Plus, I do want to boast, dammit!
I could continue for pages and pages, here. I could tell you about the fetish system, the mad cultists, the Little Black Book, how fashion worked, interactions with NPCs, layers of clothing ... but I can't right now, so I'll have to stop. I will say, though, for you designer types out there, we did account for my player types system, and I didn't advocate having permanent death...
But it all fell apart with some four months to go. Despite the fact we were on course to go into open beta by the end of our allotted year, the company didn't have a year's worth of money. Somehow, hiring 800 people on the strength of a business plan that could be paraphrased as "spend what we have and then figure out how to get some more" was not sustainable. We lost our jobs and the game went into mothballs.
Would it have worked? I was cautiously optimistic, even though there was no support in the company itself for the product. ("We can't be associated with sex games, only with violent games" - actual quote from a member of the sales team!) I don't think it would have been a huge storming success, but I figured we could have got maybe 10,000 regular players within six months of opening - perhaps more, if AOL had banned it.
Would I do it again? Well, I'd certainly think about it. It raised some very interesting design issues that produced some highly novel solutions, which I'd like to see in action. The subject matter isn't itself remarkable, though: Rather like writing for a franchise, you can stray within the confines of the defined world, but you don't get to change the Unique Selling Points.
It beats the hell out of WAP, though.
Dr Richard Bartle co-wrote the first virtual world, MUD[/I] ("Multi-User
Dungeon") while an undergraduate in 1978, and has thus been at the forefront of the online games industry from its very inception. A former lecturer in Artificial Intelligence and current Visiting Professor in Computer Game Design (both at the University of Essex, U.K.), he is an influential writer on all aspects of virtual world design, development and management. As an independent consultant, he has worked with most of the major online game companies in the U.K. and the U.S. over the past 20 years. His 2003 book, [i]Designing Virtual Worlds, has already established itself as a foundation text for researchers and developers of virtual worlds alike.