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Timus

MMOG's, a hard idea to pull off?

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Hello again. I was just reading through the stickies, and older topics, and I notice there is some sort of a disliking for MMOG Ideas because of lack of feasability, the way I figure it, MMOG's are about as hard to pull off as many other games, they just require a lot of Server space (which I have five gigs + (I could probably get more, easily) backed up for such a game, well, five gigs of FTP space, there's probably a difference that I am to ignorant to know of). As for the issue of Badnwidth, the webmaster of my FTP space (Xenocide AKA RuniteShark) has 12 bonded lines of HDSL, so I see no issue there. So, I have the server space and a great idea, and hopefully will be able to find a team of programmers in the help wanted area. What I am asking is there anything I am forgetting in the equation? Is an MMOG more complex than a team of programmers, multi-media designers and lots of Server space?

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Quote:
Original post by Timus

Is an MMOG more complex than a team of programmers, multi-media designers and lots of Server space?


Yes.

And when it comes down to it one of the largest disadvantages is money (time == money).

There are many aspects to software engineering, and an MMOG takes all of them to the extreme.

One of the critical ones will be Team Moral and Motivation. An MMOG will be a LONG LONG project even for a LARGE and very well funded team.

How do people keep focused, enthused, and dedictated?
How do they do that while working for free?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you do not have any money, and you do not have anything to contribute other than 'ideas,' then your MMOG will never get off the ground.

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No, an MMOG is not just as difficult as any other project. An MMOG needs all the things any other game needs, but also has a number of additional concerns:

Firstly, there's the server cost - Buying a server, having enough space, enough processing power and memory, and having enough bandwidth. This part isn't as much of a problem as most people tend to think, and you've mentioned that you can probably cover it so far, so on to additional difficulties within the genre...

Content:
An MMOG requires a lot of content in terms of both art/sound assets as well as world design and writing. Every creature must be designed and have all it's actions animated. Sounds must be produced for every sound-producing action of every creature and object. All the dialogue must be written and checked for consistency and correctness - if localisations are provided this adds additional work. All the levels must be carefully designed and constructed using whatever tools you choose to use; often custom tools will also need to be produced, such as a map-editor. If there's music then thats another thing for the sound guys to work on. You also need all the art for the GUI, startup screens, etc.

Networking:
Many other games require networking code as well, but in an MMOG the security, speed and accuracy of the networking model is especially important. People will try to take down your server, people will try to cheat, people will try to access data on your server. People will complain about the tiniest amount of latency. Bugs are harder to track down and fix due to the fact that they could be on the server, on the client, or caused by a problem with communication.

A forum member, Raduprv has actually created a successful MMORPG, you can check out an old interview thread he did here, along with his postmortem article series, the first part of which can be found here.

Some other excellent reading on the topic includes:
- A Beginners Guide To Creating an MMORPG
- MMOG Considerations << Definately read this one!

Don't underestimate the complexity of the problem - it certainly can be done, but it's a particularly difficult task, and it will take a lot of work.

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It is about impossible to create an MMORPG using the methods that large publishers/developers (SOE, Blizzard) do with the resources you'll probably be working with. Of course, I doubt any indie developer plans to develop their MMOG in the same way :)

It's not neccesary hard to do, 'technically.' What is hard is actually having a successful, marketable MMOG. World of Warcraft, for instance, isn't any harder to build than the next game. But supporting 3.5 million customers with continually updated content and moderated gameplay as well as providing top teir server quality is out of reach to those without a bank large enough to fund such an operation and the connections required to do so.

Of course, this is assuming that you want to build an MMORPG the same way the big guys do. It takes quite awhile to create content and maintain servers, as well as alot of money. I still maintain that if they used more efficient methods of handling servers and a more scalable system of servers with more intelligent software, alot of the problems could be solved. That reduces maintenence time and neccesary workforce.

Using better content creation systems reduces the amount of time spent on developing content. Take, for instance, ZBrush, which isn't very well suited for the game industry, but has many intuitive features. They have quite a few tutorials showcasing artists creating detailed 3D models from scratch in about 15 minutes, + a minimal amount of time for texturing. Mind you, these are cinema quality multi-million polygon models. The tools really cut into content design time and easily assist animation (Models have built in joints - voila).

