Lets talk about MMO development...

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jakt 101 Sep 23, 2008 at 05:47

If I had to quote one piece of advice from the community that I heard most often on MMO development, it would be “DON’T DO IT!”.

People give reasons like, “You will need server side programming knowledge”, or “It takes millions of dollars”. I am wondering how accurate these assumptions are.

Many suggest making a single player RPG instead. Is a single player RPG really that much less complicated than an MMO?

Lets say you have plenty of server side programming experience (as well as client side obviously), a team of 20 or so people willing to dedicate a few hours a week to development, and strong leadership. Is it really so impossible?

One thing I am not understanding is where all this money is going to be needed. There are so many open source tools today that software is not an issue. Any decent game that someone wants to make would need volunteer work done. Of course a person interested in creating a game that is not sponsored by a publisher is not going to pay its developers. That leaves what…server cost? Dedicated servers are not that expensive. Surely not millions of dollars. Sure, professional studios spend millions of dollars in game creation because they need it done fast. They need to be able to pay a team of people to allocate 40 hours a week to working on their game. If you want reliable team members, you will have to pay them. For an indie team, where there are no deadlines, and quality is determined by the motivation of the team, is millions of dollars really a prerequisite?

Another thing I seem to be missing out on is the difficulty. Dont get me wrong, I know creating an MMO is a very large challenge for an indie team, but the majority of the community builds it up to be impossible. There are many existing MMO’s that have been created by indie teams that are already successful. Eternal Lands and Wurm Online being two of them. Of course these are not MMO’s that could compete with professionally funded games, but they are successful in their own right, and have 300+ players online at all times. People HAVE done this. It is NOT impossible.

Lets compare the difficulty of creating a single player RPG to a multiplayer RPG. I would say the work is about double that of creating a single player. Sure, its a very rough estimation on my behalf, but I am an experienced programmer, and I have a good idea of what it takes to produce a product. Saying it is MUCH harder to create an MMO out of the otherwise single player counterpart is an exaggeration if you ask me. No I have never created an MMO before, but this seems like a blind statement. It seems like so many people write off a single player RPG as some simple, one hour game. Lets say you created an MMO, but with no multiplayer aspects. Like an MMO with a one person limit. It wouldnt be multiplayer, but it is built just like one. The bulk of the work still exists. Sure, you have to convert to a client/server architecture, but all of the design, modeling, client programming, and all of that still exists. So what about converting a client based RPG to a client/server multiplayer RPG makes this leap from “Anyone with some time on their hands can do it” to “Dont even try it without a million bucks”?

So is there some hidden aspect to multiplayer RPG software production that I am not seeing, or are single player RPG’s just not seen on an epic scale as MMO’s are?

Maybe its the tools people are using that make multiplayer aspects of gaming difficult? Maybe its the fact that an MMO would demand a larger world, more detail, and player balance, where as a single player game has the option of scalability?

Seeing other games being produced by other indie companies, I am not so easily discouraged by these nay sayers putting down anyone who would like to attempt MMO development.

So am I wrong, or just overly simplifying the jump from single player RPG to MMO?

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starstutter 101 Sep 23, 2008 at 13:06

@jakt

If I had to quote one piece of advice from the community that I heard most often on MMO development, it would be “DON’T DO IT!”.

That’s a pretty sound piece of advice.

Many suggest making a single player RPG instead. Is a single player RPG really that much less complicated than an MMO?

Depends. Maybe it’s not complicated if you have years of server knowledge, but you probably don’t have millions of dollars.

Lets say you have plenty of server side programming experience (as well as client side obviously), a team of 20 or so people willing to dedicate a few hours a week to development, and strong leadership. Is it really so impossible?

You would need investors, lots of them, preferably crazy ones.

One thing I am not understanding is where all this money is going to be needed. There are so many open source tools today that software is not an issue.

No, software’s not an issue at all. With enough knowledge, all software is essentially free.

That leaves what…server cost? Dedicated servers are not that expensive.
Surely not millions of dollars.

I have 2 words for you,
BRUTE FORCE
That is the term I would use to describe this:

servers.jpg

It has nothing do do with the programming challenge, it has to do with the sheer amount of power you need to support that many players in one game world. THIS is why you need millions of dollars, it’s not a matter of will-power. I guarentee you that the dedicated servers you’re thinking of are not nearly powerful enough to run something on an MMO scale.

Other than that, no, there’s really not a whole lot of difference for programming. That’s why an RPG can be made by one person, and a *real* MMO is next to impossible. Now, what is possible is an Multiplayer Online RPG. It’s the “massive” part that so hard.

EDIT: Hey! 500th post :D happy anniversary!

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Sol_HSA 119 Sep 23, 2008 at 13:16

Another thing that takes a big chunk of the million dollars is content. Lots of content. Lots and lots of content. More content that you can possibly imagine making by yourself.

edit: So, first make the single-player RPG and be amazed how much content even that requires. Then multiply this by X.

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necroside 101 Sep 23, 2008 at 14:23

What about publicity, yes you can make some banner exchange and some Forum and massive mail work, but you’ll need a lot of publicity. If you want the massive part of users you’ll need a lot of publicity in lot of languages. And publicity is not a cheap issue.

