Persistent Online Worlds

See also: Chat | RPG | Chat Clients | RPG


  • MMOG – Massive Multiplayer Online Game
  • MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game
  • MUD – Multi-User Dungeon

Games on the Internet that remain online constantly, are affected by their visitors, and are continually updated by their administrators to avoid a static environment. This system also carries a social element and patrons can often build an avatar‘s strengths and abilities, allowing a roleplaying element.

POWs are distinguished by the following features:

  • A type of game physics in place to prevent arbitrary events
  • Lots of other people online (usually 100+ at any time) who can be interacted with
  • More of a social function than first-person shooters such as HalfLife or Quake
  • More complex goals/quests than shooters
  • They are large, in some cases enormous
  • When you return to the same area in the future, it looks the same

POWs have existed for years as as text-based environments called “MUD“s. However, with the development of graphics cards and high-speed Internet, the POW enviornment has taken another step and drawn a visualistic culture into an online life. These have become immensely popular called Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs (MMORPG) such as Sony’s EverQuest, Anarchy Online, and LucasArts’ “Star Wars – Galaxies.”

Now, formerly text-only systems have fully three-dimensional enviornments, visual effects, quests, and sound/voice capabilities. POWs are becoming increasingly system intensive and require powerful computing hardware.

Games are moving away from role playing game and first-person shooter generations into a separate, realistic, online world. They have enormous user bases of subscribed customers. One can only wonder what the future of POWs could entail.

Currently, The Sims Online is one example of new types of POWs as it encourages social activity to move ahead in the game in place of defeating an enemy or conquering a dungeon.

Old text-only MUDs are still very active and growing.


Some of the early innovators:

  • The Final Fantasy series
  • Legend of Zelda
  • Phantasy Star for the Sega Master System, now Phantasy Star Online

Balder’s Gate was one of the important transitions for POWs – allowing multiple players on a network to cooperate towards an intended goal in a very large and already developed (on paper) world of TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons’s “Forgotten Realms.” NPCs were “believable, consistent personalities and … interact with each other.”

However, Balder’s Gate is not considered a POW because the game had a beginning and an end, despite the various add-ons. Persistant Worlds do not shut down like home computer games and cannot be saved at the last point of activity.

Is Grand Theft Auto a POW?

Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City are certainly huge in scope and very world-like. They may one day move to an online version. If other people were allowed to connect and interact, it would definitely be a POW. Like many online games with pre-arranged adventures, it will not matter that some of the GTA people will be computer-controlled sprites because no one will play GTA if there’s no bystandards. Otherwise, it would defeat the point of Tommey Vercetti being an outlaw.

Is Half Life’s Counter-Strike a POW?

Because CS is limited to around 32 players per game, the objective does not change (beat the other team), and the environment resets after each new game, Counter Strike is not a POW.
If Counter Strike were a much larger map with many people working towards a common goal that takes place over time and does not re-set, it might be then considered a POW.


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