“You’re in our world now!!!” insisted the computer screen, as hundreds of people logged in to the first successful Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game in March of 1999. The game was EverQuest. Now hosting approximately forty servers and four hundred thousand players at peak times, it remains one of the more popular of its kind. Combining 3-D graphics, interactive quests and full chat capabilities, EverQuest creates a totally immersive environment, which has automated the dice, pens and paper required of its predecessor, the tabletop style role-playing Game. In tabletop games, one creates a character then interacts in a made-up world with other people, usually good friends. (NOTE: Gamers often, but not always, are fans of science-fiction and fantasy.) Many times, just making a character could take hours. Depending on the rules of the game, you might need to roll the dice or distribute points in physical traits, skills. A storyteller, also known as the Game Master or Dungeon Master, would set the scene for the adventurers. The characters took on a life of their own with histories and plot twists. Just as a group of people might meet for bridge or poker, gamers would meet weekly at a designated house and play could go on into the wee hours of the morning.
With the release of MMORPGs, the same principles were applied, but were now much more accessible. No longer was it necessary to travel, to be a host or to even own any gaming rule books, a set of ten-sided die or die cast miniatures painstakingly hand-painted. One could simply roll out of bed in the morning and log in.
Instead of imagining the scene that the Game Master has laid out, the images are there. A faerie maiden hovers just to your right, an elvish princess speaks to you with information about your quest. Much like the transformation of a book into a movie, the computer brings the story to life visually, drawing you in. From a first person view, the adventurer watches the world unfold before his eyes. Mountains, trees and castles surround you.
A multitude of choices are given with regards to race, class and religion. One can choose to be a fierce ogre warrior or a kind elfin bard. A name can be original or auto-generated by the computer. The character is given some starting items such as food, water, a weapon or spells if the class requires them. Wandering the lands, they gain experience points toward the next level. Upon killing a monster, they may loot its corpse in search of money, armor, weapons or spells. Quests can be received by speaking to various non-player characters. Groups of up to six can be formed into hunting parties for a more social experience and added firepower.
No longer does a gamer need to have six hours set aside to get lost in their favorite setting. Just logging in gives them access to over one thousand fellow aficionados without being hampered by the actual mechanics of the game and not-so-user-friendly rulebooks. Whether a night watchman or a Wall Street broker, the times available to play are not restricted. Allowing for flexible schedules these days is of great importance. This also makes it easier for those that have families at home and therefore may be unable to open their doors to large groups of friends. Online gaming creates a very diverse world where people from all countries can get together just as though they lived only a block from one another.
With all of this at their fingertips, the gaming world was modernized. In the three years since the release of EverQuest, MMORPGs have exploded in a market of their from medieval fantasy to futuristic space civilization, there is something for almost everyone. You may choose to play a game where you can be a paladin in shiny bronze armor, a wizard in flowing robes or a bard who sings for her supper. The futuristic games offer high-tech weapons, cyber-banking and forcefields for armor. Tabletop gaming is becoming something spoken about with a fond “remember when?” as more and more, people are logging in to see “Welcome to EverQuest! You’re in our world now!!!”