Modding to commercial game developmenet, questions

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Genocyber 101 Jul 07, 2011 at 10:39

Hello DevMaster community,

Im an experienced modder looking to move into indie game development. Im project leader of Vermillion Sector for Sins of a Solar Empire and The Journeyman Project for Fallout: New Vegas.

Been modding for about 2 years and within that time Ive managed to put together a talented team of 3 professional 3d/shader artists, c++ programmers, several geck scripter’s, map makers and a talented chap who by himself made Fallout 3 multiplayer.

During this time I was approached by an individual who ask me to head up a project on PC he was going to fund, using my experience and contacts. I told him Im probably not the best person to lead the team because I only have experience modding not developing commercial games but he seems to think Im the man for the job so here I am.

Im going to outline the basics of the game and need to know if this could realistically be developed on a 40k budget before I invest my time and energy into attempting to get this off the ground.

Plan
Most of our budget will be spent on the engine, programmers and legal fees. The 3d/shader and fx will be made by my mod teams 3d artists, getting 1% royalties for each model. Sound and UI/2D art will be place holders until we either get a loan from a bank/investors after seeing the proof of concept game play demo/finished buisness plan or from preorders. We plan to release early builds of the game to the people who have pre ordered from our website to help with these costs.

In a nutshell the game we wish to make is a multiplayer, realm v realm focused X-Com(classic), Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, World of Tanks and Company of Heroes hybrid with a micro transaction system. The engine we plan on using is Unity 3D, powerful engine, cheap commercial license.

X-Com
-Building a base
-Researching
-Troops level up
-Geoscape
-Battlescape

GRAW
-1st/3rd person shooter commander view
-Tactical command options

World of Tanks
-Realm v Realm
-Micro transactions
-Garage
-Shop

Company of Heroes
-Destructible terrain
-Simple cover system
-Grouped squad system
-Commander abilities unlocking over time
-Different commander types define unlocked abilities

These will be the main gameplay features, I will elaborate on each one if you want, but for now, here is the basic gist of it. The player starts the game by creating an account through the client after installing the game, he then logs in and sees the main screen, he can click on either (top to bottom): Start Game, News or Options (graphics settings, keybindings etc).

Start Game

Start Game takes the player to the race selection screen, where he then chooses one of 3 races to play as. After Choosing one of the 3 races, the player is then taken to the Base screen. From here, the player can build his base/purchase buildings, choose a technology to research from buildings purchased (research allows player to upgrade his vehicles/troops/command vehicle), can see the amount of credits he has (credits earnt from taking part in battles), can access the Shop (to purchase new troops, gear and command vehicles) where he can purchase premium credits that allow him to aquire items from the shop , the Garage (equip new troops, gear, allocate troops to limited command slots and equip command vehicle), Geoscape (view the entire planet, visually see how your realm is fairing against the other realms, how much terroritory each realm has) or take part in 15 v 15 player realm v realm combat in the Battlescape (leveled battles - equal amounts of different level players on each side). Your character will earn xp each battle and will level up, you can see your characters progress in the Garage. When your character levels up, it unlocks various troops and vehicles to command, along with command vehicles the player uses himself, all of which is purchased through the shop with credits earnt from taking part in battles, these are then added to your garage. Winning battles gives control of that territory to the faction that was victorious there. Each captured territory gives a small bonus to every player of the faction that controls it. If one faction captures every territory ingame, every player of that faction is rewarded a special ingame bonus of credits. If a faction loses every territory, they are then forced to attack from their spacestation/spaceships, which equals, only being able to attack their own capital..

News

News will be constantly updated relating to patches, community competitions and any other important information the play should know. Clicking on a news post from the slide will pop up that full article on screen..

Options

here the player can change his key bindings and change his graphics settings. This will not be a next-gen game but it will not have poor graphics..

..With this information, Ive been asked to research all relating information regarding implementation of the above project, writing a Game Design Document and to basically fill in the blanks and get this rolling.

So my questions are:
Is this a realistic project within a 40K budget?
Is Unity 3D the best engine for the job for our budget?
What kind of hardware will we need to support this type of RvR multiplayer?
What advice could you give to simplify/streamline this game?
Examples of a fluid micro transaction system?
Your over all opinion of this project?

13 Replies

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alphadog 101 Jul 07, 2011 at 14:08

Here’s the way you presented it:

  1. Background
  2. I have a budget of $40K
  3. It will be a multiplayer game.
  4. Here’s the starting screen menu and options.
  5. ???
  6. Profit?

You lost me between 3 and 4. You started out well, but then dropped into a detailed section of your eventual GDD, which is, frankly, irrelevant to the determination of feasibility. I’m not clear on what the minimum deliverable is to gauge it against the 40K capitalization.

What you need now is two things:
a) what is the minimum functionality you will deliver (I call it the MVP, minimum valuable product). Don’t worry too much about a GDD, except to have enough minimum detail to focus your team. A wiki, DVCS and project tracker trio is great for this (I tend to use FogBugz/Kiln). You have a small team and a supportive investor already. Leave a ponderous GDD to later when you may want to find a second partner.
B) and a financial forecast that shows you can make an ROI with the above MVP. Fire up a spreadsheet and start tracking where the money’s going to go. What are your sales projections? What’s your pricing model? How fast do you think you will you get players? How will you get players? What will it cost you to operate your company and servers? Can you break even?

