The Marker Moved
There’s no hard and fast definition for massive. I’m not sure it is a raw number anyway. It terms of gaming, I’d suggest it’s fair that the number be compared to the size of the content map. Player to content density seems more appropriate. That said, for me to consider a game to be MMO, I need the following:
- With the exception of instanced dungeons, large numbers of players share the same map locations. If I’m in location XYZ, everyone else who’s in location XYZ is accessible to me OR I have a way of changing to their session of location XYZ. EQ2, Aion, Terra implement multiple copies of locations to manage load but players can freely traverse them.
- Towns aren’t a game lobby where everyone is accessible but once you leave the lobby, you can only see the people in your party. The DDO and GW1 approach, which for me, negates being massive player content experiences.
- I will encounter other players unattached to me in any way out in the world.
- I can group up with a couple dozen or more players to do non-instanced content.
- My character and her state are preserved across gaming sessions.
- The state of the server I’m on is preserved and persists even when my character isn’t there.
- If the game supports player created content (housing, guildhalls, farms, etc.) that content is preserved.
For me, the above describes a persistent multi-player world I’d classify as MMO. Times change. Games change. I’d consider a private Minecraft server that supports 100 or more players to be on the lower end of the sandbox MMO scale, as compared to the traditional WOW type of MMO, where thousands of players exist on the same server.
Why so low? Meaningful Contact and Reality of Massive
The reality is, 1k players or not, I’m not likely to ever see that many players simultaneously in the same location. I’ll never interact with 1K players at the same time. Hell – in most MMOs, the environment would collapse before it was possible. GW2 stuttered into slideshow mode with less than 100 players fighting the same boss or combating each other in WvW.
I know there are exceptions. Perhaps Planetside 2 supports large numbers players on the same map but I’ve not played it. EVE can scale battles into the hundreds without falling over. Even so, this isn’t the average MMORPG experience. This isn’t what I experience when I’m playing any of the many MMOs I’ve chronicled on this blog. 500 players can be sitting or jumping around with me in Stormwind – great. But there aren’t and never have been, that many running around with me in a questing zone. You might see that many at once launch day in a starter zone or new zone in an expansion on day one. But really, often does that occur in the life of the average MMO? You can count them on your fingers.