211th played so far
Year of Release: 1980
Developer: Roy Trubshaw, Richard Bartle
Now here’s a game, despite not ever having played it (being for pay at the time while I didn’t have the means to) indirectly had a major effect on my life. As mentioned , I’m a developer, and initially I was self taught, learning C by reading the source code of projects I could get my hand on. One of the major ones here was CircleMUD, that I somehow managed to compile in my Windows environment and messed around with. My first C programs grews from what I learned there, and after that I went to making that my profession. A telling path.
And now, full circle, 12 years later I’m sitting here, having a chance to play the original and give my verdict. It feels like a monumental step somewhere.
(The other main ‘teacher’ was Nethack, a game we’ll cover at some point in the future.)
Wow. The overwhelming emotion when playing this game was one of sadness. Knowing that this game was playing by hundreds of people in the past, interacting, killing each other (or, I hope, helping each other), interacting and role playing – not in the sense we see it, but in the sense of taking on a part and acting things out together – it feels like it must have been imposing and interesting.
But not while we were playing. A quick check confirmed that we were the only people online. We wandered through empty landscapes, trying to figure out what was going on. You could tell there was the storyline, people working together on that. Figuring out the game and route together. Now it was nearly dead, which is a shame for a game that inspired so many – Everquest and Ultima Online were the MUD spirit with actual graphics and ongoing professional support and any multiplayer game can trace its idea back to this game.
The game, then, is as simple as it is potentially enticing. A lot of it does come down to adventure elements – find stuff, put them elsewhere, with limited interaction with the environment. Zork, really, with a multiplayer component (and a bit less of a story…and not pants). A nice bit of exploration with some more killing. It needs the multiplayer to really draw you in, but if the experience wasn’t as sad, we probably would have been drawn in enough to play for a bit longer – things just felt a bit too convoluted for now.
Being a console gamer born at the extreme tail-end of the 1980s this is a game I had neither heard of or really had the opportunity to come across. Upon trying this out for myself I really can see how this was the macdaddy of them all. I really enjoyed Guild Wars but the influence of MUD really is there.
As a piece of history, this is something to be experienced. As a game, it’s a fun diversion. But damn, try to get a few friends in.
I really echoed Jeroen’s sadness at how unpopulated this game is. It really is a wonder that it is even online anymore in a neglected corner of the internet.
In a way it is hard to really recommend this game for consumption because it would be like playing Scrabble by yourself. If the writers of The Big Bang Theory can hear my thoughts; reference this in an episode!