Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 27, 2008
The $50 million question

I mentioned in a comment earlier that I'm near the bottom of a hypothetical list of people most likely to receive $50 million to develop a triple-A MMO. And then I noticed that this might make a good discussion subject: If somebody gave you $50 million to develop a triple-A MMO, how would your game look like? The result should be fun enough to make you want to play your own game, and we'll presume that the $50 million investor wants his money back, so we have to talk business model as well. I propose as template:

Name of the game: (if you can think of one on the spot, otherwise leave blank)
Genre: (in the sense of setting: fantasy, sci-fi, pirates vs. ninjas, etc.)
Short description of gameplay: (especially the unique selling point, what makes your game special)
Business model: (monthly fee, free-to-play with micro-transactions, advertising, etc.)

To give an example, here is the game I'd develop with $50 million. I mentioned it before.

Name of the game: Shandalar
Genre: Fantasy
Short description of gameplay: Shandalar is a 3D virtual fantasy world with many of the classic features of modern MMORPGs: Various zones with cities, wilderness, and dungeons, populated by quest givers, and monsters to battle. The unique selling point is that the combat system is based on trading card game systems: you have a "hand" full of "cards" drawn from a "deck" you built. Every card represents a possible action in combat. As your hand is drawn randomly, every combat is different, even if you fight the same monster repeatedly.
Business model: Free-to-download, free-to-play with a basic deck and common cards you loot from monsters or get as quest rewards. Money comes from players buying "booster packs" containing a mix of rare, uncommon, and common cards, to build better decks. Point out to investor that this business model worked great for Magic the Gathering.

So, how would your game look?
Just being critical, but you'd develop Shandalar? That was a Windows 95 platform game that I enjoyed countless hours playing. You seem to have smashed that idea together with the MTGO business model. Granted that it is a good idea, but for a new MMO to be AAA quality, it should be unique, not just an animated back story for a successful game. Much more visual appeal and user interaction would likely be needed. On the MTGO business model, the investment of actually becomming "good" at that kind of game is astronomical, which turns a good many people away from the start.
The 95 game wasn't called Shandalar, the world it played on was. And I didn't say I'd reuse the same graphics engine. For graphics I'd love cell-shaded 3D graphics. And a world as big as Azeroth or any other typical MMO world, with the same visual appeal and user interaction, a good LFG system, and better guild system, etc. I only listed the unique selling point, which is as you correctly remarked combining WoW with Magic the Gathering.

As you can *play* with no or little investment, many people in that sort of business model get suckered into investing more money into the game, with the goal of becomming good. The morality of that is a completely different question, as is the morality of any other business model. Monthly fees overcharge casual players, microtransactions sucker people into paying more than planned, and advertising is a completely different can of worms.

So, where is your game, Doug?
Would there be ways to enhance your character other than through these cards? There would have to be some way to ensure that your character would have some advantage over the enemy. Also, how would progression work? Would your card's powers evolve with you so that you could continue using them or would you have to replace all of your cards as you level? How would grouping work with this setup? I'm not exactly a huge fan of trading card games (as I'm sure is the case for many other gamers) so what would you do to bring me in to the game in the first place if this is the major selling point?

I have many more questions, but I'll leave it to these. You don't even have to answer any of the questions I proposed if you don't want to, but I love developing ideas like this, and after all, you were the one with the idea.

Also, I think, as has been shown with your game description, that a simple two or three sentence explanation of a game idea simply won't suffice as there are far too many elements to consider with an MMO, especially if you want to be innovative. You can get the general point across, but I think many other questions still need answering to determine whether it would be viable and worthwhile.
Title: Reconquerings

World type: fantasy

Gameplay description: Lots of different types things to do, with little leveling/grind. The game would have the usual PvP and kill monsters, though with slightly different twists than usual, and would also have crafting, resource gathering, PvP battle map making, possibly diplomacy/political intrigue, etc., designed so that someone could just do those without stepping into combat if they wanted. It would also be easy to move between playing styles (No levelling, for example)

Business model: Box sales plus small monthly fee (Maybe $5 or something along those lines.). there might be some incentives for helping to test new features, as it is likely that some gameplay styles would have to be added after release, due to the amount of time it would take to design a system worth playing on its own, than testing, debugging, and balancing it.

I actually have a lot more of this game idea thought out in my head (such as what the combat systems would be like, what the crafting system would be like, the backstory, etc.), I might write it down an email it in.
I'll answer those questions once you put the $50 million on the table. :) More seriously talking, the exercise here is not to go through the whole multi-year development process, but to design the one PowerPoint slide with the bullet points that convince the hypothetical investors to hand over the $50 million to you.

Come on, somebody, it's your turn to propose some ideas!
One possible modification I would make (not the point of the post I know, sorry) is to reserve the card style combat only for bigger events, like a boss mob or a final quest mob. Card combat tends to be slower than hack-n-slash, and assuming the game has 'kill 10 x' quests, those would be very slow if you had to card battle each one.

Card battles could be interesting in a raid-like setting though, with a team vs team type of setup.

