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The Future of Indie MMOGs 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-have-to-have-ten-million-subs-to-succeed dept.
Karen Hertzberg writes "Ask any 10 gamers what constitutes an 'indie MMO' and you'll probably get 10 different answers. But one definition that most can agree on is that an indie game lacks the financial support of a well-funded publisher. But do smaller budgets mean greater freedom? Ten Ton Hammer asked Nathan Richardsson, Executive Producer for CCP (developers of EVE Online), and Todd Harris, Executive Producer of Global Agenda, to share their thoughts on the bright future of independent MMOG development. 'By definition a niche market is a segment that is currently underserved by the mainstream providers. So, to serve that audience a developer typically needs to deliver something really different and innovative vs. just more of the same thing available elsewhere,' says Harris. 'With a big budget there could be a temptation to cover up stale gameplay by shoveling out more content or simply pumping up the marketing hype. However, for an indie developer such as Hi-Rez Studios, the game must stand on its own merits and we find that liberating.'"
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The Future of Indie MMOGs

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  • by zwei2stein (782480) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @07:32AM (#29363881) Homepage

    What about amateur MMO / Hobbyist MMO. We have decent enough tools for anyone to pull basic WMMO with roguelike interface with as much ease as making tetris clone years ago. And even then, good mud libraries existed for decades ... why do we not hear more about that? Why don't more people try that?

    I, for one, find it much more fun to actually try to code one than actually play fullblown commercial MMO. Two hours a week of MMO development certainly beat two hours of grinding in WoW... you are not really getting anywhere in either, but you at least learn a thing or two if you code instead of grinding xp.

    Shameless self plug: http://foh.zweistein.cz/ [zweistein.cz]

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @07:49AM (#29363971)

    Or "win" by having an incredible amount of fun. Have you played "Kingdom of Loathing"? (www.kingdomofloathing.com) It's one of the best games I've ever played, and a number of friends of mine prefer it to expensive, computation and bandwidth expensive twitch shooters or highly animated games. As an old "Zork" and "rogue" player when they were first publicized, I empathize with their choice.

  • by AlXtreme (223728) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @07:55AM (#29364001) Homepage Journal

    Two hours a week of MMO development certainly beat two hours of grinding in WoW... you are not really getting anywhere in either, but you at least learn a thing or two if you code instead of grinding xp.

    Hear hear! Coding beats playing games anyday.

    However what most people think of when discussing MMO's is 3D graphics/animations, and coming from a programming background this is the real hard work. There simply aren't a lot of (free/open) 3D resources you can tap into for your amateur MMO.

    Having said that: roguelikes like your project are a lot of fun, even if they don't appeal to your average gamer.

  • by Over00 (591403) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:20AM (#29364119)
    The problem is that we hear a lot about vaporware from amateur / hobbyist so most people won't even care (and they're not to blame).

    For us, it's not much a matter of survival but just doing what we enjoy. Should it be successful then great! If not, we still had fun doing it... just like any other hobby.

    Of course, an amateur / hobbyist status doesn't grant you immunity from rants and such but so is the reality when you decide to go public with a project of yours.

    So in the line of actual projects that reached release, here's my shameless plug: http://www.golemizer.com/ [golemizer.com]
  • GA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AP31R0N (723649) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:39AM (#29364275)

    Notes about GA:

    i've been in the "alpha" and beta. It's a bit like WoW, Team Fortress and Unreal Tournament. Like WoW, it has a Gygaxian power curve and player economy (and all the attendant issues: n00bst0mping and buying virtual stuff with real money), and some form of player character persistence. Like TF it has classes, but you can't change classes in battle. Like UT it is round based. What happened last round seems to have little effect on anything but your ranking and leveling. It does not have PlanetSide's never ending persistent battlefield.

    The MMO i want:

    Non power curved (so there won't be n00bst0mping, instead levels give you flexibility), persistent battlefield (not meaningless rounds), no player trade (therefore no gold farming, twinking or buying virtual "property" with real money), rewards skill, tactics, strategy and teamwork over not having a life or having more money than sense.

    i know this puts me in a tiny minority. Most players want to stand godlike over newbs they killed with one click, letting the equations and die rolls do the work. Most players don't want to earn stuff, they want to buy it from a Chinese guy in a sweatshop. They don't want to think about anything beyond the next kill.