Do this, if only for yourself before you sink a ton of time into it…
@Genocyber

Is this a realistic project within a 40K budget?

Can’t tell. Not enough detail.
@Genocyber

Is Unity 3D the best engine for the job for our budget?

Best? Well, that’s subjective. :) Capable? Yes.
@Genocyber

What kind of hardware will we need to support this type of RvR multiplayer?

Do you mean what kind of back-office server architecture you need? Totally depends on how many players one server can support given your final software architecture, and on how fast you think you’ll get players.

You’ll want to start with a handful of servers. One for the gameworld, one for the “lobby”, one for forums and other community activities. You want your game server to not share functionality with “more hackable” software like a vBulletin forum for gamers.
@Genocyber

What advice could you give to simplify/streamline this game?

Well, given that you’ve only told us of the starting screen, I’m not sure what useful suggestions I can make.
@Genocyber

Examples of a fluid micro transaction system?

Be careful. Microtransaction games tend to attract and have different dynamics than subscription systems. You may want to research this before committing.
@Genocyber

Your over all opinion of this project?

Proof is in the pudding. Go out there and execute smartly!

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fireside 141 Jul 07, 2011 at 16:47

Unity has advantages and disadvantages, so take a look at it carefully before deciding. One nice thing about it is that FoxGameServer has a nice multi-player setup for it. Disadvantages, for me, is that it’s a component based engine, which makes it harder to organize. The tree system is nice, also, which makes populating worlds quite a bit easier and they’re physics based so they blow in the wind, etc.
3d Gamestudio pro version has a good multi-player setup also. I think they give advice on the hardware setup needed, and BigWorld has an indie version.
Going from a mod to coding a game means writing a lot more code and having to do a lot more testing and debugging, which means projects take a lot longer to complete.
Your main advantage is you’ve got a group of guys that are used to working for free. If you had to pay everyone, that 40k would be gone pretty quick. The plan seems ambitious but I think people kind of expect that in a large world multi-player game. It’s going to take a lot of development time I would think. One problem might be that it doesn’t sound particularly original. You might want to think about some kind of wild setting or something that would set it off from other games. Generally for an indy game, you want to go less complicated and more original. I don’t think any of the engines I mentioned will do destructible terrain.

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Genocyber 101 Jul 08, 2011 at 00:34

Thanks for the responses guys,
@alphadog

I’m new at this so wasn’t sure if I was meant to write down the whole GDD, which I’m sure no one wants to read or go with a super slimmed down ‘in a nutshell’ version. Went with the nutshell version and obviously that didnt work out to well.

Ill elaborate on actual battlescape gameplay for now before responding to your replies. This is the core of the gameplay, what we hope to achieve in some form with our small but experienced mod team and tight $40k budget. Ah an heres a link to the mod were currently working on if anyones intrested http://www.moddb.com/mods/the-journeyman-project

Storyline: Its the year 2073, highly advanced aliens have invaded Earth and thrown the world into chaos destroying many of the planets major cities and population centers. Several years later these aliens have allied themselves with Russia to the disgust and total shock of the rest of the world.

This leaves 3 major powers fighting for control across the worn torn Earth - NATO, Chinese Empire and the Russian-Alien Dominion. These are the 3 playable factions taking part in the RvR conflict for control of Earth.

The idea is to use the carrot and stick philosophy to tempt the player into constantly leveling up in order to purchase the vast array of real world and scifi weaponry and upgrades located in the shop.

Theme: A gritty near future cyberpunk world against a post apocalyptic backdrop of its former self. Think Blade Runner meets Akira.

Core gameplay elaboration pt 1:

Before you enter the Battlescape, you have 4 slots and your commander slot in your Garage where you allocate your forces and upgrade them. You can equip an infantry squad, IFV+Infantry squad, Landmate Squad(small mecha), Main Battle Tank or an Assault Frame (large mecha) to any of the 4 squad slots. You then have a special command variant of each of these which you control yourself in either the 1st person or 3rd person view.

Important assets that come to mind:

-UI art for garage screen and Music for Garage screen.
-UI art for troop portraits.
-UI art for the 4 squad slots troops are placed in.
-Can visually see all owned troops and command vehicles/infantry stored in garage and rotate them horizontally by scrolling an icon to select a troop to view.
-Troops upgradeable in Garage.
-Upgraded Troops will have increased stats and sometimes appear different and sound different.
-Commander bar on the side of garage shows your level, current amount of xp till next level, earnt credits and if you have any premium service active.

Core gameplay elaboration pt 2:

You then click the Geoscape view to see who controls what territory across the planet. You then click ‘Join the Battle’ - this takes you to a loading screen, where you can see the 15 players from each side joining the battle. This process is leveled, so equal amounts of players will be on each side. One side won’t have 15 level 60’s while the other side only has 2

Important assets that come to mind:

-3D planet that you can rotate
-One conflict zone for most major cities on the planet
-Territory represented by mosaic style faction colors over controlled territory
-Uncontrolled Territory has no color over it
-Current faction bonuses from controlled territory displayed in top right corner
-Locations currently in dispute and being fought over have battle icon over them
-Locations not being fought over only have that factions logo over them
- Loading screen as players from both sides join a battle consists of background art, and names of each player on opposite sides of the screen join, next to their level.