Plus card collecting is good times.

Have you ever tried Pox Nora Tobold? It's a turn based strategy game that uses the deck/card design.
This Shandalar intrigues me. Would you only work on improving your deck, or would you also have a paper doll full of gear to affect your statistics? It seems to me that you'd need a distinction between the best things you can buy and the best things you can loot to keep people paying and playing, respectively.

And I'll keep wracking my brain to think of a clever MMO...
Name of the game: The Wild West
Genre: Western MMO RPG
Short description of gameplay: Time to be a kid again .. cowboys vs. Indians. Easter half of US start zone for cowboys and western half for Indians. Sample of classes:
- Melee class- Brawler (Cowboy) and Warrior (Indian)
- Ranged DPS – Rifleman (Cowboy) and Bowman (Indian)
- Healer: Doc (Cowboy) and Medicine Man (Indian)
- Scout / support class: Explorer (Cowboy) and Hunter (Indian)
With several branches of depth of each (i.e. talents and specs).

Crafting, build a home and defent your land in the west! Be part of the gold rush or explore the rocky mts. (climbing and camping skills). Personal and group adventures and all out battles on “the ranges” (i.e. battle grounds).
Business model: (monthly fee .. however go back to the old days of $9.99 a month)
Name :
Genre : futuristic (pre- & post-apocalyptic)
Gameplay : Large scale 3D world (1/2 again as big as WoW or LOTRO's scale), quests involved with the running of a virtual society (no or incidental monster grind) - player economy driven with NPC interferences, competing civilizations, allegiance to factions within societies regardless of beginning faction (character creation) or restricted thereby. World evolves through expansions with changes to landscape control - advantages & drawbacks to certain factions accordingly.
Business model : monthly fee

(I'd play Shandalar btw :))
More info about my Shandalar idea in my previous post on the same idea. I had another version of it as April Fools joke on, but I'm afraid that one disappeared when Grimwell redesigned.
Name: ???
Genre: Sci-fi/near future/post apocolypse
Short Description: Arena based automotive combat with cash prizes, perhaps some outside-the-arena questing
Business Model: free to download, free to play, micro payments for some in-game objects, arena event entry fees

How is it different? The game would be designed from the start to be fun to spectate, like current sporting events.
Wow someone asked my questions even as I was typing them.

Name of the game: no clue yet
Genre: fantasy
Short description of gameplay: WoW-esque, but you build/control a stable of characters instead of one character. You can control several at once. The combat itself is a combination of automation (assisted by your own FF13-like 'gambits') and interaction. Kind of like Warcraft, but smaller in scale with more options (and customization) available to a given unit. (If WoW can be said to be controlling in micro strokes, this game is a bit more macro, but still not at the level of your average RTS.) Here's the twist: certain activities will lend themselves to different numbers of heroes, but the number of players controlling those heroes is up to you. So if you want to do a 5-man dungeon by yourself, go for it - but you're going to have to keep more active-duty characters than someone just bringing their 'star character' into that instance with a friend or two. Raids will require each of say 20 players to bring their best 5 characters to take down huge armies or ridiculous bosses (preferably both). The main goal is to keep some of the numerical hurdles of WoW flexible - no shortage of tanks so long as you keep one in your stable, less shortage of players if you can say 'alright fine I'll bring my war and rog you bring your wiz, priest and necro let's do this.' Many classes/races for customization choices - like building an army in an RTS.
Business model: no clue. The biggest thing to market about this game will be its huge scale. "Clash of armies" style pve is something totally new and the mass pvp will involve more units than before. The real strength of the game is its flexible scale, but I think more people will respond to advertising its upper limits.
I said some activities "will lend themselves" to certain numbers of heroes, but you can read that as they "will be capped at" a certain number of heroes. You wouldn't bring an army into a little cave, and the for balance reasons dungeon "maximum occupancy" is enforced.
Tobold, I think your premise is badly posed.

What constitutes an AAA game? Quality? It's intangible, impossible to to judge in anything but the final product, or guarantee in development. Made by talented developers? Known talent is scarce and by nature poorly commoditized in the job market, unknow talent is hard to discover and evaluate. High-budget marketing? It helps, but it won't carry the product to success alone. Hot franchise? It can hurt your project as much as it can help it.

The only thing your $50 mil. will buy you is a certain number of man-hours from a reasonably competent development, management, and marketing teams, rent on an office building, plus other operational expenses. What comes out of it all is anybody's guess. As any project manager worth his salt will tell you, more man-hours do not guarantee success.

There is currently no way to ensure profitability of a single MMO product. The business model for games goes something like this: "If you build it, will they come?". Contrast this with the business model for building a grocery store: "If you build it, they will come".

