The History and Evolution: From Early Multi-User Dungeons to Modern MMORPGs

If you are even mildly interested in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG), then you are already familiar with popular tiles such as The Elder Scrolls Online, Black Desert, Final Fantasy XIV, EVE Online, and Guild Wars 2 among others. It’s easy to forget that games like these have a long history of evolution behind them. While MMORPGs and video games in general will always remain in a process of continuous evolution, things seem to have slowed down quite a bit in recent years.

As of now, the most played MMORPGs in 2023 are at least 5 to 10+ years old, but this will change. We are gaming in a period of temporary plateau, just before the next set of technological breakthroughs are introduced to online RPGs. In the meanwhile, now is the perfect time to look back at some of the most crucial points in the genre’s history and evolution. It all started with Multi-User Dungeons (MUD) and continued to evolve into what we know as modern MMORPGs today.

Dungeons & Dragons: The Board Game that Created RPGs

Created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) from Tactical Studies Rules became the first tabletop RPG board game to ever be released in 1974. As the original progenitor of the RPG genre itself, every role-playing game across all formats (online, offline, virtual, tabletop) and generations will continue to trace their origin from that timeless masterpiece.

The Electronic Random Number Generators (RNG) Made MMORPGs Possible

The randomness of a real dice is a critical gameplay element in D&D and all traditional RPG games/video games even today. However, a reliable, online electronic dice, aka RNG, did not exist for a long time. Even old MUDs and early online RPGs had to rely on ancient, Pseudo Random Number Generators (PRNGs), which were relatively easy to predict/manipulate.

The credit goes to legitimate online casinos because they were the first to bring forth a reliable electronic dice, aka cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator (CSPRNG) to ensure fairness. To see how the encrypted random number generator systems work in real casino games, find one that actually uses an encrypted PRNG first. Licensing and necessary verifications are essential for that, so here’s some of them listed for your convenience.

As for modern MMORPGs, hundreds of thousands of players invest real money and countless hours in their favorite online RPGs every single day. Even the PCs needed to run the latest games cost a small fortune. Therefore, maintaining an authentic CSPRNG system is a basic, legal requirement for modern MMORPGs. Without a reliable electronic dice system, massively multiplayer online role-playing games would not even have existed in the scale that we see them today.

Multi-User Dungeon (MUD): The Very First Online RPG

It was Multi-User Dungeon 1 or MUD1 which introduced role-playing games to the online format. The text based virtual fantasy world of MUD1 was first created on a PDP-10 mainframe computer 45+ years back in 1978 by Roy Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw.

However, none of the MUD games were available to players outside the University of Essex until 1980. The original fantasy world of MUD1, its sequels, Avalon: The Legend Lives, and the countless text-based MUD online RPGs which followed them, have their own sperate fanbases even today.

Neverwinter Nights: MUD Meets Graphics

Neverwinter Nights (NWN) by Beyond Software is officially the first MMORPG. Even though Neverwinter Nights was still a multi-user dungeon game in almost every way, the fact that it had integrated graphics to accompany the text changed everything.

Neverwinter Nights is widely held to be the progenitor of all modern MMORPGs that followed the game’s release in 1991. NWN started its adventure with support for just 50 players in 1991, but it became the world’s first true MMORPG by 1997, with a total player base of 115,000+.

The Birth and Evolution of Modern MMORPGs

Dungeons and Dragons (tabletop), MUD, and NWN are each a pioneer in their own right. Over the decades which followed, countless new MMORPGs were developed and improved upon, based on the concepts that each introduced to the genre. Thanks to the aforementioned encrypted electronic dice system, developers were now able to successfully monetize MMORPGs, without compromising the authenticity of core gameplay mechanics.

Some of the most popular and important titles which played pivotal roles in shaping the future of MMORPGs in the following years are Ultima Online (1997), Final Fantasy XI (2002), World of Warcraft (2004), Lord of the Rings Online (2007), Star Wars: The Old Republic (2008), and Lost Ark (2019/22).

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