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JustANoob

How do I estimate a budget for a MMO?

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I have almost 0 programming experience and exactly 0 art and networking experience and don't plan on learning anything other then the overall general basics I need to know to design a game within a budget I can spend.  I know I know everyone has a idea and you will never beable to do this blah blah blah.  I don't care.  I believe strong enough in my ideas on game mechanics and revenue generation to spend the next year or two trying.  So the main questions for right now before I even begin making a game design document are...

 

What do I need to learn before it even makes sense to make a game design document and where can I learn it?  Keep in mind the budget for the game is not going to be known until after the document is done as I plan on using that to put the people and resources together to try to make this happen.  I'm hoping based on nothing really that 250k is a bare minimium to make something close to what I want in terms of gameplay.  If I just wanted to make a nintendo nes graphics level game with more advanced gameplay and mechanics and beable to handle 500 concurrent users in a persistant world do you think that would be enough money?  Assuming I'm paying a normal wage for all or most work (could probably get some cheap or free art at this level of graphics)?  If not how much would be needed and how much of that is paid labor for programming, art, networking vs licensing and hardware etc costs?  How much do costs go up as the graphics improve?  Think the exact same game but NES level to GTA 2 level graphics?  What would the extra cost be in $ or multiples of the original art budget?

 

What is the cost breakdown of making a MMO?  The massive multiplayer aspect is the most important part of this idea (other then my original ideas i'm not going to share).  How much of the cost does this aspect account for in terms of both extra programming and servers and bandwidth needed?  If I have a game that can handle 1000 concurrent users is that going to be significantly more costly then the same game that could handle only 100 users?  Does the size of the ingame world drastically effect the amount of servers or size of servers needed?  Does the maximum number of players that can be in a certain area at the same time or in the same "instance" of the game affect cost alot?  Would having gameplay that "instances" off small teams of players in certain areas be more cost effective?

 

Are there any patents that I'm going to have to be careful of violating or that basically every MMO has to pay a fee for using?  If so what is going to be the cost of licensing the basic patents to make a MMO? 

 

I realize some of these questions are mostly unanswerable without knowing exactly what the game design is but I'm just looking for very rough estimates atm to determine what to plan for in the game design and business plan.  Any examples of other sub $10 million MMO's and their production costs and features would be useful.  Any questions you can answer or new questions you think I should ask myself or helpful links you can provide would be appreciated.  I have no illusions of making a AAA graphic game and realize that getting any game done with little to no money out of pocket and 0 experience in the industry is completely unheard of so no need to make a negative post telling me that.  Thanks

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Forgot a very important question.  What would be a fair assumption for the cost per player per hour to host a MMO?  What factors effect this number?  Is this even a valid concern or is most of this cost going to depend on the cost of servers needed to support the max number of concurrent users?

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1. What do I need to learn before it even makes sense to make a game design document and where can I learn it? 

2. Keep in mind the budget for the game is not going to be known until after the document is done

3. I'm hoping based on nothing really that 250k is a bare minimium to make something close to what I want

4. If I just wanted to make a nintendo nes graphics level game with more advanced gameplay and mechanics and beable to handle 500 concurrent users in a persistant world do you think that would be enough money? 

5. how much of that is paid labor for programming, art, networking vs licensing and hardware etc costs?  6. How much do costs go up as the graphics improve?  Think the exact same game but NES level to GTA 2 level graphics?  What would the extra cost be in $ or multiples of the original art budget?

6. Would having gameplay that "instances" off small teams of players in certain areas be more cost effective?

7. Are there any patents that I'm going to have to be careful of violating

8. I have almost 0 programming experience and exactly 0 art and networking experience and don't plan on learning anything other then the overall general basics I need to know... 0 experience in the industry is completely unheard of so no need to make a negative post telling me that. 

 

1. You don't need to learn much to write a GDD. Just grammar and spelling and punctuation, and play lots of games and be able to describe functionality from the programmer's point of view (not the player's).  Read http://sloperama.com/advice/specs.htm and http://sloperama.com/advice/lesson13.htm and just start writing.

2. Actually, you can't write a budget from a GDD. You also need a TDD, an art list, and an audio list. And a staffing list.  From those docs you create a schedule, then the budget is easy. 