The only entities capable of sound investment into MMOs right now are either very large companies or venture capitalists who can diversify into other investments to hedge their bet. If you only had your $50 mil. to invest, you'd be mad to put it into making an MMO.
The premise is that none of our ideas will be realized, as even if there were $50 million investors, they would give their money to more established figures in the industry. Giving $50 million to Richard Garriott or Raph Koster is a risk. Giving them to Tobold is just downright crazy. Hell, *I* wouldn't give myself that money if I had it. :)

There is no way to guarantee the success of a $50 million investment in a MMO. But lots of people believe that good game design would make a difference. Only problem is that nobody really knows what is good game design. So my guess is as good as yours. Play along, it's just a hypothetical exercise.
Name of the game: DARKLANDS
Genre: Fantasy
Short description of gameplay: Based on the old Microprose RPG game. Key features: sandbox mode with some structured quest lines and story threads; less emphasis on killing critters, NO CHARACTER LEVEL(only playable selectable skill levels. ie. If I want to tank so I train defense. II I want to craft, I train crafting). This is more realistic than current MMOs. You want to pickpocket/fight someone? Look at what he's wearing, size him up. You have no idea if someone in RL can kick your butt, nor should it be otherwise in an MMO; Mini-games would be available for skill training as well. ie. do enough puzzles in a blacksmithing mini games and you "discover" a new design; ALL RARE ITEMS ARE PLAYER MADE -- Bosses drop rare mats. As well, all player-made items can be augmented by several skills, encouraging a market for artisans; lastly, RANDOM WORLD events. ie. a city has been attacked by a dragon! This introduces world change without unbalancing things too much.

Business model: Free-to-download, free-to-play but your character is confined to the starting cities. Pay to progress to new areas with bronze-silver-gold accounts.

I want a sense of adventure, the unknown, some awe. I feel this is missing from all main games out there.
Name of the game: DougMMO! (unknown, and no, I'm not the Doug from above)

Genre: Fantasy

Short description of gameplay: DougMMO is a 3D virtual fantasy world. The world is very large, enabled by an EVE-esque "connected areas on different servers" setup. It is also dynamic; orc hordes might completely take over an area, wiping out the (possibly player-built) towns unless they're defended by players.

Large areas of the wild lands can be tamed for player housing or cities, with other areas being 'protected' for dungeons and the like.

Crafting is as interactive as combat, although not the same interface or style. Those who like to chill and craft all day can play that game and have as much fun as scouring the landscape for goblins.

Character levels don't exist; skills are upgraded as you use them, independently of each other. Thus removes the need for alts at all; you can have your same character pursue many skill paths as your whims change. In-game mechanics would prevent an uber-character from being both a tank and a spell-slinger in the same fight, however.

Business model: Haven't gotten this far yet. :) A friend and I have brainstormed game design ideas for years, and recently started writing it all down to see if it actually makes sense as a whole. If the $50 million comes our way, we aim to be ready for it! It's as fun to design an MMO as it is to play one!

I'd make five $10M games instead of one $50M game.
Name of the game: Undead
Genre: Horror
Short description of gameplay: Zombies is the game, you are survivors. Free for all PvP, permadeath (but that's only if you stay to fight to the death, you always have the option to click the "flee" button and find yourself disengaged from combat and teleported a random direction away a far distance and needing to rest), huge world (because we don't want crowding, you can't have horror if its too crowded), most of the cash would be spent on developing a spacial voice communication system so that whispering and shouting matters (determines how far away other people can hear you). The game will also have an extremely complex crafting system, with the idea being to allow players to craft anything that can logically be crafted. Knife + duct tape + stick = spear. Given tools players would also be able to deconstruct items, such as disassembling machines for parts to craft other machines, etc.
Business model: Monthly fee, or possibly free to play with in game advertising/product placement.
personally, i think everyone is looking in the wrong direction. Myth started out with $100k, and they banked over $10mil.

I think the next big mmporg hit is going to be found by some grassroots devs that are able to provide something family oriented. kids play WoW, but its an adult themed game.

short playtime.
educational and fun.
something little johnny and mom can play together.
get mom to believe she's paying for a bonding experience.
I think an MMO based off sports with money and stock trading, luxury houses and cars, status symbols, girlfriend celebrities - that kind of stuff. It would be violent sports tho.

You choose a role such as a boxer, soccer player, football player. Some kind of classes and each had mini games and pvp battlegrounds.

There would be no stores, only player owned ones. Even food would need to be purchased, grown, or killed. You had to work out every day and could take steroids and risk getting caught.
[qoute] The premise is that none of our ideas will be realized, as even if there were $50 million investors, they would give their money to more established figures in the industry. Giving $50 million to Richard Garriott or Raph Koster is a risk. Giving them to Tobold is just downright crazy. Hell, *I* wouldn't give myself that money if I had it. :)

There is no way to guarantee the success of a $50 million investment in a MMO. But lots of people believe that good game design would make a difference. Only problem is that nobody really knows what is good game design. So my guess is as good as yours. Play along, it's just a hypothetical exercise. [/quote]

Then I dont don't really understand your question.

What is my proposed role in this (imaginary) scheme? I answered as a would-be investor of $50 mil. I reject the idea of being able to *buy* an AAA-quality game, and I wouldn't put this money into game development.

If someone just gave $50 mil. to the real me... well stop right there, I'd abscond with the money.