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Rofar 101 Sep 23, 2008 at 16:03

You are absolutely correct. It is not an impossible task as is made out to be by 99.9% of the community. However, there are definate challenges. The biggest challenge is developing enough content.

MMO development is no harder than developing a single player RPG but trying to get your share of the MMO market is extremely more difficult than getting a piece of the RPG market.

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jakt 101 Sep 23, 2008 at 19:47

Well, lets put something into perspective here…

I am not saying I am trying to create the next WoW or Age of Conan. I am not expecting anywhere near 1,000,000 people playing or creating a game that is large enough to support this kind of player base. Of course it costs a fortune to not only create, but maintain games like this.

However, when you tell someone they are better off making a single player RPG, you probably dont mean it is possible to create a game like Oblivion by yourself either.

I think one point I am trying to make here is that the community creates this huge gap between single player and multiplayer games, when in fact I could create a single player RPG that would be more work than some MMO’s. It is not a fact that any multiplayer game is more work automatically. Yes, there are new concepts involved with a multiplayer game, but this does not mean more work is involved.

I am more interested in how much more work is involved in creating an MMO over a single player RPG on the same scale…a scale that is fir for a team of 20 or so indie developers.

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dave_ 101 Sep 23, 2008 at 21:13

It’s all an issue of scope. The average poster on a games forum has less than 6 months experience. Attempting to make a game is a difficult challenge. Adding a scalable network service in addition to the game multiplies the complexity.

If you’re asking how to make an MMO, you’re asking the wrong question!

I’d love to talk about MMO development. I’ve working in the domain for years. But you need to ask more specific questions.

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jakt 101 Sep 23, 2008 at 21:21

@dave_

It’s all an issue of scope. The average poster on a games forum has less than 6 months experience. Attempting to make a game is a difficult challenge. Adding a scalable network service in addition to the game multiplies the complexity.

If you’re asking how to make an MMO, you’re asking the wrong question!

I’d love to talk about MMO development. I’ve working in the domain for years. But you need to ask more specific questions.

How to make an MMO wasnt even close to the question I was asking. I am not even asking for details on any specific step of the process.

I was merely contrasting the amount of work involved in creating a single player game compared to a MMO on a given scale, and was interested in why the community believes this contrast to be such a large gap.

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dave_ 101 Sep 23, 2008 at 22:34

Your question is still vague. You ask about the work involved in single player vs MMO. The problem is neither of those terms are defined.
What is a single player game? What is an MMO?

Making any complicated piece of software is hard. You really have to know what you’re aiming to make before you start!

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starstutter 101 Sep 23, 2008 at 23:26

@jakt

I think one point I am trying to make here is that the community creates this huge gap between single player and multiplayer games,

no we don’t…
There’s TONS of multiplayer games made by indie companies and lone developers. Multiplayer is trivial if you have netwroking and server experience. Getting enough players could cause your game to have a quick death, but it’s totally possible to make one.

What’s NOT possible to make is a real MMO. And let me explain the difference between multiplayer and MMO. Multiplayer is designed around the core concept of having a few players on a given server set, each set operating independantly of eachother (that means no interaction between players on different severs, at least for the game itself). Massive multiplayer supports thousands to tens of thousands on a single interconnected-multi-million-dollar-super-network and the the game is designed to have this many players at once in order to function properly.

If you go to an indie site boasting an MMO, they’re either lying or sadly mistaken, because real indie MMO’s are non-existant. In fact the 2 words are almost incompatable. If millions of people know about you, it would be pretty damn hard (and kind of dumb) to remain an indie.

EDIT: btw, when I say real MMO, I mean something vaugley comparable to WoW, not those browser games.

However, when you tell someone they are better off making a single player RPG, you probably dont mean it is possible to create a game like Oblivion by yourself either.

It’s unlikley that you would, but its not impossible. Lets weigh the benefits here though.
You could spend 10-12 years making an Oblivion killer and perhaps have accomplished one of the biggest feats in gaming history. However, few people are going to know about it, even fewer people are going to buy it when they can go pick up the real oblivion at what is probably a fraction of the cost, and you will have most likley wasted all your spare time in that 10-12 years.
Yeah, it’s completley possible to do it, but it’s just not practical.

Yes, there are new concepts involved with a multiplayer game, but this does not mean more work is involved.

As related to above: In isolated theory you’re correct, in practical profit-needing reality… well, try it and tell me what you discover.

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fireside 141 Sep 24, 2008 at 04:48

You will need all the same skills plus some more to write an mmo compared to a single player rpg, so they are just giving good advice. Most people that try to write a single player rpg don’t finish it. These are skills that have to be built up slowly, so when people ask about building a big MMO, people are just trying to give them realistic advice. There are a few indie MMO’s, but I doubt that any of them started out saying they were going to build an MMO. They started programming a little 2d game. If you’ve been programming a 2d game, you pretty much know where you need to go next, so the people that ask this question are just lazy people that want a click together MMO kit or something. There are a few MMO kits, like Torques, that don’t look that bad, really. There are also things like Sun’s Darkstar that look interesting, but the very best thing to do is pick up a programming book and start with a 2d game, or even better, a text game. The thing here is, if a text game isn’t good enough, or a 2d game isn’t good enough, you don’t even really know what a game is all about. Everything is just an extension of pong. It’s like that saying, if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it. Only this is, if you have to ask how to make an MMO, you are incapable of making one.

