Recently I have been thinking about the criteria of what makes a game an MMO/MMORPG. To me, the most important qualities of an MMORPG are that it is persistent and that it allows a player to matchmake with random people. In this sense, persistence means that the core gameplay loop must in some way contribute to an overarching goal. For example, a round-based game like League of Legends might have the ability to matchmake with random people, but since each match has the player leveling up and going through the same process, then it is not an MMORPG. A game like Warframe on the other hand, has both the persistence and random matchmaking. There is a goal to get stronger (like many games), and to achieve this goal, one must farm materials, mods, etc. from stages. This is essentially a dungeon-based MMO, since the map one queues from is akin to a queue in FF14 or WoW, etc. There is also the ability to matchmake with randoms, and it is not hard to do so.
Some other games that have traditionally been looked down upon when discussed here are games like ARK or Conan Exiles, or even Minecraft. These games have the ability to select a server, and offer a core gameplay loop which contributes to the very same overarching goal as many MMOs and games have which is to get stronger. ARK has a leveling system, gear, and so on, and the core gameplay loop consists of fighting enemies, gathering materials, etc. All of these activities are similar to a typical sandbox game, but I believe the issue a lot of this community has with classifying these games as MMOs is their low player cap.
To this, I pose a question: Would you consider WoW an MMORPG if its playerbase suddenly dropped to 100 players per server? As in, everything about the server architecture stays the same, but the game suddenly became immensely unpopular, and very few people still play the game. I believe the answer would be yes, and for this reason, since ARK has many servers with a player cap of 100 or so, then it could still be fair to call it an MMORPG.
One game which I do have trouble classifying as an MMORPG in this sense is Path of Exile. In this game, from what I've seen in around 100 hours of playing (maybe changes later) consists of the player playing solo or with friends. Yes, there is a chatbox with which a player can interact with others, and from what I've read a party-based tool, but this is very similar to just asking someone for their IP to start up a Hamachi type server, which is strictly NOT an MMORPG. However, I am open to discussion for this game, and I do not think there is any reason why, if someone posts criteria for a game that they want, we can't just recommend a game like Path of Exile if it fits their needs. I have seen sometimes where someone will suggest PoE or one of these other games, and get berated, but I would like to make our community less hostile and more open to newcomers looking to dip their toes into our genre.
TL;DR MMORPGs should be expanded based on criteria of persistence, random matchmaking, and whatever else you all want to add. This way, more can be accepted into our community and take part in discussions.
Note: Sorry for formatting, I don't usually make such long posts.
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