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This is an extension of my previous question.

Recently I had an idea of making an, as I could describe it, agile open-source player-financial-profitable MMORPG, which has an interesting (from my POV) project and development model.

Agile means that development should be iterative, with world extending every fixed period of time. And maybe even game universe\plot may be based on iterative development.

Open-source means that everybody can participate, but, obviously, I wish to establish some kind of core team. I estimate that about 0,01% of players will contribute. And this is where I want to make the number grow to about 0,1%.

That's third part: player-financial-profitable means that every player that has outgrown some reputation ceiling (level or another kind) could contribute some kind of *thing to the game. I think about things as special items for now, but they could be transformed into anything on later architecture stage. Special items can be obtained without any financial donations, of course, but if one player wish to buy it from another, it should be sold for real money, presented as some special "platinum coins" in the game. Money should be parted between solder and creator of the item.

But there is one rule — the item, that one creates, must be unique. Under unique I mean unique. It should have unique look, unique animation, and, most importantly, unique ability, that was not presented by any other item so far, not just exterminator sword with +10000 damage. And unique ability should be coded and designed uniquely. That means, that if creator player is not a one-person collaboration between designer and programmer, he should appeal to off-site labour, or to the core team itself. Working places are created and everybody is happy.

So, that is the model as I see it now (and I invented it yesterday night). The main question is:

1) Should I even bother? The idea is so ambitious, that could be interpreted as flying in the sky with the help of no wings. And I don't want to spend next ten years of my life (that's the minimum period in which I expect the project to become successful) working on unfortunate from the beginning project.

I have many other questions, but this text already gone too big, so I'll ask only most important:

2) Isn't there some similar game project-model already? I've seen PlaneShift, but they definitely aren't what I'm talking about.

3) Are open-source practices suitable for game development? There are so few good professionals in the field, will they bother to contribute?

4) On how many people should I count on early development stage? Later?

5) How to do all this thing without any reasonable budget?

6) Where do I begin without XP in game development, but with XP in programming per se?

Note to moderators: Please make this community wiki, I don't see my checkbox.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Krom Stern, Anko, Seth Battin, FxIII, Josh Petrie Dec 3 at 16:53

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2  
How is this different than, say, Second Life? –  Tetrad Nov 16 '10 at 18:00
    
@Tetrad I thought about it. It has another purpose, more simlish. I wish to create another world, but in more traditional RPG way. But their model is great for learning from, yeah. –  Daniel Excinsky Nov 16 '10 at 18:10
    
This sounds almost like a fantasy-oriented version of Nomic. –  coderanger Nov 16 '10 at 21:03

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

"Should I even bother?" + "Where do I begin without XP in game development"

Sorry, but the simple answer is No

The long answer is that MMO's are the hardest possible type of game to develop, with open-world titles being the only other thing close to as difficult. They often take teams of several hundred people with a wide range of skills, massive costs in server/back-end investments, and an ludicrously large amount of content.

The development scene is littered with teams filled with people with over a decade of experience in game development who tried and failed to build an MMO. Realtime Worlds being the most recent, and painfully expensive ($100m down the drain for APB) example.

There are some exceptions if you set your sights low enough. Text/webpage based MMO's like Urban Dead or the various projects from Gameforge are in theory, buildable by a single individual or a small group of people. These games are mostly giant databases with a pretty web interface.

This doesn't even address the inherent security issues of a P2P financial economy paired with open source development which is a recipe for extreme direct financial griefing.

Don't be discouraged though

If you really want to learn how to make games that's great, and right now is one of the easiest times in the world to both build games and distribute them to people. You've got the indie channel of XBLA, iPhone app stores, Facebook, Flash portals. All of which are fantastic places to start and don't require you to spend either the time, money, or find the people needed to make a big project.

I encourage you to build games, but start small.

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Seems like none of the stuff you listed: financing, player-participation, "unique" items really get at the issue of whether your project is worth pursuing.

Is the game fun?

If yes, go. If no, don't.

All that stuff would be neat. Really! But honestly, it's fairly minor details. Or am I missing something?

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This "unique" you're talking about is just plain foolishness.

Let's say you somehow manage to build this game (you won't, as wkerslake pointed out).

1) it doesn't scale. If your player base grows, you'll have to hire more and more artists just to create tons of "unique" arts. Add up the time the design team will spend creating the stats and name for these objects.

2) if you do all this work for just a single unique item, of course it means that you expect to gain from selling it enough money to repay its cost. Uh, no, you're giving them for free. WTF, lol.

3) if a player stops playing, the unique items he has are "lost" to the game. And since the game is supposedly played by tons of people, most people won't ever see most items. This smells of pointless to me. You have assets: use them! Don't hide them!

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1) That is why, if I'd manage this game (and I probably won't), I'd only relied on offshore artists. Core team just has to organize all this. 2)3) Yep, economic model is just, like, 0% thinked out. –  Daniel Excinsky Nov 17 '10 at 13:19

I love the idea of an incremental development approach. Many games have gone to a season-based model, and some (try to) have a monthly new bonus mission, to keep players coming back regularly. I could see something like that, where each project the developer has to perform is smaller, and thus hopefully easier to plan and pull off, being useful in reducing the risk and up-front investment of keeping the service running. (That said, the voices here are right in that an MMORPG combines pretty much all the problems you can have in programming into one app, so there will be a major up-front investment to even get started with the first mission)

I'm not quite sure of the point of the item design process, though. If I understand you correctly, you're essentially open-sourcing the easy, inexpensive parts, and the ones that need to be coordinated for gameplay impact.

Everything that involves manual labor is expensive, especially because it takes much longer to create something than to consume it. Which is why most MMORPGs have some form of grinding, levelling and procedurally generated encounters to while away the time until the next manually generated content is finished.

You seem to be keeping all the stuff that needs a budget and is difficult, or thinking you can "offshore" them to make them cheaper. If it was so easy to outsource graphics artists, I'd think the big MMORPGs would already be doing it. It's hard to communicate with designers and keep a design coherent across multiple designers.

Shouldn't you be doing it the other way around? I could see people submitting their own small art assets for items, using an animation builder to tinker out the look and colors, creating their own missions. Maybe you could have a sort of "contest" where people who generate nice assets get the assets integrated into the game as part of missions or loot drops, and the ones who don't win can use their items as vanity items in social zones.

But given how difficult balancing out item stats is, and how important it is that nobody take advantage of this (because it affects other players, not just the one making the item), I would leave that to your designers. Maybe provide a pre-built class of stats for testing or so, maybe with a UI that lets you customize stats within strict limits, so it's impossible to make an unbalanced item. Similarly, you could make the weapon designs based on a construction kit-like approach, where you can combine different weapon parts and color them or texture them within limits.

Still, you'd have manual labor even then, because someone needs to review all the submissions, not just for quality, but also to make sure nobody just steals art assets from somewhere and submits them.

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