A defining feature of MMORPGs is that they all offer a persistent virtual world in which to play. These worlds often support thousands of simultaneous players, all of whom are playing a single character in the game.
What Does This Mean?
In a MMORPG you take control of a character (often known as an avatar) and guide its actions within the game. Most games offer an experience based level system a player guides their character through certain tasks, such as killing a monster, and in return their ability to repeat similar tasks increases. This is usually represented by an overall skill level associated to the character, and sub levels representing individual skills.
As the worlds are persistent your skills are saved, meaning that the time and effort invested into the game is permanently reflected in your character.
For example if you played a combat orientated game your overall ability to fight may be represented by a Combat Level this level would increase each time you gained a pre-determined number of experience points, granting more powerful abilities and skills. When you logout of the game everything is remembered so next time you play you can start from where you left off.
As MMORPGs connect thousands of players with the same virtual world central game servers provide a synchronized experience for everybody. This means if you killed a specific monster then it would not only vanish from your screen, but also from that of all the other players.
Real time chat is usually available, typed messages can be displayed to other players in and round your location. Additionally it is common for MMORPGs to allow trade between players as well as combat, duels and team work.
Playing As A Group
A great aspect of playing an MMORPG is that nearly every game provides a system for players to work together. This can be teaming up to tackle difficult enemies or pooling resources in order to advance the goals of the team. Such groups are known as clans or guilds.
Games Within Games
MMORPGS provide players with many different paths to follow and the players of the game literally define the world they play in. This includes many items within games being created by the players themselves using gathered resources.
This process is called Crafting, and is a very popular alternative to playing a combat orientated character. Rather that dominate physically, crafters are usually very wealthy in terms of in-game assets selling their goods for game currency or other items.
Online or Offline?
Offline games are great for relaxation and enjoyment, but they can not offer the combination of depth and social interaction that MMORPGs provide. Character progression is the essential ingredient letting you concentrate on the aspects of the game you enjoy without worrying about those you dont.
Every character starts with similar levels and skills, but quickly you will personalize your character meaning few others will be exactly like you.
If you love playing computer games then try an MMORPG. Once you start playing you will never look back.