When an indie developer is looking to start a project, there are a number of questions that he (or she) has to ask themselves. What kind of game do I want to make? How much time and money can I invest in this? Who is going to work on it with me? Will it be PvP or PvE? Class or Skill based?
These are some of the questions that come readily to mind when you ask what questions developers have to ask themselves when they start a project. The question that doesn't necessarily rear its head is "what technology platform am I going to use, and how much will it cost?"
The technology behind MMORPGs is as diverse as the games themselves. Technology platform, in this case, refers to all of the tools that the developers will need in order to bring their game from design to shelf. This includes the engine, dev tools and the like. Some companies choose to create their own technology in-house. For an indie though, this is often not possible. When that is the case, the developer has to look at the commercial options that area available to them. Often this involves paying a flat fee, sometimes a very large fee, to license the technology.
While I was attending the Indie Game Developers Conference, I had a chance to sit down and talk to Ron Meiners from a company called Multiverse that is supplying their technology platform to a growing number of developers.
"Our goal," said Meiners, "is to remove barriers for people to be able to create original games in virtual worlds."
Indeed, Multiverse seems to be an appealing choice for an indie developer / startup looking to get into making an MMORPG. The licensing model differs from the norm. Most licensing models see money change hands before development on a project beings, requiring money up front. Multiverse tries to be more adaptable, and allows developers to use their engine and tools completely for free until the devs start to make money. At that time, Multiverse charges 10% of the market share.
When I asked him about the customer service for a product that is supplied essentially for free, he told me that, "our success is dependent on the success of our developers." This encourages good communication between Multiverse and anyone using their product.
The Multiverse model allows developers the freedom to experiment without having made a huge technology investment.
"We want to enable [developers] to create their vision."
I asked Ron what effect Multiverse would have on the average player of MMORPGs. He said that they are looking at technology with a universal client that is looking to break down the gaps between virtual worlds and gives players games that don't need the financial backing of a multi-million dollar title like World of Warcraft.
Ron told me that game play in today's MMOs is limited in terms of what it could be. Multiverse allows developers the freedom to create new experiences and encourages them to communicate and to share discoveries and ideas. The very active developer community (at least 9,500 developers have signed up on their website) gives help and support to the people who need it.
Although the platform is still in the Beta testing phase of its development, we are already beginning to see the results of the project here on MMORPG.com. Yesterday, I ran an article about a group that is creating a game out of Georgia Tech. Led by Celia Pearce, the game is called Mermaids, and run on the Multiverse Technology Platform. Multiverse has allowed teams like Pearce and co. to work on their game on a much smaller budget than might have otherwise been necessary.
Recently, MMORPG.com added a game called Force of Arms to our Game List. Force of Arms is a mech-based MMORPG that uses, you guessed it, the Multiverse Technology Platform. At the Game Developers Conference, Multiverse was showing a number of different games, all at various levels of completion. There were two Mars-related games being developed, and even a Shakespearian-based MMO called Arden.
Obviously, Multiverse is already making an impact on the MMO world. To wrap up, I asked Ron if there was anything else that he wanted to add to the conversation. He said that he was happy to see "how inspired and passionate indie developers can be." After a moment's thought, he added that "they're creating their dreams."
As time rolls on, I would suggest that people keep an eye out for games created using the Multiverse Technology Platform. It could just produce some of the most innovative and interesting new indie MMOs.