Core gameplay elaboration pt 3:

As the battle begins, a count down timer counts down from 10 to 0, in this time, each player chooses one of 3 commander types that will define the commander abilities they can use ingame. The 3 types are Offensive, Support and Healer. Once the timer hits 0 each sides players and troops spawn on the opposing sides of the map and are tasked with capturing and holding various locations of importance around the map. These range from fuel depots to military bases or research facilities. There are 10 of these locations on each map. Holding a location earns your entire team points, once you have earned enough points, special commander abilities are unlocked for every player on that faction depending on the commander type he choose for that battle. Abilities range from airstrikes, to spy planes and vehicle/troop heal buffs or weapon increase buffs.

Every piece of terrain is destructible from trees to walls to houses. Houses are not garrisonable by infantry. Many large structures that reaches 0 health, enable all units in the game to pass through it at a slowed movement speed, or stand in it to receive a cover bonus. This is the only type of cover which applies to both vehicles and infantry. All units have a LOS, which can be upgraded and is blocked by static objects. There is a limited fog of war. Certain types of smaller static destructible objects give cover to infantry if the stand next to them, all this cover dose is reduces incoming ranged damage. There isn’t multiple types of cover that give good and excellent grades of cover, there is only one type. This type of will be destroyed if it receives enough damage. It’s simply a collision meshed static with health that has a radius around which triggers a small graphic above nearby infantry’s icon to appear, and has several ‘snap to’ markers placed all over it which the infantry will snap to and shoot from until killed, told to move or the cover is destroyed.

We do not plan to give vehicles or infantry ‘damageable’ parts, they simply have a certain amount of armor, when that armor reaches 0 that unit is killed. This is the same for static objects aswell. Upgrades to troops and vehicles, different weapon types and unit weapon skill plus accuracy decide on if the target is hit, if it penetrates and how much damage is done upon penetration.

The player will command his troops with a simple pop-out command menu where he selects his troops from their unit portraits, direct selection or hotkeys. He can issues orders to his whole force or to individual units. Commands consist of ‘move to’ ‘fallback’ ‘attack here’ ‘attack move’ ‘hold fire’ ‘use special ability’ ‘follow me’ ‘follow x unit’ and ‘defend position’. The commander can also issue several formation orders which apply to his whole force. He can also change the behavior of his whole force, or individual units by ordering them to be aggressive, passive or defensive on the fly. Furthermore, the player can change the behavior of his troops ai by setting up their combat tactics, which works very similar to Dragon Age’s ‘Tactics’ screen, this can only be done in the Garage screen before battles. This way you dont have to tell you lightly armed units to not shoot at the heavily armored things manually, freeing you up to focus on other important tactical decisions.

When you are killed, you can respawn. Respawning takes a minute for the player, in that time, any units you had on the field at the time of your death, ‘defend position’ and are extremely vulnerable until you are respawned. Once you respawn, units still remaining from when you died, begin to travel to where ever you respawned. If any of your units are destroyed during combat, you can fall back to advanced command posts to purchase reinforcements to refill the ranks of killed troops. Players respawning uses up a small amount of the whole teams victory points. Troop reinforcements use up the players personally allocated commander points, points which he can also use on his special commander abilities. This is akin to ‘mana’ and is earnt depending on how many kills the player has made, kill assists, critical damage, points he captured or helped capture and a small percentage of his teams total victory point income.

Once one side earns a certain amount of points before the other side, that side is victorious. They are then awarded credits and exp depending on how many hits and misses their weapons made, how many kill assist they made, how many times they were hit by an enemy, if they were killed, if their troops were killed and if they captured or helped capture a point. All players are then taken to a post game screen where the name and level of player is shown next to his k/d ratio. Also, strictly visual awards will be given to players on this post-game screen who achieve most kills, assisted kills and take most victory objectives.

After this the player then can then choose to enter the next match or go back to the Geoscape view.

Core gameplay elaboration pt 4:

Total required assets:

Sound fx, model, animation, texture, data/stats, collision data, 2d art for troop garage and shop icons, battlescape unit portrait, health bar icon, unit type indicator icon, team indicator icon, in cover icon and enemy spotted icon - all for light, medium and heavy - infantry squad, IFV and Infantry squad, Landmate Squad, Main Battle Tank and Mecha per each of the 3 playable factions.

Sound fx, 1st person and 3rd person model, animation, texture, data/stats, collision data, 2d art for players command squad/vehicle.

Sound fx, model, animation, texture, data/stats, collision data for every ingame prop from trees to buildings.

Programming, sound fx, music, 2d art for Installer, uninstaller, main menu, news, options, shop.

Programming, sound fx, music, 2d art, models, textures and animations for garage and geoscape.

Physics, smoke, grass, exhaust and dust blow in the direction of the wind.

Website and forum.

Lobby server.

Battlescape server.

Website server.

Any nessicary software or hardware needed to complete the above.

Legal fees.