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Sol_HSA 119 Sep 24, 2008 at 05:07

@jakt

I am not saying I am trying to create the next WoW or Age of Conan.

The problem with the MMO questions is that most people who ask them *are* trying to create the next WoW. Only, it has to be *their* design, and they need other people to implement it for them. For free. See this pattern enough times and you should see where the automatic negative response comes from.

Anyway, here’s a great post if you’re dead set on going though with a project like this:

http://www.devmaster.net/forums/showthread.php?t=11656

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starstutter 101 Sep 24, 2008 at 06:22

@fireside

if you have to ask how to make an MMO, you are incapable of making one.

That’s actually a really good rule to remember.

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timothyinspa 101 Sep 24, 2008 at 13:31

plus you need customer support, and it will take a lot of human resources
why dont you read some books about game business?

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Rofar 101 Sep 24, 2008 at 16:06

Needing customer support or a server farm capable of hosting 1000s of players has nothing to do with developing an MMO. Thats all on the production side of things and the OPs questions was in regard to development.

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starstutter 101 Sep 24, 2008 at 19:37

@Rofar

Needing customer support or a server farm capable of hosting 1000s of players has nothing to do with developing an MMO. Thats all on the production side of things and the OPs questions was in regard to development.

Soooooo, they would end up with an MMO that couldn’t be played as an MMO and therefore probably not played at all… go for it

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alphadog 101 Sep 24, 2008 at 20:49

@Rofar

Needing customer support or a server farm capable of hosting 1000s of players has nothing to do with developing an MMO. Thats all on the production side of things and the OPs questions was in regard to development.

If you are developing a viable MMO, versus a personal project, you’d better plan for the infrastructure (people, servers, etc…) needed to support the whole thing. Why code an MMO up, only to then find out you don’t have the resources to run it?

Part of any serious development effort is making sure the “go-live” part can happen.

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alphadog 101 Sep 24, 2008 at 21:03

@jakt

I was merely contrasting the amount of work involved in creating a single player game compared to a MMO on a given scale, and was interested in why the community believes this contrast to be such a large gap.

There are a multitude of new problems that are quite complex that do not ever come into play with a single-player RPG game.

Major issues off the top of my head, and not complete:
- Multiplayer networking is not fun
- Related to that, client support becomes much trickier. How will you diagnose, triage and respond?
- Major security problems (many MMOs have risen and fallen because of cheating)
- Need for systems (both automated and human-level) for policing the game.
- the game design needs to be reviewed for more stringent game balance.
- as other have said, content explosion.
- scalability, availability and robustness in the game’s architecture becomes critical (apart from cheating, repeated downtime is another big MMO killer)

Basically, the difference between single-player vs. MMO is the same as going from building Notepad to building a Client/Server Document Versioning repository. It just is a fundamentally more complex beast with more different concerns.

And, if you’ve never coded up a Notepad, your first attempt at a repository will be full of missteps. Can one do it, though? Sure, as long as you go in knowing you’ll chuck out versions 1 AND 2…

But, if you build small and build exp[experience, especially when young, you’ll have much more likelihood of success, instead of spending time possibly getting frustrated in versions 1 and 2 of your MMO.

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Rofar 101 Sep 25, 2008 at 16:04

@alphadog

If you are developing a viable MMO, versus a personal project, you’d better plan for the infrastructure (people, servers, etc…) needed to support the whole thing. Why code an MMO up, only to then find out you don’t have the resources to run it? Part of any serious development effort is making sure the “go-live” part can happen.

Regardless of how you or anyone else feels regarding this, the fact remains that the question posed in this thread was about “developing” an MMO and not about the production of an MMO. So the answers should be focused on the development challenges.

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starstutter 101 Sep 26, 2008 at 03:41

@Rofar

Regardless of how you or anyone else feels regarding this, the fact remains that the question posed in this thread was about “developing” an MMO and not about the production of an MMO. So the answers should be focused on the development challenges.

You’re not getting it. Production *is* part of development. A lot of people would say they’re the same thing. Development is impossible to complete without a player base for an MMO, because it has to be tested (about the last %25 of development is testing and debugging/revising).

Yes you can program an MMO, but the point is that you’ll have spent years of your life working on something that no one will ever see and no one will be impressed with because it doesn’t work.

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Rofar 101 Sep 29, 2008 at 16:19

I won’t argue that in order to prepare an MMO for production there needs to be adequate testing under production conditions and that is certainly a major activity in developing an MMO. However, if someboday came to me (as a programmer) and wanted to hire me to “develop” an MMO. And if that person(s) had all the production support in place or at least was taking the responsibility for that part, my concerns out of the gate would not even touch on the production side of it.

As a poor analogy…if I asked someone how to build a race car, I wouldn’t expect them to tell me I can’t do it because I don’t have a driver and a race track to put the car on.

It’s possible I misunderstood the original topic of this post but I honestly believe the question was in regards to the challenges of making the game and not the challenges of marketing, hosting or delivering the game.

