Monthly Archives: January 2007

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.

Old MyBlogLog Plugin ‘MyAvatars’ Has a Spam Vulnerability – Update Immediately

PeterM reported me a spam email problem, which I tracked to be problem of the old v0.1 MyAvatars plugin for WordPress. If you are using MyAvatars plugin to display MyBlogLog images in your blog, make sure you have the latest version. The plugin can be downloaded from here: napolux.com.

In the old version 0.1 the user emails were displayed like “mailto:some.user@somewhere.com”, which lets spam machines to steal email addresses from blogs and then spam to them (if a person who made a comment and gave his email, it was exposed to potential spammers because of the plugin). In the new version 0.2 this problem has been fixed.

One way to check to see if a blog is using an old version. In each comment, there is a small avatar icon near each comment. In the v0.1 (vulnerable) version you could see the following image for those who don’t have a MyBlogLog avatar:

In the new fixed version 0.2 the image is different for those who don’t have an account:
(I’m not 100% sure if this is the way for people to know the version, but I’m pretty sure you can spot the old version by checking the images)

If you know some blogs using MyAvatars plugin (a blog that displays those images) I recommend contacting the blog author and telling them about this problem. I’m sure they would greatly appreciate your effort. I know I did.

14 Ways to Motivate Yourself

There are some days when you simply don’t feel motivated to do anything. You might have all the time in the world to work on your game and you just don’t feel motivated enough to work. When that happens, you might need some tools to be productive. Here are 14 practical tips to increase your motivation:

#1 – Decide what you want

I believe this is one of the most important steps in motivating yourself: if you don’t know your goal, how can you motivate yourself to achieve anything? First decide what you want, and then set small goals or tasks so that you are absolutely sure you know what to do next.

#2 – Track your progress

Another important motivator: you must see your progress. Don’t just clean your todo list after you’ve completed a task, but rather mark each thing “done”. If you are making a game, start making a version history that shows all the small things you’ve done. Having a visible list of things you’ve done will help you see you how much you’ve achieved.

#3 – Motivation may come from challenges

Some people enjoy challenges: they want to make game in a week, or they want to make 20 new phone calls a day or they want to increase some part of their productivity by 10%. If you are like this, you might find motivation from setting deadlines or really challenging yourself to do better.

#4 – Get fresh ideas

When I presented Edoiki in the game design event I got lots of feedback and new ideas. Brainstorming or gathering feedback is excellent ways to get fresh ideas and boost your motivation.

#5 – Reward yourself

You like checking out forums, emails and blogs – right? Use that to reward yourself. Don’t let yourself use forums, email or read blogs unless you’ve coded 1 hour, added one more feature, killed one ugly bug, made that important phone call or whatever important you might need to do. If you stop doing unproductive but “fun” things after you’ve finished productive and important tasks, you’ll be more motivated to work.

#6 – Remind yourself about the feeling that motivated you

Can you remember the feeling you had when you got your first sale, or when you finally got all the important code pieces together and it worked? Remind yourself about the feeling you had when you had just finished something important and understand that after you’ve finished important tasks – you may feel the same.

#7 – Competition may motivate

Competition is another way to motivate. Set up a little competition among developers. Who kills most bugs this week? Or who gets their task list done fastest? Or who can make the coolest 3D model? Fun, little competition might increase motivation for some people.

#8 – Desktop wallpaper might motivate you

This is really simple motivating technique: just set a new computer desktop wallpaper to remind you about what you’d need to do. I currently have eastern themed wallpaper to motivate me programming Edoiki game. When we get new game art ready, I’ll update my wallpaper.

#9 – Use screensaver

Not as good motivator as desktop wallpaper, but could be considered anyway. Set a screensaver with a text reminder about your game project. Any time you see the text you might consider twice whether to sit on sofa or whether to program your game.

#10 – Listen to motivating music

Some people get very motivated by listening a music they enjoy. I don’t usually listen to anything specific when I’m coding but some people might find this tip useful.

