Line Games Hat


BLANE BRAMBLE returns from the outer limits, with more Multi User Game news...

The tomb lifts slightly, a hand appears, glimpsed between the slab lid and the stone walls. Slowly, the lid slides back until, with a sudden crash, it falls to the floor. A sudden mist swirls up, and the tomb all but disappears amongst it. Then, a figure rising from within drags itself over the walls and stumbles towards you. It speaks...

"Sorry I've been absent for a while, got terribly bogged down with other things. Still I'm back now."

Yes, it's New Year, and I'm back, and I'm here to stay. No autographs please.

Where has the MUG world gone recently? Into hibernation, perhaps you might say. The weather is getting colder, and most systems are keeping themselves to themselves. Now is the time to make a noise, the winter holidays will bring players back to the games, roasting chestnuts on a hot modem, sitting around a flickering monitor, singing songs about other players (mostly rude ones).

But on with the news...


Six more high-speed modems have gone in, and now all 10 lines accept up to V22bis and MNP5, so no more having to resort to 1200/75 because the high speed lines are in use. The new version of MirrorWorld is 'a month away', and Prodigy is long overdue for an update (but security has been enhanced recently). Chaos should be back by the time you read this in an 80% finshed version, so the system is looking up. See the Adventure '93 pre-preview for other intended additions.


Since the takeover of MUD by the Wizards Guild, things seem to be running smoothly. Although last time I spoke to Roger Harazim it was still making a loss, this should soon turn around. Roger seems to have quite a few ideas for the system, induding the possibility of adding additional games, so keep your eyes open...


Following an aborted attempt to get Adventure'92 running (lack of time and response from players were the main reasons for it being cancelled pretty much before it began), it is hoped that Adventure'93 will take place this summer.

Details are not fully decided yet, but should be available from January onwards on IOWA, where a mail area will be set up for all inquiries about tickets and how to display. If you have a MUG, or are writing one, please don't hesitate to contact us on IOWA about conditions etc.


Enough news, as it's New Year [almost - Ed] it must be time for a few predictions (the ghost of MUGs past and the ghost of MUGs present!).

This issue I've wntten a few words attempting to categorise types of games into different generations, explaining (I hope) how I arrived at the decision and giving an example of at least one game which fits in the category. Why am I doing this? Partially to show how MUGs have and are evolving, and also because fifth generation games are becoming a reality (even I've got a system up to fifth generation standards, so it must be easy), and so we need to decide 'What next? What will sixth generation games have that stand them apart from the current state of the art?'. I can't say for sure. although I predicted how I thought MUGs had to go when I was writing Parody (my prediction is what I've defined as fifth generation, so I don't seem to have been far wrong). Later on I'll say what I think we might be seeing next, and maybe we can help mould the shape of things to come...


With the technology and complexity of MUGs increasing continually, I have been looking at defining various different 'generations' of games, in a similar way to that used for computers and computing languages. Obviously, the choice of generations below is purely a personal one, as are my reasons, and maybe someone else can do a better job. Any offers?

Generation 1: Adventure

We really have to start with a game that wasn't a MUG - and that game has to be the original Adventure, an attempt to provlde a computerised single-player role-playing game, and the originator of a long line of games which spawned MUGs as an offshoot. I've chosen to start with a non-MUG because without Adventure there would be no MUGs, and also because Adventure and MUGs share more common features than might be expected: Adventure having 'mobiles' although the term had yet to be coined.

Generation 2: the first MUGs.

Starting with MUD - the Multi-User Dungeon, and similar games, the second generation must include the 'original' games. The first generation of true multi-user games, quite a few of which are still going. Very little definition is needed here, because these games are the basic 'standard' against which the other generations are compared. The three, perhaps best-known examples of these games are MUD, Shades and MirrorWorld.

Generation 3: the second wave.

What didtinguishes the second wave of games from the original games? A very tricky question to answer, I think the second wave is typified by games such as Quest, my own Parody, The Zone and so on. Written a fair amount of time after the flrst generaffon, and havlng the advantage of a bit of hindsight, the MUG writers start to look for fresh ideas and ways to make their games stand out from the previous generation.

Generation 4: on-line editable games.

The big step forward (although generation 4 may well turn out to be a sub-generation), and a stepping stone to generation 5. A fourth generation game includes the ability to edit the game on-line - adding new locations, more objects - but not necessarily the ability to add puzzles. Avalon is a good example of a fourth generation game, allowing for both locations and objects to be added without the game having to be taken down. This allows for a lot of development work to take place in a less formal manner, and - particularly usefully - work can be done externally, and so the persons responsible for the game can work on it as it suits them.

Generation 5: on-line compileable games.

The fifth generation brings us onto games in which the actual game code can be wrltten on-line, thus allowing the MUG-ops to alter the game whilst people are playing (possibly either effecting changes immediately, or, once the code has been compiled into modules, only having to re-link the game database to effect the changes).

With the advent of fifth generation games, MUG development should be able to advance much faster than has previously been possible, and games should be much less static, as new puzzles and commands can be easily coded - altering and developing the game in (hopefully) a smooth and endless cycle. Quests can be developed and written, providing players with much more to do than just treasure hunt: or the total updateability can be used to allow the players themselves to not only create their own locations, but ultimately to help shape the entire game.

Examples of generation 5 games are Chaos (World of Wizards) and Prodigy, both on IOWA.

With the fifth generation systems slowly becoming the standard, it doesn't seem that further development of the system software is really possible. Object orientation can be added, but is only a different method of representing the data. In the next article I will be going on to try to predict the way the games themselves will begin to develop in the near future, and what we can hope to see, hopefully fairly soon.

Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: tmwin92.htm