How I learn programming by building an MMORPG from the ground up 7 times

Fang-Pen Lin
13 min readSep 3, 2019

Notice: This article is also published at my own blog and dev.to

It has been twenty years since I started programming. Today I want to share the story of how I learn to code by building an MMORPG from the ground up 7 times since I was 12 years old. Sounds crazy? Yep, that’s how I did it. It all starts with an MMORPG I like a lot while I was a kid, it’s called Lineage.

Screenshot of Lineage, from Lineage servers shutting down in the West, GameSpot

Back in my day, it was the most popular online game in Taiwan, and surely the most popular one among my classmates. The game was designed to always be exponentially harder to get to the next level from the previous one. As a 12 years old kid, I didn’t have time to get to the top level. So I talked to myself:

Well, since I cannot get to the high level in the game, why not make one myself? So that I can be the god in the game, I can do anything I want with by typing a command!

This motivation doesn’t sound creepy at all until I watched an episode of Black Mirror on Netflix.

A clip from of Black Mirror from Netflix, “A girl is freaking out and running away”

Challenge the final boss when you are level 1

You don’t say, building an MMORPG as a programming beginner is like challenging the final boss immediately when you are level 1 just out of newbie village. I realized I have no clue how to build it. Fortunately, for what I’ve learned from playing RPG — if you cannot beat a boss, you go around to kill easier monsters, level up, gear up and come back to try again later. So, I did. The first language I learned was Visual Basic 6.0. I picked up basic things like if statement, for-loop, how to open a file, how to put a control on the form, how to add an event handler.

Later on, I learned how to use Winsocket control to open a TCP socket and communicate between two programs. It was like a new lego brick in my toy box.

Now I know how to make an online game! Maybe I can start building the MMORPG already?

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Fang-Pen Lin

Master Generalist 🌈 Software Engineer 💻, author of https://leanpub.com/rough-road, creator of https://zeroinbox.io, opinions are my own