Incarnations of MUD Hat

This is a list of all the incarnations of MUD which made it into production; there are others which didn't get that far, but non-disclosure agreements prevent my naming the guilty parties... The dates are from when the game was actually playable by real players, rather than from when coding or beta-testing started; I may have a few of them wrong, since I've had to work from memory, but I'm reasonably confident they're all OK.
Date(s) Site Version Nickname(s) Notes
1978 Essex University 1A none Test version, to try out the shared memory mechanism. Anyone could play, but only a dozen or so of us knew about it.
1978-1980 Essex University 2A none Full-strength version. This was generally successful, and was played for fun by hacker and non-hacker alike. It was eventually put out to pasture because the software was getting very hard to maintain, and the memory constraints of the system meant it soon reached its maximum quota of rooms/objects/commands.
1980-1987 Essex University 3A MUD1, Essex MUD This is the "classic" MUD, played by many people both internal and external to the University. Although eventually available only during night-time due to the effects of its popularity on the system, its impact on on-line gaming has been immense. I eventually closed it down on 30/9/87 upon leaving Essex University to work for MUSE full time.
1984-1987 Compunet 3A Compunet MUD This was the first commercial MUD. Compunet rented DEC-10s for their system (which was for Commodore users only), and at one point it looked like they might begin to make a dent in Prestel's mighty user base. It all fell apart, though, mainly because renting time on DEC-10s was astronomical in price, although the number of modem-owning Commodore owners was a severely limiting factor, too. Alan Lenton, who wrote Federation II, started by working on Compunet MUD.
1985-1991 British Telecom 4B VAX MUD The first commercial MUD2. It all started so optimistically, with privatisation-ready BT financing MUSE for the development of the game. However, a number of errors to do with BT's choice of software (we had to use VAX Pascal), hardware (shared with CPU-intensive batch jobs), marketing (either non-existent or making transparently false claims) and departmental rivalry (New Information Services versus Prestel) meant we were heading for trouble. BT re-organised every 6 months, each time handing the "MUD problem" down one rung of the ladder. We started by talking to board-level directors, and were eventually signed off by a 6-month youth opportunities trainee (you think I'm kidding?). Nevertheless, the game itself flourished, and many old-timers regard those heydays on the VAX as the first golden age of MUD2.
1987-1999 CompuServe 3B British Legends, BL CompuServe had DEC-10s, MUD1 ran on DEC-10s: the match was obvious. What we didn't know when we signed up, though, was the fact that CompuServe didn't actually like to run games - they did so only begrudgingly. Image was all important to them, and games didn't have the necessary appeal for a service which aimed to sell to business people (even if games contributed hugely disproportionate amounts to their profits). They therefore never advertised BL, not even on CompuServe itself, contenting themselves with their 88% share of the income the game generated (while occasionally attempting to increase it to 90% or more). Luckily, their reaction times were those of dinosaurs, and they didn't get around to stomping on non-graphical games entirely for years, although the crime of not fitting the image they thought they had doomed BL in December, 1999. That said, the game had a very loyal band of players, and is expected to continue to enjoy a vibrant existence free of CompuServe's shackles. At the time of its demise, it was the longest-running MUD in the world.
1987 Commodore 64 none MicroMUD This was a single-player implementation of MUD1. Given that it was for a micro, the result was staggeringly good - it even had computer-controlled other players. It was not, however, a commercial success: had it been released a year earlier, it would probably have been, but delays built up and when it did appear it looked dated graphically. Its principal programmer was Jon Stuart, and the AI was written by Paul McCracken.
1991-1995 Wizards' Guild 4E Dragon MUD2 The second golden age of MUD2. When VAX MUD2 was closed, I decided to license the game out rather than run it directly from MUSE. Roger Harazim took the first license, on condition that I awarded no more licenses for six months. His particularly intense arch-wizzing style set a very high standard of play, and he had high ambitions for the game. When news that Interplay were asking for an exclusivity agreement came through, he decided (against my advice) to close down early so as not to end up running a service with no future while the final few months were eked out. As it happened, Interplay did not sign the exclusivity agreement, and he could have remained open to this day. <Sigh>.
