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#1 Glen

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 04:28 PM

Online Games


This is a discussion on online games in particular, rather than game design in general. This is focused on those who need ideas and advice on multiplayer games. If you're here to read a quick check list of what not to do or dislike reading, then leave now, laziness is why your online games will fail. For those of you who need advice and are willing to put some effort into your next project then continue on. There are too many online games being started and fail to get anywhere on these forums and a few that are hanging on but are progressing very slowly. Making an online game is not a simple task, don't underestimate the work that is put into the ones that have survived on these forums. But here's some considerations that people may want to make before they curse their project with a bad reputation.

Online Game Annoyances:

  • Posting a movement demo and calling it an online game. Everyone that visits your thread saw the word "Online". If they're not connecting to a server and playing someone, they're likely to never revisit. Don't post a movement demo. Don't post a demo that isn't worth playing. Think about yourself. Would you like to download something that only allowed you to move around and was limited to just that? Highly doubt that.
  • Posting "Testing Connection" threads. Unless you're keeping your server up at all times, this is going to kill you because of the time differences. The new users who don't have patience will spam your thread with "The server isn't up!", "I can't connect!", or "OMG IT DOESN'T WORK!". And basically you just killed your first page and now everyone who visits your thread will see this feedback and think twice about trying your game. Find a friend or someone whose interested in testing with you. Keep the simple connections and actions with people who will privately test it with you. Don't make yourself look like another person who will inevitably fail.
  • Post mirrors. It doesn't matter if you prefer a particular host. Others have preferences as well and if they're not met, they won't download. Post a bunch of mirrors. Popular hosts are Willhostforfood, box.net, host-a.net, mediafire.com, filefront.com, and there's dozens more, but do yourself a favor and submit your game to a handful of these hosts and post links. It will get rid of all those "Link doesn't work" comments. It also shows your level of support for your audience.
  • Don't update unless you have something worth updating and optimize your updating. Don't force users to re-download every time you decide to make a small edit such as changing a few sprites or adding a new feature that doesn't impact the gaming experience greatly. Build up a good list of updates that will together impact the game and implement an updating system to your game. It's easier for the users if an updater downloads the necessary files that are needed and makes changes for them. Using external resources would make things so much easier. People wouldn't have to re download every little thing. This would be beneficial to updates on map files, sprites, and sounds. Imagine having to download a game that was 40mb and then the next day having to re-download, just because there's a new sprite. It gets annoying. It's good that you're updating, but save it. Make each of your demos worth downloading.
  • Don't call your game a MMORPG. Don't use MM on anything that you create. There's nothing Massive about your game and hopefully it's multiplayer. Take a look at the WIP section of this website. Browse down and look at the reply counts. Now look at the ones that have the most feedback and are online games. Do any of them say "NEW MMORPG" screaming out at everyone? No. You know what they're doing with their descriptions? They're providing updates through them such as whether the server is up or down for updating and they're boasting about their newest improvements to their game such as a new revolutionary feature that everyone will want to try. Sell your game. Not literally, but where I'm getting with this is you should be trying to attract your audience. Using the word MMORPG will lead you to FAILURE. Don't use that word. Actually, forget it. What's an MMORPG? It's a bunch of random letters that noobs type when they post a movement system with the words "soon to be online" next to it.
  • Make things easy for the users. Make it too easy. Getting started should be as user friendly as possible. In my opinion, connecting to a server and being killed every two seconds is discouraging. A dozen buttons that only serve as movement is just annoying. Making use of over 8 buttons on the keyboard is annoying. Add a tutorial for new users. For example when they create their character send them to a room that takes them through all the controls and allows them to test them on ai, before the enter the player-player interaction side of your game. There's nothing worse then a game where no one knows how to do anything and they're all standing there like "wtf, this sucks." Give them a good introduction. Show off how good the game they're about to play is. Don't make it complicated to learn. Something that is highly recommended is implementing a custom control system. Allow users to alter their movement and skill controls to fit their style. It would make players more comfortable.
  • Don't make your game tedious. If you're making an RPG, keeps the distance to things reasonable. Don't make people start over after doing something for 45 minutes. Your games' playability will decrease faster than ever. If your game is a shooting game, don't make it impossible to stay alive. Add some first aid kits, make it fair to those who are not as experienced. In the beginning of games, things should move along swiftly. Leveling up, completing missions and quests shouldn't be too hard or long. Later on as they progress, its understandable to increase the difficulty and time of these things, but don't bore your users in the beginning. Make it fun.
