“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.