Ask Game Producer: How to Make My First MMORPG?

Question: How to go about learning to make my first MMORPG

I’m a web programmer, I do most of my work in PHP/MySQL, and I’m also familiar with Visual Basic and the basics of C (as in hello-world). I want to make an MMORPG game like www.runescape.com. The point is that the user accounts are to be stored on the server side, and whenever a user buys membership.. or trains a skill, etc the account is updated in the server database. This way I can eliminate most of the piracy/cheating/cracking issues.

Now onto my question. As you can see I’m familiar with programming, I’ve been doing PHP coding for about 2 years and I can also learn other languages quickly. How would you suggest I go about learning how to make my first MMORPG? What programming language I should use, what library/framework, etc etc etc. Can you give me a list of things I need to learn in order to be in the condition to write the MMORPG? You could also write a walk-through type of article on how to make an MMORPG for someone familiar with the basics of programming.

Answer: There are tools for MMORPG creation, but those alone won’t help you

My short answer is this: I don’t recommend doing a MMORPG as your first project. I think the problem any Massively game is the word “massively”. These projects tend to evolve very large, and might take decades to complete. Even a very small project (which I believe doesn’t even exist) tend to get bigger and bigger as you get new ideas. I know this is one issue that I must deal with in our current game project. I would recommend starting small, perhaps even prototyping and then extending the game bit by bit. I don’t think it’s necessary to make MMORPG right away. I think it would be a good idea to start creating a room where people could walk and talk. Then you could start extending by adding another room, another character type, and so on.

Since I haven’t created a MMORPG I don’t feel like giving a guide on how to create one. I’ve been recommended to read Massively Multiplayer Game Development or Massively Multiplayer Game Development 2 by Thor Alexander, but I cannot personally recommend them since I haven’t read neither of these books.

I would also suggest checking out blogs that deal with MMO gaming, blogs such as Kill Ten Rats (where you can find a big list of other blogs to check out…) and find some fresh ideas about what MMO games already have, and what new innovations there could be.

Articles and tools for MMO game development

If you really want to create your own massively multiplayer online game, then an article I wrote about year ago might give you some help: check it out and see if you get some tips from that. Things have happened since writing that article, so I must add that Multiverse seems like a decent tool for indies to use: they say it contains all the tools you need to create – and even sell – your very own MMO game. I get their developer newsletter (which you can get if you sign up with their system) that they send now and then. It looks to me that they are doing a proper system for new developers.

Carnival of Game Production listed an article about how one man created a massively multiplayer online game. I recommend reading the interview: part 1 and part 2. The game can be seen at MaidMarian.com.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Me and my friends want to make a mmo to. We have a TON of ideas, but we know almost NO programing! Is there a good program i could use to help me and my many friends?

  2. I agree somewhat on the KISS method (aka Keep It Simple Stupid)
    Iam workin on a MMORPG myself- yes MMORPG and found it… quite overwhelming.. but Ive simplified it…. Made a “newbie land” for low levels, and myself and 9 others play on it workin out bugs and ideas.

    Not the best approach I must admit- a few times I think my brain exploded from the frustraition and anger.

    But if you’ve got some time- try that … make a small Island to work on..just KISS though… nothing like an hourly raid from the dragon spawn or anything crazy demanding to code/work with. make chars.. make them walk.. talk.. pick up items.. break stuff.. etc. then expand from that.

  3. I agree. I’m working on my first persistant online game – not an MMO. The difference? Much, much smaller userbase, less complex systems, less mainanance and customer service etc. My advice for the many people out there asking, ‘how do I make an MMO’, is to ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’, work to your strengths and budgets, and plan & design very conservatively. Make sure you’ve had plenty of project experience by working on smaller games, prototypes, proofs-of-concepts etc. If you can’t shake the MMO bug, work on a single player RPG with your subsystems implemented, as it’ll give you a good base for expanding this into multiplayer and beyond.

    On the flip side, there is a wealth of middleware and tutorials out there that there is no excuse not to make something, but think small and work up from there.

    The conclusion is, if you’re still keen on making an MMO, do you’re research, work to your strengths and be prepared for a *lot* of work.

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