  • Battle Systems should be well thought out. If you want more people to play your game, you're going to have to please a variation of users. Some like Real-time fighting, turn-based, player verse player, player verse ai, etc... but you can't choose one. It is best to implement a mixture of them and so every type of player out there has something they can't complain about. A system that makes the person wait too long before they can attack (normally in turnbased) will bore people out of their minds where as a real time system may not give enough time for users to think. Find a medium and give users some flexibility so they can perform their best.
  • In game upgrades. If they don't exist, you'll end up losing half of your fanbase. If your players have nothing to look forward to then they have no reason to play. Make sure you have upgrades, whether they're new weapons, clothes, or skills. And make sure they're worth it. Forcing the user to perform a ridiculously long quest that will take them 4 hours to complete and rewarding them with a few mana potions is going to lose you players really quick. Make things exciting.
  • Variation in a game is key. If the game is exactly like another game which has more popularity than yours, then why should they play your game? Make yours stand out. Add features that others lack or poorly provide. Typically on online games, people like to stand out as an individual. Usually companies provide a decent selection of accessories for players and implement a trade system that allows players to buy, sell, and earn artificial wealth. Players love to have money and things that others don't or can't have. It makes them feel better. And those who wish to have that special something or a decent amount of currency will strive to get that. If everyone had the same gear, weapons, hair style, and skill, then it would be boring.
  • Lag is something that everyone experiences, though some experience it more than others. As a developer you want your game to look it's best and impress people with amazing graphics quality and effects, but some people just can't handle it and will not buy a high end computer just so they can play your game. It would be wise to have a quality setting in which people can turn certain features off. Examples of features that bring hell to low end computers would be: Bloom, Light Rendering, Shadow Rendering, Blurring, and high resolutions. A simple setting with a check box next to the effects you have implemented in your game would make everyone happier. Not only do people lag from the graphics, but think about internet connections. If they're not lagging from a high ping number then think about how much worse it is when their computer screen freezes due to a forest with leaves blooming and casting shadows with a depth of view blur in the background at a resolution of 1280 x 1000 or something intense of the sort. Some computers can handle it. But if you're really looking to implement astonishing eye candy, be prepared to save computers that can't handle it.
  • Control is something that you must have. If your server is up and you do in fact get some frequent players you need to be able to control what goes on. People will not hesitate to leave if their experience is not fun. If someone is causing hell to another player then a Game Master or Mod needs to be present, or someone watching the server should have access to warning, kicks, bans, etc... A good ban system should be implemented. No sense in letting your fans suffer from people who don't have lives and need to bully people. So in situations where bullies are having too much fun making your game look bad, you should be able to give them a taste of their medicine with a nice BANNED notice. Or do something to please the users who actually enjoy being on your online game and respect others playing. A game is only as good as it users. No one will like your game if everyone's running around calling people noobs.
  • Don't force a person to enter ip addresses to connect. Half the people that will play your game won't know what an ip address is... And for those who know what it is, and how to use it, will get tired of having to type it out everytime they want to play against someone. Having a system that detects and connects people automatically would make life so much easier and will get more replays. Replay value is something that you want, so don't make the user work harder than they should just to get into the game. They're not the one's dealing with numbers. Your code should handle all that for them. Make it easy for people to have access to your game.
  • Never start out a game as a 1 player game and think to yourself that you'll convert it to multiplayer later. All you'll end up with is a kluged together buggy monster game that now has a ruined 1 player and multiplayer mode. Good multiplayer games are designed from the ground up as such, so that the actual network systems work well and so that the gameplay can be refined in a multiplayer setting. - Tahnok
  • Make the games interface and menu designs eye pleasing. After testing numerous online games this month, I can't tell you how many main menus made my eyes want to bleed with bright colored menus or want to close them shut because they bored me to no end. Make it look professional, simple to read and navigate, you're not impressing anyone with a bright neon banner or doing things very simple such as a simple text title with the button start. Get creative but go easy with the bright colors. Blend more. Make it suit your game. Matching is key. Random is not. Don't. do. it. I stopped playing a game right from the main screen because it had a bright red titled banner in arial font, lime green text boxes, and a bright blue background. That is not a nice way to present a game. It's ugly.

