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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: MMO Development Needs Change

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Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 16270

OP  7/11/13 8:07:07 PM#1

In his latest in a series of columns devoted to MMO development, Red 5's Mark Kern takes a look at the way development happens and offers some thoughts about why it needs to change. See what he's got to say from his unique developer perspective before heading to the comments to discuss the topic.

The rise in development costs can be attributed to many things, but next-gen graphics are definitely a large part of the cost. On WoW, we used to be able to create a new monster in a week. These days, with millions of polygons and multiple materials and shaders, a single monster can easily take 4-6 weeks to complete and sometimes 8 weeks or more for a boss creature. Also, the feature set for MMOs is getting larger. Every new MMO finds itself competing with older MMOs with years of development. Catching up to the feature sets of these mature MMOs means more programmers, designers and development time.

Read more of Mark Kern's MMO Development Needs Change.

Associate Editor:
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom


Advanced Member

Joined: 8/25/06
Posts: 1402

7/12/13 8:50:19 AM#2

nice to actually read  thoughts on an actual  current successful game developer (ken)  and not just random posted comments on this site.

good read-


Advanced Member

Joined: 8/24/12
Posts: 87

7/12/13 8:59:11 AM#3
Great points and I would say the games I have enjoyed the most I have been in the alpha/beta testing through out.  Not just occasional tests.  I mean full flow gaming all the way thru the development where you accept that your playing an alpha game and play it like a normal game.   Also I think these games created the best overall games because the devs were into the players playing while they dev'd and learned more then ever possible just staring at each other while they code.

HomePage/Gaming Blog - . MMORPGer - Current game: .
Author of Diaries of Afterworld- and the Outside Sci-Fi series-


Elite Member

Joined: 5/14/09
Posts: 974

7/12/13 9:00:52 AM#4
No we need fewer MMOs we do not need more.  That is why the market has gone down hill is because instead of creating a cheaper single/mutliplayer game every publisher thinks they will become the next Blizzard.  They are dead wrong Blizzard was something that happens once in a while with a good product its not the standard nor will it ever be.  The weak publishers need to stop making MMOs and the few strong Publishers need to continue to change their product without having to worry to get non MMO players into MMOs because thats the only way they will make a profit cause the market is saturated with MMOs or WANNBE MMOs.  


Elite Member

Joined: 10/29/07
Posts: 17698

7/12/13 9:02:30 AM#5

Betas today seems like a pre-order bonus and when you do it like that people are indeed expecting a close to finished product since they are paying for it.

Longer beta time and actually inviting players from earlier games your company have made should indeed increase the effect of the beta and allowing you to test new ideas. Experienced players who are fans of your previous games are more likely to put effort into testing your future product than random people.

But beta needs to go back to actually being real beta tests and not a way to hype the game. MMOs really needs to try out new ideas, particularly with combat. 

Good article.


Made History

Joined: 7/11/11
Posts: 6496

Pink, it's like red but not quite.

7/12/13 9:08:30 AM#6

This idea would require a “co-development” where the game is shared early to a large group of players for the last 50% of development time. Developers would also share features before they were completed. Sharing these prototype early would ensure that developers could make changes without incurring great cost. Rapid iteration and fast patching would also be essential.

Which is extraordinarily difficult to do with the company legal team keeping devs locked away from the public to limit liability....

You need to break that stranglehold first.

Self-pity imprisons us in the walls of our own self-absorption. The whole world shrinks down to the size of our problem, and the more we dwell on it, the smaller we are and the larger the problem seems to grow.


Elite Member

Joined: 10/29/07
Posts: 17698

7/12/13 9:09:07 AM#7
Originally posted by danwest58
No we need fewer MMOs we do not need more.  That is why the market has gone down hill is because instead of creating a cheaper single/mutliplayer game every publisher thinks they will become the next Blizzard.  They are dead wrong Blizzard was something that happens once in a while with a good product its not the standard nor will it ever be.  The weak publishers need to stop making MMOs and the few strong Publishers need to continue to change their product without having to worry to get non MMO players into MMOs because thats the only way they will make a profit cause the market is saturated with MMOs or WANNBE MMOs.  

Good games will still get a lot of players while bad will have a few.

The problem is not that there are too many MMOs around but that almost all around build on the same mechanics and frankly feels very similar. Copying WoW is a bad idea unless you actually can make it better than Wow, and with 5 years in development you have to realize that Wow today is not the same game as it was 5 years ago. People will only change to a better game, not to a worse or similar.


Made History

Joined: 7/11/11
Posts: 6496

Pink, it's like red but not quite.

7/12/13 9:14:32 AM#8

Self-pity imprisons us in the walls of our own self-absorption. The whole world shrinks down to the size of our problem, and the more we dwell on it, the smaller we are and the larger the problem seems to grow.


