Massively multiplayer online gaming—"MMO" to insiders—brings together vast numbers of players from all over the world. Standard, single-player experiences unfold within the confines of your desktop, but these simulations allow thousands of players to mix, mingle, and share in the gaming excitement. Get involved in multiplayer gaming and you'll be rubbing shoulders (and swords) with people just like you all over the globe.
Being a player in these vast universes usually means you control a lone character and are free to wander digital domains as you please. But no single user is ever truly alone. The group dynamic generated when players come together is one of the best things about this medium. Imagine banding together with new friends to slay a dragon, storm an evil dictator's headquarters, or construct a pyramid from scratch.
With a modem or broadband connection and a copy of the game you want to play, you can jump in and start playing any time. Many games come with a monthly subscription charge of around $12 to $15, but it's important to know that these fees don't just cover the cost of server upkeep; they also fund the constant addition of new gaming content. What does this mean for you? No matter how many times you log on to your favorite online adventure, you're never stuck playing the same game twice.
The popularity of massively multiplayer gaming is exploding. Witness World of Warcraft, which sold more than 240,000 copies on the first day, instantly becoming the most successful PC game launch ever. Here's a roundup of exciting titles for Windows XP, plus a sneak peek at several upcoming games.
World of Warcraft
No matter who you choose to be—Orc, Elf, or Undead—this title features classic swords and sorcery fare. Players explore Azeroth, a medieval kingdom where wizards and warriors engage in combat and craftsmanship. You can hunt monsters, forage for treasure, or just carve out a comfortable existence as a merchant.
Welcome to the star-studded sequel to the game that started the whole online craze. A sprawling tale of might and magic, EverQuest II is set within Norrath, a land of treetop settlements, parched deserts, and bustling ports. Gold and glory await aspiring adventurers.
Lineage II: The Chaotic Chronicle
Korea's most popular multi-user fantasy excursion is also making a splash stateside. Attractive visuals, awe-inspiring castle sieges, and robust political-economic systems give the saga an unexpected edge over competitors. High-level players take note: Here's your chance to ride a dragon!
City of Heroes
It's high time you stopped envying Superman for his powers and got busy creating a caped crusader you can call your own. City of Heroes, a detailed role-playing game with action elements, casts you as one of Paragon City's defenders. Operating alone or alongside a team of masked marauders, you'll foil plans hatched by a colorful cast of criminals in this comic book brought to life.
Star Wars: Galaxies
Finally, fans of the Star Wars films have the chance to live in the land of Luke Skywalker. Become a bounty hunter, smuggler, or Jedi and travel the galaxy earning credits, aggravating the Empire, or just interacting with series stars. The recently released expansion pack Jump to Lightspeed adds space-based flight and combat options.
The Saga of Ryzom
A blend of science fiction and fantasy, this curious contender addresses player abilities in a novel way. You can create and combine skills into unique, custom-made actions on the fly. Good luck tinkering with the interface—you'll need all the help you can get when faced with monster invasions.
Toontown is an excellent door into the world of online adventures for the littlest gamer in your family. Here, kids design a cartoon character, construct a home, and interact with fellow animated explorers. Children seeking a challenge can use goofy gags to try cracking up evil robots called Cogs.
Dark Age of Camelot
King Arthur's dominion, Albion, has fallen into disrepair following the famed ruler's death. Fighting for a chosen territory's honor, you'll struggle against rival realms as an ensuing war wages. Heavy on player vs. player combat, the title is recommended for expert-level competitors only.
The Sims Deluxe Edition
Picture it as a living dollhouse—a game where little computer people pass as playthings. Personalize an alter-ego, then pursue a career or just flirt your way through swank clubs and casinos. Provisions for owning homes, building businesses, and discovering potential love interests add to the fun.
Final Fantasy XI
The latest chapter in one of the gaming industry's longest running franchises offers a chance for PC and PlayStation 2 owners to connect, unlike most MMOs, which are platform-exclusive. Log on and start writing your legend today.
Get a taste of what's on the horizon in the multiplayer online universe.
Ultimate Baseball Online
Feel like you're on the field in the first true massively multiplayer sports simulation. This virtual version of America's national pastime features games that are set within a 3-D stadium where each position is covered by a live participant.
The Matrix Online
If you like the Matrix movies, then you'll love the official online adventure, which picks up right where the motion pictures left off. Expect kung-fu combat and graceful gun battles with overtones of the best murder mysteries.
Forget for a second that it carries no monthly fee. The reason we're really excited about this distinctive role-playing romp is that it's all about combat, without the tedium so common to some MMOs.
City of Villains
The good guys have their charms, but let's face it—most people would rather play a maniacal super-villain. Install this City of Heroes add-on, and see what it's like to moonlight on the shady side.
Witness the first and only online world based on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Engage in epic quests, explore authentic locales like the Shire and Bree, or form your own Fellowship. This spellbinding title will mesmerize you.
Richard "Lord British" Garriott redefined the role-playing genre with his award-winning Ultima series. Now he's looking to repeat history with a sci-fi/fantasy hybrid that places refreshing emphasis on character development.
Dungeons & Dragons Online
The name says it all: Skulking around subterranean lairs, you'll battle countless horrors in real-time. Dodging arrows requires precisely timed key presses, while carving enemies into kibble is as easy as clicking the mouse.
This is car combat with a twist. You're the one behind the wheel of heavily armed semis, coupes, and motorcycles. Then, you're free to customize your vehicles, crash into opponents, and cause buildings to collapse. Anything goes once the action revs up.