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Game Designers Every Designer Should Know – Richard Bartle & Roy Trubshaw

February 2, 2008

Sitting there wondering who these guys are? They invented the game M.U.D. (Multi User Dungeon) which paved the way to the MMOs that we play today. The game was developed by the then college students and published by, among others, the now-unlikely-but-then-highly-likely British Telecom. The history of MUD is one of the more colorful in our industry’s history. Just one choice quote from its history:

Then, Simon Dally got manic depression, stole £800,000 worth of antiquarian books, emptied MUSE’s bank account, and shot himself dead.

In addition to MUD, Richard Bartle developed something that’s come to be called the Bartle Test which splits players into four different categories based on their play style: achievers, explorers, socializers and killers. If you’re a designer, it’s well worth your time to take a look at this.

I also recommend Richard’s book, Designing Virtual Worlds.


For years, Roy Trubshaw was active with Bartle in the industry. In fact, it was his initial prototype that the two ultimately developed into MUD. Their company, MUSE, closed last year.

I remember playing MUD way back in the 1980’s while I was working on the Wizardry series. Back then, some of us in the industry saw the advent of multi-user online games (they weren’t really “massively” multiplayer at that point in time) as complementary to the single-player RPGs that were popular at the time, not as the beginning of an enormous wave that would eventually overtake and bury all the venerable RPG series that had lived for 10-20 years. R.I.P Wizardry, Ultima, SSI gold box series, Bard’s Tale, and Might and Magic. We loved you so.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian Shurtleff permalink
    February 3, 2008 3:18 am

    Coincidentally, I’ve found that in the Bartle Test I was placed dead center – essentially of equal proportions of all four player types.
    I’ve wondered what that means for me as an aspiring game designer – but it seems promising. =)

  2. February 3, 2008 5:53 am

    Brian>I’ve wondered what that means for me as an aspiring game designer – but it seems promising. =)

    Were there some questions you couldn’t answer? Or that you wish had an answer like “it depends”? That’s more like how I’d expect designers to respond (but, failing that, being in the centre is probably still a good sign).


  3. brianshurtleff permalink
    February 5, 2008 9:43 am

    Yes, I tend to think like that (in “it depends” terms) when answering questions, so that was likely a factor in getting a result like that. So that’s good that I’m apparently meeting expectations in that regard!

  4. February 5, 2008 6:33 pm

    Brian>So that’s good that I’m apparently meeting expectations in that regard!

    Well, it’s good if you want to design; it’s not so good if you just want to play.


  5. February 14, 2009 8:01 am

    I want to make
    non-commercial multiplatform remake of Wizardry 7 for
    Windows/Pocket PC. Can you get me information about in-game mechanics
    of this game – formulas of skills/spells/etc… Or some contacts of another developers of this great game)
    Thank you!

    • February 14, 2009 9:51 am

      No. This project is copyrighted, and what you’re talking about doing would require a license from the owners of the game’s rights (Sir-tech Software). If you make the game you’re discussing without that, it would actually be illegal

  6. Sergey Klimov permalink
    February 14, 2009 1:30 pm

    I think Wizardry 7 is abadonware… I want to give new life for the game . Sir-tech went bankrupt, it isn’t? Perhaps, the authors would not be against such that fan-art?

  7. February 14, 2009 6:38 pm

    It is not abandonware any more than King’s book “The Shining” is abandonware just because it hasn’t been printed in awhile.

  8. February 15, 2009 12:44 am

    There’s probably a blog post to be made on the myths of abandonware. Even today I regularly get students who think that emulation of old NES games is perfectly legal as long as you (A) own a copy of the original game, (B) can’t buy a copy of the original game because it’s not sold anywhere, (C) delete it within 24 hours of downloading it, or (D) really really want it to be legal. I’m sure I’d get some students asking me to recreate one of the games I’ve worked on, if I’d ever worked on anything worth recreating 🙂

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