There’s the steak and potatoes of this game, all concept of course. Still a little unsure how to fully impliment the base building so I left it out. I personally dont feel we even need it but the investor wants it there in some shape or form. The team, myself and the $40k budget is strictly for the above, to get a proof of concept gameplay demo released and eventually closed beta testing. Eventually we plan to add a ‘skirmish mode’ to the main menu where the player can fight against the cpu offline, choose who he fights against and who he fights as. He can change the difficulty. Playing in skirmish mode offers no reward/xp/credits to the player its simply instant gratification and learn how to play the game in a relaxed non competitive environment.

It’s also painfully obvious from reading your reply that even as a seasoned modder I’m way out of my league here. I sense I should definitely read a book or 2 at the very least on game design before I go any further because back-office server architecture, minimum deliverable, DVCS and project tracker trio, FogBugz, Kiln and ROI are terms I’ve never heard of before. Any books in specific I should start on?

What I do know is we would base our sales projections on the sales similar games have made. I’m pretty sure there’s data bases out there that for a price I can access the information relating to games sales similar to ours and base our projections on them. Again, I’m not a commercial game dev so I could be totally wrong here, probably am.

Pricing model consists of a onetime payment of $10.00 which lets you install and play the game, we hope to have the game available on Steam. Also, you can purchase 8000 credits through the micro payment system for $8.00 and there will be a special monthly package for $15 which gives you 10000 credits, selection of camo schemes for you and your troops for 30 days and x2 xp per battle for 30 days.

Im also now tempted to go with UDK, now that you guys hopefully understand what we hope to accomplish, would you say UDK or Unity 3d is better suited to this game type?

Were definitely still going with micro transactions, but we want to make it as streamlined as possible, where you only enter your credit card details once, after that all micro transactions will occur in game from the shop, this pings our secured payment server to then automatically withdraw the money from your account, similar to how easy it is to buy a game off Steam.

@fireside
Thanks for the head sup, I’ve yet to really dig into the various engines out there and what they can an can’t do for us because I just wanted to see if this project is even viable at this point. From what I’ve heard from both you and alphadog sounds both encouraging and sobering as though this project could get off the ground, but we seriously need to do way, wayyy more research before we spend a single penny or start pumping out models.

Hopefully you guys now have a better understanding of what we’re trying to achieve here, again apologies about being so vague and un organized in my previous post.

When you say component based, isnt that a good thing? Those prefabs look like a great way to jump start development and FoxGameServer sounds great aswell, 2 things I will definitely look into over the next few weeks.

Never heard of 3d Gamestudio pro version, again will have to look into that and is BigWorld an indie dev website or something?

Regarding the coding, this is what the bulk of our $40k budget is for. We can do all the models, textures and 2d art ourselves. Will probably also have to spend on animations as well as most of this team has only dabbled in it.

The world isn’t really ‘large’ either it’s simply based on many major citys boxed in world spaces surrounded by invisible walls, similar to the world spaces in Fallout aka levels or maps. When you click ‘join battle’ your randomly chosen to play on a random map within the ‘open conflict’ pool of maps. All that happens is whichever faction wins a number of matches on a certain map withing say 2 days that map is then locked out from the pool of playable randomized maps for say a day while the maps next to it then entered into the randomzied pool of ‘open conflict’ maps.

This then updates the 3d earth in the Geoscape so people can visually see their side has lost or conquered that map (territory on the planet) Were just creating the illusion thats its this massive battle for earth when really its just a series of deathmatches, a lobby (main menu, garage and Geoscape) and a shop for the spend ‘whales’ and players with saved credits to go buy that next juicy carrot. The team, investor and myself personally feel this is a pretty dynamic, fun and hopefully addictive gameplay structure. We feel the way were intermingling various gameplay elements that have worked very well for other games into our gritty near future cyberpunk world on a post apocalyptic backdrop utilising both Japanese and American art styles will set us apart from the crowd.

Thats what we, the inexperienced ones think anyways.

If you guys are saying the game needs to be more origional though, I wont argue with you, infact I thank you for pointing that out. Like I said earlier Ill pickup a good game dev book or 2, put on our collective thinking caps and go back to the drawing board cause we honestly dont wanna waste what will probably be an epic amount of time an energy and our investors money.

Cheers guys, look forward to your replys.

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fireside 141 Jul 08, 2011 at 08:36

UDK isn’t an MMO engine. It’s built for 64 players per server which would get expensive.

http://forums.epicgames.com/showthread.php?t=709760
It’s a great engine if you could get it to work, of course.

I think BigWorld would be your best bet, personally.
If you look at the games, you can see there are projects along the lines of yours. You would need the indie license with source, I’m pretty sure. You might end up paying 10 percent of profits to them, also.

http://www.bigworldtech.com/index/index.php

I wouldn’t write off 3d Gamestudio without looking at it carefully. The pro version is built for MMO’s, and they’re willing to give advice, and you wouldn’t be paying 10 percent of your profits to them. You could probably construct a lot of the game with the cheaper version and then upgrade if it looked feasible. Remember when you look at these engines that a lot of what you are looking at is the artwork of the developer. If it handles shaders and reasonable amount of polygons you can write a good looking game with it.