3. It depends on the scale and scope of the game, for one thing.

4. Probably not. Maybe this will be helpful: http://sloperama.com/advice/finances.htm

5. The largest cost is personnel salaries, and the most money is spent on programmers. 

6. Probably.

7. Yes, but it's best that you don't read any patents. Read the "Patent trolls" thread on this board: http://www.gamedev.net/topic/645267-patent-trolls-attacking-small-indie-developers/

8. Not having experience means your costs will increase greatly (you'll be spending a lot on the learning).

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Bearing in mind that we know almost nothing about your game, so any kind of estimates are merely conjecture...
Also bearing in mind that I'm just a hobbyist trying to go indie, and not in the professional game development industry...
 
Hosting costs are less than development costs. I did some basic back-of-a-napkin hypothetical calculations on server costs at the bottom of this post.

 

A 500 user concurrent MMO isn't really a Massively Multiplayer Online RPG, just a ORPG - an Online RPG. Though people often mix the terms up, to be 'massive' the term was coined for 100k subscribers, meaning more than about 5-10k active at once. The title isn't fully defined though, what makes a game 'massive' or not is up for debate.

 

500 concurrent users could probably be hosted (depending heavily on the nature of the gameplay of the game) at less than $1000 a month. I'm assuming a single one of your servers can run 50 users concurrently (optimized, and depending on the nature of the game, they could handle more), and so you'll need 10 servers running 24 horus a day, 30 days a month, at an Amazon.com-hosted price of $0.120 an hour.

 

For a simple 2D rpg only hosting 500 concurrent users... I would estimate a decent programmer (again, depending heavily on the nature of the gameplay of the game) could do a decent job on it by working full-time for two or three years. This means, paying a wage of $35k a year (far below the average programmer wage of ~70k a year), and hiring two programmers working full time, and taking two programmers two years to make, it'll take $140k for you to pay your programmers.

 

Toss in another 35k a year for two artists who, if you're lucky, also have musical skills, a quarter of a million dollars isn't too bad of an estimate for a simple 2D online RPG.

 

Ofcourse, you'll want enough cash to be prepared for things taking longer and for mis-estimations in project scope, and for extra "insurance" against accidentally getting a poor programming who you think is doing good work, who a year into the project quits and suddenly leaves you with the revelation that he was just fooling around not knowing what he was doing. So a half-million would be better. It definitely could be done with far less, but you'll have to really know what you're doing, understanding fully every development detail of the game (which you already said that you don't. You have the design down, which helps, but knowing the development itself would cut costs and reduce risks alot).

 

If you start to build and can't finish, you lose everything you put into it but don't get anything out of it, so a larger backup reserve is important.

Edited by Servant of the Lord

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Servant, you've been very optimistic here.

I've been involved in various "MMOs", none of which ever cut below .5M$. Bear in mind that these were established teams however.

The 'rate of 35k$' / y is edgy. If a programmer is willing to get paid this salary to work on the project, there's a good chance his skill level is not that of an average industry programmer. This would make the game significantly longer to make, and would cause more bugs, which in turn would require more dev to fix (and possibly actual QA time trying to reproduce 'random' issues).

 

The key element of note here is lack of experience. a Project relying upon a man with no experience in management (or making games at all), lack of understanding of what everyone on the team really needs to be doing, and more importantly, lack of experience designing games (resulting in poor quality documentation and lack of foresight) could be catastrophic. This is a wildcard here that could increase the cost by magnitudes here. I'm going to assume OP is more than meets the eye here (anyone able to raise 250K$ like that probably has a hidden talent).

 

 

On the other hand, you could target to have something 'minimal' to be playable as quickly as possible, and iterate on your original design based on user feedback:

pros:

- You get to build the RIGHT features (things people actually want)

- You get to earn money midway through production (users paying to play)

- You get to have a light original design which is much easier to have everyone focused on (and that really helps to mitigate complexity too early in dev)

Edited by Orymus3

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This has been discussed many times, we should probably add a FAQ entry on it.


How to estimate the cost of a big video game.

Analogy time! One way to measure a mountain is to count all the rocks. Look at each rock individually, determine the size, and add it to a tally. This is similar to how many people want to estimate the cost of a project: add up each estimated budget line item and add it to a tally. Another way to measure a mountain is to compare it to other mountains of known size. In project management this is akin to looking at the bottom line from other projects and approximating from their values. Unfortunately most people don't have access to the budgets of many major projects. Yet another way is to think of the mountain as a giant pyramid and compute the value based on those factors. This is fairly easy to do with projects since you can generally estimate the major factors based on easily discovered data.

