Insubstantial Pageants


A long while back, I started to write a book about online world design. It stagnated and was never finished, after about 70 pages worth of writing. In practice, these days you should simply refer instead to Dr Richard Bartle’s superb Designing Virtual Worlds. But since there are several links to various portions of this text out there, I figured I would leave it up. Any chapters without links are ones that don’t exist!


  • Part One: The Play’s The Thing

    Hamlet, Act ii, Sc 2.
    In which we attempt a definition of what virtual worlds are, discuss what has been done before in their name, how to evaluate what you do, and what the populace of these worlds is like
    • 3. A Definition

      • A Brief History
      • Text Versus Graphics
      • A Somewhat Strict Definition
    • 4. A Spatial Representation of the Virtual World

      • Room-based Maps
      • Continuous Maps
      • The Persistence of Space
    • 5. Avatar Representation in the Space

      • So What is Role-playing?
      • Identity
      • Names
      • Descriptions and Appearances
      • Profile
    • 6. A Sandbox to Play In

      • The Tiers of Data Storage
      • Overall Mud Architecture
      • Design Patterns for Persisting Maps
      • Design Patterns for Objects
    • 7. Persistent World Design Patterns

    • 8. Things That Aren’t Muds But Should Be Understood

    • 9. So What Are We Making?

    • 10. Who Are The Players?

  • Part Two: All the World’s a Stage

    As You Like It, Act ii, Sc 7
    In which we discuss design details of what goes in the virtual world, so that players may interact with it and with each other
    • 11. The Environment

    • 12. Social Structures Online

    • 13. Communication Systems

    • 14. Advancement Systems

    • 15. Game Data

    • 16. Performance and Scalability

  • Part Three: The Play Pleased Not the Million

    Hamlet, Act ii Sc 2
    In which we discuss what happens to virtual world design elements once the world is publicly available
    • 17. Your Ongoing Team

    • 18. The Newbie Experience

    • 19. Ownership

    • 20. Designing PvP Systems

    • 21. Economy

    • 22. Game Data’s Lifecycle

    • 23. Storytelling

  • Part Four: What Fools These Mortals Be!

    Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act iii Sc 2
    In which we discuss the issues of community management in virtual spaces, and typical administrative models, problems, and solutions
    • 24. Government

    • 25. Administrative Models

    • 26. Servers

    • 27. Clients

  • Part Five: The Forms of Things Unknown

    Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act v Sc 1
    In which we identify key problems with virtual worlds, and daydream about what may come in the future
    • 28. Core Problems With What We’ve Got Now

    • 29. New Game Types

    • 30. V-Commerce

  • Appendices