My suggestion to everyone is to not post an online game until they have put some though into how they are going to present themselves and are convinced that their game is ready for public testing. Put time into optimizing it. You will save your project in the long run and save your topic from dozens of irrelevant comments and complains. Your goal is to get good feedback. Make sure you give your players what they want. All of the above may not cover everyones opinion, but I'm a person who tests the games on these forums and this is my opinion. I'm sure some may agree with me on some of these points that I've laid down. If you want your game to go anywhere, do what the successful ones are doing, listen to the users that complain, and learn from it. Don't let your next online game fail...

Edited by Glen, 20 May 2009 - 11:51 PM.

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#2 coin3

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 05:44 PM

That was a great post Glen, and let's hope anybody that thinks they have what it takes to make an online game looks at this topic. :P
I really liked the part where it talked about the balance you need if you are going to have a battle system in your game. If there are more than one option, you shouldn't make one too repetitively annoying. But you also don't want to make some features too unavoidable.

This thread helped me understand more about what makes a bad online game.
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#3 Obj_Control

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 06:02 PM

That should be pinned somewhere. That's how good it is.
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#4 Glen

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 06:44 PM

Thank you for your comments. If anyone has more suggestions that they would like to add, please share your ideas.
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#5 billydoesitbest

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 07:25 PM

Very good advice Glen!
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#6 Glen

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 08:28 PM

Added another idea suggesting that developers should add a feature to their games that allows a person to alter the quality of a game. A system that allows a person to turn bloom, shadows, and high res textures on/off would save many computers and keep your players happy. Lag kills....

EDIT: 5:30 PM added a suggestion about moderating your game. It's common sense, but not even commercial game have enough control over the people on their servers.

Edited by Glen, 22 March 2009 - 09:47 PM.

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#7 Bloodwize

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 03:32 AM

Very thoughtful post, good for learning and refreshing!
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#8 Glen

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 03:48 AM

Very thoughtful post, good for learning and refreshing!

It doesn't matter how experienced a person is, everyone should take a moment and open their eyes to take a look at what makes the online games we love so successful and decide whether they are taking the right approach or not. It amazes me that so many people overlook what I've written about. Most of it is common sense. You just need to put yourself in your audiences' position.
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#9 Knightmare

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 03:55 AM

I enjoyed reading your post, Glen. Most of your points are basically common sense, but hey, that's something most people lack. :P
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#10 mortalpico

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 04:24 AM

Good Job Glen! That's was very nice!

Keep Ot Up!

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#11 Bloodwize

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 04:38 AM

Very thoughtful post, good for learning and refreshing!

It doesn't matter how experienced a person is, everyone should take a moment and open their eyes to take a look at what makes the online games we love so successful and decide whether they are taking the right approach or not. It amazes me that so many people overlook what I've written about. Most of it is common sense. You just need to put yourself in your audiences' position.


You make it sound like a switch, polishing a game just comes easy to some as opposed to others. It also depends on the experience and influences they have in other areas. Certain ways of thinking just take practice and the willingness to learn.
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#12 joethedumblr

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 01:55 PM

IMO, make a good singleplayer game before you even blink an eye at creating a MASSIVELY anything anything.
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#13 masterofhisowndomain

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 09:41 PM

I don't agree. Everyone can polish games to a high standard, it just requires a bit of time. You see all those games with horrible menus-It's not hard to make a decent menu, but the level of professionalism it adds is exceptional. The lack of polish in most games is just laziness.

