Encarnita Round, darling of a thousand MUGs, vanquisher of uncountable superheroes, and explorer of infinite game universes hangs up the phone, returns to reality, and tells all about the worlds of multi-user entertainment.

Warning: once you've read this article, the single player adventure game may no longer satisfy you. After all, once the adventure has been solved, what's left? The challenge has gone and the game's over. Not only that: solo adventuring can be a lonely affafr. There is, however, an alternative, a game where there is never really one solution, and certainly not just one player.

Multi-User-Adventuring, really began at Essex university some 5-6 years ago, with Essex MUD (also known as SX) by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle. This paved the way for a plethora of similar releases - Blud, Valley, Rock, Uni, MUD 2 and Mist, to name but a few.

Most games run pretty much along the same lines, collecting treasure and accumulating points and prestige. Of course there are exceptions: Blud, was entirely devoted to mass murder, your objective being to maim and mutilate just about anything that moved. Other variations grew out of the original SX: Compunet MUD, MUD 2, and an American version under the title of 'British Legends'.

Until recent years the Mult-User environment was pretty much the domain of a small group of computer enthusiasts who either happened to live close to a small Multi-User Game, had access to JANET (Joint Academic Network), or who had an enormous, bottomless wallet to call long distance! The most obvtous present day exception to this rule is Shades, developed by Neil Newell and originally run from East Grinstead (EG Shades). The introduction of a modified version to Micronet meant that a great many more people were introduced to the concept of multi-user-adventuring. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, the cost of telephone calls to a game fell for non-Londoners as 100% of Prestel subscribers can access the system at local call rates. Even though Micronet Shades is a charged game (2p/min plus VAT) plus a local call, for many players this is far cheaper than calling a free game long distance.

There has been, effectively, a 'mini-boom' in MUGs over the last few yeats. Good news for MUGgers! However, most games are limited to one or two lines as the costs of installing telephone lines is a costly affair. The games are there for any intrepid adventurer to delve into, so here's the info...

MUD (Multi-User Dungeon)

An adventure on a grand scale. You gain points by coliecting treasure and/or killing others through the levels from Novice all the way up to Wizard/Witch. Like other MU games, it is up to you to decide whether you want to talk to a player, or kill them.

the game has been around for quite some time, growing larger and more complex, as all games should, to maintain players' interest. There's a lot of know-how to pick up on the way, ranging from the movement patterns and likely behaviour of different mobiles to the varying effectiveness of the available weapons - which have a different power value (the amount of damage it does per blow) depending on whether you are fighting a player or a mobile.

There are usually players around who are willing to help and give the Novice hints and tips, but it still takes a long time to get into the game and learn enough to get on with.

You may be unfortunate enough to find yourself playing during one of those times when people haven't the time or energy to help so a degree of chutzpah is required for new players and you may receive the initial impression that it is less friendly than some other MUGs.

Where MUD scores is in the atmosphere of the world you have to explore. It's not as communal an affair as Shades, but once you've overcome the initial embarrassment factor it can become an obsessive exercise in politics, co-operation, and the exercise of power. If you buy your game credits in bulk and can access the system at local call rates, it can also be satisfyingly cheap to play.

MUD2 (MUD and Valley)
Registration and further information from:
MUSE Ltd, 6 Albemarle Way, London, EClV 4JB
Tel. 01-608 1171/3
Access: 80 column scrolling.
01-583 1275 (1200/75) 8N1
01-583 3000 (300/300) 8N1
01-583 1200 (1200/1200) 8N1
(When you receive the 'PAD>' prompt, type CALL 41 and then press <RETURN>)
Authors & development team: Richard Bartle, Roy Trubshawe, Simon Dally
Starter Pack £4.95
Hourly Rate
(small orders) £1.00
(bulk orders) £0.50

Access Via PSS or JANet only.
Games unavailable at present, though MIST might be hidden away somewhere on one of the University systems.


Shades seems to be the most popular MUG around at the moment if you're judging by sheer weight of numbers, though it has something of an advantage in being part of Micronet/Prestel. The game has, however, made a virtue of popularity by adding several unique communication features between players that must make it the most interactive of all MUGs.

Most people. when they talk of Shades refer to the Micronet version but there is another version; East Grinstead, or EG Shades. This is the original game and a test bed for new software changes. The only differences between EGS and the Micronet version is that on EGS there are only two lines into the game, so that a good deal of the interachvity is lost. EG is also only available in scrolling format, whiist Micronet offers scrolling and newdata formats.

Shades is a good place to start for the new player. It's friendly, and fairly easy to get going. This doesn't mean that the game is too simple, merely that it is not too difficult to get to grips with most of the basics. Many people find that if they can at least explore some locations and get a few items together early on in the adventure, they soon become addicted.

