Sherwood Dungeon is a free browser MMO that started as an experimental project
in 2003 and slowly but surely evolved into one of the most cherished games of
FreeMMOStation.com spoke with the maker - yes, just one - of Sherwood Dungeon.
Read on to learn about the creation and evolution of this MMO.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Iím an independent game developer and created a game called Sherwood Dungeon in
my basement. Sherwood is a browser based 3D MMO that has a million unique
visitors every month and just had its sixth anniversary. I was a 3D modeling and
animation instructor for many years before taking a job in the console games
Making browser based games was an activity that started as a hobby in the late
90s and became my primary focus in 2006 when I left my day job as a Technical
Art Director to concentrate on Sherwood full time. My wife also joined the
company at that time to handle everything not directly related to making or
running the games. I wanted to keep the new business cottage-industry based and
make a go of things in a non-traditional way that doesnít rely on publishers or
How did you come up with the idea to create a browser-based MMO all by yourself?
By 2003 I had a number of small, hobby 3d avatar based chat rooms. These
experimental projects were really intended to learn how to code and hopefully
leave me with some techniques I could use in the future. I posted all my
experiments on MaidMarian.com so friends and other Shockwave developers could
see how it was going. These projects developed a small following and that
encouraged me to take what Iíd done and tackle a more feature filled MMO.
As a fantasy lover, I launched Sherwood to see how close I could get to an
Everquest-like experience in a web browser. Although I liked the 3rd person
camera and visual presentation of Everquest, from a game design perspective I
deviated immediately and went with a skill-based, action RPG style of combat.
Were there times when the task just seemed too overwhelming?
Sherwood didnít always look like it does today. It started as a hobby and I
launched with the absolute minimum of features, basically a 3D chatroom in a
fantasy environment. Because the game is always in active development, features
are added in response to player feedback or my interests at the time. There was
never a point to feel overwhelmed because I only worried about the next feature
and could let Sherwood evolve organically. It was an experiment with a more open
development process where players could see the game evolve over time and
participate in the process with their feedback. That sounds more official than
it is in practice and really itís just a bunch of people talking about Sherwood
and one of them happens to be making the game. No player community speaks with
one voice, so itís always a tricky balancing act. Articulate ideas from
individuals seem to have the most influence as opposed to some kind of design by
committee process. Early players bought into the idea of what Sherwood could be
some day as opposed to what it actually was. The fact that I wanted their
feedback to help steer the direction of development was apparently such a rare
thing that they were willing to overlook the fact that it was so unfinished.
There wasnít much to do, so they would invent stuff. That culture of emergent
play never left the game. As a result, some of the coolest ďfeaturesĒ of
Sherwood are not found in the user interface but come from a very active player
Is this the MMORPG for people who donít like MMORPGs?
I like MMOs and although we share many of the same influences, Sherwood doesnít
really fit the established traditional mold. The vast majority of fantasy MMO's
tend to use a pseudo-turn based approach to combat. In these games, most attacks
have cool-down periods that provide time to make strategic choices for the next
attack. As players level, their skill tree expands and those choices become
increasingly complex. The playerís ability to crunch numbers becomes more
important and they are rewarded largely based on the hours dedicated to the
game. The traditional MMO is more of a cerebral strategy based game than an
action oriented skill based one.
For better or worse, I wanted to make combat in Sherwood feel more in your face
and differentiate it from other MMOs. This is why we donít use the traditional
tank, DPS, healer trinity and focus more on an action RPG style of melee combat.
My intention was to make combat a little like Street Fighter, where timing and
practice count but XP Level does not. In this way any player is a potential
opponent for any other player and you're not running around looking for
opponents of the same XP Level. This also removes the pressure of having to
spend many hours dedicated to get some arbitrary stats in the game to say youíre
Over six years from launch, how is Sherwood Dungeon doing, and what are your
plans for the near future?
Part of the reason for Sherwoodís longevity is the grassroots nature of it.
Players seem to find it a refreshing change to play an MMO developed by a guy in
his basement rather than a large faceless corporation. We donít require
registration or personal information and the game is running in your browser
within a minute. Just enter a character name and youíre in. We have the lowest
barrier to entry of any MMO. We donít talk much about updates before they are
released or discuss specifics about whatís in the works and new features usually
just appear in the game without advanced notice or hype. This way thereís no
false expectations and itís just a nice surprise. Players can often get a sense
of whatís on my priority list from the on-going conversations on the facebook
page, particularly when I ask for feedback on aspects of the game.
Anything else you would like to say to our readers?
One of the new things in Sherwood is the expansion of our pet features. There
have been optional pets available for purchase in the game for $5 each since
2008. Pets can now can be either summoned to help you in combat or ridden as a
mount. If you ever wanted to explore our virtual world as a wolf or a dragon,
you can now also transform your character into the shape of your pet.
Sherwood is designed to be playable either in a small window, typical of a web
game or full screen, more like a boxed MMO. We have a liberal linking policy and
provide code so that any website can embed Sherwood and the other games on their
site so long as the ad is visible under the game. With hundreds of sites linking
in, weíve ended up with an ad-hoc distribution network rather than relying on a
major game portal. This also means that Sherwood guilds and clans can include
the game itself as part of the content of their guild site. So if you want
Sherwood Dungeon on your website, let me know.