Computer Society Hat

Computer society. - The fact that a female witch in Wales recently ran up a telephone bill of more than £1,000 in three months had a lot to do with the University of Essex Computer Society. Endora (or Sue in the real world) is one of about 150 people who have so far this academic year hooked up to the University's DEC-10 computer to play un MUD, the world's first multi-player computer game. MUD, for Multi-User Dungeon, was originated in 1979 by a computer science undergraduate who is now a contract programmer in Brussels. The program was taken over and expanded to its preseot form by Richard Bartle, now a PhD student un the same department. MUD makes use of artificial intelligence and database management techniques to provide an interactive game which allows more than one person at a time to play at the same time in the same adventure (or simulated environment). A player starts off as a novice or warrior and works up through the ranks to become wizard or witch either with the help of or in spite of the other humans wandering the landscape. Since last autumn MUD has been opened up to players outside the university for a few hours after midnight when the computer is normally idle. (This costs the universiy nothing, and there is no wear and tear on the system). Regular players get unto the game from Japan, Australia and the USA as well as from all corners of the UK, either by direct dialling over the telephone lines or by using a computer network. They start at midnight sharp and don't stop until the computer is taken away for housekeeping the next morning. Which is how Endora ran up her tebphone bill. From somewhere in Wales she played every night for four weeks to reach witch, and then carried on; after three months her phone bill was into four figures. A computer games company is known to be interested in MUD, and BBC television is to feature the game later this year in a special programme on computers.

Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: ecsjun84.htm