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Experiencing Presence in a Text-Based Virtual World

I’ve been invited to participate in an online panel on MUDs, MMORPGs, and the Metaverse which includes Edward Castronova, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University. He was heavily involved with the early MUDs and virtual world scene, and has written both papers and books about virtual worlds and their economies.

The DikuMUD Family Tree

The DikuMUD Family Tree

As part of my pre-panel research, I brushed up on my own involvement with MUDs during the 1990s. Much of my time was spend in the DikuMUD family tree, and mostly with ROM, the Rivers of Mud variant.

In the early 1990s, it was easy to sum up the MUD experience in just a sentence. You could say, “It is just like Zork, except, multiplayer” and most technical types would nod their head in quiet appreciation. Today, it is much more complicated to explain only because text-based games are unfamiliar to most people. Read More…

Book Review: Designing Virtual Worlds

It has been over a year since my last review of a vintage virtual reality book. I’ve recently come across a good one that I’d like to share.

In 1978, Richard Bartle co-authored MUD, the very first virtual world. In 2003, he shared his twenty-five years of virtual world and MMORPG experience in the book Designing Virtual Worlds. Here are some excerpts from the preface:

Too much virtual world design is derivative. Designers take one or more existing systems as foundations on which to build, sparing little thought as to why these earlier worlds were constructed the way they were.

Are designers even aware that there are decisions they can unmake? Although a good deal of design is evolutionary, that does not mean designers can’t be revolutionary, too.

The key is in recognizing the face that what seems eminently logical to you from your usual perspective might turn out to be disastrous when viewed from another angle — and then realizing that the worlds you’re drawing inspiration from almost certainly contain elements designed by people who didn’t recognize that fact until it was too late.

Obviously, the preface resonated with me on the topic of metaverse design.

The book is an incredible seven hundred and fourty-one pages, filled with decades of experiences and observations in virtual worlds. According to Wikipedia, it has been called “the bible of MMORPG design”. Read More…