development by earning experience points and thus reaching character levels to improve their skills. This is often done by fighting monsters and completing quests. In the process, higher-quality equipment is collected for the character. MMORPGs also provide tools for communication between players, encouraging collaboration and social interaction.
Most MMORPGs offer different classes for players to choose from. Some players choose the role-playing route, act as their characters, and help shape the game world through their choices. The player community has developed its own culture, with its own expressions, rules and taboos. The game’s architecture is based on a client-server system, with the server creating a continuously running virtual world to which players connect via client software. MMORPGs can run on multiple independent servers, each with a limited number of players.
Usually, MMORPGs are further developed with regular updates during operation. As a result, game features and game world may change over time. Other cost factors for the provider are the heavy data traffic between the servers and the thousands of players, as well as the provision of professional service personnel in the real and virtual world. The costs for maintenance and operation of the servers, as well as for new developments, are realized through paid subscriptions or free-to-play models. With the latter, the game is basically free to play, while additional content or features are unlocked through one-time or regular payments. With paid expansions, regions are added to the game world that can only be entered by purchasers of the expansion.
A basic feature of any MMORPG is a built-in chat function for communicating with other players. Over the years, MMORPG jargon of abbreviations and technical terms has developed in this environment.
In addition to written communication via keyboard, oral conversation via headset is common in many MMPORGs. If the game itself does not provide for this possibility, players can use a voice conferencing service in parallel with the actual game. In the many MMORPGs, this form of direct communication is important in order to coordinate the common fight against strong opponents. User-generated content can be another aspect of MMORPGs.