When looking at the scope of how large the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game) environment has become in the past decade or so since its initial inception, it can be somewhat intimidating when trying to determine which game is right for you as a player. With literal scores on the market today from a variety of publishers around the globe, it can almost seem as though there is a limitless choice. But fear not! The games can be broken down into genres to help you refine what defines you as a player, and what kind of game you are looking for.

The most common type of MMO world is fantasy. These games are chock-full of adventure in the form of swords, magic, dwarves, elves, vast landscapes of epic mountains, labyrinth dungeons, dragons, good versus evil, gods and goddesses, and all the elements that make up classic fantasy stock. You create an avatar, customize his or her appearance, choose what type of character you want to be, such as a fighter, thief, mage, healer, and then log into the world and start exploring, adventuring, and meeting other people who are doing the same thing! Games such as the classic Ultima Online (www.uoherald.com) and the original Everquest (www.everquest.com) are still around, and while they provide a basic fantasy adventure setting, the graphics are out-dated and most players have moved onto newer, more renovating games. Newer games such as Everquest 2 (www.everquest2.com), Guild Wars (www.guildwars.com), World of Warcraft (www.worldofwarcraft.com), Lord of the Rings Online (www.lotro.com), and the up-and-coming Age of Conan (www.ageofconan.com) not only boast enhanced graphics and evolutionary game mechanics, but they have also further refined the MMO environment and ironed out the kinks of previous games. While games like the original Everquest had epic quest-lines that literally took months of real-life time and the help of scores of players to complete, newer generations of MMOs have trimmed down the heavy time requirements and strict grouping procedures, introducing games that are now far more appealing to the casual player who might only have a few hours now and again to log in to play.

In terms of science-fiction games the market is a bit thinner than the fantasy genre, but there are still a few gems worth trying out. EVE Online (www.eve-online.com) is a space-exploration game that relies heavily on the player-vs.player (PVP) aspects of gaming, and while you don’t necessarily control an avatar as you do in classic fantasy games, you do get a highly customizable ship. Also, the game is skill-based and your skills continue to rise in real-time, even if you aren’t logged in. Star Wars Galaxies (www.starwarsgalaxies.com) is an MMO based upon the classic Star Wars universe, and while the game has undergone some radical changes since its initial launch, individuals who want to live and breath the Star Wars universe have found this game a pleasant second home. The newly launched Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa (www.rgtr.com) is more of a shooter-based MMO, but the storyline is quite appealing and so far the game seems to be doing well. On the horizon there is also Stargate Worlds (www.stargateworlds.com) based upon the hit series Stargate: SG1, which will have you and your squad-mates stepping through stargates onto unknown worlds to plumb the depths of the universe.

Most of the modern MMORPGs on the market cater to a variety of players across the globe. With literally millions of players (and more subscribing every day) with literally millions of unique schedules, jobs, and outlooks on games, they have to. Most of the games listed here have elements that appeal to anyone from the very basic casual gamer who only logs in one or two times a week for small amounts of time, but also to those people who are full-time gamers, playing anywhere from 4 to 8 hours every night working their way up to epic quest chains and dungeons that require days, if not weeks, of preparation and working together with your friends.

You can also further refine your choice of play by choosing what type of character you want to be. Games these days are not just about adventuring, slaying monsters, and the acquisition of massive amounts of treasure. With thriving virtual economies that exist within each game there is also the need for player-created goods such as food for characters to eat, armor for players to wear, weapons for players to wield, furniture and sundries for players to decorate their in-game houses with, and much, much more. And let’s not forget the social aspects of these games. Most of us who play MMORPGs love them because they are very literally worlds that live and breathe around our characters as we play them. Your actions can very literally affect the lives of those around you, causing friendships, enemies, competition, all of the things that make up the social world as we know it in our work place and our recreational activities.

This list is a very basic guide to the most common and highly-populated MMORPGs on the market today. There are other smaller, niche games, but those are usually not for beginners. The most popular MMO for the last few years has been the juggernaut World of Warcraft, which boasts over nine million subscribers worldwide, according to their figures released in 2007. WoW is well-known for its ease of play, its low requirement for computer specs, and its highly-refined end-game system where players come together to work towards common goals. When researching your game, be sure to look at how the crafting system works, how adventuring works, how leveling works, and be sure to check for the official game forums to get an idea of which servers are good to start on.

Regardless of how much time you play, MMORPGs are a very fun and relatively cheap form of entertainment. Most games retail for around 40-60 dollars and monthly subscriptions are usually around 14-16 dollars a month, which is far more friendly to your pocketbook than the average cost of a movie ticket these days, if you include popcorn and beverages. And let’s not forget that you get to play with your friends, family, or whoever you want to, because no matter which game you choose, you will be playing with people from literally anywhere on the globe.

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