If I had to quote one piece of advice from the community that I heard most often on MMO development, it would be "DON'T DO IT!".
People give reasons like, "You will need server side programming knowledge", or "It takes millions of dollars". I am wondering how accurate these assumptions are.
Many suggest making a single player RPG instead. Is a single player RPG really that much less complicated than an MMO?
Lets say you have plenty of server side programming experience (as well as client side obviously), a team of 20 or so people willing to dedicate a few hours a week to development, and strong leadership. Is it really so impossible?
One thing I am not understanding is where all this money is going to be needed. There are so many open source tools today that software is not an issue. Any decent game that someone wants to make would need volunteer work done. Of course a person interested in creating a game that is not sponsored by a publisher is not going to pay its developers. That leaves what...server cost? Dedicated servers are not that expensive. Surely not millions of dollars. Sure, professional studios spend millions of dollars in game creation because they need it done fast. They need to be able to pay a team of people to allocate 40 hours a week to working on their game. If you want reliable team members, you will have to pay them. For an indie team, where there are no deadlines, and quality is determined by the motivation of the team, is millions of dollars really a prerequisite?
Another thing I seem to be missing out on is the difficulty. Dont get me wrong, I know creating an MMO is a very large challenge for an indie team, but the majority of the community builds it up to be impossible. There are many existing MMO's that have been created by indie teams that are already successful. Eternal Lands and Wurm Online being two of them. Of course these are not MMO's that could compete with professionally funded games, but they are successful in their own right, and have 300+ players online at all times. People HAVE done this. It is NOT impossible.
Lets compare the difficulty of creating a single player RPG to a multiplayer RPG. I would say the work is about double that of creating a single player. Sure, its a very rough estimation on my behalf, but I am an experienced programmer, and I have a good idea of what it takes to produce a product. Saying it is MUCH harder to create an MMO out of the otherwise single player counterpart is an exaggeration if you ask me. No I have never created an MMO before, but this seems like a blind statement. It seems like so many people write off a single player RPG as some simple, one hour game. Lets say you created an MMO, but with no multiplayer aspects. Like an MMO with a one person limit. It wouldnt be multiplayer, but it is built just like one. The bulk of the work still exists. Sure, you have to convert to a client/server architecture, but all of the design, modeling, client programming, and all of that still exists. So what about converting a client based RPG to a client/server multiplayer RPG makes this leap from "Anyone with some time on their hands can do it" to "Dont even try it without a million bucks"?
So is there some hidden aspect to multiplayer RPG software production that I am not seeing, or are single player RPG's just not seen on an epic scale as MMO's are?
Maybe its the tools people are using that make multiplayer aspects of gaming difficult? Maybe its the fact that an MMO would demand a larger world, more detail, and player balance, where as a single player game has the option of scalability?
Seeing other games being produced by other indie companies, I am not so easily discouraged by these nay sayers putting down anyone who would like to attempt MMO development.
So am I wrong, or just overly simplifying the jump from single player RPG to MMO?