Novice Member

Joined: 1/12/06
Posts: 24

7/12/13 9:28:04 AM#9
Isn't there a market voor an 'mmo-engine' so far it seems as each mmo developer makes their own...

Advanced Member

Joined: 2/18/04
Posts: 1390

7/12/13 9:42:32 AM#10

I remember that in the SWG beta, it lasted a good long while and it was a constant dialouge with the devs, we were discussing everything and when discussions slowed down, they dropped a new idea into the mix and it all started again. As an example, that I enjoyed because it was so random and seemed so unimportant until they dropped the question was "hey guys? When running uphill and downhill, which version would you like the most? Slower uphill and faster downhill? Normal speed uphill and faster downhill, or normal speed both ways?" Simple question, but the forums exploded! Because all are good, in their own way, and noone had even thought about such a minor part of the game. And when they started to think about that, they began to think about other minor things in everyday life that would be nice as well and... it became a creative thunderstorm.

I will always remember that beta fondly. It was also the last beta I was in where the betatesters were included in the creative process on such a scale.

"This is not a game to be tossed aside lightly.
It should be thrown with great force"


Apprentice Member

Joined: 3/29/13
Posts: 174

7/12/13 9:44:14 AM#11
Here you go, Mark; Exactly what you're asking for:  Camelot Unchained

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 9/21/12
Posts: 1566

7/12/13 9:44:23 AM#12

"But if we can do this and work together, we can develop better products at less risk, foster new ideas and bolder innovation, and also give gamers a real voice in game development. Isn’t that what we all want?"


I wouldn't want most gamer's voices in on game development.  We need more Kosters, McQuaids.  Guys that make the games they want to play, as opposed to what they think everyone else wants to play.  



Novice Member

Joined: 9/28/04
Posts: 12

7/12/13 10:11:20 AM#13

Chris Roberts who develops  Star Citizen does it exact in the described way.


A pity that such developing is only with crowd founding possible.


Advanced Member

Joined: 7/08/10
Posts: 1362

The strong are sometimes wrong but the weak are never free.

7/12/13 10:40:24 AM#14
Excellent points Mark. In light of this, how do you think companies should deal with the desire to play things close to the vest right up the last few months before release. companies don't want their great innovations to be scooped up and brought to market ahead of them by a company willing to cut corners to do just that. But the idea of getting crowd sourced feedback early in the process would seem to work counter to that goal.

All die, so die well.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/24/05
Posts: 2197

7/12/13 10:46:25 AM#15
solid article, thank you.

"There are at least two kinds of games.
One could be called finite, the other infinite.
A finite game is played for the purpose of winning,
an infinite game for the purpose of continuing play."
Finite and Infinite Games, James Carse


Novice Member

Joined: 11/03/11
Posts: 401

Working hard on WorldAlpha

7/12/13 10:49:50 AM#16
Well, I pushed out our alpha and early betas to gamers to get feedback.  The problem was that gamers "wrote the game off" because it wasn't polished.  Gamers weren't patient enough with the game, and as a result, I've had a hard time winning them back.

Working on Social Strategy MMORTS (now Launched!)


Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/07
Posts: 56

7/12/13 10:55:17 AM#17
Not necessarily. The legal risks can be greatly reduced with beta test agreements that allow for this kind of participation.

Follow me on <a href="">Twitter: @Grummz</a>


Novice Member

Joined: 6/18/13
Posts: 6

7/12/13 10:56:06 AM#18

Who is we Mark? Use I, not we, when you are the only person typing. I don't think of a beta as a "nearly finished" product, merely as a nearly ready for release product. MMOs are never "nearly finished" until their server(s) population drops.

You claim "we" need more innovation and less-risk. This will not happen. What game companies consider risky is the money they spent vs the money they will see in return. The all mighty dollar will win every time.

What game developers need to do is their own thing. MMOs have become too much of a copy cat gaming scene. Game X has this, and if Games Y and Z do not, they will fail. Developers are afraid of going back to their roots of game making. A lot of other things have taken a step back into the past. Music, fashion, cars to name a few. Get back to making games that challenge people, not just pretty looking games.

Until game developers grow balls and are willing to do something they believe in rather than something that has been done ten times already, but this time with vanilla (flavor), MMOs are going to continue down this path.


Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/07
Posts: 56

7/12/13 10:57:05 AM#19
It's true that lengthy betas can allow your competition to copy you...but having been copied before on games like WoW, I can say it does take them time to do so, and they often are not copied well due to time pressure or the fact that they are not the original innovators in the first place.

Follow me on <a href="">Twitter: @Grummz</a>


Novice Member

Joined: 1/08/10
Posts: 12

7/12/13 10:59:10 AM#20

Indeed. I was part of a beta weekend in the very beginning of Firefall, I think it was a stress test, then saw de open beta and man it changed A LOT! Great job btw.

I love taking part in development, but most doesn't have the patience or maturity necessary to take part. The selection of beta testers should be more selective imo.

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