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What does it take to write a MMORPG?

Hi all,

I'm asking this question after seeing so many MMORPG-wannabe-developers. No offence to those who really have the passion, devotion, discipline, technology, money, publisher and the right people with the right storyline to start work on.

I've seen so many case like:

1) I'm financially strong and would like to develop a MMORPG.
- Has no development experience, no programming skills and such.
- Has a strong business plan but requires good and trustworthy ppl to implement it.

2) I've learnt 3 months of VB and would like to write an MMORPG.
- Needless to say.
- Might make it probably after years and realises that there was a lot more to MMORPG to it than just mere games development.

3) I've an avid gamer and is looking for great gamers and game developers or programmers to join me in my cause to develop an MMORPG.
- Great cause, but no proper planning, no storyline, none of the basic game development elemental requirements present.
- Has many years of gaming experience which could contribute to the game development itself.

We all know, MMORPG is one of the ways where software vendors are able to maintain a continuous source of small but steady income as your customer base pays to play the game every now and then or on per-month basis.

I'll probably ask this question, short but extremely tedious to answer;
What does it take to write a MMORPG? (Technical and Business aspects)

I may not be a great games developer, neither do I have a strong financial support but I would seriously like to see how ppl would approach to write such games of this genre. The one who answers in a realistic, serious, proper and complete manner will get all my points.
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thrawn80
Asked:
thrawn80
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10 Solutions
 
davebytesCommented:
Some quick thoughts:

Game: has to be good gameplay, something unique to attract users.  the MMORPG market space is limited, not growing much, so you have to be able to 'steal' users away.  'Story' can be traded off for 'depth of world'.

Biz: self publishing?  money.  developer?  a publisher willing to underwrite it.  Both cases: enough money to develop the game, put it through extensive real world testing, and host it for a minimum X months moving forward.  Hosting: you need IT staff monitoring 24/7, stable server boxes that can handle tens to hundreds of thousands of users.  Budget on hardware shouldn't be underestimated, nor the setup and administration of just the hardware, let alone your game.

Technical: depends on the game.  Much of it is on how many people are together in an area, but then also is it a 3D game with hugely complex scenes, 2D game with sprites?  Different games require a different level of focus.  Issues with lag/latency of data between clients, at a level beyond what something like Quake has to deal with.  Any require large investment into networking systems, advanced protocols for minimizing bandwidth to clients, server-spanning or -jumping approaches for moving people around, and handling an enormous number of simultaneous clients.  In most cases, highly complex code for managing just the networking, let alone the mid-level managing the game world and changes being sent around, let along the high-level trying to 'render' the world for the user as quickly as possible.

Also technical: handling login, matchmaking/distribution, registration & billing services, etc,  also rolling out continued improvements to game, stability, compatability.

Also game: rolling out continued updates to game.

-d
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VincentPugliaCommented:
To add to dave's comments:

1) You need to decide whether the game is browser- or client- based; text or graphical.
2) You need to advertise it within the sites that rate mmorgs, and then make sure your rating goes up so that you build a user base -- before you can even think of charging any money.

I don't believe the game has to be unique. [The only 'unique' mmorg I've seen is at www.fantasymasteronline.com ]  There are oodles of clones out there that differ only in details -- this is really true of browser-based mmorgs.

  What you really have to decide is the type and goal of the game you want to develop -- 'age/round' oriented or 'never-ending'.  The former type usually involves PKing (people killing) where the goal is to kill off other players, either as a solo or a group (clans).  The latter allows you to 'live' in the virtual world, gaining experience, etc.

You can get around some of the broadband issues by downloading and then accessing images on the client, but that is rarely in browser-based mmorgs.

Vinny

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thrawn80Author Commented:
Hi Experts,

Just a perspective to look from,

Try putting yourselves into the shoes of the CEO or President or even as a PM. And that you are presiding the development of the game project.

I'll prefer the perspective as a President because I'll have to tackle business related issues as well. A PM may or may not be participating in the business dealings other than probably dealing with the publisher and some prospective customers for game promotions.

As a President, what do you think it takes to write a MMORPG that can stand out in the general gaming community and at the same time, earn a constant income for expansion?

Personally I have a few things to consider :
1) What kind of personnel I need?
2) What kind of business strategy to adopt?
3) Am I going to rent a studio/office for development?
4) How many am I going to employ and how much am I going to pay them?
5) What are my fixed costs and variable costs?
6) What is the market demand now?
7) What age group am I targetting?
8) What sub-genre of RPG am I heading into?

It breaks down furthur
1a) How am I going to structure this development team (ie, arts, picture and motion and code development)
1b) What kind of marketing/advertising strategies do I need?

2a) What am I going to achieve in the next 6 months/ 1 year/ 1.5 years/ 2 years / 5 years?
2b) Who am I going to collaborate with to come out with an ambitious but realistic business plan?
2c) How am I going to advertise my game?
2d) How am I going to get people to know me, my development team and my game company. Most of all, my products?

3a) What kind of studio in which location is most suitable?
3b) What is my cost for renting a studio for 2 years?
3c) What is my cost for rennovation?

