You Really Don’t Want to Make an MMO

in Opinion

One of the questions we get a lot about our software is “Can I make an MMO with this?”

Usually, my answer is, “Yes, technically its possible, but its not really made for that and it would require a ton of custom coding, and if you had to ask, you probably have no where near the skill to do it.”

People usually get the idea, and start working on a single player RPG with our software, or move on to doing something else altogether, and don’t pick up RPG Maker at all. Which is fine. Not everyone has to use our products,

Ignore previous sentence, hypno-toad requires you to buy RPG Maker stuff.

Ignore previous sentence, hypno-toad requires you to buy RPG Maker stuff.

But, today, I’m going to give a slightly longer answer. Not just to say that RPG Maker isn’t really designed to make MMO games, but also to point out that you probably don’t even want to make one to begin with. And that is because:

MMOs Need A Large Player Base

No one wants to play an MMO by themselves. The fun of an MMO is mostly in that it is an MMO. And that means being able to jump on and play with other people at about any time. Large MMOs will have thousands of players at a time. Even the smaller MMOs have hundreds.

You have to find a way to attract a very large player base, or your game will not survive. Not only that, but you have to RETAIN the player base to keep people coming in, and that means:

MMOs Need To Be Time Consuming

Wow, I finally got that Legendary armor. Now with 100 more hours, I can get the SUPER Legendary armor (OK, seriously, I know this terminology is wrong, I haven't played an MMO in over a decade...)

Wow, I finally got that Legendary armor. Now with 100 more hours, I can get the SUPER Legendary armor (OK, seriously, I know this terminology is wrong, I haven’t played an MMO in over a decade…)

With a single player game, a game can be 1 hour. 10 hours. 40 hours. It doesn’t really matter as long as what it gives you is fun. In an MMO, you need to retain a large portion of your player base, so the play time for your game needs to be as near to infinite as you can get. If someone has completely maxed out their character in 10 hours, they aren’t likely to ever play your game again. You’ve lost them, and they may have only played for one day or two days.

And even with 10 types of characters and expecting them to play each for 10 hours (and expecting the to max out all of them is super optimistic), you are still only hitting 100 hours. And for an MMO to survive, it needs even MORE gameplay than that. You need the players sticking to the game.

Without players hanging around constantly, new players will flake out even faster playing your game all alone. So you need a ton of variety in characters to keep people maxing out more characters, and you need enough variety in the game that the player keeps seeing new stuff each playthrough. Because of that:

MMOs Need To Be Huge

Building the world of an MMO is time consuming. They are HUGE. Every area usually has a good bit of variety, and you are going to need a ton of variety in areas. You need to have a lot of area for the players to explore and learn. Enough that someone playing for hundreds of hours is still finding new things.

Compared to a tight single player game, you will have to spend an incredible amount of time just making maps. Making cities. Making forests. Making mountain passes. Making deserts. etc. etc. And all of these places need lore and worldbuilding, so you won’t JUST be spending time building them in the engine, you have a lot of writing to do on them as well. And filling them with a variety of enemies. And tons of side quests. And just eighty million other things.

And Finally:

MMOs Take a Lot of Upkeep

Unlike a single player game, where you might need to run in to do a bug fix every once in a while, an MMO is going to be constantly in need of upkeep.

keep-calm-the-server-is-down

You need a server for it to run off of, which can mess up and require fixing. You need to be doing constant bugfixing. You need to be adding new things for people to discover constantly. You have to constantly be trying to keep your player base happy, because unlike with any other type of game YOUR PLAYER BASE IS PART OF THE EXPERIENCE OF THE GAME.

I can hate the fans of a single player game and the game is still fine. But if I hate the players in an MMO, that MMO is also useless to me.

The thing is, an MMO is a huge, time consuming endeavor. More so than a standard RPG, which is a time consuming endeavor on its own. You have to be focused around retaining players, which is a very difficult job, and requires a very very dedicated combo approach of marketing and dev time that is larger than any other kind of game you could work on. And not by a small amount. By a ridiculous amounts.

What do you think? Do you still want to make an MMO? How are you planning on getting around the problems I’ve listed here? Can you think of more obstacles I haven’t listed? Join us in the comments section below, or on the discussion topic on our forums.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • koruldiakayz

    Another great article, as usual.

  • Saul Ibarra

    Nice article! Im actualy working with a friend on our Private Game Server, we remake the source code of this and i can say: IT’s so dificult to keep your players in, you have to organice events and give support to your players.

    • Nick Palmer

      Yeah. Your players are your game when it comes to an MMO. Someone on facebook said that you had to be married to your game, and that is a super accurate way of looking at it.

  • Tim Kirchner

    Although it’s blunt “If you have to ask, you probably don’t have the skill to do it” is the most simple explanation possible. As I mentioned on the facebook posting as well, the script requests on the forum asking about any kind of networking or multiplayer are usually poorly defined, ill considered, and half baked, illustrating perfectly what has been stated here.

    • Nick Palmer

      Yep. My stock answer has almost always been: Yes technically possible, but if you have to ask, you are no where near capable of doing it.

  • CobraA1

    What about regular multiplayer? I didn’t think even that was possible? How do you set up even basic networking?

    • Tim Kirchner

      With enough time and effort writing custom code, just about anything is possible.

  • One more serious reason: network code is a hell of an advanced concept to write. Even seemingly simple stuff like e.g. statically downloading some text from an http page is not trivial to write (without using libcurl, or even with it, it’s not simple either). Now compare that with having hundreds/thousands open connections, each one constantly sending and receiving data, each one with different speed and lag, and they all need to be somewhat in sync with each other, etc…

    Network programming is a totally different world of concepts, abstractions and problems that need to be dealt with.

  • tpkyteroo

    If anyone wants an example about content not keeping the customers satisfied, just look at World of Warcraft. They bring out updates every so often, but its never often enough to keep a “progamer this is what I do” satisfied. The other issue is that you’ll always have the cracker cracking into other people’s accounts and robbing them of their loot, money, stats and so on. Then, you’ll have the complaints about how you almost won the battle to get the big prize, when this person who wasn’t even IN the room fighting, just came in from nowheres, and killed the monster you’ve worked four hours on, and took all the loot and ran. It is ONE HUGE headache! And, a headache you don’t have with offline only games.

  • Richard Sousa Dos Reis

    but in my case i just want a multiplayer game (2-4 players) like shining soul, diablo, etc.