What are MMORPGs

MMORPGs, or Massively multiplayer online role-playing games, combines role-playing games with massively multiplayer online games, consisting of a substantial number of online players that interact with each other within a virtual world. As with all role-playing games, a player will assume the role of a character, usually in a science-fiction or fantasy world, and will take control over most of the character's actions and activities. A MMORPG is distinguished by the number of online players able to interact with each other from small multiplayer to single-player online RPG's, as well as the game's persistent world, which continues to evolve even if a player is offline.

MMORPGs are enjoyed across the globe with worldwide revenues expected to reach $44.6 billion by 2022. One of the best fantasy MMORPG games is World of Warcraft with more than 10 million subscribers. In 2014, the total revenue for World of Warcraft was $1.04 billion. In 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic was released and became the fastest growing MMOG in the world after gaining over 1 million subscribers in 3 days after its release.

The MMORPG world also features a wide selection of games that are free to play. These games don't require a monthly subscription or upfront payment to enjoy a gaming experience in the virtual world. However, most free-to-play MMORPG games will feature additional unlockables and components that can only be accessed when you have a premium subscription, but still provide a decent gaming experience. Some of the best free online MMORPG games include Runescape 3, DC Universe Online, Guild Wars 2, Rift, and TERA, while the best free online RPG games include DOTA 2, Planetside 2, League of Legends, and Path of Exile.

Common Features

Although there are dramatic differences between modern MMORPGs and their descendants, most of them still share the same basic features. These common characteristics include themes, progression, social interaction, roleplaying, culture, and system architecture.


Most MMORPGs are based on fantasy themes, usually taking place in a universe that can be compared to Dungeons & Dragons. There are also MMORPGs that utilises hybrid themes that can either replace or merge fantasy themes with crime fiction, sword and sorcery, or science fiction. Others will use thematic material from other genres such as the occult or American comic books. These elements are often developed using similar scenarios or tasks involving loot, monsters, and quests.


The primary goal in nearly all MMORPG's is the development of a player's character along with a character progression system. Players are required to earn experience points through various actions and utilize their experience points to advance in character levels, upgrading them to perform better at what they do. The primary ways to earn experience points is by completing quests or fighting monsters, either in groups or alone. Accumulating wealth is also a popular way to progress in most MMORPGs. The cycle of earning experience points or accumulating wealth through combat is often referred to as grinding. In most MMORPGs, a player's level has no limit which allows the grinding experience to endure indefinitely.

Social Interaction

Almost every MMORPG will feature tools to communicate with other players. Most MMORPGs will also provide support for clans or guilds, if available in the game. Many MMORPGs will also require some form of teamwork in certain stages of the game, requiring players to take on specific roles such as healing other players, protecting players from damage, or solving certain in-game puzzles.


There are various types of classes in MMORPGs that players can choose, including Warrior, Knight, Barbarian, Monk, Archer, Thief, Priest, Mage, or Necromancer just to mention a few. Each character will have specific rules and functions that can only be found in that character. For instance, should a player decide to be a priest, they will need to buy a cope to study priestly skills. They will then proceed to act, speak, and interact with other online players. The goals will also differ significantly from a player choosing the role of a Warrior.


Since the inception of MMORPGs, the online gaming community has managed to develop a sub-culture featuring its own metaphor and slang, as well as a list of taboos and social rules. Players will usually complain about "grinding", which is a slang term for any time-consuming, repetitive activity in the game. They will also talk about "nerfs" or "buffs", relating to downgrades or upgrades of a specific game mechanic. These cultures also have certain social rules when joining a group on an adventure to divide the treasures, and how a player should behave while joined with other online players.

System architecture

Almost every MMORPG is created with a client-server system. The server software will generate a virtual world that operates continuously, allowing players to connect to the virtual world through client software. The software downloaded by the client can offer access to the entire virtual world, or expansions will be required at a later stage, that needs to be purchased, to gain access to other parts of the game. In most cases, players will be required to buy the client software which is usually a one-time fee.

Most MMORPGs will require a monthly subscription or payment to play the game. As the games are always online, most will require continuous revenue for development and maintenance purposes. Depending on the system architecture and the number of players, an MMORPG can also operate on multiple servers with each server representing an independent virtual world, where players on one server can't interact with players on another server.