I wanted to throw in my two cents on a topic, and found that this comment would be more appropriate on the Game Design section than the networking section. This post is about questioning the legitimacy of making a MMO. It isn't designed to discourage you or stifle your dream. Instead, it is designed to encourage innovation and open the doors of creativity by approaching a pragmatic view of core game design. TLDR: Be Lazy, but not lazy enough to read this thread you jerk! Question WHY your game needs to be MMO. Maybe it can be better than MMO, by NOT being a MMO! Is MMO? Why MMO? Anytime I take on a project, I try to work on my greatest strength and what I think is the greatest power of any intellectual: LAZINESS. I immediately try to innovate ways to reduce as much of the work as possible. Whether it's chopping code or dicing features, expanding scope or stringing it by the neck- "How can I save time, effort, and energy?" With that said (and not expounding on it at all) the first thing I would do when designing a MMORPG, is seeing if you can cut all the weaknesses of developing a MMO or strip the design down to its most basic elements and ask "Why MMO?" This is what this post is about. To start this process, it is best to look at other games and ask two questions: "Is MMO?" and "Why MMO?" Is MMO? There is a common complaint among the MMORPG playerbase: "This isn't an MMO... ...because of [reason]." A common example would be Dungeons & Dragons Online, criticized by many for its heavy instancing. Sometimes the complaining parties are idiots, other times they have a good point and are arguably correct! So once more, we go backwards to answer our two questions above...by asking: "What is MMO?" The entire purpose of the MMO term is a design concept. The idea that you do not play alone. The idea that the world you inhabit continues on after you leave. The idea of permanent progress and permanent mistakes. The idea of public Trade, bar room chats, and private messages. The idea of simultaneously playing with others and playing alone- the FEELING of social interaction and social involvement. The CHOICE of who to interact with and when/if. There are at least two extremes to the social mechanic. On one end are the solo-ists. Those few who want to play alone, around others. On the other end are the groupies. Those few who absolutely MUST be grouped or they will log. Everyone else lies somewhere between this spectrum, or possibly outside it, transcending it, or omnipresent all over it. (I wanted to cover my bases and show that there is more to it than this vague generalization of complex players.) What YOU want to do, is to dissect your design, prioritize your features, and take a fresh look outside the box. Why MMO? What does MMO mean to you? How does that meaning relate to your game? How does taking away that feature effect your features? Most importantly: What happens to those features when you transform the MMO into Multiplayer? Singleplayer? What games inspired you? What games made you FEEL MMO? What (mmo) games made you think "Not really a MMO..."? Investigate those reasons and put them to the test if you can. There are many games, you may be able to isolate features based on specific games, or find a common theme which explains what you think kills the MMO. So let's take yet another step backwards, and investigate those inspirations, that competition, the games which came before yours and the common criticisms attached. Is MMO? - In Your Opinion. Having defined what YOU want from a MMO, do your diligent research. Not just playing the games and thinking of its design, not just targeting MMO's (but also targeting multiplayer games in general), but by digging into forums and listening to criteria for what makes or breaks the MMO. So what makes an MMO, in general? An authoritative server? Certainly not. Planetside 2 has many of the most important components on the client. What a trusting server! Besides, for cheaters to ruin a MMORPG, there has to BE a MMORPG first. No Save Scumming? If you sell that gear, die by that mob, lose that PvP match- it's forever recorded in history. There is no loading your old save. There is no reset button. Yet there are games, often roguelikes, who have the same components. That certainly doesn't make them MMO...or does it? I have played a roguelike or two that gave me that "MMO" feel because of certain features. (I say this, because no one can tell you that you are wrong for something to feel "MMO". YOU define what this means. What YOU like about the experience.) Likewise, I have heard people comment about MMORPG's which they argued would be better as singleplayer or cooperative multiplayer experiences. One prime example is SWTOR. This game plays like a singleplayer game. Almost like Bioware created another mass effect and then added in the MMO. I hear very often from fans of the game, especially at release, that the game wasn't much of a MMO and should have just been a different game. It going F2P so quickly after release speaks to this idea. What about that persistent world? Once you leave, that world will still be there. Come back later, and it probably hasn't changed much. However, very often you hear of a MMO user "return to their MMO" and find their friends list empty. Everyone they knew moved on, and it just "Isn't the same anymore". Does this mean the people are the MMO? In other words: the social features? Chats, Guilds, Dense Social Areas? It is extremely common to hear an Ultima Online veteran emit nostalgia for their time hanging out in front of the Britain bank all day. What about the massively multiplayer experience? In a very large amount of MMORPG's, the gameplay is instanced- in normal gameplay you will never see more than 4-8 party members at any one time. Even in PvP instances, this number only multiplies by 2x-3x, which is still often LESS than some of the larger FPS games (ex. the common 32v32 FPS server). Is MMO? - Is that MMO really all that massive? When you are having (literal) massive battles with HUNDREDS of users at once, like a daily encounter in Dark Age of Camelot- it is hard to argue the game isn't a true MMO. However, these games are few and far between. Nearly all MMO's, including those large ones, split their playerbase into multiple servers. Why is this important? When creating a MMO, you aren't looking at supporting millions of players. Not really, anyway. You are looking at supporting thousands. WoW doesn't have a bajillion servers for no reason. Ask yourself this question: Does WoW change if there is one server, instead of a hundred? Absolutely