Anecdotes, Set 3 Hat

Why "mobiles"?

        The creatures that wander around in MUDs are almost universally known as "mobiles". This is a term which originates in MUD1, and it came about because I had to think of a single-word description of them so as to implement the concept. I couldn't call them "creatures", because they weren't always going to be used to represent creatures - they might be a vehicle, say, or a cloud. I was in something of a hurry, and decided that since they were basically mobile objects, I'd temporarily call them "mobiles".
        Some years later I was congratulated on the beautiful analogy I had made between MUD mobiles and "those small objects that balance from poles you hang from the ceiling, moving around in a seemingly random yet actually controlled and choreographed fashion.".
        Naturally, I declined to confess the truth... [Richard Bartle]

To Build, or Not to Build?

        In many modern-day MUDs, it's taken for granted that the players can build things: rooms, objects, mobiles - all with related commands to act upon them. The very first MUD also had building, but we took it out because we found that the things people created were rarely in keeping with the rest of the game, were often badly written, unfinished, inconsistent and they detracted from the game's atmosphere. Added to that we only had 50K of 36-bit words available at the time, and we decided to take them out.
        Many years later I was approached by a group of wizzes asking for me to give them limited facilities to build. They argued their case very well, so I agreed to reimplement the commands.
        The first day the commands were back, I entered the game and immediately came across a "red baloon". I summoned its creator and told him that "balloon" had 2 Ls, and would he kindly get rid of it.
        His response? "I suppose you want me to get rid of the other 98, too?". [Richard Bartle]


        Perhaps the most exciting player ever to grace MUD2 was Dextrus. When Dextrus entered the game, the wizzes would telephone their friends and urge them to come on-line, just to watch Dextrus play. Dextrus was a marvel of inventiveness and intelligence, and would see everything from his unique point of view.
        Dextrus was game for anything. Once, he spent an entire hour talking to a coracle, without any indication from any wizzes that he was being watched. His conversation with this inanimate object went off into the outer reaches of surrealness, only ending when he set fire to it and threw it down a well after it snubbed him one time too many.
        Dextrus' favourite trick, though, was patiently getting people to trust him and then stabbing them in the back when the opportunity arose. It made no difference whether he was better armed than they, or indeed whether he was armed at all. He just couldn't help it.
        He once spent 30 minutes talking a persona of mine into accompanying him on a quest to kill off a bunch of dwarfs. I agreed, but not before I'd collected every protective device known to man and had weapons stashed in every available space. Eventually, after we'd killed all the dwarfs, we were standing in their treasure chamber and Dextrus attacked. He was already weak from dwarfen blows, and he stood no chance whatsoever of winning. I couldn't believe he'd done it.
        "It's obvious you're going to die," I said, as my longsword chopped off another part of his anatomy. "Why did you do it?"
        "Because I'm a Dextrus," he replied, and then passed on. [Richard Bartle]


        Chrithtina had a lithp. Everything she typed had anything that sounded like "s" replaced by "th". She was absolutely faultless at it, never ever making a mistake. Words like "treasure" she could say, because the "s" there isn't a sibilant. "Mice", on the other hand, came out as "mithe".
        Chrithtina had a second persona, Christina. Whenever she was involved in deep conversation that involved a lot of Ss, she would quit as Chrithtina and return as Christina, "so ath not to cover people in thpit". Chrithtina eventually made it to wiz level, and retained her speech affectation until she stopped playing to have a baby (allegedly).
        There were strong rumours at the time that Chrithtina was actually some experienced player who was masquerading as a mortal - I was even accused of being her myself. This may or may not be true (she certainly had a credit card under the name Christina <something>), but whoever she was, she was very popular among the other players.
        I have since implemented a "lisp" command in MUD2 which transforms Ss into THs automatically. It works, but not as well as Chrithy used to do it. I can just imagine her reaction: "CUTHHION indeed! How prepothterouth!". [Richard Bartle]


        Sue was one of THE major characters in MUD1. She was an "external" player, which meant she played via modem rather than at a terminal, but she made a tremendous impact. One of the few female players we had, she had a brusque way of dealing with any predatory males who came her way, and she swiftly came to know more about the game than anyone else (except, perhaps, me). Everyone loved her, and generations of wizzes have followed guidelines of good behaviour which were based on observations of Sue's firm-but-fair attitude.
        In real life, Sue was agrophobic. She hated leaving her bedsit in South Wales, so MUD1 was a godsend for her. She played every night for 6 hours solid, day in, day out, and her phone bill came to over 1,000 pounds a month. She also loved writing, and sent letters to all her fellow wizzes quite often; one of her handwritten notes ran to 119 pages and had maybe 20 photographs in with it, but the most I ever had was 15 pages and 1 photo (me? jealous?).
        One day, Sue suddenly announced she was going to Norway to be an au pair, and stopped playing. This was a VERY un-Sue thing to do! A week went by and she didn't reappear, so a bunch of players got in a minibus and drove to South Wales to find out what had happened.
        It transpired that Sue was a man who had just been jailed for defrauding the Department of Transport of 60,000 pounds.
        We normally leave that bit out of our guidelines for good wiz behaviour... [Richard Bartle]


