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The pioneer - Everquest | 1999 | PC
The major drawback of RPGs is that in a world populated by millions, you are the only real person. Sure you can "talk" to NPCs, but there was no real interaction in the one genre that would benefit from it most. So the advent of MMORPGs was the natural step to bring gamers together, While some fondly remember Ultima Online, Everquest was the breakthrough that managed to unite gamers in droves and usher the modern MMORPG into the mainstream. By including nasties that simply couldn’t be bested by lone adventurers, player guilds and the concept of group raids were born, and have remained a key feature of the genre ever since. Suddenly it wasn’t about getting to level 99 - roles mattered, and the tree wielding troll is only worth his moss if he has a friend acting the white mage behind him. And for the first time, all this without any ongoing technical issues.
Raising the bar - World of Warcraft | 2004 | PC
With 40 race and class combinations and an in-game population of eight million, WoW remains unrivaled in terms of scale. It’s not simply its size that made it brilliant - it’s the sensibility with which it was implemented. Of the 1000+ quests, only the ones you were strong enough to complete were revealed. It completely did away with penalties after player death, and added bonuses for returning casual players, making it openly accessible to whether you wanted to play an hour a week or ten a day. Or look at it like this: at the official PS3 launch on Oxford Street, 125 people showed up. When the WoW Burning Crusade official launch event kicked off on Oxford Street just two months earlier, some 3,000 were clamoring to get at it.
Above:  Everquest;  World of Warcraft;  Archlord;  Pirates of the Burning Sea
Scraping the barrel - Archlord | 2006 | PC
Archlord may well be the cure for those suffering MMORPG addiction. The whole point is to reach around level 50 for a chance to become the titular badass, an in-game demi-God of sorts. Getting there unfortunately requires constant leveling in the vein of pitting a pot of jam against an avalanche. Hack and slash through a clunky combat system for five hours only to be killed in one hit by a beast that looks exactly the same as the 100 you killed before it, all because character models are recycled so frequently there is little way to distinguish between the wimps and the warlords. It’s a problem that extends to the whole game, with all the avatars of each race (and there’s only three of those) looking practically the same. Not that there are many other players out there, you understand.
Keep your eyes peeled for - Pirates of the Burning Sea
Nautical MMORPG doesn’t really do Pirates of the Burning Sea justice for just how enthralling a promise it is. Fantasy worlds and character races are out, 17th century Earth and Europeans are in. And did we mention the ship-on-ship combat? Here’s to stroking our beards and singing jolly tales of booty gained over a bottle of rum. Aarrr.