SimpleMMO – How I made a hole a home

Back in August 2017, I was searching for a game to invest a little bit of my time in when I was not working. My requirements for this game were extremely simple. I wanted to play something that was extremely simple to use and required very little time or dedication. To put it plainly – it needed to be something that I would play while sitting on the toilet. That was my ultimate goal here.

My search for greatness

I started searching for this incredible game. Hours and hours later… I was still no further in my search. Every game I had come across was essentially the same. They were all massive, clunky fully-fledged RPGs/MMOs that seemed to be all reskins of each other. I think the closest I got to a game that I wanted was something called “RPG for destiny”, however it never interested me for two reasons; I have never played destiny, and I remember feeling rather overwhelmed at first when loading it up. It was rather raw in terms of UI.

I realised that simply such a game didn’t exist. They were either too clunky, or the UX was atrocious.

That’s when I got the idea of creating my own game. I wanted to create something that a player could just “pick up and go” within the matter of seconds. Minimal loading screens, no splash screens, unnecessary filler content, an extremely simple UI, etc. I wanted to make something that made the objective as clear as daylight. It had to be sleek, modern and attractive, yet self-explanatory and required very little in terms of a tutorial.

I know I’m in the minority here but I absolutely hate tutorials. I played “Call of Duty: Mobile” recently and the amount of hand-holding that the game gives you during your first few levels is completely abhorrent. In my eyes, it was the epitome of bad design. If a game requires that much hand-holding just to explain what the hell everything means, I lose interest almost immediately. In fact, as soon as I play a game that requires a mandatory hand-holding tutorial, I just immediately un-install it. I like to learn as I play. I like things to come naturally.

That’s when I got the idea of creating SimpleMMO… my “solution” to this gap in the market.

Well…. I say that as if I was making a strategic business decision to take advantage of said gap when in reality I just wanted something to play. In my head, I thought I would create something that I would play myself.

During this time, I was working a full-time job and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to improve my development skills on the weekend. While, at that point, I certainly dipped my toes in developing Android apps, this was on another level in terms of scope.

The dawn of SimpleMMO

On the 23rd August 2017, I sat down and began the development of SimpleMMO. I developed it using the “Laravel” framework. This was the very first time I had ever used Laravel.

I had an extremely bare-bones prototype ready within 8 hours. The code was atrocious. If I look back to what I had written, I would probably bring up last nights dinner. However, I did not know that then. After all, I only had 8 hours experience working with Laravel and, to be honest, I didn’t really care. I had absolutely no intention of growing this game beyond a hobby/side-project/playground. Honestly, it was garbage that was essentially held together with duct tape and glue. However, it was my garbage and I couldn’t have been more proud of it.

Fast forward a few months and I finally had a working game. I was ready to release this f̶r̶a̶n̶k̶e̶n̶s̶t̶e̶i̶n̶ beauty into the world. I quickly mocked up the Android wrapper using the source from FitIgniter and boom… SimpleMMO went live on 2nd February 2018.

My creation was available to the world.

At that point, SimpleMMO was really simple. Even simpler than it is now. It had essentially four bits of functionality to it: travelling, PvE, PvP and an inventory system. That was it.

Downloads were pretty solid. I got more than 100 within the first month. It was a really odd feeling seeing people play my game. I had essentially created something relatively enjoyable in my cave with a box of scraps.

I worked on it every weekend. Many new features were introduced to help give the game a little bit more depth. Friends, quests, messages, new items, player market, achievements, an updated travel page, and a bunch of other features that are still there today. A lot of these features suffered from short-sightedness and a lack of preparation for the future. The issues that are caused from said short-sightedness are certainly something that affects the game today. Problems such as a terrible inventory implementation, or the abuse of energy/quest-point refills were something I had never really considered at the time. Despite what people’s opinions on the game are, the “P2W” aspect was ultimately the result of said short-sightedness rather than it being a financial business strategy. This is a topic I wish to expand upon within another blog post.

Even though the game was live and accessible to anyone, it was still my playground. At that time, I didn’t really expect the game to become as popular as it is now. In-fact, I didn’t even dream of it.

A few months go by then… boom. A massive spike in downloads happened. When I say massive, I really mean massive. Let me just whip out this graph from my “happy moments” stash.

At that point, I had breached 50,000 total downloads. I couldn’t believe it. Something I made was being played by thousands around the world. This was the point where I thought that this game could genuinely become something special. It had always been a bit of a passion project, but this made it seem like it could be something more.

… then disaster struck the game. Mr. Google decided to wake up one day and tell the board of directors, “I’m going to destroy this man’s whole career”.

They changed the Play Store algorithm.

The downloads literally plummeted overnight. It went from 3,000+ downloads per day, to less than 80.

To be honest, it didn’t really phase me that much. I completely expected it to happen. It’s not as if having 3,000+ daily organic downloads consecutively is normal especially for a small indie title.

From that moment, the downloads levelled off. It was around 80 downloads per day for around 2 years. However, since that moment, I realised the game had the potential to turn into something great.

The hole that keeps growing

Three years later and here we are. SimpleMMO has more than 500,000 downloads and it is continuously growing. The roadmap is public, the community is active, and the game is getting the love it deserves. I never thought it would be in this position, but here we are.

Not a bad debut blog post is it? I’m not much of a blogger. In fact, I’m not much of a writer in general. I almost failed English back in school. I was just lazy and more bothered about playing Call of Duty than studying. If you have played SimpleMMO, you know that typos are almost guaranteed. A wise man once said, “There are three things in life that are guaranteed: death, taxes, and typos in SimpleMMO”. That wise man was me.

I have a few topics that I want to cover in regards to SimpleMMO but I thought I would get this out of the way first. I thought it would make sense to cover how SimpleMMO came to be before I start to dive in further.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

11 thoughts on “SimpleMMO – How I made a hole a home

  1. This game was a simple idea and now look at it with over 500,000 downloads small work can create something amazing great job mike nice blog

  2. You might have almost failed English in school, but this blog certainly doesn’t show it! Nice job Mike. The blog is very engaging and I look forward to seeing further posts.

  3. Wonderful dive into your thought process and birth of the game. I was definitely in the same boat and annoyed with tutorials and wanted a simpler rpg than most of the ones found in the playstore.

  4. Very nice read. You indeed have a gem in your hands. It just scratches and itch that as you said, there doesn’t seem to be another game that does. In fact, I do think that some games *could* scratch that itch, but in a way, I’m glad you didn’t find what you were looking for, because now we have SMMO. Thanks for your work!

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