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The Essential Pillars of MMO Browser Based Game Design

Updated on June 25, 2015


MMO stands for massively multiplayer online, so for example just a "multiplayer online browser" game might be say, bomberman, whereas an "MMO browser game" usually means there's a persistent world / universe that the players interact within, rather than one-off matches / battles / duels etc... this will entail a permanent fluctuating economy and often real-world cash transactions and systems.

The Essential Pillars for indefinete longevity

The 1st Pillar - Social

I believe it's far too easy to churn out a bog-standard browser game however to make one that lasts and retains the user base, and thus the revenue requires what I consider to be a few essential pillars. The first is the social pillar, an online multiplayer game's potential social aspects should be harnessed & seen as a unique bonus, not excluded and minimised or used as solely a way of enticing new sign ups, players should be able to meet and gain friends whilst playing the game, if games enhance social skills and number of friends and social contacts as well as other beneficial aspects the player will naturally like playing it more.

With the inclusion also of country based and player run alliances there is a push toward word of mouth free advertising as real life friends are press ganged and enticed to play by the user base looking for allies and the like also.


The 2nd Pillar - The Neverending Story, part 2

The game from the very ground up in design, is to be built that it is both neverending and without limits. A prime example of this would be ogame [Found at ] (if you're fairly new to browsers, you can hold down the CTRL key found usually at both bottom corners of a keyboard when you click on a link to open in new tab / window without leaving this article) a german space strategy sim, a great game that sadly failed to update and have any progress.

Anyway it is a prime example if you've ever played it that none of the upgrades, the buildings, the researches had a limit, a max level. This is hugely important, if you have a cap or a max then it's no longer a game of discovery and unbound limits it's a matter of x time before reaching max which makes the game a race, which are usually spiced up with sexy graphics, very little thought and options to buy things to make you go faster in the race to reach max.

The second feature of the pillar of the neverending story is that the game should never be "done" it should be in continual development, from new features to new items to entire game-world changing events and balances. Any player should be able to whilst playing the game they've chosen to play potentially for good that if they feel something isn't right or that they think it's unbalanced or not grabbing them enough that just around the corner could be anything.

The moment the player thinks the game is not changing anymore or revealing content or making them think about new scenarios and potentials it's just a matter of time before they leave, usually seeing the once interesting and stimulating suddenly a grind, with potentially anything just around the corner the player's imagination alone keeps interest in even the blandest of settings.


My browser gaming experience is...

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The 3rd Pillar - Worthiness

So one of your players, at the end of say, six months of playing an elven ranger, in a fantasy dungeon adventure browser game, the said elf might question what they have gained in those six months, discounting the +9 Bow.

The Elve's girlfriend might also question why he spent $50 of their actual real money on the limitless supply of arrow giving quiver for said bow.If at this point the elf is able to turn to his pixieish betrothed and repost; ' Well, I shot a bearmangiantthugtrollshetigerbeast that I sold the much sort after hide of said beast for $300 on the ingame auction house and used some of it to buy you these moon shaped silver earrings to go in your lovely dainty ears darling', then I think the said elf would be much more likely to continue his dungeoneering (or perhaps that should be dungeonearings :P ) and continue to buy equipment and actively take part in the game world.

The reward doesn't have to be just financial either, a simple example would be a game where players collected battle cards that could only be activated by speaking correctly pronounced french, so that by increasing difficulties the player would look back at the last year of play time and say rather than 'well, I'm bored now, my character is good but its just a waste of time ive spent $50 which now my heating bill has come I should've really spent elsewhere plus the time spent playing it is just a waste really' instead they might think 'well, I'm near to being able to put my first sentences together now, I think I'll join my first campaign with a team of others where you're only able to speak to each other in french but you're all beginners etc etc'..

If you're wondering how a game pulls in money to be able to pay the players rewards or have virtual currencies able to be traded out for real money, of course advertising, however bigger than that is the ability to be able to buy things in the game that increase spening potential, a prime example of this currently is marketglory (developed in Romania, only recently translatable to other languages, lacking gameplay, however promising and good if you like business sims, the sign up page is bit dated and over the top though if can overlook that, a potential good game underneath) where for example it might seem ridiculous to pay another player close to 3,000 euros to be "the master" of another player, however if that player was making their current leader a hundred euros a day on average, suddenly investing a lot of money wouldn't seem ridiculous it would seem like a potential ripe investment.