4a) How many PMs/Developers/Artists/Business Executives/Analysis to employ?
4b) How much am I going to spend for salary based on 1 year without income? (Naturally, since during the course of development, there isn't any income. Assuming that MMORPG is your first game)
4c) What kind of employment am I offering? Contract? Temp? Perm? Part-time? Free-lance? Paid-based on work done? (like those jewellery designers)

5a) My fixed costs, office rentals, equipment, maintanance, personal commitments. What more?
5b) My variable costs, salaries for my employees, extra expenditures on expendable items.
5c) Anymore types or variations of costs?

6a) Is MMORPG in demand now?
6b) What's the range of my fan-base if I have any?
6c) What's the trend of gaming now? In S'pore, CounterStrike was once exceedingly popular. Now it is still popular, so should I create my MMORPG in 1st person view having a strong RPG story line?

7a) What kind of age group am I targetting? Average gamers are 29 years old with the bulk of gamers at 18 years old (taken from www.gamedev.net) Does my game attract the older gamers or only a certain range of gamers?

8a) What kind of sub-genre so I head into? 1st person RPG a bit like Jedi Knight 2? 3rd person RPG like Max Payne? 2D sprites RPGs like the old Final Fantasy series? Or follow any current MMORPG styles? And so on...

----

I think from this point onwards, answering all those questions will bring abt a tree of possibilities. So that should give us a better idea on what does it really take to create an MMORPG.

But what I'm looking for is that one perspective that is realistic and clear on its goals and mission. This perspective must also contain projected costs and profits, projected approximate customer demand, and a strategy to advertise your MMORPG and get a fan-base to actually play your MMORPG.
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VincentPugliaCommented:
Hi,
if this:
"...prefer the perspective as a President"
is what you really want, then I'd say you are asking in the wrong forum...Your questions tend to be more of a financial nature than a coding one...and, you haven't stated how much money you have to invest.  If this is not an exercise of some sort on your part, I would suggest first taking some business management courses, contacting the small business bureau in your city, and getting hold of some books on the subject.
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thrawn80Author Commented:
Thanks for your comment.

Alright, I'm out of scope. I apologise for that.

Let's put the scope back in the technical aspect of writing a MMORPG shall we?
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VincentPugliaCommented:
Ok, but you are still being too general & leaving too many variables open.

First & foremost, you need a game idea.

Since all mmorgs are server-based, you need a server with enough broadband to cover your expected hits.  You need a login/password/ip address scheme (if you don't care if one user has multiple accounts, you can get rid of the last). You need expertise in a server-side language (php, asp, c/c++, java -- not javascript).  You need to decide if the game is browser- or graphical-based.  If the latter, you need code to download data onto the client's machine (mostly graphics, for faster processing).  If you intend to make money, you need a secure site for credit card transactions (or a paypal account for donations). You need some means for the players to communicate with each other -- forum, chat, 'mail' -- and code that will strip those nasty 4-letter words that their mothers don't want them using.  You need a dbms (mySQL, MSSQL server) that will maintain all of the data in various tables -- and you need to know how to set up that data properly before you have any users.

For a techie view on DBMSes & mmorgs, see:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Databases/Mysql/Q_21079129.html#11708709
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TheRaiderRobertCommented:
Ok, you need to talk to consultant. Try these options:

Tom Sloper at http://www.sloperama.com/business.html has a track record going back to the 80's. He works as a consultant or producer.

Noah Falstein at http://www.theinspiracy.com/services.htm also has a track record in game production. He works as a consultant mainly I believe.


Now for the straight-talk, you have no earthly idea what you are getting yourself into. The MMO is the most complex form of a game to make. You'll need at least 10-20 million dollars to create something of Everquest quality, and I think I'm hitting low with that number.

VincentPuglia has said correctly. You are leaving it too open, but he is wrong that you need an idea. Ideas in the gaming realm are a dime-a-dozen. You first need to create a core team (with programmers, artist, etc.) Then you can make a game. BUT that's not all you have to do. You have to find a publisher! Like EA, Atari, or Activision. You need to pander to them in order to get your game on the shelves of Target or Circuit City or Staples.

Of course, this is all if you want to go mainstream. If you want to be an independent developer, then you can buy and engine, and publish the game yourself.

For Engines try:
BigWorld MMO Engine--> http://www.bigworldtech.com/
Torque Engine at garagegames.com--> http://www.garagegames.com/pg/product/view.php?id=1

Feel free to ask anything more.


TheRaiderRobert
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VincentPugliaCommented:
Hi theRaiderRobert,

re:
"he is wrong that you need an idea. Ideas in the gaming realm are a dime-a-dozen"

Perhaps I didn't explain myself correctly; I thought I already mentioned that uniqueness is not a requirement.

By idea, I mean the underlying aspects of the game, not the plot.  For example, are graphics needed? If so, will they be 2- or 3-D? How is time being kept (real time, delayed real time, turn-based)? Is an original engine needed?  etc., etc.  Having an idea of how the game should play determines how large and what type of a team is necessary.  

Vinny
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TheRaiderRobertCommented:
"re:
'he is wrong that you need an idea. Ideas in the gaming realm are a dime-a-dozen'

Perhaps I didn't explain myself correctly; I thought I already mentioned that uniqueness is not a requirement."

