In the beginning, root created MUDS. Multi-User_Dungeons, multiplayer and single player online games offering adventure in persistent worlds, such as Runescape, Wyvern and other roguelike games. Then as graphic cards and home computers began to excel in capabilities we found many a “nerd” or “geek” playing online through the night and into sunrise with others in online Party Gathers.
Party Gathers, as I'll refer to them, though many could call them the "Hardcore MMO's", were the MMO's designed to be played only in groups. Games included Everquest and Final Fantasy Online where users could only solo for a few levels before having to party with at least three to five other players in order to progress through the game. At endgame “raids” were introduced which allowed for massive 20 to 40 or more people to engage in epic battles against a single creature or player forces for hours on end.
While Part Gather MMO's set a foundation for all future MMO game archetypes, they ultimately failed due to them not being able to capture the untapped potential of the casual gamer. Thus was created the Casual MMO. Beginning with Wow and emulated by most modern day MMO's such as SWTOR and TSW these games allow for single player content through end game then rely on the use of either repetitive daily activities for soloists to achieve their advancement or tiered group play for the possibility of faster advancement. While many fans of the Party Gathers will criticize them for being “too easy”, these casual MMOG's have proven to tap the largest user-base of gamers. A user-base that also is apparently willing to spend the most amount of money on their games as we have experience with the shift from Subscription to Free to Play Models. In fact, there could be a separate division for these two MMO genres, such as Casual Subscription versus Casual F2P.
In either case, it seems everyone outside of Iceland forgets about the Sandbox. While most Sandbox MMO games had short-lived life cycles such as SWG or Glitch, EVE has proven to still draw a decent sized fan-base. The MMO requires nothing of advancement but a players' subscription, with achievement solely up to whatever it is that the player wants to do. There is no end game and players are often left to find their own enjoyment through outlets such as increasing in-game wealth gaining, grief'ing others or exploring instanced areas. All things that sound great on paper, but result in the boredom of the larger casual marketshare of gamers.
Of course in the last year we;ve had a new birth – the Action MMO's! The latest trend in MMOG's that include such titles as Vindictus, Terra and GW2 where players can experience solo or group content, but fast reaction time is a deciding factor over the purely background number crunching found in most MMO's. While GW2 doesn't offer as much “twitch:” as Terra, I still lump it into this category mainly for it's dodge, parry and riposte abilities.
But enough from me - which is your favorite genre of MMO and why?