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kbar

Some articles on how to make an MMO

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I have just started writing up some articles about how a developer could go about making an MMO if they are ambitious enough to give it a try. Its mostly going to focus on the technology behind an MMO rather than any actual game design. The articles can be found here How to make an MMO There will be alot more information to come, but it will take some time as this is simply a small hobby of mine. Hopefully there should be a lot of other useful links in these articles for other game developers to find something that they can use for their games as well. Cheers, kbar [Edited by - kbar on October 30, 2009 6:33:02 AM]

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They seem quite detailed. But how useful the articles are will depend on how far towards a full implementation they go in the future.

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After all the effort we go to in explaining why beginners need to stop talking about MMOs and clear up their thinking about the scope of projects, you decide to post this to FB? I'm not impressed.

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Instead of dissuading beginners from trying to make an MMO, why not just point them towards something like Realm Crafter? It even comes with tons of stock art assets, so if they really just want to have their own story, classes and items in an MMO, they could likely learn the scripting language in a couple of months and have a game up and running with the stock art in probably under 6 months. Of course, making a truly unique game with Realm Crafter still takes tons of time and a full team to create all of the content, but at least RC keeps an MMO from being the impossible dream for MMO-obsessed beginners.

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For some reason this reminds me of a wonderful post about beginners writing tutorials is part of why tutorials are bad.

... found it!

Beginners should be entirely dissuaded from MMO writing until they get the grasp of what they are doing.
There are a few good tutorials out there for making small multiplayer dungeons, and tones for making small RPG games.
People love those types of games, and write about them all the time. The problem is that beginners want to jump right in without learning the how and why
of programming. Tutorials often give them the copy-paste mentality that gets them learning very little because you shouldn't read source code either.

Making a few small games gets you excited, and lets you learn the problems and help you think about the solutions for yourself.
Throwing proper everything at beginner A)confuses them B)keeps them from seeing progress. ie. "make an OOP inventory system like diablo 2!" is a worse starting place than "solve the farmer+animals crossing the river problem. now, generalize his inventory. now make that OOP". One throws you right into something without any clue as to the pitfalls, how it links to the rest of the game, or anything. The other gives you a scenario you can work out on paper, write something simple and see it working. Then expanding on that with simple concepts so you can see how it all ties together, while still having a working test case. TopCoder and ACM challenge problems are EXCELLENT starting places for finding problems you may need to solve in a game: path finding,min-max,packing problems, finding primes... ok not finding primes but still very applicable.

Throwing beginners into "I'ma gonna make an MMO!" is just a bad starting place. I'm firmly on the side of the fence where beginners should be told to back up, try something simple, and see if game programming is even for you. I wouldn't even go as far as Realm Crafter, instead pushing more towards GameMaker, or even LittleBigPlanet's world editor. On the other hand, I learned to program in QBasic making text RPGs, so I'd say that is just as good of a start as graphical stuff. And it was just as rewarding or I wouldn't be making games today.


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edit: i know this gets brought up and shot down all the time. I still wish the "include sig" checkbox would, if i click edit-post, stay checked if I checked it when i origionally posted.

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The thing that I think about with this issue, though, is that a good deal of the people who come in with no experience wanting to make an MMO do not want to learn game development or programming at all. How many do we see actually stick around and ask questions about making pong, tetris, etc.? Practically none. They ask questions about how to make the next WoW, find out it isn't going to be simple (and hardly even possible) and they leave. Even if they don't know the ins and outs of game design, how to make a good dungeon, and why things are done the way they are, I don't see the harm in telling them about Realm Crafter so they can just make a small game for their friends. It is usually going to be that, they go to another forum and ask the same question there hoping for different answers, or they just forget about it altogether and go back to playing.

I don't know what it is about MMOs that make players so interested in making them. Granted, I am interested in MMO design and would love to make one some day, but it just strikes me as odd that so many MMO players want to create one but have no interest in any other more accessible realm of game development.

EDIT:
Quote:
Original post by KulSeran
On the other hand, I learned to program in QBasic making text RPGs, so I'd say that is just as good of a start as graphical stuff.


As a side note, that is actually how I got my start with game development, too lol; making single-player text-based RPGs like Zork in QBasic on a 386.

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You have a group of friends and you tell them how you are going to make a great "[insert idea here]"

Where the idea is one of:
a) MMO like WOW only better
b) pong game

Which one do you think most gamers would pick?

Of course I'm not going to jump on the whole "don't do a MMO bandwagon" because there are many things you can learn via failure.

I think the failure of many MMO type ventures is in the first M. Remove massively and you can get a game that amateurs and hobbyists can create.

