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I started in 1999 Everquest and I remember how it was when you had to find groups to help with certain tough camps and you keep at it while you level to get your new spells and be tougher to move on to better places. That was a blast back then because it was the only thing around like it. We didn't have to run back and forth to a quest giver repetitively to progress; we just fought until we got tired of the camp and still to this day I don't see how we did that. I guess back then it was the only thing we knew because it is all new.
I will never forget the times I had though while learning the game and all of the ways I died and lessons learned from it. The one thing to this day that I still see a lack of as far as PVE is concerned is the level of difficulty that EQ has that made you stop and think about what you were doing before you rush in and get killed and lose experience because you failed and don't deserve the experience you have. This is the niche MMO that is missing when you go mainstream because the game has to be easy to the majority of the people to sell more and the elites lose out on this.
Dark Age of Camelot:
Then there was Dark Age of Camelot that introduced us new ideas for Realm vs Realm and a PVP system designed to the individual class instead of a group of players.
A faster gameplay style than the EQ style that was designed for PVE mainly and that showed us how a game that didn't have a long downtime and long cast times could be done.
They were very creative as far as the intelligent design of the game and the interface, but I always felt like the graphics were the down fall of the game.
I never played Asheron's Call so I am not sure exactly what they brought to the genre, so comment your additions as I know some probably will.
Star Wars Galaxies:
Then there was Star Wars Galaxies which brought us something more unique in the genre and had a PVP element and world building placement and crafting that took us to a new level as well as vendors in your homes like what was available in Ultima Online. Also a new character customization level was presented and showed the industry how much people like to customize their characters and also customize their houses or Guild Hall if you were me.
Then there was EvE Online which started out really rough but grew and got better over the years because of all of the room to grow being that there is plenty of room in space to add and improve and pioneering the space mmo category. This showed the industry that enough people are interested in space and willing to pay month as well.
They also brought us a new style of character - or in EVE's case - pilots that could train while away from the game which set it apart from the rest of the others out there. I don't know how many future games there will be that will use that same progression but this was new and useful as well being that you could have an advantage over the people that you were ahead of in progress depending on where you train and makes for great fun in PVP.
A new level of control the players had with the game was also introduced and let us do what we want with the exception that you don't piss off concord (guards of controlling NPC factions). The economy could grow in deep space and establish their own territory and learn a new level a game play never before seen in any game as far as I can remember. This was great innovation by CCP and they deserve recognition for what they have contributed that is for sure.
World of Warcraft:
The all time heavy weight champ in combining alot of what was introduced to us by previous MMO's and was the first time the MMO genre finally hit mainstream and brought new players that never heard of or never liked the previous MMO's or just wasn't introduced to it in the right way.
Blizzard, being as revolutionary as they always have been in the past and making sure they do it right before releasing their games and bringing something new to the table every time has revolutionized an arcade style MMO that set the standard for how we do quests in the game as the means for progression in the game as well as the instanced dungeons with the level requirements.
We also were introduced to new Class play-styles like how to make the Tank/Healer/DPS fun to play that doesn't get too boring after repetition.
They brought us flying mounts that could get you were your going in certain places at a reasonable amount of time if you have the gold for all of your alts.
They brought us a lot of innovation by the UI design alone from how customizable the interface was giving the industry a lot of examples.
This was the greatest improvement in MMO all together and sent us in new directions although over time after fast player progression people are mostly at the max level and all that is left is the PVP element and Reputation and item farming that gets old. I know for me I feel like I am just having to run a bunch of errands instead of actually doing anything challenging besides PVP. This is where I fell apart with World of Warcraft; when you get to the point where you are just running around most of the time and killing countless mobs to finish the quests it is just a bunch of work with no strategy involved except for when you are fighting a tough fight or grouped in an instance and that is where you have to hope that the group you are in knows what they are doing if you are in a PUG (pick up group) which is a lot of the time being that it is hard to find people when you need them. The fun element could be achieved somewhere in the game though as much as we hated a lot of the quests we still had ways to have a good time which gives the game a well deserved high score no matter how you look at it.
After all of these years of playing you really start to see how the games may last a long time and EQ is still going to this day regardless of how many can't play it long or still like it, but there is a time where the games like WoW just end after people get tired of doing the quests or just tired of the characters they played because the new has worn off of the game thoroughly and people start looking else where for a different style of MMO to satisfy their needs and that is where the industry starts to benefit as a whole and may have started the gaming business model of the future being that you could continue development and improve the game and have a steady flow of income from it as well which is good for them and us to be honest because it brings us more content versus having to search elsewhere for another game after you get tired of it in 2 days. I believe the MMO genre is here to stay and it is bringing us some good content in the future.
This industry is the most difficult industry in gaming and the most risky. People have got to understand what kind of effort and the genius that is behind the scenes with the games. It is really remarkable how they pull this stuff off and you have to commend them for it. We can't be picky because a game is not everything we want it to be but know that the people putting their sweat and tears into making these games they really need to be treated with respect in what they have made for it is a work of art at the most highly technical level. Most people don't realize how complex the coding is and how time is not on your side a lot in the industry because technology moves so fast that there are a lot of changes that happen in between the time they start development and the time they get ready to release it.
I know people will have additions to this so feel free to comment and insult too if you want, I can handle it. I didn't care to do too much revising either.