You Haven't Lived... Hat

You Haven't Lived...

...'til you've died in M.U.D.

What does the happy adventurer do at this time of year?, with Christmas round the corner. Hibernate, dreaming of the spring? Why should you when you can try out Multi-User Adventure Games (M.U.A.'s)? Let me explain...

In order to play a Multi-User Adventure Game, all you'll need is a computer (any make will do), a modem, appropriate communication software and a telephone access point to plug your modem in to. Then just dial a number and you are instantly transported to a complete fantasy land with monsters, treasure, hundreds of places to visit and, most importantly, other adventurers. At present MUA's are text only, although there is talk about the addition of graphics interfaces for the none too distant future.

Present day MUA's all descend from a single game known as MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), written by Roy Trubshaw and Dr.Richard Bartle at Essex University in 1979. Initially it was only available to students at the university, due to limitations of the university's dial-up phone ports and restricted access time. A few players soon decided to write their own versions based on MUD, which by then became known as MUD1. The more famous MUA's to survive are AMP, Shades and Gods. After some publicity in computer hobby magazines in 1984, MUD's fame spread far and wide, resulting in the formation of MUSE Ltd., the writing of MUD2 and a move from the universtiy's DEC 10 computer to a VAX, owned by NIS (a division of British Telecom). There was even talk of putting it up on Prestel, but due to wrangling between NIS and Prestel, a lookalike game (Shades) was chosen for Prestel. MUD1 was also available for a period of two years on Compunet in the UK, but moved to the US network when the UK DEC 10's were discarded. MUD1 still runs as British Legends in the States and is to date still the most successful MUA in the computer world.

Nowadays there are some twenty or more MUA's in the UK of varying degrees of sophistication; eight of which (MUD1, MUD2, Shades, Gods/The Zone, Federation II, AberMUG, Airwarrior and Bloodstone) are run on a commercial basis. There are others run on a semi-commercial basis, of which Avalon is the most popular.

Due to some internal BT wrangles, Shades was forced off Prestel at the end of October. There is talk of moving it to another independent system, but so far no details have been released. MUD2 suffered the same fate in March, but was successfully moved to another company and will go on air November 1st 1991. As a further bonus, MUD1 (the US version) should also be available in February run by another British company.

MUD2 is being run by the Wizards Guild Ltd. on a 24 hour, 7 days a week basis. The system runs on an i486 CPU with 32MB RAM and a 760 MB hard-disk. Initially, 20 telephone lines have been installed with a proviso for an additional twenty lines and a free PSS node (Packet Switching Service - Twenty lines per node), which will give players from outside London access to the system at a local call charge from anywhere in the country. One of the new features of MUD2 is the inclusion of regular competitions within the game, and being run on a commercial basis, the prizes reflect this; you can win cash prizes of up to £500, computer hard and software and even holidays.

As to the game itself, MUD, although being the grandfather of all MUA'S, is still the most advanced game of its kind in the world. It is the only MUA which deals with fluid, heat, all audio-visual, smells and tactile data. If you drop an object from a height into running water it sustains impact damage, is placed either at the point of impact of further downstream, depending whether it floats or not, and other adventurers will see it pass if they are at intervening locations.

Other unique aspects are the mobiles (computer generated "monsters"). Currently there are over 160, some of which can fly, swim, regenerate, converse, cast spells etc. All of them apply AI (Artificial Intelligence) to various degrees and act/react to situations in such a way that you might wonder if you are facing a mobile or another adventurer (real person). Sometimes a mobile might get bored (yes ... they do get bored as well) and decide to pick a fight with another monster or adventurer, thus increasing its own status, if it wins. Another feature is the multi-fight capability. Adventurers can form hunting parties, as can monsters and hunt individuals or other groups. Alternatively, if you see a fight between a fellow adventurer and a monster, you might decide to help the monster and finish off your friend. The possibilities are unlimited.

The ultimate aim of the game is to become a Wizard or Witch. To reach this goal, a player will have to work through 11 different levels, accumulating points by either collecting treasure, solving puzzles or by fighting (monsters or other adventurers). Although at first glance it looks overwhelmingly difficult, there are several built-in safety features for Novices, such as specific treasure for lower levels. For example, the game becomes increasingly more difficult the further an adventurer travels from the centre of the land. Higher level players tend to go for the more difficult areas, leaving ample treasures for the beginners, some might even have a negative value for somebody above a certain level. Another safety feature involves your fellow players. Most of them are friendly and will help you out, although you will find the odd Killer, whose main pleasure lies in attacking other adventurers, stealing their possessions and trying to kill them. So you'd better watch your back at all times.

Overall control is handled by the wizzes. Some say that's when the fun really starts, as you have unlimited powers to do what you want. But remember, becoming a Wizard does take time and dedication and there can be a lot of soul destroying moments , but once you've made it...

Overall, playing any MUA - and MUD in particular - is fun. Due to the nature of the game, nobody knows who you are, what gender, your age or what you look like. This presents you with the ultimate roleplaying challenge. Using your imagination you can be somebody completely different. Live the game and the land becomes reality.

If you are interested in finding out more about MUD, how to log on, charges etc., contact:

The Wizards' Guild Ltd, "Drachen Fels", 2 Mayfair Avenue, Pitsea, Basildon, Essex SS13 1QG. Telephone (0268) 728889.

Richard A. Bartle (
4th May 1999: tgoct91.htm