Creating Your Very Own Massively Multiplayer Online (Role Playing) Game

Creating a MMOG (or MMORPG) is a dream for many developers.

The biggest problems with MMO game development are pretty much the following:
– Time
– Money

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 #1: didn’t take many hours to prove that Dofus and A Tale In The Desert were created by indies… I should remember: there are always exceptions to the law. Thanks people!

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.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. The Multiverse stopped working… Need to change this Post

  2. The Source engine even thought most game devs would advise against the mmo idea, the Source engine was original designed for open landscapes. If you can get a sizable development team together you can license the engine under NDA.

    I would think that you might be able to pull off something close to Guild Wars as far as traveling goes. Only other engines I can think of are Unity and DXstudio, you can build mmos on those engines via extensions.

    UDK if you don’t plan on going the MMO route!

  3. http://www.landofstuff.net

    It’s technically not “finished”, but only in the sense that you could always add more to it. The engine is done, there are a couple of cities and quests, there’s a bunch of different weapons, magic, etc. and it’s all done by me! Muahahaha

  4. oh and a further note tools such as Multiverse are really bad, the tools can be ok but compared to a comercial engine they really aren’t good, also their policies get in the way alot

  5. Hey all i am very new to development but have a bit of experience with engines like realmcrafter and tourque3d, plus im ok at 3d moddeling and learning better modeling and texturing techniques quite fast. I have just finished my first year of A level computing and so can program fairly well but i still need quite a bit of work haha.

    But anyway i added that background to show that its not too hard for indie’s anymore to make an mmorpg, its just that there is far to much competition to make it commercially viable.

    I am however in this as a hobby and am looking to make an rpg with a little multiplayer or maybe a smallish mmorpg however the latter could take years to create content alone. But with something such as http://www.torquepowered.com/products/torque-3d once content is done zone creation and such is rather quick :)

    Im not sure what project i will take up but i am fairly sure i will use that engine to speed my development time considerably.
    These are a few of my first models from my old less powerfull modeling package – http://s922.photobucket.com/albums/ad62/stringy13/wings%203d%20model%20screenshots/

    p.s. sorry for long post just to say its not brilliantly hard just takes a long long time

  6. Looking at Minions of Mirth shows it has not fared the years well. Looks like it’s dead. This is the first time I’ve seen this “daily nugget”, but ti’s true. Their website doesn’t have much information.. i was scrambling to find any.

    I got to this peice a little late, but it’s still true today.

  7. I am developing an MMO architecture (the game itself is planned at a later stage).
    The servers are written in Erlang which it able to handle 10 000+ clients per server (probably more depending on hardware and optimization).

    The client is written in C++ using Ogre3d. There is a great Ogre exporter for Blender avoid license fees with 3dMax/Maya.

    You can check out my project at: http://www.next-gen.cc.

  8. whats a kind game engine with no vilence for youger kids?

  9. @DogCity: Bearing in mind that this article is over one year old, I’ll give some responds

    > “what experience do you have with indie MMOG development, or are you just summarising some personal research?”

    I’ve planned many, started one, finished none ;)

    Seriously, in my mind there’s very few finished MMORPGs compared to started projects. I could have used better words, like saying that they are “too large projects for most individuals or small teams”. I think guys who made Minions of Mirth have done a very good online multiplayer game, and so has Runescape. I believe the small problem is the world “massively”. These games have hundreds of players playing on the same server (as I check the Runespace list I see one server having about 1300 players. While that’s not “thousands or ten thousand players on same server” I think that’s pretty massive – so in this sense I could agree that Runespace is a MMO. But, then the next question: Runescape website is “copyright 1999-2007”. These guys started in December 2001 and have developed the game for years after that. That pretty much sums up with the “time” limitation.

    The second is “resource”. If you look at the Runescape credits list you can see that the team is not – in my opinion – a very small. There’s lots of people doing design, development, content, support, etc. etc.

    While I can admit that there are games that can be considered MMOs (by small teams), I believe these two constraints – time and money – are still very valid today. And, that’s one reason why I don’t recommend creating MMO as one’s first project.

  10. Interesting, yet traditionally uninformed views! I wonder, without wishing to sound harsh, what experience do you have with indie MMOG development, or are you just summarising some personal research?