Ah, I understand now; you see typically the word "idea" immediately evokes to my mind a person saying, "Hey! I have this great new idea for a game that has never been done before." But you're right; a developer does need to know what the genre is and some other basics, but our author here sounds as if he has all that already; he wants to make an MMOG. But more specifically he wants to make an MMORPG. Most likely he wants to make it 3D since very few games are done in 2D now. And he may have an idea of "how time is being kept."  So, he has all that he really needs to know himself. He just needs to unleash some game designers into that general direction, and they are the ones who will figure out the specifics, like the graphics engine, game mechanics, storyline, and what-have-you.

But he had already specified enough by saying MMORPG. That he could set-up a team that would do the job. So yes, he __may__ want to know some more things, but he doesn't __need__ to know anything more.


TheRaiderRobert
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thrawn80Author Commented:
-- By TheRaiderRobert : "Now for the straight-talk, you have no earthly idea what you are getting yourself into. " --

Of course I do know where I'm getting into. What makes you so sure that I'm so ignorant of the requirements of an MMORPG?

-- "Ok, you need to talk to consultant. Try these options:
--
-- Tom Sloper at http://www.sloperama.com/business.html has a track record going back to the 80's. He works as a consultant or producer.
--
--Noah Falstein at http://www.theinspiracy.com/services.htm also has a track record in game production. He works as a consultant mainly I believe."
--

Yes you are correct, I'll need a consultant if I really wanna get into serious business. But consultance isn't my question here. Discussion is. If you think by discussing this topic, you'll be giving away your grand business plans, then it's ok not to answer. And btw, no offense to you. Your suggestion to look for a consultant is like telling me to search the google site for some bug-solving answers.

I'll like to see more of davebytes' answers.
His answers gives more ideas and questions to probe and from his stand, many unqiue point of views can be realised.

However, my question is that, if YOU are the one who wants to write an MMORPG, how would you approach your way to attain your goal?

eg :
1) Requires a team of n ppl, consisting of roughly (m) digital artist, (n) storyboarders, (o) developers, (p) project leads .. .etc
2) Experience of this team should consist of at least (n) RTS titles, (o) RPG titles, and so on...
3) Do you need a full-scaled studio, if so, any examples or quotes?
4) Gameplay vs storyline - which is more important?
5) How are you going to get your player customers to pay? PayPal?

I think this is probably a suitable template for answers. Nobody starts their first game writting a MMORPG unless he has already a strong and experienced team (including artists) and he has the financial backup to pull his project through. Otherwise, it's not just an uphill battle, it's a vertical cliff battle.

As for me, I've only finished my first vertical shooting game somewhere 40% the standard of strikers 1945 with some unique gameplay elements. And I can only say, it's only the very very beginning. I'm moving on to some simple client-server card game next before moving on to a simple RTS. Not to mention the 3d world which I'm studying now. Whenever I look at MMORPG, it's probably still a long long way to go. It's not just ABOUT the development. Developing an MMORPG is much much more than just a simple MMORPG itself even though the diff between a 2dMMORPG and 3d MMORPG can be quite big.

Probably 2 points for me to clarify,
1) I'm NOT intending to write an MMORPG now, not at least in the near future.
2) I'm seeking opinions of approach to an MMORPG, rough or detailed is fine, as long as they offer sensible ideas, I don't even ask for solutions. As MMORPG is an unique product that involves constant dealings with the customers (the retailers), unlike normal games where dealings isn't that constant.


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thrawn80Author Commented:
Oh yes, btw, please answer what you feel. Don't shun away just because you don't have experience in MMORPG. Just remember, a solution is NOT needed in this post. I need just some ideas.

Thanks again to all!
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TheRaiderRobertCommented:
Sorry, I totally misunderstood you. From some reason I was thinking that you actually wanted answers and thought you were in a position to produce a MMORPG right now.

I have things to do at the moment so I can't discuss right now, but I'll be back!


TheRaiderRobert
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Wojciech DudaCommented:
I think there is a series of articles you just have to read.
Check the http://www.diabloii.net page, there was a series of weekly/monthly articles about MMORPG design by a professional - I believe he was a high ranked Blizzard employee once. Should give you a great idea. He adreses all points, idea, gameplay, design, cost, marketing etc.
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davebytesCommented:
Wow, this thing has gone off on lots of tangents...

The questions are still overly broad.  Do you want how >I< would approach building an MMOG game?  Obviously, that also means IF I were to do it, what style/genre, what biz model, etc.  That's WAY beyond just technical discussion certainly.  If you can frame it up, I'd be happy to discuss further.

There are now networking engines that 'solve' certain sets of MMOG problems from the technical side (at least for the typical 3D pc MMOG), assuming certain gameplay approach.  I'm thinking you mean realtime gaming of some sort, even if it's pseudo-turn system (a la everquest) it's still all going 'live'.  The network problems are some of the hardest to conquer, forget the genre and content.

If you can buy into not building the same thing that's already available, and have the funding to do so, you license technology.  Whether you license an existing, ready to go MMO engine, or license a 3D engine here and network tech engine there -- well, that's opinion and does start to hit more on particulars of the game itself..  Of course, if you aren't on an established MMOG platform, then you might have to roll your own.

Funding has a lot to do with approach.  Do you have money in the bank already for one reason or another that you are willing to burn?  Do you have connections into angels or VC money?  Do you have connections into a publisher such that they'd back you on a project?  Do you have a team that's already experienced, such that you could take on a contract job for a publisher creating a game based on a license?