If you developed your own time saving tools, engine, and network infastructure, it could be done. This is far from as complicated as it sounds. It really takes either alot of time or alot of money. Some money will be involved, but it is by no means impossible, even if it is implausible.

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As well as the concerns that Kazgoroth has listed, the one that sticks out in my mind is how you will test your MMORPG. With a single-player or (small number of players) multiplayer game, your team can go through most tests on your own network. A small group might have some trouble testing all possible hardware configurations, but every game will have that problem.

However, to properly test a MMORPG, you need to get a lot of testers. Although I haven't built a MMORPG game, I gather most commerical MMORPGs do an extended beta testing phase to get this working. It will be very hard for a small group to co-ordinate one of these. And it isn't until the stress tests have been placed on your network that you know everything is working properly.

So I wouldn't think a MMORPG is as easy as a standard game, unless you happen to have a programmer who is very good at building client/server architectures and network safe code (something of which I personally am not very good at!), and a lot of world designers and artists to make all the content.

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Quote:
Original post by Timus
Hello again.

I was just reading through the stickies, and older topics, and I notice there is some sort of a disliking for MMOG Ideas because of lack of feasability, the way I figure it, MMOG's are about as hard to pull off as many other games, they just require a lot of Server space (which I have five gigs + (I could probably get more, easily) backed up for such a game, well, five gigs of FTP space, there's probably a difference that I am to ignorant to know of). As for the issue of Badnwidth, the webmaster of my FTP space (Xenocide AKA RuniteShark) has 12 bonded lines of HDSL, so I see no issue there.

So, I have the server space and a great idea, and hopefully will be able to find a team of programmers in the help wanted area. What I am asking is there anything I am forgetting in the equation? Is an MMOG more complex than a team of programmers, multi-media designers and lots of Server space?


1) Are you trying to create a real MMOG or a web-based MMOG like Utopia?

If it is the latter, its been done many times and successfully you just need someone who understands how to load-balance the servers once you have a good sized playerbase.

If it is the former however...

*just a disclaimer*
I've never made the latter type of MMOG, I've worked on a couple now defucnt/vanished web-based multiplayer games.

The following is what you need beyond the 'norm' for a regular game, IMHO.

People Related:
1) You need to be able to select people well. There are high turnover rates in *many* online projects, a high turnover rate has killed virtually ever project I've been involved in. That could just be my bad luck, my lack of social skills (although I've only tried to lead once), or a general truth. I think it is the last but I could be wrong.

2) Getting a MMOG far enough along to be playable by the general public will take MONTHS, if not at least a year. Unless your using a pre-built engine. This results in Morale issues, which will help increase the turn over rate. It is hard for anyone to keep interest in a project that is very long-term.

Code/Content Related:
1) MMOGs cannot be done by an amateur programmer(s). I've never heard of a playable created by anyone without a good amount of programming experience.

2) The complexity of the network safe code (and the Software Engineering part of that) is beyond most programmers who do not focus/specialize in network code design and implementation.

3)You need a good amount of Content (depending on the type of game, this may not be signifcantly larger than your average single player RPG).

4) No one is going to believe you can get the project to go anywhere unless you can contribute something beyond a little money for server space. Any MMOG project with a strong team can scrap together the $100/month that is needed for that first server.

5) Due to the fact all MMOG need constant updates, you will need an extensive and user's time efficent set of tools.

6) MMOG (and other online games) have hacking (design, and bug) problems on a couple orders of magnitute larger scale than other games. Players like to feel powerful, and if they can do it by hacking/bug abusing/design issue abusing/etc a game they will. They (as a whole) do not give a rat's ass about the intentions of the game creator or other players that are not their friends.

7) Professional teams have a hard time debugging the code for MMOG. (fact, Ryzom almost 1/4 of the users in Beta couldn't even login for the first couple weeks. I was one of those poor souls.)

-----

A good indie MMOG is the Holy Grail, well close, of game projects. The odds of a first timer managing to succeed doing it are slim to none. But by all means, try with the knowledge in the back of your mind that you most likely will fail.

-----

Now that the bad news is out of the way, here is the good news.

It is not impossible despite what many in the Help Wanted forum will tell you.

