Posted Thu, Sep 01, 2011 by Sardu
Richard Bartle’s definitive work, Designing Virtual Worlds, has been described by many as “the bible of MMORPG design.” Most, if not all MMOs incorporate at least some elements of Bartle's research on player types in massively-multiplayer online games as a core aspect of game design. The guy did help pioneer the entire industry after all, so it only stands to reason that he’d have some insights into what makes MMO gamers tick.
To give you a quick refresher course, or some insights as to what his research is all about if you’re unfamiliar with Richard Bartle’s role in the MMO omniverse, here is a quick overview of the four types of MMO gamers described in his work:
There will naturally be some overlap between the four main types of MMO gamers described above. For example Killers are also often Achievers since PvP and competitive ranking systems usually go hand-in hand in most titles. Likewise, more and more games have been including achievement systems that offer perks or status to all types of gamers. In World of Warcraft, for instance, there are some difficult to earn achievements created specifically for explorers.
In Designing Virtual Worlds, Bartle expands upon the initial 4 gamer types described above into an 8-part version that includes a more clearly defined breakdown of the player types. These include:
Elements of Bartle’s research are almost universally bundled into gameplay systems in modern MMOs, but Carbine’s recently announced WildStar represents the first MMO to not only embrace this concept, but turn it into a core gameplay system that helps further distinguish any two given player characters based on what interests them the most.
While there were plenty of other interesting aspects of WildStar to absorb during PAX Prime, the Path system is the biggest element that made me stand up and take notice. This is partially due to my personal interest in some of Bartle’s research as noted above, but also because it ultimately offers players a more clearly defined means of being rewarded for the way they choose to approach playing the game. It’s not so much a case that other MMOs don’t reward certain behaviors or activities, such as exploration, but WildStar is perhaps the first title to formalize that type of system to such a high and obvious degree.