September 7, 1971
Long Island, New York, U.S.
Raphael "Raph" Koster (born September 7, 1971) is an American entrepreneur, game designer, and author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design. Koster is widely recognized for his work as the lead designer of Ultima Online and the creative director behind Star Wars Galaxies. From 2006 until 2013 he worked as the founder and president of Metaplace (previously operating as Areae and acquired by social gaming company Playdom in 2010, which was in turn acquired by Disney) producing a Facebook game platform.
Koster attended Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, receiving a bachelor's degree in English (Creative Writing) and Spanish in 1992. The same year he became involved with MUDs as a developer of Worlds of Carnage, then in 1994 moved on to become implementor of LegendMUD, where he was known as Ptah. He also played MUME for a time. On May 10, 1992, he married Kristen who would later work alongside him at Origin Systems as a game designer.
In 1995, he received a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and joined Origin Systems as the lead designer of Ultima Online. Koster was also the lead designer of Ultima Online: The Second Age, Ultima Online Live, and an unannounced and cancelled title until 2000, when he joined Verant Interactive in Austin as the creative director of Star Wars Galaxies.
Promoted to chief creative officer in 2003, he relocated to Sony Online Entertainment in San Diego where he spent three years primarily responsible for business development. In March 2006, Koster left the company to work on Metaplace which, at the end, was a social gaming platform for Facebook games. Since 2013 he is an independent designer and consultant.
Koster is a charter member of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, and a member of the IGDA, ASCAP, and Omicron Delta Kappa. He is also a frequent speaker at game industry conferences such as the GDC, DICE, State of Play, and E3. He presently lives in San Diego, California with his wife and family.
- LegendMUD (emeritus implementor, 1994)
- Ultima Online (lead designer; Origin Systems 1997)
- Ultima Online: The Second Age (lead designer; Origin Systems 1998)
- Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided (creative director; Verant Interactive 2003)
- EverQuest II (chief creative officer; Sony Online Entertainment 2004)
- Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade (chief creative officer and editor; Sony Online Entertainment 2005)
- GripShift (chief creative officer; Sony Online Entertainment 2005)
- Frantix (chief creative officer; Sony Online Entertainment 2005)
- Champions: Return to Arms (chief creative officer; Sony Online Entertainment 2005)
- Field Commander (chief creative officer; Sony Online Entertainment 2006)
- After the Flood (1999)
- A Theory of Fun for Game Design — Foreword by Will Wright (ISBN 1-932111-97-2)
- "Declaring the Rights of Avatars"
- A Story About A Tree, (May 1998), revolving around the Karyn incident
- "The Laws of Online World Design" (GDC 1999 presentation)
- Koster, Raph. "Geek Fun Isn't Frivolous; Alien Swarms of Thundering, Flashing Games Hit Town This Week. They're Here to Make Us Smarter." Los Angeles Times May 15, 2005, sec. M1.
- "As Seen In Modern Lair" (October 2007)
- Bainbridge, William Sims (2004). Berkshire Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interactionß. 2. Berkshire Publishing Group. p. 474. ISBN 0-9743091-2-5.
UO set new standards in virtual environment design. Its visionary lead designer, Raph Koster, introduced many innovations [...]
- Mulligan, Jessica; Patrovsky, Bridgette (2003). Developing Online Games: An Insider's Guide. New Riders. pp. 145–146. ISBN 1-59273-000-0.
At the 2002 Game Developer's Conference, an audience member asked the panel on "Building the Next-Generation PW" how he, as a writer, could ensure the integrity of his story in a PW. The reply came from panel member Raph Koster, the creative director on Star Wars Galaxies and former lead designer of UO: "Get over yourselves; the rest of the world is coming. Okay? People value self-expression. Is 'story' going to go away? No. Is careful crafting going to go away? No. Are the professionals engaged in that going to go away? No. Well, except that IP—the concept of intellectual property—may, but that's a whole other side discussion. The thing is that people want to express themselves and they don't really care that 99% of everything is crap, because they are positive that the 1% they made isn't. Okay? And fundamentally, they get ecstatic as soon as five people see it, right?"
- Bartle, Richard (2003). Designing Virtual Worlds. New Riders. p. 21. ISBN 0-13-101816-7.
That people did play is a tribute to the game's design team, led by Raph Koster. Raph had a background in virtual world design, having worked on 1992's Worlds of Carnage (the first DikuMUD to have an embedded scripting language) before moving on to found LegendMUD in 1994 with Kristen Koster (his wife), Rick Delashmit, and others. [...] LegendMUD was itself an innovative game, boasting a number of features to promote role-playing that had never been implemented before. For example, unlike other DikuMUD derivatives, LegendMUD was classless (players don't elect to be fighters, magic-users, healers, thieves, or whatever); this concept was to shape the design of Ultima Online powerfully. The wide-ranging playing experience of the designers meant that they could draw on ideas from many other codebases, too.
- Scott, Ryan (April 2006). "The CGW Interview: Raph Koster". Computer Gaming World (261): 37. Archived from the original on November 23, 2008.
1994: The award-winning LegendMUD, codesigned by Koster, launches (www.legendmud.org—still active today).
- Koster, Raph (May 10, 2009). "17th Wedding Anniversary". Raph's Website. Retrieved November 26, 2009.
- Koster, Raph (December 18, 2013). "CV".
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Raph Koster.|
- Raph Koster's Website
- Areae, Inc. at the Library of Congress Web Archives (archived 2008-08-01)
- A Theory of Fun for Game Design official website
- MobyGames Biography
- "Raph Koster Leaves Sony Online Entertainment" (Gamasutra)
- Pham, Alex. "Game Design; Building a Community—Even a Virtual One—Takes Work." Los Angeles Times Sep 6, 2001, sec. T5.
- Interview: December 21, 2006 at the Wayback Machine (archived 2007-10-12) (Amber Night)
- Interview: December 25, 2006 at the Wayback Machine (archived 2008-07-23) (Stratics)
- Interview: March 22, 2006 (Game Studies)
- Interview: July 25, 2006 (The Escapist)
- Interview: March 10, 2007 (GameZombie.tv)
- Interview: October 11th, 2007 at the Wayback Machine (archived 2007-10-19) (The MMO Gamer)