Alicia Online: Step-by-step guide on how to run it on Windows 7 Professional / Windows 7 Home using Vistalizator

Alicia Online: Step-by-step guide on how to run it on Windows 7 Professional / Windows 7 Home using Vistalizator

Cat Cosplay Made Out of Grapefruit – There are more pics than everyone thought!

Cat Cosplay Made Out of Grapefruit – There are more pics than everyone thought!

Best Cat Cosplay Ever!

Best Cat Cosplay Ever!


Minions Of Mirth – Forging a Dream: How a Two Person Team Has Created the Best Indie MMORPG Out There

Minions Of Mirth - Forging a Dream: How a Two Person Team Has Created the Best Indie MMORPG Out ThereMinions of Mirth is a F2P Indie MMORPG made by Prairie Games, released back in 2005 and still alive and kicking. The game is currently available for an assortment of platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X and netbooks. But what means “Indie MMORPG”, you might be asking? It means that Minions of Mirth was created without a development studio, without a publisher or its major funding, by a team less than small – Prairie Games had only 2 (yes, TWO – a married couple, actually) full-time staff members and several outsourcing specialists, but they were able to create and release a fully working MMO title. Have you ever had a dream of creating your own game? Well, this couple had a dream too, and they forged it with their own hands, making it true and alive. And this is the story of how it was possible.

To tell the truth, these people weren’t “the average gamers” like us. People who co-founded Prairie Games in 2003 were Lara Engebretson and Josh Ritter, who changed his name to Josh Engebretson later, so both his names are still present in the Internets. Lara has a degree of Art Institute of Colorado, she was a producer and game designer, but Minions of Mirth was her first shipped project. As for Josh – he was a programmer and had been creating games for a decade, being a co-founder of Canopy Games development studio he had his hand on 12 retail titles by the time he and Lara had formed Prairie Games. Besides Lara and Josh there were 3 outsourcing specialists working on the project at some point – Magnus Blikstad, Christophe Canon and Ronald van Deurzen, all of them were artists.

Minions Of MirthJosh, being a player of such games like Ultima IV, Bard’s Tale and Gold Box always wanted to create a role-playing game and thus became a professional game programmer. He was already on that career when a first MMORPG title hit the market, and within only a few hours of gameplay he suddenly knew: that’s what he wants to do. The only thing was to figure out how one person with a very limited money supply could accomplish that. I don’t know how he managed to suck Lara into the business and what she was doing prior to that, because she did not gave so many interviews like Josh did. I suppose helping Josh build a game became “a family business” for her – i myself would do the same if only i had any 3d modeling skills…

Minions Of MirthAt first, Prairie Games weren’t even planning to do an MMORPG as their first title. Josh wrote that the time through autumn 2003 to spring 2004 was full of blur: they wanted to do a single-player game first, then to add a multi-player to it, then to get back to a single again, and Josh wrote a lot of code. Back then he was using Quake 2 engine for almost a year, it was getting obviously obsolete and Josh wanted to switch to Quake 3 engine. But id Software has postponed Q3 engine from getting GPL license and it had became known only at January 1, 2005 – when Minions of Mirth were only a couple of months away from alpha stage, that was scheduled to begin March 22, 2005. At the time Tribes 2 engine (the Torque Engine by Garage Games) became available, so Josh immediately bought a source license and started the migration process.

