Game talkHappy Birthday, MUD

 Posted by (Visited 7395 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Oct 202008
 

Today is the official 30th birthday of MUD. And MUDs are, for better or worse, the crucible in which today’s virtual worlds were born. There were people who played MUDs working on The Realm, on Meridian 59, on Kingdom of the Winds, on Ultima Online, on EverQuest. To this day, more virtual worlds have been made, run, and played as text muds than any other sort.

These days, the influences have gotten a bit broader — Second Life is not the product of mudders, for example. All these kids’ worlds are not made by mudders. And the cultural touchstone is World of Warcraft, a game which is also not made by mudders, but which has the conventions of the text games thoroughly ingrained.

Richard says the anniversary doesn’t matter:

So standing back and looking at it, the answer as to why there is not a lot of fuss over this 30th anniversary is that in the great scheme of things, it isn’t actually important. The mainstream isn’t interested because virtual worlds haven’t had much impact; developers aren’t interested because the paradigm is obvious; players aren’t interested because knowing doesn’t add anything to their play experience; academics might be interested in the historical facts, but anniversaries don’t figure in their analyses.

I disagree, if only because otherwise we wouldn’t get to geek out on printouts of the original source code and photos of the original maps.

In the end, it may be that this is only a historical curiosity. But the stories we tell about our origins make a difference to how we evolve. I think it matters desperately to the future of this medium that we know how it was born, and the spirit in which it was created: whimsical, wry, imaginative, and immersed in the hacker ethic; pushing at preconceptions and fundamentally intelligent.

We all have our favorite stories from muds. Today is the right day to share them.

  26 Responses to “Happy Birthday, MUD”

  1. Actually, Runescape (one of the kids’ worlds) was started by a text MUDer. It was originally going to be a text MUD, in fact.

  2. Happy Birthday, MUD…

    Today is the official 30th birthday of MUD. And MUDs are, for better or worse, the crucible in which today’s virtual worlds were born. There were people who played MUDs working on The Realm, on Meridian 59, on Kingdom of the Winds, on Ultima Onli…

  3. Quoting Richard,

    Few WoW or LotRO players are even able to cite EverQuest as an influence, although occasionally someone will have a stab at “Ultimate Online”.

    This struck me as funny in an odd way, remembering that once upon a time there was a bit of a tempest among the players of Everquest over whether it had cloned/stolen/ripped off Diku and/or CircleMud. I’m not old enough to be made to feel old, dammit! :P

    I’ve played a handful of MUDs, too, though my logfiles are all at home. Though to me, it’s not so much the individual stories as the collections of people known. I never got into MUDs as games prior to the graphical ones, but as better-than-chat-rooms. Which, really, is what the modern MMOs also end up seeming like too after I’ve played my fill of the game.

  4. Thinking back, I’m not sure which story to share. I used to spend a lot of time on an early version of MUME, and the events I recall best seem to involve running for safety in a dangerous world – and often not making it. There was always a strong sense of involvement in the Tolkien world, and even with months of play I was never able to explore even half of what there was to see. I made friends there too; some of them still play.

  5. Well so much for that surprise party for Bartle! I thought the idea was to get him moping about how nobody noticed…

  6. Those who played text MUDs back then think that this is an important date. Thanks for letting us know. While the MMORPGs of today are entertaining, they don’t stimulate the imagination like the old MUDs did.

  7. I feel antiquated. :) As one of the people who still plays text MUDs (Dragonrealms), I can think of some fairly recent stories. Is it a bad thing that the first thing that comes to mind is when I helped one mutual friend torture another, pseudonymously? (They represented antagonists, in the game, and one felt particularly sadistic. I played the cruel healer: no release in death, not yet.) It wasn’t, by far, the best time I’ve ever had, but it was an episode of roleplay that I have rarely seen approached.

  8. @Peter S:

    Since you mentioned DIKU and Everquest:

  9. *sigh*
    Haven’t figured out how the link stuff works (nor did I really look at the preview), so here goes again:

    http://www.dikumud.com/everquest.aspx

  10. Very neat. I wasn’t aware of that until I stumbled over here. I’ve been thinking of getting back into MUDing again lately – even if I am tied up a bit with work, classes, and one of those MMO things. I’ve found some of my experiences in MUDs to be some of the most fun I’ve had in an online environment. Some of the game systems can be surprisingly interesting and the ability to stretch the imagination out in a MUD is powerful. I’ve also found it much easier to roleplay in MUDs as well.

