Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Guide to the philosophy and strategy of designing virtual worlds, February 7, 2006
This review is from: Designing Virtual Worlds (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. Some readers may also be somewhat frustrated by the fact that the book talks more about what can go wrong in the design of a virtual world - overly complex and static story arcs, characters that players do not get invested in, characters in which players get too invested, etc - than what can go right. I really enjoyed the book, mainly because it moves the focus of the potential virtual world designer from the artistic and technical viewpoint to the player's viewpoint - why they plays games, and why a player would pick your game versus someone else's game.
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