Playable Worlds’ Raph Koster shares the secret of good social design in MMOs


Raph Koster, the game designer behind Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and Playable Worlds’ upcoming project, has posted yet another essay about MMORPG design, all meant as preamble for the new game. In this latest piece, he challenges MMO players to re-examine and understand what social design is in games — and why it’s so essential to get right.

Koster speaks to a “sweet spot of [social] network development” where people aren’t disposable, forced to do everything by themselves, or form monopolies — a sweet spot that is only achievable, he says, if a game puts in rules to nurture this kind of diverse environment.

These rules include not separating players by level barriers, distance, or the structure of the economy. Koster is of the opinion that de-centralizing the economy offers more opportunities for “mom and pop stores” and tavern operations and the like.

“In the end, good social design is about good society design,” Koster said. “Diversity of people and of play makes for a more robust society, a more enduring community, in every way. That’s good for us as a business. More importantly, it’s better for players. It makes for an online world that doesn’t chase you out or make you feel insignificant or unwanted.”

More coverage of Koster's writing and games
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