it's a mugs game Hat

it's a mugs game

What's a MUG? Well, it could be someone who has just spent his life savings betting Cecil Parkinson will become the next Prime Minister. Or even someone who has just splashed out on a second-hand Reliant Robin. But it isn't. No, in technospeak a MUG is a Multi-User Game, possibly one of the earliest and certainly the longest running forms of truly interactive computer entertainment. All you need to play is a computer, a modem and a phone line. CCEG checks out the action.

Multi-User Games are computer controlled, modem-linked, totally interactive adventure games - just the thing for roleplaying addicts with a home computer and plenty of cash.

Link up with a MUG and you enter a fantasy world inhabited by computer controlled characters and more importantly other 'live' players.

Like your average over-the-table roleplaying game you'll come up against intelligent human opponents - as well as hostile, and friendly, computer beings.

You can have on-screen conversations with other players, make alliances and even recruit armies. There are many different types of games to play, which we'll detail elsewhere on these pages, but first - a history lesson.

roy and richard go 'mugging'

Once upon a time there were two Essex University students, Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle. Trubshaw had discovered the original single-user adventure game written by Crowther and Woods to run on a DEC mainframe. But Trubshaw wasn't happy with Adventure - as far as he was concerned there were two things wrong with it. Firstly, he didn't like the way it was programmed. Secondly, he didn't like the fact that only one person could play at a time.

So Trubshaw made a few changes to the structure of the program - and introduced a facility for several people to play at once - meeting and interacting within the game. This was the acorn from which the MUG scene grew.

Enter Richard Bartle. He helped Trubshaw formulate plans for the original Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) running on the university's mainframe, When Trubshaw left Essex, Bartle took over running the game while studying for his Phd. The University allowed him to let non-university computer-buffs phone their computer to play and help develop the game.

The original MUD is fondly remembered by old-timers, but it was too hot a property to remain locked away in Essex University's computer. When Bartle left university he took the game with him, wrote a book about it and then, with the help of his publisher, Simon Dally, formed a company called MUSE to sell the game commercially.

British Telecom put up the money for the first commercially available version of the game, which in 1984, went live on the Compunet and Compuserve networks.

MUD II was designed for the Prestel net but, due to political wrangles at Telecom, it never reached that network. Instead it was launched on an independent system of its own. The cost of playing and lack of advertising won it little support from gamers. In 1989 it became available on the better known Telecom-Gold network, and here it found a new lease of life.

Bartle is critical of the early Compunet experiment with the game. It was free to play and pretty chaotic. Because it was free, controllers didn't have to worry too much about people being killed 'unfairly'.

Players who had invested time and money in their characters were fed-up when they lost them at the hands of a deranged 'Wizard' - the most powerful players in the game. In fact one player actually successfully sued the company after losing his character in an unfair fashion. When MUD II went commericial this sort of mayhem was abolished - although many free MUGs are still pretty anarchic.

wizard fun

Because many of the people who have written and developed their own MUGs began by playing on the Essex University computer, most current games have 'borrowed' from the original MUD.

The key aspects of MUD can be summed up simply. If you're familiar with table-top roleplaying or play-by-mail you'll already have some idea. You begin with a character which has few powers and no game 'points'. Each time you play, certain actions will earn you 'points'. Your score is saved at the end of each session so you can start again where you left off.

The main aim of MUD is to collect enough points to become a Wizard, at which time you are granted vast powers to create new objects, move other players around at will - and even kill them if you think they are misbehaving. Points are scored either by 'swamping' treasure that you've found - taking it to the 'swamp' and dropping it in - or killing things, These can be fellow players or 'mobiles' - the computer generated and controlled characters inhabiting the game.

Experienced MUGgers are probably sniggering behind their hand at all the fuss currently being made about 'interactive television', CDI and the rest of the 'gee-whizz' interactive technology said to be on the way. They've been using pretty basic exisiting technology and enjoying truly interactive entertainment for years. MUGs are an under-used and underrated way of enjoying your computer - but beware, they can become addictive. And like most addictions very, very expensive!

current multi-user games - how to get in on the action

BASICS: You'll need a computer, obviously, and a compatible modem capable of at least 300/300, 1200/75, 1200/1200 baud rates (the speed at which data is sent down the phone lines). Most games demand software which will provide a standard scrolling terminal. If this isn't the case it's stated below.

mud - the multi-user dungeon

Creators: Richard Bartle (Richard) and Roy Trubshaw (Roy)
Game type: Fantasy
Telephone (data):
(071) 583-3000 300/300 baud (v21)
(071) 583-1275 1200/75 baud (v23)
(071) 583-1200 1200/1200 baud (v22)
(071) 583-8333 2400bis (v22b)
(081) 203-3033 all speeds plus MNF level 5 on 1200 and 2400 bauds
Settings: 7E1

There is a GUEST account which can be used as follows. Once you have called the appropriate number you are taken on to the Telecom Gold network. Nothing will be transmitted until you hit your RETURN key a couple of times. When a prompt appears type: CALL 41 <return>

This connects you to MUD. Then type: MUDGUEST <return> at the 'Username' prompt, and then: PROSPECT <return> at the 'Password' prompt, This takes you into the MUD guest account which allows 15 minutes of play - just enough time to appreciate the general atmosphere of The Land, the game universe in which the action takes place. Bear in mind that as a guest you cannot expect to have access to some of the areas and commands. What you can do however is 'spool'the HELP text which you get by typing 'HELP' - which you can subsequently read off-line.

