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Update August 2012: thank you all for your answers. I started small as suggested, creating first a Facebook Game about it, the next step will be to port it later on PC for a 3D version, and much later as a MMORPG as I would have build credibility and funding. The upcoming FB game will be done by Blup Blup Game Studio (my studio). Thanks.

Original Question: Background: I am documenting since a few months a game design document (GDD)(sci-fi & fantasy MMORPG) all by myself, without any real game design background (I am just a Chartered Accountant (CA and CISA)). For now, it looks more like a proposal document.

The question: If you would have a series of amazing ideas that would revolutionized MMORPGaming how would you create that company out of thin air? Focus on creating the initial core team that would create the mockup that would be present to capital venture companies for major financing.

You may not be financial expert here but you did a massive amount of games in the past, of various types and platforms. With our different backgrounds we are complementary.

Cheers,

Raistx

P.-S. Edited for a leaner question. Removed elements linked to money as it's not the core question. I know how to get money and convince cap venture CIES, but I need a mockup / high pitch to do so.

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I want to +10 and -10 at the same time. I like the crazyness (I'm the same) but I dislike the disconnection with reality and the lack of apparent interest and experience in the game business. In your position, I'd start a bit smaller. But do continue. If you find a venture capitalist interested enough to give you even 300k$ it could be what you need to get going. –  Phil Nov 27 '10 at 11:56
    
Thanks Phil, I appreciated the comment. I will take that on board. It's difficult at 35 years old changing from accounting and risk management to game designing and considering starting a game company. I am having the top-down approach while most people here is having a bottom-up approach. That's why I sound a little bit lunatic. ;) –  Raistx Nov 27 '10 at 12:13
    
Btw, quite happy to have created a mini-debate around here. I like being a troublemaker sometime. One could refer to the Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom... ;) –  Raistx Nov 28 '10 at 0:43
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You could try selling your idea to an established MMO developer. –  Jonathan Dickinson Mar 16 '12 at 9:07
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7 Answers 7

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think trying to find $200M in venture capital for a new company, with no shipped products and a CEO with no experience in the industry would be... impossible. Unless you come across some Nigerian billionaire widow looking to escape a repressive government.

I would suggest you start small. Take a couple of your ideas (obviously not the ones that will totally revolutionise the gaming industry, just some of the smaller ones that merely make you better than everyone else) and develop some social-media or iPhone/Android games to take funding from micro-payments. The "classical" MMO (ala Evercrack, WOW) is a massive undertaking over year, with teams of dozens and hundreds - and then a massive amount of competition. You need a ready-made fanbase to enter that market, or some intellectual property sure to draw in hundreds of thousands of subscribers to get any funding in the market. You won't have that, so you'll have to start self-funded.

What is unarguably the most successful MMO out there, World of Warcraft, has somewhere in the region of 14 million active subscribers. Assuming they get $10/mnth from each, and that's a generous assumption when you take into account the multi-period subscriptions, their payment processing costs, and the amount retailers take from game time cards - then that's a cash flow of $140M / year for Blizzard from WoW. Now consider their costs for servers, software developers, legal, publisher agreements, regional distribution, bandwidth and support...

To think you'll get $200M in venture capital is... frankly ridiculous, sorry. Start small. Build up a fan base. Revolutionise the industry one remarkable, patented game mechanic at a time.

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Thanks TZHX for your fair comment. I am considering a side project that would be a Facebook game just to generate some profit and a minimum of history of success in this domain. –  Raistx Nov 27 '10 at 11:15
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Note that Zynga within 3 years was able to obtain 220M$ in capital venture for Facebook games. My case is not as ridiculous as it looks. ;) –  Raistx Nov 27 '10 at 11:16
    
@Raistx - that seems to be the way into the games industry at the moment. And with the recent "Facebook Money" thing they've got going on, it's becoming more and more of a platform. Plus, it's a good (read: cheap) way to test out game mechanics and see if they prove popular, before spending a lot of money developing them in more complex games. Though this runs the risk of a more reasource-heavy organisation taking your idea to the "serious" market before you can. Though, as someone great once said, "No ideas are new ideas". –  TZHX Nov 27 '10 at 11:20
    
Some rumors about initial cost of WoW was 45M$ and that they did a ROI within six months. They actually have a player based of 12M players paying a recurring 10$ (at least). That's a massive 1.4 billion per year in revenue. They can easily get a net profit of 300M/year. –  Raistx Nov 27 '10 at 11:24
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Re: Zynga was founded by several people with a great deal of experience in the industry. You say yourself that you have no experience in software, let alone games. Zynga were also pretty much first-to-market in the social networks game arena. A thousand Zynga-wannabes have been started and abandonned, or having no real success, in this length of time. I understand your optimistic, but you should really have some realism in there too. Though of course I wish you every success (so long as you don't become a competitor for my products, haha!) :) –  TZHX Nov 27 '10 at 11:24
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I used to envision The greatest game ever™, I think a lot of gamers do that. The exercise is pretty simple just ad in all the features (you think) you want in your favourite game, and voila it's there in your mind, ready to be made. The problem is, this does not tackle any of the hardcore stuff, gameplay and balancing are very vague concepts to most people, but they are decisive in making an entertaining game.

