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Building an Indie-MMO (1/2)

More Information about how to build an Indie MMO can be found at our friends website: Indie MMO

Introduction
Time for some myth busting – in this new blog series I would like to share some personal thoughts on the process of creating an Indie MMO using Unity and the uMMORPG asset. It’s all about realistic game design and how to manage such a project – things you should do and things that you should better not touch (not even with a stick). Please note that the following pages represent my personal thoughts and are in no way representative for all opinions out there. Also note that I write exclusively about creating indie games using Unity and the famous¬†uMMORPG¬†asset (but I am not the author of uMMORPG).

Summary: The purpose for this blog series is to give advice to game designers who are set for one single thing: To create and finish a game using Unity within a reasonable amount of time, using a reasonable amount of resources and still generate a reasonable amount of joy/revenue.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

SamuTale Unity based Indie MMO (Unity Client + Custom Backend)

1. Do Not…switch to MySQL (if you are not a programmer)
uMMORPG was built with simplicity in mind and therefore uses SQLite as it’s database system. SQLite is a subset of MySQL with reduced complexity and stripped down features. It also has several advantages as it does not require you to setup a database server and can therefore be run locally and on a dedicated server without further configuration. The uMMORPG core scripts and all of our AddOns where built around SQLite, if you want to switch to mySQL now, that means replacing each and every database script in your project. Now imagine you add a new AddOn (that will most probably also be based on top of SQLite): You have to replace that script syntax with a proper mySQL syntax as well. This goes on and on for every AddOn you add and everytime the core uMMORPG version is updated.

Of course you can still do that, especially if you know how to program both in C# and mySQL. But if you can’t – I highly recommend you get a programmer on board of your team or pay a freelancer. Otherwise just keep your hands off. SQLite is not bad at all. The only problem are networked databases and multiple databases. But do you really need that? Do you have one server up and running – and how about three? Do you? Do your game and your community allow for such a complex setup already? Furthermore imagine all the content and features you can get done in the amount of time that is required to switch uMMORPG over mySQL.

Finally, there are several Indie MMOs out there that rely on SQLite for years – and they are still alive and kicking! Just do a quick google search or check out Wurm Online for example.

Wurm Online (SQLite)

2. Do Not…aim for MMO (aim for MO instead)
Unity (and especially UNET) was in fact not built for massive multiplayer games. There is not a single MMO out there that utilizes Unity as it’s server backend. Of course there are several Unity MMOs on the market (not just Indies – check out Crowfall for example) but they all use a highly sophisticated and very powerful server backend written either inhouse from scratch in C++ or C# or using professional 3rd party software. What Unity is used for in terms of MMOs is the client. And just the client (Summoners War is another example). There might be exceptions, but thats what I observed in the past years.

Im not saying that a MMO is not possible, just ditch that “massive”. In my eyes, any Indie game will always have to struggle for players and you will have a hard time attracting thousands of online players to your game. If you do your job right, you will be able to have hundreds of players online. Thats not MMO, thats MO – and thats absolutely perfect both in terms of revenue and technical limitations.

Just imagine how much marketing power is required in order to attract 10.000 players – and how many servers and people who manage those servers must be paid (or be very dedicated to your project). It’s a nice dream but nothing realistic. Instead you should aim for a small but tightly knit community and good content. Content that offers your players areas to explore, quests to complete, monsters to fight and items to acquire. And all that represented in a appealing and polished way, with a special care to the details. You won’t be able to populate a world with content, that is capable of satisfying 10.000 players – but if you work hard, you will be able to create a world with enough content to keep 1k players around.

Project Gorgon (Indie MMO)

3. Do Not…alter the core beyond recognition (use AddOns instead)
I tell you the story of my very first uMMORPG project: After getting used to Vis coding style and a bit of knowledge about the asset, my first thought was: This is lacking so many features – I have to add as many of them as I can! Said and done, new features where tacked on and stuffed into the core asset. A few days later, Vis released the first update on the store that contained only minor changes. I was able to update by hand and did setup a GIT repo for the future. Several tiny updates followed that where all easily manageable, but the process got slower and more tedious each time. This made me skip one update or another, leaving a gap in my personal series of uMMORPG version numbers.

After a while I wanted to start a side-project based on the same uMMORPG asset and realized that I cannot move my features from one project to another. Then – all of a sudden – Vis released a new AddOn that allowed parties. This rendered my own party code obsolete and I had a hard time A. removing the old code and B. updating to Vis new code. A period of smaller changes followed that I spent stuffing even more features into my Frankenstein core, updating turned more and more into a chore. I was so happy when everything worked that I skipped a few of Vis official versions. You should know, that when you do – catching up to the newest available version becomes even more difficult. My little frankenstein engine was only missing a proper pet script now, the code was all spaghetti like but it worked. And then Vis released the Pets update. And I jumped around, screaming and pulling my hair out!

My advice: It’s OK if you want to modify the uMMORPG core system, we all want to add our own features and make the asset unique. But do by using the AddOn system. Because that is was the AddOn system was made for. That system also allows you to sell your AddOns, but thats not it’s primary use. The AddOn system enables you to add more or less extensive modifications to the uMMORPG core system (using partial classes and hooks) while the core scripts remain intact. This means you can update your uMMORPG asset, you can import/export AddOns, you can move them to other projects and share them with your team members. The AddOn system will make your life easier and your project much more manageable. Think about it!

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