    This would almost be a nice excuse, if I wasn’t going to run some old fashion tabletop gaming tonight instead. :-)

  11. The Wheel of Time MUD remains operational. That was the first MUD I tried out. I remember being clueless and then suddenly being rescued by a veteran who volunteered to show me the ropes. She swept me off my feet, basically.

    In the second MUD I tried, I remember encountering a player named “Self.” I didn’t know why that name was funny until I was instructed/baited to “/kill Self”. I tried to create a character with that name on every other MUD I tried, but the word had spread and the name became restricted.

    After playtime was over, I found SMAUG, my favorite of all the code bases. Nick Gammon still provides the Windows version of the SMAUG server. He also wrote the best client, MUSHclient. Gammon’s SMAUG/ROM Area Editor is similar to what I hope Metaplace makes available one day — offline world development.

  12. Tim>I thought the idea was to get him moping about how nobody noticed…

    I didn’t think anyone would notice!

    I might possibly have moped if the mainstream media had known about the anniversary but chosen to ignore it, because that would have said something disappointing about their attitude to games. However, they didn’t notice (they had no reason to do so), therefore no moping from me.

    Richard

  13. Back in college I played on Darker Realms, an LPMUD. One of the wizards had built a maze, easy for newbies to find and hard to get out of. New players were always shouting for help. Another wizard had imported a bum bot, an NPC that wandered the town begging, and being constantly killed by everyone. Finally, some wizard found some text filter code for “Jive”, added it to a ring object, and gave it to the bum bot.

    So newbs would kill the bum, wield his ring, and wonder why everyone giggled at everything he said. Finally one day it all come together, and over the shout channel everyone heard,

    “He’p me! Ah be trapped in da maze!”

  14. I apologize in advance for my rudeness, but when I remember playing 3D multiplayer real-time flight simulators, MMRTS games like Empire (4 team Star Trek with dozens of players on a team) and yes, real multi-user dungeons WITH FULL GRAPHICS on PLATO in 1975-1976, the 30th anniversary of MUDs seems to pale in comparison – or perhaps muddy the waters – as a step backwards.

  15. WITH FULL GRAPHICS

    Graphics are a step backwards, 70% of the time.

  16. I apologize in advance for my rudeness, but when I remember playing 3D multiplayer real-time flight simulators, MMRTS games like Empire (4 team Star Trek with dozens of players on a team) and yes, real multi-user dungeons WITH FULL GRAPHICS on PLATO in 1975-1976, the 30th anniversary of MUDs seems to pale in comparison – or perhaps muddy the waters – as a step backwards.

    Ah, but the most notable child of PLATO is probably Wizardry, which didn’t circle back into influencing online worlds for quite some time. Or maybe NetTrek.

    And MUDs brought much to the table that was more important, in the long run, than graphics:

    – “massively multiplayer” from the get-go. PLATO games tended to be what we would call just “multiplayer” today, despite the exceptions.

    – an emphasis on what today would be called “user generated content” — players graduating to wizardhood, etc. The ripple effects of this are still being felt today and are arguably only beginning to really pay off in the wider web today. PLATO certainly had plenty of coders making stuff, but it wasn’t the same.

    PLATO was incredibly important — hence all those PLATO things in my timeline — but for better or worse, MUDs have proven to be more influential on how virtual worlds have developed. PLATO ended up sort of being like the Neanderthal case — a viable strand that didn’t turn out to be dominant.

    But of course, folks like Gordon Walton, Andy Zaffron, and Dr Cat may disagree, since PLATO was part of the formative stuff that led to them into online gaming. :)

  17. PLATO ended up sort of being like the Neanderthal case — a viable strand that didn’t turn out to be dominant.

    Did you know that Neandertals and early humans lived at the same time? And that they never met? :)

  18. PLATO and early MUDs lived at the same time too. ;) PLATO ran into the 80s. There were also several other strands of text virtual worlds that coexisted at the same time.

