Designing Virtual Worlds
AuthorRichard Bartle
CountryUnited States
PublisherNew Riders
Publication date
Media typePrint (Paperback)

Designing Virtual Worlds is a book about the practice of virtual world development by Richard Bartle. It has been noted as an authoritative source regarding the history of world-based online games.[1] College courses have been taught using it.[2][3][4][5]

In 2021, the author made the book freely available under a Creative Commons license on his website.[6]


Designing Virtual Worlds argues that the fundamentals of player relationships to the virtual world and each other are independent of technical issues and are characterized by a blending of online and offline identity.[7] According to the book, it is the designer's role to know what will provide players with a positive game experience,[8] the purpose of virtual worlds is the player's exploration of self,[9] as well as for its expansion of the earlier 4-type Bartle gamer style taxonomy into an 8-type model.[10] The book also focuses on the practicalities of its subject.[11]


This section may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The specific problem is: Please provide attribution so readers know who is saying these things about the book, and when these reviews were published. Please help improve this section if you can. (May 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

It has been called "the bible of MMORPG design"[12] and spoken of as "excellent",[13] "seminal",[14] "widely read",[15] "the standard text on the subject",[16] "the most comprehensive guide to gaming virtual worlds"[17] and "a foundation text for researchers and developers of virtual worlds"[18] that is "strongly recommended for anyone actually thinking about building one of these places"[19] and "describes the minimum level of competency you should have when discussing design issues for virtual worlds".[20]

It wasn't all sunshine and roses, though. One reviewer, Dave Rickey of, a website founded in 1999 and dedicated to "multiplayer interactive fiction on the Internet"[21] , called it a "must-read" work, but that he found "much that was questionable, incomplete, or just erroneous".[22]


  1. ^ Williams, J. Patrick; Smith, Jonas Heide (2007-03-28). The Players' Realm: Studies on the Culture of Video Games and Gaming. McFarland & Company. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-7864-2832-8.
  2. ^ Castronova, Edward (2004-08-26). "Virtual Worlds 101: Draft Syllabus". Terra Nova. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  3. ^ Thomas, Douglas (2004-12-10). "COMM 499: Massive Multiplayer Online Games". University of Southern California. Archived from the original on 2005-02-14. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  4. ^ Delwiche, Aaron (2004-12-10). "COMM 3344: Games for the web". Trinity University. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  5. ^ Kipp, Neill A. (2003-12-05). "CSC 5807 — Special Topics" (PDF). University of Colorado Denver. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2004-07-31. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  6. ^ "Richard Bartle Releases His Classic Book Designing Virtual Worlds for Free Online". New World Notes. 2021-08-17. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  7. ^ Wallace, Mark (2006-01-31). "In Celebration of the Inner Rogue". The Escapist (30): 1–2. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  8. ^ Klastrup, Lisbeth (May 2007). "Why Death Matters: Understanding Gameworld Experience". Journal of Virtual Reality and Broadcasting. 4 (3). ISSN 1860-2037. Archived from the original on 2010-07-14. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  9. ^ Koster, Raph (2006-01-05). "Traits, stories, and holy grails". Raph Koster's Website. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  10. ^ Yee, Nick (June 2005). "Motivations of Play in MMORPGs: Results from a Factor Analytic Approach" (PDF). Proceedings of the DiGRA Conference 2005. Digital Games Research Association. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  11. ^ Klastrup, Lisbeth; Tosca, Susana (2004). "Transmedial Worlds - Rethinking Cyberworld Design" (PDF). 2004 International Conference on Cyberworlds. IEEE Computer Society. pp. 409–416. doi:10.1109/CW.2004.67. ISBN 0-7695-2140-1. S2CID 8913901. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  12. ^ Sempere, Andrew (2009-10-01). "The Work of Art in the Age of Virtual Production" (PDF). IBM Research. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2010-05-05. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ Jennings, Scott; Macris, Alexander (2005-12-19). Massively Multiplayer Games For Dummies. For Dummies. p. 7. ISBN 0-471-75273-8.
  14. ^ Zichermann, Gabe; Linder, Joselin (2010-03-29). Game-Based Marketing: Inspire Customer Loyalty Through Rewards, Challenges, and Contests. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 149. ISBN 978-0-470-56223-9.
  15. ^ Geraci, Robert (2010-03-05). Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality. Oxford University Press. pp. 95. ISBN 978-0-19-539302-6.
  16. ^ "Participants". Living Game Worlds IV. Georgia Institute of Technology. 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  17. ^ Book, Betsy (October 2004). "Moving Beyond the Game: Social Virtual Worlds" (PDF). State of Play Conference 2. New York Law School. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  18. ^ Levy, Luis; Novak, Jeannie (2009-06-22). Game Development Essentials: Game QA & Testing. Delmar Cengage Learning. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-4354-3947-4.
  19. ^ Castronova, Edward (December 2003). "On Virtual Economies". Game Studies. 3 (2). Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  20. ^ Green, Brian (2003-12-24). "untitled comment". Terra Nova. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  21. ^ Allen, Christopher (2020-09-21). "Goodbye from Skotos". Skotos. Skotos (1). Retrieved 2023-12-22.
  22. ^ Rickey, Dave (2003-08-12). "If you can't say anything nice..." Engines of Creation. Skotos (6). Retrieved 2010-05-06.