[MUD-Dev] Star Wars Galaxies: 1 character per server

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Sat Jan 11 09:46:06 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "Valerio Santinelli" <tanis at mediacom.it>
> Caliban Tiresias Darklock wrote:
>> From: "Koster, Raph" <rkoster at soe.sony.com>

>>> Part of the problem is that the budgets and profit margins
>>> haven't balanced out yet. That minimum feature set game probably
>>> costs around $50 million, but nobody wants to swallow that yet.

>> I've been playing with the idea of MMOGs as franchises, but it's
>> still a nebulous concept.

>> Essentially, one company develops a core backend, but provides no
>> game content. Other companies then provide actual game content,
>> running on that core. And other companies operate the servers
>> which provide game services to the public, using that
>> content. Each company markets to the next one down the line, with
>> the server operators being the ones who market the games
>> themselves directly to the public.

> This idea sounds good to me. In a player's point of view this
> could be ok, but I see a lot of problems arising with that
> business model.

Yeah, there are almost certainly things I've not considered. The
basic project idea I've got is to start by developing the entire
system, then gradually pull back from the end-user aspect... first
by having a single partner run the network, then by having multiple
partners run the network, then by adding partners to create
content. Eventually, you pull back to your core competency of
maintaining a flexible and reusable framework for which you can
provide top-drawer support to your partners. Essentially, you start
with the big picture, then focus down to one area where you can be
excellent instead of sticking with "good enough" across the board.

> It's very difficult for a company to develope content for a core
> system that has not been made in house and has not been studied
> during development.

Not true. If a core engine is properly implemented, documented, and
supported, it will be a big win for later developments. Look at the
number of extreme sports games built on iterations of the "Tony
Hawk's Pro Skater" engine; most of them were brought from concept to
release in less than a year. None of those companies studied the
THPS engine during development, because it was the same engine used
in Neversoft's previous ill-fated game "Apocalypse" -- with some
added enhancements. Nobody cared about the "Apocalypse" engine, so
nobody paid any attention to it.

> Having someone jump in adding content right after the core system
> is finished would require ages to actually use it effectively.  So
> a solution could be working together from scratch. But this
> requires a real big trust in your partner companies IMHO. I don't
> know if in the real world this could ever work.

I think you'd have to approach it initially the same way you would
approach building your own MMOG, and in fact produce an MMOG which
became successful in the process. Basically, you would be your own
partners -- separating three groups out of your own company, one to
build the engine, one to build the content, and one to set up
servers. By modeling the customer experience, you could create
something which would theoretically encounter and solve most of the
real customer issues that would be encountered. By using the same
support channels internally as your customers will use later, you
can identify and remove bottlenecks that might otherwise doom the

> I don't see a commercial engine going to grow rapidly as Linux
> did.

I don't see ANYTHING growing as rapidly as Linux did. Linux was one
of those insanely happy synergies that occasionally happens, but
cannot be reproduced with any certainty. However, by identifying
components of the phenomenon which have desirable results, you can
certainly achieve those desirable results by including those
components in your development process -- not necessarily to the
same degree, but to *some* degree.

> Maybe an Open Source architecture could do the trick thanks to the
> community that could arise around it.

I don't see open source as a viable business model for games. I
think it does a good job of developing certain kinds of things, but
games aren't among them. Most open source games suck.

> And companies are going to invest money if they already see
> something using that engine. Probably nobody would have used Doom
> or Quake engine if there wasn't a game developed by id Software
> using that same engine.

See above. ;)

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