MMORPG stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. The genres name gives it away as being a game that a player is connected with many other players playing the same game, sharing the same world and experiences. There are plenty of people out there who believe the mmorpg means you are required to have a cooperative gameplay experience with other people to be considered multiplayer. However, that is no longer the case in many of the more recent MMOs that come on to the market in the past six years.
My experience with MMOs goes back ten years, with my very first game called Horizons: Empire of Istaria back in late 2003-2004. Once I was introduced to the MMO life, I then played City of Heroes, Everquest 2, Lineage 2, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Age of Conan, Champions Online, Old Republic, Guild Wars 2 and TERA, which I am currently still playing. I have seen MMOs involved some what over the years, from a group oriented gameplay to solo friendly with minimum requirement to do co-op.
City of Heroes, Everquest 2, Lineage 2 and Dungeons and Dragons Online were very group heavy games that require you to be in a group to advance. Anyone who have played a MMO before knows that you will begin a treadmill gathering enough experience points to level up your character making him stronger to so you could fight more creatures at higher levels to get more points and level up so more and continue the whole process until you reach the level cap. In games like City of Heroes or Everquest 2, you were focused into grouping with other people to be able to gain enough experience points to advance to continue on with the storyline. If you were not in a group, you did not advance at all that simple.
MMOs forced people into grouping were fundamentally flawed. Everquest 2 before the change to make it much more solo friendly, was very very group oriented in the first six months after its launch. The scenario was this for EQ2, I would get home from work and then log on to do some quests which require a group, There were a few times I could get into a group within 20 minutes of logging in, but most of the time I could be waiting for hours. A full group was maybe a tank, two damage dealers, crowd controller and a healer. If there was no healer avaliable to get into your group you could be waiting for hours just waiting for one to log in. No joke this happened to me most of my time with Everquest 2. There were a few lucky people who have friends in real life who come along with them or in strong guilds to form instant groups as soon as they get onto the game.
Age of Conan is the first MMO I played that did not require you to be in a group to advance through the game. There was no requirement to be in a group, you could solo the entire time and still reach the level cap. I know people would ask, why solo a MMO if there is multiplayer in its description? Only if the MMO was set into a perfect world, where everyone is waiting for you to log in and you immediately started playing. Everyone have different lives and time schedules, for a game that requires you to be a group and is operating on server 24 hours a day is not practical in the real world. Example, I want to go see a movie in the theater, but wait I cant because if I get up and leave I may not be able to get a group again to do the quests I need to do.
TERA is the latest MMO I am currently playing. My character is a level 50 berserker, where I have spent nearly the entire time soloing. There is no draw back at all if you dont ever get into a group in the game. Champions Online and Old Republic is the same way as TERA. The minute I log in, I am playing the game. I could run over and grab a few quests, farm mobs for their loot all I want, or just shoot the breeze. Playing at my own pace, at my own time, at my own leisure, without waiting for anyone is way more benetfical then MMOs that forced people into grouping.
Age of Conan, Champions Online, Old Republic, Guild Wars 2 and TERA is not set up just for one way. Anyone who wants to do group quests, fight in dungeons, do raids, player vs player still can. Giving that these games also make it where anyone could come on to the game any time during the day or night could still play without any worry. That way someone who wants to go see a movie can and then come back three hours later and continue on advancing through the game.