Online games have come leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades. So much has changed over the years. Yet still, oddly enough, some things haven't changed at all. Unfortunately, both of those factors aren't entirely beneficial. Some of the most fun and entertaining things have changed and been replaced by less exciting ones. Additionally some of online role-playing games' most sub-par systems really haven't improved all that much.

I often ask myself where things are going, and not only that - but why they're going that way. It isn't an easy question to answer. Usually, I need to key in on something specific to find a little clarity and perspective on the dilemma. This week, I'm keying in on the roles players play in online games - and not just combat roles - but the actual social and economical functions that go along with all of that.

Putting the Role in Role-Playing

This week I'm going to take a look at various games old and new and compare experiences from then and now. I'm going to look at combat. I'm going to look at trade and economy. And most importantly, I'm going to look at the social dynamics at play. After all, the most unique facet of any MMORPG is the fact that it is a persistent online world that can be shared by hundreds, thousands, and even millions of players. That's what these games are truly all about, right?

If any of these games are being designed with single-player scenarios in mind - they're clearly in the wrong genre. Multi-player is part of the acronym for a reason. In my mind, it's also the reason that we even try to call these games "Role" Playing Games. It's true that a single player game can still offer various roles to choose from, but the role you serve in a group of other players is much more interesting, dynamic, and compelling.

Setting an Angle

I believe there are many different factors that affect how players take on and fill a particular role within an MMO game community, and I plan to explore as many of them as I can over the course of this week. I'll be looking back at old games and determining why they were enjoyable and what made them work during their prime. Additionally, I'll also try to determine how they were lacking and why players decided not to stick around.

No points or cases I make will ever be the end-all perspective; nor am I attempting to form any kind of consensus on what has become of the genre. I'm simply going to analyze and estimate to the best of my knowledge, ability, and experiences and I encourage you to do the same. Feel free to chime in on the comment sections below any article (including this one), and share your own thoughts and opinions with me as we go.

Don't be afraid to reach out on twitter either with feedback, suggestions, or even requests for games that you think I should cover during this examination.

Objective Analysis is the Plan

As best I can, I want to view all of these with as little of a bias as humanly possible. I really want to just sit down with an open mind and consider how we got to where we are and which games got us here. There are so many influential and important games playing a role that I know I won't be able to mention them all, but I will do my best.

Ultimately, I just want to understand what happened and why, in hopes of better projecting the future prospects of several upcoming games. There are so many games on the market - especially MMORPG games - that the average player doesn't have a hope of playing them all. Sometimes, it's hard to find one you even enjoy playing.

Hopefully by the end of this little mini-series we'll all have a better idea of what developers are trying to do, that way we can better evaluate some of these games before we end up wasting our money on all the latest early-access and crowd-funding concepts being touted by most of these companies. It seems as though most every upcoming MMO game is pursuing these kinds of alternative funding to get through development. So doing your homework is more important than ever before.

Final Thoughts

I think I'll be able to save you a bit of legwork, and hopefully remind you of some pleasant memories from back when you were playing some of these games yourself. I know I personally have plenty of fond memories from my early days of online gaming, and I don't think I'm alone in that respect. Everyone has their first MMO, and everyone's got their favorite as well. Quite often, those two are one and the same.

I'm looking forward to diving into this little research project and sharing what I find with you all. I'll also be sharing thoughts from friends, family, and even some of my co-staffers here at TenTonHammer, as I plan to shed some light on these topics with more insight than just my own. If you're interested in participating and sharing your own stories, be sure to reach out to me on twitter, or even just send me an email - as I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Otherwise, just use the disqus comment section below and I'll do my best to respond and continue the discussions there.

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Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Alex has been playing online games and RPGs for quite some time, starting all the way back with Daggerfall, EverQuest, and Ultima Online. He's staying current with the latest games, picking up various titles and playing during his weekly streams on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings with both MMOs and MOBAs being feature plays. Hit him up on Twitter if you have a stream request for Freeplay Friday! Two future games he's got a keen eye on are Daybreak's EverQuest Next and Illfonic's Revival.