  • Re:The future is... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:40AM (#29364277)

    Eh, having read its wikipedia article I got the impression it's just another grindfest. Just instead of grinding mob kills, you grind mining skills, which sounds even less interesting.

    One of these days somebody has to invent an MMORPG that is not based on repetitive tasks... and in which macros don't constitute cheating, they're simply not needed.

  • by Walkingshark (711886) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:52AM (#29364371) Homepage

    I tried it and didn't find it very fun. Then again I didn't like the hack games either, and I know a lot of people love those. Lately I haven't really been enjoying much of anything though, so maybe I've just become old and embittered.

  • Re:GA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Walkingshark (711886) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:57AM (#29364451) Homepage

    Planetside was almost what you wanted, but they could never deliver the netcode to back up the kind of action they put in the game (to this day warp-strafe and other shitty netcode exploits are the tactic of choice for "elite" planetside players) and their engine was designed in a way that made updating the maps a monumental pain in the ass (which is pretty fail for an MMO developer, they should have known they'd be wanting to do that on a regular basis and ensured it was supported as a core functionality of the engine).

    I have hopes that someday we'll see a planetside-type game in a fantasy world (like you said, with leveling = versatility and gameplay being teamplay/skill/brainpower based). That could be very fun.

  • Re:Quality (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cowscows (103644) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @09:40AM (#29365013) Journal

    Yeah, that definitely sucks, but that expansiveness is really one of the most basic characteristics of space. If you take that away, are you even making a space game anymore?

    And to be fair, most MMO's (and even sandbox-ish games in general) have some issues with travel time, it's just that in space there's much less to look at so it feels even slower.

  • Re:GA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AP31R0N (723649) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @09:44AM (#29365053)

    Gladly.

    In PlanetSide there is a certification system. At Battle Rank (BR) 1 you have something like 5 or 6 cert points. With this you can buy access to certain vehicles, weapons or support gear. You might take Light Armor and Main Battle Tank. i would take Cloaking (invisibility) and hacking (allowing me to open enemy doors faster, steal enemy vehicles). As we progress i could take more support stuff (reviving, repairing, virus installing) and you might drop your vehicle certs to become an all around ground pounder with heavy weapons, sniper rifle, flamethrower and heavy armor. You can "unlean" one cert every six hours, and spend those points on something else.

    In PS i'm BR 25, if you started today at BR 1, your sniper rifle and mine would be the same. Same reload speed, same damage, same range etc. It's the same rifle, despite my being way higher ranked. But in addition to the sniper rifle, i can also install viruses, revive the dead, repair vehicles and personnel armor and and and. i'm merely more flexible. i can switch roles faster. i can hop in my Mosquito, but you'd have to run to the next base. You could unload sniping and pick up the Mosquito.

    There's no n00bst0mping because no matter how high level i am and how low you are, you have a chance. i can't instagib or gank you in a way that you can't possibly escape or survive. If i'm gunning a Magrider tank and you're wearing light armor... yeah, you're boned. But you or your buddy can throw a jammer grenade at me and let loose with anti-vehicle rounds. Imagine Team Fortress 2, but you can change classes during a battle (or without having to die).... That's the certification system.

    There are empire (faction) specific items which do different damage and have different special abilities, but they're balanced in a different way.

    In a fantasy setting, i would do this as some sort of ancestral memory or that you have items that give you powers. As you advance you can switch between the Flaming Ring of Fiery Death and the Wand of Healing.

    My Certs:
    Cloaking (invisibility suit)
    Mosquito (stealthy aircraft, single seat)
    Advanced Mobile Station (spawn point on wheels)
    Electronics Expert (fast hacking, install viruses, corrupting enemy deployables)
    Advanced Medic (fast healing, revive the dead)
    Combat Engineer (repair armor and vehicles, place mines, robot turrets and sensors)

    My thing is blowing up generators behind enemy lines.

  • Re:GA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AP31R0N (723649) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @10:09AM (#29365395)

    Keep the faith, brother! i think someone will eventually figure out how to have a multiplayer game that is grind free, yet keeps people playing. May be when bandwidth becomes cheaper.