    I whole heartedly agree that it’s a vast undertaking to develop an MMOG, but why in every case of articles like this, does the author insist on examining professional MMOG development efforts to define a benchmark for production requirements of an indie product? Since when did an indie adventure game require the production values, longevity and breadth of gameplay as Neverwinter Nights or Oblivion? Or for that matter an indie chess game, require the Art, AI and game modes of Chess master 3000, Hmmmm?

    The simple answer is, never – and they shouldn’t; indie games do things differently for a reason, this is their strength, and the reason they are possible to develop and worthwhile purchases. So the good news is, the similarities between developing, marketing and serving World of Warcraft and a title like ATITD are so vanishingly small that all that’s left is the base development requirement – an idea, and talent.

    There is no hard and fast rule of the quantity of artwork, or programming required to produce an MMOG, so people should fling that misconception right out the window – there’s also, still, some shockingly OTT cost quotations for hosting and support, again, caused by people benchmarking indie economics against professional support and service norms. It’s not done for FPS’s, Racing, Puzzle, Sports, Adventure, Strategy or Simulation games so why do people feel it’s sensible to declare indie MMOG development requirements equal or even close to professional products?

    Anyhow, a few more for your ‘indie MMOG’s that don’t exist’ list ;).

    Adventure Quest
    Runescape IS a 3D graphical MMO.
    Puzzle Pirates(?)

    And there are plenty more, but I can’t recall them all! Cheerio.

  11. Yeah it is, there was a reason I didn’t mention it ;) tehre is a wiki with a ton of info regarding plans and speculations. We did a lot of work, but I pretty much coded on my own so you can imagine the immensity of its incompleteness. I hope one day to pick it up again when I have more peace of mind to work on it and perhaps find some interested souls to join in ;) zangerland.com is pretty much our project planning site and it’s not really yet at a stage where I would be comfortable showing it off. I just hope when the time comes it’s not too out of date! Oh, and while we decided not to go text only, I still had more fun with a mud called Act Of War then I ever did with graphical mmorpgs!

  12. I didn’t mean that so literally… “graphics based mud, massive world or user created content” sort of made me think WoW.

    I’m not so much into definitions, but if there’s massive player base – I suppose you can call it massively multiplayer game then.

    I suppose http://zangerland.com/ is your website? I liked it, although it would be nice to see more information about the project.

  13. “Sounds like World of WarCraft to me…”

    Which part? Wow is not user created, not browser based, not mud-like. Not sure where you see the parallels. The project is called Zangerland, btw but little more then various tech demos right now.


  14. Does a graphics based mud count that uses an ajax based browser interface with a massive world of user created content?

    Sounds like World of WarCraft to me…

  15. Does a graphics based mud count that uses an ajax based browser interface with a massive world of user created content?

    I’m trying to blur the lines here :) And with some clever methods I got latency down to ping times cross globe!


  16. Does a graphics based mud count that uses an ajax based browser interface with a massive world of user created content?

    I’m trying to blur the lines here :) And with some clever methods I got latency down to ping times cross globe!


  17. Servers *can* cost way more than $300 per month – I’m quite familiar with the webhostintalk.com forums :) I picked that figure as a some sort of ‘good middle way price’. It depends what kind of server and bandwidth you need.

    Now, as mentioned – servers are only one part of the problem. If you have no other costs than servers, and have 50 000 paying players, certainly you won’t have any problems. :) But chances are… you need to eat & pay for the other stuff already mentioned. Good point you bring up, I should have been clearer.

    The point is: Each server will cost – even if there’s no player paying. And I’d like to point out that there’s a chance that you will give ‘free trial’ period for players – that means you might have thousands of players playing free… and you need to cover those expenses, whether they purchase or not.

  18. Servers costs are much less than £300, just check webhostingtalk forums… ;)
    Anyway if you get 50.000 subscription players that will be the last of your problems!

  19. @Eric:

    What is the breakdown of specific costs involved with an MMO that constitute the “money” issue?

