Ask Game Producer: Would a Simple MMORPG Engine Be Doable by One Person?


I need to undertake a large project that will consist of a major part of my degree and i was considering implementing a small scale (very very simple) mmorpg engine, client and server architecture.

I would just like your opinion on whether you would think this is feasible for 1 person to achieve, bearing in mind im not trying to create something that will be released or distributed, it will be more of a technical demo i suppose. I have read several articles floating about on the net and have received mixed opinions from some saying that its easy to do and some saying that its not even worth starting. I feel that personally i could create something quite simple, and implement a client/server architecture however i don’t have the insight into this in a development perspective (i have never attempted to undertake anything as big as this) and im 100% up for the challenge of doing so. I was considering using primarily .net technologies and directx (probably c#, xml and sql) as ive spent most of this year utilising these technologies, again what would be your perspective on using tools such as these?

I believe this boils down to estimating the duration of the project.

It’s almost impossible for me or others to answer whether one man can do the job or not unless I can see the tasks that needs to be done. Does the engine require 3D rendering? Databases? Will there be user registration system? What functionality will the players have – will you implement chatting, moving, fighting, or just coordinates? Will there be zones? How many players are supposed to be in the game? Will there be buildings, objects, NPCs? Even “simple client-server architecture” might require doing code for these.

I suggest making a list of what needs done, then estimating how much each item might take time and then compare the results with the resources you have.

I personally always suggest people to avoid building their own engines. I think it’s much better way to use what others have done: get an engine that somebody has already built, and develop your own gameplay using the engine. I believe this is much easier & faster way to get into game development rather than focusing on building the base. Kaneva and Multiverse for example are solutions which you can use to build your own MMORPG. I strongly suggest for one person to avoid building a full scale MMORPG game or engine, it would simply require too much time.

In this specific case building the engine from scratch can be understood (as it it’s part of a degree, not something to actually be released) and I wouldn’t say but to estimate the duration of a project and compare it with the resources you can use. Building a simple client-server architecture could be doable, although I bet the functionality wouldn’t be huge.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. hi
    if you need any help, give me a post i will do what i can.
    and could i ask what you plan to base the game around? (eg ninja(naruto), mutiple(WOW) etc)
    try ask a GM from another game for more help
    BUT please keep in touch i would to help out in this project.

    thank you for your time

  2. If I want to create a 2D mmorpg side scroller like MS… where should I start… I am lost on what language I should use or how to set up the graphics… If anyone could help?

  3. go to realmcrafter.com the engine is easy to use and it is scriptable. it is a stable engine and allows for all the point and click you could ever want. even better its only a hundred bucks.

  4. @moi: Yes, if engine is there, it’s doable – but even then it requires lots of work. You used 18 months, and got one scenario & beta.

    One could ask, how much time would it require to have 10 scenarios & finalized gameplay?

  5. If you don’t have to create the engine, it’s definintely doable. I did something similar as a mod for UT2004 (which is a fairly well develloped 3D engine with a luxury of scripting possibilities and many 3d models already available).
    But you have to be very well organized and patient.
    Although I quit the project, I managed to take it to a playable beta state with one scenario completed.
    It took the better of 18 months of my life though.

    If you have to build the basic engine, you can still do it provided that you keep things simple.

  6. @Jay: Their credits page mention quite a lot of names. Although I presume Josh could be the guy who did most of the game. Even though it might be possible for one guy to handle creation of MMORPG… I think it simply takes too much time and effort to actually finish one.

  7. Theres some great points here about defining focus, which I heartily agree on. It’s hard to make any sort of comment or direct advice given the broadness of the question. Instead of rehashing what was said elsewhere might I suggest you take a peek at a slightly different MORPG that has all the elements of simplicity, that you might take inspiration from. You may have heard of this, but I’m surprised to hear that not that many people have heard of Maple Story; a 2D side scrolling MMORPG. It’s terribly addictive and fun and great to see other people tearing around 2D landscapes. Reducing the level of graphical complexity would not only give you the chance to actually have interactive graphics, but also give you more time to spend on hammering the core code of your engine.

    Link: http://www.maplestory.com

  8. “Minions of Mirth.”

    Minions of Mirth was largely the work of one guy, Josh Ritter, and his wife. He got a small amount of private investment money, used it to contract out for some content, and the amazing thing is – the whole thing actually works.

    It’s sort of a nostalgic return to the original release of Everquest.

    So it’s ENTIRELY possible if you scope the project correctly; if you have the right amount of drive AND skills, scope your LIFE to meet those goals, and just DO IT.

    Now, a single person creating a World of Warcraft? No. Ain’t gonna happen.

  9. “a small scale (very very simple) mmorpg engine, client and server architecture.”

    If you create one without the graphics then you end up with a text MUD. Text MUDs can definitely have a core whipped up in a few weeks. There’s a book on this… “Mud game programming” or some such thing. Look on Amazon.

    If you want to use graphics to say you have graphics, I’d actually suggest 2D graphics as the easiest to get going. 3D is a bit trickier.

    As far as producing a MMORPG with one one person… I’m doing that, and it’s taking a very-very long time. http://www.mxac.com.au/mif

  10. A simple client-server engine for an MMORPG is a really broad term. I, along with a couple of other people created a simple 4-person client-server based game in a 2-week window of a programming class. It didn’t work very well, but it implemented basic client-server technology.

    The first step would be to asses what you are trying to illustrate by creating this engine. Are you trying to show the data structure, the flow, the complexity, the simplicity? What are your goals? From there, asses what you need to build to achieve these goals. Do you need to build a system that will allow for detailed logging and analysis of player interaction? Do you need a system that is potentially scalable? Do you need a world where players are able to create content?

    Then, once you have a focused set of goals, you can begin looking in to the actually technology you will need and the time involved to build. You need to start by defining what you are doing much better than “a small scale MMORPG engine, client and server architecture”.

  11. If you do want to build your own engine, do at least use the available high level libraries for graphics (Ogre, Irrlicht), networking (Raknet) and so on. You can do this especially if your needs are not highly specialized and you are not going to use top of the notch next generation technology. If you are going to use readily made libraries, and you are a skilled programmer, I wouldn’t say it is impossible to create a simple MMORPG engine in a year or two.

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