Agreed (on your disagreement..). Polish is about the only thing you don't need a nack for. You just have present everything to the best quality. It's really quite easy, but, in their haste, many people forget it.
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#14 Glen

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 09:55 PM

You make it sound like a switch, polishing a game just comes easy to some as opposed to others. It also depends on the experience and influences they have in other areas. Certain ways of thinking just take practice and the willingness to learn.


Anyone serious about making an online game should commit themselves to polishing their game as much as possible. This means they must consider the views from another perspective. What I've proposed is that they should look in the eyes of a player and decide how things should be. Experiences and influences may have an impact on how creative a person is, but anyone can take a step back, view the success of other games and decide why their game isn't receiving great feedback and learn from what people complain about. Rather then learn the hard way and make a fool of yourself, look at others and talk to people. See what they have to say.

By the way, I've added another tip on the first post relating to the use of players being forced to enter ip addresses.

Edited by Glen, 23 March 2009 - 10:00 PM.

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#15 Glen

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Posted 08 April 2009 - 04:22 PM

Does anyone else have an opinion as to what online game designers should be paying attention to while they prepare themselves to present their next Online Game?
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#16 Glen

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Posted 11 April 2009 - 02:53 PM

I think you've pretty much covered it!

Possible a mention of getting a reliable server, and to be careful choosing your mods-Scandux, for example, was crippled by it's useless mods-would be useful.

I'm intending to release my GMOG sometime soon, and looking back at this guide reminds me of what's important, and that I must keep working until I have enough content in the game...no matter how much I want to release a tech demo!


Wanting to release that first tech demo is something everyone is dying to do. But just use that as motivation to progress faster and put more time into your game so you can release it soon. But always keep in mind that there's annoyances about online games appearing on the GMC and you should take considerations on what they are. That's all.

I hate working on a project and every time I add a new feature, I feel like I have to tell somebody. My solution to that was to not tell the GMC and release a tech demo or make an update, but to just tell my friends in real life about them. I have numerous friends that are interested in games and love to hear about new things, so why not let it out on them? Then once you're satisfied with what you've done, go big and release it to the GMC. I don't think people understand just how many people look at games on these forums. There's alot of people! You have to be ready to impress. That's why I stress keep the small stuff to yourself and just release in big packages.
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#17 Glen

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 09:22 PM

Good points.

I'm looking to release with:
-2 enemies
-a large, 10000*2000 pixel [multilevel] sector
-a few spells/abilities
-about 12 items
-inventory
-fully integrated systems (for example, the chat system is more than the basic init_lines/add_line/draw_line script)
-1 or 2 quests

I'm not sure if it's enough, but I'll probably end up settling for that anyway, because I need to see how the server handles several people online before I go much further.

Good luck with that, just make sure you test more than you normally do and think everything through. Make it the way an online game should be.
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#18 Seamonster

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 10:05 PM

Very good topic Glen.

Most of your points are basically common sense


Edited by Seamonster, 17 April 2009 - 10:05 PM.

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#19 Glen

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 10:13 PM

Most of your points are basically common sense

Common sense is something many people lack...
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#20 Tahnok

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 10:40 PM

You make some good points, but it's pretty much stuff that anyone attempting an online game should already know. I do have a few thoughts to add though.

Firstly, never start out a game as a 1 player game and think to yourself that you'll convert it to multiplayer later. All you'll end up with is a kluged together buggy monster game that now has a ruined 1 player and multiplayer mode. Good multiplayer games are designed from the ground up as such, so that the actual network systems work well and so that the gameplay can be refined in a multiplayer setting. Which leads me into my next thought.

Not everything that works in single player works in multiplayer, and vice-versa. If a feature that you've tried in single player games before doesn't seem to be playing out well in multiplayer revise it a few times. If it's still not working scrap it, it's just going to detract from the final gameplay.

On a completely different note, security should be a high priority during development. I've seen many otherwise good online games ruined by hackers. I know there's a large faction of people that argue that spending large amounts of time on security is unnecessary and a waste, but that sentiment goes out the window with network games. It's one thing to allow people to cheat in a single player game, but when they can cheat in a multiplayer game that effects everyone and detracts from your game as a whole. There's nothing more discouraging than realizing that a game isn't about who's the best player, but who cheats the most.

