How one man made an MMO: an interview with Gene Endrody




Maid Marian LogoGene Endrody is the man behind the free MMORPG Sherwood Dungeon and other multi-player games on maidmarian.com. Despite the fact that Gene had little programming experience, he's managed to do all the development himself using off-the-shelf tools and build a loyal following that often reaches 4000 simultaneous players.

So how did this one-man-team do it? I wanted to know, so I interviewed him. We talked about his background, the technical aspects of doing an MMO with off the shelf tools, and how he built up his user base. Here's part 1 of the two part interview.

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Gene. Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background?
I started an Amiga Video Toaster dealership in the early 90s with a friend. The Toaster came with an early version of Lightwave 3D and that was my first exposure to 3D modeling. After Commodore went belly up, I became a 3D Instructor and Program Manager at the Center for Digital Imaging and Sound and later the British Columbia Institute of Technology. I joined Radical Games as a Technical Art Director in 2000. It was really the experience at Radical that put me in a position to pursue 3D web games. I got the opportunity to art direct on a few projects, but a Technical Art Director is mostly responsible for solving technical issues related to stuffing 3D art and special effects into games. It's a great position because unlike many game industry jobs, you get exposed to the entire process of making games rather than just one specialty.

Tell us a bit about Maidmarian.com. When did you start it, and what were your goals for it at the time? What was motivating you to start it?
I'm a card carrying, Lord of the Rings loving, fantasy freak.
I played Dungeon & Dragons as a teenager, read fantasy novels and made a few pathetic attempts at writing games on my Commodore 64. In 1996, I was planning to do some web delivered 3D animations based in Sherwood Forest and discovered that MaidMarian.com was still available. I reserved the URL without having a clear concept of what to do with it. (Steve Jobs had reserved RobinHood.com through Pixar just prior to that as well.) Working with properties in the public domain, like Robin Hood and King Arthur, seemed like a good strategy for a small independent developer. You get to work with a great property with lots of history and don't have to worry about being beholden to the owner of the intellectual property. Even through the focus is now on games, MaidMarian.com has always allowed me to make a living with one foot in a fantasy world.

It looks like you're focusing on Sherwood Dungeon at the moment. Is this the new vision for maidmarian.com?
Sherwood Dungeon logoSherwood Dungeon is the game I always wanted to make. The other games on MaidMarian.com taught me the lessons I needed to take on that challenge. That being said, the games work together to provide a variety of experiences with the same basic feel. I think of MaidMarian.com as one big experience or community with of lots of choice about where to hang out and what to do. Some of the games, particularly Marian's World and MoonBase, aren't really games at all - more like social holodecks to goof around in. Talk to your friends, dance, drive around - whatever you're in the mood for. Ratinator is really the exception to this philosophy. It was more of an attempt to get on-board with the digital distribution craze in 2003 and make something that fit the business model of game portals like Shockwave.com.

Maidmarian.com has evolved over the years. Has it been a learning experience?
Absolutely insane learning experience! I was lucky enough to be nominated by Macromedia for a People's Choice Award at UCON2001 after the Director 8.5 beta. I'd never won anything before and just being nominated gave me the confidence that I wasn't wasting my time on this 3D web stuff. I wanted to do web based MMO's but the industry seemed so excited about the digital distribution and casual games. After talking to a few game portal producers, I started working on Ratinator. That was my first revenue generating independent game, distributed through Shockwave.com. Although Ratinator was named by the Adrenaline Vault as one of the Top Shareware Games of 2003, it failed to have any real commercial success. After that experience, I tend to look at industry trends and hype with a great deal of skepticism. Ironically, now that I'm focused back on MMOs, there are signs that I inadvertently "caught the next wave".

How has Sherwood Dungeon been accepted by players?
I get fan mail ! Can you believe that? Players seem to love the game and they seem to relate to the idea that I'm a just guy with a computer living his dream of making massive multiplayer games in his basement. MaidMarian.com has grown to 1.4 million unique visitors every month with Sherwood Dungeon taking the lion's share. I don't want MaidMarian.com to be some faceless corporation in the eyes of the players. I want it to be grass-roots and personal because it's certainly personal to me. Trying to maintain that personal connection to the players is getting really hard, but I do my best to listen and keep them in the loop through my developer's diary.

