“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
To the uninitiated, MUD stands for Multi-User Dungeon. Those of us who were born in the 70s and actually had a computer in the house started off early, with Zork, or Colossal Cave, playing on a text screen for hours on end. The next logical step was connecting the computers and going head-to-head; when modems and networked LANs became popular, so did Richard Bartle’s MUD1, or, in my own case, the Scepter of Goth.
For many of the aging-nerd set, MUDding was the door we stepped through to go on to bigger and better things. Many of my friends went from this, to EverQuest, or Ultima Online, or World of Warcraft, and have been happy gaming with friends and colleagues ever since. The imagination was stirred, and didn’t keep quiet, always questing for a new game, a new setting to play in.
“listen: there’s a hell
of a good universe next door; let’s go”
Looking up the family tree of online games and gaming, MUDs tend to cut across a huge spectrum of categories and games. Reading across the wikipedia article above, the links become very obvious; MUDs fired up the imagination and kept the kettle of the imagination boiling, while tech got better and better.
I stepped away from MUDding in the 80s, and came back to it in the early 2000s for a while; a whole subculture and set of terminologies had sprung up while I was gone. I had to make sense of guilds and ‘remorting’ and all sorts of other things, while figuring out the leveling, RPing, and client mapping as well.
“Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?”
The Matrix, 1999
I’ve been away from MUDding again for a while; I just started to come back to it last year. I really get excited about MUDs less as a player, but more as a designer, or a Dungeon Master (which is the role I traiditonally played with my friends back in the 80s and early 90s). Over the years I’ve been looking at different MUD code bases, starting them up, creating a few areas, pulling them apart in some cases.
MUDding ain’t dead; what we’ve been seeing over the years is a steady progression of the game, from text to graphics, and now from just graphics on a screen to augmented reality/virtual reality. And traditional entertainment has gone along with that; whether it was the Matrix trilogy, which brought along with it several other films in that time period (I’m looking at you, Dark City and Thirteenth Floor) or Westworld garnering Emmy nominations right and left, the popular culture has always found a place for ‘virtual world’ concepts that let the imagination – and its players – run a little wild.
Over a few months, I’ll write more about MUDs from the point of view of world building and designing; the early code bases were interesting beasts, and most of them have been open-source and viewable/downloadable for years.
Looking back at the Zork I code, and what accounted for handling inventory back and the day. Interesting and frustrating all at the same time…
Some more signals that ArsDigita University was ahead of its time.
“I’ve read some comments on Reddit and HackerNews along the lines of: “What an obvious mistake! How was it even possible they missed this?” (Ignoring that the “obvious” vulnerability was introduced in January and only now discovered.)
When I see responses like this, I know the people commenting are not professional developers. For a serious developer, the reaction is instead: damn, that was a dumb mistake. I’m glad I wasn’t the one who made it.
Mistakes of this sort are routinely made in programming. All programs carry the risk of developer error. We have to throw off the mindset of “if they were just more careful, this wouldn’t have happened.” At a certain scale, carefulness is not enough.”
“To be provocative: No one ever fired someone too soon.”
Someone was like, “Should the women in engineering, like, form a guild?,” and I was like, “Yeah. As long as we can have, like, a monopoly on baking and space-time travel, I’m in.” People were like, “What are you talking about?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I just make Dune references.”
“I truly believe we are at an unprecedented time in American history, in uncharted territory. I have benefited from democracy passively, without trying at all, for 46 years. I now understand that the next four years is perhaps the most important time to be an activist in the United States since the civil rights movement. I am ready to do the work.”