If I was the developer, I wouldn't have any control over the game's revenue model -- the investors would want to determine that because it directly concerns their return-on-investment. Indeed, given the high budget I expect many of the key design aspects would be dictated to me as well. The size of the investment would be quite irrelevant otherwise, except my ability to squeeze the operations budget into it.

You see, money changes everything. It brings the question into the real world and makes the answeres much more complicated and subjective in regard to which of the many parties involved you asked.

So, why did you bring the $50 mil. into your question at all? Which of the following are you really asking?

* How would you invest $50 mil. into MMO production?

* What MMO would you personally like to make if you had nothing else to do, money was no object, and ability not an issue?
Name : Swords and Stars
Genre : Scifi and Fantasy

Gameplay : pvp (planet vs planet) gameplay. 3 home worlds, 4 contested worlds. Travel to next world is determined by planetary influence. Greatest influence allows a faction to take control of a jump point allowing access to next world. No 2 home worlds connected by jump point therefore need to contol contested planets to move on to homeworlds.

Each world has its own lore, pvp objectives, pve content, unaligned races. Control of worlds decided through pvp conquest and diplomacy (pve success). Homeworlds has its own pve content for all levels but concentrated on being the centre of its own civilisation. Trade, player housing etc. Players can bring back technology and items from off world to build their own abodes. Planning permission is needed from plenetary government.

No class distinctions. All players have 6 trees. 4 of these are archetype connected (tank, range, mellee, healing) and 2 alignment trees Magic and Tech. All players gain points perlevel which they can invest in tree nodes. Trees contain statistical nodes fro incresed hp etc. For example tank tree has more hp increase nodes. Armour and weapons give statistical bonuses to tech or magic aswell as extra ability points for different trees therefore with no armour a player does not lose everything they have worked for.

Picture this a warrior in heavy futuristic armour with an augmented vision scanner, shield and autocannon letting off rune rounds against a fast moving enemy in a stealth suit and twin blades supported by a caster with staff and pistol etc

Business model : Standard monthly fee with cost for purchase. Expansion every year minimum.
The Next MMO Project
I can’t tell you what my game would look like, but I can tell you how I would figure that out. Here is the idea:

1) Break out an MMO into all the major component parts: Crafting, Combat, Questing, Character Advancement, Itemization, PvP and so forth.

2) Each week, cover one of these areas as a topic and allowed readers to submit “ideas” of things they enjoy about each particular area.

3) Next, I would write up summary options for the most popular ideas and allow people to VOTE on the options they like best.

4) Once I covered each area, I would write up all the most popular ideas as a summary of what features would be included in the Next MMO. The theory being that asking for ideas and putting them to vote would give a sense for what is most popular. It actually might be best to do RATINGS for the votes so a feature that was very unpopular with some, but very popular with others would get a balanced score.

I don’t know if this would make a great game, but it’s certainly an exercise I would do as “market research” to figure out what features would have the broadest appeal in a game. This is something I’d like someone in the blogosphere to do anyway just to get a sense if such a game would actually even be a good game. It would be interesting to go through the whole exercise and then just ask if people would play such a thing.
Title: Urban Sprawl

World Type: Post Apocalypse/Urban

Short Description: Similar to the above "Undead" in that you play in a Zombie Apocalypse, but in this game you will play in an enormous city, and gameplay will revolve around your hideaway. You Hideaway is a base of operations you choose early on, and you must barricade it with proper items that you find. (A physics engine might be used for this.) Want to barricade the Mall for ultimate resources? You'll need a hella lot of stuff, perhaps even using cars to barricade. Then you must simply survive, by going scavenging for medical supplies, food and weapons. Death would be permanent, but it would be relatively easy to survive (As in, not dying) due to mobility over the zombies. One could leap between buildings, build ziplines, etc. (There would be further anti-cheating aspects put in.)

Business Model: Monthly payment, with certain big purchases for revival, large real estate (Malls, Offices)
God damn it Tobold, you've got my mind racing. I'm coming up to something in my head - will post it when finished but it will be... quite big... you want to read the entire thing once it's done? Or want me to post a snippet for you to glance at n' then I'll give you a link if you're interested in reading the bigger thing? :p
I think that no matter what the game would be to make it profitable it would have to be a easy game in the first place.

The business model would be the same as WoW but at reduced costs due to sponsors who would advertise in the game. Depending on the setting, the in-game adds would be different (fantasy, sci-fi).

It would be a generic RPG based on a recently (at the time of developing) established IP.

The game itself would feature a leveling structure similar to wow as well as the gameplay (would have to be adapted if it was a sci-fi or current day setting) with quests and instances but these would have a solo mode. The end-game would be comprised of small party raids with lots of "rides", that is, lots of "minigames" and not just hitting mobs. The dungeons would have an adaptative mode, so that it would adapt to the player skill. Wiht each wipe the mobs and boss's stats as well as the quality of loot tables would be reduced. Regarding loot, the fundamental diference with be visual with slighter better stats if you wipe less.
Player and Guild housing would be made available from the start and those could (if the player/guild wishes so) all be visited by other players through a "public room" where trophies would be displayed. Those trophies would be aquired through accomplishments or quest/dungeon rewards.
Great question, Tobold!