Personally, I have an idea for what I think would rock as a MMORPG. However, I intend to build a handful of multiplayer games, such as an MMO (or as close as I can get with some freeware engine) 2d RPG and a couple smaller ones from scratch, and then try to build a real 2d MMORPG. Afterwards, I may add another layer of complexity and do a 3D one. But I doubt I will ever do that last one. =) Hell, I expect it to be at least a year and half or more before I even get to starting the 2d MMORPG I have the idea of today.

So Good Luck with whatever your decision is.

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It depends on a great many things.

Whats your target?
WOW or Ever crack is may be a bit to high for the normal coder.
something like zelda( the first couple of them, IE top down 2d) is a bit easyer.

Whats your audence?
I want people to Buy/pay me monthly fees.. Agine bit high for a fist project
I want somthing to run on a lan for some friends. May be across the net. fine.

What is your skills/or what skills can you obtain the use of?
You could code it in VB. I personaly wouldn't.
If your learning the laguadge your using for this. Id suggest proto typing systems seperetly first as different apps. (Ie, Guy running around a maze, A chat system, interaction (fights, loot))

Art, more or less the same proocess.
If your learning it, then start small.

Nothing is impossible, but work out whats pratical and start there.

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Many of you are assuming the wrong things.

1) Basic, freeware 2d Side scrolling MMOG, the main art would be sprites and back drops (easy enough)

2) Non-profit, I have a job that gets me 12 bucks an hour, I am only doing my secondary education (year 11) but am doing Tertiary art and literature at a local TAFE institute. This means that I earn (on average) fifty bucks a week for four hours of working on the weekend.

3) I will be in this prokect for the long haul, and will only accept candidates who I a) know personally or b) are determined, and have good references and a good folio.

4) Hacks might be an issue, which is probably where I'll need to contribute most of the money, by buying defence (there are several sites devoted to white hat hacking, but not many WWH's work for free)

5) I will get personally involved with the project, and even though I cannot program in many languages I will try and learn from the programmers themselves, download several guides and eventually be able to fix bugs on the game regularly.

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Quote:
Original post by Timus
Many of you are assuming the wrong things.

1) Basic, freeware 2d Side scrolling MMOG, the main art would be sprites and back drops (easy enough)

2) Non-profit, I have a job that gets me 12 bucks an hour, I am only doing my secondary education (year 11) but am doing Tertiary art and literature at a local TAFE institute. This means that I earn (on average) fifty bucks a week for four hours of working on the weekend.

3) I will be in this prokect for the long haul, and will only accept candidates who I a) know personally or b) are determined, and have good references and a good folio.

4) Hacks might be an issue, which is probably where I'll need to contribute most of the money, by buying defence (there are several sites devoted to white hat hacking, but not many WWH's work for free)

5) I will get personally involved with the project, and even though I cannot program in many languages I will try and learn from the programmers themselves, download several guides and eventually be able to fix bugs on the game regularly.


Counterpoint 1) The same content *will* get stale, with less than the average single player's RPG worth of content players *will* get bored with the same stuff over and over again. You are making an action game not a strategy game.

Counterpoint 2) Just because it is non-profit does not change ANYTHING.

Counterpoint 3) That is good, but you may still have turnover. Do you honestly believe people just accepted anyone and then still have high turnover? We are not that incomptent.

Counterpoint 4) You are correct most WHH do not work for free, and they are going to be charging more than $12.00/hr. But our point is, even for them, it is a *hard* thing to do.

Counterpoint 5) It takes *YEARS* of programming to be able to handle many of the complex aspects of any kind of MMOG. Basic knowledge picked up in 6-9 months may let you do a little but not fixing many of the complex bugs that arrive with network code.

Unless you don't really care about having enough content that it does not become stale quickly, #1 remains true no matter what genre you use. An MMORPG has that increased by an order of magnitutde.

But as I said in my earlier post, Design Mistakes are on par with the threat of hacks and bugs. A first time game designer *WILL* make a good deal of those, considering people who do it for a living still make many such mistakes.

Anyway, you are an adult take our advice or leave it. We are just trying to help you understand what goes on behind the smoke and mirrors is increased by an order of magnitutde by adding the element of 10s or 100s of players operating in real time.

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Well, despite this advice, I will still take the risk and try and make this MMOG.

The content is not something you'd get bored with. I can assure you...however I will not reveal too much of it until I get the website up and running.

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