Maybe Unity doesn’t connect well with me personally, I’m not sure, but I prefer an engine that extends classes to a component based one. I think it would work for a scene type game or one that is a combination of smaller worlds. It’s really easy to get models into it from any main modeling package including Blender, which is why I like it. There’s a big difference between a prefab and a class. Prefabs can handle different property specs, but it seems limiting to me. You can use classes in Unity, you just can’t extend the object class.

You guys have quite a bit of experience, it’s just going to be a bigger project than what you’ve been doing up till now, and this kind of venture has a high failure rate, but you’ve basically been working for free in the past, so if you watch spending, you should be all right until you get a good prototype finished.

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rouncer 104 Jul 08, 2011 at 10:41

might as well make a game from scratch if ya can. ;)

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alphadog 101 Jul 08, 2011 at 18:16

I’ll preface that my comments are not to be taken as a put-down or as buzz-killer. I firmly believe that the lack of (or too much) proper-but-lean preparation is what kills almost all projects.
@Genocyber

I’m new at this so wasn’t sure if I was meant to write down the whole GDD

You are in the midst of resource planning and you want to know if it is doable. The big word for it is feasability study. This depends on a loose technical requirements doc, not a full-blown GDD with the architecture, the look-and-feel, the plot and the kitchen sink. Focus! :) The storyline is essentially irrelevant. The detailed rules system is irrelevant, but not some salient features like deformable terrain. In fact, spending too much time on a whole GDD now is, well, not wasted time, but not-properly-prioritized time. But, you have to look at how your going to build the game to understand how much in-house vs. licensing you’ll take on.

What you need to work out are:
a) the larger architectural issues and top-level requirements and the technology to support it, ex: deformable terrain, number of players in the game world over time, number of concurrent players over time, general use cases (how many and binned by small/med/large in terms of cost-to-build?), frameworks/packages/libraries, guestimates on bandwidth usage, etc. The goal is to itemize all requirements that have a non-negligeable cost to deliver or maintain.
B) the formal end goal(s) like “indie subscription-based MMO with 500 players in the first year”, or “casual, social MMO like SecondLife-meets-BladeRunner with 10K players in two years”, or “we-have-already-popular-Cartoon-Network-IP MMO to suck money out of kids MMO”?
c) all that trickles into a profit/loss analysis that outlines anticipated revenues and expenses and if the goals make sense.

It’s very nice that you have a $40K starter, but a commerially-successful MMO is possibly the largest project one can take on. Essentially, $40K pays for two good devs (very approx at $40/hr fulltime, 40hrs/wk) for three months at basic workloads. And, this doesn’t take into account any other necessary staff (support personel, QA, etc), potential licenses on software you may want (like project management or asset tracking), servers (a decent dedicated single server will cost you about $200/mo), bandwidth, and other business costs like legal paperwork and such. Other things to have in your analysis is that, for example, using UDK commerically will result in you immediately cutting off about 25% of your net revenues after $50K, I think is the the current setup.

And, yes, there are MMOs that have started as hobbies and kinda made it, but those guys don’t care at the outset if it fails or not. I am assuming your investor wants a return on that $40K, so you can’t treat it as a “like whateva!” hobby.
@Genocyber

Any books in specific I should start on?

Amazon has lots of listed MMO architecture books. Get a recent one that lays down some basic understanding and lingo, then surf for more up-to-date ideas and trends.
@Genocyber

The idea is to use the carrot and stick philosophy to tempt the player into constantly leveling up in order to purchase the vast array of real world and scifi weaponry and upgrades located in the shop.

Stakeholders love the idea, but lots of gamers resent systems that tie success to the buying upgrades or enhancers. (Although, with the fact that this is the trend, there may not be choices of MMOs to move to soon.) Vanity items are usually okay, but obviously will fetch less revenue due to not all players being “vain” whereas more want to advance. B) Look at the current controversy on EVE; they even have a petition to stop “pay-to-win” gaming, as the players call it. They even had an in-game protest!

BTW, you will have to farm out your payment processing, so make sure you check how much you lose there to the providers. They don’t do this for free.
@Genocyber

Pricing model consists of a onetime payment of $10.00 which lets you install and play the game, we hope to have the game available on Steam. Also, you can purchase 8000 credits through the micro payment system for $8.00 and there will be a special monthly package for $15 which gives you 10000 credits, selection of camo schemes for you and your troops for 30 days and x2 xp per battle for 30 days.

A savvy investor would ask why? On what do you base these numbers? How solid are your numbers? Because they play into being able to make this thing fly long term.

BTW, on game engines, check out Esenthiel.

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Genocyber 101 Jul 11, 2011 at 23:56

I checked out Feasibility Study on wikipedia and from what I can gather, Its pretty much just a buisness plan? Writing down several different approaches for projections, costs and value for each of the TELOS factors.

Problem I can see is that without a company email, I cant get quotes from commercial companies for their services, so I cant list several different approaches and solutions to each TELOS and weigh them against each other without a pricing quote from the source. I say this because I recently emailed Unreal for a quote (professionally written email, no typos) and they basicially told me ‘were not giving quotes to some rookie with a freemail, now be gone with you, scum!’. This I can see happening across the board of inquiries I need to put togather the FS.

