The internet has fundamentally changed the way we play our favorite video games since it went public in 1991. In the decades that followed, the service spread with the speed of light, constantly evolving until it became the global network we all use today. We’ve seen the emergence of the first social networks, blogs, forums, the first online games, online casinos like https://www.alljackpotscasino.com/ and their social counterparts, streaming services, payment processors, and everything in between. And we’ve also seen the rise of massively multiplayer games connecting teammates and opponents often half a world away. But it would be a mistake to think that MMOs only existed in the internet era. Games were played by masses of players even before internet connections made it easier for them to do so.
The first game to allow visual interactions of players through a computer network was Mazewar, written in 1974 by Steve Colley on the Imlac PDS-1’s at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. It was also the first game to use the first-person perspective, creating the FPS genre and influencing other games – RPGs mostly – released later. Colossal Cave Adventure, an adventure game heavily influenced by D&D and with a computer-controlled dungeon master, emerged one year later. It was the first widely played text-based adventure game, especially after Stanford graduate student Don Woods expanded it with high fantasy elements based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Other notable multiplayer adventure games that were released in the 1970s include Zork, one of the first interactive fiction games, and MUD1, the first notable virtual world.
The first game that can be called an MMORPG (although “massive” in its case means far fewer players than today) was the Island of Kesmai, a turn-based multiplayer adventure with gameplay inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, released in 1985. It introduced a basic questing system, which has become a popular feature in later MMORPGs like EverQuest and WoW. Habitat, the game released by Lucasfilm Games a year later, was the first true graphical online RPG, with a large-scale virtual community. Habitat ran between 1986 and 1986, followed by Club Caribe, its sequel with improved graphics, in 1998. Habitat was revived in 2017 as NeoHabitat by Randy Farmer, one of the original’s creator.
The early 1990s saw the spread of the internet, along with the rise of many titles making use of it – mostly through costly proprietary networks like America Online, CompuServe, and GEnie. These years saw the rise of games like Neverwinter Nights (not to be confused with BioWare’s game with the same title), the first multiplayer online RPG to display graphics, Legends of Future Past, GemStone IV, Dragon’s Gate, and Federation. Later, titles like The Realm Online, Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds, Meridian 59, and Ultima Online were released – the latter was the game which was first described as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, coining the term and its popular acronym (MMORPG). From here on, the development of MMO games accelerated, with the release of The Fourth Coming, the first MMOFPS, EverQuest, one of the most successful MMORPGs to this day, and Asheron’s Call, the servers of which have remained online for more than 17 years from its original release in 1999.
MMOs moved off the PC in the early 2000s, with the release of Phantasy Star Online in 2001. In the same year, the first 3D sci-fi MMORPG – Jumpgate Classic – was launched, followed by Earth and Beyond a year later, and EVE Online in 2003. At the same time, Disney also entered the MMO market with Toontown Online, NCSoft released Lineage II, and Linden Lab released its massive virtual world, Second Life.
This brings us to the release of EverQuest II and World of Warcraft, the two games considered to rekindle interest in MMOs in 2004, turning them into a truly global phenomenon. From here on, the rest is history, with numerous new titles rising and old ones like Shadowbane and Asheron’s Call shutting down.