Assuming you have the money, you or the publisher would need a biz plan for the game itself.  Monthly subscriptions are the norm -- how you get that money is near-irrelevant given the number of electronic payment systems (including just credit card...) available today.  What is it about the game, license, gameplay, technology, experience, content, etc., that is going to attract users and keep them playing?  Do you have an experience that requires long periods of gameplay in single sitting, or short gameplay experiences at least once a day (maybe more)?  Remembering that MMOG could be for PC, could be for XBOX, or could be for a cellphone...

Talking of cellphone, reminder that "MMOG" conjures up different visions for different people, and that's also culturally oriented.  Asia has seen some successful MMOGs that don't look or feel like the Everquest/etc. of the US, even though they are still PC.  New companies are diving into MM experiences that aren't anything like EQ and friends, stretching the meaning of 'massively multiplayer' to be how many players might be on the system overall, rather than possibly in one interaction space.

Anyway, shoot more specific Qs, and happy to give more thoughts.

-d
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thrawn80Author Commented:
Thanks for your comments,

I think you've effectively demostrated or at least illustrated the BARE minimum requirements for a MMORPG; not to mention the amount of details involved in each of the points described.

Certainly, this kind of scale is definitely not achievable by a newbie who just started programming for 3 months, and ranting away his abilities to be able to create such games.

As mentioned, MM (Massively Multiplayer) is means a lot of networking problems will have to resolved. And this is definitely not easy even for an experienced developer.

Hmmm... I wonder who else might answer next?


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ildave1Commented:
Ambition & Heart

Regards,
Dave
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Andrew BeersCommented:
"1) Requires a team of n ppl, consisting of roughly (m) digital artist, (n) storyboarders, (o) developers, (p) project leads .. .etc
2) Experience of this team should consist of at least (n) RTS titles, (o) RPG titles, and so on...
3) Do you need a full-scaled studio, if so, any examples or quotes?
4) Gameplay vs storyline - which is more important?
5) How are you going to get your player customers to pay? PayPal?"


To answer this with the half hour I have to explain this.  My perspective is not from the producer but from the programmer.  

 Anser to your 1st question) Depending on the size and scope of your project and the time you wish to devote until completion your team size can vary greatly.  You will need at least 1 or more programmer in each of the following areas for a project of any depth and scope:
2 Graphical Designers
1 Physics Engine Programer (If you have any form of motion)
1 Object Designer / System Designer
1 Network / MultiUser Systems Designer
1 Story Board Artist
1 Story Line Writer / Creator
1 Overall project lead

You need to have at least one person with a concrete idea of what exactly needs to be created and happen.  Your images and animations do not act on their own, they must be implimented into a Physics Engine to prevent nasty glitches like players walking through walls.  If you want to have any form of realism movement is slowed by conditions or terrain wich is also factored into your physics engine.  

Also characters and their actions, such as spells and attacks, must also be implimented between Model Designers (your graphics personel) and a Interaction System.  This would handle all interactions between players, NPC's, and other game elements.  This is a MONUMENTAL task and should in reality be split over many programmers but if time is not a factor it can be done with as few as 1 programmer.  (If this route is taken allow for at least a year of core programming and dedication before any functional product is seen.

Your story board artists should be very talented at visualising interactions between enviroments and players as well as player verse player interactions.  Communication skills are a must for your artist in the form of explination as well as drawing / painting / sketching skills.  It is best if you can find a team of programmers that have a story board artist they have worked with before.  (I guess this leads into experience).

Answer your 2nd question)  Experience is optional, you could have a designer with years of experience that is out done by a college graduate.  It is all who has the most passion for the project.  Experience is generally a safe thing to go with but fresh minds and new techniques can give you an edge also.  Also the more experience you require the higher the price tag per hour goes.

Answering your 3rd question)  A studio is NOT needed contrary to most popular beliefs.  The first interactive 3D OpenGL I designed was in the basement of a friends house.  You do need space that can be constant for modeling as well as story boarding.  This space should be clean, neat, and well able to fit your entire team.  The question of is a studio necassary, the answer is no.  You just need a space with opportunity, even a basement, living room, den even a decent size bedroom will work.

Answering yoru 4th question)  Game play is highly important and this has been a stand still argument for years between game play enthusiasts and story line.  Game play and graphics and user interaction is the biggest in my book.  Story line takes a back seat with multi-user game enviroments.  The fun in a multi-user game enviroment is interaction with other players.  So your largest focus is new challenges, no matter how lame the story line, new CPU's to battle and new items are some of the only important factors to story line.  IE:  keep it fresh!

Answering your 5th Question)  Payment is best done through paypal or secured connections via credit card and auto billing.  Trial periods are a must to get players attention, lose a few bucks to get people into the game, then word of mouth will carry you the rest of the way.  Payment should also not be more than $10 a month for monthly fees, you can offer upgrades or items for a fee but this also degrades game play.  

(I'm sorry this is going to have to get cut short, my break is over and I need to get back to work.  I'll be back to explain more in a few hours)

Hope I helped on top of other posts!
~Aqua
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ildave1Commented:
Aqua,

Even though I did not ask this question, awsome response.   I love to hear first-hand experiences with game development, expecially from a programmers point of view.  One day I'll be there.

Thanks for taking the time to post this.