You should be able to find a list of comparable games to whatever you want to make. It doesn't need to be exactly the same, just approximately the same size, scope, and distribution. You may envision that you want a game similar to <game1> and <game2>.

Very rarely you can go online and with some careful searches discover the exact cost of your similar games. That is method two from above. You may discover that <game1> was $43M and <game2> was $38M, so you can make a rough estimate that your game will cost around $40M.

Usually you aren't that lucky. So you need to figure out the approximate dimensions of the project and do some multiplication, per method three above.

Go to sites like mobygames and get a list of the credits. Just count the number of programmers, artists, modelers, animators, designers, producers, and other major team members. That is the number of developers.

Then look up how long the game was in development. If you can't find it directly, look up other games by the team leads and compare the most recent previous release. Often it will be 12, 18, 24, or rarely 36 months. This is the months in development.

Next look at the country of origin. In the United States for all but the most expensive regions, the cost per development month is about $10,000. This is not the salary of a developer per month, but an estimate of the costs it takes to employ a developer; it a broad estimate of salary, equipment, software, facilities, support staff, taxes, insurance, and other costs. In other nations you will need to find the number unique to you.

Then multiply the three values. For a small mobile game: 5 developers * 3 months * $10,000 = $150,000. For an annual sports game: 30 developers * 12 months * $10,000 = $3,600,000. This is the production costs.

Production costs are like the height and width of the mountain; it is a triangle. There are other dimensions. Fortunately these are usually relative to the main development costs.

Before production the games need to be pitched, be fleshed out and designed, tested for legal requirements, the market researched, and more. After production is complete the game is not magically in customer's machines; there are many post-production tasks such as marketing the game, getting discs pressed and boxed and shipped around the world, or getting distribution agreements with online retailers, getting marketing agreements in place, processing all the money, and so on. Generally development costs are 1/3 of the total budget of a game, so multiply the production costs by 3. This is the total spend.



Now that you know roughly what the cost of your game will be, you can compare the total costs to other games of known development costs as a sanity check. One-off mobile games often have a budget of $50K-$150K. Large mobile games often have a budget of $500K-$1M. Many "rummage bin" console games have a total spend of $3M-$5M. Many of the annual updates and cheap remakes have a total spend of around $20M-$50M per platform. Big AAA games that span multiple platforms have a total spend of $50M-100M. The very large blockbuster MMOs have a total spend that starts at $100M just to break in.


Professionally built games are an expensive business.

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@Orymus3: I am being a bit optimistic, yeah.
 
It really all depends on the nature of the game. I was part of a small orpg hobbyist project, programmed by a single programmer (the program lead), and though we never finished the project, it was fully playable and almost feature-complete. We worked on it, as hobbyists, in our free time. We worked on and off over several years - from 2006 to 2010, with large gaps of inactivity sprinkled throughout.
 
The lead developer did 100% of the programming, but often didn't have time to work on the project because of real-life.
I was the lead artist (and a mighty poor one, back at that point in time), lead map-maker and world designer, and one of the two scripters.
We had a third developer who also helped with scripting and map making inbetween his college classes.
This was our team of three.
 
From time to time we had others do a spot of art here or there, and someone made the GUI artwork, but it was mostly us three.
 
Mostly, we all just messed around, but we had a decent-sized game world, functional combat, guilds, guild halls, PvP areas, non-PvP areas, hundreds of items, fully-scripted mini-event-games inside the game (player races, treasure hunts, and others), quests, skills (ranged, DoTs, AoEs, buffs, de-buffs), equipment with special effects, an auction hall, and a few other things as well.
 
We never promoted the game (since it wasn't finished), but we had a tiny active community of a dozen players, sometimes reaching as high as twenty. Without even announcing the game anywhere.
 
With a focused team of four (two programmers - who both also script, two artists - at least one of who can make music), working full-time, and getting paid to do so, I think it's within the realm of possibility.
 
The challenges are:
Reasonable featureset - not too extravagant in scope.
Having the game design mostly locked in place - so things aren't changed halfway through development.
Finding people who have skill and are willing to do the work full-time at around that price.
Managing the team, leading them, coordinating them, coordinating and organizing what still needs to be done, keeping the team focused and motivated. (This is much harder than it sounds if you don't know what you're doing - 'managing'/'leading' is not the same thing as "telling people what to do". It's not the "idea guy" position, it's an entirely different skillset)
 
None of those are insurmountable. For half a million ($250k as your employee wages and additional contracting work as needed, plus another $250k for when the project goes longer than expected), I think it's possible. You just have to know what you are doing, which the OP already said he does not.
 