    Let’s remind that MMORPGs require much more content than other kind of games, so basically they have some common costs as with any other game:

    Programming (MMO games require massive amount of code). You’ll need to hire coders to work with you – if you are planning to get the game finished before the next decade. Let’s presume you work alone or with some programmers who have agreed to work without payments. There still would be much you need:

    Art (MMORPGs use massive amount of objects, models, textures. World of Warcraft is a great example on this). If your artists agree on helping you without payments… then you are one lucky guy. Usually artists aren’t willing to do something for nothing – they require money. If a small game costs $1000 to cover all the art, MMO game might require ten times as much: $10000 is not a big figure there.

    – Then there’s all kinds of additional requirements like Levels (in a massive world the levels need to be massive as well) or Events (in a MMO game there usually are special events that happen during the playing. These events require extra programming.) And so on. MMO games simply require extra effort in all areas of game. That brings more costs.

    Let’s again presume you’ve got so nice people to join your group that they will do everything for free. There’s still something.

    Servers (In order your game to be massive you need several servers to deal with all the players). Let’s presume your MMO game has one million players, and 50 000 playing simultaneously. If one server can handle 1000 simultaneous players that would mean you need 50 servers to deal with the players. Each server can cost like $300. That would be $15000 each month.

    Now, you could get a free server from somewhere – but the chances are that you are not going to get 5 or 50 servers for free.

  20. Minions of Mirth is different alright. It’s hard to tell whether they are really massive game or not. I couldn’t find player info. But I have tested the game and it looked nice.

  21. Eric Tyrrell wrote, “What is the breakdown of specific costs involved with an MMO that constitute the “money” issue? ”

    Buy a copy of “Developing Online Games” (?) by Jessica Mulligan. Internet costs are now much cheaper than listed in the book ($.10/GB instead of $1.50/GB), but there’s still a ton use useful information, mainly targeted at large projects.

    Article – “Are MUDs considered MMO games as well? In any case – the MMO games made by indies are minority.”

    It depends upon your definition. Some MUDders consider MMORPGs to be MUDs. It seems like the de-facto definition is that MUDs use text, MMORPGs use graphics. Ignoring the text/graphics issues, they’re the same things.

    Article – “I believe more and more MMOG options will be available for indie game developers in this year 2006. Keep your eyes open. ”

    I’m working on a toolkit that will feel more like a text MUD/adventure game, with static rendered 360-degree graphics (like Myst III), and text to speech. It will emphasize puzzles and intelligent NPCs, and won’t be a standard kill N foozles game. Although, if an author really wanted, they could limit their design pallette to foozle killing. :-) See http://www.mxac.com.au/mif

  22. What is the breakdown of specific costs involved with an MMO that constitute the “money” issue?

  23. @John: Well… If progress is slow it doesn’t mean they cannot do it. I think Planeshift looks good – and if they get it eventually fully finished (which might take time) good for them. Having an IRC channel doesn’t mean they don’t get anything done. If it’s a pure chat place… then it’s true that it could be a major timewaster. I don’t know Planeshift IRC channel so I cannot tell. Having an IRC channel doesn’t mean that the game would be ‘crap’.

    P.S. I would suggest using proper language.

  24. Don’t give me that Planeshift crap. That’s just a good example why indie MMORPG’s will fail – they have been working at it for 5 years with remarkably little to show. Progress is just glacially slow. If it was any good you’d have people setting up their own worlds and servers based on the software, with people making their own towns, worlds and quests.
    One thing I’ve learned is to never trust developers that mention on their website that there’s an IRC channel available where the devs hang to chat. Chatting on IRC is just such a timewaster, you will never get anything done. Planeshift programmers hang on IRC all day long, talking about how cool their ‘game’ will be, but this is exactly the reason why planeshift is s*** and will never be anything.

  25. Just for the record… incase my statement “If you still want to create a MMORPG after reading this, you need to see a therapist.” was taken as a harsh comment, it really wasn’t meant to be an attack toward anyone in particular. I’m very sorry if it was taken seriously.

    Game development in it’s many forms can provide us a creative outlet that allows our ideas and goals to be pushed. Perhaps in many cases it may not be such a false hope that many people attempt to make MMORPG games. If the time and energy spent on developing something that makes the individual happy, then that’s actually more important than finishing a game sometimes.