Originally Posted by alphadog What you need to work out are:
a) the larger architectural issues and top-level requirements and the technology to support it, ex: deformable terrain, number of players in the game world over time, number of concurrent players over time, general use cases (how many and binned by small/med/large in terms of cost-to-build?), frameworks/packages/libraries, guestimates on bandwidth usage, etc. The goal is to itemize all requirements that have a non-negligeable cost to deliver or maintain.
b) the formal end goal(s) like “indie subscription-based MMO with 500 players in the first year”, or “casual, social MMO like SecondLife-meets-BladeRunner with 10K players in two years”, or “we-have-already-popular-Cartoon-Network-IP MMO to suck money out of kids MMO”?
c) all that trickles into a profit/loss analysis that outlines anticipated revenues and expenses and if the goals make sense.

Larger architectual issues? Like needing to purchase a commercial version of Eclipse so all the devs can share and update the build in realtime? Or needing to know if purchasing a licence for the team extends its use to every dev with no additional cost? Or needing to teach team members how to use said dev enviroment if they are unfamiliar with it/need training?

Origionally posted by alphadog number of players in the game world over time

Im expecting around 1000 based on World of Tanks numbers, but thats just it, an expectation, I have nothing to base this on besides. How would I accurately calculate this?

Origionally posted by alphadog number of concurrent players over time

Dont understand.

Origionally posted by alphadog ‘general use cases (how many and binned by small/med/large in terms of cost-to-build?)’

Again im not at all familiar with this terminology and dont know what you mean.

Origionally posted by alphadog frameworks/packages/libraries

Wouldnt the framework, be included in the engine purchase? I know Fallout used basicially rared archives called .bsa that you could unpack to access non-data games assets. The game accessed these when you played, but if you created a folder with the same name of the bsa, in the instal directory with the same paths in it, you could drag and drop your own meshes, textures, sounds, skeleton and animation files, which would then overide the ones stored in the .bsa, which is why modding Fallout is so easy.

You then had the geck which let you script, and if new vegas script extender was installed, you could script much, much more. You then saved that in the geck, and boom theres your data file.

Then you had apps like NifScope which had a special way to tell the .nif files to look for the root of its attached files (textures for example) in the game install directory. Without NifScope, you would have to re enter the textures path in 3ds max for it to appear on the model ingame.

Were use to all this infrastructure already being there and have this notion that it will be included with any of the engines we purchase, is this not the case?

Origionally posted by alphadog guestimates on bandwidth usage, etc

-Wouldnt this be something you find out once youve built the alpha? How could you properly gauge the bandwith for a game that isnt even made yet? I guse we could play a game on a closed server during the alpha, record the useage, and extrapolate using our estimated user base or something? Whats the common pratice devs use to tackle this?

Origionally posted by alphadog The goal is to itemize all requirements that have a non-negligeable cost to deliver or maintain.

So basicially, I need to read lost of books to understand the fullscope of needed assets for an indie mmo developement project? K heres what Ive found so far.

Thank you DevMaster Community for these.

Bartle’s “Designing Virtual Worlds”
Raph Koster’s “Theory of Fun”
David Michael’s “Indie Game Development Guide”
Bartle’s MUD-DEV-L archives

After some googling.

The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses
Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design
Game Architecture and Design: Learn the Best Practices for Game Design and Programming

Shall I purchase all of them? Am I missing any gems?

From everything everyone has said, it looks as though BigWorld, Esenthiel and 3d Gamestudio are my best bets, but I probably cant gauge each engine professionally until i read some books. Till then you guys know the price for BigWorld Indie Source and Esenthiel Ultimate?

Im also speaking with another small indie team about collaberating on this game after we help them finish their smaller game. Since their game is already in production, Ill put the force of my team behind them after we release our mod, then when their game is finished, they will hopefully do the same for us.

How do we work out the structure of command and royalties for such a thing? Shall I grab a few books on Managment aswell? Should we have a say and vice versa in each others overall game dev?

Origionally posted by alphadog A savvy investor would ask why? On what do you base these numbers? How solid are your numbers? Because they play into being able to make this thing fly long term.

Just some rough numbers I based off an article I read on the net. I did this to give you a rough idea of what were aiming for.

I think thats it for now lads, hopefully havnt missed anything and thanks again for the supportive advice, really appreciate it!

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alphadog 101 Jul 12, 2011 at 14:29

@Genocyber

I checked out Feasibility Study on wikipedia and from what I can gather, Its pretty much just a buisness plan?

Essentially. It’s dangerous to google for business plans advice, as it is often written by people who rehash the wrong advice or have never had a startup! B)

You want to guess your profit & loss projection as accurately as possible, within reason and without it stopping you from executing (because in execution do you get your own real data).

I like to think of it as two engines…maybe a hybrid car? B)

The first engine is the sales engine. What kind of engine are you buying and what it its output? How will you market your game and at what cost? When will any of these sales or marketing projects hit your books? Word-of-mouth, advertising and/or trade show?

