#17 MUD

Posted: 22nd January 2013 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , ,

211th played so far

Genre: Adventure
Platform: Internet
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.)

Our Thoughts

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

  1. Sadly, MUD no longer has critical mass; it’s basically a museum piece. If anyone played it in earnest, there would be macros and bots written to play it for them.

    MUD2 still has players, although it also has critical mass troubles. When I made 30 of my students play it at once they had a blast, but you do need a few regulars for a game like this to be fun. Unfortunately, the fact that it has a text interface means regulars are unlikely to be forthcoming.

    Thanks for giving it a shot, though!


    • Jeroen says:

      Hello Richard,

      First, thank you for reading and commenting! It’s amazing to hear from a creator of a game, and especially one like this.

      MUD is a piece of computer history that isn’t as appealing anymore, considering how technology and games have moved on. It’s interesting to play because of its legacy, but beyond that, it’s not as fun on your own.

      We may give MUD2 a shot at some point, but at the same time I’m afraid that I won’t hold on for much longer is the same reason so few others do – I’m too used to my gamepads and point and click interfaces.

      Again, thank you for your comments and thank you for making a game that, although it’s a virtual ghost town now, left such a legacy.


  2. My Google vanity search picked up my name on your web site, which I hadn’t come across before. I quite like what you’re doing here, so I thought I’d post a comment.

    There’s an argument that text is actually better than graphics for visualising a world (http://www.mud.co.uk/richard/vrfuture.htm). If a piece of text describes a scary dragon, then each player constructs in their imagination a dragon that is scary for them personally, whereas if they all see the same image of a dragon then they’re just getting the artist/animator’s idea of what’s scary. However, where graphics wins is in first impressions. It totally blows away text in this regard, so hardly anyone tries text games any more – and when they do, no-one else is playing at the same time. I’m sanguine about it; things have moved, if not necessarily on then at least away.

    The reason we keep MUD1 up and running is precisely so that people can experience it as an historical artefact. It was superseded many years ago by other MUDs, including (but not limited to) MUD2. Today’s MMOs have long been basically DikuMUDs with graphical front-ends bolted on, although I still hold out hope that they’ll learn to adapt to the opportunities afforded by graphics better than they have at present. In terms of world modelling, they’re less sophisticated than the better text MUDs; they could do something about that, too.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble on. Keep up the good work!


  3. […] is one that is the same worry as so many other games – the player base. While not as dead as MUD, on a world this large you’d expect to be able to see many conflicts. However, we often […]

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