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Exclusive Interview With Creator of Sherwood Dungeon

Updated Mon, Jun 28, 2010 by mattlow

Have you ever wanted to make your own MMOG? Have you ever thought if only you knew how to code you would make an MMOG that rocks? Few of us really think we could do something like that on our own. Well for the past 6 years, Gene Endrody has done exactly that! He has painstakingly single handedly created his own free to play MMOG called Sherwood Dungeon. Growing to over 1 million unique players per month, Gene has shown how far one man with a dream and a little know how can climb. Ten Ton Hammer recently sat down with Gene to discuss the success of Sherwood Dungeon

One man made all of this?

Ten Ton Hammer: Tell us about Sherwood Dungeon. For those that are unfamiliar with it, what is it?

Gene Endrody: Sherwood Dungeon is a free 3D fantasy MMO that runs in your web browser but with the look and feel of a downloadable client or boxed game. As we don’t require registration or download, most players can go from discovering the game to playing it in less than a minute.  Sherwood is spread over six islands and includes a procedurally generated dungeon influenced by games like Rogue and Nethack.  Combat is skill or twitch based as timing and practice are emphasized over XP level, particularly for PVP where XP levels have no influence.  Sherwood doesn’t use the traditional tank, DPS, healer trinity and focuses more on an action RPG style of melee combat. This was intended to make the game more in your face and visceral.  Did I mention that it’s also free?  There are unobtrusive ads that run directly under the game and some optional pets that can be purchased for $5 each, but all the core elements are completely free of charge.

Ten Ton Hammer: What inspired you to make the game and tackle a project of this type?

Gene: I started making small shockwave based games in the evenings and weekends ten years ago while I was working in the console game industry as a technical art director.  These were just small, fun hobby projects and there were no grand plans or aspirations. I was inspired by designers like Richard Garriott, who created many of the early Ultima games by himself. The web browser seemed to be one of the few spaces left where it was still possible to tackle game projects as a solo developer. By the time development started on Sherwood in 2004, some of my earlier games and tech demos had already established a small following and I’d attracted the attention of the Shockwave team at Macromedia (now Adobe). They nominated one of the projects for a People’s Choice Award at Macromedia’s User Conference in 2001 and provided some of the early web traffic. In those early years I wasn’t expecting any money and I didn’t have a budget per se. I just made stuff, put it up on the MaidMarian.com website and because those early experiments were either 3D chatrooms or multiplayer games of some sort, a player community formed.  They were the ones that really encouraged me to tackle a fantasy MMO and helped establish the emergent nature of the early Sherwood community.

Ten Ton Hammer:  How do you survive six years without advertising or marketing?

Undead Pirates rock!

Gene: Initially the players came from other projects I was working on but that grew organically through word of mouth over time. I put ads directly under the games to help cover bandwidth and server costs.  By the time I left my day job in 2006, the revenue from advertising had passed what I was making working in the console games industry.  My wife joined the company at that time to handle everything not directly related to making or running the games. In 2008 I added a selection of pets, mounts and allies to the game including creatures like wolves, dragons, lions, unicorns and spiders.  Today the pet sales account for about 30% of revenue.  We’ve tried to maintain a small, mom and pop corner grocery store feel to the business as opposed to becoming a traditional publisher funded developer or VC funded startup. We are not beholden to investors, publishers or distributors, don’t do work for hire, don’t owe anyone money and own 100% of the IP.  I’m very aware of how lucky that makes us especially considering the games industry in recent years seems to be running on the feudal system.

Ten Ton Hammer: How long did it take for the game to be developed, given that it's a one man team?

Gene: In late 2003 I started with a statement on the MaidMarian.com website that Sherwood would be an experiment with a more open development process where the players could see the game evolve over time and participate in the process with their feedback.  The players understood it would never be finished and that what I was attempting to do was a little wacko, particularly for some guy in his basement with a day job. The first version of the game was released in early 2004 and it was just a simple 3D chat room with one avatar and swords that didn’t actually do any damage. Early players bought into the idea of what Sherwood could be some day as opposed to what it actually was. The fact that I wanted their feedback to help steer the direction of development was apparently such a rare thing that they were willing to overlook the fact that it was barely a game at that point.  Other than just hanging out and chatting, players began filling the gaps with their own activities and a culture of emergent play started that never left the game. Week by week I’ve released many updates and Sherwood has evolved into what we have today. I still consider it unfinished and there’s plenty left to do.


Sherwood_Dungeon_01

The one-man developed Sherwood Forest recently received a major update, a

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