So the other day I took the Bartle Test. Created way back in 1978, it’s still relevant (more than many would think) in designing MMORPG’s (World of Warcraft, Everquest, etc).

In an overarching format, it does well describing why some games “win” and “lose” in the market. Games targeted to “Killers”, such as Ultima Online, Shadowbane, and Asheron’s Call 2, tend to die off. The problem is, if you populate with Killers and design around them, then the vast majority of players who are not primarily “Killers” will get tired of being picked on and leave the game. An all-Killer game will drive off enough players to not be financially sustainable.

The longest-running game I’ve ever played, MMORPG-wise, is City of Heroes. The nice thing about CoH is that the “Killer” mechanic almost completely vanishes. Player-vs-Player combat is only in certain non-storyline areas against “City of Villains” players (the “other side” of the game), or in the “Arena”, in exhibition matches where no penalty for losing exists in the main game. Meanwhile, CoH has a tremendous amount of room for exploration and the enjoyment of various storylines, quests, and options to try out. The end of my CoH play came when the “social attitude”, by which I mean a personality-based falling out with a guild leader, left me with the option of either shutting down my account, or paying way too much money to move my characters to new servers to avoid this “socially powerful” griefer’s behavior.

For those wondering, by the Bartle test I come up as an ESAK, with a mere 7% “Killer” score:


It’s not so much the wandering around and poking about, but that euphoric eureka moment the Explorer strives for. The joys of discovery do not necessarily involve geography, real or virtual. They may derive from the mental road less traveled, the uncovering of esoteric or hidden knowledge and it’s creative application. Explorers make great theory crafters. The most infinitesimal bit of newness can deliver the most delicious zing to an Explorer.

Secondary influences

Explorer Socializers are the glue of the online world. Not only do they like to delve in to find all the cool stuff, but they also enjoy sharing that knowledge with others. Explorer socializers power the wikis, maps, forums and theory craft sites of the gamer world.

Category: Server Room

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9 Responses to Bartling

  1. Transplanted Lawyer says:

    My results are:

    E = 87%
    A = 60%
    K = 40%
    S = 13%

    Explorer Achievers have been there, done that and have the t-shirt…in fact they have a plethora of t-shirts, badges, trophies and other rewards. EAs are the completionists of the gamer world. They like to find new places, quests, easter eggs, unlocks, maps etc. and check them off as have, visited or beaten. Like real world travelers, EAs enjoy collecting memorabilia that helps them relive their experiences later.

    Frankly, I’m surprised my ‘social’ is higher than zero; the phrasing of the questions seems to be part of the issue. I don’t look for the game to be social and generally don’t care much about others. The multiplayer dimenson of a game is something that does not attract me, but the extent and detail of the world that I want to explore does.

    I’m also surprised that my ‘achievement’ is as low as it is — the most pleasure I take in an RPG is in leveling up.

  2. web says:


    Part of it is that you get 30 of 200 possible questions, randomized (to prevent people brute-forcing it easily). Take the test 3+ times if you want to have a “more representative” view. In my case, all 3 came out pretty close to each other.

    As for the rest, you’re what is sometimes referred to as a “solo player.” You’d be (just like me, really) very happy running around an almost-deserted world just exploring what’s there. In some respects I was actually happier with Final Fantasy 12 (which took FFXI’s underpinnings but was a single player, wide world) than Final Fantasy XI (which was an MMORPG).

    A quote, from which source I cannot remember, goes “The problem with MMORPG’s is the fact that you have to play with other people.”

  3. web says:

    And in case you’re wondering – yes, I retook the test today to get that image.

  4. trumwill says:

    I don’t really MMORPG, but here are my results:

    E = 87
    S = 60
    A = 27
    K = 27

    It sort of explains why one of my favorite things to do on solo video games is to become invincible so that I can just walk around and explore the terrain with my immunity. Those pesky villains get in the way.

  5. web says:


    I had precisely the same approach for The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. And I behaved very similarly, though not precisely the same, in Fallout 3.

    I partly didn’t like the first expansion (Operation Anchorage) because it had much less exploration and felt more like a “one path and that’s it” area.

    Always interesting to see what you can find in a game, provided the designers were working well on it. I had tremendous fun pushing the limits of Jurassic Park: Trespasser back in the dorms if you remember, for the same reason.

  6. Transplanted Lawyer says:

    Yeah, Oblivion was about perfect, because there was no multiplayer option and the world was huge, varied, and detailed. And after a while you get to be powerful enough that there’s only a few monsters that you need to take very seriously, but it’s still fun to tangle with whatever is foolish enough to cross your path. When do we get Elder Scrolls V?

  7. web says:


    get yourself to 110% Chameleon and you can wander the Oblivion world with 100% impunity. That was actually very entertaining. Seeing the critters and how they were programmed to behave when they didn’t know you were there, in particular.

  8. Transplanted Lawyer says:

    BTDT. It’s also an easy way to raid Oblivion towers without dealing with tedious demons, and of course, to steal stuff and spy on NPCs (who seemed to live pretty boring lives; The Sims is much more fun for the e-voyeur).

  9. web says:

    Well TL, no word on Elder Scrolls V. They seem to have focused in on Fallout (not surprising, it’s a sum-total superior game, especially with an experience-based rather than “what skills you use” advancement system… I always wound up creating “custom” classes to avoid leveling in Elder Scrolls till I was good and ready, and wasting time on “practicing” skills in safe havens).

    Based on past performance, Elder Scrolls follows the “less is more” standard. They don’t oversaturate their market, instead they wait till the market is good and ready for a sequel (look at the time between Morrowind and Oblivion for example).

    In the meantime the first two Elder Scrolls games have been released for free. And you can probably find Morrowind for free as well, if not for $5 as “game of the year edition” in a bargain bin somewhere.

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