[MUD-Dev] Re: Laws of Online World Design

Richard Bartle 76703.3042 at compuserve.com
Wed Oct 14 05:34:53 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

"Koster, Raph" <rkoster at origin.ea.com> wrote:
 >Ola Fosheim Grxstad [mailto:olag at ifi.uio.no]
 >> * It isn't a game if you cannot die. - Bartle?
 >Richard, do you stand by this? Seems rather broad :)
        I don't recall uttering those words. That doesn't mean I didn't say
them, just that I don't remember saying them. The phrase is either mine or
Howard Rheingold's summary of what I said in a long conversation with him -
I strongly suspect it's his, but I could be wrong. We were talking about
the different kinds of MUDs, in particularly the dichotomy between social
and antisocial MUDs which was gaining ground at the time (and is still
generally believed to exist except among people who have played games which
are both). In that context, it's not a game unless you can die, where
"die" means have your persona completely obliterated with no chance of
        OF COURSE you can have games without death; you can have non-games
WITH death, too. There is an issue as to whether a MUD is itself a game,
or whether it's an environment in which people can enact games; if the MUD
contemplates persona death, then it would tend to be one of the former
rather than the latter. However, it's perfectly possible to have some
other method of "losing" which makes a MUD just as valid a game as any other.
        I do believe that in MUDs, the social bonds between players are
greatly intensified by the "friendship under fire" attitude that is instilled
by the belief (if not necessarily the fact) that you could suffer permanent
persona loss as a result of some non-capricious in-game action. As Jessica
Mulligan once succinctly summarised it: "soldiers don't attack a machine-gun
nest single-handedly because they're brave, or because they were told to:
they do it because, if they don't, their buddies are going to buy it". In
this sense, I believe a MUD can be better for having permanent persona loss
(ie. "death") than an otherwise identical MUD where you only lose half your
points, or where you can be resurrected if you find the right place or the
right person. That was the main point I was trying to make in that part of
my conversation with Howard Rheingold.
        As slogans go, "You haven't lived until you've died in MUD" is
probably a better way of summarising it.
"Koster, Raph" <rkoster at origin.ea.com> also wrote:
 >Ola Fosheim Grxstad [mailto:olag at ifi.uio.no] wrote
 >> I view Bartle's "bad ideas" (http://www.mud.co.uk/richard/tcsf98.htm)
 >>in much the same way as your laws. Some are related to my own
 >>conclusions, yet most of them could probably be solved by design.
 >Yes, I can think of ways to design around some of these obstacles, but
 >awareness that they are obstacles is the important point that I think
 >Richard was getting at by calling them "bad ideas" in the first place...
        Yes, that's right. I was trying to stop people from making the same,
simple mistakes that I've seen so many times before. It didn't happen.
        Hmm, well actually I was trying to drum up some consultancy work,
but that didn't happen either... Companies would rather learn the mistakes
themselves (then lose the staff who learned it to other companies who pay
better) than pay someone to tell them where they're going wrong in the first
        I'm speaking at another conference next week on the subject of "How
to Get Rid of Players (and Make Sure they Don't Come Back)". Let's see if
that gets any better results. Somehow, I don't think sarcasm is perhaps the
right way to approach it, though...

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