Regards,
David McGraw
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Andrew BeersCommented:
Ok to give a little more detail on your design teams make up.  This should be a factor of how much money you have, how quickly you want the project done and the quality of the project.  Realize with more programmers you can get things done quicker but at a much higher cost.  Game Dev's and programmers typically bring in at least $25 an hour so you must realize with the skeleton team you will be shelling out $175 an hour for creating this, this number assumes you are one of the members of the team and that you are not paying yourself.

Another factor of your team makeup should be testing and how well your programmers put their code modules together.  Your project leader needs to be fluent with UML and software engineering to define the classes, attributes, and methods that each programmer will be implimenting.  This means for each class you need to have at minimum a Class Diagrams, ER diagram for the database, Inheritances defined as well as Associations and aggrigations (These are the relationships between objects), also one type of Interaction diagram must be created for the design team to work from (Sequence or Collaboration diagram types).  This will force object oriented programming and if designed correctly will enforce good cohesion and coupling between your classes and within your classes.  (See my response to What is Cohesion and coupling? For questions on those)

Any MMORPG can be created with little subject matter to create the game from in sort of a fly by the seat of your pants.  Overall though I would say having a decent story line without an end is key...  This stage of planning takes minimal extra effort, and if you want a game that can make people laugh and cry with their players you need to give the CPU's personality.  2D characters makes for a very boring RPG, even in a multi-user atmosphere there needs to be a certain degree of comic mischief humor as well as developed CPU personalities.  This draws gamers futher into the game and if you update the game content regularly adding new quests and weaponry as well as spells you will keep a high gamer audience.  This in my eyes is much better than trying to hammer out a new RPG every year to keep your gaming audience.  

Some of the best RPG style games that factor massive multi-user capabilities have a decent and changing story line but the character development is phenominal (which is Game Play in most definitions of an RPG).  Your character's leveling system should allow the gamer to feel like they evolved their character into their own.  That the character is no longer a part of the game but an extension of themselves.  Leveling systems like that of SquareSofts FFX is a leveling system that sticks out in gamers minds because it let the total stat creation and update be taken control of by the gamer.

One of the biggest game play factors aside from character creation and leveling is the weaponry and spell arsenals.  Spells and magic is a must, no matter how you choose to impliment your magic system you must have stellar animations and a good system that will attract users to want to get more spells and powers.  Weaponry variety is also another biggie.  Players like to be able to use what weapon sets and types that they want to use, static classes that force a gamer to only be able to use one weapon set for that class or race only frustrates users which brings my final point in game play:  LET THE GAMERS BE FREE!!!  Restrictive character systems are only frustrating and bothersome to gamers.  Often this will only make characters leave instead of attracting characters to your game.  You need structure to your system but you need to have a large degree within a simple to understand system that allows the gamer to control the destiny of their own character.  (Plus another fact that I won't go too much into detail about is Level Caps... You need a happy medium here... Just like player killing... Should your game allow random player killing and what are the consequences to killing a fellow gamer...)

As you can see to game play there are MANY factors that there is no determined answer to.  Your best chance is to try to do something new and creative while it still resembles a standard RPG enough to entice gamers to try it.  Graphics and audio are very important as well, things like do your humanoids blink, do their mouths move when they talk, can you make them talk, how is your voice simulation, background music, the quality of the background music....  The list goes on, which is why earlier I tried to point out with a team of 8 programmers, artists, and designers it will take nearly a year to get any playtime finished for the game.  

But with enough passion of a team and if the team believes in the game and wants to play it you can garuntee yourself if the designing was done correctly and the game is a good RPG (You did your market testing correctly) that your game will succeed.  Marketing plays only a fraction of getting the ball rolling... and getting a top RPG and keeping a top RPG are two totally different areas of interest.  

If you guys have any further questions about Game Dev., MMORPG, or any other questions feel free to ask away or send me an e-mail.  I'll always be happy to help!

Hope I Explained As Much As You Wanted,
Aqua
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ildave1Commented:
Aqua,

Outstanding comments.  Exciting read!

I just hashed out 4 years of the Marine corps and now im currently going to Kansas State Univ. to study Computer Science and Mathematics.

On your level, what has helped you(in terms of classes that helped you, specific things that you did, etc.),  the most from of your 'college years' to become a successfull programmer for the game industry?  Where did it all start for you (knowing that this is what you wanted to be)?

The biggest thing that I would love to read is biographies grom a developers point of view.  I'm currently reading 'The Pragmatic Programmer'.  More of an inspirational read, but a good one thus far.   I'd like to prepare myself to the best of my abilities.  I suppose there is a lot that I can do in 4 - 5 years, but I always wonder to myself, "What can I do to better myself today so that I can live tomarrow one step closer to my dream" .  I know when I got out of the hectic life that the Marine corps offered me, I knew exactly what I was doing.  But now, Im basically paving my way to start my real life in 4 years, as a programmer for the game industry.  Somewhere, somehow, I will accomplish this.

Feel free to reply to this or to e-mail.  I would have written you, however I cannot access your e-mail.

Thank you.

Regards,
David McGraw
<mail removed by Venabili>

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benxfrCommented:
Wow, I can't believe I get to answer this question Thrawn80!  You like #futurama on undernet.org?

Back to business:1) What kind of personnel I need?
You need everyone, or multi-talented people.  Just go for the best output to date and find the best personnel and really make the most of your training to date: get everyone you need -- to ensure a product that meets your requirements.

