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Designing Virtual Worlds

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Designing Virtual Worlds
AuthorRichard Bartle
PublisherNew Riders
Publication date
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint (Paperback)

Designing Virtual Worlds is a book about the practice of virtual world development by Richard Bartle. It has been noted as an authoritative source regarding the history of world-based online games.[1] College courses have been taught using it.[2][3][4][5]

In 2021, the author made the book freely available under a Creative Commons license on his website.[6]



Designing Virtual Worlds argues that the fundamentals of player relationships to the virtual world and each other are independent of technical issues and are characterized by a blending of online and offline identity.[7] According to the book, it is the designer's role to know what will provide players with a positive game experience,[8] the purpose of virtual worlds is the player's exploration of self,[9] as well as for its expansion of the earlier 4-type Bartle gamer style taxonomy into an 8-type model.[10] The book also focuses on the practicalities of its subject.[11]



It has been called "the bible of MMORPG design"[12] and spoken of as "excellent",[13] "seminal",[14] "widely read",[15] "the standard text on the subject",[16] "the most comprehensive guide to gaming virtual worlds"[17] and "a foundation text for researchers and developers of virtual worlds"[18] that is "strongly recommended for anyone actually thinking about building one of these places"[19] and "describes the minimum level of competency you should have when discussing design issues for virtual worlds".[20]

It wasn't all sunshine and roses, though. One reviewer, Dave Rickey of Skotos.net, a website founded in 1999 and dedicated to "multiplayer interactive fiction on the Internet"[21] , called it a "must-read" work, but that he found "much that was questionable, incomplete, or just erroneous".[22]


  1. ^ Williams, J. Patrick; Smith, Jonas Heide (2007-03-28). The Players' Realm: Studies on the Culture of Video Games and Gaming. McFarland & Company. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-7864-2832-8.
  2. ^ Castronova, Edward (2004-08-26). "Virtual Worlds 101: Draft Syllabus". Terra Nova. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  3. ^ Thomas, Douglas (2004-12-10). "COMM 499: Massive Multiplayer Online Games". University of Southern California. Archived from the original on 2005-02-14. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  4. ^ Delwiche, Aaron (2004-12-10). "COMM 3344: Games for the web". Trinity University. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  5. ^ Kipp, Neill A. (2003-12-05). "CSC 5807 — Special Topics" (PDF). University of Colorado Denver. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2004-07-31. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  6. ^ "Richard Bartle Releases His Classic Book Designing Virtual Worlds for Free Online". New World Notes. 2021-08-17. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  7. ^ Wallace, Mark (2006-01-31). "In Celebration of the Inner Rogue". The Escapist (30): 1–2. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  8. ^ Klastrup, Lisbeth (May 2007). "Why Death Matters: Understanding Gameworld Experience". Journal of Virtual Reality and Broadcasting. 4 (3). ISSN 1860-2037. Archived from the original on 2010-07-14. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  9. ^ Koster, Raph (2006-01-05). "Traits, stories, and holy grails". Raph Koster's Website. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  10. ^ Yee, Nick (June 2005). "Motivations of Play in MMORPGs: Results from a Factor Analytic Approach" (PDF). Proceedings of the DiGRA Conference 2005. Digital Games Research Association. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  11. ^ Klastrup, Lisbeth; Tosca, Susana (2004). "Transmedial Worlds - Rethinking Cyberworld Design" (PDF). 2004 International Conference on Cyberworlds. IEEE Computer Society. pp. 409–416. doi:10.1109/CW.2004.67. ISBN 0-7695-2140-1. S2CID 8913901. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  12. ^ Sempere, Andrew (2009-10-01). "The Work of Art in the Age of Virtual Production" (PDF). IBM Research. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2010-05-05. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ Jennings, Scott; Macris, Alexander (2005-12-19). Massively Multiplayer Games For Dummies. For Dummies. p. 7. ISBN 0-471-75273-8.
  14. ^ Zichermann, Gabe; Linder, Joselin (2010-03-29). Game-Based Marketing: Inspire Customer Loyalty Through Rewards, Challenges, and Contests. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 149. ISBN 978-0-470-56223-9.
  15. ^ Geraci, Robert (2010-03-05). Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality. Oxford University Press. pp. 95. ISBN 978-0-19-539302-6.
  16. ^ "Participants". Living Game Worlds IV. Georgia Institute of Technology. 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  17. ^ Book, Betsy (October 2004). "Moving Beyond the Game: Social Virtual Worlds" (PDF). State of Play Conference 2. New York Law School. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  18. ^ Levy, Luis; Novak, Jeannie (2009-06-22). Game Development Essentials: Game QA & Testing. Delmar Cengage Learning. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-4354-3947-4.
  19. ^ Castronova, Edward (December 2003). "On Virtual Economies". Game Studies. 3 (2). Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  20. ^ Green, Brian (2003-12-24). "untitled comment". Terra Nova. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  21. ^ Allen, Christopher (2020-09-21). "Goodbye from Skotos". Skotos (1). Retrieved 2023-12-22.
  22. ^ Rickey, Dave (2003-08-12). "If you can't say anything nice..." Engines of Creation (6). Skotos. Retrieved 2010-05-06.