Optimistic? Yes, definitely. But still possible. I just wouldn't risk my imaginary $500k on it. smile.png
 

The key element of note here is lack of experience. a Project relying upon a man with no experience in management (or making games at all), lack of understanding of what everyone on the team really needs to be doing, and more importantly, lack of experience designing games (resulting in poor quality documentation and lack of foresight) could be catastrophic.


Agreed - that pretty much sums the entire situation.

Edited by Servant of the Lord

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Assuming you get people willing to work for royalties, that are somehow skilled and reliable (motivated and loyal), you could even technically do it for much less. However, this is quite unlikely.

 

@Servant: Sad story. Any somewhat completed game deserves to be put out there.

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The key element of note here is lack of experience. a Project relying upon a man with no experience in management (or making games at all), lack of understanding of what everyone on the team really needs to be doing, and more importantly, lack of experience designing games (resulting in poor quality documentation and lack of foresight) could be catastrophic. This is a wildcard here that could increase the cost by magnitudes here. I'm going to assume OP is more than meets the eye here (anyone able to raise 250K$ like that probably has a hidden talent).

 

That says it all. Without working in the industry, or creating multiple indie games yourself, you can't even imagine the leadership challenges you're going to face doing this. You'd need to hire a project manager/producer to handle the project for you.

 

A good example of a MMO that I could make alone, in under a year, is "Realm of the Mad God". The original class sprites were from a roguelike contest, and the game generates worlds algorithmically. I'd say that's a decent end goal for your $250k to take you, if everything went perfectly. Another problem not mentioned, is you have no idea who to hire and how to hire them. You wouldn't know what quality of employee you'd be hiring.

 

Sloper has some FAQ entry on how worthless game ideas are, so there is no use using the same obscure "I have this amazing idea but I'm not going to share it". Just describe what you are trying to make and I'm sure someone here can give you a realistic budget.

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A good example of a MMO that I could make alone, in under a year, is "Realm of the Mad God".

MMO has a meaning.  That isn't it.  The term MMO was coined to describe online games with more than 100k active users.

 

Online games? Sure, those are easy enough. The Multiplayer and Networking Forum FAQ has an example making a simple online RPG in just a few hours.

 

Massively Multiplayer Online game? Those are difficult and expensive. You might be able to pull together a game with a hundred or even a thousand concurrent users without too much difficulty. To enter the realm of 100k+ active players you need some significant architecture to back it up.

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Or you could license the Big World technology if it's still around or another competing product, and avoid reinventing the wheel. That in theory should lower you budget requirements, assuming you have people skilled enough to use it.

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The physical architecture you are going to need to support so many users is a big part of the problem. Load balancers, login servers, gameplay servers.... those costs are high and they're not strongly related to whether you license the core tech or roll your own (optimization questions aside). 

 

The architecture of your own program to run in such an environment is a big issue also, of course.

 

frob, that's a really interesting approach to estimating costs. I never considered going by the credits. There's some error built into it since on bigger titles you will have many people in the credits who did not nearly contribute for the whole duration of the project (testers, outsourced work, people who were hired part way through or who left), but this is counterbalanced by software projects always being over schedule and over budget.

Edited by stanirya

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Assuming you get people willing to work for royalties, that are somehow skilled and reliable (motivated and loyal), you could even technically do it for much less. However, this is quite unlikely.

 

 

I spend a lot of time on the Unity forums and it is very unlikely any project (unless extremely small) will be completed through royalties or collaboration.

One look at the Collaboration forum highlights this. 

 

All these new game developers come along wanting to build the next big MMO or FPS, enthusiasm is high, and after purchasing a few models and a starter kit, a few screenshots are posted of the game. You then get a few people replying or joining the team, all is looking good....

 

Then a few more weeks into the development, it starts to hit home that game development, and more so trying to build an MMO or high quality FPS is indeed a daunting challenge and the team members drop off one by one. 95% of projects in the collaboration forum that are more than 2-3 months old have no more updates posted. Projects that are 6 months old will have the last update posted 2-3 months ago. These projects all die.

