Updated Fri, Nov 30, 2012 by jeffprime
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 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.
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.