Anyway, Onward!

The 4th Pillar - Fun

There will be points in time that players will not feel adequately rewarded or that they're not progressing well, at this point they must be able to think "would I play this if I wouldn't lose x, y and z anyway, like am I actually enjoying any of it or is it just like a part time job?" and return with the answer at least to some extent "yeah actually that was fun to read / find out about / think about / play / interact / figure out just his evening".

The thing to do here potentially is limit the amount of gameplay / content pieces the player can receive on for example daily basis. The name of the game escapes me but it was a great example of this where players would band together in a party and could only go on one quest a night per 24 hr cycle and the day would be spent deciding / voting on where to go and who to stand where and cast what on whom. If you could quest every 2 hours the player base wouldve been bored and left within weeks of joining.


The 5th Pillar - Furtherment

At all times the player should feel that if they're putting in, a certain amount of effort, skill and / or thought that they in some way accumulate and further their / their character(s) progress / countries etc..

An unhappy player is created if they feel they have not benefited in 6 months compared to the end of the first few weeks of play. If you wish to make a good one off experience that can be repeated, make a board game like chess, if you wish to make a game that might potentially grow and help and entertain millions of people (not that chess hasn't done that though..) then they must feel like there is progress, not a set goal, though at least a journey.

If you were watching a TV soap you would soon lose interest if the main characters never progressed, never changed, never tried new things or attempted breaking patterns, or informing you of new things and giving you fresh knowledge.

In a year's play the would-be veteran would like to look to the new players and be able to give advice and help, also to see the huge progress they / their team / their character has made since then, how much further along the path they are. If all five pillars are in place, imo, then one can make a "forever game" a world that potentially outlives it's creator, the principles and concepts put in place to shape it's development.

The 6th Pillar? More the optional water feature in the middle of the other pillars perhaps

Any game, should in my opinion at least consider giving a healthy % of their revenues to for example hyrdo generation or solar generation funds, or a combination of different areas you think you and your players can actually make a difference to. The biggest danger any game faces above all others is the waning support of the developer(s). If the games designer gets up on the 7th day and checks the forum to just see another 70 pages of complaints and talks of mass quittings and how crap everything is now and they consider if to plough on with the new design for the next continent or if to contact that bigs software company that were asking about how much he'd want for the game a few weeks ago even though they didn't seem to really get the concept...

Examples could be, these are my own also by the by, which would be 10% of the games revenue -

2% Energy Payback [Renewables] Investment / support then for Renewable energy companies at both regional, countrywide and global levels. So for example say you were 6 months into your first game and were only 15 and lived at home with your parents you could offer to pay toward any extra it cost to switch to an energy supply that generated electricity from only renewable sources, if you lived in the UK goodenergy is a, er, good, example (I don't get any money for that, or anything, its just an example, the marketglory one kind of does though if you'll play it you'll no doubt put the link in if you were talking about it as fun to watch the growth over 100 days plus the occasional surprise).

2% Free Education / Knowledge Every member of the human and even non-human (im talking for example well treated animals here not extra-terrestrials (spelt right) though I guess if they ever visited, them too) species benefits from every for example free book that was donated to a school, in the local neighbourhood to the school in a less developed country where books are rare to providing paid hours for your staff to spend tutoring children for a few hours during the working day if they wish.

2% To (Hopefully) Save The World Most are realising I feel that as lifespans are rapidly elongating and birthrates are not heavily dropping and in some cases rising that the biggest threat mankind faces is itself, I remember watching a brilliant lecture around the time I was realising this (the video can be found at : youtubevideo ) and the very next thing I watched was a stand up comedy show, I'll say at this point if you haven't seen the lecture it really brings home the chilling message of just how on the edge we're getting and how each day it's like making the potential drop exponentially higher (if not stabilized), the comedian got up on stage and the first thing he said was he'd had a baby. The crowd cheered and clapped, they clapped and clapped, my face was frozen in new perspective horror, they clapped more vehemently than when he came on, "yes guy! you made another of us! that's literally the best thing you could have ever possibly done".

