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Designing Virtual Worlds Paperback – July 25, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0131018167 ISBN-10: 0131018167 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Designing Virtual Worlds is the most comprehensive treatment of virtual worlddesign to-date from one of the true pioneers and most sought-after design consultants. It's a tour de force of VW design, stunning in intellectual scope, spanning the literary,economic, sociological, psychological, physical, technological, and ethicalunderpinnings of design, while providing the reader with a deep, well-grounded understanding of VW design principles. It covers everything from MUDs to MOOs to MMORPGs, from text-based to graphical VWs.

Designing Virtual Worlds brings a rich, well-developed approach to the designconcepts behind virtual worlds. It is grounded in the earliest approaches to such designs, but the examples discussed in the book run the gamut from the earliest MUDs to the present-day MMORPG games mentioned above. It teaches the reader the actual, underlying design principles that many designers do not understand when they borrow or build from previous games. There is no other design book on the market in the area of online games and virtual worlds that provides the rich detail, historical context, and conceptual depth ofDesigning Virtual Worlds.

About the Author

Richard Allan Bartle, Ph.D., co-wrote the first virtual world, MUD ("Multi-User Dungeon"), in 1978, thus being at the forefront of the online gaming industry from its very inception. A former university lecturer in Artificial Intelligence, he is an influential writer on all aspects of virtual world design and development. As an independent consultant, he has worked with almost every major online gaming company in the U.K. and the U.S. over the past 20 years. Richard lives with his wife, Gail, and their two children, Jennifer and Madeleine, in a village just outside Colchester, England. He works in virtual worlds.

These reviewers contributed their considerable hands-on expertise to the development process for Designing Virtual Worlds. As the book was being written, these dedicated professionals reviewed all the material for technical content, organization, and flow. Their feedback was critical to ensuring that Designing Virtual Worlds fits our readers' need for the highest-quality technical information.

Matt Mihaly is the founding partner, lead designer, and CEO of Achaea LLC. Founded in 1996 in San Francisco, Achaea designs and produces some of the world's most popular and successful commercial text MUDs, including Achaea, Dreams of Divine Lands (http://www.achaea.com), Aetolia, the Midnight Age (http://www.aetolia.com), and Imperian (http://www.imperian.com)—all of which run on Achaea's proprietary network engine, Rapture. Matt graduated from Cornell University in 1994 with a degree in Political Science and is a licensed stockbroker. These experiences have informed his game design tendencies and he is an expert on business models, political systems, and community dynamics in virtual worlds. Along with the inevitable interest in games, he spends his free time pursuing Brazilian jujitsu and kickboxing, cooking, travelling, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and scuba diving.

Damion Schubert has been working in online world design professionally for over seven years. He was originally the lead designer of Meridian 59 (and several expansions), as well as the lead designer for the defunct Ultima Online 2. He has also served as a contractor for such projects as The Sims Online and Kalisto's Highlander Online. Currently Damion is serving as a senior designer at Wolfpack, which shipped Shadowbane in March 2003.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: New Riders; 1 edition (July 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131018167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131018167
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Boeck on November 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've almost finished this book, and I have to say this is one tome that's a critical necessity for designing and implementing MUDs and/or MMORPGs.

There isn't any code, but Mr. Bartle covers the entire spectrum of the online Virtual World from start to finish. The style of the book is very philosophical in nature, discussing and detailing a problem, then offering what seems to be all possible solutions... and the problems those solutions are likely to spawn. In the final analysis, you have to make the decision as to which solution you will implement. Some of these decisions are not easy at all.

I'm an experienced MUD player and programmer, and I had my own ideas regarding the direction I wanted to go to create the "ultimate" MUD using my own super-duper ideas. This book uncovered numerous flaws in my design that I had not fully considered, and literallly saved me hundreds of hours in time by detailing WHY my ill-considered ideas would certainly cause the MUD to fail.

