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Iron Will

The Top Ten reasons NOT to create a MMO.

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Hobbiest are you? Enjoy making games you say? Planing for your next BIG project to be a MMO? Well for all those hobbiest , intent on carving out their own slice of the MMO business, stop one moment, and consider these ten reasons why you might NOT want your next project to be a MMO... Reason #1: MMOs are popping up, and spreading like wildfires; between such titles as "Everquest", "WoW", and "Runescape", theres little left in terms of players. Reason #2: The level of competition, and quality of games, put features development out of the hands of anything but MAJOR gaming companies. With price tags that range in the millions annually, setting up a MMO, even a small one, is the least of your financial worries. Reason #3: Ideas flow freely, and word-of-mouth spreads fast. The only thing quicker (and slicker) is a TEAM of well paid lawyers. If your going to provide any competition, be prepared to face heavy litigation costs; if not for legitimate reasons, then at least to run your development team out of budget. After all, money makes the world go round, and if your broke, then your competitors need not worry about you, right? Reason # 4: Theres no such thing as "start small, end big" with MMOs. In fact, most of the time you "Start big", and NEVER end, but end up "HUGE". What I'm saying is, combining player base, server load, customer services, and what not, development never truly ends. MMOs, even small ones (150+ players) require constant monitoring, costing you serious money, time, and effort. Besides if your going to even START at all, you have to have the money to begin with, never mind the rest. Reason # 5: Thinking you might use the "extra" cash from subscriber payout, to develop new games, or updates? Think again. Several 3rd party research groups have shown conclusive data that over the past few years (and many years to come), players have grown steadily more wary of using credit cards, and personal information to foot MMO subscription bills. Unless your prepared with a convenient, and costly, subscription method (such as pay by phone?), be prepared to lose many potential players on the out-set. Reason # 6: Whats "good" is not exactly nice. Don't rely on anything except the best. I myself once thought that I could make a MMO. Having neither programming, nor animation skills to note at the time, I purchased pre-made media (and wasted a good $900). What did this get me, and where will it get you? Knee deep in "single distribution" license disputes. Take it from me, and just hire a 3D artist from the start. Reason # 7: Just like generic ideas won't get you far, neither will tools. With the amount of MMOs in existence, or production, only the best media, and the freshest techniques/ideas will be used. Don't expect anything less from companies willing to toss in millions of dollars if it means success. Whats this mean? If you want to compete, best to toss out the notion of using generic physics engines, or tools such as "Milkshape". (no offense to Milkshape fans intended:) Reason # 8: Your player base is NOT your friends, not even your player admins, nor your mods. This will become apparent with any amateur MMO. Yes they exist, no most of them are not decent. Companies regularly get lawsuits related to personal ownership issues having to do with virtual property. It's a fuzzy issue at best. Also players will BOMBARD what little customer service you have, with complaints, or disputes over bugs. Again you might face lawsuits, or threats therein. Often amateur MMOs are developed on little to no budget, with volunteer teams. Expect to get LOTS of hate mail, or related fluff from players dissatisfied because of grievers, beta-character loss, personal problems, angry parents, and such. Reason # 9: Ok, suppose you do have all the parts assembled, some volunteer customer service, personally trained, as well as MMO quality graphics, and media. You've even produced your own graphics, and physics engine! Ahhh...Then comes securing...1.Hardware, and 2.Copyrights/Patents on all software, media, and content. The VITAL, as you cannot run your game without hardware (plus of coarse bandwidth license). And while the first is vital, the second will far outstrip the firsts importance, solely in cost. No not even production cost, but copyright/patent costs. You know what the average patent costs? $100, and at least 2 weeks to receive, two weeks off of development time. Copyrights take a similar amount of time, but only cost $25. All of this equates again, to a huge budget. Reason # 10: By making a MMO you are further promoting the current backslide of gaming entertainment into the trash heap. Yep, I said it. Virtually ALL MMOs out on the net are a trash heap. WHY? Really only for 2 reasons... 1. Because corporate bigwigs think tossing money at a problem will solve it which is the main reason many poor game concepts remain undeveloped in even major MMOs. Several prominent MMOs have been shut down simply because they don't bring in enough revenue. 