Five MMOs that Changed the Genre

Updated Fri, Nov 30, 2012 by jeffprime

five mmos that changed the genre

When a new MMO is announced today, certain characteristics are automatically assumed. When a certain feature is left out, such as PvP or intensive crafting, the hue and cry begins over how such a feature could be left out. But today's MMOs weren't created in a vacuum. The features that have become predestined standards have changed and evolved over time, with certain games adding something new and different to the genre.

Adventure gaming began with pen-and-paper RPGs such as Dungeons and Dragons, and eventually those gaming ideas drifted to the computer world and began to pollinate. Electronic adventures began humbly with text-based adventures (Zork) to graphic adventures (King's Quest) to MUDs and finally to MMOs. Many games have had an impact over time and Ten Ton Hammer pauses to examine five MMOs that helped shape the genre we all know and love today.

Ultima Online

Ultima Online released in 1997. This game was built upon the fanbase created by the previous eight Ultima games. UO was the first successful MMO to demonstrate that massively multiplayer games could be big business. The number of subscribers peaked at roughly 250,000, which is small by today's standards, but was a big deal back in the late 1990s. Without the financial success of UO, many other MMOs would never have been created.

five mmos that changed the genre
The joys of home ownership in Ultima Online

UO had an additional impact in online gaming, one that many players still seek - open sandbox gaming. UO was the Wild West of MMOs with players being able to act as they please and impact the environment. With players being able to build their own houses as long as an area was able to be built on, player built cities sprang up. I remember people actually quitting their day jobs to sell virtual real estate in UO as the game hit its fever pitch.

A negative aspect of the open sandbox was the incredible amount of griefing that occurred. Players would stalk, kill, and rob other players constantly. I stopped playing very early on for precisely that reason. On a side note, my best friend (a few years before we met) was a well known griefer and was very likely one of those bastards who made my life miserable.

Still, the open sandbox nature of UO still appeals to many gamers today. Who wouldn't want to try out a game where an industrious and wily player managed to assassinate Lord British (Richard Garriott) as he was getting ready to make an in-game speech during the game's beta?

Read onward to see what other games defined the RPG genre.

How the hell can you write an article about MMOs that "changed the genre" without even mentioning WoW. Some say it wasn't revolutionary and devolved the genre, but come on. It's one of a handful of games to ever break 1 million subscribers, much less 10 million. It brought the MMO from the neckbeared, basement dweller to the mainstream gamer. It has received incredible commercial success. Your list is bad and you should feel bad.

More then agree. At least 5th position should be wow, otherwise they should change article tittle to 6 greatest ....

Hah! Somehow I knew that the first person to respond to this would be a butthurt WoW fanboy.

If you're looking at the list, it's a list of games that each brought something new to the table like RvR and instancing and advanced character customization, etc. Getting millions of subscribers isn't revolutionary, it's just luck and timing. WoW didn't do anything that anyone else hadn't done first, they just did it at the right time with the right IP.

I'd say this list is a good start. And, by the way, nowhere does it say "The ONLY Five Games to Change the Genre."

Really wondering if nothing new why become more popular then all other put together. Maybe that "new" was it redefined mmo and set criteria and new standards? :-) Wipe your tears, wow is most succesfull mmo game with reason.

very good list.. i would sign it everyday.
maybe lineage 1 from 1998 would fit into that list too.

oh and btw.. dear wow guys.. wow isnt the mmo with the most players of all time.. lineage 1 = 43 mio players only in asia... so stop complaining.. wow did nothing new.. well they couldnt anyways because everything were right there to that date.

tho they did a good job to bring mmo´s to the mass market in NA/EU.

Man, UO... What a great game, and what awesome memories. EQ too, but what made UO so awesome were all the free shards with cool rulesets and changes to the game. That game was so genre-defining, and after seeing the pic of the house, I'm really craving it again. lol

and RE: WoW belonging on the list, oh please. Not that WoW wasn't a good game or that it didn't have a sound business model, but it wasn't defining in any way other than easy. It's MMO dumbed down to be accessible to the masses. WoW changed the landscape of gaming by bringing people into the community who would likely have never played them otherwise, but it brought nothing specific to MMOs that other games hadn't done first or better. It just made that stuff easier.

Wow did do something, their Auction House. No one thinks about it but would you play a MMO without one? Even the Asian MMO that don't like them add them in these days.

You mean like the Bazaar in EQ? A massive searchable auction house with a unique setup, I actually perfered it over WoWs AH because it wasn't a stupidly crowded mess.

...or EC-Mart before that? How many hours did we spend sitting in that damn tunnel in the East Common Lands shouting our wares to players passing through? =)

I purposely didn't highlight WoW so as to focus some love on perhaps some forgotten gems that newer players wouldn't realize had an impact upon MMOs today. I think WoW is an extremely solid game and you can't argue with its success. Honestly, the more MMOs there are, the better the gaming world we're living in is. I just wish that someone would create a Wild West MMO. I want to have showdowns at high noon!

This is basically a list of games that made me the MMORPG fan that I am. I absolutely loved UO, although I'm not sure I'd have the patience to play a game like that again. It was one of the few games that made me rage quit on a regular basis, which I guess was kind of the beauty of it.

Nice walk down memory lane!

Your website is very chatty. It will be useful for all of us. You have done a good work. I will come here again to inspect new updates. Thanks for posting.

News from around the 'Net