Every aspect of VW's are explored in detail from all angles. Sometimes this exploration process made the journey a bit tedious, because I wanted the best solution to the problem being discussed... now... and be done with it.

Unfortunatly, that's not easy to do when you're presented with problems that have no perfect solutions, and the requirement is to make a decision... and live with the consequences. Now or later, you WILL decide how you'll deal with this or that design problem. If you don't sort it out, your MUD will never exist, or it will fail to survive. Mr. Bartle is courteous enough to tell you why.

If you're planning a MUD, you MUST consider all the topics he explores in this book, and begin the difficult process of making your design decisions.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
This looks like the definitive book on designing virtual worlds, and is likely to stay so for many years. It clearly shows that the author had 25 years of experience--not just as a designer of such worlds, but also as a user--to draw on, while at the same time being sufficiently detached from the industry to be able to offer candid opinions on any subject.
It's hard to think of anything on the subject that Bartle does not at least touch on (providing extensive, scholarly quality references to a wealth of further on- and offline materials), from the deepest metaphysical philosophy to the daily squabbles between users and administrators on virtual worlds large and small. Bartle does not in general provide cut-and-dried solutions to the world design issues, but he gives an extensive discussion of approaches attempted and how they succeeded and failed.
My only reservation with this otherwise excellent book was that I found some of the discussion a bit overly extensive. I would have preferred a book maybe 200 pages shorter, especially towards the final chapters of the book.
If you're planning on designing a virtual world, buying this book is more than just a good idea: Failing to do so would border on criminal negligence.
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Format: Paperback
To begin with, this book is not a programming book. There is no code, no discussion of VRML, MPEG-4, or X3D. Instead, this book stands back and takes a "big picture" look at the design of a virtual world from the viewpoint of systems engineering, social engineering, philosophy, history, and psychology. Ethical considerations are even tossed in for good measure.

The book starts out with chapters on the history of virtual worlds and the cultural influences that affected their characteristics. Next, there is a fly-over view of the "production line" of building a virtual world. Bartle then turns his attention to the players - who they are, what they want, and how a virtual world can meet their needs. World design is examined from the standpoint of virtual geography, virtual world citizens, and finally the physics required to implement your world. Chapter 5 is about the specific sociology and physiology of the virtual world - skill levels, individual characteristics, how virtual inhabitants divide themselves into groups, combat, and even the meaning of death in the virtual world. The final three chapters are very philisophical in nature. Chapter 6 is basically a liberal arts syllabus through the prism of virtual world design. The last chapter, on ethical considerations, talks about censorship, and also looks at the player as a person and how game playing in virtual worlds can hurt more than help some kinds of people, particularly those prone to addiction.

Bartle's social commentaries may be a bit long-winded for some people, although I found them interesting.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By jak321 on November 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Richard Bartle has an amazing amount of experience in designing and building virtual worlds. This book is a MUST READ for anyone designing a multiplayer on-line game or environment-- everyone from small community MUDs to huge massively-multiplayer systems. I would even suggest it for people writing more traditional multiplayer LAN games.
This is NOT a programming book. You will find very very little information on how to program or develop a world system or the back-end infrastructure. What you will find is page after page of design experince on topics such as virtual world "laws", economies, chracter relations, and player communities. Basically all the stuff after "our world is going to be a fantasy world with humans and elfs and monsters." Most of the information he offers can only come from trial and error-- often very costly trial and error. As he points out, you can patch most code, but you can't patch an economy or a character design flaw.
The book is written in a very relaxed style. It is not an guide on how to build the perfect world. There no perfect answers to most of these problems-- and besides, virtual worlds are SUPPOSED to be different. Rather, the general theme of the book is that if you are going to make decisions, THINK and make INFORMED decisions. This is done through many many discussions, e.g. "If you put this feature into your world, it will likely cause these side effects (bet you didn't think of that!), which have caused these problems for past designers." Reading this book is like sitting down with a bunch of other smart designers and asking "What if we do this?" "What if we try that?" only he has a general idea of most of the answers.
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