Richard Bartle reveals the secrets and history of MUDs

    
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If you know even a little bit about the history of the MMORPG genre, you’ll be aware that these games didn’t start with World of Warcraft or even Ultima Online (no matter what you were told in world chat). Instead, the first real MMO came about in 1978 with the debut of a text-only virtual world called MUD1 that was created by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle.

While the introduction of a text MMO was significant to the gaming genre, the innovations didn’t stop there. At a 2010 GDC session that’s been making the rounds again this past month, Bartle explained how the pair had to create many “guiding principles” of MMOs from scratch — and that many of these principles are still in effect and influencing our games even now.

Ultima Online creator Raph Koster endorsed the following video by saying, “If you want to see how much (and how little) online worlds have changed since 1978, you should watch this video. I was there at this session, and Richard Bartle lays bare some of the original design decisions that are with us to this day.”

Source: Gamasutra

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Jack Kerras

Has anyone taken a crack at Starmourn?

I was on vacation when I tried a bit, and my lady-friend was there and pulled my head out of the game while I was tooling around in the beta, but it seemed to have some pretty cool ideas.

More ‘cinematic’ than most MUDs, and sci-fi, and with ship piloting and whatnot (that’s simply enough to use, unlike Beyond the Fire MUSH, which was fucking amazing but ten different flavors of sadistic.

You wanna be a starfighter pilot? I hope you’re -real good- at understanding where things are in a rapidly-evolving text version of 3D space and reorienting your ship by degree-mark-degrees, as well as creating presets and macros for thruster patterns, drawing firing solutions, and (to my extreme detriment) making sure you turn fucking life support systems on before you launch. <3

…holy shit I am a big nerd

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Eboni

I remember my first game. It was Darkness Falls and then Dragon’s Gate. I still play them them all the time – especially when I want my RP hit. I still can’t get into RP in a MMO. It feels weird, lol. Anyway, Legends of the Jedi is my current go to. Starmourn is looking good, too :)

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Dividion

The first MUD I really got into was Mortal Realms back in 1994. It was around before then, and it’s still around now, so it’s been running for over 25 years. (telnet://game.mortalrealms.com:4321)
Its claim to fame was a colorized VT102 interface that kept important information on the screen so everything wasn’t always scrolling. You could always see your health, gold, room exits, etc. Mortal Realms was even featured in a book at the time because it was so innovative. (https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/recgames_ronald-wartow_chris-bell/2301489/#isbn=1566863112&idiq=8576310)

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IronSalamander8 .

I tried a MUD back in the day. Never got into it. Possibly because back then I still had a regular tabletop RPG group so MUDs felt less engaging and single player games like the Ultima series (1-6 on my Commodore 64) were more exciting for my computer time. A roommate had an IBM PC we used for BBSes and games like that back then.

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Tee Parsley

Predating the muds were pbm roleplaying games. And there were a few.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Gonna watch the video later today even tho I know MUDs history pretty well. Btw Justin, did you read “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution”? Classic book that covers not only history of gaming but history of computers in general. Highly recommended.

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Utakata

Multi User Dungeon?

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PanagiotisLial1

That is what the term means although it were far more than that. I think also MUSH stands for Multi User Shared Habitat although I would had named it personally as Multi User Social Hub since its what they mostly were

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Utakata

I don’t suppose Multi User Shared Instance (MUSI) would work? Assuming that “instance” isn’t already assumed to be type of habitat.

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Tuor of Gondolin

MUSH stands for Multi-User Shared Hallucination.

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Raph Koster

Correct. It’s also a “backronym,” though.

Technically, MUD stood for “Multi User DUNGEN” which was the command line name for a single user text adventure around at the time, iirc.

MOO btw is “MUD, Object Oriented.”

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

I think it’s always important to remember that there is still a thriving MUD community, and a number of MUD codebases being actively developed.

We always talk about MUDs like it’s an episode of CSI. The Vic ain’t dead yet!

dixa
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dixa

Sojourn/TorilMUD best MUD

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Wilhelm Arcturus

Legit. And still up and running 25 years since launch.

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Raph Koster

And a key source of inspiration for EverQuest.

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Sorenthaz

It really is interesting how much MUDs influenced MMOs and beyond. I almost wish I had gotten into MUDding sooner than I did (i.e. 2015 or so was my first introduction to MUDs) though I had been playing around on BYOND games which obviously had MUD roots in the way things functioned (to where if you really wanted you could type all commands out including movement).