Tech Stuff


Your online games are developed with Adobe Director and run in a web browser using the Shockwave plug-in. When did you start using Director and Shockwave, and what was your programming experience at the time?
Shockwave LogoI started using it with the beta of Director 8.5 in 2000. That's when Macromedia first introduced 3D into Shockwave and when I got really excited about the possibilities. My programming experiences was very limited - Commodore 64, Radio Shack TRS80 BASIC and some MEL scripting (Maya's Embeded Language). I really learned to program in Director MX, as most of the veteran programmers on DirGames probably figured out from all the noob questions I ask. Honestly, I don't think of myself as a programmer so don't ask me about best practices for object oriented programming - you'll get a confused blank stare.

Has Director/Shockwave made this possible for you?
I love Director and even with it's challenges over the last few years, I've found no other product that can deliver hardware accelerated 3D multiplayer games to a large install base of users on a web-page.

You use Shockwave and Director for the client side, but what is the server side like? What technologies are you running there?
I have three game servers running the Shockwave Multiuser Server under Windows 2003 on a 100 Mbit connection. An application called Always Up runs the SMUS server as a Windows Service and restarts it automatically if a crash is detected. At times I've run very close to 2000 simultaneous players per server and been very happy with the latency. The SMUS is an underrated, disrespected piece of old software that just seems to crank along and do the job.

Check out part 2 of my interview with Gene Endrody, where we chat more about the technical aspects of building an MMO using Shockwave, as well as diving into the business side and find out how Gene built up the fanbase and got 4000 simultaneous players delving into the bowels of Sherwood Dungeon.



Feedback - 53 responses

Displayed newest to oldest. Leave a comment.
HI wrote:   
i want the old club marian back
this sucks :( no fun
all go in the threes and go to coloseium
Dabiggestfan wrote:   
This game is my favourite way more better than the other massively multi player games Gene Endrody you are the best.
Ben10 games wrote:   
Great interview, thank you.
Luke Alexander wrote:   
Cool! this ones a news to me. It's rare to find someone working on a one player project. i like some of the games too.
RÃxSchnappi wrote:   
I'm in a Tank Ball clan called RÐ,(Red Dogz) and sometimes there are wars between clans, and it's hard to record these battles with a first person view. So I would like a mode where you viewed the battle field from an eagle eye view, not top down though, and you weren't a tank, just the camera. Then we could record the area with hypercam or whatever. Other features could be moving the camera with the mouse, click-and-drag to rotate the camera, and zoom with the scroll wheel. That way we could post these battles online, on a site like Youtube.
death wrote:   
it dont work lol
death wrote:   
i say [scroll] if this is working uh gene how do u make a mmo urself cause htats wat i want 2 do
LALALA wrote:   
cant u do it, write like this, HMMM, why cant it we lika other characters like, mage, or other , that u can chose and it will be free, and other who can have arrows, and other stuff,like staff, wands.... and a map over all sheerwood dungeon and bridges to other citys, i recomand this it would be soooooooooooooooooooooooo, much fun . .. ,
Tomzter wrote:   
i actualy had an idea for instead of portals

how about a map of sherwood

there could be like Mountains leading to frostbite

a bridge leading to haunted palm

a path in the sea leading to lost lagoon

and for Ancient sherwood you can have a portal

isle of heros can also have portal

what do ya think?

its a ruff idea
my little brother came up with it
÷×Ðárk×SwðrÐsMéñ×÷ wrote:   
Sherwood what can i say after playing this game 6 years! I Love It. Gene you are The God of Sherwood! Keep it up. Thank you for hours and hours of fun.
Penguinlord wrote:   
maybe you could add a sherwood clock which would make clan meetings much easier. while at the same time you can put weather patterns such as rain, snow, etc. also what if you added like a vampire or werewolf NPC and if you got bitten you would change into a wolf or vampire(at night) then you could fly as a vampire bat or you could run faster being a wolf. The effects would only be temporary for 1 night. and you could only be one at a time(but you would be free to change to which ever you want before night) Along with being fast as a wolf and flying as a vampire they could have special attributes to them like the wolf has stronger attacks but cant block while a vampire has fast attacks but can still block. More ideas: someone might have said this already but make the characters solid so people dont run through each other like air. A jumping feature would also be nice so people could jump off of stuff. it would make the game more addicting because its surprising how many people like to do simple tasks in a game such as jumping
Hailly wrote:   
About the pets:

We will be able to have a horse or wolf , everyone will want one.
i'm wondering. If you will have to pay a total of $5 . How is someone who is younger than 12 years old, be able to get a pet, and be able to pay
that money?
Hailly wrote:   
Gene i just gotta say that you are the best game builder i have ever seen.
I really enjoy playing Sherwood , its a really interesting game. There i met a lot of nice people who now are my friends, even tho i don't really see them in real life. This has become part of my life now. You would of laugh seeing me here everyday playing this game. Keep it up looking great, an EXCELLENT job at looking for new ideas for Sherwood.
William wrote:   
play world of warcraft and copy loads of ideas from it thats a brilliant game and i want sherwood dungeon to be better its getting there and its already really brilliant ure a one man programming machine Good work Gene :)
Kaikai, aka Goldendragon-II wrote:   
Wow Gene, I don't know if you will even read this, but just imagining I am talking to you is so amazing. To sum up what most people I meet on Sherwood want, they want a few changes every now and then to keep the game exciting, but no massive changes of the game.
Paul wrote:   
I got to admit there really is nothing like sherwood out there but.. if you ever played recently I don't think you'd like your game too well... but never go on as Sir Gene get the real sherwood experience and youll see how 'great' the game is.
chris lingelbach wrote:   
i'm experiencing lag on all servers except when i'm looking at water. i enjoy the game a great deal. i need help to fix this issue.
any help would be appreciated. i'm running windows vista home edition.
i have updated the shockwave and am still having problems.
thanks in advance!
Drackore wrote:   
(ignore my first comment, delete it if u want) COZ MY 2ND 1 IS IMPROVED VERSION :)
Drackore wrote:   
Things for game:
U have a choice of having sleeves or not (i hate seeing the knight's arms)
Spears and tridents.
Pets that follow u, pets to ride, and pets that fly that u can ride.
Staffs and Wands to help with magic spells.
Wings and capes.
MaTtHeW's idea of armour, only u start wid rags then leather THEN wooden.
Quests where u have to find items.
Bank to store items and money.
Food that heals health (and food shop)
Different potions, like 'minor health potion' and 'major health potion' (and potion shop)
But if u do any, PLEASE let us choose having sleeves or not ( i HATE HATE HATE seeing the knight's arms XD.)
Drackore wrote:   
Can u maybe make it so u can't see the knights arms? I HATE that XD. So u can get pets, pets that u can ride, and flying mounts? So u can get wands and staffs to help with magic spells, so you can get wings, and capes? So theres quests where u hav to find items, and u can get spears and tridents? And yer, take MaTtHeW's idea about armour, but they start with rags, then leather then wooden then bronze then iron then steel (so on.)
Natonstan wrote:   
Gene im inspired, Ive got 1 and a half years left of school, and I've just started learning coding ( In my free time of course) so when I leave school I'll be in your shoes creating Flash games, with the goal of eventually achieveing an MMO Like Sherwood!

Thanks for the games Gene and keep up the good work!
Eternal sleep wrote:   
I have a question. When i log in i log into world 0 and cannot go to anthoer chatroom does anyone know how to fix this.If so it would help alot
MaTtHeW wrote:   
hey,heres an idea:fights for money in an arena (one on one fights for money so no one else can join in the fight)

And mabie armor,like armor for the body not just helmets but you can buy them and stuff. (starts rubbish like wooden armor and goes to like golden one million coins armor that osrt of thing)

Thanks gene for makeing the best game EVER!
MM Eternal wrote:   
Hi i really love the new version of MaidMarian. I have tried the older version and find it challenging as I dont know all the rules etc. but i am working on it. Keep up the good work!

Congrats on all the GR8 feedback from other players and fans.

Love MaidMarian, it rocks!
god of chaos wrote:   
3 words to bring the game up a whole lvl;
two

handed

weapons

G.O.C
god of chaos wrote:   
ive been a member of mm 4 about a year now i would like to say that i think that the game is awesome. But i think that the game would improve alot if u added archers and mabey mages. keep it up and good luck

.ps i can way sympathise about the whole computer geek thing

G.O.C out
Sub-zero wrote:   
HI i am a fan of sherwood the game is excellent and everything but i need u to ban all of the hacks... ppl are becoming moderators for the game and kicking ppl/ banning them.... the BIggest hacked who is know in sherwood is ALPHA his site is www.sherwoodcheats.forumotion.com plz look at the hacks and try to see what u can do too stop them... u have to register for that site so u can disguise urself and ban all the hacks
free ps3 wrote:   
I love EVERY aspect of MaidMarian and I don't ever miss any version of it!
Taren wrote:   
To Gene,

I have looked on your Sherwood game and I absolutely admire it. I have heard alot of people talk about wanting updates to the game.

Here are some ideas: The graphics are great but could you make updates like a new monster comes out every month or so.