Feel I have to continue with this, please don't get me wrong I'm not against having babies, I'm just saying currently the biggest problem we face and which pretty much if you boil down all the other problems is the route cause of or exacerbator (wish this thing had spell check, not even going to properly attempt to spell that word) of is that there are too many of us on the planet, it's estimated that if everyone wanted to live comfortably like an average american does currently (and we're currently burning a huge % of our precious rich *LIMITED!! fs! !* in a race across the globe to achieve this) then the earth would only be able to comfortably sustain 3 billion of us.

My argument would be, if there are 400,000 babies born each year to mothers who did not want to be pregnant but did not have free birth control provision, then surely giving just a donation to any kind of free birth control from the chip that can be removed whenever wishing to conceive being given funding in a remote village where climate change is meaning longer droughts, less food yet the catholic chruch nearby has advocated not using the free condoms and the chips too expensive for the local clinic, anyway you get the picture.

I think if you were trying to calculate how many species there are in the universe that you could call sentient you'd go through a number of steps, how many planets (lots x 10 with 100000000000 zeros on the end) then how many were in what we'd deemed habitable zones receiving enough light that much loved godilocks zone thing which weve all heard yet every news reporter and article explains every single time (lots x 10 with 1000000000 zeros on the end), plus of course allowing for some weird species popping up on odd places in unusual habitats (lots x 10 with 10000000000 zeros on the end).

Go with it, there's a point honestly, you'd then say that most planets even if habitable or weird most likely wouldn't develop life (lots x 10 with 1000000000 zeros on the end). That if they did that there was not enough time to develop past certain a point, re: dinosaurs (lots x 10 with 100000000 zeros on the end) then crucially you'd decide what percentage was able to control it's own destiny, we as humans already passed the aggressive trait under control (not nuking ourselves off the planet or into million year nuclear winters), the next question is if we can get the multiplying beyond our means trait under control in time. People often get tired of hearing "climate change" however no two ways about it, whatever you believe is the cause, or if you even think its happening, something is happening, and that something is causing a lot "weirder" weather, a bit like if you imagine putting the world in a micro wave oven, if you turn the setting from low to medium or high. Basically wetter wet weather and drier dry weather, this may not mean much immediately, however as each point of a degree goes up on the global average that means more and more failed crops, food prices relatively will begin a hike that if not stabilized will simply not return from. Having an exploding world population *really* dosent bode well alongside this,

It's like a tribal farmer coming home early from the fields to say the storm has ruined the crops the season and not knowing how they will ration the food and all live, and being told to stop being so gloomy about it and enjoy the feast the village is holding as the blacksmith's wife just had twins.

What i'm trying to say is, we potentially face a pretty dire situation,if a tiny part of what you do and what you work at daily goes towards helping combat the problem (literally saving the species potentially) though not only do you help the problem, you also get an extra helping hand boost on the days where you don't feel quite as motivated.

aaannnnyway :)

next 2%,

Advancement - If there is one thing that differentiates us now from the other species this planet has seen (that we know about( ust covering myself)) it is the ability to rapidly develop. We have so much choice as to how we can grow that it is often not asked of us to ourselves of how we'd like to see the species go. Just because we may not be a prime minister or president, we can still influence smally or greatly (Even just reading this or talking change the world, however just meaning fiscally more so at this point) how we advance.

Perhaps you think the crowning glory of the human race in the next 20 years should be cheap cruises around the solar system, investing and creating a portfolio slowly of space based tech and the like. Or perhaps you feel the local libraries all feel a bit run down and lacking in computers / tablets.

The last 2% - Up to you, by now you'll hopefully have your own ideas where you'd like the last slice to go, thank you for your time reading this.


Restricted content, or perhaps should say, rewarding with content or making one's content a healthy stream not a dam that will break every so often is wise,

~more to follow hopefully in not too distant future ~


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