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Indie MMORPG

Creator of the MMOs www.starcorsairs.com and www.golemizer.com

Author: Over00

Building your own game - Avoiding 4 critical issues

Posted by Over00 Thursday December 10 2009 at 1:08PM
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Yesterday I have presented 4 issues I have encountered while developing the MMO Golemizer.

Acknowledging problems is a good start but taking measures to avoid them again is even better.

I'm currently working on my second title: Blimp Wars. While Blimp Wars is not an MMO (though it is online and multiplayer) the lessons learned from Golemizer can still be applied for this game.

So how am I trying the same issues I faced with Golemizer? Here it goes:

 

Sticking to a simple and fun concept to get to release

In Blimp Wars players get to pilot blimps (duh) in different type of games (pirate hunt, conquer which is similar to king of the hill, ...). By doing well in battles, players gain shillings they can spend to customize and upgrade their blimps.

Simple enough. However, the first thing I heard when I announced Blimp Wars was "Will we be able to create guild and play team matches?".

Well, sure it's a great idea. One I plan to add at some point actually. But look, I'm a single developer and while some beta testers have already played the game I am not 100% sure everything is set as it will remain. Adding on top of that guilds and team matches means a lot of additional work.

Will the game be better with team matches? Surely but you got to draw the line somewhere. I'm starting with free-for-all matches and then will add team matches once the game is released and I'm satisfied with its state.

You can come up with many good arguments why I should add team matches right from the start but then again, neither you or me can guarantee this feature will make the difference between failure and success.

It's better to implement fewer good ideas than try to throw in too many unpolished ideas.

 

Look in your pocket and find money to hire an artist

That's what I did for Blimp Wars. Surely there will always be people that don't like the look of the game (I still remember people complaining about WoW graphics at first yet I think this game is doing quite well) but it's way better than what I had for Golemizer.

Yes it cost quite some money but I now know that better graphics are required even if it gives me just 1% of chance of getting more players.

Blimp Wars has a lot less graphics than Golemizer which helped to get it done. You need to remember that Golemizer is an MMO allowing players to build their dungeons, houses, cities and so on. That means a lot of graphics and honestly even with good will I wouldn't have been able to pay an artist for all of that so that's the reason I had to rely on free graphic libraries.

So yes, when thinking of your "great game idea" check if you can manage to deliver it in a somewhat good fashion. Maybe you'll need to cut some features because it would cost too much. Just make sure these features are not key to your game.

 

Blimp Wars is not an MMO so it means less maintenance

That's an important point. There's no way I can maintain 2 MMOs while having a day job, a wife, friends, a dog, ...

Sure I have quite some more ideas for MMOs but I just can't do it right now. Now it doesn't mean that I won't have to do maintenance on Blimp Wars but it will require a lot less.

Sure I'll keep adding features but once the game is released and fun, there's not the same rush as an MMO to keep updating it.

Since Blimp Wars is using the same engine as Golemizer it also means that my code is much more stable than it was at first for Golemizer. The code has been improved for over 2 years now so there are a lot of issues I won't face again with Blimp Wars.

 

Yes I started promotion early

In fact I published the website (www.blimpwarsonline.com) before having done any significant work on the game.

That wasn't a risk as I know based on my experience with Golemizer that I'm able to commit to a project and actually deliver. Sure there wasn't much to see at first (there's now screenshots) but it allowed me to get some people on my newsletter, fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter. These are all people I'll be able to contact once the game is released, hopefully bringing a starting crowd to the game.

I already contacted websites to warn them that Blimp Wars is coming, sent press release and added the game to websites like ModDB.

Even by doing all of this it doesn't guarantee anything but like always it's not a matter of getting sure results but a matter of raising the odds in your favor.

As a small game developer it can be hard to get noticed so you cannot afford to not try.

 

Finally

Remember that this is not a magical recipe for success (like I said in my previous post). That's just bits from my experience and I'm still learning myself so take what may be useful for you.

Maybe I'm wrong on some points but I feel I'm putting myself in a better position this time. Time will tell.

So if you're interested in Blimp Wars I invite you to sign up to the newsletter here to become a beta tester. You will automatically receive instructions once you have completed the sign up process. Active beta testers (meaning you provide actual feedback on the forums to help me) will receive a starting amount of in-game currency once the game is released.

Hoping to see you there!

Building your own MMO - 4 issues to avoid

Posted by Over00 Wednesday December 9 2009 at 9:07PM
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It's been more than a year now that Golemizer has been released. I am now working on my second game Blimp Wars but I'd like to look back at what I did with Golemizer so far.

Of course Golemizer didn't become a WoW killer (that was never the point anyway and I surely don't pretend I could build such game) but it did found it's own little niche of crafters and explorers.

So yes I'm happy about Golemizer but I can't help to think that it could have been something more (maybe it will someday, it's still young). The great thing is that I only have myself to blame. That's the good thing about working on your own project. You both get full credit for success and failures.

So now that I can look back at over 1 year of the game being available to everyone, what are the problems I have identified along the way?

Here are the 4 biggest issues I have identified


Too many ideas

If you're like me, there's probably a lot of stuff you'd want in your "ultimate MMO" yet you have no idea how to implement them properly because, eh experience is not earned while sleeping.

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is."

Exactly. An idea may look good until players get to play with it.

I had a lot of ideas and I think that at some point I forgot that I was the only coder on this project.

Ideas are cheap, you need to be able to make them reality if you want someone to care about them.


Underestimating how important good graphics can be

Some games are knowing great success and they are only text games. However when trying to reach people good graphics do help.

When I started Golemizer my budget was $0. Since I had to pay for servers I obviously couldn't afford an artist to do all the work needed on top of that.

Now success isn't earned quickly. Probably some of those text games started slowly and it took years to reach a big crowd. It takes time because a lot of people are turned away if you don't have good graphics even if they could enjoy the gameplay.

Hopefully some people can get over this, it's just take more time to reach potential players.


Underestimating maintenance required

An MMO is always evolving. May it be because you added a new feature or just because new players started playing and discovered some new bugs that nobody noticed before.

When you have a team to test the game you can catch a lot of the problems early. When your team is only yourself... it's more difficult to catch everything.

Remember "too many ideas"? well you need to make sure you are able to test all those ideas otherwise you will be spending a lot of time fixing everything once the game is released.

Of course all MMOs are fixing bugs once the game is released. The difference here is again the size of the team. If a Blizzard programmer becomes sick of fixing bugs for WoW he can as well quit his job and find another one. If it's your own game we're talking about quitting is not an option unless you want to call it a failure and shut it down.

So before adding anything to you own MMO remember to ask yourself this question: "Will I be able to maintain it once it's live?"


Not being prepared to promote the game properly

Promotion is the hardest part of building your own MMO. If you build it they will NOT come.

It's quite easy to find lists of advices on how to promote your game but these lists are not magical recipes. If they were everyone would be using them and would know massive success.

So even if you follow all these very good advices (yes they are good) it doesn't mean it will work as intended.

So you need to be prepared and you need to start promoting your game way before release. The biggest issue is to end up with an empty server at release. Players enter the game and see nobody online so they might not be interested to hang around until others join them.

If by doing that it doesn't mean you will know success but it surely can't hurt unless you are spending too much time promoting your vaporware.


Next

Tomorrow I'll post how I'm trying to fix these for my next game Blimp Wars.

It doesn't mean I won't do other mistakes but I can at least try to avoid some of the issues I've known while developing Golemizer.

Until then you can take a quick look at Blimp Wars here: http://www.blimpwarsonline.com/

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