 

Long story short, offering royalties or trying to develop a commercially successful viable project is practically impossible. 

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Assuming you get people willing to work for royalties, that are somehow skilled and reliable (motivated and loyal), you could even technically do it for much less. However, this is quite unlikely.

 

 

I spend a lot of time on the Unity forums and it is very unlikely any project (unless extremely small) will be completed through royalties or collaboration.

One look at the Collaboration forum highlights this. 

 

All these new game developers come along wanting to build the next big MMO or FPS, enthusiasm is high, and after purchasing a few models and a starter kit, a few screenshots are posted of the game. You then get a few people replying or joining the team, all is looking good....

 

Then a few more weeks into the development, it starts to hit home that game development, and more so trying to build an MMO or high quality FPS is indeed a daunting challenge and the team members drop off one by one. 95% of projects in the collaboration forum that are more than 2-3 months old have no more updates posted. Projects that are 6 months old will have the last update posted 2-3 months ago. These projects all die.

 

Long story short, offering royalties or trying to develop a commercially successful viable project is practically impossible. 

 

Until some people actually do it, which brings amazing success stories.

I think its really a matter of how you look at the 1% and how people react to this.

Coming here for feedback is met with criticism, because the odds of a random individual to be within that 1% are so low, that the advice we are to give is that it's almost impossible.

On the other hand, some dedicated individuals (the 1%) have proven that this *is* in fact possible. The problem here is that everyone wants to believe they are part of the 1% because they feel motivated, etc.

But there are various other factors at work, including quite a fair deal of luck (what partners you'll find, etc.)

I wouldn't leave it up to chance myself. For example, I would have the budget ready, but still try to go royalties first, and then kick in budget if this model fails to deliver.

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Smaller-scale "MMORPGs" are commonly known by the alternative names Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games, Online Role-Playing Games (and their initialisms), or Villiage games. Those terms might help you find more focused information.

 

If you've got 500 concurrent users on a single server, then while you may not be truly "massive", you're still going to face many of the same technical challenges that a proper MMO does -- typical shard sized in a large-scale MMORPG are not much larger than 500 players. The primary technical differences for you will be that you won't have to deal with anywhere near as large a database, and that load-balancing across servers will be not-so-important, unless your concurrent users outgrow what's a typical shard size. There's a big difference between developing a 32-player online game that persists stats (Say something like recent COD or Halo games), and a 500-player online game that persists and queries pretty much everything in real-time -- but there's actually not a ton of difference between a 500 player MMORPG and a 10,000 player RPG from a development standpoint. Resourcing and administration, yes, but dev-wise, no.

 

Reducing the complexity of gameplay and art assets as you suggest can keep the initial budget low, but be careful to focuss too much cost-cutting here. Development, including art, is essentially a fixed cost -- they may be on-going, but you pay what you pay, and the assets support as many people as needed for as long as needed. If your game is successful, those costs will be dwarfed by the running costs over time.

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Assuming you get people willing to work for royalties, that are somehow skilled and reliable (motivated and loyal), you could even technically do it for much less. However, this is quite unlikely.

 

 

I spend a lot of time on the Unity forums and it is very unlikely any project (unless extremely small) will be completed through royalties or collaboration.

One look at the Collaboration forum highlights this. 

 

All these new game developers come along wanting to build the next big MMO or FPS, enthusiasm is high, and after purchasing a few models and a starter kit, a few screenshots are posted of the game. You then get a few people replying or joining the team, all is looking good....

 

Then a few more weeks into the development, it starts to hit home that game development, and more so trying to build an MMO or high quality FPS is indeed a daunting challenge and the team members drop off one by one. 95% of projects in the collaboration forum that are more than 2-3 months old have no more updates posted. Projects that are 6 months old will have the last update posted 2-3 months ago. These projects all die.

 

Long story short, offering royalties or trying to develop a commercially successful viable project is practically impossible. 

 

Until some people actually do it, which brings amazing success stories.

I think its really a matter of how you look at the 1% and how people react to this.

Coming here for feedback is met with criticism, because the odds of a random individual to be within that 1% are so low, that the advice we are to give is that it's almost impossible.

On the other hand, some dedicated individuals (the 1%) have proven that this *is* in fact possible. The problem here is that everyone wants to believe they are part of the 1% because they feel motivated, etc.

But there are various other factors at work, including quite a fair deal of luck (what partners you'll find, etc.)

