What was the first "play for a few minutes a day" MMOG?
November 30, 2005 7:09 PM   Subscribe

What was the first "play for a few minutes a day" Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG)?

The first one I encountered was Kingdom of Loathing, around May of 2004 -- at the time I remember being shocked by the notion of only getting 50 turns a day, but was eventually won over. Now I feel that I need to be involved in one of these to get me through the day -- most recently, I just finished Urban Dead and started Travian.

My interest here is in games that use this relative lack of action and involvement (sometimes extreme -- in Travian I make perhaps four or five "moves" over 24 hours) as a central game feature-- one can be involved in a complex, persistant world on a day to day basis, as in World of Warcraft, but still maintain an active "real world" life. I'm sure that there were turn-based, long-term games back in the UNIX days, but I understand them as requiring much more active involvement, whereas I can get by just fine playing any of these games for 15 minutes a day.

So, what was the first online game to exhibit this feature? Hopefully my description was clear enough -- to boil it down, the limit on number of moves / amount of play time a day should a) be a "hard" restriction on the player (eg, "50 moves a day", etc), b) should result in a very small maximum daily play time, on the order of 15 minutes to half an hour; c) should be an essential feature of the game.
posted by tweebiscuit to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total)
How massive is massively multiplayer?

Back in my days of logging onto BBS's there were games like TradeWars where you were given a (typically) limited number of moves to fly between planets, trade goods, and engage in battle. According to Wikipedia that game has been around since the late 80's, and has its roots in games that date back to the 70's. Depending on the number of turns you were given, playing out all your TradeWar turns could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

On your larger, multi-line boards, there could be a hundred daily players. And on smaller boards, perhaps just a dozen.
posted by Mercaptan at 7:25 PM on November 30, 2005

It's probably not exactly what you're looking for, but back in the Usenet days, play by email games had a certain amount of popularity. The slow pace of play was probably as much due to technical limitations as anything else, but for some of them you'd mail in a big list of orders once a week.
posted by whir at 7:32 PM on November 30, 2005

I'd've thought TradeWars.
posted by pompomtom at 7:35 PM on November 30, 2005

Yeah, the answer to this question depends heavily on what counts as "Massively Multiplayer". TradeWars is, however, at least a very good first approximation to the answer.
posted by Justinian at 7:44 PM on November 30, 2005

This won't win for being earliest, but in the mid-90s I remember playing Legend of the Red Dragon, another of the limited-move BBS games. Using your daily allowance of turns would usually take no more than 10-15 minutes. According to Google there are web-based reincarnations.
posted by komilnefopa at 7:47 PM on November 30, 2005

Gotta be TradeWars, or maybe LORD. Yeah. LORD was better than TradeWars anyway, especially with those lickable (if you wanted your tongue shredded, at least) RIP graphics!
posted by alas at 7:49 PM on November 30, 2005

This question reminded me of the first live action MMOG (but not MMORPG) I can remember -- Subspace .. which is now freeware. It was so awesome... like asteroids on crack and made massively multiplayer...
posted by twiggy at 8:06 PM on November 30, 2005

i can't be 100% sure (more like 99%), but I strongly suspect that there were door games that were turn-based and multiplayer before tradewars and lord; I remember LoRD and TW (at least TW2002) being fairly new in the early nineties, and BBSes have a much longer history than that.

looks like our very own rcade (wikipedia entry) ran one of the first BBSes that had door games. Maybe he'll step in and offer an opinion.

Even door games were pre-dated by MUDs and the like. Check the history entry for MMORPGs on wikipedia for predecessors.
posted by fishfucker at 8:56 PM on November 30, 2005

I know it's not exactly what you're looking for, but pre-internet I used to play chess via letter. Games could last for months. I imagine this practice is as old as the hills.

And how on earth have you "finished" Urban Dead? The monkeys and I have been playing for months and are still enjoying it...
posted by blag at 8:58 PM on November 30, 2005

According to Google there are web-based reincarnations [of LoRD].
See Also</a.
posted by jmd82 at 9:05 PM on November 30, 2005

Flying buffalo has been running this sort of game by mail since the '70's. Apperently they still have many customers in prisions.

posted by Infernarl at 9:59 PM on November 30, 2005

at the time I remember being shocked by the notion of only getting 50 turns a day, but was eventually won over.

Haven't played in ages (character's probably wiped by now), but it's pretty easy to ratchet up to ~150 turns a day in KoL with proper use of food/alcohol and all the available equipment/guild bonuses, but then it just becomes a grind because you end up using the large majority of those turns to farm either for stuff that will sell for enough to finance your food/booze habit or for the ingredients to cook/mix yer own.
posted by juv3nal at 10:39 PM on November 30, 2005

I think Meridian 59 in 1996 was one of the first which looked somewhat like today's MMORPGs.. that is, it was real time, had towns, guilds, etc. More info.
posted by wackybrit at 6:58 AM on December 1, 2005

I just realized I totally misread and misunderstood the question. Disregard me!

However, as another suggestion, I seem to recall a space trading game which had these facets in the early '90s, but the name is escaping me..
posted by wackybrit at 6:59 AM on December 1, 2005

There were games like TradeWars on really primitive BBSs as well. I forget the exact names, but there were similar games that ran on Commodore 64-based BBSs that I used back in, oohhhh, 1987 or so.

Though there would be some debate about "massive" - the average C64 BBS probably had a few dozen users in total and the games had only a handful of players.
posted by GuyZero at 7:10 AM on December 1, 2005

Response by poster: Cool -- so what about recent web-based variants?
posted by tweebiscuit at 8:51 AM on December 1, 2005

Response by poster: (That is, I'm also interested in what the first RECENT web-based, KoL/UD/Travian game was.)
posted by tweebiscuit at 8:51 AM on December 1, 2005

Response by poster: (I mean, KoL/UD/Travian-ESQUE)
posted by tweebiscuit at 8:51 AM on December 1, 2005

The online football manager game Hattrick started in 1997, although back then you could play in swedish. It started in it's current form in 2000. Strictly speaking, it does not limit player moves, but since there are only 2 games per week, you can easily get away with only playing 1 or 2 times per week or even missing a week or two. While you can play more, particularly if you like to hunt for bargains in the player trade, the payoff isn't that good. It has over 700.000 players and can be played in over 20 languages. And it's a good game too, although depending on what country's league you want to play in, you might have to wait for a while for your team. I don't know if it was first or anything, but it goes to show that it's not really a new idea.
posted by fred_ashmore at 9:47 AM on December 1, 2005

Response by poster: True, it's not a new idea, but at this point it's certainly a trend -- UD was obviously inspired by KoL, for example.

Thanks for the input everybody!
posted by tweebiscuit at 10:09 AM on December 1, 2005

In case anyone is still reading this and is interested in joining our combined MeFi / MoFi Urban Dead team, email me. We lick kick ass.
posted by blag at 5:00 PM on December 1, 2005

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