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Starting a new design studio
by Anthony Boterf on 11/28/11 12:37:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Hi, this is my introductory blog here at Gamasutra; to begin, I would simply like to say that I am humbled to be in the presence of so much incredible talent. Every blog I read on here is insightful, intelligent, and generally superb. That being said, I hope my feeble attempt to start a dialogue here at least measures up to the minimum standard presented by the other members of this site.

So, on to the real blog. I am an aspiring concept designer who has been working on and off on my game world design for over a decade, and on the computer game workings of my design for about five. I was inspired to convert what was originally my Dungeons and Dragons-style RPG world into a computer game by my first forays into the MMORPG genre via World of Warcraft. Within minutes of creating my first WoW character, I knew that this was the medium that would finally bring my designs to life.

I had test played the D&D version a few times with some old dungeon masters, but when I moved I found it increasingly difficult to find old-school gaming groups. At one point I started writing a novel based on the backstory for the world, but never got past the first couple of chapters. Once I had been introduced to the MMORPG genre, there was no turning back.

At first, I actually wanted to make my game a tie-in to the WoW universe...a separate yet parallel game world that would allow players from both games to cross over and interact in both. Alas, the reality of anything like this ever getting through to the powers-that-be at Blizzard finally hit me, and I decided I was better off just trying to re-invient the classic MMORPG.

No offense to WoW intended...that game has been more influential in the world of game design than anyone wants to admit. It is not without its flaws, however. So, I began doing alot of research into what exactly players (and designers) thought were the most glaring shortfalls of the current crop of MMORPG's, and do my best to address these concerns in a way that would not only satisfy, but impress those most vocal about said flaws. I have come up with a lot of innovative ideas, as well as incorporating variations of things currently implemented in other games, and so far I believe I have at least the skeleton of a serious game on my hands.

Now on to the fun part! Through a mutual friend, I have been in contact with an investor who may be willing to seed this project with a substantial amount of startup capital. However, it is his desire that I create a design studio of my own to work on this game, as opposed to convincing a current studio team to work on it. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect that I would be trying to find out just what I would need to build a successful video game design studio from the ground up, but here I am! The funding is not a guarantee yet, but what I DO need is to present a business plan and goals for the studio, in order to prove to the investor that I am serious about this.

So, where do I go from here? What woudl be my first steps in creating a new studio? Should I just try to emulate Curt Schilling and his 38 Studios, even though I will have nowhere near his cashflow at the outset? Or is there a more efficient way to get this ball rolling? I hope that some of you will be able to shed light on this for me...and who knows, maybe some of you will be in on the ground floor with me, creating what I hope will become the new benchmark in MMORPG's for years to come!

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Junior 3D Artist


Charles Geringer
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I have a few questions:

Do you have any idea of what engine you are going to use?( there are some engines who have very good licensing, terms, tha allow you to only start paying when you start to actually make money)

Do you have a proof of concept?(seems to me it is much easier getting a team together when you have something actually playable. It is the Gamedev equivalent of "a picture is worth a thousand words", a " A game is worth a thousand images" if you will.)

Second, I appreciate your enthusiasm. But you really should pace yourself better when writing. your post's readability suffers from a lack of paragraphs.

I wish you good luck.

Anthony Boterf
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I have not been in the actual game publishing world long enough to even decide whether to license an engine or build from scratch. Also, I am not a programmer, nor a very good artist...but I do have my ideas very descriptively typed up in a document.

Most of the close friends or family that I have read this game description to were able to immediately picture the world, the characters, and to grasp the gameplay features enough to ask intelligent questions about it.

I think my initial goal here will be to get enough of a team together to get a short demo-playable clip, as well as a trailer or two. From that point, it should be much easier to secure further funding and build the rest of the team.

Thanks for the constructive criticism on my was late and I threw up a wall of text. Formatted now for easier viewing!

Charles Geringer
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it is a start, but you should try to look beyound family and friends, since they already know you, and( friends specially) may share a lot of common interests, therefore they are not that impartial. Post a bit of your ideas on forums, see the reactions.

I think(Key word being "think", I am not a pro, so take this with a grain of salt), that Building your own engine for this is not the best course since it will greatly increase your workload in order to have tools that are already available.

Looking for engines for my own game, I came across two that might be of interest for you: this is an engine geared towards MMO. It is interisting that the licensing includes hosting and billing services.

The unreal engine has been successfully used to create high-level MMOs, you can download the basic SDK here:

It is important to note, however that the UDK only supports up to 64 players, so in order to make a MMO, after having a working proof of concept with the mechanics working correctly, you would probably need to buy a full license.

also keep in mind that things you think some other MMO "dos wrong" might be actually doing right for many other people, or might have thoughts you havenīt figured yet put into them.

An MMO is an ambitious starting point. Good Luck.

Anthony Boterf
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Well, it hasn't only been family and friends; I've discussed the basic design with a few people that I only know superficially with the same reaction; people want to know when they can pre-order!

My biggest issue with sharing more details publicly, is my paranoia of someone pirating my intellectual property. I really don't know how to get past that, or know a simple way to protect myself.

I would love to be able to build on an existing engine, I just don't know if there is an engine out there that can do what I want it to do. It is very possible there is, but this is where I need a more knowledgeable programmer on my crew who can help sort this out.

I have heard good things about the Unreal engine; I'll have to look into it more. I've also seen alot of credence given to the engines made by id software, but they may be a little more inclined toward single-player FPS.

As far as what other MMO's are "doing wrong", these are generally NOT my own personal ideas fo what is bad. My idea of what is wrong, or in need of improvement, in the current MMORPG genre, is the result of many, many hours of forum digging, focusing on more general discussion of the genre and the direction it is going, as well as response to upcoming releases like GW2, SW:TOR, and 38's Amalur/Copernicus offerings.

I fully understand that an MMO is a huge first project. I have courted with the possibility of some number of smaller games, perhaps even mobile or social games, that would serve to both bolster the studio's bottom line in the early stages of the "Big Project", but also serve as a testing ground for some of the more innovative and radical game concepts. I really like 38 Studio's method of producing the single-player "prequel", as it were; I'm not out to simply copycat what they have done, but a good idea is a good idea.

As a funny aside, the investor requested that I name the company "Studio 83".... he has no idea how ironic that would be! Pretty much the first ever major studio started by someone who is not exactly an industry specialist is 38 Studios. My company would be like the 2nd such studio...with a reversed name! 8-) . 1983 was the year he graduated, by the way...that is the reason he wanted to name it Studio 83.

Thanks for the replies and advice. Believe me, I am not going to discount ANYthing said on this forum!

Anthony Boterf
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I have just finished a couple hours looking at the UDK... I must say, its credentials are impressive! To top the list, one of the most touted and well-reviewed games this year, Batman:Arkham City is built on the Unreal 3 engine. It seems that this would indeed be a smart move to greatly speed up development of my game(s), as well as significantly reduce programming and design costs. Thanks again for the great advice!

Charles Geringer
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word of advice. almost every month someone on the UDK forum asks "is it possible to make an MMO with UDK?"

gets discouraged due to the amount of work and gives up.

so the community isnīt very warm to questions that have already been asked. Read all the stickies before posting on the forum, use the search function and google and you should be good.

Good luck

Anthony Boterf
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Thanks for the advice... always best to know the roads before traveling them!

Jimmy Long
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HeroCloud, part of Hero Engine has just been released for public use, it is very detailed and supports some great features. You might like to check it out. It is a MMO engine, unlike Unreal 3, and has been built from the ground up as a MMO engine, so it would allow you a faster and simpler process to your game design.

Anthony Boterf
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Thanks, I will certainly look into that.