2) What kind of business strategy to adopt?
Depends on the business you are running.  If you want to "test" MMO games, you can be freeware and do this on your free-time.  If you need to make the rent and car payments, then you have to adapt to a Corporate Business Strategy.  This is work, you must show it the proper respect.  Corporations command respect.

3) Am I going to rent a studio/office for development?
Ask your team where they want to work.  Then make a decision based on what you can afford.

4) How many am I going to employ and how much am I going to pay them?
Depends on the answer to question #2.  Ask your accountant the details, if you are running a corporation.  He will assist you in these types of changing conditions, while obeying the law at the same time.

5) What are my fixed costs and variable costs?
This also refers to #2.  If you aren't running a corporate operation, you can make your fixed costs variable.  If you need an Application Service Provider to run your MMO Web Service, you could try out different companies first before settling on the fixed cost.

6) What is the market demand now?
In general the entertainment industry for personal computers is very healthy.  There's also and unbelievable amount of time being invested on open source.  I recommend moving a MMO from open source to a corporate environment.  That would give you the code and possible test base of users, and you can help someone who has spent the time to develop it for free.  A lot of software today is released for free, then a business or investor sees it, they buy it, then suddenly the software is now Trialware at $99 a pop.  :)

7) What age group am I targetting?
16-24, imho.  What type of MMO you want to make could determine your audience.

8) What sub-genre of RPG am I heading into?
I read your general question above: What does it take to write a MMORPG? (Technical and Business aspects)  then i found your questionnaire.  To be honest you could make any game you want.  You have two options:
A.) Consume your own time to develop your online game (like I am and others do) - or -
B.) Find opensource or budding programmers who have already built the code.  They exchange their time and sweat for your money... :)  With the Internet, you can quickly find your talent on Monster.com, or take plan B: and join the forums where people like me discuss developing our own games, multiplayer, online, 3-D, 2-D, pixel-hunthing, etc, etc.

It breaks down furthur
1a) How am I going to structure this development team (ie, arts, picture and motion and code development)
Creating a game requires very similar team as movie crews.  In that regard, I recommend the gypsy style... that means everyone gets together for a movie like say "Home Alone 3", then they all depart and work on different movies.  It works because sometimes you just need a different crew...

1b) What kind of marketing/advertising strategies do I need?
Word of mouth wins on the Internet.  Start a blog war about it.

2a) What am I going to achieve in the next 6 months/ 1 year/ 1.5 years/ 2 years / 5 years?
If you are enjoying the process, you will probably want it to take 10 years!

If you are just trying to make money you could squeeze off someone's own unnoticed work (plus marketing plan) in a year or 2.  Experience may be required to reach these goals...

2b) Who am I going to collaborate with to come out with an ambitious but realistic business plan?
Answer: A good financial institution to back you up.

2c) How am I going to advertise my game?
Word of mouth.

2d) How am I going to get people to know me, my development team and my game company. Most of all, my products?
Start a website about it.  Maybe a blog for each developer and artist on the team.

3a) What kind of studio in which location is most suitable?
I like Seattle.

3b) What is my cost for renting a studio for 2 years?
$500 a month for a 'studio apartment' gives you enough space for 3 programmers to work... minus the bed of course.  Usually this means one in the kitchen nook, one by "The Wall" and one by the bathroom door :(.

3c) What is my cost for rennovation?
You can get office furniture cheap at some stores.

4a) How many PMs/Developers/Artists/Business Executives/Analysis to employ?
This depends on your timetable.  Do you need to make and sell a game as fast as possible or you can spend a few extra months or years?  Are you doing this for the experience, or the money?  If you are doing it for the experience, please realize you are a new so you have to be patient with yourself.  If you are doing it for money -- and you have no experience -- you'll have to pay for all this out of your pocket.

4b) How much am I going to spend for salary based on 1 year without income? (Naturally, since during the course of development, there isn't any income. Assuming that MMORPG is your first game)
See previous answer.

4c) What kind of employment am I offering? Contract? Temp? Perm? Part-time? Free-lance? Paid-based on work done? (like those jewellery designers)
I like the way the movie industry does it.

5a) My fixed costs, office rentals, equipment, maintanance, personal commitments. What more?
5b) My variable costs, salaries for my employees, extra expenditures on expendable items.
5c) Anymore types or variations of costs?
See 4a.

6a) Is MMORPG in demand now?
6b) What's the range of my fan-base if I have any?
6c) What's the trend of gaming now? In S'pore, CounterStrike was once exceedingly popular. Now it is still popular, so should I create my MMORPG in 1st person view having a strong RPG story line?
I'm still not sure if you are doing this for fun or for business.  If you are doing it for the money, your team will investigate this for you.  In a corporate environment you will have to work in a team and trust recommendations from experts.

7a) What kind of age group am I targetting? Average gamers are 29 years old with the bulk of gamers at 18 years old (taken from www.gamedev.net) Does my game attract the older gamers or only a certain range of gamers?
I think this depends on what type of game you want to make...

8a) What kind of sub-genre so I head into? 1st person RPG a bit like Jedi Knight 2? 3rd person RPG like Max Payne? 2D sprites RPGs like the old Final Fantasy series? Or follow any current MMORPG styles? And so on...