Contact for Prestel/Micronet registration: The Telemap Group, Durrant House, 8 Herbal Hill, London
Tel. 01-278 3143
Access: Prestel. 40 column viewdata and 80 column Scrolling Shades available via gateways.
Cost: 2p/minute + VAT (Micronet members).

Contact: 0342 810905
Access: 1200/75 scrolling, 8N1
Author: Neil Newell (Hazeii the Coder)
Cost: free


Staying with EG Shades, you might like to try another game - Trash. This is a new game running on an IBM AT linked to Shades and accessed by typing 'PCLINK' at the dot prompt.

Trash is still in its infancy in comparison with many games avaiiable at the moment. Your job? Leave Trash Control, visit various places, such as 'Shades of a Land' which pokes fun at Shades, and collect all the rubbish lying around. Remember, it's trash, not treasure, that will build your points up

The central themes depend on the lands visited: 'Cabbages and Caves' has a Dungeons and Dragons feel to it, 'Off-Centre Earth' is a Middle Earth scenario, whilst 'Starship Wantarise' is decidedly Science Fiction.

The whole game is puzzle orientated, and takes one step closer to being an adventure game for multiple players. Here, the distinction between a MUG and MUA (Multi-User Adventure) becomes more pronounced. Here, most of the things you do are likely to be part of one of the puzzles.

Couple the puzzles with large doses of humour (where do you get a space ship from? Why, you grow it on a space ship tree of course!) and you get a game that's both satisfying and highly enjoyable.

Contact: 0342 810905 (same as EG Shades)
Access: 1ZOO/75 80 col. Scrolling, 8N1
Authors: Ambushbug & Hazeii
Cost: Free
Extra info: Log on as normal to EG Shades, at the dot prompt, type PCLINK to connect to Trash.


Anyone who claims to have been frolicking in my lap. isn't quite doing what you may think! It's actually a new area in the Zone. A MUG set up by Chris Butterworth (a.k.a. Gandalf) after someone mentioned starting a game for adults. It hardly seems worth mentioning that the Zone, despite having an almost post-apocalyptic name, stands for the Erogenous Zone, and players have to be 18 or over to play.

Here, players can get to Wizard/Witch by either collecting the few items of treasure, or by making love to someone of the opposite sex. The whole process is a product of the state of arousal of the players, how drunk they are. and their state of undress.

It is an interesting way to gain points!

Apart from treasure, collect the glasses, cups and food stuffs. You need these to replenish your stamina after getting physical. Fill the glasses with alcoholic substances from the bar: the bar staff are very obliging when it comes to filling empty glasses!

Beware, though, too much alcohol cnd you will find yourself incapable of moving the the direction you want. If you persist in drinking yet more you may find yourself suffering from a terminal case of alcoholic poisoning, so moderation please! Watch out for the Green Nashes too, flatulence is not particularly becoming in the middle of some romantic exchange.

You could remain T-total, though arousal to fever pitch (!) is slower - depending on your partner of course, and the food stuffs are limited. Maybe a glass of wine occasionally wouldn't do you too much harm.

There are only a couple of lines into the Zone, so you may find that you will have to try to get on many times before you are sucoessful. Perhaps this also indicates the growing popularity of the game too.

It is friendly in the Zone - make no mistake about it. The nature of the game dictates that players interact to a great degree atter all! I enjoy playing Zone, well, with my own Sofa in the Recovery room, and a temple devoted to my worship, how could I NOT like it?!

Contact: 01-683 4507
Access: 1200/75, 80 columns scrolling game, 8N1
Author: Chris Butterworth (Gandalf)
Costs: Free at present
Restrictions: Users over 18 only


Mirrorworld runs on two Master 128s, with the game stored on a 28Mb hard disk. The game, based in Sussex, was originally set up by a team led by a chap called Philip Cordey (a.k.a. Pippin, who, some may realise, is also an Arch-Wizard on Shades). There are six dial-up ports into the MW front end, which tend to be rather busy, indicating the popularity of the game. There are 10 internal lines too, so you'll find yourself bumping into a great many people.

MW has a pretty standard scenario featuring the almost obligatory Dragon, swords, treasure and a number of puzzles. Try relieving yourself in one of the pools in the gardens some time. Mobiles can be picked up, which leads to an interesting result if you carry Peter Rabbit and Jane Rabbit at the same time!

There are no global resets in MW, as in other games. Used treasure is repositioned by an old man who wanders round the game dropping things, which is a little less painful than being thrown off every 45 - 60 minutes!

MirrorWorld has that feel to it that just keeps you playing on and on. Though some players are not quite as friendly as on some games it really is good: persevere with the engaged tone, and give it a try!

