Game talkImaginary Realities is back!

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Dec 172013

And here’s the link to Imaginary Realities vol 5 issue 1!


For those who don’t know, Imaginary Realities is the mud-related journal originally published by David Bennett. It disappeared way back in 2001, but Richard Tew has resurrected it. I’ve already glanced through the first new set of articles, and there’s some interesting stuff there for both MUD devs and non-mudders, I think.

All the original issues are mirrored, so if you want to look at the stuff that ran from ’98 to ’01, it’s there too!


Aug 282013

I didn’t plan it this way, but we have two interviews on back to back days! This one was for Adam Tingle over at, and it focuses mostly on MMOs specifically, as you might expect, with a lot of retrospective stuff. You can read it here.

We talk a bit about the making of Ultima Online, the development travails of SWG, the promise of Metaplace, and even the origins of sandboxy features back in LegendMUD. A snippet:

MMORPG: Do you believe in structuring a players experience, or prefer giving them tools to create a more emergent adventure?

Raph Koster: Both, really. But I strongly believe that you can’t build the emergent tools on top of a static world. As soon as you decide to make storytelling or quests or whatever the basis of your experience, you sacrifice having dynamic and emergent things in the game, because you can’t break or upset all the static content. Whereas if you start with a foundation of simulation or UGC, and layer static stuff on top, that works fine, because the static content is built to assume shifting foundations.

Sep 172012

On Saturday I met with the Omaha Game Developers Association in a Google Hangout for a couple of hours of interview-style questions. The whole thing was streamed live on YouTube and also captured afterwards, so here it is for those who have the patience.

Among the things we talked about:

And way more… vid after the break.

Continue reading »

Game talkWikipedia and MUDs hits Wired

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Jan 162011

Funny how this sort of thing happens… two years after the big kerfuffle over ThresholdMUD’s Wikipedia article being deleted (see here and here and here), we get a Wired UK article on Wikipedia and MUD history.

Eventually, the community decided to move on, and founded MUD Wiki, a Wikia dedicated to the genre. Wikia was introduced in 2004 by Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley, and allowed free web hosting for third party Wikis. It made it easier than ever to make niche Wikis on the most obscure or insular topic possible, and let Wikipedia get on with talking about things that are truly notable.

And maybe, in the grand scheme of documenting gaming history, a dedicated Wikia makes sense. Individual MUDs might be better suited to a Wikia, and its also promising to see Wikipedia’s own page on the genre in general is large, comprehensive and bibliographically diverse.

“Wikipedia is not a directory of everything that exists or has existed”, the site explains in a manifesto detailing its scope. And It would be near impossible for Wikipedia to be a complete and thorough repository of gaming history, with Deus Ex or The Legend of Zelda sharing the same word count as something obscure like Biomotor Unitron on the Neo Geo Pocket.

Game talkTwitter, status, and /tell

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Feb 072009

Hasn’t It Always Been About Status? is a little article tracing the status update mania (such as Twitter) to AIM status messages.

I have now spent two days with Twitter, and I have decided that it is basically guild chat in Internet-the-MMO. It’s a form of /grouptell, and we’re all out slaying bookmarks instead of orcs.

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Game talkSaving mud history

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Jan 132009

After the whole Threshold deal with Wikipedia and losing mud history, a new Wiki was created on Wikia in order to preserve mud history.

I’ve put up a detailed LegendMUD entry with a bunch of citations. Yeah, it’s a conflict of interest, and I am sure I am misremembering stuff or letting my bias show. But it’s also the only way some of this history will be preserved.(And wow, I had forgotten a lot of this stuff!)

Go there, and jump in, and help. And hey, if people do the hard work of finding sources and the like here, then some articles can maybe migrate back to Wikipedia.

Game talkWhat is a Diku?

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Jan 092009

I wish someone who has a good memory of these things and was there, would document that the key game design features of a DIKU are, if everyone is going to refer to MMOs as DIKU derivatives.

— a comment from Daniel Speed on Broken Toys » Wikicrap.

Glossing much here… Edit: this article is getting updated on the fly as people add comments and reminiscences.