The second engine is the ops engine. What kind of staffing will you have and when? You need to consider when you’ll hire devs, backend sysadmins, game admins, QA testers, etc. What software licenses will you buy? Offices or distributed offices? How will you run company infrastructure for things like phone, email, etc? Staff, bandwidth costs (primarily day-to-day traffic and scheduled patching. as a side example, WoW patching involves chewing up petabytes of traffic per patch!) and hardware are your top expenses, in that order.

I’m not saying you need to be a Fortune 500 accountant to do this for a startup, but you do need to do the numbers, if only for yourself or to be able to cogently talk about the business to any other business person.
@Genocyber

Larger architectual issues? Like needing to purchase a commercial version of Eclipse so all the devs can share and update the build in realtime?

No. I mean what’s the whole crazy system going to look like at launch, top-level operationally-speaking? What backup/security pieces will you have? What cost to run them? It’s not just a single server for a commercial MMO; you have to anticipate for growth. It’s a game server(s), a web server, a firewall, an intrusion detector, in a rack, somewhere. Is it virtual? When will you bring in your second shard and load balancer? When will you need a CDN (content distribution network, such as akmai)?

What languages will you use? For example, C++ and C# are common, but somewhat more difficult for concurrent programming than say Erlang. But, the latter is more esoteric and good telent is hard to find and expensive.

What off-the-shelf software can you use at what cost vs. build-your-own? How much is the latter? What tools will you need?

About bandwidth, you need more than you may think. Taking something average like 2KB/user over 1K live, active users is 2048 * 8 * 1000 = 16Mbits/sec. You can’t use your oversubscribed Comcast cablemodem service that craps out when your neighbors download nyan cat from YouTube! :) You need a real dedicated connection, DS3 class! That’s anywhere from $1-2K/mo in the US.

What will it look like at launch? And then six months in? A thousand users in? How many servers, devs and such then?

It does not take long at all to burn up $40K. Not long at all. :)

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=25307

http://www.raphkoster.com/gaming/busmodels.shtml
@Genocyber

Im expecting around 1000 based on World of Tanks numbers, but thats just it, an expectation, I have nothing to base this on besides. How would I accurately calculate this?

Admittedly, this is the toughest nut to crack. You don’t know. Even an industry veteran wouldn’t know for sure. The goal, though, is to anticipate and to have a plan for some possible scenarios. Also, the idea is to determine how fast you want to grow, so that if you plan for slow, word-of-mouth ops but have a big national ad campaign, you will fail for not having matched what the sales engine is supplying to your ops engine.
@Genocyber

Dont understand.

Sorry. So much to say, so little time! :) What I meant is there’s a difference between saying I expect 1K subscribers/members/logins and actually having 500 users at any given moment banging away (concurrently) at your servers.
@Genocyber

Again im not at all familiar with this terminology and dont know what you mean.

Sorry, user stories. I usually get all the top-level user stories (proper scope is a bit of an art/craft) to get a feel for the size of the overall project and how many person-hours are in it.
@Genocyber

Wouldnt the framework, be included in the engine purchase?

Nope. You are thinking of your MMO as a mod on an MMO game. There’s no such thing.
@Genocyber

Were use to all this infrastructure already being there and have this notion that it will be included with any of the engines we purchase, is this not the case?

Right now, essentially yes. BigWorld and like come close.
@Genocyber

Wouldnt this be something you find out once youve built the alpha? How could you properly gauge the bandwith for a game that isnt even made yet?

Essentially by architecting the game and understanding (guesstimating?) at what the client communicates with the server. But, numbers on this on existing MMOs can be found on the net.

I haven’t answered all your question because I simply don’t have enough time. I’d love to, but… :)

At this point, I suggest you get some books on MMO architecture, get some language and start studying a little for a couple of weeks. Books like “Game Engine Architecture” by Gregory and like “Online Game Development” by Novak in the Game Essentials series. They are somewhat old, but for someone dipping into the field contain lots of still useful info. Don’t get books on “design” as in how to make an imaginative, fun game…. yet. :)

Also, check out some tech-heavy startups sites too, for expanding your understanding of starting a business.

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alphadog 101 Jul 12, 2011 at 17:39

BTW, this is a great example of how complicated an MMO can be:

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2011/07/monocles.ars

PS: take note on how CCP hires not one, but *two* economists.

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Genocyber 101 Jul 13, 2011 at 15:49

So to summarize, which do I tackle first, buisness plan or feasibility study? I guse feasibility study so i can create an asset list which i then use for the buisness plan?

Also, should I be getting paied to study and write these things? Im basicially the creative director, so should i be getting paied a quarter of my wage now, then have the rest of it owed and paied in small payments, along with my full wage once the compnay starts making a profit?

Thanks for those links aswell, no idea those eve players would auctually riot.. And the amount of people wow employ is auctually mind blowing..

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alphadog 101 Jul 13, 2011 at 16:50

@Genocyber

So to summarize, which do I tackle first, buisness plan or feasibility study? I guse feasibility study so i can create an asset list which i then use for the buisness plan?

The financial model is a part of an overall business plan. The other major parts of a plan is generally the market description (who’s your target?), the offering description (what is your product/service, defined at 10K foot level?), the sales and marketing plan (how will you sell it?) and the operating plan (how will you support it?).

The financial model is usually placed last in the plan, since it depends on seeing and understanding things found in the previous sections. However, it is built iteratively and in repeating cycles.

