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.
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!