    How about Neverwinter Nights Online? i LOVED NWN (there was never an NWN 2, NEVER HAPPENED). Imagine the game being centered on Sigil which allows us to use any realm in the D&D universe(s) and to allow players to make their own. You can hop into this or that realm and create a character compliant with that space. If you hop into Ravenloft, you need a stat for sanity, if you're in Dragonlance you can play a Kender. These modules could be hosted by WotC, by a third party or run locally if it's just you. Items and powers not compliant with the core rules cannot enter the central space. Players can rate and rank modules. Popular realms can have a big fancy portal. Modules could be ongoing or have a specific lifespan. Module X runs until the players kill the dragon, or they solve the mystery of the Mysterious Mystery.

  • by PegamooseG (991448) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @10:22AM (#29365579) Homepage

    Zwei2stein mentioned the REALLY Indie developers (i.e. Hobbyists and Amatures). This is the bucket where we're catagorized. Some of our greatest hurdles could be handled by throwing more money at it, but it's given us the motivation to find other, cheaper avenues for getting things done.

    In our situation, we have a very small team of friends working on the game (both engine and content). At the time, we can only afford the bare minimal amount to host the game's site. Mostly, we put more time and energy into it than money, and even that is difficult while managing full-time jobs, families, social lives, etc.. If we had a large basket of money, we could hire more developers, artists, marketeers, and so on.

    Even though we don't have that big basket of money, we still manage. It takes a lot of discipline, sacrifice, persistence. I get up two hours earlier than I really need to, so I can spend the evenings with my family. It takes discipline and determination to get up that early, but it's two hours of uninterupted time while everyone else is sleeping.

    Can't afford artists? Well... What we can't do ourselves, we seek elsewhere. We started hitting the art forums and university art departments asking for volunteers. True, many artists are in it for the money. But, there are a few out there who are willing to help us a bit for the exposure and the practice.

    Can't afford marketing and advertising? Well... We mention our game on various forums where people are playing a similar style of game. We've also looked into various ad-exchange sites. We've contacted reviewers and offered perks to some other gamers. If you just keep an open mind, there are a lot of fairly cheap ways to spread the word.

    My greatest hurdle is getting more content into our game. I have pages and pages of ideas. It takes time to add new content, test it, and release it. I have more content ideas than I know what to do with. And, that's an awesome problem to have.

    We didn't start working on our game to compete with other games out there. We don't even view them as competition. We view them as the community. We set out to create a game that we enjoy playing, based on ideas and concepts of other games that we enjoy playing. Yes, we'd love to reach the point to quit our day jobs, but if not much ever comes of it, we're having tons of fun along the way and gaining a lot of useful development experience.

    If anyone would like to try our game, we'd love to hear your opinion: www.urbanlegions.net

    And, if any of you are developing your own game out there, look us up and let us know about it. We look forward to seeing what you create, too.

  • Re:GA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @10:34AM (#29365765) Journal

    The MMO i want:

    Non power curved (so there won't be n00bst0mping, instead levels give you flexibility), persistent battlefield (not meaningless rounds), no player trade (therefore no gold farming, twinking or buying virtual "property" with real money), rewards skill, tactics, strategy and teamwork over not having a life or having more money than sense.

    ip>

    Theres a few problems in the basic design of such a system. I personally don't understand how people tend to think of "Flexibility" as NOT an overpowering strength. Its just as bad as n00bst0mping, essentially I'll be so flexible that my options allow me to perfectly outplay my opponent with fewer options. No player trade is a huge setback, and will actually encourage farming since people can't buy it (Albiet, EVERYONE on the server will be farming instead of just the Chinese). It'll either work out that its way too easy to get Gold, or its way too hard. And that in itself can fluctuate with player population.

    I personally have not found an MMO today that doesn't reward skill, tactics, strategy and teamwork over grinders or EBayers. You can argue that yes, you got beaten by the guy in the best armour because he had the best armour, but to be frank, if he's got no life he's got a better understanding of the game mechanics then you do as well, so he could have probably beaten you in a naked duel.

  • A tale in the Desert (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hlopez (220083) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @11:34AM (#29366609)

    Anyone remember playing this game a few years back?
    It was awesome how you could interact with the developers in game almost on a daily basis, even the president of the company played every other day.
    I guess it never took off because of its niche market, but the lack of combat and need of watching you back made character development and in
    the case of this game developing your compound your main goal.

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