#11 – Play test your game

Sometimes coding can get really boring. When debugging line after line and editing code gets too boring it might be a good idea to do some play testing. Play a few rounds your game and enjoy as much as you can. When you get the feeling “hey, this really IS a fun game” you know you are working on something great and might feel more motivated to continue finishing the project.

#12 – Use leverages

Some people have problems waking up in the morning. Even alarm clocks might not be able to help them wake up at 6:00 am – because it would be too early. Luckily we all can use leverages. If you can use something that will cause bigger problems, you will wake up 6:00. Maybe it’s money. If you would need to give 100 bucks to your co-workers every time you oversleep I doubt you’d do that many times. Or the leverage could be that you wouldn’t be allowed to use your computer unless you get up before 6:00 am. If that would be the case, I would be absolutely sure that it would be no big deal at all for you to wake up in time. You can use your co-workers, spouse or children to be “watchdogs” and make sure the consequences will be handled.

#13 – Ask “what if”

Here are two questions you might want to ask from yourself: “What will happen if you do? What will happen if you don’t?” What will happen if you do what you were supposed to do? If you finish one feature, you know you’ve taken a step further towards completion of the project. If you choose to “wait until you feel motivated” you won’t get anywhere. Simply thinking about the future might get you motivated.

#14 – Remind yourself why you are doing this

The first tip about goal setting is important, but it’s as much important to remind yourself why you are doing games – or whatever it is where you need motivation. When you start reminding yourself about the main reasons what made you start the project in the first place you’ll be more motivated to continue.

Use these tips or whatever works for you. We all are different, and are motivated by different factors. My own personal favourite is tip #8, and maybe it works for you too.

Don’t Let Others Puke On Your Business

Those who enjoyed the pizza story might like this story as well. This is a shorty story about how bad customers can ruin business with other potential customers.

Couple of summers ago I saw a nice looking ice cream place near a lake. It was nice weather and the place looked clean. A perfect time and place to eat some ice cream. I was just about to enter to this place when some guy puked on the outdoor terrace floor. The smelly and gross looking vomit changed everything – and I didn’t get ice cream that day.

And I never ever will – from that place.

Whenever I walk past that place, it activates this bad memory in me and I simply cannot go to that place anymore. Even if I wanted I would still remember the vomit. Believe me, eating ice cream and thinking vomit same time is not exactly what I call a delicious treat. There are plenty of other places to go for some ice cream, so I have no plans to force myself to go that place.

Same can happen in your business – or even in your team. Some of your customers – or team members – might “puke” on your business. Some team member might be really negative oriented and kill the motivation or fun from other team members. Or maybe some customer is giving a really bad image (like what happened in my case) that stops you getting more customers.

Your job is to make sure this won’t happen.

Do Addictive Games Sell Well?

Some days ago I asked what’s the most addictive game you’ve ever played and the games in that list looked quite typical & well-known: there were games such as Tetris, Sim City, Ultima Online, Civilization, Final Fantasy, Zelda, Heroes of Might and Magic and so on. (For full list, see the post).

Now, let’s compare this list with the best selling games in Australia few days ago. GameSpot announced the list.

While there were some quite new hit games such as Grand Theft Auto, Gears of War or Cricket 07 it was quite interesting to notice that the old brands are still dominating the charts: Sims is there, Zelda is there, World of Warcraft is there, Pokemon is there. Games from these product lines were said to be addictive games.

While it’s too short list and too few games to make final conclusions, it could still be said that there is a some kind of link between addictive games and games that sell well. It is also quite clear that brands are powerful: out of 10 Top selling PC Games there were 6 games from the Sims product line.

Creating an addictive game and extending the brand with expansions looks like a successful strategy.

World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Shows the Impact of Brand

World of Warcraft’s latest expansion Burning Crusade is out now and players are rushing to get it. From a producer’s marketing viewpoint it’s quite interesting to see what the new features are:

* An increase in the level cap to 70
* New spells for each class
* Two new playable races: Blood Elves & Draenei
* The entire new continent of Outland
* Many new zones and high-level dungeons
* Hundreds of new monsters, quests, and items
* A new profession: Jewelcrafting
* Flying mounts in Outland

Basically it’s pretty much like more new stuff on the original game. I’m sure that works – and with a strong brand such as WoW it can be done. Over and over. Some players complained about the level cap of the original game (The maximum level you could reach was something like 50 or 60) – so now Blizzard is doing what the players want: giving you more tools to continue playing.