  26. Well… I wonder who granted Dofus that money? If it really was million dollar *self-funded* it would go as an “indie games”… otherwise not. Hard to say much – we should get more detailed information directly from them.

  27. Dofus had a $1 million budget. Yes, $1 million! The budget was presented on their entry for the Independent Game Festival website. Believe me, I should know. I had access to that data since I also entered my retro side-scroller for the mac called “The Adventures of El Ballo” http://www.elballo.com which had a budget of $2,500.

    Massive Multiplayers are just too crazy in the amount of content needed to be created. Aside from the content, there are tons of things to do. (At least 30 different branches of code development, character modeling/rigging/animation for at least 30 or more characters, at least 1,000 or more 3-d objects to populate a city/town/environment, 200+ pages of script/story writing, and the list goes on and on. If you still want to create a MMORPG after reading this, you need to see a therapist.

  28. “Unfortunately it seems that Kaneva uses 3D Studio Max”

    Fortunately, KGP supports imports from many Ogre-compatible modeling applications, such as:

    Blender (an open source modeling and animation tool)
    Autodesk/Discreet 3ds max
    Autodesk/Alias Maya
    Avid Softimage XSI
    Newtek LightWave
    Milkshape 3D

    More information on this feature is available at http://docs.kaneva.com/bin/view/Public/KanevaEditorXmlImporter

    “Kaneva crashed my Windows XP every time after 15 seconds.”

    Sorry to hear that. KGP is a resource-intensive application. Most of our users and studios have little or no problems with overall stability, and we’re continuing to improve performance and reliability with each new version. If you’d like to discuss the specific issue you’re having or check out our active developer’s community, please drop by and we’ll be happy to assist.

    Thanks for including us in your blog and all the best. –Andre (afrech@kaneva.com)

  29. http://www.planeshift.it/ is a great open-source (though still in technical demo stage) MMORPG. Since by the very nature of it being open-source we expect to work on the project continually in such a way that we would never call the game ‘finished’ unless the team was dissolved :).

    The biggest problem that I believe we have is a shortage of talent. This isn’t with programmers or developers but for artists. One of the hard lessons we have learnt was that a programmer can code a feature in one day that requires a content developer (storywriter, sound, 2D art, 3D art, animation, …) to work more than a month to use the feature effectively in a MMO environment. Not only that but it seems that programmers are drawn to the project by the attraction of working on a game of this sheer scale while artists are repelled by the exact same reason.

    I do admit developing a project like this take a huge amount of time for an independent developer. It’s taken more than five years to reach where it has today, which can be viewed at http://laanx.fragnetics.com/ if you’re interested. Money hasn’t really been an issue apart from attracting and keeping talent probably due to the sheer amount of time the project has been going on for. We have many volunteers willing to donate their server resources to host both the game server and game client.

  30. @Iced_Eagle: Beta… not finished ;) I’ll check the game. Thanks for the link.

    @Jogn: I could have put it more clearer. Basically I was referring to indie game developers: (“Basically they are too large projects for individuals or small teams to handle.”). I think indie game developers usually have talent, but making a MMORPG requires time. Years most likely. Most indies (especially if they work solo) simply don’t have the time. And money is also a big problem for indies: we simply cannot afford to start creating million dollar MMORPG.

    In that point-of-view, time and money are (most likely) the biggest obstacles for indie game developers. Skills are learned along the way – if an indie would have infinite time and money, I bet he could learn the necessary skills to make a MMO game. If an indie is best in his field, he still would need time & money to create the game.

    Maybe for big companies (who already have time & money) – the biggest problem is talent.

    I must say that I do agree that without skills you won’t get anywhere: but (maybe) usually indie developers are quite talented, skilled and motivated – or at least willing to be such developer one day.

  31. I’m just not sure you’re right on the money/time point. The most important thing you need to make an MMO is talent and experience. I’ve worked on six MMOs for the likes of EA and SOE (some of these have actually shipped, and I’m sure you’ve played a couple of them at least if you play MMOs at all). I’ve seen how the talent/expierence factor can really make the difference regardless of how much time any money you have available. I’ve also seen how devistating it can be to loose your talent because your management team doesn’t get it (e.g., “all we need is time any money”).

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