Where to Begin
If you have stumbled upon this, you are probably wondering where to start in game creation. Whether you have a binder full of ideas or the thought just came across your mind and you’re curious. Text-based games are definitely a good starting point because they are smaller, easier to build, and less expensive than online graphical games. If you have looked anywhere else at subjects about online game creation the first thing you have probably noticed people saying is don’t bother unless you have lots of money. For many cases this would be a problem, and let’s face it, a certain amount of money will be needed for pretty much any online game, but the prices will vary widely depending on the scope and type. As I stated before, 3D games will be much more expensive, starting from the thousands and good ones going up into the millions. The most important thing is to not get discouraged if you’re not a millionaire; all things have to start somewhere. The best place to start in my opinion is a small text-based game.
Text-based games had there beginning in the early dawn of computers and the internet, an example of this being Dungeons and Dragons. Text-based games are still around and in many ways making a comeback in the multiplayer online world. To even begin thinking about creating one though, you have to have an understanding of what they are, how they operate, and have a good working knowledge of a programming language. The first two are easy to accomplish and you can work on the third along the way. Understanding what a text-based game is and how they can be fun starts with knowing what draw people to them, how they are fun, and how different they are then just a simple chat room.
The first step to understanding the fundamentals of these games and what people would expect from yours is to join one. Many of these games are free to play, requiring no up-front or monthly costs to play. You simply find one that looks interesting to you, create an account and find out what makes it tick. Remember not to judge a book (or in this case game) by its cover. These games are old style and not what most people are used to so it will definitely take some time to get used to and adjust to the feel of it. After that, get in good with the player base and build your character up enough to apply for an administration position. Many of the games are free to play so they rely heavily on player feedback and volunteers for most of what they do. These volunteers are trusted players and they get to do everything from request skill changes to control/create events. Once you get to where you have proven yourself to the admin, try to move on to a volunteer coder. As a volunteer you would not be able to get any revenue from the work, but you would get something more important: knowledge.
Knowledge is Key
Firsthand knowledge from a working code-base is fundamentally important for obvious reasons. As a note, I am in no way shape or form telling you to get in good and see the code, copy and paste it and call it your own. That is illegal, wrong, and will ruin your career the second you’re caught, which honestly wouldn’t take very long. The experience you get will help build on your coding knowledge you should have been working on to begin with. As far as the coding, I would recommend a scripting language, preferably one you created yourself as that would be ideal. There is a multitude of information online and many books about creating your own scripting language for this purpose, a popular one being in C format. C++ is a language known by everyone in the coding world and is used widely for game creation. Getting a working knowledge of the language isn’t hard if you already have a coding background, and even if you don’t you could get the basics down in a year with some dedication and the right books/information. And if you read that and thought that sounds like a long time, you have to remember, projects like these take some teams years to pull off, so dont expect quick reward from little work. Projects like this take a lot of time invested; it isn’t something someone just thinks of and decides to do in a week. It takes teams of dozens of people months and years to create graphical games, just because yours is text-based doesn’t shave that much out of the equation.
Now, let’s get back to the matter of money, no I haven’t forgot that and no it isn’t free to do something like this. Saving money by not having graphics or audio does save tons, and in many cases millions, but you will still need startup cash. The good thing is that you don’t have to be a millionaire to accomplish what you want; you will have to save up a few thousand dollars though at least. If that sounds like a lot to you, just remember you need to cover a programming language and get some first-hand experience from an online text game before you even begin your own actual coding, so you have some time. I would think at least two years, because it would take at least six months before you would gain access to live code on an online game anyways. That gives you a little over a year to study it and hone your own programming skills. During this time I would also highly recommend buying a binder and sectioning it off with topics you find important to implement in your own game, that way you don’t forget your ideas and you have a starting point and a goal of what you want to accomplish. The money you would need to save is for the hardware you would need if you are going to be the one hosting it. This will require a lot of money for a server, hard drives, networking equipment, and someone to install it if you don’t have the knowledge of it.
Another good resource you might want to look into, is friends interested in what you are doing or at least wanting to learn programming. Let them join you, because in this case the more the better because coding something as large as this would take one person years. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to say it’s impossible like many others do, with the right amount of time and the right dedication it is entirely possible. If you cannot round up any friends that are interested, look online and browse through programming forums. There are many people interested and if you can prove you are dedicated and have some working knowledge/experience or capital then you might be able to draw attention from someone else looking for help.
You Wont get anywhere if you dont begin Somewhere
Remember, this is a large time investment and requires a lot of dedication and patience. There are lots of people who have gotten the idea and stopped short or even stopped before starting because they realized the mountain they had to climb. Others have accomplished a lot and are reaping the benefits of accomplishment. The most important thing here is to simply begin. Everything has to begin somewhere, and even if you start and mess up (which you will), that only means you got experience and will know better and get further the next time. Don’t expect to get done in a week, or a month, or even a year or two years. Projects like this are monumental, even the small ones, so don’t be discouraged if it starts to take more time than you thought or you hit speed bumps. Just remember to not give up and at least give it a shot. Good Luck!