Thursday, January 24, 2013

The evolution from role-playing to online MMORPG games

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The original computerised role-playing games had their roots very much in fantasy literature, such as that of Tolkien, and this 'sword and sorcery' tradition has largely continued unabated to the present day, whether in single player role-playing games or MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). Some modern role-playing games place the players in a different world environment, for instance that of Star Wars, and some are entirely realistic and not fantasy-based, but the vast majority still have a strong fantasy element; such a basis for a game gives a great variety within the game and allows for all sorts of interesting things to be possible, notably magic and the casting of spells. Although the content may have stayed fairly similar since early role-playing games, the way such games are played is immeasurably different.

The earliest role-playing games of the 1970's were largely text-based and involved reading vast swathes of information, often from a separate manual or booklet, and then typing various applicable answers to questions to progress through the game. This may seem alien to us today, more akin to reading a book in many ways, but it must certainly have produced many a vivid imagination! As computer technology and hardware capabilities developed through the decades, single-player role-playing games evolved to be more action-based and make full use of 3D graphics in the first person; dragon killing may still have been involved but now it was done with a satisfying swing of visible sword rather than with a few well-directed words.

Today, the huge online fantasy worlds of MMORPGs are all the rage with the most popular games, such as World of Warcraft, having millions of players worldwide. Of course, the main difference between single-player role-playing games and their multiplayer online counterparts is the vast amount of player-player interaction available. This is not just about having to take on real players as opponents but also being able to interact with real players within the game world in far more diverse ways than possible with non-player characters. MMORPGs often contain both non-player characters and real players, the computerised players are generally set up as part of quests which a player, or team of players, can try and complete thus mixing the best of the single-player and multi-player experiences.

Although filling a fantasy game world full of real players makes the game far more unpredictable and fun than a traditional single-player role-playing game, the main attraction of MMORPGs is the opportunity they bring for socialising with other players from around the world, whether this actually occurs within the game or not. Such social interaction is the genre's main selling point, most MMORPGs have dedicated guild or clan systems, along with chat rooms and forums, which promote interaction within the game world, so that you can team up with your mates and go off questing, and outside of it, allowing you to merely chat with acquaintances in America, France or even Hull without having to virtually meet up with them in-game. These MMORPGs may seem far removed from their book-like ancestors, but the essence at the heart of them all is the same: having fun; now that the internet let's that involve your mates, even better!

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