Well okay it’s really just a test I assembled quickly to test SmartFoxServer but when I got to this point with Golemizer it was an amazing moment so here it is!

So here’s what you want to know first and then some more thoughts after:

  1. Go to http://www.over00.com/scmmo/
  2. You will be automatically logged in as a guest and will see a random spaceship assigned to you. Click anywhere to move. Don’t bother to provide feedback yet it’s just a test.
  3. Now open another browser. For example if the first time you used Firefox now open Internet Explorer or Chrome and then go to the same URL (this is to simulate another player joining the game so using twice the same browser will probably not work).
  4. Once connected go back to your first browser. You’ll now see 2 spaceships.
  5. In the 2nd browser click somewhere to move your spaceship and keep an eye on the first browser to see it move.
  6. Don’t bother trying to find the first spaceship on the 2nd browser as I’m not sending the content of the room to new players. Only players previously logged will see new players enter.
  7. That’s it.

So yes it’s simple and there’s nothing fancy here but this little test is telling me a lot:

  • Setting up SmartFoxServer and having a stripped down version of Star Corsairs: Dogfighters was done in an evening.
  • Putting everything on a live server was done in about 10 minutes (my VPS blog).
  • No bad surprises and everything worked as intended.
  • I can’t believe I spent a year building my own server for Golemizer.

Well actually building everything for Golemizer was quite a learning experience but it also got me to spend an incredible amount of time on stuff that in the end didn’t help me to build a better game.

SmartFoxServer

So SmartFoxServer is just a glorified chat room? Yep and so is what I built for Golemizer and it was quite enough for my needs. I wouldn’t know what to do with anything more anyway. My thoughts on the matter are pretty much the same as what you’ll find over on Elder Game.

Even the fact that you must pay for it past 100 concurrent users isn’t a problem. I don’t think Golemizer ever had 100 players online at the same time and if I really need to buy a license to support over 100 players online and can’t manage to pay for it then what’s the point of trying at all.

To get my simple test running I had to code a simple Java extension. The process of having it run in SmartFoxServer is ridiculously easy so the hardest thing was to dive back in Java after … hmm 12 years … Again everything I’d like to do with this is fairly simple so it’s only a matter of not mixing AS3 or JavaScript syntax in there as it’s fairly similar.

I had a short discussion on Twitter about the fact that Java could not quite be the best tech for that kind of thing but honestly I can’t think of any other MMO engine that has been used in major projects and doesn’t cost a fortune.

Yes there are alternatives like Red Dwarf which is currently at version 0.10.2 but for me it’s enough to know that Habbo Hotel and Club Penguin are running on SmartFoxServer to go with it. Specially after my small conclusive test.

Yes there is also Player.IO which I talked about in a previous post. But after getting dumped by Social Gold I’m not too keen on using a completely hosted solution like that. I’m sure they’d tell me to not worry about them disappearing overnight but then again Social Gold would have told me the same thing before being bought by Google… So as much as it would be nice to work with .NET technologies like I’m used to that won’t be the case unless I decide to build a simple multiplayer Flash game (which is not excluded at some point).

So will there really be a Star Corsairs MMO?

I’m not saying a definitive yes here as I still have some weeks ahead of me to think about it all but I’ll say the chances are much better after my test with SmartFoxServer. I’m not interested to spend most of my time on homemade tech as I’ve already done that and to be honest I found it quite boring compared to actually working on what players are seeing and enjoying. Surely that SmartFoxServer have its own issues and limitations but I’d rather deal with that than spending time on something that might not end up being better after all.

Why a space MMO and not go with the ever popular fantasy based MMO? Well first there’s a matter of interest. Not that I wouldn’t want to work on a fantasy game but I’ve wanted to work on something space based for quite a long time now. Maybe it’s because I always wanted to play EVE Online but just won’t allow myself to touch it. I’m not saying I want to do something of that complexity but I’m surely not saying either that I’d like to do something like WoW in space.

Secondly a space game is a way to take out-of-the-way many small challenges that might end up taking too much time compared to the about 6 months ahead in my little world. Nothing that complicated but for example I don’t need to worry about collisions. Since it would be a first project with SmartFoxServer I think it’s wise to keep things as much under control as possible. It’s basically the opposite of what I have done with Golemizer so maybe I learned something out of it. Don’t expect to see a full action game like Star Corsairs is however. That’s just too much challenge to start with. Right now Star Corsairs works much like a single player FPS would. From having read some articles around FPS are quite some beast to tame and that’s just not the kind of project I can work on right now. Expect something that feels a bit more RPGish (meaning stat based instead of twitchy gameplay).

Thirdly for both Star Corsairs and Star Corsairs: Dogfighters I haven’t heard something like “graphics suck”. I haven’t heard much (once or twice) “amazing graphics” either but from my experience it’s pretty much positive to not hear about the quality of graphics (I heard that Golemizer’s graphics suck so many times that it’s not even troubling me anymore). And all of them were done by myself which makes the whole thing pretty much amazing! In a fantasy game you have to worry about characters, animation, environment, diversity, etc. In a space game well you’re in space so you have spaceships to worry about and space pictures which are pretty easy to create by finding some nice Photoshop tutorials. By improving on what has been done with Star Corsairs I feel the end result could be quite interesting.

Are space MMOs less popular than fantasy? I have no doubt about that. I however also know that you don’t need that much players as an indie to be successful and I also know that there are tons and tons and tons of fantasy MMO while a bit less satisfying space MMOs (for example Dark Orbit feels very unsatisfying to me). Of course you need more than what Golemizer have but if I was to tell me that I will never be able to do better than what I have done with Golemizer than I would simply put that blog offline and go play games instead. I believe that if I’ve been able to do what I’ve done with Golemizer which has a pretty odd theme that I can surely do better with something more familiar even if it’s not the single most popular theme. But like I said there’s also a matter of interest. Maybe I could do match 3 games or physic games and get better results for the time invested. Or I could just find myself another job as a web developer … You get the point …

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