DikuMUD was derived from AberMUD, which was similar mechanics, but had more of a scavenger hunt mentality in some ways.

At its core, it is a class-based RPG with the principal classes being fighter, healer, wizard, thief. (Later codebases added more). It was heavily based on the combat portion of Dungeons and Dragons. Advancement handled by earning experience points through combat, reaching a set amount of points, returning to town and “levelling up,” which unlocked new abilities. Classes were immutable (though eventually systems such as remorting, etc were added). Rewards for killing things also included equipment, which affected your stats and damage capability. If you reached the maximum level, common cultural practice was that you were invited to become a game admin (this practice dates back to much earlier, and existed in some form in MUD1).

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Game talkMiscWikipedia, muds, and where the sources are

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Jan 082009

Edit: slightly updated with one more “what have I learned” and a few more links. But I could add links to this for hours. 😛

So at this point, the whole kerfuffle over the MUD articles on Wikipedia has reached a fever pitch, and I am a bit exhausted by it all. Of course, not so exhausted that I can’t write 2500 more words about it.

But it has been an interesting education for me in how Wikipedia works, and I’d especially like to thank Adam Hyland for his patience explaining it all. I am a bit dismayed that both Richard & I were tagged by some in the debate as biased or “canvassed” or whatever the term is, when I think we both acted in good faith… but there are plenty of folks on the AfD discussion who have pointed this out.

Me being who I am, it of course led me to dig deeper into citations there in Wikipedia (hey look, ma, I’m a reliable source! No, wait, I’m not!). I think at this point that in theory, I’m a valid source. This may seem like an odd thing to wonder about or worry about, but hey, how can I help issues like this if not? I mean, this is right at the top of the whole MUD category:

MUDs and Notability — It Ain’t Gonna Work

Alright, I’ve been pondering this for several days, and I gotta tell you, I’ve got next to nothing. I’ve been in the Mudding community for over eight years at this point, and I’ve been a Mud administrator/coder/builder for over four years. I’d like to think I know the community pretty well. Here’s the dilemma: wikipedia guidelines require that articles on subjects maintain a certain level of notability. That is there are sources not directly related to the subject of the article. In the case of Muds this means we need to find some sort of third party source (be it a review, a listing, etc…) for each and every MUD listed on wikipedia that wasn’t written by players or staff of the MUD in question.

Well, that’s bloody near impossible.

— from the Talk page for the entire MUD category

So I decided to take a look at sourcing. I picked LegendMUD and my name, because though I may not be able to edit those articles, I do know the topics! In fact, I am an expert on me, though biased. 🙂 Continue reading »

Game talkThe borders of user created content

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Jan 072009

SusanC has a comment on a Terra Nova thread in which she observes,

So the main criterion for being considered is that there is some kind of creative expression involved. I’m OK with that, although it opens the door for arguments about exactly how much creative input is needed to qualify. Text chat, instant messages, and blog postings (like this one) clearly can be used for creative expression: so maybe these are within the paper’s scope, provided that they are sufficiently creative.

— comment on Terra Nova: New Paper on UGC.

It is an interesting problem, actually. There is hardly a site these days of any sort on the Net that does not support some form of user-generated content. But by unspoken convention, we seem to not consider chat and other basic synchronous social interaction to be the same sort of user created content that uploaded models and textures are.

I think the reason is interesting and subtle, and marks out a distinction between “extending the possibility space” and, well, “not.” So here go 1700 words… Continue reading »

Dec 022008
Richard Bartle, Randy Farmer, and Pavel Curtis

Richard Bartle, Randy Farmer, and Pavel Curtis

Far as we can determine, these three gentlemen have never been in the same real world place at the same time before.

Dr. Richard Bartle: co-creator of MUD, designer and theorist.
Randy Farmer: co-creator of Habitat, the first graphical world (as well as much more).
Pavel Curtis: the moving force behind LambdaMOO.

That is the three biggest inflection points in the history of virtual worlds, right there. 1978/9, 1985, 1990. If only we had John Taylor and Kelton Flinn here too.

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