Revisiting the Laws

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Jan 032009

No, not me. Razakius, over at, who is working on what looks like an ongoing project to revisit every Law of Online World Design.

This does happen every few years — someone decides to do a series revisiting them. I think this is healthy. The last new Law was “Socialization requires downtime,” which was a while ago.

One of the nicest things about the Laws, I think, is that when you read them they are so clearly high level that so many of the little design cul-de-sacs the Diku genre has fallen into are obviously not applicable. Nobody has asked for “PvP is evil” or “PvP must always be in RvR form” or some such to be put on there, for example.

On the other hand… never had to remove one yet, either. Not sure whether that is troubling or not!

Apr 172008

Given the recent hack to the blog, and also given the recent news of the decompiled Eve Online client, it seemed like a good time to go over some of the ways in which a virtual world gets hacked.

The interesting thing, of course, is that all the hacks I am going to talk about are actually not hacking the virtual world at all; they instead attack the client, which is your window into the world, and also your waldo, your means of exercising control over what happens in that world. And that’s because…

The client is in the hands of the enemy.

The Laws of Online World Design

You’ve probably heard that before — I wasn’t the first one to say it, but it constantly gets misattributed to me. That particular phrasing may have originated with Kelton Flinn, but I am sure many of us came up with it independently.

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Recent News

 Posted by (Visited 9502 times)  Game talk, Misc, Writing  Tagged with: , ,
Sep 112000

Another year, another birthday. Next year will be the big 3-0. Ah well.

I’ve done a big update to the Online Worlds Timeline (under Gaming/Essays). A bunch of info on PLATO, Minitel, MTrek, new info in the year 2000, and a somewhat nicer format.

Saw lots of citations of the Laws (& a nice quote from “Current and Future Developments in Online Games”) over at the Games Domain Review.

Mar 042000

Wow, it’s been a while since I updated anything here…. ah well, there’s new stuff today!

I’m going to be at the Game Developer’s Conference next week. I’ll be doing a panel on online community with a bunch of great folks including Brad McQuaid of EverQuest, Toby Ragaini of Asheron’s Call, Mike Sellers formerly of Meridian 59, Jonathan Baron formerly of Kesmai and Air Warrior, Dr Amy Bruckman of MediaMOO, and of course Amy Jo Kim. That should be an all-day thing and quite a lot of fun. I’m reprising the usual roundtable on the Laws of Online World Design with Rich Vogel, and also doing a production lecture.

As part of the tutorial panel, Amy B. was doing slides on history of muds, and it set me on an obsessive tear this weekend. So if you look under Gaming/Misc Writings you’ll find a timeline of important events in the history of development of muds, MMORPGS, and whatever else you choose to call them.

My CD should be getting released by in the next week or so. So for all three of you out there who want it, keep an eye out on my artist page there for more info.

A special poke in the ribs goes out to Brad, by the way, for saying in his interview with CGW that he’d pick me to play Aradune in the EverQuest movie. I dunno, Brad, I just don’t see how audiences would go for that… after all, you look soo… California. And I don’t. : Oh well, I imagine that at least Mark Asher (who did the interview & who does Game Spin over at Gamecenter) laughed–I doubt the rest of the world got the joke. Mark, next time footnote the interview. 🙂

Aug 231999

So I went to Seattle to visit the Microsoft Hardware Lab and upon arriving at the hotel found a message from my wife to call her– even if it was in the middle of the night (3am Seattle time, in fact). Turns out that a smoldering fire started by an electrical short had pretty much destroyed the kitchen, and smoke and soot damage had gotten the rest of the house. Kristen and the kids weren’t there–they were in fact dropping me at the airport while the house was burning–so the family is fine, except for our dogs, all of whom died in the fire.

Amazingly, the book collection, music collection, musical instruments, etc, all survived intact and largely undamaged. So in an odd way, we came out largely unscathed (we’ll still max out our insurance though).

I was going to write a long and eloquent essay about this, kind of a way of clearing it all out– “My God, what if it had been during the night when we were home” “What must it have been like for the dogs trapped in the house as the air slowly went bad and it got hotter and hotter” “Look at what we invest with value and what we care about losing” “Boy, I really feel guilty over terribly missing my dog Mika, and not terribly missing the other dogs” “Aren’t the connections you make with people you never met amazing” — this latter after getting an anonymous letter written in a childish scrawl, from An Ultima Online player, with three dollars cash enclosed…

But in the end, I never did write it, and doubt I ever will.

Mostly it reminded me again of the fragility of life, and the value of the connections we make, and of how important stuff is to our sense of identity (it’s amazing how panicked you can get over losing a stack of books you read when you were a kid and haven’t read since)…

I do really miss Mika, my dog, though. I’ve put up another MP3 for a guitar instrumental I wrote about her in the Music/What I Play section. She got my wife and I through some very tough times emotionally a few years back and was the smartest dog I’ve ever had. I’ll miss her.

In other news, I may be giving the opening address at the Online Games ’99 conference in London. Have to sort out the plane ticket yet, but if that gets worked out, I’ll be there! My first trip across the pond… and Richard Bartle and I will finally get to meet after trading emails for years and years…

Bruce Sterling tells me that he’s going to be posting the Laws of Online World Design to his Viridian mailing list, of which I am a member. These Laws sure seem to keep getting around…

Oh! Almost forgot. I’m not working on Ultima Online anymore. I’m on a new project, and no, I can’t tell you anything about it yet. Be patient! We’ll redefine online gaming if you give us time. 🙂