Can you make events on the game happen every week or month, you know like a special fight-off arena for cool battles.


Can you make new quests every couple of months.


A very famous idea people have been talking about is that could you make a island out at sea and you go through a little portal to get there, when you have been conveyed by the Warp portal to the Island the players have a 1v1 arena to fight of for glory and sucess , possibly for money.


Another famous update idea is that there is a ship and you get to sail in it with a number of people, the ship might end up being mutinied by Amethyst Freebooters (Pirates)

I hope you enjoyed the ideas and ramblings from the fellow people from Sherwood Realm.

I hope you go good in Pop Vox votings i'll vote for you.

Yours,
Taren
Alex wrote:   
I am going to vote for Sherwood on Pop Vox voting, Sherwood is the best game ever. I used to play Runescape but that is pathetic compared to Sherwood Dungeons, Sherwood Dungeons is truely excellent, keep it up. Gene if you ever feel down about making your games remember that your fans are supporting and encouraging you.

Great work!
darklord wrote:   
if u dont mind me adding but gene maybe add 2 handed swords and i like the idea of trading with other people know the only thing that u may find rather interesting or think im a nerd who spends way top much time on the computer but on sherwood my level is 383 and there are others who do have levels like 400's but they did not hack considering this game has been on what 2-3 years? by know if there long time players im ure u may find ppl with levels this high but as for banning its easy to egt by how ppl usually pass it is u give amount of days ban? from what i hear well people by pass that by just putting there calendar on the computer ahead and the next hour they will be on again and as for pets i dont liek the idea... personally i find it would ruin it but i think it be cool to have magic and magic scepteres added as well as on ur homepage i think there should be some way to chat not everyone can email u i vfound and so pplwith ideas arnt able to get them to u and then eventually they die out but i think u should really to to get clans more of a hang out because we have wars and there always the same controvercy no one can tell who wins because ppl just come back and so its thought of as pointless it comes down to if u have time and patients to stay there tell the opposing force leaves... and in fights ppl just come back there should be like special arenas to duel these things out and when u die u would just go back to sherwodo dungeon and dont come back tell the duel is over an idea is to maybe make like a coaliseum like the romans had
darklord wrote:   
i have soem ideas that could improve sherwodo even farther my first is idea is maybe have races and classes like a swordsman archer elementalist who actually has a variety of spells instead of the standard amulets, i do think amulets were a wounderful idea but i think they should be open to only like archers and swordsman i think u should also have excuse me for saying this but a better castle....i have a few questions as well towards the game itself in sherwood if thats the main island shouldnt it have more of a medeival feel to it if its the castle then why isnt there a ruler why is there a need for castle at all if its on an island remote from everyhting because of the monsters crawling around yet again with the game characters is severly lacking and another question where did the monsters dungeon and characters coem from you talk about writing like a fantasy novel why not try to write a background to the game i know im sounding rather insulting to u but the game leaves u woundering so many things and it makes me wounder whats the point to have to buy stuff from a store if u can find it all in the dungeon and if the dungeon never ends who built it and why... i know im putting to much thought into this but usually most games have a background to it by the way theres alot of watch towers but yet no guards is the castle suppose to be abandoned? due to the monsters was this castle once a well striving city or was it just put up for show... thank you you long time player darklord
miguel carrion wrote:   
hy gene i would like if u make a nwe sherwood with better grafics or make some updates to the game ,by the way i love this game am lvl 42.1 more thing ppl are using cheat engine to hck ur game and they are using artmoney to to hack the game do something about this please.
÷Ï×Wâr÷Lørd×Ï÷ wrote:   
Dear Gene,
I realize that you have put quite a bit into this game...and personally I love it. However I have noticed alot of the players are getting bored with the same old stuff, no offense. I myself enjoy the game but do wish that it be improved. This is no attempt to discredit you...I mean no disrespect. If and when you have time I would appreciate you visiting my site. I think you will find it quite enlightening as I have found it. I have listed my own ideas on a seperate page. Naturally my ideas are quite plentiful so I do not expect you to actually consider them all...but it would be nice if you would take into deep consideration my ideas for sherwood. I myself began in classical and enjoyed the new sherwood. Please understand that I put alot of thought into my site before publishing it and have also thought hard about what would make sherwood 2 the best it could be. I also have a page for that other players can put their ideas on and I think that alot of their ideas are good. I hope that you find my ideas practical enough to add to your awesome game. So if you could I would appreciate you visiting my site and checking out my ideas. I hope you enjoy them...again my site is www.freewebs.com/ideas-sherwood-dungeon. Thx.
LørÐS / SîÐørïð / SåÎäÐîñ / ØråçÎê wrote:   
Don't make the game ANYTHING like Runescape with skills and all that. I've played Sherwood for over a year and the way you've done it is fine, Gene. Trading would be cool though but pets? Lol...This is a game of fighting. If you want all that cuddly wuddly crap just play Marian's World. Another thing, keep it so that level doesn't matter. If you make level matter I swear to you around 1/2 of players would quit. Oh yeah, people find it easy to get out of being banned.
LørÐS / SîÐørïð / SåÎäÐîñ / ØråçÎê wrote:   
For the purposes of this, I'd just like to say my website is deserted. If you want it, contact me at sidorio@hotmail.co.uk Gene, ur a legend. You're making Sherwood a fantastic game, and all for free. Please don't ever make Sherwood a pay game. The ignore list is fantastic, but you should also make and friend list. I know it would be seriously complicated but after all you've done, it shouldn't be too hard. Another thing is, you should have horses or Sherwood. But don't have magic or archery like on Runescape because then you will lose the skill part of the game. Nice job on patching up booting.
jason wrote:   
gene do you want to join my clan because we need a good player ok
go to sherwood chatroom 1 at 7:00 so you can join anyone can join.
jason wrote:   
gene can you give players a option to us pets so we can fly
killa7 wrote:   
and high scores 2 and diffrent skills =P
killa7 wrote:   
hey gene i kno some cool updates 4 ya pets,rangers,barbarian weps, and god bosses with diffrent animal races, and a big ass sword and put those big ass swords are rare oh and a update alot of players want is trading but the coolest update is ahining armor riding dragons...=P
HeatWave(a.k.a the former 19th best of sd) wrote:   
hey I think this game is awsome..but it would be better with capes and lightning as a tally and wep/ monster element....just a idea.
CountChris wrote:   
Hey, what updates are you planning on adding to the game next? I think some kind of combat skill practice, and some "different" quests would be nice, the current ones are just like "go here and slay X number of monsters".