I suppose you have tried starting to play a game with a specific feature which you think is cool, but after a short while discovered that it is not, or at least not something that really makes the game worth playing. The art of game design could a little simplified be boiled down to making that discovery, without playing the game.

Seeing you list features

Every citizen will be able to fight, hunt, work, date, exercise, dance, paint, sculpted, sing, learn, play games, do illicit activities, die and so much more.

my best prediction for most of it is cool for 5 minutes and then meh. A lot of this stuff may work as gimmicks that get the social activity going, that is if it is well implemented, but it won't do much for the core gameplay.

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Sadly, at this stage I did not published how the core gameplay would work as it's subject to patenting. Glad you went read about it. –  Raistx Nov 27 '10 at 14:53
    
I thought about what I want in my favorite game, yes, but also about what other people would want to. But, most of all, I analysed why people stop playing, why they get bored, why they dislike grinding, etc. I used to play DAOC, Eve, WoW, Anarchy Online, etc. and went waste my time (not too long) in Second Life. I did a lot of research. What I would bring does not exist so far in any game I observed. –  Raistx Nov 27 '10 at 15:06
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The question is, does it not exist because no one thought of it before? Or because those who thought of it concluded that it was a bad idea? Reality tend to be pretty hard on those ideas it meet. –  eBusiness Nov 27 '10 at 15:19
    
It does not exist because the programmers spend a year figuring out how to make the player not fall off the world's edges and then there's no time to implement anything interesting. –  zaratustra Nov 27 '10 at 16:31
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Few people will be able to give you useful feedback on a game they haven't played. A lot of people are easily talked into believing that something is great, especially if the talker is a friend. It's great for selling stuff or conning people, not so much for getting useful criticism. Also a lot of people are simply too polite to give negative feedback, especially if they can't find a solid point to make. Commending your idea as good is by far the easiest option, a lot of friends will do that, even if their gut feeling is quite different. –  eBusiness Nov 28 '10 at 1:56
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To answer your question and not question your question and idea: You'll find a great number of interested developers and artists all over the internet. Get one or two friends or acquaintances interested, preferably one coder and one artist. That way you can start prototyping with their help. Be clear what your intentions are and be sure their intentions are on the same path. I've found that a great artist can spark a lot of interest with nice conceptual art.

My thoughts

I would say that's an awesome start up team. You've got control over business model, financial strategy and do the stuff you're good at. Your coder can start coding the prototype according to his belief and your artist can start drawing, modelling, sculpting etc.

When you have some assets done and a trailer or teaser, start building interest via a community. Check out www.interstellarmarines.com for an example of an interesting way to do this. Keep in mind that it took them about 4 months to complete the first playable demo (the one where you can shoot stuff, not run around) and they are all very, very experienced. They have a nice fan base already and have actually sold the game even though it's not even near completion. It's not even sure it will be completed either. Right now they are rounding up capital, with all that as a portfolio. From what I hear it's actually still hard to get capital with reasonable conditions for them.

You do this in whatever way fits you, but I'd look at how others are doing it today.

Good luck! Don't forget to upvote this answer if you liked it :) (I'm a sucker for rep)

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Good thoughts Phil. I like the way your approaching it. –  Raistx Nov 27 '10 at 12:18
    
Btw, I am unable to upvote for now because of my low ranking in the forum. ;) –  Raistx Nov 27 '10 at 12:47
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Np, I get a certain degree of satisfaction just by writing these things :) –  Phil Nov 27 '10 at 13:55
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I suspect you won't care for this answer - fantasies are always more fun than reality checks. :) But if you really want to accomplish something, as opposed to dreaming:

  • Forget Venture Capital! And forming a large team, etc.
  • Make something that is publishable, quickly, and release it. This may require learning a lot of new skills on your own.
  • Read Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson. His thesis (to cram it into one sentence) is that you should release a semi-marketable product/service as fast as possible - then use market feedback to fine-tune further changes to it, rather than spending years planning for perfection.
  • Look at the games in my answer to Why MMOs are hard. Those games were developed by a single person (or two people), and without a $200M budget.

Just making and publishing a game, even a simple one, will give you a much better idea of the issues involved, and what does or doesn't work in gameplay (and a simple game will force you to have good gameplay, you can't cover it up with graphics). You'll be much better prepared for making a larger game, or at least know whether it's possible or not.

