Creating a MMOG (or MMORPG) is a dream for many developers.
The biggest problems with MMO game development are pretty much the following:
Basically they are too large projects for individuals or small teams to handle. The need for solid network code and huge content is something which will take ages to complete. And those are just two aspects of programming. The need for servers, bandwidth, billing systems require money. These are simply something which small indies cannot afford. Small team making a MMORPG from scratch is waste of money and time.
Google can show us several (open source) MMORPGs that have been started, but I haven’t seen any finished indie MMORPGs
(If somebody can prove me wrong, please let me know.)
Edit #2: Dofus had a million dollar budget. I doubt any indies can afford that – there’s most likely some invested money there…? I presume ATITD is the only one that has been developed and published by a self-funded company? Recently a person at GameDev mentioned “RuneScape” – which leads to the discussion about “what is the definition of Massively multiplayer online games”… Are MUDs considered MMO games as well? In any case – the MMO games made by indies are minority. There are lots of more unfinished mmorpg projects than actually finished games with massive amount of simultaneous players (exluding browser based) made by indies.
Luckily, there are alternatives.
Kaneva Game Platform
Recently I found a game development kit called Kaneva Game Platform. The main idea seemed very interesting. Kaneva let’s you create your own MMO game. The basic features & benefits are said to be:
– No fees, money is paid using royalties
– Editors to script your game
– Possibility to modify the engine using C++
– Kaneva hosts your game and handles billing
Unfortunately it seems that Kaneva uses 3D Studio Max (which licencing fees are way too high for indies) and secondly: the Kaneva crashed my Windows XP every time after 15 seconds. I really hope they get the game system stable. It looked interesting, the concept is nice – but the execution is not good. At least not yet.
Multiverse offers similar solution for indie game developers. They started offering their MMOG platform at the beginning of the December (2005) and their system is said to be:
– Make a complete Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) or virtual world for less money and in less time than you could have dreamed possible.
– Participate in the game industry’s most exciting frontier.
– Build the features that make your game unique, leveraging the expertise of the networking and infrastructure experts who helped build the web.
– Deliver your vision to a built-in market of players–without having to ask a publisher’s permission or give up your intellectual property.
And they have similar offering as Kaneva:
– There are no upfront costs. We only make money when you make money, and if you never charge a cent, you never have to pay us anything.
At the time of writing, Multiverse is in closed beta phase so I didn’t have the opportunity to test the system yet. The screenshots they provided looked quite similar to any MMOG out there.
I believe more and more MMOG options will be available for indie game developers in this year 2006. Keep your eyes open.