I’m sure this expansion pack will do fine and game producers can learn from this concept: selling your expanded product – bigger and better – to your existing customers will work. Simply adding new features and polishing your product will help sales.

Casual Games Are Beating the AAA Titles

Gamespress reported that Eidos – one of the world’s leading publishers and developers of entertainment software – announced a distribution deal with premium casual game developer and publisher MumboJumbo. They will release six top PC game franchises to European retail on 9th February 2007.

The six hit titles have all been featured prominently in the global download charts, with combined sales of over two million copies to-date. The titles to be released to European retail include: Jewel Quest, Luxor: Amun Rising, Super Collapse! 3, Cubis 2, Chainz 2: Relinked and 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

If you look at for example the Luxor game, it has a darn simple idea, pretty graphics, different levels – all things that every game might have. But something made it a hit game and now it’s going to be published by one of the biggest game publishers in the world. Casual games are getting more and more coverage and deals like this will guarantee the increasing trend of casual gaming.

What a Pizza Man Could Learn About Marketing

If you don’t treat your customers well, they won’t buy your pizza

Here’s a story that happened to me sometime in the past. We were ordering two pizzas from a nearby pizzeria. We only lived like 50 meters away from the restaurant but since the home delivery was free when ordering two pizzas, why bother walking when they can bring the pizzas at your door.

The pizzas were ordered, we had to wait some time before unknown number called my cellphone. It was the pizza delivery guy, and he said “The pizzas are here, come”. I went to get the pizzas. I was wondering a bit why the pizza guy didn’t come to 6th floor but called me – even when the outdoor was open.

I went out and there the pizza guy was. I paid the pizzas and got quite upset response. He started telling how “home delivery was only for those who live far away, not for your apartment building because it’s so close”. And then he went away.

Can you believe this guy? Basically he was saying that “I’d rather drive 3 kilometers to deliver pizzas than drive 50 meters to deliver pizzas”. There are other pizzerias all over the city. Why would I bother walking a single meter when I can get pizzas delivered at home from any (except this one) restaurant I want?

He couldn’t see a forest for just one tree

Although we weren’t (and aren’t) eating pizzas every other day we still order pizzas now and then and sometimes might recommend these pizzerias them to our friends. The pizza guy was thinking just his feet (well, actually – he wasn’t thinking even them) and the $10 he got from one order. If we would make 10 or 20 orders per year we would have been bringing them $100-$200 per year and also recommending their pizzeria to our friends who might have continued doing this, so basically this delivery guy (who was actually one of the owners) lost several hundreds of dollars per year to other pizzerias.

And that only because he likes to drive 3 kilometers rather than 50 meters to meet the customer.

Well, now he has all the time in the world to do that. I won’t be bothering them anymore.

Carnival of Game Production – First Edition

Welcome to the first edition of carnival of game production. The carnival theme is about game production and there were several different kinds of articles in the submissions: interviews, technical, programming, design, motivational and general game production. Thanks to everybody for submitting your articles. If your article missed this Carnival, you can still submit another article to upcoming Carnivals. The next Carnival will be hosted again here at GameProducer.net in the coming weeks. You may use the submission page to send your articles.

Hanford Lemoore breaks some myths: How one man made an MMO: an interview with Gene Endrody. The title says it all.

Jay Barnson presents Interview with Georgina Bensley, Creator of Cute Knight. Lengthy interview with Georgina Bensley. Developer describes the game mechanism, tells about game design and tools that were used to create the best-selling “casual” indie RPG, “Cute Knight”.

Gianfranco Berardi submitted a short but practical article: Automating Build and Test Systems. The tip: “Any time you can use a computer to automate a repetitive task, you’ll find consistency in quality and speed as well as fewer headaches related to the meta-work of making a game” is worth remembering.

Rick Stirling gives the right answer to question: How many polygons in a piece of string?. Very practical and informative article.

