Mailbag: I want to become a designer

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Sep 262012

Dear Raph Koster,

I want to become a Game Designer.

As a child I used to judge games very harshly on things like graphics and funness. Although as I’ve grown older I’ve seen there is a lot more to games then meets the eye. I don’t want to sound all professional and stodgy, I’ve just reached the stage in my life where I need to choose my path. Whether it is the correct one will be with the help of you.

I want to be a Game Designer. There are courses at Universities specifically for Designing games or Programming for games, (programming is what I would want to start doing in the industry) although it feels like I’m just the same as everyone else who picked up a controller or keyboard and said “I can do better than this”.

Simply put I was hoping you could give me some advice on how to achieve my dream. The fun is in the learning as a well written book once taught me (wink wink), and the Gaming industry is ever growing.

Thank you for your time,

H_____ P_____.


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The Gametrekking Omnibus

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Sep 252012

A long while ago, I pointed readers of the blog towards Freedom Bridge, a notgame about Freedom Bridge.

I also later mentioned that the creator was doing a Kickstarter to go off for a few years and live in Asia and make games like these about his experience.

I just got email from Jordan Magnuson letting me know that not only was the Kickstarter funded, but he’s done!

I just wanted to let you know that the project was successfully funded, and as of today, is officially concluded… I’ve released a downloadable collection of all my Gametrekking creations (along with a brief retrospective) at

I have not been able to dive deeply into all of it yet, but what I have played can only be described as poetic.
I hesitate to say “enjoy!” — so let me rather say, go look, experience, and appreciate.

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Ultima Online is fifteen

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Sep 252012

Today was the fifteenth anniversary of the launch of Ultima Online. For those who would like to read up on some of the stuff I have written in the past, you can do so by clicking here. Warning: rambling ahead…

Here’s something that I think no one has ever seen. My wife and I were driving from Alabama (where we were in grad school) to Austin, to visit friends there — Sherry Menton and Rick Delashmit. All four of us worked together on LegendMUD.

Kristen and I had been talking about making another mud, one with deeper simulation elements. We talked about having abstract properties running behind things, instead of hard-coding every quest. How much cooler would it be, we thought, if the NPCs were simulated entities, rather than merely responding to player actions?

We took notes on a pad of paper, as we drove. We took turns, which is why the handwriting in these images changes:

One of those pages has the old address of Ancient Anguish, a mud we were checking out. It’s still up. As you can see, a lot of the heavy lifting was done by my wife, the economist. 🙂 Some of this stuff ended up making it into LegendMUD — the weather stuff, for example. You also see there the notes on the genesis of the moods system that was first in Legend, then eventually in Star Wars Galaxies. It wasn’t until ’05 that I was able to do the water flowing downhill stuff, as part of an R&D project at SOE that was never used for anything. It worked, though.

Here was born the resource system. When we were asked to submit design samples, the resource system is what we sent in. It was more elaborated than this, much closer to what was eventually built for the game. Then they asked us to submit quest samples. They had sent us some sample code, to ask if we could read and understand it. We could… and we weren’t very impressed by it. I sent in the Beowulf quest from Legend as my sample…

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Sep 172012

On Saturday I met with the Omaha Game Developers Association in a Google Hangout for a couple of hours of interview-style questions. The whole thing was streamed live on YouTube and also captured afterwards, so here it is for those who have the patience.

Among the things we talked about:

And way more… vid after the break.

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Sep 062012

So the third thing I will be doing at GDCOnline has now been announced:

A Theory of Fun 10 Years Later

Design | 60-Minute | Track Keynote | All

Ten years ago, at the very first Austin Game Conference, online gaming pioneer Raph Koster delivered an inspiring keynote on why games matter, how they teach players, and what fun is. That talk served as the foundation for his valuable book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, challenging game makers to build entertaining, engaging, and addictive experiences. Now, for the tenth anniversary of his presentation, Koster will revisit A Theory of Fun to discuss what has changed in the science and the theory in the intervening years.

Yup, this is actually the tenth anniversary of the original Theory of Fun talk. Hard to believe! I think most did not become aware of it until I reprised it as the keynote of the Serious Games Summit at GDC the next year… And then, of course, the book also followed later that year too.

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