Welcome to Raph Koster's personal website: MMOs, gaming, writing, art, music, books.
Welcome to Raph Koster's personal website: MMOs, gaming, writing, art, music, books.

The whole Web
Raph's Website

These are full-blown essays, papers, and articles.

Slideshows and presentation materials from conferences.

Interviews and Panels
Reprints of non-game-specific interviews, and transcripts of panels and roundtables.

Excerpts from blog, newsgroup, and forum posts.

The "Laws of Online World Design" in various forms.

A timeline of developments in online worlds.

A Theory of Fun for Game Design
My book on why games matter and what fun is.

Insubstantial Pageants
A book I started and never finished outlining the basics of online world design.

Links to resources on online world design.

Game design is an art and a craft, and like all arts and crafts, it has techniques and approaches, and that implies that it can support a criticism; said criticism exists though it is not very sophisticated. Mud design is also an art and a craft, and it also has techniques and approaches, but there is no criticism, no self-evaluation, no standards defined, no study of what has gone before. And without self-critique, it cannot improve except in fits and starts. If this genre is to evolve into more than game design, which I firmly believe it has already begun to do, then it will have to support at least the critical apparatus of game design, and preferably the critical apparatus of many disciplines that most people do not bother to link: server design, and writing, and hypertextual theory, and art (for graphics are coming and will dominate, it's not worth fighting over), and psychology and sociology... Game designers today generally do not know even the short history of computer game design; we must as a community educate ourselves and each other if we want the community and its art and craft to grow.

--from a newsgroup posting c. 1995


I'm currently the President of a new startup working in the area of virtual worlds and entertainment. It's not yet announced; you'll just have to be patient to hear more about that!

Regardless of whatever my business affiliation might be, all views expressed on this site are my own, and not necessarily endorsed by any former or current employer.

I used to work at Sony Online Entertainment as Chief Creative Officer. My last project there as the main designer was Star Wars Galaxies, an online version of the Star Wars universe. Previously, I was the lead designer for Ultima Online for Electronic Arts. I've also contributed in various fashions to other games, which you can see listed on MobyGames or Wikipedia.

In the Galaxies community, I am known as Holocron. In the Ultima Online community, I am known as Designer Dragon, but the text mud community knows me better as Ptah, one of the implementors for LegendMUD. Lately I've just been using my real name more and more.

I was a pretty active poster on theMUD-Devmailing list, back when it was active. I also do quite a lot of speaking on the general subjects of games, online community, virtual worlds and the manu issues surrounding them, and so on.

You can read my complete CV here.

I started playing video games when Pong came out. I moved on through the Atari 2600 and on to Atari 8 bit computers. When I was a kid some friends and I actually did the "code games and sell them in Ziploc baggies" thing. We never hit it big, though, since we mostly sold to our school friends. We were also,of course, into AD&D in a big way, and all the trappings of geekdom. I designed around sixteen different board games of all types that we used to play during school. Probably the most epic was a Caribbean pirates strategy game that usually lasted around 8 hours per game.

By the time I got to late high school and my college years, however, that all went on hold while I pursued the life of a writer. It wasn't until graduate school, when I was introduced almost simultaneously to muds and the academic study of hypertext, that my interests were re-awakened. I spent a lot of time on the mud hobby, and after finishing my MFA, I was hired by Origin as part of the original team behind UO.

This here is a collection of writings of various sorts on gaming-related issues. Some of it is of only historical interest. Some of it is Legend-specific, and some of it is UO-specific, and so on.


Why do I do this online game thing?

I'm in it for the sake of the state of the art, so to speak. I actually do not see myself doing this as a career my whole life. At some point I'll probably backtrack and go back to some of the other things that have been central parts of my life: music, writing, etc. So for the moment, I am doing it for the sake for certain ideals regarding virtual communities and the like. In other words, I am an idealist on a virtual crusade.

Then again, doing it as a religious crusade gets lots of players saying you're on a hobbyhorse, grinding an ideological axe, etc (the latter is a direct quote from a newsgroup post I read once). And ya know what, they're right. :) As long as I don't cross over into fanaticism, I'll feel OK about it. ;) (Of course, if I did cross over, it's in the nature of fanaticism not to notice...!)


Child's Play

A Theory of Fun
for Game Design

Cover of A Theory of Fun



Buy from Amazon

After the Flood

Cover for After the Flood CD

Available on CD

More stuff to buy

Gratuitous Penguin 2006 Wall Calendar

Gratuitous Penguin 2006 Wall Calendar

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"The world the way they thought it was..."