Questions of my own to ask yourself:

1. Am I doing this for the money or because I like making games and I want to create my vision?
A (If you are doing it for the money you start a corporation and get it done, very methodically.)
B (If you are doing it for fun, make the game you want to make that corresponds with your idea or vision.)

2. Once you have answered #1 you can answer the next question: What kind of technology should I pursue?

You answered 1A: (Crank out a game if you need cash.  If you have cash, create a game within your budget and time constraints.)
You answered 1B: (I would find a nice low-tech, quick solution to make what I want.  I would make sacrifices to get what I want, and dedicate the time it takes to present it properly.)

I run Blue Fugu Software!  http://bluefugu.biz.tm   My site is a compromise: I'm doing what I want, but you can tell I'm making business at the same time.
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Andrew BeersCommented:
benxfr if you have ever looked around on experts-exchange it helps to read other posts to make sure you don't repeat what has already been said.  I love the way you generalized what I didn't say and just repeated what I had already said adding more white space.

;-)

I'll be replying to dave via e-mail if anyone else wants to know what college classes are best for game dev and what section of game dev let me know!  I'd be happy to foreward the e-mail on.

~Aqua
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davebytesCommented:
BTW, aqua's numbers are obviously for a small project, and potentially is either missing some roles or having people wearing many hats. ;)

Depending on the project, the company, you could easily have teams 10x that size, if not more.  You could have a design team (high level, story, game design, rules, etc.), core engineering (central engine areas), game engineering (gameplay, world), art (major construction, objects, creatures), production (scripting, level buildout), testing/QA, leads/managers for each group, overall producer/timekeeper, etc.  Again, depends on size/scope/length of project, domain it is in, money you have to spend...  Also depends on self-publishing, publishing WITH a publisher, developing a project FOR a publisher, etc.

As noted earlier, I also wouldn't assume that you create everything yourself.  Since time==money, and the sooner you product an end result, the better, licensing costs need to be evaluated and budgeted in as potential (you can budget it as a cost-to-buy vs a cost-to-build analysis, for any given major system area).

-d
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Andrew BeersCommented:
Like I said, my numbers are for a skeleton team and I did point out that if you wanted to go into any sizeable project you would need many more programmers, and as defined through my explination your programmers roles are very diversified and you have quite a few members playing many roles.  *shrugs*  A team that size could seeably develope any game they desired but at the cost of time rather than money.  So it is all a game of numbers, what the optimal system would be you would need to talk to project research companies like IBM who has spent millions on determining how many programmers is the optimal amount for a project definition, there is a point where there are too few programmers and a point when you have too many, so it all comes down to a numbers game but for a general explination the skeleton team can do the job assuming that each member is a phenominal programmer with a lot of spirit and ambition.

~Aqua
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benxfrCommented:
aqua9880

everyone should answer this question until the points are awarded.  in my opinion.

Sorry if my opinion was the same as yours, or something.  I'm not really sure how I offended you.

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ildave1Commented:
A fun article that was worth the time to read:

http://www.gignews.com/crosby3.htm

Regards,
David McGraw
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davebytesCommented:
thrawn, are you planning on keeping this open indefinitely?  I'm just thinking, it's been up for like three months now, and probably should be closed since you've gotten a number of extensive responses/opinions.  Just IMHO.

-d
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Andrew BeersCommented:
I agree with Dave....  

(By the way Dave, I'd really like to get to talk to you at some point and time:  My e-mail is <mail removed by Venabili> I'd like to talk back and forth a little to see what other programmers in our field are up to.)

~Aqua
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thrawn80Author Commented:
Hi guys, I've been tied down by my work commitments for the recent months during working hours and tied down by a massive engine restructuring during off-working hours. So my time was almost too tight to manage.

But anyway, I managed to break free recently and managed to read your wonderful posts and suggestions. This has seriously, helped me tremendously and even though this topic isn't as smooth going as I had hoped, the amount of knowledge put into this discussion is much more than I've initially expected.

Btw, just a bit of news. The cause of me posting this thread is due to my friend's friend who actually wanted to invite me to join him in his quest to write a MMORPG. Initially, I did not have any faith in that guy. So I had to ask a few questions, I had to.

1) Any good game engine? Any domain knowledge or existing personnel who knows the engine inside-out?

2) Any business plan? At least, a proposal of milestones of what was to be achieved within a certain time frame.

3) Target age group? What kind of storyline are we looking here?

4) Strength of the team. How good is the team gathered now? I'm no expert in either the MMO portion or the RPG portion. So far I've only written a vertical scroller shooter clone... so it's no big deal. Having a strong team enables me to learn fast and pick up the cool stuffs faster (hopefully) as well.

This strength also extends to the arts/graphics team. Which i was told, there were none.


My friend tried to answer those questions on behalf of his friend, which in my opinion, was bullshit. 1) It was his first game.
2) No existing game engine and game development experience although the intiator had a lot of experience PLAYING them.
3) No design or development team gathered and lack of prerequisite talents.
4) Planning was disorganised and not in proper order without milestones to indicate progress.
5) Not at all concerned abt the financial requirements, etc production costs, server costs, maintanance costs, etc... even if the project could be done with his own server (a far stretched thought), the production costs will still remain.

In the end, the project, after 3 months, was dropped. I incidentally popped my friend the question and he replied that the project was dropped due to lack of manpower.

