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.


  1. Hi Frank,

    How true!

    As you may or may not recall, I have been working on my multi-player NWN2 module for around 6-7 years now. And I must say that in my experience, there is a big difference in programming for a multi-player environment over a single-player one.

    When I first started the project, I thought, "Hey! It won't be that different, surely?". However, as the years have gone by, the differences one has to account for have become more and more obvious. Conversations and potential transitions, as well as thing like quest items are just a few examples to mention.

    And I started this project having already written one multi-player module! It just goes to show though that as one gains experience in these things, one also recognises more potential issues that can occur.

    At the very least, one needs perseverance to see a project through to the end if they start one ... or, as you say, scale things down a bit to make it more manageable.


  2. Wow. I knew you were making a module, Lance, but I didn't know it was going to be multiplayer. I'm sure it isn't massively multiplayer, though. That would have taken up even more of your time.

    Anyhow, kudos for making the attempt. Multiplayer games aren't things that I dare try to develop at this time.

  3. Hi Frank,

    Yes, only "MRPG" and not "MMORPG", so its only for those who want to download and play as a group of players either in a LAN or over the internet with each other.

    Think group play D&D over a LAN/WAN. Furthermore, I have altered all the code so that the players each control their own "characters" and its not just the "leader" who controls them. i.e. If you were to play with a friend and were playing two other characters, while you friend was playing one other character, your characters would respond to you and his/her other character would only respond to him/her.

    Coding turned out to be a bit more involved than first anticipated, but I believe I now know most of the pitfalls that one might encounter and (hopefully) have them all covered! Maybe, when its done, you can have a go with a friend and give some feedback ... from an experienced builders point of view (and player):)


  4. P.S. It can still be played SP of course. ;)

  5. Lance,

    I'd be able to play your game SP only. My real-life social circle doesn't encompass gamers for some reason.

    Best of luck with your module. Hopefully, you'll be ready to upload it soon.

  6. Hi Frank,

    I still hope it will be as much fun SP, so I will try to give you a head's up .... or keep track of my blog. :)