2. The market has grown well beyond its potential, and like oil production, is facing a sharp decline in popularity within the coming years. There are OTHER reasons I could mention of coarse, such as the fact that I HATE MMOs:P But really MMOs are a disgrace to the ART of Game Design simply because the development pipeline, and concept of development does not conform to the concept that is a MMO. By, and large, MMOs revolve around a abstract concept called "progress" often marked as "XP", or "Levels". Other conventions based around progress include unlocking various new items/areas/customizations, based on in-game wealth, or training "Skills/abilities" to a certain peak value. The whole concept of progress through leveling carries over heavily from the RPG genres as most anybody can tell you. But what is the RPG genre? Lets break it down. RPG stands for "Roleplaying Game", which is roughly equated to a bunch of modules, one for story, one for character, and one for environment. Nine out of ten RPGs to date, are in the "Fantasy" genre, meaning they include "magic", "mysticism", "dragons", "Kingdoms", and lands locked in the medieval age. Swords, and wizards are a staple, but of late we can see some variety. The story module of the RPG is essentially the text portion, that sets the scene for what is to transpire, and gets the player accustom to the new environment. The environment module includes NPCs (Non-player-characters), monsters, weather, and any other component of the players immediate surroundings that may have a effect on the players character. Normally in a RPG the player must go on a epic quest, where something of great proportions (i.e. "the world") is threatened by some extreme danger (destruction, plague, hostile takeover by demon armies). Normally the enemy is one of great power, and magnitude. Throughout the interactive story (i.e. the game) the player will often be faced with a complex sub-plot to add flavor to the RPG. Most, if not all of the complex sub-plots are ties in, or ARE a mini-quest/quest. Even more frequent are the rewards, celebrations, and general kudos handed to the player via the "Grateful" NPCs, for the players success in saving them. However maybe it's best I return to the topic of MMOs? Do you see why MMOs just don't fit the RPG genre? No? Yes? Well, I'll explain anyway... The REASON MMOs just don't fit the RPG genre is, simply put, players of RPGs feel "special", and play to be unique, or on-top-of-the-world. In a MMO, "all players participate in a active, and ever changing virtual environment"(all though the "ever changing" part hardly ever proves to be true). In this we are presented with a special problem. Players come to MMOs based on the RPG concept, expecting to feel unique, and be the best; to save the world, and become rich, famous, etc, etc. What happens then when you end up with oh say...40,000+ players thinking they can be the best, or feeling unique? You piss a lot of people off, waste many others time, contribute to making the internet a vast, and empty waste land (a-la "tv"), and help to promote obesity:) After all, how fun is it to slay the dragon, and save the princess after you just watched like 20+ other players do the same? Games are supposed to be about yourself, about suspension of disbelief, and with the above happening more, and more frequently in MMOs its no wonder many players are complaining. The RPG concept just does not work, in MMOs!Whats worse is the developers turn around, and compensate by saying "you can be the best, if only you spend the most time repeating the same, shallow actions over, and over, then you'll be the best!" So basically developers are saying, "in order to enjoy our game, you first must spend at least 1,000+ hours repeating the same action over, and over". To top it off, they PREVENT the sales of accounts on popular auction websites like "eBay" citing every body has to "Earn" there way in game. What if I don't want to. What if I just want to pay, play, and enjoy myself? But again, I'm getting off focus. The point is there are many "twilight" areas when it comes to judgment calls in the process of developing MMOs, and making one wrong call, can severely damage the game in question. Do you really want that burden? Do you really want that responsibility? Finally, do you really want to literally work your self to death? Because to truly develop ANY thing of MMO quality without a absolutely MASSIVE budget is like asking, no, BEGGING to have carved into your grave stone "R.I.P hear lies Joe Somebody, Died of drinking to many espressos while making something he NEVER COULD finish". Granted there have been a few games that where successful, made by small groups. But as the years roll by, and technology gets more advanced, such days will soon come to pass into myth. Actually I can think of one EXTREMELY skilled group of 4 people that HAVE created a MMO, and are still running it to date. Can't seem to think of it off the top of my head; but let me warn you, to do something like that even with 4 people as highly talented as they where, is like walking on water in the gaming industry...impossible, maybe...chances of occurring again...nil. So as my final adieu, all of the above is just a small fraction of why you DON'T want to develop a MMO. Remember next time you decide to start your next big project, the words contained herein, and they might save you your life:) [Edited by - Iron Will on January 26, 2007 8:24:14 AM]