Title: Battletech Universe

World Type: Sci-fi

Gameplay Description: A combination of both first person shooter (think Planetside with Mechs) for PVP and regular MMORPG questing (think WOW/AOC) for PVE. The unique feature of the game would be that the game would have a predetermined timeline of events that occur - that is, the game changes over time based on in-game events. The world is not persistently static - it's dynamic (in theory, generally based on the predetermined events and outcome of PVP battles). So, the gaming experience you would have if start at launch would be different than the experience you'd have if you joined halfway through the lifecycle of the game (yes, the game would have a defined endpoint).

Business Model: Box sales plus small monthly fee. Also would include the ability to conduct microtransactions.

Other Thoughts: The game would obviously be based on the Battletech universe. I would see the timeline consisting of starting at the fall of the Star League and progressing through the current events in Battletech. PVP combat (the FPS portion) would be battles between the Houses (players would join a specific House or a mercenary group) for control of individual planets. Victory in one of those battles would affect the game (the planet and its resources would change hands). PVE would consist of questing (to include noob quests to learn the ins and outs and quests to earn skills and gear upgrades). I haven't fleshed out the particulars on how the whole dynamic timeline thing would work.
The problem with idea generation and coming up with wild ideas on something is that it'll mostly just bring out all of the naysayers who want to point out problems with your idea and why it won't work. Just take a look at the majority of the current comments. Lol!

That being said, here goes nothing. >.<


Squad level fantasy style hybrid RTS/RPG. You control 4 chars each with their own AI, which you can overrule with micromanagement. It's up to you to choose what mix of classes you want. And while in town, you can substitute them in and out (for those with alt-itis). There'd be some auto AI to help with the micromanagement - like having the healer auto-cast heal on someone who's HP is below some minimum, the DPS/CC focus on the opposing DPS/CC, etc.

Collision detection is a must. No aggro control by the tank - mostly interception of the opposing Mob, so that it/they can't reach the clothies in the back.

Hotkey 1-4 to select each individual member of the squad. Right click on target to attack.

Larger battles feel like a big war. Perhaps a big "unit formation" bonus if you take 4 warriors of your squad and combine with other squads?

When you're ready to "ding" you go to a special location (could be as mundane as an inn), and choose how to spend your XP that you gained. This way you could quickly level up one member of your squad that needs to catch up to the rest.

Business model:
No monthly fee. Revenue is generated by purchase of gold/micro transactions as well as in game advertising.

All equipment + spells + talents cost gold to buy, and they all decay. Gold drops off mobs, but also can be purchased. "Special" items, spells, & talents can be bought, but they are also tradeable/auctionable. Items have sockets and jewels/gems are available, which also decay.

Lots of eye candy available - i.e. customization. This costs gold.
Pets, housing, changing the look or color of an item perhaps, tatoos, jewelry, insignias, mounts. Special potions temporarily change the race of a toon.

Crafting is available as a mini-game. Drops can be disassembled and recrafted. Success in crafting an uber-rare is increased by skill in the mini-game/puzzle.

The initial venture capital isn't spent so much on getting "realistic" high end graphics and trying to push high end hardware. Instead it's spent on the artists, quest designers/mini-storyline writers, quality control (i.e. bug smashers), and of course, the development team. Extra money is set aside for an extra 6-12 months of playtesting to work on balance and playability and quest design. Meta reports of the overall economy keep track of the gold generation vs gold sinks to make sure that farming, exploits, and other trends can be identified. Users are often given the option in-game of giving feedback on what they like/what they want to see more of, and what they don't like. Money is spent to keep the amount of instancing/zoning to a minimum (unlike PotBS).

The world evolves depending on the trend of the economy.

All previews are kept mostly hush hush to increase speculation (and increase player curiousity). No open beta. No early reviews.
ps. I *know* I'd play Jason and/or Maidoc's game suggestions. Or at least try em for a few months. Nice ideas, you two!
Title: Legends of the Ancestors Online

World Type: pseudo-historical fantasy, preferably involving Asian cultures (although we may need a Viking/Valhalla faction as well to move product)

Gameplay: Instanced quest/dungeon areas clustered around large cities. PvE "raids" will be small-scale and maxed out at 12 players, with AI controlled NPC "mercenaries" who can fill in that last spot or two. Squad-based, tactical PvP that focuses on small maps with control points, but with RPG style combat (nothing FPS-like that requires one to aim crosshairs). A low level cap, casuals should be able to take a character to the max level within 24 hours of game time.

Business Model: No subscription, box sales + micropayments. The game will involve a watered down version of "permadeath" where characters who die a certain number of times (100? 500?) after reaching the level cap are sent to the Realm of the Ancestors where they remain in the player's account and are prayed to before each battle for buffs (similar to how WoW players buff up during raids). Each player gets 3 Living player and 3 "Ancestor" slots per account, more can be obtained through micropayments ($5 per slot). Players may also hire an NPC priest (using a $2 micropayment token) to perform a Reincarnation Ritual which restores their Ancestor to the land of the Living with their death counter reset to zero. Shrines to Ancestors can also be built and expanded upon through micropayments.

