First off lets start by defining MMORPGs and online RPGs. MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games) are huge pay-to-play online only games where hundreds to thousands of people play together in massive fantasy worlds. On the other side of the equation Online RPGs are games like Diablo II Baldur’s Gate Neverwinter Nights and Dungeon Siege where the actual game is the only thing that needs to be purchased since playing online against other players is free with these games. Instead of one massive world that is occasionally updated (or frequently updated in some cases) a few players gather together in many different rooms of the same game.
With those defining differences explained now lets breakdown the advantages and disadvantages of each to see which best suits you. The biggest advantage besides the cost structure to playing an online RPG versus a MMORPG is that you have a chance to play the game offline and familiarize yourself with the game before being thrust into a world where people have been playing the game for sometime. For example you could beat Diablo 2 offline and then go online to play with other people. That way you would be less dependant on other gamers since you would know what was going on. Online RPGs with offline components also satisfy gamers who want action and treasures in a hurry because that is usually how the game was designed for single players.
In addition gamers can play online RPGs from various locations such as LANs independent game servers and game dedicated servers like those at Battle.net. This freedom keeps players from “putting all their eggs in one basket.” For instance lets say a relatively minor MMORPG like the Realm Online has server problems and is forced to shut down for several hours. How do play the game during that time? You don’t. In contrast an online RPG gamer has other options if he or she is unable to access Battle.net or the MSN Gaming Zone. Speaking of other options Online RPG gamers don’t even have to play the same game that they bought because of all the mods (game modifications) that are available for free via download on the Internet.
The first disadvantage to online RPGs may actually be considered an advantage to some gamers: less monitoring of conduct. I have seen plenty of cursing and Web site advertising in some game lobbies of online RPGs. This behavior is strictly forbidden in MMORPGs. Furthermore a large number of (definitely not all) other players in MMORPGs are friendly and will help you whenever you need it. Unfortunately the number of helpful people dwindles considerably when you switch to an Online RPG. I guess people have less of an incentive to help a fellow gamer when they are popping in and out of different rooms instead of residing in the same world.
Residing in the same world also makes it more necessary for characters to differentiate themselves from each other. That said one of the biggest advantage that MMORPGs have over online RPGs is customization. Unlike online RPGs like Diablo 2 MMORPGs allow gamers to really customize their characters. MMORPGs simply give gamers more choices when it comes to gender races classes and physical appearances. In Diablo 2 you are only given a choice of 7 character classes no choice whether that character is a male or female and no ability to alter the physical appearance of a character (excluding equipment and weapons). Other online RPGs like Dungeon Siege and Neverwinter offer more customization options than Diablo 2 but they still fall short in comparison to those offered by MMORPGs like EverQuest and Asheron’s Call. As mentioned earlier MMORPGs also evolve with updates while most online RPGs stay pretty much the same (not including mods). These updates introduce such exciting features as new weapons monsters and dungeons. Updates along with a staff dedicated to making servers run smoothly do a good job of justifying the pay-per-month structure of MMORPGs. The only exception to this is MMORPGs charging extra for the updates by offering them for retail like EverQuest is famous for doing.
All that said which one is better for you? That all depends on what you are looking for based on the criteria mentioned above. If you prefer not to pay for online gaming and thirst for a high degree of action then online RPGs should satisfy you. If you want to meet a lot of friendly people heavily customize your character and delve into complex yet beautiful worlds MMORPGs may be for you. Some gamers like myself simply enjoy both online RPGs and MMORPGs!