I, personally, have a problem with the amount of emphasis that is put on the first M in MMO. To me, an MMO is a genre. What does the first M mean? I mean how many simultaneous players qualifies? Is there a magic number that validates it as an MMO? Is it 1000+ per server? To me, the first M indicates a Massive virtual world. The second M is multiplayer (more than 1 player). I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

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starstutter 101 Sep 29, 2008 at 21:12

@Rofar

However, if someboday came to me (as a programmer) and wanted to hire me to “develop” an MMO. And if that person(s) had all the production support in place or at least was taking the responsibility for that part, my concerns out of the gate would not even touch on the production side of it.

Yes, that is possible. You could potentially program one if that situation were somehow set-up. I don’t think anyone would say you *can’t* program an MMO, because it would be little different than programming a single-player game. Now, programming it well without a testing group the size of a small country, that’s a different story.

As a poor analogy…if I asked someone how to build a race car, I wouldn’t expect them to tell me I can’t do it because I don’t have a driver and a race track to put the car on.

I wouldn’t expect him to tell you that you can’t do it, but if he were responsibe he would tell you that you shouldn’t do it, because the end result would be spending several years building a car that’s not street legal. And on top of thet you would never know if you finished it because you cant drive it (for extended periods) to see if it works properly.

It’s possible I misunderstood the original topic of this post but I honestly believe the question was in regards to the challenges of making the game and not the challenges of marketing, hosting or delivering the game.

I’m not sure what the OP was thinking, but I doubt anyone has a goal that he knows will never be playable. I mean, if you were going into MMO development with a professional company, then go for it I guess but that would seem to be a pretty round-about way to get before-hand experience.

To me, an MMO is a genre. What does the first M mean?

MMO means Massive Multiplayer Online (yes, you were right about the massive part).

I mean how many simultaneous players qualifies? Is there a magic number that validates it as an MMO?

I don’t think there is any written standard (at least I don’t think) which would make it a slang term. It would just be a label like “goth” or “jok” as another poor analogy to social groups. If a game could host thousands per-server, then people would see it as an MMO.

Also one way you can tell that MMO has no official standard is because of all the indies boasting their “MMOFPSRPG’s” that can support 20 players per server if they’re lucky, and most of them are horrendously broken both graphically and gameplay wise. It’s kind of the same thing with the term “next gen”. There are countless websites that offer “next gen” game engines that look like the first half-life, only usually more lob-sided.

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rouncer 103 Sep 30, 2008 at 02:36

you can avoid having a server entirely by using peer 2 peer techniques.

ever think of that? *der*

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jakt 101 Sep 30, 2008 at 20:25

@Rofar

I won’t argue that in order to prepare an MMO for production there needs to be adequate testing under production conditions and that is certainly a major activity in developing an MMO. However, if someboday came to me (as a programmer) and wanted to hire me to “develop” an MMO. And if that person(s) had all the production support in place or at least was taking the responsibility for that part, my concerns out of the gate would not even touch on the production side of it.

As a poor analogy…if I asked someone how to build a race car, I wouldn’t expect them to tell me I can’t do it because I don’t have a driver and a race track to put the car on.

It’s possible I misunderstood the original topic of this post but I honestly believe the question was in regards to the challenges of making the game and not the challenges of marketing, hosting or delivering the game.

I, personally, have a problem with the amount of emphasis that is put on the first M in MMO. To me, an MMO is a genre. What does the first M mean? I mean how many simultaneous players qualifies? Is there a magic number that validates it as an MMO? Is it 1000+ per server? To me, the first M indicates a Massive virtual world. The second M is multiplayer (more than 1 player). I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

Actually Rofar, I think you are one of the few in the this thread that DOES understand my question…and have offered the most comprehensive answers as well.

Asking how to make an MMO was not my question.
Asking how much work is needed to make an MMO was not my question.
Asking if it is possible for an indie studio to make an MMO was not my question.

I already know the answers to these questions.

My question was more sociologically based in why the community has such a hard on for indie MMO teams and how doomed they are.

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starstutter 101 Sep 30, 2008 at 23:32

@jakt

My question was more sociologically based in why the community has such a hard on for indie MMO teams and how doomed they are.

And we really already answered those questions. We generally encounter 2 kinds of people for the sake of the subject:

(1). As mentioned in one of the first posts, we *are* biased toward this kind of thing because after seeing 70 (I’m not kidding, that’s a rough count) posts in half caps that want people to develop the next WoW killer for free, it gets sickening, and if you ignore them they generally just keep posting. On top of that, most of them time when you attempt to reson with them and warn them about the impossiblity of the thing, they take it as hostillity and start chewing you out for no reason. The only thing you can really do with them is point and laugh, so that’s what we do.

(2). For the ones that seriously inquire about it and appear to have a functioning brain (asking reasonable questions like the OP), we generally give responsible advice, and that advice always is not to make them. We do say it’s impossible to make an MMO, but what we really mean is an extremley summarized version of this entire thread; that is, you can make one, it just won’t be practical or playable.

Anyway, “having a hard on” is an interesting way to put it I guess but realize that we’re not out to undermine anybody. We’re trying to keep people from wasting their time. I would LOVE to see more (good) indie games out there, and that can’t happen when all the effort goes toward over-ambitious projects.

