Population. Popularity. Promotion. These are the three P’s in long term success for an MMO to still be around to this day. If you are wondering if I just came up with that statement then yes you are absolutely right! However, I will prove to you that this is true and also provide an in depth list of the top 10 MMOs that have been around the longest.
First, a long surviving MMO needs people and lots of them. Without a decent fan base, the game will be long forgotten and die out rather quickly. Usually, they will release a beta version of the game to attract players to try out the game and gain some publicity. Therefore, there will be massive flow of players when the game is officially released.
Furthermore, the success of attracting a rather large fan base will lead to my next point, popularity. The details, content, and success of the game will be spread around the Internet rather quickly through word of mouth by the players themselves and blogs, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and of course on YouTube. Thus, it will generate tons of popularity and attract even more players to try out the game.
Lastly, once a certain MMO gathered enough players roaming in their servers and gained a decent amount of popularity, they will try to promote their product. They will promote the game by running events for it such as double exp week, exclusive in-game item giveaways, or even go as far as rewarding players with real money or in game currency! In addition to that, they may promote it by updating their game with tons and tons of endless content. This will bring in even more people and boost their popularity to even greater heights.
Finally, to keep a MMO running long, it needs to generate some sort of profit through monthly subscriptions or ‘premium’ in-game cash items and through those processes they surely will. Why does everything have to start with P’s?
I have arranged a list of the top 10 MMOs that have been around the longest starting with the most recent to the longest. Without further ado, let’s begin!
First Released: June 2003 (in Korea) (9 years and 4 months to date)
GunZ: The Duel is a third person action shooter with a large variety of weapons and moves to annihilate your opponents with. I remember when I first played this game a half decade ago and it kept me up playing all night on most weekends. It was the first popular game of its genre and featured a handful of maps and weapons such as Pistols, SMGs, RPGs, Shotguns, Assault Rifles, and even Katanas. Furthermore, you can perform action packed moves such as running and flipping off of walls, rapidly firing in mid air, and also unleashing devastating stun attacks with melee weapons. This game always reminded me of the Matrix movie series because of how intense the action is with everyone running and jumping around while bullets are flying everywhere in a full room of up to 16 players. There are plenty of modes such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Clan Wars, and also a Quest mode where you team with 3 others to fight against numerous monsters. I love this game and it definitely deserves a spot for being around this long and still can be so much fun today!
First Released: April 28th, 2003 (in Korea) (9 years and 6 months to date)
MapleStory is a 2D side-scrolling action RPG with gigantic fan base of over 7 million players playing worldwide and features cute and cartoony graphics, hundreds of monsters to fight and quests to complete, and endless amounts of new content constantly updated. I was first introduced to this game when it was a little over a year old when it came out internationally. At that time, there were already quite a bit of people already playing since most of the servers available were crowded with people. There is a significant amount of classes to choose from such as the durable Warrior and the agile Thief, and the elemental Magician, to name a few. There is always something new to this game such as new classes, the new PVP system, more quests and equipments, and so much more because the developers just keep adding new content every season of the year. This game is extremely and I mean extremely addictive and that’s still a known fact to this day.
First Released: August 31st, 2001 (in Korea) (10 years and 1 month to date)
Ragnarok Online is a 3D fantasy RPG with beautifully drawn anime-like sprites and the most relaxing music I have heard in a MMO. I first found out about this game from one of my best friends back in 2004 and they only had a 15 day free trial available then. After day one, I was completely hooked! There were so many places to explore from lush forests, sandy deserts, snowy mountains, and even thrilling dungeons. The monsters you fight range from cute pink gelatins called ‘Porings’, frogs, snails, awkward looking grasshoppers to the Lord of Death (basically a level 94 badass) that randomly spawned outside of town. (I was unlucky enough to spawn there and I easily met my demise.) For the next couple of weeks, I spent countess nights trying to job change my Novice to the many classes available such as the ordinary swordsman, mage, archer, thief, and acolyte. It all went by too quickly and with haste I signed up for the monthly subscription.
First Released: August, 21st, 2001) (11 years and 2 months to date)
Shattered Galaxy is the first 2D sci-fi real time strategy MMO ever published. It kind of reminds me of popular RTS games such as Starcraft and the Command and Conquer series. The graphics of course isn’t too attractive since this game was made over a decade ago, but the gameplay was nonetheless, pure excitement. You take control of one of the four available factions: Alien, Troy, Pompeii and Helike. Then once you start a quest you get to manage and command a group of units to march and destroy your enemies to complete your objective. If you are running low on units after a tough mission, don’t panic because you can even buy and manage new units to join your command. However, the biggest aspect of the game is the challenging PVP section where you engage in tough battles against other people. So prepare for an epic sci-fi battle where guns are firing, flames are burning, and light sabers are…umm swinging in Shattered Galaxy!
First Released: January 2001 (11 years and 9 months to date)
Runescape is a fantasy java-based RPG set in the world of Gielinor. It is one of the very first MMORPG ever to be created as a java-based client and also have a large and loyal fan base at that time. There are 25 skills available in the game such as fishing, woodcutting, cooking, potion crafting, blacksmithing, and even able to plant your own plants. Furthermore, you can accumulate exp by participating in any of the skills so you always feel like you are making progress. The combat system is divided into three categories: melee, magic, and ranged. If you’re tired of fighting on your own then you are even allowed to summon your own ally to fight by your side. Don’t let the graphics turn you away from this game (wait till you see #1-4), because even though it doesn’t have the best graphics, what it does have is endless amount of fun and exploration that just never feels the same each time you play. Now I understand why this is #1 most played MMOs today.