Finally, just to kind of reiterate a point you made in greater detail, hiding network lag is extremely important. If players are constantly seeing other players skip around the map and missing shots because of net lag, then that's all they will be talking about. "I hit you!", "you're lagging!", "the only reason you're doing well is because you're lagging!", etc. It gets tiresome. Do yourself and all the players a favor and hide the lag. Don't focus on getting rid of lag, it's impossible, just hide it. You'll be amazed how many players wont realize that there's lag if it's properly hidden.

And yes, I experience with what I'm talking about. The Havoc Agency (link in sig) implements all but the second point (since I haven't really had to get rid of any bad features yet). And I have a long list of online games that never got released due to one of the above problems.

Edited by Tahnok, 17 April 2009 - 10:43 PM.

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#21 Glen

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 10:46 PM

You make some good points, but it's pretty much stuff that anyone attempting an online game should already know. I do have a few thoughts to add though.

Firstly, never start out a game as a 1 player game and think to yourself that you'll convert it to multiplayer later. All you'll end up with is a kluged together buggy monster game that now has a ruined 1 player and multiplayer mode. Good multiplayer games are designed from the ground up as such, so that the actual network systems work well and so that the gameplay can be refined in a multiplayer setting. Which leads me into my next thought.

Not everything that works in single player works in multiplayer, and vice-versa. If a feature that you've tried in single player games before doesn't seem to be playing out well in multiplayer revise it a few times. If it's still not working scrap it, it's just going to detract from the final gameplay.

On a completely different note, security should be a high priority during development. I've seen many otherwise good online games ruined by hackers. I know there's a large faction of people that argue that spending large amounts of time on security is unnecessary and a waste, but that sentiment goes out the window with network games. It's one thing to allow people to cheat in a single player game, but when they can cheat in a multiplayer game that effects everyone and detracts from your game as a whole. There's nothing more discouraging than realizing that a game isn't about who's the best player, but who cheats the most.

Finally, just to kind of reiterate a point you made in greater detail, hiding network lag is extremely important. If players are constantly seeing other players skip around the map and missing shots because of net lag, then that's all they will be talking about. "I hit you!", "you're lagging!", "the only reason you're doing well is because you're lagging!", etc. It gets tiresome. Do yourself and all the players a favor and hide the lag. Don't focus on getting rid of lag, it's impossible, just hide it. You'll be amazed how many players wont realize that there's lag if it's properly hidden.

And yes, I experience with what I'm talking about. The Havoc Agency (link in sig) implements all but the second point (since I haven't really had to get rid of any bad features yet). And I have a long list of online games that never got released due to one of the above problems.


Very good ideas, I strongly agree with your point on converting a game designed for one player into a multiplayer game. I'll add some of your points to the list. And yes the security of an online game is very important, but a game not worth playing may not be worth hacking. I'm not so sure if a person just starting their next online game should be too concerned about hackers until they've got a decent game.
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#22 Tahnok

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Posted 18 April 2009 - 01:56 AM

Very good ideas, I strongly agree with your point on converting a game designed for one player into a multiplayer game. I'll add some of your points to the list. And yes the security of an online game is very important, but a game not worth playing may not be worth hacking. I'm not so sure if a person just starting their next online game should be too concerned about hackers until they've got a decent game.

True, especially since security can greatly add to the complexity of a project. It's something that developers should keep in mind though, even if not for their current project.
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#23 Glen

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Posted 18 April 2009 - 04:48 PM

Very good ideas, I strongly agree with your point on converting a game designed for one player into a multiplayer game. I'll add some of your points to the list. And yes the security of an online game is very important, but a game not worth playing may not be worth hacking. I'm not so sure if a person just starting their next online game should be too concerned about hackers until they've got a decent game.

True, especially since security can greatly add to the complexity of a project. It's something that developers should keep in mind though, even if not for their current project.