not. Nothing really changes. I have seen games with a single, packed server. You often saw this in 2007 when MMORPG's would have a huge rush of players packing in 30+ servers, and a month later those same servers being destroyed-- combined into 5+ servers. Then 2-3 servers. Finally just one, with a second PvP server with a dead population. However that ONE was usually enough to make the game feel still alive, and depending on the age of the game and design decisions in updates, potentially THRIVING! Why is this? Well, think about it. Think about the player's proximity. Count how many people you actually interact with on a daily basis. As hard as it is to believe, it is entirely possible to encounter significantly MORE unique players when playing a day of League of Legends, than a day of World of Warcraft. How is this possible though? LoL isn't a MMO. It's a match-making game with only 10 total players at a time, no persistent world, no open world, no trade, no major chatting in the capital city. Is MMO? - Wow, how small is massive? Yet how many players are in that dungeon with you in WoW? How many users are grinding XP with you in Everquest or looting newbs in Darkfall? Typically, it's around 4-6 users. Those same users stick around, with an occasional leaver. So does this mean that a unique user sticking around makes MMO? In LoL, unless you friend them, they are gone and replaced with 9 other new users. Even during chat in large capital cities, how many people are actually participating? The criteria being a single line of text spoken. Start a lively conversation and count. It won't be in the thousands. In fact, let's take a step backwards and just analyze our proximity. /Zone. "There are 66 players in this capital zone." Only 66? But this is a MMO, with millions of players! Hmm, let's go to a combat area! /Zone. "There are 32 players in this combat area." Less? Maybe they are all in the tougher dungeons! /Zone. "There are 13 players in this zone." Unbelievable. That is what I thought the first time I discovered this and truly thought about it. How can this be? I read reviews and articles talking about tens of thousands, sometimes millions of players. You quickly realized the obvious: Most are not logged in simultaneously. Alright, but I read an article about tens of thousands of simultaneous users! More discovery: Server cap is at 2000, or Instance Cap is at 200. I remember when Champions Online released, each zone would have 4+ instances of itself. Wait a minute... but this is MMO! Time for more discovery... Running around, you see about 0-4 people fighting wolves in the forest as you travel from one zone to another. So what gives? At any moment in time, a single server has only thousands of players at most. Among those thousands, at any given moment each zone has only hundreds of players at most- and with the exception of player hubs like capital cities, each zone has only double digits (and often the LOWER digits). Within that large zone, those scores of players are scattered about. So if you are in a full group, you are looking at 4-6 players and a few passer-biers. Why MMO? - The Social Hubs? The illusion of massive? Obviously the idea that you aren't actually playing with all that many people doesn't just kill the MMO. These games are still MMO, still feel MMO. Hopefully thinking about all of this and comparing it to multiplayer games, where you often have a very similar proximity towards players, you have a better idea of what design components and features make MMO. So now that you may have a better idea as to what MMO is, perhaps it is time to point the finger at your game and declare, "Why MMO?" Let's pretend you isolated your feeling and it led to...oh let's say three things: Trade, Chat, and easy PUG (Pick-Up Groups). Pretending this is 'your' reason, how does it differ from, oh...say a match-making system like LoL or a player-hosted server like most FPS games? This is the time for innovation. Whatever your opinion is, whatever your thoughts on the matter- can you think of ways to implement those features WITHOUT spending all that time working on the MMO component of programming? Take for example, instancing. Let's say that kills the MMO for you. Can you innovate a way to pull in the strengths of instancing with the illusion it is NOT instancing? Perhaps bringing in those strengths to a new system or game concept? Let's say that instancing isn't a problem for you. Well, then you figure out this and then that- and you discover an idea you're satisfied with. "Let's have a central player hub, but have it be separate from the rest of the game. It's basically one big chat client which centralizes players, allows them to socialize, and then they link together in multiplayer (not MMO). It's a hybrid MMO/Multiplayer game that is easier to create!" Obviously you may hate that idea. The example may be an awful one and totally fail. The point I am making is to think outside the box. Grab what you want from MMO, and think of ways to implement it. Wait...what about raiding, you NEWB?! This is probably the one feature most MMORPG's have that actually make their proximity grow enough to justify the MMO. Raids can be incredibly large, and fun experiences for many. Although I myself do not care for them- you might. Or maybe you want to remake DAoC and those 300v300v300 battles are important to you. In that case, this entire thread is probably worthless to you. Although you should still question the need for an authoritative server. Many here will scream, "YOU CANT TRUST THE CLIENT!" but major games have in the past and have worked well despite it. Can you identify why that might be? (ex. Planetside 2 & I believe it was...?Battlefield4?, both of which allow client-side hit prediction and still worked fine- arguably even better for most users because of it). Still, ask yourself- "How important is raiding to my MMO?" as well as innovative thoughts, "Is there a way to allow raiding, but still not have to make it MMO? Battlefield has up to 64 players on a server...can I do that instead or should I just go full MMO server instead?" Very often chopping even one major feature may be what you need to justify changing your scope. None of the gameplay has to suffer if you can find a way to innovate. I will now just abandon you with one brief statement: Game Design is about creating a user experience for the player to make them feel/think a certain way. If you can create that 'MMO' feeling without the complex MMO architecture, you not only give the player what they want- but you save yourself a ton of work in the process.