MUD Glorious Mud Hat

MUD Glorious Mud

Bear with me for a gmoment..

ESSEX UNIVERSITY: Multi-User Dungeon
Welcome! By what name shall I call you?
Hello again, Gnot!
Narrow road between lands.
You are stood on a narrow road between The Land and whence you came. To the north and south are the small foothills of a pair of majestic mountains, with a large wall running round. To the west the road continues, where in the distance you can see a thatched cottage opposite an ancient cemetery.

If you don't know what to make of all that, then you haven't been taking much gnotice of the gnews lately - suddenly everyone has become highly excited about Multi-User Dungeon, gnot least the Gnome! So, purely for novitiates, MUD is a large scale, and beautifully crafted, adventure game which runs on Essex University's DEC mainframes, and which is accessible over the phone via Packet Switch Stream (PSS). But as the name implies, MUD is played by several people at a time, and it is this aspect that makes the game quite unlike any other!

Agnother snippet..

Road opposite cottage.
You are standing on a badly paved road with a cemetery to the north and the home of a grave-digger to the south. An inscription on the cemetery gates read, "RESTING PLACE OF LOST SOULS".
Jez the wizard is here carrying nothing
Hagbard the legend is here carrying longsword brand key rabbit
Hagbard the legend tells you "Hi Gnot - got the reviews yet?"
Jez the wizard says "Wot review is that then?"
*Jez You gnow, the one about the Comms Romms!

This episode had Gnot the sorcerer stumbling across Jez the wizard and Hagbard the legend, and having a cozy chat with them. Hagbard's greeting was addressed to Gnot alone, while Jez's question could be heard by both Hagbard and Gnot. Gnot's reply was only heard by Jez, as it was prefixed by the wiz's name. So amongst its other delights, MUD includes quite a sophisticated teleconferencing system, and it is very much part of the game to stand around chatting to people, seeking help and advice, swapping notes and pursuing arguments.

So it is obviously important to know who is playing the game at the same time, and, of course, there is a command to tell you..

Hagbard the legend is playing
Gnot the sorcerer is playing
Innocence the witch is playing
Smelly the berserker hero is playing
Jez the wizard is playing
Beowulf the superhero is playing

Even when a player is at a different location in the game, you can still talk to him directly..

*Beowulf How are you?

Like all adventure games, the object of MUD is to solve the many conundrums which lead to the discovery of ever more valuable treasure, and to wreak murder upon the wide variety of baddies including dwarves, goblins, dryads, zombies, ogres and sharks (and some of the other players!) who are trying to stop you, using a selection of more or less powerful weapons. All this frantic activity gains points for your character, and the points accumulate over as many games as your character can survive - death in battle is final!

As a character's points accumulate, his status within MUD's hierarchy rises..

Level Points Male        Female
  1        0 Novice      Novice
  2      400 Warrior     Warrior
  3      800 Hero        Heroine
  4     1600 Champion    Champion
  5     3200 Superhero   Superhero
  6     6400 Enchanter   Enchantress
  7    12800 Sorcerer    Sorceress
  8    25600 Necromancer Necromancess
  9    51200 Legend      Legend
 10   102400 Wizard      Witch

You may have noticed that each level is twice as difficult as the level below - believe me, it takes many hours of MUD to achieve even the lesser magical grades! But the slow grind is worth it, because each level enjoys ever greater powers in both the physical and magical planes. Of course, as a character rises painfully through the levels and gains power, you become increasingly reluctant to risk him in battle. However, the exponential jump tot he next higher grade requires more valuable treasure to be found, and the real goodies are well guarded!

So in the game of MUD there may be novices blundering about the Land, stumbling over treasure, zombies and each other, while elsewhere magicians hop from one well-known location to another, gathering up all the tools required for a major assault on one of the more difficult treasure chambers, while elsewhere still, a couple of wizards mutter darkly together in a secluded corner! And it is Wizardhood, of course, to which every MUD player aspires. Wizards and witches are immortal, and have god-like powers over the game and its characters. Relieved of the compulsion to hunt for treasure and points, their role is to oversee the antics of their underlings, to mediate wisely in arguments between lesser mortals, and generally to help or hinder the other players as they see fit. Of course, personality will out, and while some of the wizards are invariably helpful towards the stumbling novices, some show a decidedly playful bent as they rearrange the landscape or set a stray dragon roaming the Land, and other wizzes still are downright vicious in pursuit of hapless mortals who have offended them!

It's hard to capture the flavour of Multi-User Dungeon using the medium of, as they say, 'boring old Pretzel' - two years ago, the Gnome discovered Prestel and thought it was the most exciting thing to have happened in the world of telecommunications, and it was. Well, this year he feels the same way about MUD! The Multi-User teleconferencing aspect of MUD is a triumph of software engineering - it can broadcast a chat between a dozen or so people at fast conversational speeds, and it would be an incredibly useful system in itself - Chatline? forget it!

Then again, MUD's Dungeon is the most interesting and complex adventure playground that the Gnome (admittedly gnot an avid adventurer until lately) has come across. Each location has a lengthy, whimsical description..

Forest near mountains.
You are in dense forest at the base of some snow-capped mountains. The foothills are so beautiful that you yearn to be able to climb them and lie eternally in dew drenched gras, with an air of inner peace and total tranquillity. You realise, however, that this is silly!

But when MU and D combine to produce a Multi-User Dungeon, the result is an environment which, because of the strong human element and the richness of detail, lacks all of the built-in obsolescence which seems to blight any other computer game or adventure!

Great, you say, how do I play?
Well for the moment you don't, unless you have access to a PSS account - in which case you almost certainly know all about MUD already, including the fact that the Essex version is highly over-subscribed! But co-author Richard Archwiz Bartle and publisher Simon Century Dally intend to make a MUD available as a commercial system for up to a hundred simultaneous users, and are currently looking for a VAX to run it on - watch this space for progress reports.

The Essex MUD has also recently been demonstrated to Nick Green and Graham Craigie of Commodore/ADP's CompuGnet videotex enterprise - in the course of the demo (which was gatecrashed by a pair of Warwick hackers!) Nicko the Novice exclaimed "You'll soon be playing this on CompuNet!"

So, one way or agnother, you will soon be able to risk your blood pressure in real live MUD (sorry PCW). You had better start saving up gnow, for the sort of astronomical phone bill that the Gnome is dreading gnext month!

Mud, Mud, Glorious MUD!
Gnothing quite like it
For boiling the blood!
So follow me, follow
Down to the hollow,
And there we will wallow
In glorious MUD!
        apologies to Flanders and Swann!

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