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jakt 101 Oct 01, 2008 at 00:06

@starstutter

And we really already answered those questions. We generally encounter 2 kinds of people for the sake of the subject: (1). As mentioned in one of the first posts, we *are* biased toward this kind of thing because after seeing 70 (I’m not kidding, that’s a rough count) posts in half caps that want people to develop the next WoW killer for free, it gets sickening, and if you ignore them they generally just keep posting. On top of that, most of them time when you attempt to reson with them and warn them about the impossiblity of the thing, they take it as hostillity and start chewing you out for no reason. The only thing you can really do with them is point and laugh, so that’s what we do.

I can understand this. When some kid makes a forum account because he though up some idea in school today that is going to become the next million subscriber MMO (and yes I see this often as well), I can understand why someone would have that reaction, but some of time I feel the reaction is misplaced and maybe a bit knee jerk. It has evolved from a heavy dose of advice to a pointing and laughing situation like you said. But hey, crying about other people getting flamed wasn’t really the point I was trying to make here, so thats a whole different issue.

(2). For the ones that seriously inquire about it and appear to have a functioning brain, we generally give responsible advice, and that advice always is not to make them. We do say it’s impossible to make an MMO, but what we really mean is an extremley summarized version of this entire thread; that is, you can make one, it just won’t be practical or playable.

Hehe, well as long as thats what you mean instead of impossible, then I guess I feel encouraged!

Anyway, “having a hard on” is an interesting way to put it I guess but realize that we’re not out to undermine anybody. We’re trying to keep people from wasting their time. I would LOVE to see more (good) indie games out there, and that can’t happen when all the effort goes toward over-ambitious projects.

Well how will we ever find any new indie devs if we result to the pointing and laughing reaction that you have stated? As an upcoming developer like myself, if I werent as determined (or perhaps slightly insane) I may have given up by now with the amount of encouragement I have seen from others. But like I said, I am not here to debate flaming people on forums.

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starstutter 101 Oct 01, 2008 at 01:21

@jakt

But hey, crying about other people getting flamed wasn’t really the point I was trying to make here, so thats a whole different issue.

heh, yeah that’s kind of collateral damage

Well how will we ever find any new indie devs if we result to the pointing and laughing reaction that you have stated?

Darwinism I guess. Yeah, it’s totally possible that a begginner with real potential has a lapse of judgment (happens to just about everybody) and fires up in super-plugging mode of forums in exceitment. At that point the laughing will start and fingers will point. There’s one of 2 options:

(A) He’ll give up totally after starting on the project and learns the reality of complex programming (or networking, yeesh) and drop his temp hobby.

(B) He’ll realize his lapse in judment later, but say oh well and start a new, more realistic project. He’ll also probably realize that even though he made himself look like an ass, this is the internet where you can slap a new face on yourself in a matter of minutes and get a fresh start (great aint it).

Point is, the ones who were going to become a real developer anyway will probably take path B, and the ones who were never serious about it will inevadably choose A. Remember that most of the mmo poo flingers that come on forums have no idea how to code and want to take a role as “producer” or “designer”, with both those roles being essentially useless in a small group.

As an upcoming developer like myself, if I werent as determined (or perhaps slightly insane).

We’re all insane here \^\^

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timothyinspa 101 Oct 01, 2008 at 01:33

lol agree with starstutter, I find this topic that shows the true Devmaster Spirit! :)

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rouncer 103 Oct 01, 2008 at 04:27

i dont think anyones doomed unless they think they are.

jakt - dont listen to anyone here - DO IT.

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IncludeNoErrors 101 Oct 01, 2008 at 09:10

Personally I believe it can be done, just drop the first “M” in “MMO”.

Man management on a Indie game is going to be the first hurdle, dedication next, then the issue of cash.

Don’t aim to be the next WoW killer, just be different, addictive and if you get as far as Beta, let them know exactly what to expect. e.g. Its not WoW its not ‘“M”assive.’

As for a Indie MMO on par with the big-guns, unless.. you find a ton of top notch unemployed programmers, concept artist, 2d/3d-artists, level designers, Accountants, PR staff, Support Noddies, Level 1 server(s) host etc etc etc + a venture capitalist whom lives in the clouds.

Remember someone at some point probably told Roy Trubshaw that a MuD could not be made in the 70s.

M.

With failure you gain knowledge, with success you gain status -AE

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Sol_HSA 119 Oct 01, 2008 at 10:39

@IncludeNoErrors

  • a venture capitalist whom lives in the clouds.

Are there any other kind? =)

Personally, I don’t care if people go and try to make a WoW killer. It’s just those “join *my* mmo project and code it for me” people I’d rather be without.

Why does it always have to be *your* mmo project? Why not join another that’s starting; there’s plenty to go around..

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Mikee 101 Oct 01, 2008 at 11:41

I don’t believe that MAKING an MMORPG is much harder than making a standard RPG. It’s harder, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think the gap is as big as people seem to make out.

Deploying and support it is MUCH harder, granted. But your typical indie developer isn’t going to have 8 million players jumping into the game the moment it comes out of beta.