Well, I would say, it'll be crazy for anyone to join his project, unless we're seeing another John Carmack in action. Heh...

To be honest, nowadays, there are a lot of ppl out there who is out to make money from MMORPG and thinks that it's damned easy to attempt at one. Once if even done, they'll just sit there waiting for money to roll in.

I've met too many. Shallow ideas, shallow planning, narrow-minded, money-minded, couldn't care less for their players, couldn't care less abt their customer base. All they want is $$$.

Back to what davebytes has said, I guess it'll be abt time to close this topic.

To experts exchange moderator : Please gimme somemore time to access each posts and award points accordingly before closing. Thanks.

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thrawn80Author Commented:
Yo aqua, din notice ur last post. If you guys don't mind, please add me into their discussion groups so that I can learn from you guys.

<mail removed by Venabili>

Looking forward to hear from you guys.
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Andrew BeersCommented:
You got it!  :-D
<mail removed by Venabili>

If you have any questions or want help with something feel free to ship me off an e-mail or catch me on AIM!

~Aqua
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theseeriaCommented:
it doesn't look like anyone has said that VB is a very very VERY poor choice of computing language for mmorpg developement.
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Andrew BeersCommented:
VB is a poor language for a lot of things.. that should have been assumed.
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benxfrCommented:
Does your humble opinion re: VB also apply towards VB.NET?

Just curious...
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Andrew BeersCommented:
VB.NET has it's weaknesses... imho I think VB was better geared towards Scripting and odd macro scripts for Office Apps.  And even scripting I think php is a much more powerful language.

Also.. *.NET regarding any of the .NET ide sections are far too complicated and I'd rather use a comand line compiler and notepad than *.NET.

Just my oppinion.

Game design is best in:  C#, Java, C++, or Python (it works ok.. but not great)

~Aqua
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Andrew BeersCommented:
Can we close this out now?  I know it is a very exciting thread to talk about and post in but it's been around for 5 months now and needs to come to an end.  I'm more than happy to talk to you outside the forums if you have any further questions thrawn but I'm sure all the posters in this thread are waiting around for closure on this topic.

No offense meant in posting this, just a suggestion imho.
~Aqua
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Andrew BeersCommented:
Just in case you do check this again Mr. Admin.

Since this nice forum for asking questions does NOT have an area for dev's just to discuss topics or any way of contacting eachother to B.S. there is no other way aside from "offsite discussions"  which prohibiting this is also a violation of the Bill of Rights which if anyone wanted to push the fact, your U.S. based site could be brought under a class action suit.

You can talk to your higher ups and let them know, if you want to stop off site discussion, open up a BS place for developers to discuss things where points are not involved and it does not have to regard a question.  Else I highly reccomend backing off of pushing ->  "1. Offsite discussions are... not allowed"

Just thought I would point out this as a fellow expert:
~Aqua
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davebytesCommented:
back in thrawn's court, as he was going to close it out two weeks ago...

-d
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ildave1Commented:
Get some! That motivates me!  Keep up the great work people! ;)

Regards,
David McGraw
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thrawn80Author Commented:
First of all, I've to apologise to the local site Admin for accidentally violating the rules.

Nothing was discussed outside the forum. We've not made contact.

I've also noticed that the topic has grown rather out of topic already.

Alright time to grade points :

To be honest, I dun think i'm qualified to grade u guys. But since I have to, I'll just grade accordingly to how close u guys answered my very generic question without a definite answer. My apologises and gratitude to those who have tried, argued, contributed, and stayed with the topic.
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thrawn80Author Commented:
To davebytes and aqua,

thanks for all ur contributions, ideas and anything u've posted here. There isn't anyone who had the perfect answer. I was torn in between giving the "accepted answer" to either one of u. However I guess, the points are more or less divided, so nobody's a loser here :)

I guess we can continue from here.

Besides that, I think I'll share my path working towards a MMORPG.
Assuming that I'll be a PM or a Project Lead in a MMORPG project, I'll need to have the following experience :
Games to write
2x vertical shooters
2x real time strategy
2x minor multiplayer simulations like Card games, etc.
1x Online real time strategy (at least network support for 8 players)
1x 3rd person or 1st person shooter (if MMORPG intended in 3d)
1x shooter multiplayer (supporting at least 16-64 players)
1x MUD
---
only then this person is experienced enough to consider attempting at a MMORPG. Of course, u guys may disagree or even flame me for my nonsense but this is just what I feel - Please don't flame me. :P

This is just my opinion of the amount of experience a developer requires for a MMORPG. A slow way up leading to a MMORPG. But I may be wrong. heh... please advise if you have a better analyse or gauge :P
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Andrew BeersCommented:
Ms. Venabili,

Yes, I do believe having a pointless discussion area for Game Dev. would be cool and useful.  If it will not get you in trouble for doing so I do believe myself as well as other Dev's would very much like that.

~Aqua
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VenabiliCommented:
I cannot do an area, but I can do a thread :) Will post it later today:)
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thrawn80Author Commented:
Heeh Aqua, I mistaken your pointless as in MEANINGLESS ... no wonder I had quite a problem understanding it...

It was actually - pointless = A question worth ZERO POINT.

It'll be quite sometime before coming back here for a peep. I just hope that more ppl will contribute their experiences to this PAQ as a friendly form of sharing.

Till then... -
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