Thursday, October 01, 2009
Massively recently had a long post with input from many game developers on whether to use the term "MMO". As Raph Koster remarks in that post, "MMO" isn't really a good term, because its a bunch of adjectives without a noun. "I'm playing a massively multiplayer online" simply makes no sense at all. I do sometime use "MMO game", but that ends up being longer than the old acronym MMORPG.
One possibility would be to use MMOG. I do think it is important to mention the "game" in the acronym, because in my opinion a virtual world like Second Life is not a MMOG. It is just a world without a game, so MMOW would fit better for those. But then we still don't know what sort of a massively multiplayer online game we are talking about! It could still be a big online poker tournament or something.
My preferred solution is to keep using MMORPG, and re-educate people about what the "RP" stands for in this context. Unfortunately too many players think "role-playing" is about talking in Elizabethean English, or having a background story for your character, or speaking "in character" all the time. But that sort of theatrical role-playing has always been a minority pursuit, even back in the times of Dungeons & Dragons. What the majority of players does is what the theatrical role-players dismiss as "roll playing": Playing a character with evolving stats, trying to get those stats up by leveling and gathering gear. And that, in my opinion, is the more correct interpretation of "RP". For example if you grab the latest strategy game and see printed on the box that this version now has "role-playing elements", nobody expects you to pretend you are a soldier while playing the game; it simply means that your units have stats, gain experience in fights, and you'll be able to use the same units with now improved stats in the next mission again.
This sort of stat-improving role-playing is one of the defining features of the kind of games we play here. Which is why I am not in favor of dropping it from the acronym, even if I do admit that the result is rather long and not easily pronounced. But unless somebody comes up with a much better term, I'm sticking with MMORPG. And "Tobold's MMORPG Blog" this is going to remain until then.