World Theory


design: basic constraints

When designing a virtual world you need to consider how the online reality differs from physical reality...

This is a list of some of the major constraints that applies to most virtual worlds, their games and economies. Particular designs have to deal with even more constraints, of course. This list is temporary.

Strong constraints

  • New users arrive all the time: a key design challenge is to allow new players to join at any time while keeping the game fair and interesting for them.

  • A single user might have multiple accounts: Designs which gives a new character exchangable resources is prone to abuse, as a user may create multiple accounts and transfer all the resources to one account.

  • A user might never return: so you have to make sure that user's who never return don't create bottle-necks or dead-lock like system behaviour.

  • Users have access to alternative communication channels

  • Users might be able to use the network protocol directly

Weak constraints

  • A user may have to log off instantanously

  • Fraudulent behaviour: users will try to cheat on other players if the system allows for it, by faking system messages or other means.

  • Infrastructure attacks: whatever is exposed of the network infrastructure opens it for attacks from vile users.

  • A user may have technical issues: network latency, lack of audio etc.

  • Some users cannot deal with complicated interfaces

  • Some users suffer from disorders: epilepsy, motion sickness etc

  • Minors may obtain access to the system

Desirable properties

  • Encourage friendships and altruistic actions: create meetingplaces, and make it easy and cheap to do favours for other users.

  • Allow users to spend time together: avoid forcing single-user gameplay, allow other users to tag along and help out.

  • Allow identity formation: allow enough varieties of creative outlets for the user to establish an identity and form which he can identify with.