        People who want to try their hand at in-depth role-playing may like to emulate Ug. Ug was played as a caveman, and all he ever said was "ug". OK, so sometimes he might say "ug!" or "ug?" or "UG UG UG", but his entire vocabulary was nevertheless restricted to the one word.
        Ug was quite a decent player, given this monumental obstacle to his progress. If he wanted you to help him in some way, he'd point ("I see, you, you want me to help you shift the grate?" "ug!"), and if he wanted to swap objects with him he'd wave his around until you got the message. Communication was therefore possible, but limited. Ug always refrained from doing those puzzles which required a spoken word (unless the word was "ug").
        Ug's personal habits were those of normal cavemen. He avoided any contact with water, and would stand around perplexed if he encountered a lavatory ("Ug? Ug ug ug?"). He would attack any living being that he outclassed completely (butterflies, mice, newbies) and without fail attempt to eat them afterwards. He did, however, have a soft spot for parrots: many is the day when I've encountered a parrot which had somehow picked up a vocabulary consisting entirely of the word "ug".
        Ug was finally killed off after a heroic encounter with a vampire, which Ug stoically resisted using magic against. We were expecting Ug to return as a novice, but a new character appeared instead: Ugg. Ugg, we soon discovered, could say "ugg" as well as "ug".
        Few people are as privileged as those who have seen the wheels of evolution turning before them... [Richard Bartle]

Showing Off

        This happened to me a couple of days ago.
        I dropped in to one of the MUD2s I run, and saw a guest pottering about. I materialised before him, and we started chatting. He was new to MUD2, but had played other MUDs before, and he was suitably impressed. He liked the parser, so I went into my best "aw shucks" mode and thanked him. In order to impress him further, though, I decided I'd see what he thought about MUD2's colourised text. The conversation went something like this:
        Me:     "Have you tried the ANSI colours yet."
        Him:    "No, I haven't."
        Me:     "You've GOT to try the colours, they look really neat!"
        Him:    "If you say so."
        Me:     "Just type /A to switch them on."
        Him:    "Well, OK."
        Me:     "Do a LOOK. What do you think? Better?"
        Him:    "It doesn't look any different to me."
        Me:     "Uh?! But I'm sure /A works for guests. Can you try it again?"
        Him:    "It might be the fact that I'm using an amber screen..."
        I wish they made band-aids for egos... [Richard Bartle]


        "Sillies" are responses made by a MUD to player actions which, although they may make sense, have no game function. Rather than give a standard "Nothing happens" or "You can't do that" message, MUD programmers often put in little sarcastic messages instead: these are "sillies".
        MUD2 is riddled with sillies, reacting to 3 basic types of input: 1) puns on objects names, eg. PLAY POKER where the poker is meant for poking fires, or PUT PIN IN EFFIGY where the pin is a rolling pin; 2) two normally unrelated words which together have a completely separate meaning, eg. if you can FISH and there's a FINGER in the game, you might try FISH FINGER; 3) an attempted command which would require unreasonable programming depth to accomplish or is just plain imposible, eg. GET AIR. The first form is regarded as the most satisfying, and some players spend most of their in-game hours searching for new sillies (and moaning when they think of one that's not already there!).
        Example: MUD2 has two MICE (one a rodent, the other a sugar one you can eat) and four ICONs (paintings). Most players treat these objects as they were intended to be used, but some go one bit further:-

        Player: click on icon
        MUD2:   The icon flashes in inverted colours for a moment, then stops. As indeed I wish you would.

They don't give up, though:-

        Player: click on mouse
        MUD2:   That's graphic, user interference!

They may try a variation:-

        Player: drag mouse
        MUD2:   I hate having to deal with non-mainstream commands, and that one's REALLY touching on the peripheral...

And finally, they'll go for the big combination:-

        Player: click mouse on icon
        MUD2:   Nothing happens, but it takes a really long time to do so...

I'd like to give the impression that MUD2's sillies are popular with all our players, but I happen to know of one who's stuck with the task of translating the lot into French... [Richard Bartle]

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
21st June :\webdes~1\ anec3.htm