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.
A book I started and never finished outlining the basics of online world design.
Links to resources on online world design.
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Another SWG board post explaining why nerfs are inevitable.
I understand why people hate "nerfing." There's even a very eloquent article out there arguing against the very idea.
However, "nerfing" is completely inevitable and will always be with us in online gaming. Your AC example is an example of a nerf. It's a fictionally nicely handled nerf, yes, and they did a great job with it, but it was still a nerf. And you can't always create fiction to explain every little change.
Why do nerfs happen? A brief list:
Lastly--I strongly disagree with your position that "if the game allows it, it's legal." The game of chess allows you to pick up the rook and brain your opponent with it (nothing in the chess rules about not doing so!) but that doesn't mean it's OK. I'd much much rather have a playerbase that plays by the spirit of the rules and not just by the letter of the law. The spirit of the rules is going to be "don't cheat, and don't ruin the game for others." And I'm sorry if you feel otherwise, but an exploiter does both.
Other games have tried rapprochement with the exploiter community, and it has ALWAYS turned around and bitten them in the [self-edit].
For the record, the term "nerfing" entered online gaming vocabulary because of UO. At some point, we reduced the power of swords in melee combat, and players started complaining that they were hitting each other woth nerf swords. The rest is history...