Harry Kalogirou presents a length article Multithreaded Game Scripting with Stackless Python which goes deeper into tech side, but is worth checking for any programmer.

TonyC presents Learn to love your level designers!. It’s a short post but reminds us that level designers are important.

Corvus Elrod ponders Wii design elements: Wii’ve Been Played!. It’s so true that the Wiimote adds additional element in designing games for Wii. A challenging design element I must say.

Philip Ludington describes The 10 reasons you will never finish your game. I believe I have experienced every one of these points… What about you?

It’s nice to conclude this Carnival edition in a positive way and Raoul’s fine post gives us hope and motivation: A Great Time to Be an Independent Developer.

Enjoy the articles.

Edoiki Design Improvements and Developer Role Talk

Edoiki gameplay benefited from the presentation

Yesterday I presented Edoiki in a Finnish game design event and while my presentation was simply a white board with green and red dots I got some great feedback and ideas. In the first game mode – without revealing too much – there is going to be an assassin which will try to eliminate civilians.

A very simple idea that I got from Eero Tuovinen (a real mastermind when it comes to game design) was this: “How about giving different targets for the assassin, not just civilians but buildings?” He suggested that assassin could bomb a building and when he the assassin is setting a bomb he becomes visible (normally assassin is invisible to guards). This was a very simple idea (like good ideas always are, right?) but it adds great variety and another strategical dimension in the game. I’m sure that will be added in the gameplay in some way.

I have a list of about 20 new ideas with me and can’t wait to start implementing those.

Funny how people think they are special

Since the event was focused about game design it was natural to hear designers’ point-of-views and arguments. I heard arguments stating how “core gameplay and a good design is probably the thing that makes a game fun”.

I’ve heard different points from somewhere else, and I couldn’t help thinking an imaginary conversation between different game developers. If a game designer, programmer, artist, marketing specialist and a game producer would sit around a table, the conversation might go something like this:

  • “If the core game mechanism isn’t designed well, no matter how nice graphics you have it simply won’t work”, the designer starts.
  • Programmer would interfere by saying: “everybody can get ideas, but somebody must actually take action and code those features to make sure the game ever sees daylight”.
  • Graphics and sound artist would continue: “okay, you’ve got some boxes moving on the screen but without great voice acting, music and sounds it’s not possible to reach a great level of immersion – game needs to be visually stunning to work. Without artists you cannot reach that level.”.
  • Marketers adds “okay, you might have the greatest game play, the greatest code and the greatest visuals but if you lack marketing – who will buy your product? Marketing is the most important part to make the game sell“.
  • Game producer or team leader would add: “Okay, you got all the different pieces – but who is going to make all the parts work together and make sure the project is actually finished before the next ice age? Without a great leader, a project won’t succeed”

Who is right?

I believe everybody is right. Producing a video game is teamwork. I think the designer is right about stating that the gameplay and mechanism must be designed properly. Every game production team will benefit from having a designer in the team or at least reading about game design.

The programmer is also right. If project is just about having nice ideas it won’t get very far. Programmer is definitely a key person in the team.

What about artists then? Some people might say that they aren’t needed (and all 3D games should be done in 2D) but I believe there is no reason why game couldn’t look good. And nowadays art and visuals can actually play a big role in games: shadows and lights are good examples about the artistic elements that can be used in gameplay and to add depth in the game. I think artist is right here as well.

And so is the marketer. He is right: if your game is not promoted in any way, and nobody knows about it – then it won’t sell. It might be a fine game, but it won’t be a very successful product if it lacks marketing.

Are game producers needed? Well, yes. Somebody must take the lead and manage the project and lead the people. Producer is also right. Sometimes there must be somebody who says what happens next and makes sure the project is finished.

Naturally in indie (and other) projects one man can have several roles: artist, designer, marketer, programmer and producer hat might be worn depending on the situation. Whenever you need more than one person in a project, it will change. There aren’t (always) no right or wrong answers, and there doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t really matter whether the designer is right or the programmer is right, what matters is that the project is done and finished.

I believe everybody is right.