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I would say you've got some valid points even though your personal taste in games interfer with the objectivity a bit here ;) (but who doesn't?).

Quote:
Original post by Iron Will
In this we are presented with a special problem. Players come to MMOs based on the RPG concept, expecting to feel unique, and be the best; to save the world, and become rich, famous, etc, etc.


I beg to differ. You're not talking about the RPG concept, but the CRPG Cliché. One thing that MMORPGs bring to the table is the fact that there are other sentient beings in the world. In a pnp RPG those sentient beings are being played by the gamemaster, in the MMORPGs they're played by other players. You are NOT unique and you must think before you do something stupid - you can't rely on the crappy AI.

One of the things that actually irritates me when it comes to CRPGS is that in almost all of them you're an omnipotent being which doesn't have to answer to anyone (at least after a couple of level advancements). Not that I don't enjoy playing those games, but they're not really RPGs to me - they're hack and slash levelling games.

I believe that MMORPGs might actually be able to bring the RP back into RPG. I know that there are many hack and slash MMORPGs out there but I've got the impression that there are also some games which add the RPG feeling into them - where you have to play a role, not only kill everything that moves or transport an item from one location to another.

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haha. very entertaining ;) you know, i had this idea for an immense multiplayer online diversion program. would you be interested....

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Top reason to create an MMO: because you want to.

Sure, you might fail. In fact, you might fail on your first 50 attempts. But if you really want to, you'll keep trying, and one day you'll get there. The spate of people discouraging others from trying anything basically "because it's hard" is getting a little tedious. If you have decided that making an MMO is not feasible for you, fine. Let someone else try - and fail, or succeed. And learn from that failure, or success.

I think there's just too much whining about what other people should do and not enough doing around here. Pontificating on the viability of MMOs has replaced proposing game designs - and actually building the games. Pity.

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So people should just not try?
where is the fun in that, anyone thats looked into mmorpg, should have realized most of the issues that come up, and should be prepared to deal with them

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(First Game Designers Sin)Confusing RPGs with CRPGs:)
I agree that I might be pressing my opinion, but tell me, how many advertisements do you see for MMOs that state something to the affect of "Level, Make friends, become rich, or famous, conquer fierce dragons...", and so on, and so on? Does this not imply "unique" or "Special" in the adds then?

Its true MMOs might bring back the RP in RPG, but essentially "roleplaying" has been a text/oral system of play, and is adapted as such.
How should the gaming industry go about making a MMO that actually promotes RP?
Perhaps voice chat? Of coarse bandwidth comes into play...

And your right Oluseyi, people SHOULD stop whining about what what other people should do. Of coarse most of the whining done because the people that ACTUALLY know what to do are not the people controlling the purse strings, so to speak.

I guess theres always the alternative...walking on water:)

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Quote:
Nine out of ten RPGs to date, are in the "Fantasy" genre, meaning they include "magic", "mysticism", "dragons", "Kingdoms", and lands locked in the midieval age. Swords, and wizards are a staple, but of late we can see some variety.


Personally I think fantasy and sci-fi are the most overused genres around right now. While I'm not a big MMO player I always thought it would be cool if someone could do something like a noir style MMO. I didn't play City of Heros/Villains but I thought it was a really cool idea and would definitely give it a shot if I had the time and money. It's not that I think all fantasy/sci-fi games are bad, it just makes me happy to see a little more variety. But I suppose those are the current fad genres that make money.

One thing that does bug me is that most MMORPG's tend to look the same to someone who doesn't play very many of them. I had seen once where someone compiled a single screenshot from at least 30 different MMORPG's and only a few of them looked like they had a distinct style to me.

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What do each of you think the Fantasy Genre, (specifically in the MMO domain), needs in order to be livened up a bit?

The main thing that many of my buddies have been mentioning is less of a focus on the individual, and more of a focus on the group.
THAT however is already happening...

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Quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
Top reason to create an MMO: because you want to.


YES! I'm amazed by how many people on this site would rather make fun of others attempts to accomplish something, rather than attempting to assist in their accomplishments. I think it's better to try, and fail, and learn from your failures than to take the "Ho hum, it's going to suck, so I'd better not try" attitude. It is interesting to note that I don't see this as much on my other favorite game development site (garagegames.com), as it seems to be alot more popular to break people down on this site.

Quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
I think there's just too much whining about what other people should do and not enough doing around here.


Q. to the mother F.'in E. I recently entered a contest on gamedev, my entry is no where near a polished AAA game, but I don't care. I at least have something to show for my efforts, and the amount of satisfaction in seeing a project that you had fun developing and completing is immeasurable.

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On the other hand, it does get frustrating to forever see people obviously biting off more than they can chew, and asking the helpers on this forum to do all the work for them. I'm much more inclined to help people who have a chance of success, and typically I associate wanting to make an MMO-style game with a minimal chance of success. It's usually easy to see which category someone falls into though, and I don't think long lectures to the 'no hope' category are going to make significantly more difference than a short note on what they need to research first.

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