Minions Of MirthMinions of Mirth – both client and server sides – were written in Python (Eve Online client, at least the old one, was also written on it) using either free or cheap technology and tools. Producing Minions of Mirth took 11 months of development time (since the date when it was transferred from Q2 to the Torque Engine and until the release date – what was before is referred to as “prototype”) being written by one person and if not for Python it would require much more time to finish. Migration to the Torque Engine took a lot of effort (especially right before the alpha launch) and tricks, but finally it turned out so that this engine was ideal for Minions of Mirth’s goals.
Money also were a significant problem for Prairie Games and producing a game required a strict budged planning. But they found a way to do it: after founding Prairie Games Josh and Lara sold their property and moved to North Dakota (USA) where they bought a house worth $40 000 by a mortgage for $300 per month. They also had to cut their budged down as much as possible. Without the move and austerity policy it wouldn’t be possible to finish the game. In his interview to Gamasutra 9 months after the release Josh has said: “Minions of Mirth‘s development was a blur of fear, work, and stress. The work schedule was extremely rigorous and focused. It was like living in a cult. We were highly motivated, and stressed, by the fear of impending financial doom. Did I mention that it was a blur of fear, work, and stress?” But they still managed to do it.

Outsourcers were enlisted to work on the graphical part when the game was ready to get all suited up. A mistake was made there for the character and monster modeling had began a bit late (April 2005) and not everything that was intended got into the final release – for example, the release lacked a few character models that were added later along with a series of content patches. But the artists were doing a great job and they all had a significant influence on what turned out to be a final version of Minions of Mirth. Which wasn’t looking bad at all by the release year’s standards.

As for the musical score, Prairie Games weren’t going for an extensive soundtrack at first. They wanted just to buy some licensed material and be done with that, but one of the artists, under an impression made by the game, suggested adding a lot more music. No one really had time for that so he took the task onto himself and started recording the soundtrack. He worked for 10 months and the results of his creativity had been shown to the team only when a full 2 hours of soundtrack were finished and uploaded to an FTP server. The said soundtrack was amazingly fitting Minions of Mirth, adding a tangible emotional depth to the game.

Minions Of MirthWith the time passing and the game progressing on its path to the release, Prairie Games found out that there was a fellow community forming around their project. It’s still possible to find a snippets of code from early Minions of Mirth client/server installments, posted by Josh on game development forums and commented by the users. The community became very helpful and also had a significant influence on the final product – the gamers weren’t only suggesting their opinions and testing the game, but they also took their part in creating quests, characters, dialogues, items and even graphical elements of the game (buildings, for example). Without the faithful community Minions of Mirth would never became what it was, and never a fan community would get so much of influence on a developing project than with the indie MMO game.

MoMPremiumWINMinions of Mirth release date is 15 December. And not only it’s still alive – Prairie Games official website right now holds a note that the closed beta of the latest content add-on for Minions of Mirth has been started 10/25/10: the game is still thriving and developing! From the very beginning it was using a mixed free-to-play/pay-to-play model: everyone could play without the monthly fee, but it was also possible to upgrade to a Premium version, which allowed players much more gameplay options and opportunities. Back then it was a true innovation, F2P model wasn’t even considered by major developers. But Minions of Mirth had proven to be successful – after all, the game managed to live for 6 years!


It’s a long post already, but i must mention some other technical details.
If you’re not interested in technology behind an “custom” MMO, you may finish your reading here, but if you’re curious… The game technically consisted of several parts – main/login server, world server, zone server, client, automatic patching system, game editor and game data base. the Torque Game Engine is what Minions of Mirth are built upon

Besides the Torque Game Engine, other technologies used in Minions of Mirth are as following:
Python (free license)
Twisted (free license)
SQLObject (free license)
SQLite (free license)
Python is the main programming language, but C/C++ were using in some parts of the engine.

Subversion was used as a cross-platform solution for automatic patching – it stored control sums for every game file and downloaded everything that was missing or changed. During the beta testing stage patches were applied even without players knowing that the patching was going on, and Prairie Games never received a single complaint. SQLite is a database used through SQLObject library for Python. It was chosen mainly because SQLite doesn’t needs a server to be configured – a very important features, providing the opportunity to “host your own persistent world Minions of Mirth”, as Prairie Games called it. Other pluses were that it was extremely fast and very reliable – the test server was inhabited by the same characters from the late alpha and right to version 1.0, the game data never being wiped out or lost!

As for Minions of Mirth’s gameplay and other stuff – it’s a long story and I’d rather save it for another post sometime in the future.

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