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MMO development estimate

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I have a project to use MMO technology in a non-entertainment setting. I need to get an estimate on the cost of development to know the scale of investment needed before proceeding further. This should be a rough estimate in terms of man time to develop the solution only, ignoring the design function. Essentially, the online environment should contain enough tasks etc. for approximately four hours of gameplay. The feel will be similar to commercial MMORPG games such as World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online. I appreciate the information is limited, but confidentiality prevents further disclosure. Thanks for your help in advance.

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Well, first you need a solid design for what your project will do, the scale it will encompass, and what features it will have. After that you can start to figure out what tasks you have, how much time they will take, and how it can be divided up.

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This should be a rough estimate in terms of man time to develop the solution only, ignoring the design function.

Oops!

Well, maybe you could give us a vague idea of what you're planning to do, and somebody can take a wild guess?

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I appreciate the information is limited, but confidentiality prevents further disclosure.

Oops again!

Seriously though, I would ask our local MMO expert about his costs: cavy99

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Thanks for your help in advance.

No problem!

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Are you actually hiring professionals at rates of pay they can live on?

You would need concept art (unless this counts as design), 3D models, animations for the people and monsters, a few pieces of music and 1 or 2 dozen sound effects, programming, hardware to develop and run the game on unless you already have some, and perhaps licensing fees for various second-party softwares. Might be nice to have a writer and/or a proofreader. But how many programmer hours and artist hours you would need totally depends on the design. 4 hours of tetris costs a lot less to program than 4 hours of mario, and 4 hours of mario costs a lot less then 4 hours of interactive movie.

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Original post by SPower
The feel will be similar to commercial MMORPG games such as World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online.


IIRC blizzard spent upfront something like 50 million and 4-6 years to make WoW.

Then with an MMO you have upkeep costs (content developers, server maintenance and server admins, forums and forum moderators, etc). No idea offhand but that's probably a team of around 50-100 people full-time plus hardware costs plus bandwith costs which are very much not-cheap.

But, to be perfectly frank, if you are going to a public internet forum to even get you in the ballpark, you're not qualified to make this estimate. [EDIT: to be a bit more helpful in this paragraph I'd suggest you go out and find someone who's actually worked on and shipped a AAA quality MMO game and hire them as a consultant to draw up your estimate]

-me

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My approximation is probably around 70 man hour years for the scope of wow or lotro. It all comes down to distributing the work load to maximize the amount of concurrent progress in order to deliver such a project in a reasonable timeframe.

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SPower, in the very least, read this:
IGDA's Whitepaper for developing persistent worlds

This will help you wrap your mind around the parts that most people don't think about. Bandwidth costs, support costs, development, etc. Its probably the best free resource available on the subject. Anything better you would have to get on Amazon.

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Well, not for anything; developing a game like WoW is unrealistic... look at the background of that company - they made a few other MMORPGs in the past, have been running a sucessful company for over 12 years, and have a pretty penny to spend on development. What I'm trying to say is they understand what needs to be done to make a great MMO, have professionals, and of course have the money to back it all.
Needless to say, hiring a professional development team to make the game from scratch would be ridiculous; look at the source engine by Valve, it took them like 6+ years to do a re-write (by the way, as in re-write I mean it was still based off 1.6, which in turn was based off Half-Life, which was based off Quake 1 & 2).
You'd stand more a chance of developing a game using a engine that you can get a license from... such as ID Software's Quake 3 - (for $250,000) and then reconstruct large portions of it.

Anyway, back to reality. Competiting with WoW from a garage company will not ever work, the chances of that are probably the same as a meteor falling through the roof, going through your PC tower, and then bouncing onto your lap. You would need lower goals, try to compete with games like Diablo 2 and then move onto bigger and better games.


Oh ya, I almost forgot. The most important part of it all (in my opinion) is what language the game is to be written in. If the game is written in a platform dependent language (C++, C, C#, etc..) then the game needs to be worthy of being installed. But if the game is written in a universal platform language (Java) the game can be lacking of graphics, quality sound, a good particle system, etc.. An example is comparing many downloadable MMORPGS to RuneScape. I'd honestly rather see a new Java MMORPG pop up soon, so Jagex has some competition (this is slightly more realistic then competiting with WoW)

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Original post by spikes of christ
Oh ya, I almost forgot. The most important part of it all (in my opinion) is what language the game is to be written in. If the game is written in a platform dependent language (C++, C, C#, etc..) then the game needs to be worthy of being installed. But if the game is written in a universal platform language (Java) the game can be lacking of graphics, quality sound, a good particle system, etc.. An example is comparing many downloadable MMORPGS to RuneScape. I'd honestly rather see a new Java MMORPG pop up soon, so Jagex has some competition (this is slightly more realistic then competiting with WoW)

I'm going to argue that programming language is the least important, targeting an audience is important but the language used to target them will make no difference, end users won't care if their client is written in D using Scheme scripting communicating with an Erlang server, that uses SQL for database operations

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Developing a game like WoW is not unrealistic. Otherwise, how did it come out in the market?

You're missing one major aspect to this. Developers such as Blizzard didn't make their MMO's as their first game. Blizzard was like above, well known before coming on to the scene with their first MMO project. In short, you start small and work your way up. Then such things like WoW are not so realistic.

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Original post by Fastidious
Developing a game like WoW is not unrealistic. Otherwise, how did it come out in the market?

You're missing one major aspect to this. Developers such as Blizzard didn't make their MMO's as their first game. Blizzard was like above, well known before coming on to the scene with their first MMO project. In short, you start small and work your way up. Then such things like WoW are not so realistic.