1992-1996 On-Line 4E On-line MUD2 Although never a great success on On-line, a small community of players did build up there over the years. The main problem was that DRAGON MUD2 charged lower prices, so the real addicts switched to there after a while. Since it was MUSE's hardware that the game was running on, though, this didn't really bother On-Line much, and relations with them remain very amicable. The game was only removed because the box's hard drive finally gave up the ghost after running non-stop for 4 years. Days later, On-Line became On-Line plc, they got tons of publicity, and none of it could be directed towards MUD2. Why do these things always happen to me?
1992-1994 NVN (USV) 4E NVN MUD2 US Videotext, or National Videotex Network (I was never sure which, and neither were they) took MUD2 when Bridgette Patrovsky's planned network, Access 24, was scuppered moments before launch by its backers. It went on to become a quite successful incarnation, with royalties that actually made a difference to MUSE's bank accounts (a feat only achieved previously by CompuServe, despite their best efforts). Sadly, this success was insufficient to save NVN itself, which went bankrupt and had to be closed down.
1993-1994 ALMAC 4E ALMAC MUD2 ALMAC's attitude to MUD2 was basically "Prove to us that you can attract customers, and we'll let you put your game on our system. Just don't expect to be paid more than a pittance.". I hadn't realised the pride that some Scots take in their reputation (deserved or otherwise) for being the most parsimonious nation on Earth. The game did get quite a following (unsurprisingly, given that it was free), but MUSE and ALMAC couldn't agree on a pricing structure; eventually we closed the game down by mutual consent.
1993-1997 GEnie, Delphi, CRIS 4E Kesmai MUD2 Having seen what MUD2 had done to Island of Kesmai on NVN, Kesmai asked to put it on their nascent Aries system. Unfortunately, its being nascent, their software wasn't entirely functional. Despite dire warnings that we hadn't flood-tested the game, they opened it up to the eager GEnie gaming fraternity in what turned out to be the most disastrous launch in MUD2's history. The players saw that it crashed; they went away, and they didn't come back. The fact that the game was available on Delphi and CRIS too meant we did get some newbies eventually, and, thankfully, there were a few members of the GEnie community who gave us a second chance. It was so hard to update the game's software, though (some weird mechanism of one-time-pad passwords and 3 different firewalls), that new versions did not arrive as quickly as they did on other systems, if at all. That said, the game did manage to reach the necessary critical mass of players to ensure its survival, whereupon Kesmai closed it (and all its other "DOS" games(!)) down with a whole day's warning.
1994-1996 MPGN 4E MPGN MUD2 The Multi-Player Games Network wanted MUD2, but when they got it they didn't really know what to do with their new-found acquisition. They had an idea to write it a graphical client, but they couldn't spare the programming effort. Its not having a graphical client meant it looked odd when placed against their other software (as did the fact that MUD2 was functional...), and it also suffered somewhat from a botched launch. The network connection to MPGN went down regularly, and took time to be reset. The arch-wizzes had some problems of their own, and eventually MPGN withdrew the game (it took under $2 royalties in its last 3 months, so you can hardly blame them), promising to restore it if MUSE could provide a graphical client itself. Maybe one day...
1994-1996 Interplay (Engage) 4E IPLAY MUD2 After frustration with Access 24 and NVN, Bridgette took MUD2 to Interplay. This is where the game was finally to hit the big time. As has happened on so many occasions, MUD2 was the headline, opening product for a business (in this case, the new Online division, which was later to become Engage Games Online), and it suffered terribly from being the pioneer (or, perhaps more accurately, the guinea pig). Programmers for the client came and went for various bizarre reasons, inter-division bickering within Interplay resulted in some strange management decisions, and after a while the project fell behind schedule. Network problems meant players from other MUD2s preferred those, and some said so publicly; eventually, Interplay was faced with the choice of either cancelling MUD2 or going for an exclusive. They chose the latter. MUSE had little option but to accept, since it had other contracts with Interplay upon which it was relying. The main rival to IPLAY's game, DRAGON MUD2, closed early rather than wait for the inevitable. Changes in personnel at Interplay/Engage marginalised MUD2's internal supporters, but the game itself continued to thrive due to Bridgette's efforts and the fact that at this stage it was free. Interplay did not, however, sign the exclusivity contract, despite drafting it themselves and holding onto the copy I'd signed for something like 8 months; they decided to cancel the project instead. In the meantime, MUSE had turned down chances to get the game on other major networks, most notably AOL, in the belief that Interplay would sign and therefore acquire exclusivity. The entire episode was a body blow from which MUSE has taken some time to recover.