First Released: March, 16th, 1999 (13 years and 7 months to date)
Wow, I can’t believe this game came out before the year 2000. Has it really been that long? I remember when I first read about this game in the Playstation Network magazine back in the day and I was quite disappointed that you needed a monthly subscription to play. Now it is completely free!
EverQuest is a 3D fantasy-themed MMORPG that allows us to interact directly with NPCs via text through the chat box. It is a unique way for us to start quests rather than just simply clicking and accepting. Races are separated into three categories: Good (High Elves and Barbarians), Evil (Orges and Trolls), and Neutral (Humans and Gnomes). The graphics were the best available during it’s time and still isn’t too bad. Believe it or not, they are still releasing expansion packs for this classic even after 18 expansions (19th expansion will be released November 2012). There is just too much content to describe in detail and its best if you go on now and check it out yourself for free!
First Released: November 30th, 1997 (14 years and 10 months to date)
Okay, there is some confusion about this game so let me just clear things up. Subspace was originally just a project to test the effects and severity of lag in a ‘massive multiplayer environment’ since MMOs was still something nobody knew a lot of back then. It was known as Sniper back in 1995, but didn’t attract enough players since it was still in beta testing. Two years later, it officially released as Subspace and for about $28 you can play as much as you want without any monthly fees. It was still not a commercial success due to poor marketing and did not maintain a steady growth in fan base since bugs and glitches were still a problem. Fast forward about a decade later, a new client for the game was created called Continuum which features better stability and an interface that is much easier to read than the picture shown above.
Subspace is the first 2D space craft MMO shooter that features competitive game play against real live opponents from around the world. It is basically an online multiplayer version of Asteroids. You can choose from 8 available space crafts each with a different look and feel to it. Weapons and upgrades are scattered throughout the map and players can pick them up and use them immediately against their adversaries.
Meet people from all over the world…then kill them. And it’s free! –Continuum.
First Released: September 24th, 1997 (15 years and 1 month to date)
Ultima Online was the first MMORPG to ever reach 100,000 subscribers long before any other MMO came into the picture. The most unique feature that separates Ultima Online from its fellow competitors is the ability to use skill points that you gain in any way you desires. This means there are no set classes and you can diversify your character the way that you want it. Even if you make a mistake, do not worry because you can simply reset it and start over. Therefore, there is really no need to go make 3 or 4 characters just so you can have one warrior, one mage, and one archer. A modern example of this feature is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim which also allows you to freely use your skill points wherever and whenever you want to thus, creating a flexible style of gameplay.
Currently, there are 8 expansions available with the latest expansion released in 2009. The game has expanded to 6 unique worlds with of hundreds of monsters to fight, dozens of skills to master, the ability to create your own house, and tons of updated content. The developers even decided to cancel future sequels in order to continue support original game for the loyal fans that still play today. A decade and a half in business and I see no stopping anytime soon!
First Released: January 1997 (15 years and 9 months to date)
Tibia is considered the grandfather of MMORPGs and it’s not even the #1 pick on this list. The game mechanics and graphics never changed since it was first released 15 years ago. The game is fully 2D and looks like your average Game Boy Advance game, but it is extremely deep in content for something this old. It features 4 distinctive classes such as the Knight (melee), Paladin (ranged), Sorcerer (black magic, and Druid (white magic). Another interesting feature is that there is open PVP everywhere in some servers and that the game actually encourages you to kill others because if you are successful then you are rewarded exp. That can implement a sense of fear and distrust when you meet up with a fellow stranger. Surprisingly, the interface isn’t too bad at all. Everything is nice and neat as you can see in the picture above.
Strangely enough, there is no character select screen and that everything is customized on the official site including the server selection. There are over 70+ servers today and are located in either Germany or USA with a 1,000 player cap limit per server. There are tens of thousands of players playing at one time each day which is surprising seeing how outdated this game looks. This goes to show that there are still a lot people who prefer simpler graphics and gameplay over the complexity of modern MMOs.
First Released: December 15th, 1995 (16 years and 10 months to date)
Finally! We have come upon the ancient, ancestral, and the great-grandfather of MMOs: Meridian 59. And guess what? It is still available to play today! This game is for those that have no preference in graphics at all because it doesn’t get any worst than this in a MMO. It looks like an old DOS game that I used to play on my 75mhz computer called Betrayal of Krondor.
However, this game has that special element that many modern MMOs don’t have and that is diverse character development. Once you create a new character in the game, you can write a biography about him/her telling the whole world what makes you stand out from the rest. Each player in the game has their own biographies; therefore, role playing is absolutely a huge factor in this game. You have to distribute points in developing you character through 7 stats from Might, Intellect, Agility, etc. Furthermore, each player has a color coded name to determine if he/she is hostile or not. If you have a white colored text it means you are innocent, orange means you tried to kill someone but he/she survived, and red means you murdered someone. So it makes each interaction with other people even more thrilling.
Player vs. Player is the main theme of this game and it gets really exciting especially when you are involved in full scale guild war. People are shooting firebolts, arrows, and swinging their blades at you while you recklessly try to chase down other people with your trustworthy sword and shield. Staying alive is the most important thing that you have to keep in mind because death penalties are downright gruesome.
So there is no surprise that this game can last that long despite looking like a pixilated mess. You don’t need graphics when you have engaging and unique gameplay mechanics. It’s like they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
“OMG Ant, you didn’t include (insert MMO game here) in your list! What’s the deal?”
Note: I know that there are older MMOs than the ones shown here, but I also base this on personal preference and each selection is still running and is close to about a decade old and beyond.