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I would be happy to do a quick mockup with a small and cheap (free) team if we could be also able to protect our intellectual properties. But still, the core question remain: how to assemble the core team that would do such mockup (in a safe way). –  Raistx Nov 28 '10 at 0:35
    
Btw, I care about every constructive answer. Thanks Cyclops. –  Raistx Nov 28 '10 at 0:53
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This industry is littered with new companies that tried to make an MMO and failed. Hell even the big established companies like EA have regularly failed to make successful MMOs.

As a quick list of big closed MMO's include:

  • APB
  • Tabla Rasa
  • Auto Assault
  • Asheron's Call 2
  • Hellgate: London
  • Matrix Online
  • Sims Online
  • Fury
  • Motor City Online
  • Earth & Beyond
  • Chronicles of Spellborn

This doesn't count the huge number of cancelled MMO's that died before launch. Any investor who does even the most cursory due diligence isn't going to invest in this space unless you've shown that you've successfully built an MMO before, and even then it's a hard sell.

All of those games were made with big budgets & experienced teams, and you can bet they all thought they had a really good idea or they wouldn't have spent ~5 years and $40m+ to try and make it happen.

The reality is that the success of all games and MMO's in particular has far more to do with execution than high concept. When WoW launched it really wasn't that fundamentally different than Everquest, but on an execution level from art direction to mission design it was very well crafted.

The same can be said for many of the "WoW-killers" that have been attempted in recent years. Most have feature parity with WoW or (WoW minus some Xpacks) but they fail to get of the ground because the execution really isn't there.

Ultimately I would suggest starting with small games to really make sure making games is what you want to do. However, if you really want to make this game idea you have, re-write the concept for Free-to-Play on Facebook. There is a lot of investment interest, budgets sub-$1m, short dev cycles give a shot at fairly rapid ROI, and lots of teams out there to do contract work.

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How can you even make such a list without All Points Bulletin? ;-) –  eBusiness Nov 27 '10 at 22:24
    
Ha, I thought it was in there since it was the most recent example. Must have forgotten to actually write it down. Edit/Fixed –  wkerslake Nov 27 '10 at 22:27
    
Thanks for this Wkerslake. I know it's a difficult and unforgivable business and Cap Venture companies know about it as well. Something very popular in the finance world is the relation between profit and risk. Huge profit come with huge risks. I am specialized in risk management. There are risks that need to be taken. Avoiding it because of fears will not achieve anything. But, I will happily review documentation about the past MMO failures in order to avoid doing the exact same mistake. I am behaviorist for some elements. ;) Thanks mate. –  Raistx Nov 28 '10 at 0:24
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Check this site from Tom Sloper : http://www.sloperama.com/advice.html. It contains lots of wise advices about the game development business from an industry veteran.

Don't mind the ugly design of the pages. Review all the articles: many don't apply to your case but several do.

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Thanks Splo! :) –  Raistx Nov 28 '10 at 0:11
    
+1 great reference –  lathomas64 Nov 29 '10 at 17:09
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I recommend buying a lot of WoW boxes and gluing new names on them, and then hoping people don't ask a lot of questions. You will probably need more then $200M to cover the ensuing legal fees, but it is a place to start.

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Even though his plan is a tad unrealistic, there's actually a good question in there (how to get a good core team from nothing) which is worth an honest attempt in my opinion. –  Phil Nov 27 '10 at 12:08
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On the other hand getting the idea that he is a 1337 game designer out of Raistx's head seems to be worth an honest attempt as well. –  eBusiness Nov 27 '10 at 12:26
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Look at all the answers. They are honest attempts to guide this person in some direction that's reality anchored. Now, if someone stumbles upon this question thinking the same thing, they'll have loads of good points to read. If everyone would answer in the same cynical way we wouldn't get ANYTHING from this community. Everything's obvious when you already know it. –  Phil Nov 27 '10 at 12:38
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I am not an 31337 game designer, but I have a very strong vision and I want to create it. I am documenting this my 'GDD' since almost a year and now it's time to shift in first gear. That's why I asked my question here, in a forum dedicated to specialists. So far, most answers are very useful to me and my project. –  Raistx Nov 27 '10 at 12:46
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Producing an MMO is among the hardest tasks in the industry. The chances of success if you have never shipped a title before are effectively 0. I don't mean to sound cruel, but you need to work your way up, proving your studio's skills as you go. MMOs also tend to cost a lot more and take longer than other types of games because there is little to no off-the-shelf tech that you can use other than graphics engines. If you want to found an indie studio and make a small RPG, I could buy that, but this question is just beyond the realm of possibility. –  coderanger Nov 27 '10 at 19:52
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