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neochikara

RPG Design Dilemma

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Well, I must admit that I'm new to posting on these forums, though I stop in and read some of the [great] articles and posts here from time to time. So, if I've missed something or failed to read some important sticky, I apologize ahead of time. Anyway, I've recently pulled together (and still recruiting more members) a partial team to design a PC RPG. I've really had a hands-on discovery of the challenges and worries of a game designer, although I must admit that I believe I'm up to the challenge. Many of you will shame me for this, but my initial idea was to design an MMORPG. We've made very good progress in important areas, but I've been beginning to think things through more throughly as more issues present themselves. I have confidence that my concept for the world of the game would sell (at least a little, if nothing else) and that others will be interested, but I have concerns about the time frame and intellectual property security. From what I have gathered (and thought about) developing an MMORPG with a team on the internet (primarily) poses to be very challenging. I have major worries about how well protected my ideas (and code, for any matter) are from people who will view my project's site and say, "Oh, this looks cool--I'll steal it." Yes, that may just be paranoia, but understand that I really desire security for a game that could (and is being designed) to go public and make money. Now, as I considered all things, one idea struck me: make my existing project into a single-player RPG. When I thought about it, I realized that there would be minimal design changes; the biggest being a GUI overhaul and the removal of network code (client/server). The idea seemed attractive because I could still use my design team and I's existing work (concept art, design documentation, ideas, etc) with only small modifications. When discussing this idea with a few team members, one of them came up with the idea to implement multiplayer support in the way of allowing a single player to invite his friends to play in the same world as him/her over a LAN or the internet. It seemed like a viable idea, but while considering it, I thought, "Why not just make it an ORPG?" And from all the above considerations and thoughts, I am presented with (what I believe to be) a critical dilemma in the design process. So, I'd like to hear some opinions from the many skilled and wise members of these forums. I'd like to hear ideas and thoughts about how the market would take each idea (if it were to be pitched to a publisher, etc) and other things that have an application, if desired, to be commerical and not totally indie. I understand that MMORPGs are very risky ventures and that most publishers shy away from supporting them, but what about other options? Thank you very much for your time reading this--I hope it wasn't too long of a read. I look forward to some useful critique and ideas.

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You must force yourself to ask: What mechanics of this game make it fun? If they implicitly demand other people to be good, make it multiplayer.

My opinion states that the world needs more good single-player games. I love playing Wolfenstein: Enemey Territory (which demands more than seven players) but there needs to be more games that are implicitly fun to play solitare.

If you do go with multiplayer, LAN games are always better than massively multiplayer ones for countless reasons.

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Firstly, I'll have to admit that I've never played a MMORPG (due to lousy internet connections [smile]), and prefer single player or (small number) multiplayer RPGs, so you can consider me slightly biased.

But for an indie developer, unless you have really strong command of network and client/server programming, I think you'd have a greater chance of succeeding in the single player or (small number) multiplayer market. Here's my main reasons for my opinion:

- Most people only have time for one MMORPG at a time. You will have to compete with all the big boys for the same player base, and even if your game is very cheap or even free you won't be dragging that many people away from the big commercial games

- Testing a MMORPG will be a real pain, as you need a huge number of people to test it properly; this will be a hassle to set up. Testing a single player game is a lot easier.

- You'll need a lot of physical hardware and adminstrators to run a MMORPG. Don't expect any help from a big publisher unless you already have a working game that you can prove is marketable (i.e. something that is very little risk from the publisher's perspective). You don't need all this for a single player or smaller multiplayer RPG.


Unless your ideas will only work as a MMORPG, I'd think it will have a better chance to be noticed as a single-player or multiplayer RPG. In the indie market, you'll have to stand out from the crowd in a different way from having flashier graphics and more art assets than the competitors (unless you are really good). Unless you have a really, really, really innovative new game mechanic, I just don't think that will work in a MMORPG, especially if you are thinking of selling it.

Also, if your team has an indie success with a single player RPG, then it's a lot easier to attract publisher attention. Then you can think about financing for MMORPGs.

Good luck with your game!

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Thanks for your tips and pointers, I'm sure they'll help.

Zoid, you speak very intellegent and well-founded words. You're very right about what you said and I you mention MMORPG publishing worries that I've thought of myself. My whole team (I've worked with them before on smaller things) jumped at the idea of my MMORPG idea, and some of them are very set in doing that. Since they're set in that, I think an ORPG, or better yet (in my opinion) a single-player/multiplayer RPG. It has crossed my mind to first do an RPG based on my world AND THEN do an MMORPG featuring the same places and (some) familiar faces and such. I think that's almost a marketing plan, really, if the original could possibly create a big splash and gain a good player base.