If you’ve managed to create an interesting well written game and you don’t have the resources to support the amount of players and interest you’re getting - you grow. Most companies don’t just spring out of the ground with multimillion dollar server farms and huge support teams at their disposal.

As for needing a small country of people to beta test your game, I don’t agree. A guy I know has a game in alpha testing now and from what I’ve heard he’s got over a thousand people testing the game and the project is going very well. He’s not expecting to take on WoW or Lotro or anything like that, he’s simply making a game with a concept which he thinks people will enjoy and he will no doubt expand if the demand is there.

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rouncer 103 Oct 01, 2008 at 13:12

i dont think even the pro ones have much in the way of content in them, thats why i dont play them.

*kill me im annoying*

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starstutter 101 Oct 01, 2008 at 16:21

@IncludeNoErrors

Personally I believe it can be done, just drop the first “M” in “MMO”.

Totally, but then it’s not an MMO anymore :D

Man management on a Indie game is going to be the first hurdle, dedication next, then the issue of cash.

I think it’s more round-about than that:
1. Personal Dedication
2. Personal Knowledge
3. Getting a working demo so worth-while people will join you
4. Team dedication / knowledge
5. money
6. Painful legal crap

Don’t aim to be the next WoW killer, just be different,

Awesome! Someone who gets it! The only way indie companies can possibly compete with AAA titles is by being innovative. If you put out a cookie cutter shooter or a knockoff WoW, you’re going to be crushed by the quality expectations.

On a different note, I wonder just how much indie companies can compete with big names. Obviously AAA companies make millions of dollars more than indies, but in the end it all comes down to profit/expense ratios, and in that sense it may be closer than most may think.

unless.. you find a ton of top notch unemployed programmers, concept artist, 2d/3d-artists, level designers,

There’s probably more of them than you think. Lots of college students in these fields are looking to make tangible portfolio work. The only thing more impressive than a detailed model created by an artist is having that model running around and being life-like. As far as programmers go, having a completed game with good art assests would look incredible on a resume.

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rouncer 103 Oct 01, 2008 at 16:43

starscrewer->

just cause your a regular ass sniffer, just prooves that you got what you didnt invent.
go suck up to .oisyn more, hes your big hero.

but im not knocking your knowledge or how good you are… but why dont you stick up for
yourself instead of training into being a successful sheep.

im quite sure i could convert any rpg across to be able to do it, its not such a big thing to
say, thats why youll work out why your a dumbo in the end, all of you.

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Nodlehs 101 Oct 01, 2008 at 17:09

@jakt

So is there some hidden aspect to multiplayer RPG software production that I am not seeing, or are single player RPG’s just not seen on an epic scale as MMO’s are?

What you are missing is time. It is very possible for one man (or a small team) to write an MMO. The problem is how long it is going to take them. As the years wear on they will probably lose interest and move onto something more realistic.
@rouncer

starscrewer->

just cause your a regular ass sniffer, just prooves that you got what you didnt invent.
go suck up to .oisyn more, hes your big hero.

but im not knocking your knowledge or how good you are… but why dont you stick up for
yourself instead of training into being a successful sheep.

im quite sure i could convert any rpg across to be able to do it, its not such a big thing to
say, thats why youll work out why your a dumbo in the end, all of you.

Do you even bother reading what you write before you hit the “Submit Reply” button? If you want to flame someone because you think they are brown nosing and what not, fine, go for it. But please make it so I can read it. I don’t like to whip out the popcorn for a flame war if I have to read each post 5 times to decipher what the person is trying to say. There is a “Preview Post” button for a reason.

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starstutter 101 Oct 01, 2008 at 21:17

@Nodlehs

What you are missing is time. It is very possible for one man (or a small team) to write an MMO. The problem is how long it is going to take them. As the years wear on they will probably lose interest and move onto something more realistic.

Exactly, there’s will power to a point, but then you begin to realize there’s much better things you could be doing with your time. You could complete an MMO theoreticly, but as said above, is it really worth it?

Do you even bother reading what you write before you hit the “Submit Reply” button?

Just ignore him, he’s kinda….. :rolleyes:

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DeBraveMan 101 Oct 03, 2008 at 23:09

The point is do you need a large sum to make an MMO???
My answer to that is NO.You can make an MMO without spending a large sum of because the tools we have now to develop games is between FREE to thousands of dollars depending on where you get your resources from. Buying from an actual game company or other compant sources will cost between hundreds to thousands of dollars.Downloading from a website is between FREE to a few hundreds of dollars.Then with a game programming or designing books it will be free to nearly a hundred dollars depending on tool set service.You have to pay at least $20 to $80 depending on the publisher him or herself.I would rather choose using the books (as I have bought about six books) because they come with a great deal of information ,knowledge,and key points.They’ll teach you along the lines of actually hands on development.The more books you buy the more open your possibilities and knowledge is to when you know about game development now.So you can already have an good idea of game development to when you start in the actuality of business.Start small,then go bigger with each step of the way…..

