Rockman Files Hat

Rockman Files

Simon Rockman's file this month focuses on a fascinating
multi-user adventure game in which players can 'talk' to
each other during play.
Simon plays the game himself and gives you both an insight
into MUD and some game-play tips.

MUD is not a dirty substance found in your garden. It is the acronym for Multi-User Dungeon, perhaps the greatest adventure game yet written.

In the usual adventure vein you are transported to a fantasy land with the keyboard becoming your hands and feet and the screen your six senses. The computer needed to run MUD is a DEC 10, (a business Mini-computer), however, you can log into a remote DEC using a modem. I don't expect many Games Computing readers have a 1 1/4m mainframe and besides, it isn't much fun to play by yourself because MUD is multi user, which means that many people can play it by logging in either at the computer's site or by using a computer and a modem from anywhere in the world to play.

In the adventure you can meet other people's projections into this make-believe world. I have joined the game and so, for instance, if my character, Thor, wishes to open the portcullis but is not strong enough he can ask Zaal to help him. I have never met the person who plays Zaal but have had the odd chat with him in a CB sort of way. With another player's help I should be able to get through the portcullis.

MUD MUD GLORIOUS MUD

MUD is huge, so huge that it uses more memory than Essex University, where it resides, and it can only be run after midnight and at weekends when the demands on the computer are rcduced. Thc adventure has hundreds of locations and objects with an extensive vocabulary. In this fantasy world treasure lies in many nooks and crannies, but beware - all that glisters is not gold - even the golden eagles egg traps you. This sticks to your hand so that you can't drop it. If you try to eat the egg you are informed that this is a golden egg, not a hard boiled one! The only way out is to give it to someone who must then pass it on and ad infinitum, or quit. Virtually every clever comment seems to have a reply. If you try the classic XYZZY command you are told that it is a very adventurous thing to say and that some people will try anything!

A sleek black cat may wander into the room, again beware there are two black cats in MUD, one quite tame and quite easy to kill, the other a ferocious feline who will probably destroy you in the attempt. Remember a cat has nine lives so you have to type 'kill cat' ten times before you are informed 'alright, alright, it's dead'. One use for a dead cat is to drop it in the swamp and claim some more points. You can save some time and trouble by just being curious... curiosity killed the cat.

MUD is so full of these little touches that you can never get bored. The ultimate treasure is the crown, worth 4500 points. This is hidden in the ever shifting swamp, a special maze because anything dropped sinks and so you can't map it out by leaving objects and seeing if you end up going in circles. You turn treasure into points by dropping it into the swamp. This means that no one else can pick it up and get it unless the game is reset and the treasure restored to it's proper place.

You can carry only a few objects at a time so you may have to choose between a treasure and a utensil such as a sword and hope that no one attacks you on the way back to the swamp or picks up the sword while you are gone. MUD has a type of character called a mobile. These are monsters controlled by the program such as the Dragon and the Vampire. To kill these a band of adventurers need to hunt down the creature hurling a combined strength to vanquish it.

WITCHES AND WIZARDS

When you quit your character is seved for later use so that you can build up experience. You go through many levels such as Warrior, Hero, Superhero, Enchanter and finally up to wizard (or witch, there are female equivalents for most of the levels). The wizard is a very powerful character, he has the 'WIZ MODE' command which allows him to use magic, to move and pick up people and things, to cause or stop fighting, to force people to do things and generally take control. It is not unknown for a wizard to remove the cliff from the beach and put it down at the exit so that anyone entering the game falls to their death.

Wizards do have a code of conduct and are supposed to reward people for putting up with their pranks. Wizards are unlikely, to miss with hand to hand combat, but for mortals this is a good source of points and provides interaction with the other players. Whole groups of people can join the fray all from the safety of their own terminal.

MUD is free to play, if you do have access to a DEC 10 it can be obtained from Richard Bartle at Essex University. Otherwise you need a computer, a modem and a telephone. You can then link up and look in. Details on the Essex end should be available from:

THE COMPUTER SOCIETY
DEPARTMENT OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX
COLCHESTER
C04 3SQ.

Richard A. Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk)
20th April :\webdes~1\ .htm