It’s also kind of funny/sad because in a way because MMOs haven’t really been able to outdo MUDs in terms of what they can offer and allow players to do. MMOs tend to sacrifice quite a bit of depth in order to look pretty and appeal to wider audiences since it’s not financially feasible to do smaller scale niche stuff.

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

Spot on re: range of freedom/action. The text-based multi-player games trade in being able to paint fantastic pictures with words. But ultimately what you saw was how *you* pictured it. And that was the secret sauce that you’ll never be able to get next to. The artistic power of the medium is unmatched.

Maybe if mo-cap and full-body/full-range avatars really catch on, you’ll start to get closer to that same level of pseudo-realism, but until then you’ll always be constrained by what someone else has imagined. And that is a really bitter pill for most people to swallow.

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PanagiotisLial1

Also as MUDs evolved made entire societies and thing normally npc-run in mmos as player run. Example when I chose to be a specific class playing first time in Aetolia, I was greeted from one of the people who run the guild of that class where you go to learn skills etc in RP fashion initially and a bit after asking in OOC if I need any help.

Also the cities were run by players too and apart from your guild you belonged to a city by choice too

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Oleg Chebeneev

Tbh 95% of MUDs arent that complex and focused on nothing but bashing mobs. Its rare gems like Dragonrealms, Gemstone4, Discworld MUD, Lusternia that can boast well crafted and indepth world.

With MMOs its similar. Most are simple games. But then there are gems like EVE Online that offer incredible depth.

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Schmidt.Capela

I don’t think EVE’s depth come from its systems; it basically has well-made systems for trade, travel, crafting, and combat, and the main differences in approach (such as needing to truck produced items to where they will be used) are just design decisions tailored to fit the game’s intended niche. The community took over from there and made EVE what it is, for better or worse.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Its depth is in sheer amount of things to do in game and how those things are tied to each other for one working mechanism.

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Schmidt.Capela

Of which the only ones fully supported by the game mechanics are trading, travel, crafting, and combat, not unlike what a number of other MMOs offer. Everything else comes from the community rather than the game itself.

It’s similar to how the proper community can turn a simple chat room into an interesting and deeply engaging experience. The medium might not offer ready-made tools for everything the community wants to do, but that doesn’t prevent the community from working around the limitations or even building the tools itself.

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Oleg Chebeneev

There are many other activities that are supported by game systems: missions, exploration, NPC hunting, planetary interaction, researching, etc. Even wars are supplemented by right tools that were made and provided by CCP.

Community is core of everything but EVE has the more tools for participating in varied activities than any other sandbox MMO. Its why it is a complex game.

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PanagiotisLial1

The economy model of EVE is for the most part unmatched and that has multiple reasons. There is a lot attention to detail there

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Jack Kerras

EVE’s economy, while fascinating and intricate and wonderfully interesting to tinker with, runs on a set of clearly-understandable rules that (with an economist in tow) one could implement in another game in a quite straightforward fashion.

The issue with that is that every one of those systems hinges on a few important details: firstly, entropy. Nothing in EVE lasts forever, not by half, but CAREFULLY balancing loss with gain and making it so that all these fragile things come to you fast enough to feel good but slow enough that you don’t get into shit you don’t belong in yet (from a player skill perspective) is a wonderfully intricate balancing act.

Little is more damaging in EVE than finding, too late, that your reach exceeds your grasp.

Beyond entropy, there’s also a great sort of combination concept: perfect knowledge, stirred up with imperfect shipping.

You can have something sent to you, but that thing is a real object, and it has to be brought from A to B to C all the way on to R, where you were when you made the order. Heaven forfend you’re all the way out in X when it arrives. You can see everything that’s for sale, and the perfect knowledge can keep prices from getting TOO crazy, but the very idea of moving high-value items, every single one of which can be lost, from one place to another is -terrifying-, and it makes trade an actual thing.

So, I mean… you can’t just slap an economic model on top of World of Warcraft and hope it works. You really need a whole system built from the ground up to lift these ideals… and you need, somehow, not to drive baseline players away by not tearing their toys out of their hands -too- often.

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Jack Kerras

The thing about EVE that stands out the most is that, for the most part, the left hand ALWAYS knows what the right is doing.

Nothing is designed in a vacuum. There is no shoehorning. If something is added, it seems like it’s added with a lot of care and attention, and the place into which that new addition was inserted was a place which was hurting for something new and interesting to tinker with.