If you want to purchase a MUD-pack (two handbooks, a colour map of The Land, and an account - all for £4.95) write to: Dr Richard Bartle, Multi-User Entertainment Ltd, 34 Grantham Road, Great Horkesley, Colchester, Essex C06 4TU. Tel (voice) (0206) 272-633 during office hours.

Additional credits for use with an account can be purchased in the following quantities and at the following costs. Remember that credits are only deducted if you play the adventure - looking around the system is free.

Quantity Cost
50 £10
100 £20
200 £35
300 £50
750 £100
1500 £150


Adventure creators: Kafai Wu (Kafi) and Roger Miah (Wiz)
Type of game: Fantasy
Telephone (data): (021) 420-1319 (v23)
Settings: 8N1
Status: FREE

shades and trash

Adventure creators: Neil Newell (Hazeii) and Matt Ward (Ambushbug)
Type of game: Shades (Fantasy), Trash (SF)
To play the 'official' Shades or Trash, first you must obtain a Prestel, Micronet or Telecom Gold subscription.
To get details about Micronet, write to: Micronet 800, Telemap Group Ltd, Dialcom House, Brindley Way, Hemel Hempstead HP3 9RR, tel (voice) (0442) 237788.
To contact Prestel or Telecom Gold, you can telephone (0800) 200 700, free of charge.
A subscription to Micronet, which includes Prestel, costs £23 a quarter. It will cost you the price of a low-cost call from anywhere in the country to use the services. The MUGs available on Micronet can be accessed in either Scrolling or Viewdata format.

On Micronet: 8p/min, peak rate (8am-6pm); 2p/min, cheap rate (6pm-8am)
On Prestel: 12p/min peak rate; 6p/min cheap rate On Telecom Gold: 4.5p/min between 7pm-8am; no additional cost from 8am-7pm
All prices exclusive of VAT
There are two ways to play these MUGS.
Call the 'Callstream' number (0898) 100-890 (33p/min cheap rate; 44p/min peak rate) - Viewdata or Scrolling
Call the test port on (0342) 810-905 or (0342) 810-229. Scrolling 8N1 only - 1200/75 baud.

I/O world of adventure - mirrorworld, quest 1, parody, empyrion, chaos war of wizards

Adventure creators: Phil Cordrey (Pippin); Phil Harling; (Amstar); Blane Bramble (Geolin)
Types of game: Fantasy - Mirrorworld, Quest 1, Parody, Chaos War of Wizards; SF - Empyrion
Telephone (data):
(0883) 744-044 (v23)
(0883) 744 164 (v23)
Status: FREE
Dial one of the numbers and once connected to the front end follow the on-scroen prompts.

the butler - gods, zone, future life

Adventure creators: Tiger Tiger; Chris Butterwodh (Gandalf)
Types of game: Fantasy - Gods; SF - Future Life; Adult (18+ only) - Zone
Telephone (data): (081) 994-9119
300/300 or 1200/75 baud
Settings: 8N1
Status: CHARGING - but there is a GUEST account.
Once connected type: GUEST at the 'Account' prompt and then: GUEST at the 'Password' prompt. This will then take you to the main menu.
This network has a subscription charge of £10, plus £1.50 VAT for either a 20-hour block or 30 days unlimited play, Additional units can be purchased using a credit card online. For an account write to:
Lap of the Gods Ltd, Barley Mow Passage, London W4 4PT, tel (voice) (071) 256-8427.


Type of game: Fantasy
Telephone (data): (081) 861-5522 300/300, 1200/75, 2400/2400 baud
Settings: 8N1
AberMUG is available through the 'Connect' bulletin board run by the IBM PC User Group. 'Connect' can be contacted on:
(081) 863-6646 1200/1200, 2400/2400 baud with v42 error connection (MNP 2-4)
(081) 861-5522 300/300, 1200/75, 1200/1200 baud, also Hayes V-series 9600HDX

'Connect' costs from £35 plus VAT for members of the IBM PC User Group; £50 plus VAT for non-members (who also pay a joining fee of £10 plus VAT). Full details are available on-line or write to IBM PC User Group, PO Box 360, Harrow HA1 4LO, tel (voice) (081) 863-1191.

the void

Type of game: Fantasy/SF
Telephone (data): (0243) 562816
Settings: 8N1
Status: FREE

synergy - avalon, spy

Type of game: Fantasy - Avalon; SF - Spy
Telephone (data): (081) 968-0333 v21,22,22b,23
Settings: 8N1.
For Spy you will need a terminal which accepts either Heath/Zenith Zl 9 codes or DEC VT52 codes
The first five hours are free, then 25p an hour, £10 per month, £25 per quarter or £200 life-membership.

MUGs data compiled by Roger Miah. If there are any new MUG operators not included in this list please contact Roger at CCEG, Newsfield Publications, Case Mill, Temeside, Ludlow, Shropshire SY8 1JW and we'll attempt to include details in the next issue.
Roger would also like to hear from anyone who has written a MUG but hasn't found anywhere to put it! He may have some good news for you...
Please note that while some of the MUGs are free to play, you still have to pay the cost of the phone call. So if it's not your phone don't forget to ask before going on-line.


"Multi-user adventures should be a way to be whatever you want to be - it doesn't matter what you are in real life. You can be completely anonymous, with a degree of freedom not available in the real world" Richard Bartle

Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: ccegw90.htm