I'm developing an "MMO" and there are three key things that I think hinder the serious multiplayer game developer (this post is key in what most definitely hinders the non-serious developers and people who have no idea what they're jumping into).
First is that the term MMO has been misused by all of us. I believe that most serious indie "MMO" game developers (like myself) don't truly expect to make a game that thousands of people play (although we all have our wishful thinking-it's not our logical goal), but to make a game that a handful of people, maybe even a hundred or two at max wishful thinking, will play. So when we say "MMO" we're all forgetting that some of us don't truly mean "massive." Perhaps more of us need to label our projects "MO" instead of "MMO," and that needs to start carrying forward for more indie MO developers to be taken seriously.
The other thing I've discovered sort of coincides with what DogmaDZ said:
"...they are not actually planning to complete the game. They just come online with a cool idea, request a team of 10 programmers, 10 artists, etc.. They don't actually invest a lot of time themselves in the project"
This ruins it for serious developers who actually DO plan to complete the game; who DO actually invest an immense amount of time, effort, skill, and money into it; and who DO genuinely understand what goes into it and aren't under any delusions; who DO have a plan. I, for one, DO, and I can't tell you how many times people have tried to grill me and discourage me to GIVE UP after they have seen all of the hard work, money, time, plans, etc. put into it, even after telling me things like, "you're a lot more serious than most people I've met on Gamedev," or "wow, you've thought out a lot more than most other people." I can't quite understand why anyone would tell someone who they feel is actually showing signs of progress to give up, other than this disease of good ideas with no direction leaving a horrid taste in everyone's mouth.
The third thing is quite perplexing to me. One of the biggest problems I've run across seems to be a catch 22. It's not the problem of finding people who are willing to volunteer or sign contracts or agree to profit sharing. It's this: People don't want to work on a project that isn't serious or going anywhere...yet people don't want to work on a project that is, because it's "too big." Well then, why are any of them in the game development business in the first place? When did this illusion of game development being a small project come to be? Any game, whether it's an emulator, a reboot, 2D, 3D, FPS, RTS, MMO, or even a basic calculator app for iphone is a big project. The thing that's even more perplexing is that every single one of these people I have come across has worked on previous projects that "died." Well, why did they die again? Because they weren't serious and they weren't advertised as big. No one is ever going to be successful if so many of these skilled people keep hunting for that unicorn in the woods called a small, 2 week MMO blockbuster project. Perhaps more serious indie games would be successful if the talent out there who claim they want to work on a game (paid, volunteer, profit share...all of it is affected) would actually commit to working on a real game and not a dozen fly-by-night projects a month.
So this all leaves me with a question: Where and how do you find those talents who are actually serious and understand that game development is a "big" project? Because it's certainly not on Gamedev.
By the way-small teams can very well produce successful MO games. It has been done. One of the best success stories is Minions of Mirth. The problem is finding people who want to actually invest the time it takes to do it, and to actually want to WORK at it. I've come across lots of people who think it's going to be all fun & games; who just want to talk about what cool things they think the game should do, but once they come across their first bug or their first task that takes a week to complete they toss in the towel. So yes, we do have talented programmers, artists, etc. but I have only come across TWO in the past 4 months who truly realize the scope of the project and are willing to commit to it. I've lost count of how many people seemed enthusiastic, were very talented, then jumped ship when they realized the scope of the project and the work that needs to be done on it. Wise of them perhaps? Well, everyone wants to make a game, but no one is going to succeed if they keep jumping ship.