Contact: 0883 844044 (4 lines)
0883 844164 (2 lines)
Access: 1200175, 80 column scrolling, 8N1
Authors: The MWteam, led by Philip Cordey (Pippin)
Costs: Free

Quest 1

Entered via the Mirrorworld front-end is a game called Quest 1. This was created on an Amstrad 6128. Unfortunately programmer Phil Harling (nicknarne Amstar) encountered a few problems with the Amstrad RS232 port, so the game was transferred to an SBS PC, where it is running happily at the moment.

The game is also in its very early stages, and still quite small, with only 200 - 300 rooms. Amstar has spent time trying to introduce more players onto the game and now it can cope with up to 16 users, although there aren't quite that many external lines in.

One word of warning though, if you see a button that tells you NOT to press it, then don't! It can be rather embarrassing being reduced from a Wizard to an Apprentice! My only gripe is that the level of Witch hasn't been implemented as yet, being a female Wizard doesn't feel right!

There are some nice touches to the game though. One of which being able to carry not only obiects, but mobiles AND players too! You can just imagine the look on a player's face when they realise that they are being physically lugged about by a Wizard!

Contact: Same as MirrorWorld above
To get to Quest 1, type '/host b' at the "MUTS>" prompt.
Author: Phil Harling (Amstar)


The date is 0:99.68 on day 22 of Month 5, in the Year of our Gods 16. In other words, Sunday March 13th at 02:38:32 and Welcome to Gods!

Gods is a world based on a North African sea port. Miles of jungles, swamps, lost temples, snakes, vampire rabbits (huh?!), a European city, Kasbah, and even a Colosseum are there for the finding. If you can't looate them all, the coach near the start, of the game is useful for just looking around, as a mystery tour of the game can be arranged. A photo session is part of the package so you can admire yourself as well.

Those who play soon realise that points alone are not enough, spiritual development is essential to your progresion to Godliness. You need to gain worshippers, since as a God you need them to offer up their treasure in your temple. If not, you will soon fall from favour! Be a good God my son, and let the mortals worship and praise your holiness...

The system of scoring is complicated. You can simply go to a temple and offer your treasure directly to the Gods. Alternatively, there is a ritual of passing on treasure to a higher-level holy person. The more players that handle the treasure, the more points each one gets. The system is complicated though: if the rules of the rituals are broken then points can be lost rather than gained.

As if the game wasn't complicated enough, you can always try your hand at Tarimspeke! Tarim is a God, who kindly acted as my guide. However, he has developed his own method of talking, and it takes some getting used to, which just has to be the understatement of the year!

There is a lot to the game: it's large, running somewhere in the region of 2,000 rooms and full of subtle touches that puts it way ahead of many other MUGs. The differences between day and night mean that some puzzles vary with time. Commands develop different nuances the more that you use them, descriptions are very atmospheric, the players friendly, and willing to give a few hints (though no answers!). Certainiy a game I would recommend to anyone.

Registration details: Lap ot the Gods Limited, Barley Mow Passage, London W4 4PT
tel. 01-256 8427
Access: 01-944 9199, (1200/75 300/300) auto-sensing, 80 column scrolling
Author: Tiger Tiger
Costs: When registering, state which of the following is required.
Monthly £11.50 (unlimited play time)
20 hour unit £11.50
Credit can now be arranged by credit card by calling the game's Bulletin Board.


Wanderland is another fairly traditional MUG run on a DEC. The aim of the game is to collect 524,288 points by collecting treasure and dumping it in reclaimed land: the equivalent of the MUD 'swamp'.

Treasure seems quite easy to come by, at least, it has been on the occasions that I have played. For some reason, the game isn't quite as busy as some of the other games available. There are plenty of places to explore too; after all, 1500 rooms or so takes quite a bit of getting used to!

It's a pity there aren't a few more players around, although MUGs do tend to go through periods of popularity. Even so, perhaps I'll make Wanderland the site of my third Witch.

Contact: 01-680 5330 (2 lines) open 24 hours
01-681 8081 (2 lines) 6pm-9am weekdays, plus all weekend
Access: 1200/75, 40 column scrolling, 7E1
Author: Ted Greene (Wanda the Arch-Wltch)
Costs: Free



First you need a computer plus modem and comms software. Any popular package will do - all MUG's use standard communication protocols. If you're new to comms, relax - most popular software packages are very simple to use and MUGs are straightforward to log onto - you won't have any obscure baud rates or having to deal with techno-puzzles bearing strange names like Kermit and Fido. You just set up your package and dial the number...

The box following each review gives a contact number for game registration (usually necessary before you can play, especially if playing charges are involved) and the communications protocol for each MUG: note that any costs mentioned do NOT include the telephone charges! Access details give a 3-character code (number, letter, number) indicating word length followed by parity (E=Even, N=None) and stop bit - consult your comms software documentation if you get into difficulty.

Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: acejul88.htm