Also: The first expansion to Legends of the Ancestors would be set in the modern age. No characters from the first game will be playable but all will be accessible to pray to for buffs. Certain encounters will bring these "Ancients" into the modern world as temporary NPC allies.
Nice post, but I think you are lacking some bullet points for the presentations:

* Who is the target audience? Why would they like to play the game?

* What should the game contain at start and how to you want to evolve it?

Since I have not developed any MMORPGs yet, I think I would rather split that $50 million into a few smaller piles of money and develop a few different MMORPGs.
One thing i would be sure to include would be a crafting system that rivals the character creator in City of Heroes/Villains. Say as you go up in skill, you gain different looks, stats, and other effects you can make the item in. It would give a reason to do crafting, instead of being a time/gold sink, and would also address the "everyone looks the same" issue.
Name of the game:
Genre: Space Opera
Short description of gameplay: 3D virtual scifi space opera game. The objective is to advance your technology, improve your ship, expand your assets in outerspace while exploring/conquering in a PvE/PvP social environment. 3D graphics and main persepective from control a ship (similar to EvE). The game would incorporate design editors to design custom ships/stations/weapons/colonies similar to the editors in Spore. …Ability to hire/take on a crew (ie guild) of npcs/pcs. Guild can also consist of multiple ships/ spacestations (fleet). Various classes for players to gain skill in which apply bonuses to the ship on which they are a crewmember. (More often crews will consist of npc’s for the bonuses/stats while players will most likely want to not share a ship with another player.

Combat in space would consist of either you controlling all aspects of your ships weaponry or delegating aspects of it out to NPCs or other PCs in the form of turret guns or smaller fighter craft that deploy from a “mother” ship, etc.

On larger ships, stations, and planets players are represented by an avatar in which they can walk around interact with the environment, sell goods, and participate in combat similar to that of WoW (except Scifi setting/gear/technology, etc.)

The incentive to being in space is experience or skills can only be advanced though experiences on a ship or via space-type missions. Also, what is changed in space stays changed. PVE stuff that is killed stays killed or “damaged” until repaired.

Business model: Free to play with basic options or low monthly fee ($10/$15) for full options (use of custom design and other bells/whistles).

Additionally one can buy space (in/on a limited area of their own space station) to post advertisements through a controlled system by which the advert is approved.
Name of the game: Shadowrun
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy Cross
Short description of gameplay: A cross between Fantasy and Sci-fi, future world where Magic has been reawakened in some causing transformations for new races. Sci-elements including cybernetics and normal balistic weapons cross with magic users. And to top of it off a sub-game with the Matrix (was coined 10 years before the film btw :P).

Other key selling points is balancing Essence of your cybernetic implants to be the best you can with the ability to cast magic. Karma (pseudo-faction) with free pvp comes Karma pvp with consequences.

Business model: level capped advertising sponsored accounts and full paying monthly non-advertising accounts, also pay by the hour available.
I'd rather be given about $20 million to develop an MMO than $50 million. I wouldn't be able to make my happy niche MMO with so much money, because it might never recover the cost.
Mine would be a twist on Tobolds original idea. I like the idea of intermixing the mechanics of a ccg and a mmo.

Genre will be horror/adventure, set in a Lovecraftian world, with an epic story arc. Players -all on 1 world server- will drive this story through public quests, solo quests are there but will only give additional cards as rewards. The story will have different paths depending on the outcome of certain key public quests.

This story will have an end, reached through solving or failing in the final quest or reaching a time limit, set now at 1 year. "Winning" will give all those who participated some top rare cards; the number will depend on their contribution.

When the current game ends, a new story/scenario will unfold (a mechanisme ala Mtg) in the following expansion packs.

New players can step in at any time in a scenario, with starter decks.

usp: exeptionally strong story lines driven by quest which WILL have an impact on the world and possibly even the outcome of the scenario, a set and clear goal (per scenario) so no mindless grinding and an endgame that really has an end.

monthly fee

As a Magic the Gathering player (who has fond memories of the old windows 95/98 game, and who still plays the actual card game on rare occasions with family/friends)....

I would possibly subscribe to a ccg-mmo as Tobold and others have described as long as it didn't become too expensive to get into the game and to progress through the game.
Name of the game: Realm of HammerCraft 8000

Genre: Fantasy with a "twist", someone will make that special something before we release to the media.

Gameplay: Current usual expected crap,
promise PvP with purpose, cater for the PvE crowd with Half-finished raid dungeons. Hard enough to keep them busy for 6 months.

Business model: £20 from initial game sales,£8 from monthly fees, put $20m into advertising - pay off all the big websites to make it the best game since Space Wars.
Sell gold and items via website. from a 6 month run we should get our money back, thats paid all the staff for 4 years. I got a new car and holiday home. Our staff gets experience. Leave all the underpeforming people on the project and take the better people to my new project.
I like sumdumguys game!