I wouldn't leave it up to chance myself. For example, I would have the budget ready, but still try to go royalties first, and then kick in budget if this model fails to deliver.

 

 

I think the main issue is that most who do start a mmorpg project are people who are very inexperienced in the field of game development. I have been there...at the age of 15...we worked on it for more then a year...and yea, people get demotivated after a while. Its easy at the start...but when the real grind begins...making the many models you need and implenting the insane amount of features...you cant do that with a small team and no budget. Still, for me personally it was a great learning experience, and it made me chose to study game dev. Im now working on a sci-fi shooter, and i have to admit, its still a big project, but when you use an engine like udk it is very realistic (especially when working with modular models and textures). But its best for starting game devs with no budget to start with really small projects that can generate revenue in a short timeframe..which can potentially fund larger and future projects.

 

But yea, as said before, start with a GDD and asset listing, then you can get an estimate of the costs, it is also something that you NEED to know when approaching investors...which is a MUST for a big scale project like an mmorpg...unless your using a minimalist art style or something....or if you put a team of devs in a cage and only feed them if they make their deadlines..but that will probably get you in jail :).

Edited by Shadow_hunter

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I'm just going to tell it straight:

 

1) Don't 'hide' your ideas. They aren't original, no one is going to 'steal' them.

 

2) Be realistic. The only way you could possibly pull something like that off is to hand all creative and personnel control over to someone else, at which point - why wouldn't he be doing it for himself?

 

3) Make a game - a simple, single player game. FINISH IT.  Then you'll have some idea of what's involved: artwork, music, writing, level design, engine code, game code.  That's all before you even get into network architecture and infrastructure. You're like a kid with a guitar saying I've never played this thing before but I want to get with a few good buddies and we'll have a stadium tour across the continent. It doesn't work that way

 

4) I'm not trying to piss in your Cheerios, but if making an MMO is your goal, you've got to get there in steps - just like anything in else in life, before you can run a marathon you have to run a mile. When guys like Brad Mcquaid, who's as experienced and talented as they come (at least on the game design side), can't get his new game off the ground you've got to realize how fierce the competition for dollars out there is.

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people get demotivated after a while. Its easy at the start...but when the real grind begins...

 

Isn't this the case with all game development though? MMOs are larger in scale, but not in scope.

It's perfectly possible to build an MMO around very few concentrated features too.

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people get demotivated after a while. Its easy at the start...but when the real grind begins...

 

Isn't this the case with all game development though? MMOs are larger in scale, but not in scope.

It's perfectly possible to build an MMO around very few concentrated features too.

 

 

Yea it is the case wtih all game development, but it is 10 times worse with a huge project like an MMO. But like you said, if you keep your MMO very simple and dont expect to make skyrim online or something, yea sure, perhaps it is possible. Its just that from experience, the kind of people that start an MMO in the first place are the kind of people that do it because an MMO equals unlimited possibilities, but that can be dangerous if you dont keep your concept realistic and achievable within a timeframe that is not half a decade. I mean, everything is possible in this world....as long as you tackle every goal in small achievable tasks.. but i would not recommend people trying to make the next WoW killer and instead go with something unique that can be achieved within a decent timeframe by a small team. Also...odds that private investors will invest in yet another MMO project are kinda small unless you have something really unique and exciting...simply the costs to just run a game like that are huge (servers etc)....so to get that return on invest is alot harder. I mean... i wouldnt recommend it to beginning game devs, like said before...there will always be the 0.01% that succeeds...but your odds at releasing a mobile game for example are alot higher, and as a beginning game dev your first priority should be to build up a portfolio and gain experience...so im not sure if an mmo is the perfect candidate for that. Anyway, im speaking here about beginning game devs...if you are an experienced game dev with already shipped games on your portfolio and connections in the business world...then just forget about everything i said because it is a entire different story.

