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Independent States: The Future of Indie MMOGs - Page 3

Updated Tue, Sep 08, 2009 by Shayalyn

Making it Big

Where will indie developers take the industry? In a world where we see independent film makers score hits with indie movies, and recording artists occasionally make it big on an indie label, the notion that the next success story in massively multiplayer online games could come from an indie studio doesn’t seem at all far fetched. In fact, it may just be a matter of time.

When Ten Ton Hammer asked whether the “next big thing” might come from an indie developer, the responses from both Richardsson and Harris were a resounding yes.

“It will most definitely come from an indie studio…however you want to define an indie,” predicts Richardsson. “The next disruption to the gaming industry is yet to come and it will be a total surprise to all players.

“What I personally fear the most is that it isn’t going to be [created by] CCP, of course, but the way to be prepared and able to react is to constantly push the envelope…to pursue excellence in whatever form you determine that applies to your game. Finally, be fearless about change…[an act] which in some cases can be thought of as stubborn and ignorant, but we prefer ‘fearless.’”

Harris is equally (and almost identically) enthusiastic when asked if an indie could hit it big. “Most definitely,” he

In the eyes of many gamers, Global Agenda's looking good.

says. “Since independent developers tend to take more risks one can already see innovative features, new genres, and entirely new hybrid game types emerging. Within our own title, Global Agenda, we are working to combine the action combat of a shooter... plus the character advancement of an RPG... plus the context of a massive persistent war over limited resources involving hundreds of territories and tens of thousands of player agents. The concept is different enough that some argue about whether or not it should even be called an MMO because it doesn't fit the standard mold. Others might call it niche, but we think of it as rather grand.”

The Definition of Success

We asked both our developers how they defined success as an indie studio. Richardsson had much to say about the success of CCP/White Wolf and EVE Online:

“[Success is] when you have launched your game, you are attracting the audience you were targeting, you keep on growing for long sustained periods of time and you have (good) food on your table to feed your family. This inherently means your company is profitable, and you certainly don’t need hundreds of thousands of people playing to achieve that.

“I would personally add to that benchmarks like having financial room to maneuver and grow effectively so you can withstand and react to unforeseen circumstances (Iceland economy anyone?) and, in the end, being respected by your players and peers.”

For Harris, whose game is still in development, the answer was simple: “Success is a thriving community of players with passion for the game.”

From a Gamer's Perspective

We asked our community to weigh in with their thoughts on indie developers, and they were as enthusiastic about the prospects of indie MMOs as the developers themselves.

"One thing I like about indie in general, not just MMOs, is that they can work on their own fresh ideas. They do not need to cater to what the big suit at EA, or Blizzard thinks would turn over the best dollar per man hour. They are more free to be creative and try out things others may not have not done, due to it not fitting the profit margin mold."

- Reavi

"Indies are more apt to pursue their dreams, rather than to focus mainly on profits. That's how innovation happens."

- Dobry

"I love indie developers; they have the freedom to make the game how they want it without others hanging over them and trying to shape the game in to something it's not meant to be."

- Metal

"I think indie MMO's are the next step for the industry. The potential for changes in design and the increase in competition in the market can only be good things in my mind. Engines such as Multiverse, BigWorld and others allow for a content developer to do a lot of the end product design and allow them to focus not on how the source code works but instead how their game plays."

- Seriphis

The Times They Are a-Changin'

Right now, it's fairly obvious where the masses gravitate in massively multiplayer worlds--giants like World of

EVE Online is a prime example of a game that successfully serves a very specific market.

Warcraft own the MMO gaming space. But in the wake of WoW's success we've seen mega-studios with vast financial and marketing resources fall flat. While developers generally play their subscriber numbers close to the vest, it doesn't take a trained eye to see that much-hyped supergames like Funcom's Age of Conan and Mythic's Warhammer Online probably fell short of their goals, if not in initial sales, then certainly in subscriber retention.

Has the age of the mega-funded triple-A MMOG passed? One need only look to EVE Online, an indie game which has grown its subscriber base exponentially to over 300,000, to get a sense of what the future may hold. The underdogs, with smaller budgets and smaller teams, have grander dreams, and a sensible approach, whether by design or necessity, to bringing those dreams to fruition.

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