Making story-based MMOs ?

It sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

While talking with some other developers last day, it appears clear that to survive in the struggle that is happening right now in the shareware games (in which we are seeing the return of middlemen, cutting indie revenues even more) there’s only one effective way: do online / MMO games.

As a player personally I hate them. I was a long-time player of Everquest, but when I started working I didn’t had hours to spend (waste) into that kind of game anymore. Anyway, as developer, I can clearly see how this is the only viable solution for long-term revenues nowadays.

Problem: how do I integrate online/multiplayer/MMO with a story-based game ? I’ve come up with some ideas, nothing really new of course:

  • making simple flash / JS singleplayer online games – this would mainly have the purpose to eliminate completely piracy, but no particular advantages for the player
  • do some sort of series of games centered around a character – somewhat similar to what I’m doing with Vera Blanc, but not simple offline downloadable games, but a series of games connected each other, using achievements and maybe even some RPG elements. However this is a big risk since if the first episode for some reason doesn’t sell, it’s really not worthwhile to continue the others
  • a MMO based on missions, each mission with a story, still playable as single player, maybe with some limited player to player interactions (but not real-time) – I like this idea, like a collection of stories, each story representing a mission (like in a fantasy or sci-fi RPG) that the player must complete, playing as single player game

I think it is possible to come up with something like that, keeping in mind to focus on the single player experience. I would love for example to do a sequel for Bionic Heart, but apart some art problems (I would still need to wait for the artist Rebecca to be free, which will be next year anyway!!) I would need more guarantees to make it. The first game was VERY popular amongst male, sci-fi userbase, as much that I got lots of emails asking me about a sequel. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, there’s also lots of piracy in that market segment: so much that clearly damaged the direct sales, demotivating me from even just considering the option to make a sequel!

This is one of the most common situations for a developer and I hate it: have a game that has a good following of “true-fans” (people who would instantly buy a sequel) but that unfortunately has also a lot of piracy, so that makes me think twice before starting a sequel πŸ™ So it’s really not a surprise that many of my developer friends completely abandoned the road of single-player offline games, and I believe many will in the near future.

I would love to start something new like this. Imagine a normal game like my others, but that could connect and auto-update, downloading new chapters, books or missions. I could add the new content anytime, after 2 weeks, after 1 year, of the initial game release (of course with some sort of notification like email/newsletter). Each content could be only a small fee, so there would be less risk for me and less money to pay for the player.

Yes I like this solution, maybe I could try it already with my next game Planet Stronghold… by the way an alpha is coming out very soon!

This entry was posted in antipiracy, bionic heart, dating sims, development tricks, general, indie life, online games, planet stronghold, roleplay games, winter wolves games. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Making story-based MMOs ?

  1. DaFool says:

    “So it’s really not a surprise that many of my developer friends completely abandoned the road of single-player offline games, and I believe many will in the near future.”

    I’m very sad that this is most likely the way of the future. It started with mainstream games and now indie games will be migrating as well. Just look at the Asian PC games market… even in 2003 they still had compelling single-player offline content (e.g. “Heroine Anthem: The Elect of Wassernixie” one of the greatest Chinese RPGs). Nowadays I see so many same-looking and same-feeling MMOs. The truly hand-crafted single-player worlds will be lost forever.

    But I hate Farmville and other browser games for a passion, because they reinforce the stereotype that games are distractions so one can procrastinate at work — rather than games being the art of very talented creators and one should give them undivided attention like you would read a novel. Surprisingly, AAA games with their cinematic experiences give more of that world-crafting than casual indie games (Actually the best would be non-casual or core indie games which really give that avante-garde feeling). So that’s why, like the AAA’s and now recently the better indie games — I must enter the console download if ever I am to be successful. I simply would have no choice. Worse, I haven’t even made a single commercial-worthy game yet so I’m trying to do this through a viral PC game that can be ported later on like Cave Story.

    • admin says:

      Well, many are just doing online games that plays mostly like normal offline ones. Just take for example Robokill, is a simple shoot’em up. Could be a downloadable. However, knowing how much they made, I think the decision of having it online-only was a DECISIVE move. Shoot’em up are really one of the worst selling genres ever (I made one too lol and indeed it’s my worst selling game ever). Still they managed to make x4-x5 my income only because it was online (not piratable).
      So you can take any idea and just make it a webgame, even if is a singleplayer. My real problem is that I hate Flash πŸ˜€

  2. Yuen says:

    The kind of game you’re envisioning already exists in the form of Multi User Dungeons, commonly known as MUD. I recommend checking out, which, amongst other things, implements a quest/goal system which is similar to your third idea, and hundreds of thousands of unique locations based in a humongous fantasy world, often each with their own individual story or area quest that players can discover and play.

    Otherwise, here is a list of popular MUDs.

    • admin says:

      Ah interesting, I knew about MUD but only the first ones which were just basic text-RPGs. Those seems more interesting, going to take a look.

  3. Yglika says:

    I see “multiplayer/mmo”, I stop reading. I really doubt they are such cash-cow as (especially indie) developers want to believe. Low-budget competition is immense and most of players are fed up by the genre to the roof. And those who aren’t are addicts in 1-2 “big” titles and that’s it.

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