"Raids" could be 25 squads getting together to take down some content. If each person has a point level they can spend on their squad, and swap their guys in and out depending on the point limit and what they've discovered in the game, or skills they levelled, or talent trees they've gone down, we could actually have various squads perform some of the traditional roles in an MMO; tank, melee (or short ranged), ranged (or long ranged), and healer.

"Karajima raid LF3M, need 2 medic squads and a recon squad."

Just like the point systems for Warhammer and Warhammer 40K, you could really spend your points on anything you've unlocked. A hero, a vehicle (the tank is actually a tank?!?), a ranged artillery piece, 2 mounted units for recon or flanking, 50 poorly equipped but very keen goblins...
Name of the game: No idea...

Genre: Current, economic game
Short description of gameplay: An economic game with production of goods, delivery of goods, retail of goods, stocks, in "rights" to certain desirable production areas, or delivery mechanisms, such as a railway lines, airlines etc. Some way, of course, to jiggle these valuable commodities/rights around, or encourage their trading, even from the most economically powerful individuals/consortiums to the least powerful. Which people, or consortiums are winning is measured in dollars of course.

Think railway tycoon MMO... (but not necessarily all railways, and could be a current century thing) this occurred to me when people I'd encouraged to play wow ended up spending all their time on the AH, some were even trying to "corner" certain markets... which I found kind of sick, but they were enjoying themselves!

Business model: Monthly Fee with a catch... it ties into your success in the game. The most successful are given a fee reduction (or perhaps credits for additional months of play)... (top 10% pays 1/3 of the monthly), 10-25 pays 1/2, etc... still a faily predictable income stream for the developer, but gives additional reason for a drive to succeed in game.

Anyways, there you have it.

Mr. Suitcase
(who also liked playing in shandalar, btw!)
Game: Lands

world type: fantasy

Gameplay: Your basically a settler in an mmo. everybody starts out at a starting point on the map and then swarms outward on launch (think Far and Away the movie) into a vast unclaimed world. Everybody claims a piece of land for themselves. There is one week before the mmo monster come. Everybody must build up their settlement to withstand the barrage.

This part gets a little hazy.

...then you have castles and servents and acres and acres of ripe ripe wheat. it is wonderful and everyone rejoices.

Buisness model: monthly fee and box sales.
This is easy.

Name: Final Fantasy Online (not FFXI)
World: Fantasy
Description: A Final Fantasy MMO done right. This game should highly cinematic, with cutscenes, fully voiced, in a vibrant world. And when I say vibrant, I MEAN vibrant.

That kind of extremely high fantasy, but a bit brighter. Final Fantasy XII had some of that with its markets and such, but more cultural influences should be felt. Asian, Middle East, European, African and South African should all be explored in some level within this game.

Again, all influences should be greatly "fantasized" though. With Asian, for instance, look back at the Guild Wars Factions post. Not as dark, but still highly fantasized.

This game should also have many "wow" moments while exploring. I truly believe that an engrossing environment is a key to an extremely successful game, so much of my budget would go towards emphasizing environment and sweeping landscape shots. I want the player to be able to stop, turn off the UI, and use that screenshot as a wallpaper because it's just so damn pretty.

I want the game to be hard too. Not grind grind grind hard like FFXI, but difficult encounters that you have to constantly be watching yourself to ensure you don't get overpowered.

Also, the game needs to be able to be played with a controller or WASD controls, and both need to be equally as viable.

The battle system will be something along the lines of Phantasy Star Online meets Final Fantasy XI, more action based, but still heavily "Final Fantasy". Also, since it will be more action based, the default attack will be the main source of damage, rather than bazillions of extra skills. You will have light medium and heavy attacks like PSO, but you will be able to move more FFXII.
Name of the game: Warhammer 40,000: Tides of War

Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy based on Warhammer 40,000 Fantasy

Short description of gameplay: RPG with a hint of FPS in a massive world true to Warhammer 40K lore. In-game cinematics, corporative missions, dungeons and high level raids (12-15 players per raid). RvR. Close effect of players on the story of the game (players write the story), Intelligent Loot System, usable and non-grindy crafting system. RvR. No arenas. Encouraging players to group. Dynamic Realm System, living guilds.

Business model: No monthly fee, relatively frequent expansion packs (every 6-8 months).
Name: doesn't matter
world type: don't care
design ideas: don't know
selling point: invest 10 million Euro in game design and programming, and pay 40 million Euro to get to put 'Blizzard proudly presents' in big golden letters on your game box, just above your title, put it on store shelves, and let it sell itself like crazy... :-)
An old post from Hardcore Casual but it would work for me.
Name of the game: Aaragoth, the Shattered World

