When playing with thousands of other people, the entire perspective of a game changes. For this reason, RPGamer has introduced its first ever Massively Multiplayer Online RPG award. This award goes to any RPG, console or PC, which had an outstanding launch and still continues to satisfy the players who spend their hard-earned or lazily-bummed cash each month. For this year, as none of the console RPGs have launched in North America yet, the voting was limited to RPGs released for PC in 2002.
The RPGamer staff and the esteemed panel of readers easily agreed on which of our limited choices for Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs were the best three, but disagreed on which of those three was indeed the best overall.
The staff of RPGamer picked Westwood and EA's space combat thriller Earth and Beyond as their favorite MMORPG of 2002. Earth and Beyond strings together an intriguing drama between the peaceful but curious Jenquai, the strong but brutal Progen, and the efficient and greedy Terrans. The story, which is unfolding slowly over time, involves many secret plots and a mysterious alien race that has appeared in the galaxy.
Although Westwood Studios was just disbanded, the core Earth and Beyond crew (now in California) promises to continue what has so far been an awesome job of adding new material to the game each month, from new abilities for each profession, to new dialogue to move the story, to regular fixes and balancing issues. The game is so well received that not only did it receive RPGamer's top honors, but also received first runner up from our readers.
The RPGamer readers picked Microsoft and Turbine's long-anticipated sequel Asheron's Call 2 as the MMORPG of the year, and the RPGamer staff selected it as their first runner up. Asheron's Call 2 combines what made the first game good, adds what many players have requested since the first game came out, and adds a bit of spice by putting some unique twists on the world.
The game takes place 300 years after the first one, and a major event has destroyed the world. That's where the uniqueness of the game truly shines. The players themselves rebuild the world as they see fit. There's still a little bit left over so players can still do some things, and the game makes it to where you actually don't need to go to any kind of town if you don't want to. The game's unique item system involves taking items apart yourself and cashing them in, just within your own menu, then making something else that you'll need. The game has been out for just a few months and is now really starting to go full steam.
Finally, it was agreed by RPGamer staff and readers that the second runner up for MMORPG of 2002 is definitely CDV's first person shooter and RPG hybrid, Neocron. The city of Neocron is one of only three remaining cities after World War III breaks out. Of course, being a post-apocalyptic game, the polls are closed and total chaos reigns. So, where are the RPG elements? Well, you get to choose a class at the beginning, and then as you progress, your character improves in individual skills, much like they would in Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which makes Neocron a deeply personalized experience.