The area of concern in games who try to add security is efficiency. Like you said, the complexity of the project does increase. But now that I think about it, alot of users will agree that the safest way to approach security is doing things server side and if a person makes a game where everything is client side, it would be a hassle to convert it to server side. That's where I see some confusion getting into play, and the way systems work may differ for better or worse, that's why I say efficiency is an area of concern. If a person is going to add security to their game, they should be thinking about it, but make sure they know how they're going to do it from the beginning so things don't get out of control later on.
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#24 Glen

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 01:03 PM

On a completely different note, security should be a high priority during development. I've seen many otherwise good online games ruined by hackers. I know there's a large faction of people that argue that spending large amounts of time on security is unnecessary and a waste, but that sentiment goes out the window with network games. It's one thing to allow people to cheat in a single player game, but when they can cheat in a multiplayer game that effects everyone and detracts from your game as a whole. There's nothing more discouraging than realizing that a game isn't about who's the best player, but who cheats the most.


I've learn't this the hard way. One thing I'd like to mention is everything must be server sided. I thought a layer of obfuscation, and most systems server sided would be enough...no, everything must be server sided. I didn't realise people could break obfuscation so easily.

Obfuscation just changes the names of everything. A dedicated person could pass it's security through trial and error and learn what the new variables mean. And you're right about the server sided concept. It's the way to go. There's alot of people who like to hack games just because they can. It would be a sad start for a project to be vulnerable and attacked by the bored hackers, early in your games development. Personally I find it a bit pathetic to the hackers, an incomplete game is not something you should want to hack, but they do. And so yea, security is indeed a must. I'm starting to believe that it's importance is far greater than I thought before after my experience on your game TV. There's a handful of people that tested their hacking tools on it as soon as they got the chance.
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#25 Glen

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 11:52 PM

Another suggestion added. Don't kill peoples eyes.

Make the games interface and menu designs eye pleasing. After testing numerous online games this month, I can't tell you how many main menus made my eyes want to bleed with bright colored menus or want to close them shut because they bored me to no end. Make it look professional, simple to read and navigate, you're not impressing anyone with a bright neon banner or doing things very simple such as a simple text title with the button start. Get creative but go easy with the bright colors. Blend more. Make it suit your game. Matching is key. Random is not. Don't. do. it. I stopped playing a game right from the main screen because it had a bright red titled banner in arial font, lime green text boxes, and a bright blue background. That is not a nice way to present a game. It's ugly.
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#26 Tahnok

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 12:28 AM

That's a nice note, but doesn't really have anything to do with online play. Having good menus should be a rule for all games, regardless of online gameplay.
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#27 Glen

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 04:20 AM

That's a nice note, but doesn't really have anything to do with online play. Having good menus should be a rule for all games, regardless of online gameplay.

It's just a design suggestion. I feel that some online games don't focus on how they introduce/present the game well. It can be a real turn off.
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#28 tie372

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 02:45 AM

Thanks for the guide, helped me a lot with my online game and put it in the right direction :skull:
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#29 quadriseene

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 04:55 AM

Firstly, never start out a game as a 1 player game and think to yourself that you'll convert it to multiplayer later. All you'll end up with is a kluged together buggy monster game that now has a ruined 1 player and multiplayer mode. Good multiplayer games are designed from the ground up as such, so that the actual network systems work well and so that the gameplay can be refined in a multiplayer setting. Which leads me into my next thought.


A note on this, though. Tahnok is saying not to convert a single player game into a multiplayer game later on, which I agree with, but some of you may interpret it as meaning that you shouldn't have elements of a single player game in a multiplayer game. A big pitfall with a lot of ORPGs on these forums is that when nobody is on, there is absolutely nothing for you to do but grind the night away.
You can't really expect people to enjoy spending their days grinding along, waiting for someone so that they can actually play the game. If it's an arena type game, have bots. If it's an RPG, have quests and minigames ready upon release, or at the very least, something for your players to do individually as an alternative to grinding.

TL;DR: Give your players something interesting to do individually.
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#30 Rani_sputnik

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 05:14 AM

Glen..... FINNALLY SOMEONE WHO CAN HIT THINGS RIGHT ON THE NOSE!

Very well done this is exactly the kinds of things people should be considering when creating an online game.

I am hoping to get mine up and running soon, and this post is forming the cornerstone of my work for online play.

Great post man.
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