Your first versions of your business plan are essentially structured along the lines of a “feasibility study”, as you make sure that your project is viable. If the numbers don’t make sense, you need to recalibrate your project to make it make sense. However, as you see that the idea is viable, then you start laying out a plan of attack, your study becomes a business plan. The difference is that early on you’ll ask “Should we use gamer webzine advertising? If so, when?” and, if you and any other partners agree, put it into your document and the cost thereof in the financial plan. However, later refinements would be “We will advertise in webzines X, Y and Z in months 3, 6 and 9.” That’s more business-plany. The plan starts out more of a “What?” and becomes a “What and how?” document.

Furthermore, I don’t mean you to do a formal feasibility study that would make a governmental agency go “Whoa!”; use the principles as a guide for what to look into. Most people ignore looking at the financial, operational or legal aspects of their commercial MMO dream/venture and burn out when they are “massively multipayed” into it. :)

Of course, you just ignore me, chuck all this and “Just do it!”. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are really invested in this venture and desiring success, especially with no startup experience. But, it’s an option. B)
@Genocyber

Also, should I be getting paied to study and write these things? Im basicially the creative director, so should i be getting paied a quarter of my wage now, then have the rest of it owed and paied in small payments, along with my full wage once the compnay starts making a profit?

Another big topic! You sure aren’t short of them! B)

I would read up on how startups distribute equity. Presumably, you’ll start a studio, and bring in yourself, partners (co-founders) and investors.

Quick answer: No, you should not be payed directly for the effort. You should merit equity as the or one of the founder(s). You should also merit a salary commensurate with your title as cashflow allows. But, don’t overanalyze the hours of work as you get the studio going.

Longer answer:

First, learn to differentiate the above participants.

Investors are the ones dropping non-negligible, real cash into the project. Partners are people participating in setting the direction for the company and that are instrumental to its success. Everyone is important, but some people are an almost damaging setback to lose. Key employees are people who have a strategic importance to the business, but essentially follow more than lead, are painful to lose, but replaceable.

The general principle is that investors that put in serious cash (not “I paid for lunch for everyone!” and nickel-and-diming everything) should get what is called preferred stock, so that they can recoup their investment.

Then, the pool of common stock is then allocated to partners. First, take out 10-20% for an option pool. Then, allocate the rest. Partners share the remainder. I recently posted how I do it here. Others have online “calculators” that they’ve designed. Key employees usually are given means to access the stock option pool based on a vesting plan.

BTW, I know you are like “Wha?” right about now. This is serious stuff. This is why I tell people that if they want to make a commerical MMO, as opposed to something whipped up in grandma’s basement, they need to put real thought into it. Consult a tax attorney, because if you are about to embark on a commercial venture, it pays to have no easy loose ends swaying in the wind. There are big tax and legal implications if you do this wrong. There is almost nothing worse than starting a company, watching it fold, having to layoff people and then watching some them turn on you out of anger and frustration.

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Genocyber 101 Jul 13, 2011 at 21:29

Origionally posted by alphadog Of course, you just ignore me, chuck all this and “Just do it!”. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are really invested in this venture and desiring success, especially with no startup experience. But, it’s an option.

Mate at this point your like yoda and devmaster the jedi council, no way this padowans going to the dark side of winging it.

And I have to say BIG thanks for that link to the awnsers.onstartups.com website, the wealth of knowledge there, the format and that article in particular, priceless.

I guse one of the last things to do before I get stuck in is to ask for some buisness, marketing and management books, any suggestions?

Heres my plan:

1) Read game/mmo design/architecture books
2) Research into all the needed assets and create asset list
4) Write out a simple Feasibility Study
5) Read buisness, marketing and management books
6) Re-write Feasibility Study
7) Consult Lawyer, Tax Attorney and send counter contract
8) Write Buisness Plan
9) Write GDD
10) Sighn contracts and begin developement

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alphadog 101 Jul 13, 2011 at 23:22

@Genocyber

BIG thanks for that link to the awnsers.onstartups.com website, the wealth of knowledge there, the format and that article in particular, priceless.

Check out Quora too. And, http://gamedev.stackexchange.com/
@Genocyber

I guse one of the last things to do before I get stuck in is to ask for some buisness, marketing and management books, any suggestions?

Most are crap; stay away from the ones you see on airport stands. B) OnStartups probably has someone asking about books once a week. Answered that too. B)
@Genocyber

Heres my plan:

Pretty close!

I’d say:
1) Read technology/architecture, and some entrepreneurial and marketing books.
2) Establish all expenses from a quick draft of a short business plan.
3) Write out a simple feasibility study; target audience is yourself and partners.
4) Decide if I want to piss away the next 1-3 years. :)
5) Find partners who also want to piss away 1-3 years. Convince them to join.
6) Agree on common stock distribution and assign responsibilities.
7) Get attorney and lawyer; start generating documents.
8) Sign shareholder agreement.
9) Read more business books on strategy/planning, marketing and hiring.
10) Expand business plan, esp. if you will seek investors.
11) Write and maintain a living GDD.
12) Get cracking!

Interestingly, it’s a twelve step program like Alcoholics Anonymous… :)