This got me thinking about the definitions of MMOGs in general. Clearly if you can buy (and trade) items between all the players of the game, there’s a coherent world going on, and that’s why I now call PSO an MMOG–If PSO were to only allow players to chat with each other in the thousand-person area, well, it’d be no deeper than Starcraft. Just because a few thousand people can be in a chat room together doesn’t mean it’s an MMOG. So there are a few things you need, in my own humble opinion, thanks, in order to ‘qualify’ as an MMOG.
One–Personal Persistence. Starcraft isn’t an MMOG, simply because you can’t carry anything other than memories on from game to game. You can carry your record of wins and losses, but there’s nothing you can do in one game that’ll give you an advantage in the next.
Two–World Persistence. Does the world continue to go on when you log out? Is there a central authority (IE, run by the game company) that runs everything and keeps everybody playing by the rules? If the world and everything in it goes away when one of the players decides he’s not interested in hosting his own server, it probably doesn’t count. Neverwinter nights would be disqualified here, but their exception is that your character doesn’t die with the server–even if the place the dungeons are hosted at ceases to exist, your character can continue on in other worlds.
Three–Freedom of items. If you can give stuff you gained in your personal quest away to others, if EBay could be used (excepting the possibility that it’s banned), then there actually might be a coherent world there. Even if they added a feature on to Counterstrike servers that let me keep the money I’d earned last game for use in the next, I wouldn’t consider that a massively multiplayer online game.
Four–Size. This one is blurry–what exactly counts as ‘massively’? What are the numbers you need? Do you need that many players actually active, or is the ability to support them enough? The jury’s still out on this one.