Genre: High Fantasy

Short description of gameplay: Gameplay would consist of skill-based leveling for craftsmen and traditional leveling for the adventurous types. The adventurer/explorer types would recieve a buff or bonus in zones they have 'explored' or 'conquered' by completing a series of quests and exploring the entire area. You would be able to swap between the 'crafting' mode and 'adventuring' mode freely to work on ether. It would span across several continents suspended in the astral sea connected via bridges of raw elemental material. Vast seas with no bottom, rock bridges populated by elemental creatures. Cities perched on floating islands and built upon the backs of colossal earth elementals. Ancient arcane 'machines' power the cities operated by rare craftsmen that understand the complexities of the relics of a past age. Etc, etc. You get the idea. :)

Business model: Monthly Fee
Name of the game: “There Is No Free Lunch”

Genre: CIA, MI-5, Spy, 007, Ludlum-like novel settings, Bourne Identity-like, Alias-counterspy

Short description of gameplay:
“There Is No Free Lunch” is a MMORPG that casts you into a world of espionage, political intrigue, double agents with a high tech focus on modern secrecy to advance personal or state interests, or both. Cities of known Earth as well as modern wilderness are populated with innocent and not-so-innocent civilians, spies, heads of state, terrorists, militia and private industry. The uniqueness of this game centers around the chaotic coordination of various individuals to gain advantage for their private interests. Combat is inevitable for the expert assassin and also for the lowly surveillance operative.

e.g. Classes

Operative: the starting point of all spy careers, anti-spies and double-agents

Assasin: the one you go to to take out an enemy operative, head of state, or other key figure to tumble the house of cards in your favor

Cyber: the computing expert that can fashion many tricks and operations with ease of will and counter-encryption virus, provide safehouses, coordinate operations
Supplier: fashions safehouses, medical treatment, false documents,

Factions: Spy or Counterspy
“Spies are the catalyst of change, counterspies foil them.”

e.g. Quests: Include anything from “assassinate this head of state to gain economic advantage” to “stop the enemy from assassinating your head of state”.

e.g. Combat can include offensive and defensive tactics: [AOE] minibombs, computer controlled machinegun defense systems, flamethrowers, poisons [Melee] garrot, karate, knife, posions, razorwire [Ranged] pistol, sniper rifle, ICBM

e.g. Gear can include: Walther P99, Kevlar jackets, Cars with ejector seats, sharks with friggin lazers on their heads, surveillance video recorders, minibreather, wrist dart gun, bugging receiver, plastic explosives, sleep gas, skeleton key, pen grenade, stun gun, Latex fingerprints, cigarette rockets, X-Ray spectacles

Business model: Free download, maximum uptime, low monthly service charge combined with advertiser promotion throughout the virtual world of “There Is No Free Lunch” (e.g. Coca-Cola on the vending machines, Kleenex tissues, Walther for the guns, DELL for the Cyberpysche laptop, Google as the search engine for black-market items, Airbus/Boeing for int’l transport).
Title: Jabberwocky Streets

Basic Design Premise:
Create a massively multi-player persistent world based on artistic creation and socialization with competition but devoid of violence.

Setting (Underlying Simulation):
An urban environment with emphasis on the warehouse and downtown areas. NPCs wandering the streets taking note of any fliers, graffiti, or pamphlets they may be handed/come across. Loose instancing for personal apartments. There is a monthly ballot on which eight issues will be voted on by the NPCs, should be things that have some effect on PCs, for instance whether the city will add buildings in the warehouse district or improve roads in the warehouse district.

Art Direction:
Cold urban grit, stylized but should avoid looking childish.

Players begin in the game with a daily allowance and the shirts on their back inside of an instanced tutorial.
They may skip the tutorial or learn how to tag, create fliers and pamphlets, play instruments and even have the in-game social network explained to them. End it with them choosing positions on the current eight issues, these positions can be changed at any time, but changing does not have retroactive effects. (Players may choose to abstain.)
When players enter the world, they have a small amount of starting capital and some cans of spray paint. They can tag buildings in the warehouse district, or print and hand out fliers or pamphlets in any of the areas. These will get their side of issues before the NPCs. The NPCs will vote based on how much they see of the taggings, fliers, etc... by players with an opinion on the issue. When an issue you agree with passes, you get an increase in your allowance.
There is a tri-monthly community award contest. Players vote for other players, not themselves, for categories such as best tagging, best musician, most popular, most helpful, etc... Winners have their allowance raised proportional to their position, first place wins more than second place, so on and so forth.
Gamemasters should be actively arranging parties, "live" music performances, and so forth within the game to keep a vibrant community in the game.
Players can elect to have taggings and songs saved permanently in their profiles. To get all parts of a song from the band, simply play it while in a group and have one member save it. Members of a group may also tag collaboratively.

Business Model:
Target Audience: Independent and amateur artists and musicians. The extended network around aforesaid people and highly social gamers.
Target Player Base: 200K
Revenue Sources: Microtransactions for in game clothing and currency. Advertising in built in social network and possibly in-game bill-boards.
Target Monthly Expenses: $1.25 mil or less.
Target Monthly Income: $2-2.25 mil ($10/mo per customer if it were subscription.)
Estimated time to repay initial investment, 4 years.

Advertising should be rolled out in two segments, the smaller of the two amounts for release. The more sustained push should be at around six months to a year, coinciding with a major patch or free expansion.
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