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Indie MMORPG

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

Author: Over00

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/

Coldrain_13 writes:

Very awesome blog, I used to be a moderator for a 2D game engine called Genesis2D and you are absolutely right. Be prepare for spending a lot of time working, fixing, and promoting. And it isn't cheap, luckily for those using G2D as we called got the engine for free lol. Which is a huge wallet saver. Another thing I like to point out is to keep a level head and be willing to kill some parts of your "ultimate MMO". Better to kill your baby and rebuild it, then release and have it murdered by the mass.

 

That said, most indie studios start but never finish their projects. :(

Thu Dec 10 2009 6:30AM Report
Over00 writes:

You're absolutely right Coldrain_13. You need to cut some of those "awesome ideas".

That's probably why people are sick of hearing "hey I'm building a very great MMO with thousands of features" because they know quite well this MMO will never see the light of day.

The first thing I'd tell someone starting to work on its own project would be "Help yourself to make it to release". Sounds a bit obvious yet many are not considering that the load of work might kill their project before anyone gets to play it.

 

Thu Dec 10 2009 8:18AM Report
Coldrain_13 writes:

lol, I am very interested in getting into this scene. What are some good programming languages? I kind of wish I took some classes in college but now own a small business so can't afford the time to do so, so any great websites that teach languages like C++ for free or not too costly?

Also, awesome work on your mmo. I went and checked it out and what Engine did you use? Tons of 2D engines out there. Or was it custom built to tailor your needs? I wish you and your team a successful road mate.

Thu Dec 10 2009 9:44AM Report
Coldrain_13 writes:

To add, it'll be a long time before I think of making a mmo, flash games maybe lol.

Thu Dec 10 2009 11:53AM Report
Over00 writes:

Your best bet to find resources on how to start building games is probably http://www.gamedev.net/

You'll find a lot of stuff there including references to C++ and other programming languages.

One thing to remember though is explore many possibilities for your choice of tech. For example, I chose a very odd technology by using Javascript for the client. That was simply because that's what I was good at. The obvious choice would have been Flash I guess but I don't know anything about it. Considering it took 1 year of development to reach release, learning Flash on top of this was just a good way to make sure I never release. The server is coded in .NET with SQL Server 2005.

The engine is custom built. Not because I thought I'd do a better job than someone else just because I wanted to design it myself. Can't say it was always easy but I learned a lot and nothing can't beat the experience of doing it yourself.

I also wanted an engine that would allow me to build other games. For example Blimp Wars is not an MMO (though persistent and multiplayer) but it's using the same engine as Golemizer.

Thanks for the kind words. The coding team is actually just myself but there are great GMs helping me to maintain the game.

Thu Dec 10 2009 11:57AM Report
Coldrain_13 writes:

Thanks a lot man!

Thu Dec 10 2009 2:45PM Report
rachoac writes:

This was highly instructive. I've just released my own MMO and am having a hell of a time getting people to stay for more than a few seconds :( The major problem is that no-one appears to be leaving any comments or feedback at all. However, I do believe that I may be the victim of at least 2 of the things you mentioned:

  1. Poor graphics. My game is in the alpha stage, and I'm trying to get people to log in and tell me what they want improved. However, I'm thining that the graphics are sooo atrocious that no one can stand to be there even the few seconds it takes to make a coment.
  2. Lack of promotion. I did not make any special effort to promote the game, and therefore no one is coming to the party. The problem is that its kind of unclear to me about where or how to formally invite people to try out a non-commercial, indie mmo project. If you or someone could expand on this, it would be awesome.
Anyway, thanks again for the awesome article. I hope that its not too late for me to fix these problems for my fledging project!
 
Aron
http://www.janthus.com
Wed Feb 02 2011 2:50PM Report

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