If we're talking public preconceptions, a MUD is a bit like Iceland: a
strange place, populated by strange people (probably a bit like Bjork, only
blokes), many of whom believe in fairies. You've probably got a vague idea
what and where it is, but you've probably never been, although by all
accounts the locals have a high old time. Admittedly the analogy doesn't
stretch to hot springs and midnight sun, but then the beer doesn't cost five
quid a pint either.
So let's clarify a few things. Whereas Iceland is an island located just
south of the Arctic Circle, a MUD is a fully interactive fantasy world that
you experience and negotiate entirely via text. Picture, if you can, an
old-fashioned text adventure - like the one Tom Hanks plays in Big. Failing
that, try a LucasArts adventure with no graphics, in which you have to type
in everything you want to do via the keyboard. As in 'north', 'get sword'
and 'attack zombie'. Well, that's the interface of MUD, but instead of
following a linear plot, you're just presented with a fully formed and
populated (by other players and computer characters, called mobiles) world
to interact with as you will.
Once you've started up MUD and selected a name for yourself (press 'P' and
follow the instructions - click here for more info), you'll then find
yourself in the tea room. Here you can meet and chat to other characters -
'Whither goest thou, traveller', that sort of thing - discuss previous
adventures, or - if you really want to last only ten seconds - start a
barney. Try to stay in character here - football, Duke Nukem or heavy
ordnance make poor conversational gambits. Abuse is also a bad idea.
Although a fantasy world, MUD is based on real world principles: act like a
prat and someone bigger than you will take you to the cleaners. Which means
It's precisely for this reason that the average survival time for newbies is
ten minutes (we know someone who came within a whisker of being taken out by
a parrot). The same principle applies throughout the wide world that lies
just outside the tea room door: explore, don't confront. Stay out of trouble
or you will have a short game.
MUD's creator Dr Bartle reckons that there are four main character types
wondering around his world: click here for details. Most are driven by the need to gain 'points' - experience points, to be exact - which allow you to rise to higher and higher levels, with the ultimate goal of becoming a wizard, or maybe even an arch-wizard.
Wizards have almost god-like powers within the world, and can create their
own rooms (for a limited time), kill people instantly and generally act in
an omnipotent way. Arch-wizards are the same but more so, but they tend to
be game employees. Such elevated status is usually beyond mere mortals.
And that's about all we can tell you in such a short space of time. The best
thing is for you to just have a go. Finally, we should point out that at the
moment, the Wireplay MUD has another factor in common with Iceland, in that
80 per cent of it is unpopulated. But we confidently expect this to change
very quickly. Stick with it, folks, and see you in there.