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Quote:
Original post by Richard James
You have a group of friends and you tell them how you are going to make a great "[insert idea here]"

Where the idea is one of:
a) MMO like WOW only better
b) pong game

Which one do you think most gamers would pick?

Of course I'm not going to jump on the whole "don't do a MMO bandwagon" because there are many things you can learn via failure.

I think the failure of many MMO type ventures is in the first M. Remove massively and you can get a game that amateurs and hobbyists can create.


I understand the WoW vs. Pong comparison, but I think it is more than that. These players are playing WoW (or a couple of other MMOs in rare cases), and suddenly they just get touched by this obsession of creating one even though they have never even thought about game design before. Maybe it is just due to their level of investment in the game. They have never been as passionate about a game as they are with their MMO of choice, so when they get their own idea, that passion translates to their desire to create it.

As far as MORPGs being accessible for amateurs and hobbyists, I would still have to disagree unless they are working from an engine with a lot of the ground work already done. A single-player RPG is a staggering project alone, and by adding any multiplayer, massive or not, you are creating a Mt. Everest of a project. A proper indie studio, possibly, but I don't think it is feasible for 99% of amateurs and hobbyists.

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I decided to start writing these articles because while I was looking around I found that there was virtually no good information on the technology about making an MMO. The technology I am refering to are things such as Digital Asset Management, full production asset pipelines, how you actually deploy a server, host it and have data replication for your databases, how to use services such as Amazon EC2 or GoGrid and bring up instances when required, intergrating webservices into your backend server... the list goes on. The game engine section that is written so far is only one very very small part of what I will be producing and also explaining through these articles.

I looked for a long time and only found information on mainly the 3d graphics side and some networking. Creating an MMO is a huge task, not just programming wise but also in the management of your assets and creating a good pipeline for these assets. You may also want to publish to multiple systems at the same time (PS3, XBox360, iPhone, Nintendo DS).

I am trying to fill what I see is a gap in the market, I was going to write a book but I already have a full time job and would rather get this out sooner rather than 3 years later when its no longer relevant and the technology has changed.

I am in no way saying that making an MMO is easy.

As for Realcrafter and other various technologies, some are already mentioned in the introduction article. Realcrafter is not in the articles (yet) but it is mentioned in my links section on the site if people wish to have a look for other engines. People can stop right there if they think they have found something to make an MMO that suits their needs. But if they are interested in the technology behind an MMO they can continue reading on.

I am coming from a background of 10 years in the 3D graphics industry including a few years working on games for PS3, Ninendo DS and Wii. During this time I have developed level editors, game engines, developed digital asset management and game asset pipepline systems, created plugins for most major applications such as Maya, Max, XSI, Lightwave and Cinema4D, learnt a bunch of programming languages as well as a many other bits and bobs. But one of the most important things I have done is have the privilege of working along side some very intelligent developers and tried to learn as much as I could from my experiences.

From all that I have decided to start giving back to the community and hopefully provide enough information for other would be developers to get into the game industry, or 3d graphics industry, with a good running start on some of the technology on the market today.

One final thought, instead of trying to dissuade people from making an MMO why not create a section on the gamedev.net forums to give people, who want to talk about these issues, a place to do so? The very first sticky article could be one that explains just how incredible difficult such a venture is and you could point them at some of the existing technology available today like Realmcrafter, Kaneva, Multiverse, HeroEngine, Big World Technology etc...

Cheers,
kbar

[Edited by - kbar on October 30, 2009 6:06:48 AM]

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Quote:
Original post by kbar
I am in no way saying that making an MMO is easy.

...

From all that I have decided to start giving back to the community and hopefully provide enough information for other would be developers to get into the game industry, or 3d graphics industry, with a good running start on some of the technology on the market today
A noble intention, but you have to consider the context within which you are posting. This is the For Beginners forum, meaning that readers assume either: 1) you are asking about how to make an MMO, or 2) you are helping beginners make MMOs.

The majority of us are against encouraging beginners to make MMOs for a number of reasons, such as skipping the foundations of programming, aiming for unachievable goals, causing themselves disappointment, giving up on game development, etc. What we want is to bring them to a realistic place from which they can comfortably achieve some measure of success and, hopefully, encourage them to continue their quest for game programming enlightenment. :)

So, context considered, the Game Programming forum would have been much more suitable place to post your efforts. Your articles are clearly not for beginners.

Nevertheless, I look forward to reading your articles and I applaud your intentions. I expect your articles will be a valuable read. Also good luck if you eventually try to get published!

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