1994-1995 IOL 4E IOL MUD2 Arising from the ashes of ALMAC MUD2, IOL MUD2 was vibrant and fun but (inevitably) free. It remained free despite my being assured that charging would begin for it on a number of occasions. Other factors, most notably complaints from IPLAY MUD2 that IOL MUD2 players had been on their system poaching players, contributed to my eventual decision to withdraw the game from their service. To be fair, they had no hard feelings and they asked to take it again after Interplay reneged on their exclusivity agreement promise; by then, though, I'd arranged a licence for, and felt it wouldn't have been fair on Viktor to agree.
1993-1997 SoNet 4E SoNet MUD2 SoNet is an internet service provider, and one of its leading lights, Chris Cain, was a former MUD1 player (as well as being a well-respected computer games journalist). He asked to put MUD2 on the system, and a small community rapidly developed. When the time came to charge, though, the business model for SoNet had changed, and we had a problem of how to pay MUSE any royalties. The eventual solution was to close down SoNet's site and move all the players over to DRAGON MUD2, which made the latter a powerful force. Perhaps too powerful: it wasn't long afterwards that Interplay began its play for exclusivity.
1997-present 4E Viktor Toth had arch-wizzed for NVN and Kesmai MUD2s. He had been planning for some time running a stand-alone MUD2 site of his own, given the chaos that the Interplay decision had wrought and the fact that Kesmai's interest in their own MUD2 was so hands-off that it was debatable whether they even knew they still had the game. The final catalyst was the abrupt termination of Kesmai's MUD2, which left a whole community of loyal players wondering what was to become of their game. Within a week, he'd bought the hardware, acquired a MUD2 licence, installed the software, and linked it to the Internet. He bought the domain name, which had become available after the previous owned declined to pay maintenance on it, and the system is now running very well indeed - even to the point of making us both some money. It looks like Viktor is due to be hit by a small truck sometime soon, then.
1997-present Wireplay 4E Wireplay MUD2 After years of looking at the online industry completely the wrong way, British Telecom was suddenly hit by a bolt of sanity (in the person of Colin Duffy) and started up the Wireplay system. A properly-staffed, properly-funded, properly-organised, properly-equipped (eventually!) division, its aim was to make online games as accessible as possible. Most of these were of the "small numbers of people killing each other at speed" variety, but they saw from the outset the need for a MUD, and MUD2 was the one they chose. Large numbers of people who joined Wireplay for its other games have tried MUD2, and a good many have found that they like it enough to play regularly. The constant supply of newbies means that the game is fresh and invigorating, although it continually needs to be enriched in order to cope with their ever increasing demands. Not that I'm complaining, of course!
After a couple of years, Wireplay was spun off to form part of a new company called Gameplay, where MUD2 now resides. People still call it "Wireplay MUD2", though.
2000-present 3E British Legends, BL After the sudden demise of CompuServe's BL, the community had nowhere to go. Chip Hayes' version of MUD1 in MUDDLE was in beta test, but wasn't yet complete. Viktor Toth had had a copy of the BCPL source code for MUD1 for some years, and decided that now was the time to do something with it. In a 9-day programming blitz over Christmas, he rewrote the BCPL MUDDL engine in C++ and opened it up alongside MUD2. The ex-CompuServe players gravitated there, where it now runs as a direct continuation of the defunct original BL incarnation.

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
6th September :\webdes~1\ .htm