The Realm Online: The Internet’s Longest Consistently Running MMORPG

The Realm Online celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. This statistic puts the Realm Online in the running for the longest lived MMORPG (Massively Multiuser Online Role Playing Game) as the only other game that has been around as long, Meridian 59, has experienced periods of unavailability during the last ten years. Many users and gurus, however, claim that the Realm Online is actually more of a Graphic MUD (Multi User Dungeon, Domain, or Dimension, depending on who you ask).

To take a brief step away from the Realm Online, allow me to, briefly, explain the difference between MMORPG and MUD, so you may understand the whys and what-fors of the discrepancy. MMORPG is a game played online through a dedicated server, in which hundreds of people can play at a time and interact with each other in a virtual world. The average MMORPG offers more to the player than just battling NPC’s, it will also present quests and rewards or “loot,” which can be collected for personal use, sold for money (gold) or traded for other items. Other MMORPGs include EverQuest and Worlds of Warcraft.

On the other hand a MUD is typically text-driven, played on a bulletin board or in a chat room system. Actions, settings and people are described to the players. The reason The Realm Online is considered in this category is because while players can see all the action on the screen, it is also shown in text format in the lower left portion of the screen, under the Room tab (there are six tabs in the Realm chat screen; Room, which shows the action happening on the screen; Gossip, which is where the chat room conversations are contained; Group, a tab for conversations between characters linked together in a hunting group; Friends, similar to a Buddy List on AOL, contacts list on MSN or any other list of people with whom you wish to keep in contact; Mail, which is self-explanatory and Tells, where you can have private conversations, or instant messages, with individual people). Because the actions of the game can be seen on screen as well as in the chat box, the Realm Online would be considered a type of Graphic MUD.

No matter what you call it, MMORPG or MUD, the Realm Online definitely has had staying power. The Realm (it was originally released sans “Online” in the title) was released to the public for Windows operating systems on December 31, 1996 by the Sierra On-Line developing and publishing company. Within a couple of years Sierra On-Line partnered with Codemasters who eventually took over production of the game completely by 1999. Today, as of 2003, the game is produced and distributed by Norse Games.

After downloading (or installing from CD-ROM) and paying the small subscription charge ($6.99 per month or $69.99 for one year), players begin by selecting a character, or “toon.” In the first screen of toon creation, you customize the look of your toon. Here you can customize everything from hair and eye color to height and weight, shape of head, hair style, shape of eyes, lips, and nose. You will also name your toon and select a race (or “class”) for your character. There are three classes of toons in The Realm; human, giant, and elf; and each class is stronger in one occupation than in the other (the stronger, more massive Giants, naturally, make the best warriors, while smaller, more nimbler Elves make the best thieves), although any toon can learn to pick pockets or cast spells, or any other task masterable by one profession or the other.

Use special care in selecting your toon’s class as this will be very important as you progress through the game. In the second character creation screen, you will select your toon’s occupation. There are four possibilities for occupation: Adventurer, Warrior, Wizard/Mage, and Theif. The last three are fairly self-explanatory, but the Adventurer may need a little explanation. An Adventurer is more or less a cross between a Warrior and a Wizard. He can cast spells better than the Warrior and wield a sword better than a Wizard, skills which tend to make the adult (higher leveled) Adventurers the strongest characters in the game. But remember at this step, even if you choose to be a Warrior, you will still, eventually need to learn magic to make your character stronger.

At this stage you will also apply attributes to your character. Attributes are Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Endurance. A Warrior toon will need higher numbers in Strength and Endurance, lower numbers in Dexterity and the lowest of all in Intelligence. As your toon grows, learns new things, and can acquire new equipment these numbers will increase as well.
The final decision to be made at this step is alignment. A Good toon will receive help in the way of curing and healing along the way from Good non-playing characters (NPCs) such as Fairies, Paladins and Priests while an Evil toon is immune to many death spells cast by NPCs such as Devils and Daemons. A Good alignment is usually a good choice for a young toon, as they can then find Fairies to heal them after battles. An Evil toon must rely on potions, and the kindness of strangers.

The last step in creating your toon is to give her a story. The biography portion of the game is the only part of your toon that you can change once you have finished creating her. Anything (rated PG of course) can be included in the biography section from quotes to a life story about the toon to information about the guild you have joined. You can include information about your real life (IRL) self or about your toon, the sky (and a PG rating) is the limit.

Once you have completed creating your toon, start playing. Each character begins the game with 100 gold coins; use these to buy your first suit of armor. It will be a low level suit, made of leather but it will offer some protection. Also buy your first weapon, in most cases it will be a wooden sword, something else you will want to upgrade as soon as you have the funds. Now, the only thing left to do is hunt.

There is no hunting with in the city walls. Within the first screen after leaving the city you will find low level monsters (usually Rats) and you will find that for the first few levels (around ten) you will gain levels quite quickly. Each battle, as is the case with most MMORPGs and MUDs, will earn you experience points and dropped treasures which you can either use, if they are useful things such as health potions at lower levels before you learn healing spells, or sell. As you gain new levels you will also gain more health or hit points (HP) and will soon be able to fight higher level NPCs.

The rest of the game will come to you as you play. Another great aspect of the Realm Online, and other games like it, whether they be MMORPG or MUD, is that you can join chat rooms specifically geared toward answering the “stupid questions” that every beginner has. In some of these you will find administrators who are offering expert answers and in others you will find other players like yourself who are offering voice of experience answers. Either way, if you know the right questions to ask, you should be able to find out anything you want to know in the chat rooms.

Getting started on the Realm is relatively simple, as you can see here. The hard part is pulling yourself away once you do get started.

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