Is there anything I can read up on about publishers or what they want, etc? Or is there a different section of the forums to read about stuff like that? Regardless, if anyone has any more tips and/or insight, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

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I think that that's a good plan (well, better than starting with a MMORPG [wink]. An RPG is still a lot of work; you still need a skilled team). I'm considering doing something similar myself; I'm really just working on games for the fun of it at the moment, but it's possible if I release something good for free I could build a commercial base off of it. If your RPG really is good it would definitely be a big boost for a future MMORPG. Hopefully your team isn't too set on making a MMORPG right now. Be warned that developing anything that's good is still a big challenge.

Quote:

Is there anything I can read up on about publishers or what they want, etc? Or is there a different section of the forums to read about stuff like that? Regardless, if anyone has any more tips and/or insight, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.


There's a series of articles on running your own business that might be useful on GameDev.net (look under articles). The most appropriate forum to ask a publisher question is probably the "Business of Game Development" one; I've only ever been a junior pawn at a game company, and now I'm out of the business I'm not sure exactly what's going on in the world of publishers.

Oh, and what's an ORPG? Online Role-Playing Game?

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Yeah, ORPG is Online Role-playing Game. An example would be the Phantasy Star Online series.

Thanks for your recommendation in articles and your good will. I wish you luck with your future endevours as well.

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I have found that one of the most thoroughly vexxing aspects of trying to be an indie developer is that there isn't enough information out there to tell you what your chances are. After covering many of the biz and marketing tracks at the GDC this year, reflecting on my own experience in the industry, and talking with people who have been publishers on the indie side, I've gotten this sense:

1) Most indie projects make little to no money. The distribution channels are underdeveloped, so it's hard to let people know you even have a game

2) Most publishers don't want to talk to you unless you have a track record, and in many cases, a nearly finished product. When they do, most want all your intellectual property, right down to the grass and wall textures (meaning you'll start from scratch on the next project).

3) Too many of us want to make clones of what we've already played, which increases our competition and lowers our chances of being noticed.

4) Most of us think too small. We're focusing on building games, rather than phenomenon that can be carried on by other media or into marketable realms. Comic books might be a better business model to try to emulate. Which brings me to...

5) Most of us hate business because it sets real, tangible limits. It is mature, and that threatens the portion of game development that is rooted in joyful immaturity (we don't wanna grow up, we want to play and have fun).





My personal advice is this:

-Forget about a publisher unless you've got raw talent that outclasses everything else around you. Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution counts for far more when you're risking hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. If you can't stomach this, then make it your life mission to get inside the publisher's head. Know their talk, know their numbers, know life as they know it. Start with small publishers, take people out to lunch, get to know them and network your way to the bigger guys just so you can get hard information. They have a reality you need to know like the back of your hand.

-Find what you can do that no one else is good at. If you're going to come out with YAMG (yet another medieval game) you'll be fighting off ideological clones. At least put a spin on it that no one else offers

-Go with the areas that aren't being addressed by the big guys. Multiplayer co-op RPGs, while still highly risky (because its an RPG), may just work

-Minimize risk with proven technology.

-Get people with experience and if at all possible pay or trade them something (the burnout rate of indie projects, especially MMOs, is horrendous, so you need to manage morale)

-Do your best to get real information about what you're up against before you commit. As a reference, A Tale In The Desert, an MMO with lots of unique gameplay in terms of item creation and social interaction (judging, rating artwork, minigame contests played right on the ground, etc.) cost just over $1,000,000 to build and took 2 full time staff and several rotators. According to the talk given at the GDC by the creator, a big chunk of funding came from the creators themselves, in (I think) the form of collateral against a previous business and other loans.

-Assess your own weaknesses. What do you suck at? Where are you going to break down? What are you unwilling to face? Being able to maturely look at these areas will at least help you see where YOU stand in the way of your project.

-Hone your elevator speech for your game so that you can build a center of gravity around it. You need to inspire people, and your game concept should roll off your tongue with excitement. For example, I'm building a game about thriving and surviving in a fantastical future and changing the destiny of the human race. What are you working on? [grin]




Ooops, sorry, this turned into a bit of a freeform ramble. I totally encourage you to follow your dream, no matter how difficult it will be to achieve, but you owe it to yourself (and your dreams) to be as real as possible. THEN, you can put your creativity to where it's most needed-- that is, in how to turn liabilities and limitations into advantages and assets.

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Worrying about design ideas being stolen is a common theme among amateur developers, I've noticed. There's really no need to worry. Designs are cheap, but actually developing a game takes massive effort and skill and energy and time. If someone is going to go through all that trouble, why would they want to use someone else's design? There aren't hoards of talented developers sitting around looking for ideas to make games from. Quite the opposite.

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Quote:
Original post by neochikara
Is there anything I can read up on about publishers or what they want, etc? Or is there a different section of the forums to read about stuff like that? Regardless, if anyone has any more tips and/or insight, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.


This news article on the front page might interest you.

Hope this helps.

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