Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (abbrieviated to MMORPG) is a genre of online computer role-playing games (CRPGs) in which a large number of players interact with one another in a virtual world.
As in all RPGs, players assume the role of a fictional character.
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, with combined global memberships in subscription and non-subscription games exceeding 15 million as of 2006. Worldwide revenues for MMORPGs exceeded half a billion dollars in 2005, and Western revenues exceeded one billion USD in
List of Star Wars MMORPGsEdit
In nearly all MMORPG's the development of the player's character is a primary goal. Many titles feature a character progression system in which players earn experience points for their actions and use those points to reach character "levels", which makes them better at whatever they do. Traditionally, combat with monsters and completing quests for NPC's, either alone or in groups, is the primary way to earn experience points. The accumulation of wealth (including combat-useful items) is also a way to progress in many titles, and again, this is traditionally best accomplished via combat. The cycle produced by these conditions, combat leading to new items allowing for more combat with no change in gameplay.
MMORPGs always allow players to communicate with one another. Depending on the other interactions allowed by the game, other social expectations will be present.
Many MMORPGs exploit their players' social skills and offer support for in-game guilds or clans (though these will usually form whether the game supports them or not). As a result many players will find themselves as either a member or a leader of such a group after playing a MMORPG for some time. These organizations will likely have further expectations for their members (such as intra-guild assistance).
Even if players never join a formal group, they are still usually expected to be a part of a small team during game play, and will probably be expected to carry out a specialized role.
Since MMORPGs have so many elements in common, and those elements are experienced by so many people, a common culture of MMORPGs has developed which exists in addition to the culture present within any given game. This usually manifests itself in common terminology. For example, since MMORPGs often feature many different character "classes", the games must be balanced in order to be fair to all players, and this has led players of many games to expect "nerfing" or "buffing", which are terms describing the weakening or strengthening of a subset of players, respectively.
Most MMORPGs are deployed using a client-server system architecture. The software that generates and persists the "world" runs continuously on a server, and players connect to it via client software.
Some MMORPGs require payment of a monthly subscription to play. By nature, "massively multiplayer" games are always online, and most require some sort of continuous revenue (such as monthly subscriptions and advertisements) for maintenance and development. Games that feature massively-multiplayer functionality, but do not include roleplaying elements, are referred to as MMOGs.
Depending on the number of players and the system architecture, a MMORPG might actually be run on multiple separate servers, each representing an independent world, where players from one server cannot interact with those from another.
Since the interactions between MMORPG players are real, even if the environments are not, psychologists and sociologists are able to use MMORPGs as tools for academic research. Sherry Turkle, a clinical psychologist, has conducted interviews with computer users including game-players. Turkle found that many people have expanded their emotional range by exploring the many different roles (including gender identities) that MMORPGs allow a person to explore.
Many MMORPGs feature living economies, as virtual items and currency have to be gained through play and have definite value for players. Such a virtual economy can be analyzed (using data logged by the game) and has value in economic research; more significantly, these "virtual" economies can have an impact on the economies of the real world.
- Massively Multiplayer Online Games - A set of articles posted at Gamespy.com, concerning the past, present, and future of the genre.
- Evolution of MMORPGs - An article from Jiyan Wei on the role of the ordinary user in shaping MMORPGs.
-  - An article presented at the Computer Game Developer's Conference regarding Ultima Online's economic system, and the failures thereof.