He could be referring to indie developers? Most indie programmers lack the experience or collective effort to pull off a complete an mmo of such a large scale.

I recommend for the OP to make sure they know how to program and then write a small game and then a small multiplayer game so they understand some of the basics that is involved. But yeah for an AAA game the initial amount is well into the millions.

this confuses me: "for approximately four hours of gameplay" I'd say that an mmo that sucked might be able to top off at 4 hours. Or is your idea to be something that's so linear that the play value is roughly 4 hours? If so you'd be programming an mmo engine of such a large scale for nothing, and it makes me question your design goals.

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Original post by Sirisian
He could be referring to indie developers? Most indie programmers lack the experience or collective effort to pull off a complete an mmo of such a large scale.


Most can, yes but the developer (company) can have the power to recruit the ones who do have the knowledge. Lot of things factor into that anyhow.

The main thing though is that "millions" of dollars you are mentioning, does not all come from the developer. Many of factors like any other business. You have investors and publishers. They are the large chunk of money that gets donated to the development of a game even for indy developers. The indy developer only has to show they can go the extra mile and make a finished project based off what they have scratched up together (Demo etc).

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I was going to create very similillar topic, because I'm almost at the same situation, but I did already some bigger and needed part of design for planning purposes.

But my idea isn't to compete with WoW and so on, because I know that I have no chances. Instead I want to make rather simillar mmorpg with simple graphics, but supporting vast user created content, so user - gamer will create this virtual world with us. To all of this it will be based in Post-apo world, but much more different than Fallout world (no mutation from radiation). Also mechanics of the game will support this world, so it will be more realistic.

For now on I started talking with potential investor. I have big part of design - especially mechanics of the game and all world description. Now I'm working on planning the content for the game, because in my proposal doc I have to place quite detailed project plan. I will also estimate time needed fo programming all of the game mechanic modules...

And I want to use that engine: http://www.bigworldtech.com/index/index_en.php

Maybe some of you used it in your game projects?

What I saw and thanks to my gamedev friends I couldn't find on net any practical info like: how much time it takes for medium 3d graphic to make some small building based on sketches, or how many simple objects can be made during 8h day of work, etc. Such information. Coming from experience ;) It's really useful when you're trying to plan all of this during a preproduction stage :)

So if You want to talk with me just PM me. Greets all.

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Original post by eedok
I'm going to argue that programming language is the least important, targeting an audience is important but the language used to target them will make no difference, end users won't care if their client is written in D using Scheme scripting communicating with an Erlang server, that uses SQL for database operations


My counter argument comes as the fact that most people started playing runescape because it runs on any operating system and requires nothing other then JRE. This attracks people who don't like to download things as well as people (I know this is 2007, but still..) who have slower then average internet; you could download a womping 500+ mb game and have to download 100+mb each patch or you can download a 10/ish mb temporary cache ocassionaly.
I honestly guess it's all opinion, but don't forget theirs alot less work involved in the art department on a Java game... oh wait nevermind, I wasn't thinking about .NET...

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it could be done in flex, silverlight, flash, or even ajax and people wouldn't care as long as it runs in their browser. Might be better to target flash over java as it has more of an installed base on the browser.

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Original post by eedok
it could be done in flex, silverlight, flash, or even ajax and people wouldn't care as long as it runs in their browser. Might be better to target flash over java as it has more of an installed base on the browser.


I'm not familiar with flash, but would a MMORPG be possible in it?

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Original post by djconklin
Let's assume you don't have deep pockets, but you do have a good idea--what if you offered part ownership?


this is what everyone in help wanted seems to do, the problem is almost all of them fail because its unrealistic to expect people to put in 8 hours a day on something that doesn't provide living expenses for several years, especially for programming having a high turnover rate is a death sentence for most projetcs

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Quote:
Original post by spikes of christ
Quote:
Original post by eedok
it could be done in flex, silverlight, flash, or even ajax and people wouldn't care as long as it runs in their browser. Might be better to target flash over java as it has more of an installed base on the browser.


I'm not familiar with flash, but would a MMORPG be possible in it?


Dofus is a flash MMO.

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Original post by sunandshadow
Quote:
Original post by spikes of christ
I'm not familiar with flash, but would a MMORPG be possible in it?


Dofus is a flash MMO.


the client could be written in just about anything that support sockets and i/o,
the server is the hard part and is most likely written in c++ or java

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:Original post by djconklin
Let's assume you don't have deep pockets, but you do have a good idea--what if you offered part ownership?


this is what everyone in help wanted seems to do, the problem is almost all of them fail because its unrealistic to expect people to put in 8 hours a day on something that doesn't provide living expenses for several years, especially for programming having a high turnover rate is a death sentence for most projetcs


I suspected that could be a problem. However, when I had a demo made (sans graphics) the full-time student did it in six months. So, if I broke it up into smaller bits (non-technical), say, for instance (simplified):

1) movement
2) combat
3) logistics
4) command control
5) unit graphics
6) map graphics
7) unit data
8) map data
9) sound
10) coordinate and compile
11) web site

then it would take quite as long--maybe as little as a month?

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you could try but breaking up and coordinating a software project is harder than most would thing, especially if your staff doesn't have experience working in a team environment

you're making pieces to a puzzle that you don't know the final shape of

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Quote:
Original post by eedok
My approximation is probably around 70 man hour years

What's a "man hour year"?
I know what man hours are, what man weeks are, what person months are, and what a man year would be.
But what's a "man hour year"? Is it also possible to have "man week months"?

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you're making pieces to a puzzle that you don't know the final shape of


In my case, at least, since we already have the game in a different form I think we do know what the final shape would be.

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