Edited by Shadow_hunter

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      Welcome to the fourth entry to Indie Marketing For N00bs. This week, we’re going to talk about some things that most developers fail to really follow through on: Marketing Plans. These are both fundamental additions to any successful game on the market. We’re going to take the time here to really explain the importance of these tools, what they’re used for, and how to create them yourself.
      PLAN? I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ PLAN!
      You’ve designed a game. Go you. What is the first thing most developers do before they make the game, though? They create a game design document, which entails the plan for what’s going into the game, how it’ll be implemented, and something that can be followed through or be utilized by a publisher that wants to take your game under their wing. In theory, you already know how to do exactly this, so why aren’t you designating time to do the same thing for other aspects of the process?
      A marketing plan is your personal guideline to what needs to be done early on, as well as in post-development when it comes to marketing, public relations, social media, and community management. It’s big, generally. But, it helps developers know when they need to make a post or a blog, or when they need to make an announcement due to hitting a target. This includes when you should do “Dev Diaries” or how often you should tweet. Make a plan and stick to it.
      I Love It When A Marketing Plan Comes Together!
      Everyone has a different method for their own versions of a marketing plan. Some people do a simple outline with key points and some people go above and beyond for a true precision strike outward (For instance: My plans tend to be between 9 and 11 pages, including a title page).
      I mentioned earlier that the plan can be for a publisher. If you ever plan to get picked up by a publisher (even the indie publishers), they want you to be as impactful as you can be autonomously. It’s less work and hassle for them if you come equipped with your own knowledge and tactics.
      But, maybe I don’t want a publisher. Why do I need a plan? Making a plan for yourself keeps you on a strict regimen to get your game out there. Will it ensure a 100% success story? Of course not. But, it will ensure that you are following my rule from previous entries to this series: “Every eye possible”.
      Know Your Audience And They Will Know You
      A plan should include two major sections, split into explanations for each one: Information and Marketing Tools.
      In the Information section, include a quick description of your game, maybe one or two paragraphs. This is to guide anyone other than yourself that may read this document. If you have any current statistics or analytics about your game or company, include a section for them. Set your goal here, as well. Make an attainable goal based on similar games on market. Knowing what you’re up against and adjusting your expectations to adhere to logic is a perfect way to set yourself up for a win.
      Additionally, do some research and figure out your demographic. Come up with a range of people that you believe your game is targeting. Include:
      Age range Is your game more mature themed? Would it appeal more to a nostalgic retro audience? Is it cartoony and kid-friendly? These aspects matter. Gender(s) With women taking to the industry in recent years, more women are likely to play your game. Take this into account here. Languages For instance, if you game is only in English and you have no plans to localize the game to Chinese, China might not be your demographic. Systems Is your game only on PC? Probably shouldn’t focus on console gamers too much then and vice versa. Is your game mobile? Why are you contacting people that only play PC games? Know your audience and it’ll help with future endeavors and needs.
      List Out All The Tools You’ll Use
      Marketing Tools should include Social Media, Video platforms, Game’s Website, Community Presence, Press, Paid Advertisements, and Software and Services you plan to use. This section is a lot bigger than the other, but it’s where the majority of the plan is laid out.
      What social media are you going to use? List them out here. We’ve discussed social media in a prior lesson, so add in any that are going to be linked to this game, no matter how small. Think of this as your reminder to post on Google+ or Instagram. How often will you be posting to each platform? Do you plan to tweet daily? Are you hitting other platforms often? Make sure to include even game developer specific platforms here as well. Any presence needs to be noted and should have a guide for how you handle each one.
      Do you plan to make videos for your game? Have you made a trailer? Will you be streaming the game during development or post-development for people to see progress or features? Make sure to include if you’re using YouTube, Twitch, or any other video platforms. How will you post these videos and how often? Will you be live for most of it on Twitch and then upload it to YouTube after? What’s the plan?
      Most indie developers don’t utilize their own website for promotion, but it’s a powerful tool to have a simple domain to send potential eyes to. This looks great on business cards, promotional materials, or any shout outs you make need. Some people even go a step further and implement a dev blog into their site. This can tie to the videos, as well, showing off aspects of the game that may not have been apparent. Dev Diaries, which can be shown on your site, are one of the easiest ways to keep community involvement during the creation of your game.
      Utilization of the forum structure is always a good way to keep community involvement, in both the traditional sense and the more modern takes. Reddit is ridiculously popular to show off progress and several sub-Reddits (specific sections dedicated to particular topics) are designed specifically for indie developers. Additionally, the use of Discord could be considered a “modern take” to the forum structure. Taking on an old-school IRC style mixed with vocal capabilities like Teamspeak or Ventrillo, Discord is designed for gamers and widely utilized as a community tool for the game industry.
      Media Shower: Wishing Among The Stars
      As we’ve discussed in an earlier lesson, the press and media are your friends. List out your plan to contact them and how you plan to keep them notified in your plan. This includes a guideline of when you plan to write press releases to get out to the media and press sites. Figure out what kinds of streamers and “Let’s Players” you want to try to contact and set a target.
      Include a full plan for a customized “press kit” in your marketing plan. I’m going to be setting “press kits” aside as its own lesson at a later date, but expect a much more substantial detailing of what should be in a standard press kit.
      Software, Services, and Ads
      As with any other game-related step out there, tools can and should be used when marketing. This can be a number of things, from minor social media tools like Hootsuite or Buffer, all the way to full analytics reporting programs like Google analytics. A popular free tool to use is Google Alerts, which can set keywords and have Google email you when something comes up in the search engine. If you intend to have people play the game in Let’s Plays, websites like Gamesight can be very helpful in tracking your game. After the game has been published, it’s important to try to get your game on such aggregates as Metacritic, not for any other reason than Twitch and other websites pull from that site for their content.
      This section should also include any paid advertising you, your publisher (if applicable), or third party will intend to use. Be concise. Since this uses real money, you can utilize the demographics designed in the first section of the marketing plan to focus the impressions and clicks. Ads can be Google, Facebook, Twitter, or a number of other platforms.
      Understand the difference between sponsored advertisements and "like" purchasing, though. It's the difference between having real eyes see your product and having some company in a click farm boost your numbers in a fake way. Fake followers and "bots"can completely mess up any intended reporting and realistic charts. You'll never know if you're actually doing good.
      Don’t forget to think out of the box, though. Marketing is only limited to your own mind. Be creative and sometimes it will pay off. Some people get a proper Wikipedia article put up for their game. If you intend to make a commercial, YouTube and Twitter can be tapped for a video-based ad. Heading to small events in your area can help get more eyes. Just make sure you have it all in your Plan.
    • By jonathanwilsonart
      Hi,
      I need a get a quote very soon to a mid level game company for a single screen design. A multi-layered 2D reward screen in Photoshop. Size is 5200 x 2048pixels . Game will be ad free and sold as an iOS and Android app. Thanks for any help or advice. Have about an hour to send them one.
    • By Spelkollektivet
      There is a newly founded initiative started in Sweden called Spelkollektivet. It is an international game developer collective which aims to provide a creative place for game developers to live and work at while they are struggling with their initial titles, to make the finances last. We offer cheap living (from 490 euro per month), that includes a private bedroom, desk in a shared office, gym, sauna, jacuzzi, outdoor pool, virtual reality equipment, cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner, and consumables such as toilet paper, laundry detergent and shower gel.
      Typically, people stay for 3 to 12 months at a time and we currently have people from Canada, United States, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Bulgaria.
      We hope this initiative will help game developer working alone, or smaller teams working from different places in the world, to find a home which enables them to pursue their dreams.
      For more information, check out our website and our Facebook page.
       

