Monday, July 8, 2013

Before You Make an MMORPG

If you’ve never made a videogame before and want to jump right into making a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, stop right there. An MMORPG is one of the most difficult and resource-intensive types of games that anyone could ever attempt to develop. Rather than setting yourself up for an epic failure, do what the pros do and get your feet wet on something much, much simpler to develop.

Once upon a time, there was a guy who had acquired some game development experience by working for a number of professional studios. He didn’t start out making an MMORPG though. As part of a development team, he worked on a mediocre sidescroller about a mutated monkey and on a decent game about a bat who was a circus acro-bat. (Get it?)

It was only after he worked on those and other games that he figured he could start a game studio of his own. He got a couple more buddies to found a company called Condor. They actually had enough clout to make a fighting game featuring several well known superheroes and super villains.

Armed with a lot of experience making videogames, it was only then that they started working on an RPG. It wasn’t a multiplayer RPG, mind you. It was just single player. Even then, their game didn’t have a multitude of character classes. It only had three: a melee-type character, a ranged character, and a wizard. These three character classes didn’t go adventuring together. Players could only control one character.

Because of the developers’ prior experience in making videogames (and perhaps because of the marketing clout of a much larger company that decided to acquire their studio), the RPG they made was a big hit. Only then did the developers feel confident enough to make a sequel that featured more character classes as well as a multiplayer mode.

The name of that game was Diablo. Condor was acquired by Blizzard before the release of their RPG and was renamed to Blizzard North.

Don’t start by making your first game an MMORPG. Make some casual single-player games first. You may be surprised to find out just how challenging it is to make a decent casual game. Only when you have considerable experience under your belt should you venture into single-player RPGs. If you can make a successful RPG, you’ll have what it takes to develop MMORPGs.


This post first appeared in its earliest form in a forum thread started by a guy who wanted to make his first game an MMORPG. He had come up with a plethora of character classes and tried to solicit more class ideas in his thread. Most of the classes he came up with were of wizard types: druid, sorcerer, pyromancer, aeromancer, geomancer, cryomancer, and necromancer. By the time he had made eleven character classes, I decided to post my advice shown above.

To my surprise, I found that my post was well received by a number of people apart from the original creator of the thread. One person likened my post to an entertaining game in itself, and another person suggested that a “sticky” thread for posts such as mine be created in the forum. I figured that if people liked my post that much, I might as well write a version of it on my blog.

Well, here it is. Hope you liked it too.