The writings found on this page tend not to be complete thoughts. By that I mean that they are, as the section title implies, snippets–usually snippets out of conversations that I found memorable and worth keeping around because they help remind me of the things that I have learned in the past and the ideas I’d like to try in the future.
By and large these come from one of two sources: email exchanges on mailing lists such as MUD-Dev, or public postings to Usenet or web discussion boards.

Player Types survey

This is a highly non-scientific little survey done to determine a given player’s Bartle’s type (for more on what that means, check the section on Gaming links). If you like this, a much fancier one is available at this location.

Scripting languages in Diku muds

For historical purposes only, here’s a description of how embedded scripting languages came to be used in muds derived from the Diku codebase. These days, of course, “mobprogs” are taken for granted.

Building tools

This was written to discuss why player building, which is such a major part of many hobbyist muds, is largely absent from the commercial endeavors.

Text muds vs graphical muds

A brief note on whether graphical muds will kill of text ones.

LPMuds vs Diku muds

An excerpt from a debate about the merits of two text mud codebases.

Long distance communication

An attempt to arrive at a taxonomy of communications methods that are placed in muds.

Bruno Bettelheim applied to muds

A discussion of goal-oriented versus free play playstyles, and how Bettelheim’s writings relate.

World states

A brief thing on what a “world state saving mud” is.

Selling virtual property for real money

A passionate denunciation of those who say that private sales of virtual assets for real cash is going to doom virtual worlds. Also includes some playerkilling stuff and discussion of what matters in a virtual world that snuck in there somehow because the discussion digressed.

“Game” vs “world”

Is it a game or is it a world? A discussion of why UO went the way it did.

Enforcing social mores

About the difficulties in player policing of virtual environments.

On mud economies

This is just avery very brief little thing about difficulties in constructing a functional virtual environment.

Is the game fair?

A kneejerk reaction to demanding fairness in a virtual world.


My take on requiring roleplaying in large-scale environments.

Being mean online

Why are people mean to others online?

“Leaving out” combat

On trying to make a completely safe world, and the challenges that come with that.

Virtual sociopaths

I coined this term to describe people who act sociopathic in a virtual setting but are no such thing in real life.

Storytelling in muds

A look at categorizing the nine forms of storytelling (aka the storytelling cube) that are used in virtual settings.

A UO postmortem of sorts

In the middle of 2000, after leaving Origin, I was asked many questions by UO players about decisions that had been made and if I had any specific learning from the experience. This Usenet post was the response.

On “Pay to Play” Or, MMORPG Business Models 101

This series of web posts discusses the ongoing costs required to run a large-scale commercial graphical mud, and justifies the need for a monthly fee.

Avatars are modes of expression

An answer to the question, “why have player races in your game if they all have the same abilities?

On Socialization and Convenience

A series of web and mailing list posts discussing the tight relationship between architected downtime in online worlds, feedback loops, and socialization.

Jared Diamond applied to muds

A series of mailing list posts discussing the applicability of Guns, Germs, and Steel in particular towards online worlds.

The recipe for advancing the field is…

A long-time Mud-dev poster was upset over what he saw as the decaying quality of the playerbase, the decline of free muds relative to commercial muds, the lack of information sharing in the diffuse mud development community, and various other ills. These were my replies.

What are muds FOR?

An exchange with Dave Rickey on the MUD-Dev mailing list that started out with the question of whether online worlds were a dramatic medium, and went from there.

“Cooperative games don’t have to be static…”

A reply to the title statement, written on Usenet newsgroups in January of 2002.

Playing to Bake Bread

A brief history of the whole “who plays to bake bread” controversy, and a brief description of the game system that it arose from.

Is the future in smaller muds?

I get asked about this all the time recently. Everyone is looking forward to the small-scale games like Neverwinter Nights (ironically, these games are going to be about the size of your average text mud in simultaneous users!) and many are saying that the massively multiplayer genre is doomed…

The future of online worlds is “pvp”

And no, that doesn’t mean I like PKs. I was attempting to explain to some folks on Usenet why I feel we need to keep trying to reach beyond the tried and true measures like the PK switch.

The evolution of UO’s economy

A brief history of various attempts at balancing the economy in UO.

“Doomed… you’re all doomed…”

“Those who don’t know history…”

Star Wars Galaxies Design Process

A series of lengthy posts to the SWG boards about what the design process is like for arriving at that much-maligned term, “the Vision.”


Why nerfing is inevitable. Also, where did the term come from?


Is twinking all bad?

MUDs versus MMORPGs

This one is really about whether or not the massively multiplayer games can be successful in the long term, compared to the advantages of the smaller games.

Playing as intended

Should designers force players to play as the designer intended?

What is the appeal of MMOs?

It was suggested on the MUD-Dev list that the appeal of text muds and of MMORPGs was fundamentally different…

Should we pursue balance?

The issue of whether game designers should start balancing things in the game, at the risk of angering players.

Tabletop RPGing is basically dead

I made the statement in the title. And I got a Wizards of the Coast exec mad at me!

Sex and violence in online games

A discussion on MUD-Dev where I make a challenge of sorts to the field.

Content creation

A mathematical excursion into determining how much content you need, how many people it takes to make it, and why the “shard” or multiple server model is here to stay for a while.

Database deflation

It’s evitable that the databases of online games suffer “deflation” after launch. But level-based systems exacerbate the problem. This series of newsgroup exchanges with Brad McQuaid and players of EQ and UO illustrates the issue.

Why I make muds

A brief reply to this question.

The ethics of online world design

I keep insisting that as developers, we have a responsibility to make our games ethical and keep in mind how they may affect others. This is a lengthy and oft meandering reply to a bunch of threads on this topic.

On interactive entertainment

Do games all have to be about fun? Maybe the problem is that we limit ourselves by using the word “game.”

Online worlds and the law

The legal status of many issues related to online worlds remains up in the air. Here’s a survey of some of the current status.