Anatomy of an MMO

An MMORPG is like a large piece of enterprise software: they consists of databases, specialized servers, client software and a huge amount of content. To begin our journey through the world of an MMORPG, let’s begin with the part that seems most familiar: the content.

Content and 3D Progamming

When people use the term “content” in an MMORPG, they are referring to all of the places, creatures and things you can visit within the virtual world. It includes the actual landscapes, buildings and dungeons you explore; the monsters and players you can see; the graphics for items. Even things like music, sound effects and the special effects used for things like explosions and spells are a type of content.

Very few individuals possess all of the skills necessary to create the large variety of visual effects that are present in an MMORPG. Just as in the film business, where there are graphics programmers, costume designers, makeup artists and miniature modelers (to name just a few), the game business employs a large number of specialized artists who are capable of working on the various sensory components of the game. By the time you see an animated monster inside a game, it is likely that it is the product of several peoples’ work.

The first step in creating a 3D image is to develop what is called the “concept art.” Depending on the game company, this could be as simple as a pencil sketch of the intended creature or building—or could be a sophisticated piece of art, crafted with either traditional media or inside a paint program (Photoshop is popular). The purpose of the concept art is to give the 3D artists a blueprint to follow; it also provides the art director with an opportunity to establish consistent themes across the various art.