  19. Noah Falstein>when I remember playing 3D multiplayer real-time flight simulators, MMRTS games like Empire (4 team Star Trek with dozens of players on a team) and yes, real multi-user dungeons WITH FULL GRAPHICS on PLATO in 1975-1976, the 30th anniversary of MUDs seems to pale in comparison

    It may well do, but today’s MMOs are descended directly from MUD, not from any of the PLATO games. PLATO was way ahead of its time, but its strength – the fact that everyone had a standard, graphical terminal – was also its weakness: no-one could play those games unless they had the standard graphical terminal. MUDs were easier to write, more portable, more accessible, and there were thousands of people who worked on them. Thus, when the time game for graphical worlds to appear, most of the people hired to work on them had a MUD background, not a PLATO background. PLATO may well have influenced the graphics, but it didn’t influence the “virtual worldliness” of them.

    This is the problem with timelines: there’s a temptation to believe that just because something appeared first, it must be that what followed was influenced by it. In the case of today’s MMOs, the ultimate progenitor was MUD, not any of the more graphically advanced games that predated it on PLATO.

    The example I usually give here is that of the game golf, which at various times was invented in China, Greece, Egypt, England, Holland, Ireland and probably dozens of other places. Hitting a ball into a hole with a stick is a pretty obvious idea, though, so it’s not surprising that it was invented many times over. Today’s game of golf, however, does not descend from the game played in China, Greece, Egypt, England, Holland or Ireland: it descends from the version played in Scotland. China can point to concrete evidence that golf was played there before it was played in Scotland, but if you track back from the US Masters you’ll end up in Scotland, not China.

    Likewise, track back from World of Warcraft and you reach MUD, not PLATO. That’s where the audit trail ends. Besides, from what I know of the PLATO RPGs (which admitedly isn’t a lot), it would seem you’d have to stretch your definition of what a virtual world is quite a bit if you want to include PLATO’s pre-1979 games among them.

    Richard

  20. I was only 15 when I first experienced MUD. I played on a PKILL (player kill) MUD with my best friend (Pestilence) for many years. We played so much growing up that we would either A) play at school or B) skip school to kill players. It was one of the best and worse times of our young lives.

    During my times of MUDDING I’ve killed thousands of enemies, smack-talked hundreds of players, wrote thousands of lines of code, hosted many versions of codebases, attended many MUD conventions, and made many many friends. This text based drug was the hobby they kept me off the streets and out of trouble from the law. It was one of the best things in my life that kept me focused on my future and I give praise for that.

    So here is my 12 years to a genre truly ahead of it’s time. Happy Birthday!

  21. I hail from a MUD no longer running called Perilous Realms. From there I found Mozart MUD which is where the bulk of my experience with MUDs was formed. Mozart MUD is still operational today and still has all of the zones I created for it in the game as well as some of the code I wrote. In the late 90s, myself and the admin Pharazon(No idea where he is now) broke off to form Gateway to the Realms of Karnos MUD. It was born of the same Mozart codebase as was the tradition of spinoffs in the MUD era until we realized a rewrite was needed. That’s when we began but never finished the rewrite. To this day, there are admins that worked with me on the rewrite that are active once again with Mozart MUD, which is still being run by the same admin over a decade later.

    Ah MUDs. Happy 30th birthday.

  22. Even though I’ve been an active MMORPG player for the past several years, I still fondly think of (and tell stories about) the almost 15 years that I spent avidly playing MUDs. The immersion, imagination, camaraderie and fun I found in MUDding is something I will always appreciate and will always be something quite different from the experiences I have now playing MMOs.

    Happy Birthday, MUD.

  23. At the risk of sounding like a brown-nose, my first and only MUD experience was with LegendMUD, which may have some resonance at this site.

    I played religiously throughout college and, thinking back, it’s somewhat amazing to me that I remember so many of the details. For example, the Bane Sidhe’s nickname was Barney. If you really didn’t like another player you could lure them into Death Traps which not only killed them but made all their gear go poof, etc. Swapping in and out of spirit gear to be able to root or make poultices. Chant vina agni mrti ex.

    After college, my available time diminished, some of the folks I’d played with either semi-retired or left the game entirely, and I slowly lost interest. But I remember my time there fondly.

  24. [...] Tags: TorilMUD trackback This past Monday was the 30th birthday of the original MUD, rightly noted and celebrated on a number of [...]

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