The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

8:37am on Monday, 14th March, 2005:



I bought 5 books at GDC, and have just finished reading the first one. Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, by R. V. Kelly 2, caught my eye for obvious reasons.

It's not what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be some cynical written-by-a-journalist fare that barely scratched the surface of the subject while purporting to have depth, but it wasn't. Instead, it was an insightful piece of work written by someone who apparently hasn't read any research on the subject. This made it quite infuriating at times.

Example: on page 87 we get a description of how players mature over time as they play, and the observation: "MMORPGs also act as allegories for spiritual development. Think of them as interactive Pilgrim's Progress stories or Jataka Tales for the 21st century". That line could almost summarise much of the thrust of my own book, except I don't see them as allegories — I see them as actual vehicles for personal development. The same happens elsewhere: the author has an insight that's quite remarkable given that he hasn't read anything similar before, but it seems slightly off-centre to those of us who have.

This does mean we get some refreshingly different discussions. The one on names, for example, is very citable. Again, though, there are some non-canon opinions that come straight out of the player wannabe designer handbook: advocating macroing, combining massively multiplayer games with other genres (with apparently no dilution of the charms of either), practically zero penalties for failure (because players come to virtual worlds precisely so they don't fail), ...

It's not a book I'd recommend for players (although the 50 pages of virtual world reviews could be useful), but I think every designer should read it. It contains much new stuff, and new ways to look at old stuff. Just make sure you filter everything through what you already know, though.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).