[MUD-Dev] MMORPG: where to start for making and running a game

Eric Lee \{GAMES\} elee at microsoft.com
Wed Oct 15 16:07:13 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


Richard Brown wrote:

> We know very little about MMORPG but believe it or not we decided
> to do one. I am the one supposed to "get it started".
 
> Now the question: what am I going to do with my rich friend's
> money in the next six month? What should I buy, who should I hire,
> what do I tell them to do, and the most important: what should we
> try to accomplish?

That depends a lot on what your goal is.  Is this a for-fun
experimental project or a for-profit company you're trying to start? 
(I assume the latter?)

If you're indeed trying to make a profit on an MMP game then the
first thing you need to know is that the market is _way_
over-saturated right now and the odds of anyone being financially
successful without the backing of a major company are low.  That's
not to say it's impossible; I just wouldn't encourage your rich
friend to think of this as a good investment strategy.  The risk is
extremely high, especially if you don't already have experience in
the industry.  When I say "extremely high", I mean somewhere between
speculating on penny stocks and buying lottery tickets.

If you want to build a for-profit company, then the first thing you
need to do is learn what it takes to build and ship an MMP game from
a business and management perspective.  I found _Developing Online
Games_ by Jessica Mulligan and Bridgette Patrovsky to be full of
useful information.  The chapters on budgeting and profit margins
are particularly eye-opening.  Building and (more importantly)
running an MMP game is far more complex and expensive than most
people realize.  Be sure you know everything that you'll have to
deal with; running dev, design, and art teams, distribution,
datacenters, advertising, billing, customer support, updates, etc.

The second thing you'll need to do is learn about MMP design; what's
worked in the past, what hasn't worked, and what's coming in the
near future.  There are lots of books and resources devoted to this
topic.  _Designing Virtual Worlds_ by Richard Bartle is just one
possible choice.

Take $500 and go buy yourself a copy of the top ten MMPs and play
them all.  Do research on each of them and discover what players
like and don't like about each of them.  If your financial backing
is limited (less than, say, $15 million) then you most likely won't
be able to compete head to head with the big titles (EQ, DAoC,
Lineage, etc.).  You'll need to come up with a clever twist on
standard MMP design that will create a small but loyal niche market.
There are several small companies that have been successful here.

Personally, I recommend not spending any time or money on software
until you have a budget, a business plan, and solid game design
worked out to a reasonable level of detail.  Probably the biggest
mistake people make is to "get something working" before knowing
what the heck they're trying to build.  Doing the design isn't as
sexy as fiddling around with rendering engines but your design
dictates everything else.  Know what you want to build before you
build it.  If you don't hammer out your design first, I guarantee
you'll end up rewriting your entire codebase at least twice.

Good luck!

Eric
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