Laws of Online World Design

 

By now, the Laws have taken on a life of their own. After several Game Developer’s Conference roundtables, and their gradual spread through the mud design community via the authoritative sponsorship of the MUD-Dev mailing list, I seem to have ended up with credit for all the nuggets of wisdom contained herein. Hence my desire to set the record straight and explain where these came from.

Some of the laws are indeed my own… but the genesis of the Laws came from an email conversation with J. C. Lawrence, in which I suggested that it would be nice if the various aphorisms and lessons tossed about on the MUD-Dev mailing list were collected. At the time I was thinking of something along the lines of The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, I suppose. I went through the mailing list archives and my own writings and pulled out a list of aphorisms and observations I judged astute. Then I issued a call on the list for yet more laws, and got quite a lot in response.

Some time later, Rich Vogel and I were preparing a roundtable for the Game Developer’s Conference Roadtrip in Austin. We used the Laws as the basis of the roundtable, which proved to be very successful and led to our being asked to present the laws several more times. At the 1999 Austin Roadtrip I didn’t speak, and instead Damion Schubert and Rich presented an abbreviated presentation.

At this point, the attribution of many of the Laws has been lost. I have diligently maintained a list of contributors, but the association between the contributor and the specific Law is broken. However, a few laws ended up named after their author, as a lark. In the case of Koster’s Law, I must plead in my defense that I did not dub it thus-that was the handiwork of Mike Sellers. In fact, his use of the term is what inspired my conversation with J. C. Lawrence.

You can read them in either the full form, direct quotes and laws, or read through the Game Developers Conference presentation that I used to do.

Laws of Online World Design

The Laws of Online World Design

The original form, as collected aphorisms.

Presentations

The CGDC presentation on the Rules of Online World Design

The GDC presentation notes.