Reviewing Strategy Hat

3. Reviewing Strategy.

3.1 Review Format.

The meat of this report is a series of reviews of MUAs currently active in the UK. Each review commences with a header giving facts concerning the game under consideration - its name, its authors, its commercial status, and how to access it.

Following the header are historical notes, presenting background information on the game, and a brief description of its setting. After that comes the main body of the review, where the game is discussed in some detail.

Although the reviews have been written as objectively as is reasonably possible, naturally some subjectivity will inevitably creep in. To counteract this eventuality, brief quotes from reviews in magazines and from players will also be given (if available). All the quotes are unsolicited.

In order that some impression may be given of the overall importance of the game in the IMPCG industry, the review header also includes a grading which is purely subjective. Games will be rated as being in either the first, second, or third rank; first rank is most important. This grading is based on an assessment of the impact which the game has had on the MUA-playing community. It therefore does not follow that the "best" games are necessarily of a higher rank than lesser ones.

After the reviews of UK games, there follow reviews of MUAs from the rest of the world. The same approach is taken for these as for UK games. A handful are commercial, and these appear first; the rest are on academic machines, and for these no pricing structure is given (they are all free). Their importance is relative to other games in the same category.

3.2 Accuracy.

Although every attempt has been made to be accurate in the reviews, they are not guaranteed correct. This is because information supplied by the game designers is often out-of-date, over-optimistic, or contains outright lies. Likewise, many semi-professional reviewers in magazines have little or no idea what they should be (or, indeed, are) looking for, and will give anything good or bland reviews so as to elicit future advertising revenue from the flattered game author.

Since some of the information stated in the reviews in this report come from such sources, it is possible that they contain errors. Where possible, however, facts have been verified independently. Opinions expressed in the review, however, while primarily the review author's, are grounded in either personal experience or statements made by a number of players or reviewers.

Some of the later quotes that are given in this report are solicited, but as the result of general questions (eg. "How do you think MUAs should be made more widely available") rather than specific ones ("What do you think about Shades' lack of containers?). Most quotes, however, are from public access sources that anyone can read, such as bulletin boards, UseNet, magazine articles and publicity material. They therefore appear here without the permission - or indeed the knowledge - of their originator, who may regard them as too out of context to reflect their intended meaning.

3.3 Locations.

Included in each review is an indication of how the game can be accessed. Some games run on the same system as others, and their location is indicated by specifying the name of the appropriate system. Most games operate at 1200/75 baud, 8 bits, 1 stop bit, no parity, but a good many can handle other baud rates too.

For some of the academic MUAs there are many copies of the games sprinkled across the networks. All these have their own local name to distinguish them from other systems running the same software. The reviews of these games concern the general software, however local versions are listed along with the address at which they can be reached. As a guide to the countries in which these lie, consult the last section of the address:

  • .au Australia
  • .ca Canada
  • .dk Denmark
  • .fi Finland
  • .nl Netherlands
  • .se Sweden
  • .uk United Kingdom
  • Anything else is assumed to be America (the .edu selector means "educational establishment").

    Systems supporting more than one MUA are:

    Name: CompuNet
    Phone: Pre-game registration required, call (081) 997 2591 voice
    MUAs: Federation II, Realm
    Long-running but troubled network, originally backed by Commodore and carrying MUD1. After staff buy-outs, its future now seems more secure. Still caters primarily for users with Commodore hardware. Users pay to play.

    Name: CompuServe
    Phone: Pre-game registration required, call (0800) 289378
    MUAs: British Legends, Island of Kesmai, Sniper, Megawars 1, Megawars 3, You Guessed It!
    Largest user base of any commercial network in the world (around 1,000,000 users). Very expensive by UK standards. Recently began a UK publicity drive.

    Name: Essex University
    Phone: PSS A2206411411
    MUAs: MIST, Rock.
    Site of the original MUD1 game and many other MUAs using MUD1's interpreter (Valley, Crud, Blud, Uni). About to lose all its MUAs because the hardware upon which they run will shortly be scrapped.

    Name: InterNet
    Phone: Not available
    MUAs: TinyMUD, AberMUD, LPMUD, UberMUD, TinyMUCK, TinyMOO, many more.
    An international network of (mainly Unix) computers primarily used by research institutions (Universities and large companies) for electronic mail. It carries daily updates of public messages on a wide range of topics, being the one of main interest to MUA players. Free to users.

    Name: IO World of Adventure (IOWA)
    Phone: (0883) 744044 and 744164.
    MUAs: MirrorWorld, Parody, Quest, Empyrion, Chaos World of Wizards.
    Made an attempt this year to run commercially, but its players deserted it and it had to back down. Free at present, and a popular place to meet and chat. A local call from London.

    Name: JANet
    Phone: Not available
    MUAs: AberMUD, TinyMUD, MIST.
    The main UK network for research institutions. Linked to InterNet. Free to users.

    Name: Lap of the Gods
    Phone: (081) 994 9199
    MUAs: Gods, The Zone, Future Life, TinyMUD.
    Long-standing system, has its own particular clientele. Users pay to play.

    Name: Prestel
    Phone: Consult BT for your local number
    MUAs: Shades, Trash.
    Large user base, and prices to match. A local phone call from almost anywhere in the UK. Shades and Trash can be played for free on a development machine at (0342) 810905, but be prepared for sudden surprises, eg. text in French.

    Name: Synergy
    Phone: (081) 968 0333
    MUAs: Avalon, The Spy.
    New system, having started this year. Small user base at present. Users pay to play.

    3.4 Genealogy.

    This diagram shows the family tree of MUAs (where parenthood is known). Children are listed alphabetically rather than in order of appearance, because time of birth is difficult to establish for most of the games.

    Genealogy Diagram.

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: imucg3.htm