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ville_v 101 Oct 04, 2008 at 16:51

@starstutter

I have 2 words for you,
BRUTE FORCE
That is the term I would use to describe this:

servers.jpg

It has nothing do do with the programming challenge, it has to do with the sheer amount of power you need to support that many players in one game world. THIS is why you need millions of dollars, it’s not a matter of will-power. I guarentee you that the dedicated servers you’re thinking of are not nearly powerful enough to run something on an MMO scale.

Other than that, no, there’s really not a whole lot of difference for programming. That’s why an RPG can be made by one person, and a *real* MMO is next to impossible. Now, what is possible is an Multiplayer Online RPG. It’s the “massive” part that so hard.

An indie MMORPG does not need as much resources as a government or Google.

For 1000 players online, one good decicated server is enough, even though you won’t get as good ping as some FPS would require. If you have 100 players online, even some donated server is more than enough.

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starstutter 101 Oct 04, 2008 at 18:25

@ville-v

For 1000 players online, one good decicated server is enough, even though you won’t get as good ping as some FPS would require. If you have 100 players online, even some donated server is more than enough.

But there’s always a catch 22 here. Yeah, you can support that many online, but then it’s not an MMO.

Now, I’m no server expert, but if Valve has trouble running 32 players in the same game without severe lag, I don’t know how indies think they have a prayer of supporting upwards of 1000 in the same game.

Btw, yes that pic was exagerating, I was just stating an example, a single million dollar server stack didn’t look very impressive in the picture ;)

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ville_v 101 Oct 05, 2008 at 10:48

@starstutter

But there’s always a catch 22 here. Yeah, you can support that many online, but then it’s not an MMO.

Then no MMO except Eve Online is MMO. Unless I am mistaken, no other game has over 2000 players online in the same world in the same time, more like 500-1000.
@starstutter

Now, I’m no server expert, but if Valve has trouble running 32 players in the same game without severe lag, I don’t know how indies think they have a prayer of supporting upwards of 1000 in the same game.

In FPS, one who wins is only about the ping, so it has to be as small as possible. In MMORPG, on the other hand, 100ms is enough for all playing situations, 500ms is enough for most but might seem a little laggy, and even lag of 2000ms would be enough for everything else than fighting. After all, most players will be either walking around, marketing or chatting.

Global chat channels and auction houses are good features lag-wise, because that means there are not certain places, such as pvp arenas or town centra, into which people will be collecting to sosialize. If map terrains are saved locally, only thing to be sent about the surrounding world is information of the nearby actors and their actions.

Many years ago people could not even dream of server hardware which is possible to obtain for $1000 today, yet there were UO, EQ and Tibia.

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alphadog 101 Oct 07, 2008 at 17:52

@rouncer

starscrewer-> just cause your a regular ass sniffer, just prooves that you got what you didnt invent.

You sound like a petulant child who has recently been reprimanded, and has a really nasty “I’ll show them” streak in him now. Also, you have my vote for DevMaster’s “Most Likely To Go Postal”.

While starstutter is a little aggressive in style, he usually gives bang-on advice.

Really, every thread you are in, you take people who give advice based on taking a measured approach to learning game development and think they’re dream killers, then proceed to bash them. I’ve seen this in many threads. Why? What is it about having that opinion like that that would make you lash out at starstutter?

Seriously, there should be more game devs. But, the world is full of MMOs that look alike.

Want to see an interesting indie dev who isn’t working on an MMO? How about the guy who created Braid? (http://braid-game.com/)

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alphadog 101 Oct 07, 2008 at 18:01

@jakt

I was merely contrasting the amount of work involved in creating a single player game compared to a MMO on a given scale, and was interested in why the community believes this contrast to be such a large gap.

You may have missed my own answer in the thread, but I did list a handful of a many reasons why code-related development of an MMORPG, as compared to a single-player RPG (SPRPG?), and without even considering larger level issues like testing and go-live, is much harder.

Security needs, networking complexity, robustness requirements, etc, etc, etc. Some go from non-existent in a SPRPG to highly critical in an MMORPG, like security. Other are just “escalated” in need and complexity, like robustness. (If an SPRPG crashes, only one player is affected. If an MMORPG crashes, so does your company.)

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starstutter 101 Oct 07, 2008 at 19:45

@alphadog

Security needs, networking complexity, robustness requirements, etc, etc, etc. Some go from non-existant in a SPRPG to highly critical in an MMORPG, like security.

A good example of this is Stick Arena by xGen Studios. It’s not an MMO, but it is a multiplayer flash game powered by an MMO type server (mmocha I think). It used to be a fantastic game when it first came out, but the servers had too many security flaws. Even though I’m sure they did the best they could, the game soon was flooded with so many hackers that it was completley unplayable. It was so bad that it got to where even the hackers couldn’t play well because there was so much tampering with the mechanics, people constantly got stuck in walls. If xGen, a company with years and years of networking experience, can’t make a security system that can stand up to small time hackers, I would think it would be impossible to create a security system that could stand up to a good hacker determined to bring down the giant (your MMO).

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rouncer 103 Oct 07, 2008 at 21:41

VILLE V YOUR RIGHT.

4 quad cores linked up will give you tonnes more.

and thats doin it kickass.

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alphadog 101 Oct 08, 2008 at 00:41

@ville-v

For 1000 players online, one good decicated server is enough, even though you won’t get as good ping as some FPS would require. If you have 100 players online, even some donated server is more than enough.

