M.U.D in your eye Hat

M.U.D in your eye

M.U.D has been described as the greatest adventure in the world. Here, C+VG's reluctant hero, JIM DOUGLAS, explains what goes on, and why the game holds such long-lasting appeal for its devotees.

I regained consciousness and my eyes grew accustomed to the light. A brief look at my surroundings showed that I was in an Elizabethan tea-room, "watching the world go by" and staring at a cup of tea. Eager to get on with the business in hand - killing things - I looked for an exit, and tried it. No luck. A feeling of dread swept over me, preventing my escape. After sipping the tea and watching the world go by a little longer, my fears seemed to subside, and I was allowed out, into the world.

There followed a rather uncomfortable sensation of being blinded and thrown upside down, before I found myself lying on the ground - such are the disadvantages of maaical transport. No sign of the tea-room. I was lying on a badly paved road, which lead from east to west. At my feet lay a few shillings and a penny. Having collected these, I shook my nauseous head, and started to explore.

Time passed, and the shape of the Admiral Bombow Inn loomed in the distance. Shortly, I arrived, and made a rather ungainly entrance. The inn was long abandoned, and a thick layer of dust covered most of the room. There appeared little here that had not already been looted or wrecked by the countless other travellers who had made their way through the deserted watefing-hole in search of sustenance. Moving through the creaking wooden timbers, I headed up a flight of spiral steps.

Immediately, a vacuum-like sensation enveloped my body, and I was told that I had been struck dumb. More magic. A high-ranking player was using me for target practice! Helpless, I fumbled around, look for means of protection. Useless. The second spell rendered me crippled. Unable to cry for help or move to safety, I lay on the steps for several minutes, realising that each breath I drew may be my last.

Using a handy trick I picked up earlier in the day, I checked who was nearby. From what I could make out, Zia the Necromancer was responsible. "Some day, my friend..." I thought. Then, suddenly, I regained both the use of my vocal chords, and my limbs. Whether I had been patched up by the repentant Zia, or the spell had worn off is still a mystery.

I left the inn, and was relieved to see the daylight again. Some distance to the south was a small cottage, set on a flat concrete patch. Situated near the graveyard, the cottage belonged to the gravedigger. I suspect he had long since joined the ranks of his previous customers in their eerie resting place.

The graveyard bore a number of unmarked tombs. One, however, was of particular interest - "Richard the Wizard". Richard Bartle is a very famous man in MUD circles.

Inside the cottage there were signs that the owner had led a comfortable life. It was well fitted, with kitchen, lounge and study. The lounge was fitted in some comfort. Exploration of an enchanted bookcase found in the study proved fruitless. Moving to the hut next to the cottage was more interesting. A cursory examination of the exits revealed a shaft leading down into the earth. I tried to disperse my fears and stepped into the gloom. Of course it was too dark to see anything.

Darkness is a fact of life in MUD, but you will soon learn that only the toughest - or most foolhardy - players will walk carelessly down poorly lit corridors. As the saying goes: deaths lurk around every corner.

Further exploration of the rolling hills and pastureland led me to a clifftop, looking downward onto the raging white water. By this time I had managed to collect a stick. It may sound silly now, but at the time I was honestly excited to find something new. Some investigation of the surrounding area revealed a cave entrance. I walked in. I was standing in a huge cavern. The roof was so high it made my head spin. The walls were slashed with veins of sparkling gemstones, making the scene almost surreal. On the floor lay a burning fire-brand; distinct only from the object I was holding by its warmth. The centrepiece of the location was a touchstone which illuminated the otherwise shadowy cave. The stone obviously held immense power, and seemed unwilling to be moved, broken, stolen or attacked.

Having stood for some moments transfixed by the surroundings, I left and progressed downward onto the hills. A few minutes later I was in a valley. Moving east, I was shaken back into reality; "Reset in progress. Exiting..."

Another day's excursion into MUD had ended. This time, it was a bug, or a "hazard" as Muddies call them. Usually, though, you will leave the system by your own will. Occasionally you get killed.

When I played, there didn't seem much in the way of straightforward puzzles. It's possible to wander around for quite a while without encountering anything at all. That's why I was so please to find an object when I did. There is only one stick, one shilling, one fire- brand etc, and in the early stages of the game, many players will rush around to the spots where they know certain items lie, collecting them as they go. This makes things a little tricky for beginners, who are bewildered by the lack of landmarks!

From me to time during play, I found the interpreter extremely tiresome. It seemed impossible to examine any objects, and the SAVE routine was most confusing; you are told - on entering this command - that the program does this automatically. Personally, I found this baffling; as whenever I logged on, I found myself back in the Elizabethan tea-room. Still, I'm sure there was a logical explanation...

I must extend my thanks to Sleet the Warrior, who helped me incredibly during my difficult initiation period. He showed me around the cottage. He introduced me to the wondrous properties of coal, and helped me through dark and foreboding areas when I needed help the most.

Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure where Sleet is these days. The last time I saw him, the rather sad message "Sleet the Warrior has passed away" appeared on the screen. A lot of time in the game is spent wandering around, apparently aimlessly; going from place to place. In fact, this is part of the essential learning process through which all players must pass if they hope to get anywhere near the ranking of Wizard in the world of MUD.

What it's all about

M.U.D. stands for Multi User Dungeon. You play from home, on your computer. At the start of a session, players dial up BT's computer and enter their password. From then on, they assume the role of their "persona", an alter-ego. After logging on, news and information about developments and the state of play appear. Following this is the main menu, where you can choose to enter the game, check your account, or the mailbox and similar features.

The aim of the game is quite different from other adventures. MUD operates on a kind of castle system, your aim is to attain the level of Wizard. This requires 204,800 points, and is no mean feat. You could count the number of points I amassed on one hand; with a couple of fingers missing!

As well as the standard adventure commands, you can follow another character, steal their items, assist them if a fight breaks out, check your mail or talk with your fellow gamers.

A feature which his still to be implemented, is the existence of "mobiles". These are computer-generated creatures which pretend to be human players. Personally, I found it quite difficult dealing with real people. Conversation is the most entertaining part of the game. There are three ways to get your message to another player. You can either shout (not particularly private, and rather irritating for other players), talk to your friend, or use telepathy - the most secure method.

There are a number of problems with the program at the time of writing. The time taken for the game to reply varies a great deal. Sometimes the system will "lock-up" too. According to the instructions, the players accept these as minor hazards. I find this a little hard to believe, but the system seems more polished than a number of cassette games.

What you need/What you get

To play MUD, you will need a computer with modem, and some scrolling software. The software can be downloaded from Prestel without too much bother. When you buy your ID and first batch a time credits, you receive a plastic folder/wallet containing a map, some instructions, your password an ID card, and a booklet.

The starter pack costs £20 and you receive 30 credits of playing time. When playing, credits are used at the rate of ten per hour. 30 credits would give you three hours playing time. After your initial supply runs out, you can buy new credits at the following rate:

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

For information and credit-card ordering, call the MUDline on 608 1173.

With more games of this sort appearing, even as you read this article, MUD is going through continual changes, developments and progressions. BT are constantly looking for ways to make the game more enjoyable for the players. After all, they are paying for the privilege.

Richard A. Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk)
21st January 1999: cvgaug86.htm