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    • By Spelkollektivet
      There is a newly founded initiative started in Sweden called Spelkollektivet. It is an international game developer collective which aims to provide a creative place for game developers to live and work at while they are struggling with their initial titles, to make the finances last. We offer cheap living (from 490 euro per month), that includes a private bedroom, desk in a shared office, gym, sauna, jacuzzi, outdoor pool, virtual reality equipment, cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner, and consumables such as toilet paper, laundry detergent and shower gel.
      Typically, people stay for 3 to 12 months at a time and we currently have people from Canada, United States, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Bulgaria.
      We hope this initiative will help game developer working alone, or smaller teams working from different places in the world, to find a home which enables them to pursue their dreams.
      For more information, check out our website and our Facebook page.
       
    • By JeremyB
      I watched some business videos on YouTube, and learned a really good tip. Mc Donalds is a role model for business ideas. One phrase made Mc Donalds so much richer: Would you like fries with that? Imagine how many extra millions they made by adding fries to every order.
       
      We all want to sell games right? How many people have sold 1,000,000? Imagine if you had of tacked on another sale. Another $2 sale would have netted you another $2,000,000 dollars, just for asking one simple question.
       
      When you sell your game online consider offering a bonus to every sale. An in-game perk, a mini-game, a mod, a folder with all pre-game sketches. It really doesn't matter. Just remember to put a checkbox beside it, and let the customer decide.
       
      Hope this helps.
       
      If anyone else has business advice, I'd love to hear it.
       
      PS: There  should be a business tips forum in the business section.
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