Could you describe the system (software + hardware + connectivity) you benchmarked to arrive at those numbers? I’d love to actually get a sense of “real-life” numbers. I agree you can do quite a bit with a modern-day COTS server; in fact, I just built a quad-core, 8GB RAM, 1 TB server for about $600. This server would have been drooled over four years ago. But, it’s not just the “4 quad cores linked up will give you tonnes more” that is the most important. I’d think available bandwidth is a bigger issue, and that’s still expensive these days, relative to COTS servers.

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TheNut 179 Oct 08, 2008 at 02:26

Well, I suppose if an old P2 233 is still used to host Hotmail’s millions of users today, I guess today’s system should fly pretty well in comparison ;)

Regarding the OT, I’ll just add that when you actually analyze the full set of requirements in a product, any product and not just MMO, you’ll realize the fine details make out 80% of the time required to develop it. It’s easy to look at something and say “Yeah, I’ll build a TCP/IP library that can support up to an infinite number of users” and yes, it’s really easy to do. Clustering, adding gateways, backups, synchronization, security, databasing, etc… consume a tremendous amount of time. And if not designed carefully, by the time you’re nearing completion the defects will start to roll in. I wouldn’t be surprised if WoW devs want to hang themselves with the amount of boring defect work they have to maintain. A lot of would-be game devs really don’t look at it from that angle.

Having said that, I think it’s fair to consider reducing the amount of M in MMO. There’s a certain threshold I believe that is doable, even by just one person. If M < 128 (for example), it’s possible, even with very simple and ad-hoc designs, to maintain a usable system. If you negate the use of clustering and multi-network architectures, the product model is simple enough that I’m sure experienced programmers are more than capable of handling. But as the networking and related requirements are reduced, there’s a balancing act where the quality in graphics and math are vastly increased. So either way you look at it, you’re going to be spending a lot of time somewhere ;)

Oh, and a recent discussion on security. FYI, it’s incredibly easy to bring down a server. Finding hole in the protocol is one way (and usually not hard), sending garbage I find has crashed servers numerous times. I’ve spoken with some buddies that actually executed code on server machines due to faulty message handling. One more reason to work extra hard to prevent that from happening.

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alphadog 101 Oct 08, 2008 at 03:55

@TheNut

Well, I suppose if an old P2 233 is still used to host Hotmail’s millions of users today, I guess today’s system should fly pretty well in comparison :)

Are you being facetious? I think (hope?) so, and that I missed it. Hotmail does not run on a P2. Back in about 2000, at about the time of the conversion from unix-based systems to W2K, I remember something like \~100 mil users, with something like \~3000 front servers, and a lower number of backend servers, about 1000.

To constrain this issue as it applies to coding, we can see some differences (the “gap”) between an SPRPG and an MMORPG. In the latter, you start having to make design considerations which is what I think you are trying to say: do you code up for multiple nodes with a limit of players? Do you go for broke and build a massively scalable system? Just what hardware will be available in a year, or two, or four, and how many more players can you glom onto your 32-core super-parallelized P8?

With an SPRPG, this is simply not as complicated to set in paper…

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ville_v 101 Oct 08, 2008 at 05:33

@alphadog

Could you describe the system (software + hardware + connectivity) you benchmarked to arrive at those numbers? I’d love to actually get a sense of “real-life” numbers. I agree you can do quite a bit with a modern-day COTS server; in fact, I just built a quad-core, 8GB RAM, 1 TB server for about $600. This server would have been drooled over four years ago. But, it’s not just the “4 quad cores linked up will give you tonnes more” that is the most important. I’d think available bandwidth is a bigger issue, and that’s still expensive these days, relative to COTS servers.

Since I do not have a MMO server running, I am basing the fact to the statistics of the Eternal Lands.

@http://eternal-lands.blogspot.com/2006/09/server-migration-is-complete.html

The new server is a Dual P4 Xeon 3Ghz
The old server is a Dual P3 1.2 Ghz

The same, about the new server:

We run all kind of stress tests, and noticed that with 2K pending connections, it went as high as 50% CPU.

Then some blog posts about the old server (Stats above):
850 players online, server load stays under 20%.

@http://eternal-lands.blogspot.com/2006/10/device-polling-on-freebsd_03.html

<graphs snipped, follow link> To be fair, the “before” one was taken in the weekend, where we had about 100 more connections. However, notice how now the usage is at 1/4 of that (with about 570 peak connections). The actual server process took about 6.5% of the CPU with 600 connections.

750 players online, highest peak in bandwidth was only 1.1 Mbps (out).

By that I am estimating server with some cheap nowaday’s hardware and 1 Mbps out could happily manage 1000 players.

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gillvane 101 Oct 11, 2008 at 00:21

At MMORPG Maker, people are still plugging away at making their own MMORPGs. Some people are doing alpha tests, working on models, etc.

There are various Torque projects, and soon RC2 will release source code so people will start adding to that, and probably make some kits similar to the Torque Kit.

If you’ve got info about making an MMORPG and would like to share it, please drop by. The site has been around for a good while now, (since 2005) and we’ve managed to put together quite a few folks that are interested in making their own MMO’s.