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Hamilton-WDS: Force of Arms Dev Blog

Personal Developer Blog for Force of Arms. Per Vis Nos Planto Nostrum Forensis - Through Force We Make Our Legacy

Author: Hamilton-NEO

Making Your MMO: From Idea to Gold - Which Engine is Best for You? Part 1

Posted by Hamilton-NEO Wednesday November 7 2007 at 5:32PM
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Making Your MMO: From Idea to Gold – Which Engine is Best for You? Part 1
Table of Contents (Source of other entries)

Side Note: 
Sorry for the delay, the MMORPG.Com interview had caused a surge on our forums, plus a surge of other events... or in other words, been very busy (as we mostly all are) so now I should be getting back on track.

MMO Engines and Platforms are generally discussed in the technical sections when developing a game; however, engines and platforms have a significant factor for business planning and game development.  Effectively, the engine or platform selected will dictate what you can and cannot do for you game and therefore will have to make adjustments (or spend more time and money coding). 

There are three choices in the selection of a MMO Engine or Platform:
1.    Build it yourself
2.    Take an open source engine or platform and build upon it
3.    License one

Each one has its pros and cons.  Of the three I would recommend to license one, even if you are on a shoestring budget.  The reason for this is that building an engine or platform from scratch or an existing one is a challenging endeavor that will take one to three (or more) years to complete.  Of which during that time, the engine may become severely out-of-date before it is completed.  I would only recommend taking this approach if you or your team has the expertise to design, document and develop a complex system.

Licensing an engine or platform is the better choice in my opinion since you have another company that dedicated in only building an engine or platform.  That is one less item (and a biggy) that you do not need to stress about.

When deciding though whether to build, modify or license one, take time to go over the monetary numbers.  Questions to ask:
- How much is licensing the engine/platform
- How many man-hours will I or my team spend making my or our own?
- What is the time-cost savings?
- Will I, my team or company still be motivated in the next couple of years if all I/we have to show if just the engine/platform?
- What will the rest of the team are doing while the engine/platform is being built?

I will provide some engines and platforms that may be of some benefit, though I will warn you ahead of time, that most of my experience has come with the Multiverse Platform, since that is the one we’re using.  If at the end of this entry you are still intending to build your own, I will salute you.  Many have tried, most have failed.

Mind Trap
Although using the Unreal 3 Engine for the front end (client) and Big World for the back end (servers) or the CryENGINE2 for the client and the Hero Engine for the servers may be the desirable choices of large companies, those engines are financially out of reach for most Indie teams.  The cost of such engines range in the hundred thousands to million dollar price tag.  And by just acquiring such engines, will not mean that the title will be easy to develope or things will be rosy.  Each engine and platform has its problems and quirks.  Expect to spend extra money and time in getting your title to work with any engine.

Also attempting to acquire funding in the $1 to $2 million dollar range is the most competitive range.  It is better and easier to acquire under $1 million or $5 or more million.  The best option is to go under $1 million for your first title.  Get it going and released as quick and best as you can.  Then with it running and turning a profit, you will be in a better position to acquire more funding, perhaps then get a better engine or platform.  Do Not, DO NOT, fall into the trap or mindset that all one person or team needs is a couple of million and one of those great engines, and everything will be smooth sailing.  IT WON’T HAPPEN!

I take that back, since that is being negative. 
Let me rephrase, IT WON’T HAPPEN THAT WAY!

I know there are exceptions out there, they are few, very few.  Most teams with such planning fail because they reach as far as they can go until funding is secured to get that cool engine; only to realize that the money is not there or cannot be obtained.  If you are in such a team that plans on using those expensive engines, but has no business plan or close relative or friend who will provide the funding to cover the project; it is time to rethink or leave.

Sorry for my being blunt about this, as I am going based by my experiences.

Yes there are exceptions, but easy money like the Dot Com days are not back yet.

Take the approach to build the prototype first with spending as few dollars as possible, then go through rounds of funding, making your title better along the way.

Raenz writes:

First off...nice blog.  It's good to hear about other's experience and opinions regarding the development of games.


I have to disagree with you a little on your opinion.  First you must determine what your goal is.  Is to get to a releasable product even if funding is not acquired, or is it to produce a playable demo to shop around to potential publishers?

If it's the prior, then your advise seems sage, if it's the latter, then any of the top tier or AAA engines are obtainable for producing a demo for little to no money, as long as an agreement is struck in advanced.  Emergent, Big World, even Epic allow for prototyping to not only evaluate their engine, but to help acquire funding.

Like I said, your decision should be based on exactly knowing what your goal is when you start out.


Thu Nov 08 2007 10:50AM Report
Hamilton-NEO writes:

Thanks for the comment.

I figure we all have our differences of opinions, which is what is great about these boards.  My intent was for the releasing a product with low funding requirements as the big engines do require a significant amount.  Basically under $1 million USD.

But of course if a team does have prior experience in the game industry and has executed a start-up before, then the pricey engines are possible. 

I'll have to add that bit of advice though of using such engines for prototyping only without any up-front cost.  And see which engines allow it, or do not allow it, or have conditions attached.


Thu Nov 08 2007 6:29PM Report writes:
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