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Hamilton-WDS: Force of Arms Dev Blog

Personal Developer Blog for Force of Arms. Per Vis Nos Planto Nostrum Forensis - Through Force We Make Our Legacy

Author: Hamilton-NEO

Making Your MMO: From Idea to Gold – Intro

Posted by Hamilton-NEO Monday September 17 2007 at 1:47PM
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Making Your MMO: From Idea to Gold – Intro
Table of Contents (Source of other entries)

Originally I was intending this blog to be exclusively about my experiences of developing Force of Arms; but that could have been boring to you, the reader and me, the writer.  I have posted some entries about game development in general and there appears to be of interest, so to keep things alive and interesting; I will be typing away at both, with some other random topics at times…  kind of like talk radio you could say.

If you are solely interested with the topic of “Making Your MMO: From Idea to Gold”, I have provided an entry that is used as a Table of Contents with the listing of each entry (with links) for your reading.  The Table of Contents will be at the top (as shown above) so that reviewing of previous entries can be done in an easy manner; rather than searching the entire blog…

The purpose of this series is to help you (yes you) in developing your own MMO or for your own information as you see fit.  From what other columns and sources of “How To’s,” I have read, I think you will find mine to be different.  For example, most sources will say you will need to begin with either a through Design Document or go through school and learn the skills before doing anything else.  The better sources will begin differently, such as with the business side of things.

And that is where I intend to begin.
The Business Side of Developing an MMO.

I will be assuming that you are one person, with very little skills in game development, know very little about the industry; but have one great idea of a game.  If you have the skills, the background, or a team; then you are ahead of the curve and so some of the information you will not find useful.

Surely, if someone has no skills with game development, then how can that person make an MMO?
It is possible and will be explained.  The simplest way, surround yourself with people who have the skills and lead them to glory.  Leaders do not need the technical skills to lead, though it does help by having an experienced background.

You are one person with one idea of a game.
You will be asked, “How will you succeed where others have failed?” and “What makes your game different and better than the others?
You do not need to answer those questions now, but you will need to in the future.
Keep those questions in the back of your mind and makes notes of possible answers for them as time goes on.

The first action to do with your idea, is to write two short documents; well, outlines really.
- A single page paper explaining your game briefly, with the first two paragraphs providing the “hook” of the game.  That is, what makes your game exciting and different from the others, which will make people want to play your game?  Do not go into details, just a general description.
- Write up a high-level outline that is no longer than 10 pages.  This is not a Design Document; but a short condense version of it; explained in high-level details.  If you are stuck in certain areas, such as; “What is the Combat System?”  You can just put down, “the combat system is just like <insert name of game here>; but with the following differences:” with the differences being in bulleted format.  This is acceptable for now as it is only you (or some trusted friends) that are drafting this.

And that is it, no need to go any further into drafting a 500 page or so Design Document (if you have one, that’s great!  If not, don’t sweat it; it will get done later on).

The reason to not go any further with the design document is that you must know whether or not your MMO is financially feasible and worthwhile of your effort.  This means making a Business Plan.  I have found out that a Business Plan is more important than a Design Document.  A Design Document helps to provide a roadmap for your title and bring on people to your project; but a Business Plan, is the document that will get you the funding and dictate the direction of the Design Document, as well as, tell you how many people you can have on your team.

MMO’s are entertainment services and they require money to develop and operate; even as a hobby.  A Business Plan is required when money is involved; for example, the cost of bandwidth, a website, online storage, and server expenses.  The money has to come from somewhere, and the Business Plan will answer that.

How big of a Business Plan do you need?  The typical answers are about 30 to 35 pages; but some can be bigger.  If you plan becomes large, then provide most of the information in Appendixes.  Don’t worry if you business plan is under 10 pages, your title may be simple in nature and therefore not require a large plan.

But you know nothing of Business Planning or Plans…  then this is where you will need to read on and learn.  I will provide some advice, and the direction of getting one done; as well as provide links for sources.  If you have questions, please do ask in the comment section.

The next entry will go over Finding a Niche Marketed Title.  To improve your chances of success greatly depends on the competition you will be facing.  If you are to make a Fantasy based MMO, who are your competitors?  Many and they are Big Dogs compared to you, the Puppy.  But if you were to make a Sci-Fi Cyberpunk type of MMO, you will see that there are few competitors to deal with; and thus better chances of success.

But what if my idea is a Fantasy type MMO?  Well, I’ll go over that as there is still room to work with in such a genre, but keep in mind, that there are many competitors to fight against.