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So You Want to be a Multiplayer Web Games Developer?
In my first article “So You Want to Be a Game Developer?” (http://ezinearticles.com/?So-You-Want-to-be-a-Games-Developer&id=70920), I discussed various games, including Web/Email games. This is one of the easiest ways to start making games – you don’t have to speak one language or platform and the cost is very low. In this article, I’ll look at the different technologies you can use, and give you an idea of what’s possible and how to get started.
Before you start, go and check out the Multi Player Online Games Directory- http://www.mpogd.com. It’s a great tool and gives you an idea of the type of games out there from small free games to big games like Sony’s Everquest.
Major multiplayer games are not based on the Internet but work online. They like to have their clients documented, with secret protocols, fast 3d graphics and large customer support teams. I recommend http://terranova.blogs.com/ as a great blog for this- you’ll find articles and quotes from luminaries such as Richard Bartle who created the first dungeon (his acronym for Multi User Dungeon), and Professor Edward Castranova. ; an expert on virtual world economics. Mud also likes to use their own clients, usually based on Telnet. Although this is not an online game, I recommend that you improve your skills as much as possible. Mud in particular, although it is not the most popular type, it still exists and provides a good example for interactive games.
Getting into computer game design is as easy as becoming a full-time game developer – it’s not! But there’s nothing stopping you from creating your own online game, and MPOGD will be happy to have you on their list. If its Open Source you can install it and find other developers on Soiurceforge.net.
There are two categories of online games: real-time and turn-based, and these depend on the type of technology that runs them. Real time is very complex – the server must support multiple connections at the same time and care must be taken to coordinate actions between clients. If you attack someone and they have already moved but your client is not saving then your game will not be popular.
The integration between multiplayer online games and consumer-oriented games is possible with Macromedia’s Flash. It’s likely that the number of Flash-based multiplayer games will increase – there are quite a few here. It’s a shame that sourceforge has so many ideas that didn’t make it through the planning stage. Also the existing content may not be open source as creating such a game requires a lot of work. Looking at flash, multiplayer games yield a few million results but add open source and it drops to a few thousand.
Unless you’re a very good Flash developer and can also write good server code, I recommend not modifying the base game. The good news is that the web is a place where open source development abounds. A search on sourceforge.net for ‘game servers’ returned several mature or beta projects. Want to make an RPG in Java? Use Arianne. Or if C# is your style, check out Ovorp. The most popular languages are C++ and Java (for the server) but C# projects are now starting to appear and you’ll also find C, Perl, and Python. But don’t limit your search to sourceforge- there’s plenty of work elsewhere. The best resource for finding games is dmoz.org-= Open directory Project. Check out http://dmoz.org/Computers/Open_Source/Software/Games/ and http://dmoz.org/Games/Video_Games/Roleplaying/Massive_Multiplayer_Online/Independent_Developers/
If you are going to make an online game you need a server. Yes you can do it online but it is slow. Good to set up your server.
A good place to start with the most popular technology is the Open Source LAMP family. These are Linux, Apache, MySql and Php. If you are replacing your windows pc with a new pc, wipe the hard disk on the old pc and install the Linux distribution and connect the two with a network cable. What was a lazy Windows PC is now a great development server running Apache, Php and Mysql. Linux Guis are user friendly these days but if you don’t know how to run Linux, download webmin from webmin.com and install it. It makes all the Linux stuff like configuring Samba (if you want to share drives), adding specific sites to Apache etc easy. Or simpler still is the WAMP option with everything installed on your Windows box. For the pros and cons of this see here. http://ezinearticles.com/?Windows-vs-Linux–Hosting&id=21972
One caveat. You might consider exposing your web server under your dsl network. There is nothing wrong with this although it prevents you from having two or three users at the same time. If you have a static IP address it’s easy to set it up. It can also be done with a dynamic Ip connection. Search for dynamic dns to find out how to get the job done. Make sure in both cases that you have adequate firewall protection. An unprotected Windows PC can be hijacked within 15 minutes. I recommend that you buy a firewall router or at least use professional firewall software.
In future articles I will discuss the nuts and bolts of game software and start developing open source games.
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