Other than that, this game is amazing! It's one really brilliant game, and itæs unbelieavable that you started it all alone.
Jacob wrote:   
I want animals we can have as pets (we buy at merchant).
lin wrote:   
this game is boring cause you can't save your game
and you need to re lever up the next time you play
cannot met up with our friends
Mitchell wrote:   
YO i love MaidMarian it Hotes game on the web man keep up the good work. Sir Gene i was just wondering are you makeing a new Game better the sherwood dungeon? SirGene you what make the game how if we will be able to ride horse in the dungeon that be kool
¤¤~€~Gí®Lš-¥-þøwë®~€~¤¤ wrote:   
Well it could have been better. The game is a bit boring. There should be more options.
A friend list would be good aswell.
There should be a top 10. All sherwood players would have to vote for the 10 best players.
QN)SIS(N) wrote:   
HI MY NAME IS QN)SIS(N). I was wondering if you could add horses and, bows n, arrows. And what do you do if someone is bullying you, cause people are bullying me, cause they say im too young for the game, but im not. Oh yea one more thing can we have swans in the lakes so we can fight them too so theres, a animal to fight in the water, thank you for your thime bye.
Kenshin wrote:   
I want to know if the dragons are STILL in the early stages of developement. I just want a general answer of when sherwood 2 SHOULD be moving in to boot out the recent one...
ALSO why did you get rid of the glitches in the game? people enjoyed seeing them and had fun performing them. PLEASE bring them back in the game! Ýour game STILL rocks though^^ good luck gene!
bolli wrote:   
hi gene i wish u wuld let ur fly again
SaintRaptor wrote:   
Hi im Saint Raptor from Sherwood Classic & it's been good to me so im gonna be good to it but Sherwood Classic was the best the least you could of done for the Classic Legends is make Sherwood Classic on a diffrent Server so we can still play it So please can you do something because i miss Classic & i cain't play Dungeons because it's to laggy & to many noobs on.........
Peace Out
From - Saint Raptor
To - Gene Endrody
Hanford wrote:   
You're right. I just edited it. Thanks.
atomic1fire wrote:   
http://blog.hanfordlemoore.com/2007/01/22/how-one-man-made-an-mmo-the-gene-endrody-interview-part-2
you really should have provided a link to part2 by now
MysteriousOne wrote:   
This game is really EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLEN TEXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENTEXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT. I can't believe it that Gene made it ALONE!!!!
 

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