Making an MMO is not easy task. Not only you will need ton of skills, but also ton of time.
Few years at least, and the effects most likely will still be unsatisfying.
So how to do that in a way that not only will be much faster but also not too cheap on quality?
How Game Plan Should Look Like
First of all, you need a plan, and a list of all the traits your game will have.
If you just make something that was made 100 times before, then there’s no reason to download and play your game.
Nope. Not even for free.
That’s why you need some key feature that will steal people’s attention and make them your players. The more of such pillar mechanisms your game has, the easier it will be to bring players.
If you decided about all the pillar features thoroughly, then that list most likely tells you what genre your game will be, or narrowed the list of possible genres.
It is important to remember that you can mix genres and create new ones.
That’s because… What’s the point of creating yet another normal RPG game? Where you take role of a knight, kill rats and bigger mobs as you grow in strength, and buy upgraded items?
That concept isn’t wrong, in fact, it’s quite likable.
But that alone, will make your game boring. If you played World of Warcraft, there’s no reason to play Guild Wars. If you played Minecraft, there’s no reason to play Terraria. And so on.
But if you mixed World of Warcraft and Minecraft and created one big MMO containing key features of both games – wouldn’t be that awesome?
Players wouldn’t be able to resist.
Reasonably Chosen Tools
This is the good part, because, you can save a lot on tools.
You don’t need pricey game engines or 3D modelling software, that could even cost altogether up to 1000 USD per month.
As there are great, free alternatives!
For modelling, try Blender.
Blender was always great free choice, with maybe little annoying controls and GUI, but they changed it with newest version.
So it’s great tool to use for your MMO.
For actual game, I suggest you to use free game engine, either Unreal Engine or Unity.
As both are of big quality, it is hard to pick one over the other.
Now you know how your game will look like, how many complex features it will have, and although it doesn’t exactly tell you the time required, it is enough to divide the work between few people.
Of course if you are indie game developer then you most likely have no team or a team of up to few, unpaid people.
Assign modeling to one, developing game landscape to another, and code scripts yourself, preferably with another person, as there’s a lot to code. He can code basic character controls, while you for example crafting.
If you don’t have a team, consider asking an IRL friend, or, seek potential prospects online.
However, it is important to realize that since in our project people will be unpaid, therefore they will only continue working if they have time, enjoy the work, believe in the project plan, and if they are convinced that game may yield profit in the future.
Reasons Why Most MMO Games Fail
Reasons why MMO games fail are more obvious than you think.
Why in comparison, multiplayer games fail more often than single player? That doesn’t make sense.
Or does it?
Out Of Time
One of the culprits is time.
Making a game is one thing. Making a game that sells is another. And making an MMO game that sells is a thing from another world.
You will need a lot of time to create your MMO.
I’m not saying you don’t have it.
Obviously, if you take part time job instead of full, or don’t work at all, and decide to stop socializing so often, then you will most likely have 6+ hours of production time daily.
But for how many years will you have to keep at this pace? Even if you feel you want to do it, do you think after 3 years you will say “it was worth it”?
Of course, you can make multiplayer games in few days as well. There are, although not many, multiplayer games that didn’t require much work to release their initial versions, like Slitherio.
Is Slitherio successful? Considering how many players it has, for sure it is! And its absolutely simple concept, an browser-based multiplayer snake game.
Dying Commitment & Discipline
Discipline is something many people lack, unless its about their job or university.
When you think about your job, you feel and you know that you have to do this. To wake up early, get ready, then spend 8 hours in workplace. Because without money you won’t survive.
But creating your own products of any kind (here, games) is different. You have to absolutely enjoy the creation process or you will give up.
And you also have to believe in either monetary or other kind of benefits (like recognition) so you don’t stop halfway because you “could spend that time on making money”, or for some other reason.
Human brain can become very productive once we are convinced that the thing we do is the right thing to do!
You don’t need a dime to create your “MMO”, as long as you have time.
However, many companies are not so patient, and that’s why they hire a lot of employees, and spend on expensive tools.
I have played a really great MMORPG recently that was shut down because it wasn’t making money, so there was no way to pay developers.
According to official info, seems that the numbers required for server hosting and to pay developers were MUCH higher than the revenue game sales on Steam were bringing.
They even included an in-game item shop where you could pay with real life currency, but it didn’t help.
That takes us to the last section and most likely global cause of failing for majority of games.
The above mentioned game, paid ton of money towards the development, and nearly 0 towards marketing. Literally, this game was most interesting thing I’ve played in a long time.
But it failed.
That’s because of few factors:
Incorrect Game Monetization
Players didn’t care about skins inside in-game item shop, because all the best skins were already available for free.
If there were great skins for free, there was no reason to buy additional ones for real life cash. The quality of free and paid skins was the same. Who would buy them regardless?
That screams “poor planning” to me.
From start to the end you have to be careful with how you spend your money.
They spent way too much money on hosting. I still, to this day, don’t believe in the official numbers published that were supposedly spent on hosting.
Maybe I am wrong, but regardless – that number was way too high.
Another thing that required ton of money was hiring unnecessary staff.
Positions like few not-so-dedicated blog writers (that were just friends of friends, and were creating content indeed, but not good content), and so on, were totally not required.
Too Huge Project
The map in this game was so big that it was empty most of the time whenever you went, even though it still had 600 players online in same time.
Why? With smaller map, there would be more action, players would be less bored because they can’t find anyone, and developers could spend that time working on something else.
This shows that not even best (or at least very good) games “take off” on their own without marketing.
Maybe some of them do, but not many.
Have they spent half of wasted money, time and effort on marketing – they would get better results.
But most likely would still fail because how much it required to afford developers and game severs, and due to how poorly they monetized it.
Not Starting At All
This is huge one. Internet is filled with demotivating content when it comes to MMO.
No one says its good idea, and everyone said its the last thing you should attempt.
Are they right?
Factually yes, for sure.
Are there exceptions, workarounds, and ways to minimize the work needed?
For sure! For example Minecraft despite being multiplayer game, although its not MMO (there are MMO servers though) was made by single person!
And the world is self-generating, therefore developer doesn’t need to add “new locations every month or people will stop playing”. Did people stop playing Minecraft?
I don’t think so.
The Thing You Need To Make Your MMO
Can you do it? From rational point of view, you can, for sure, create your MMORPG alone and for free, or with friend or two, however, only in case when there’s enough passion, discipline, and time.
With these, you will work many hours daily for months or years.
Without at least one of these things, even best idea and skills won’t help you, because you will quit the game engine as soon as you open your project. Because it doesn’t satisfy you anymore.
This sounds very simple, but most people fail to realize that everyone can do everything (well, almost), even most complex task, as long as they believe that this is a worthy investment of their time.