The Needles: Here's MUD In Your Eye

The Needles: Here's MUD In Your Eye

Who needs ragdoll physics and bump mapping when a few lines of well-written text provide all the imagery you need? Andy Chalk examines the wonderful world of MUDs.

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You always make me feel guilty that I haven't played and will not be able to enjoy old-school games. :(

But hearing people mutter about the good ole days is always fun.

Wow, I don't think I can remember having an experience like yours.

I missed out :(

A great article.

i've tried to play some MUDs recently but the need to read everything is quite demanding and time intensive. it's not the sort of thing you can approach casually while multi-tasking meaning that my experience became disjointed and uncohesive because i couldn't dedicate a solid block on constant time to the experience like i would a book.

it's too bad really, as i wouldn't mind playing them if my circumstances were more flexible.

There's a bit of a learning curve, but if you use a good Mud client like Zmud to filter the information down into more manageable chunks, it gets a bit easier.

For example you can have it send the different chat channels to separate windows (including opening windows for tell conversations), and set it up to map the game as you walk through it (with a bit of effort, the mapping is rarely perfect, but it gives you a good idea as to the layout). You can also have it trim down the background noise that you don't need to see so you only read the important messages.

The hardest part about Muds is typically visualizing the map from reading text descriptions, and keeping up with the fast pace of text based combat. The key is to take your time in the newbie areas, make some friends who can help you out, and filter out as much of the massive quantity of text as you can until you can manage it.

I make fun of my friends who can't quit WoW but secretly Iv been playing the same MUD for over 12 years. I like WoW and other online RPGs but theres something about the old text based RPG that I can't replace.

I have been a fan and player of MUDs for well over 12 years myself (the same one on and off for about 5-7 years now) and nothing has held my interest for so long. There are so many out there with great communities and expansive worlds. Really all it takes is a little bit of time to get used to the controls of your chosen MUD. Like Kross said, make friends, take your time and even without one of the fancier clients, you will find yourself whizzing around through the world enjoying yourself!

Excellent article Andy!

How do we get a taste again? The way he stated it, it didn't work for me...

Excellent article (as I felt it necessary to register to comment on!)

Personally, I've been playing muds for almost 7 years. I've made the transition from player to staff in recent years but it's always been a blast. It seems that where I play is classified as one of the many that have lasted a decade, as the 10 year anniversery is this October.

I've made a number of great friends both in and out of the game in my time there and have both created and taken part of vast storylines involving dozens of people and highly suggest people give MUDs a shot. Your imagination is a wonderful thing to keep yourself entertained.

Wow, I didn't realise there where others who played MUDs on the forums too.

I've been playing a MUX (a social version of MUDs with more flexible access to code that MUSH) for the last year and abit, and I have to say its impressive. Players can create any object, any room, and anything (although there is a limit on the number of objects pre-player) and the story lines come not from pre-programmed NPCs but from people who RP. That right, people get to set the storyline and play it out ;).

MUDs for free are pretty much the reason I just find myself unwilling to pay a monthly fee for GMUDs aka MMOs.

Did Adventures in Ancient Wisdom for a few years in the 90s. I recently found graphical (tile set) Net Hack and Dwarf Fortress. Lots of fun to be had there, as long as you don't mind reading, especially epitaphs for your characters. =D

Oh, and for those looking for a free MU* client, I recommend SimpleMU, IMHO, better then ZMud, which you have to pay for after 30 days/uses.

BallPtPenTheif:

it's too bad really, as i wouldn't mind playing them if my circumstances were more flexible.

i just found a free MUD app on the i-tunes store called FROTZ. now i can play MUDs on my i-pod touch and the typing isn't as bad as it seems since the device memorizes common terms like 'look', 'walk', etc.. so you don't have to type everything out anyways.

i still have to figure out how to get Hitchiker's Guide on this thing...

BallPtPenTheif:

i just found a free MUD app on the i-tunes store called FROTZ.

What you have there is a Z-Code interpreter. It allows you to play single-player text based games, such as Hitchhiker (which you mentioned) and other Interactive Fiction games created during the past decades, some of which are quite modern and phenominally executed. However, it has nothing to do with MUDs, which are multi-player games. That's what the 'MU' part stands for. However, it's fun in and of itself!

As a confessed devotee of all things Text, I wish there was more rigor in communicating to the non-initiated the difference between the various text based formats. I found a chapter in a textbook - a textbook! - that listed the Zork trilogy as MUDs. They're single-player games.

The screenshots in this article are another example - they seem to be taken from Dwarf Fortress and NetHack respectively, both great games in ASCII that are not proper MUDs. I guess MUDs make for even less compelling graphics, though. :)

Great article, good example of just how compelling the text format can be. In the absence of pictures our imagination can draw the best graphics of all.

LangeAJ:
The screenshots in this article are another example - they seem to be taken from Dwarf Fortress and NetHack respectively, both great games in ASCII that are not proper MUDs. I guess MUDs make for even less compelling graphics, though. :)

Yeah, I called Susan out on that and she came back with "Show me a decent graphic I could use for a mud", which was a great point. I had multiple pictures of Nethack and SLASH'EM, and going through those made me want to start playing again. I never exactly took and saved screenshots of my MUD days. :( Not that they would be very impressive outside of maybe some of my old WoTMUD or Realms of Despair maps...

Although I believe the first picture is actually one of the games he was talking about, and Nethack is well, Nethack (Is that the Oracle level? It looks like her fountains in the middle.).

Argh I want to start mudding again now. I'm thinking of trying out one of the Iron Realms muds, as they seem to be a bit more developed and less requiring of a subscription then I remembered them being. Either that or maybe Discworld Mud.

UsefulPlayer 1:
How do we get a taste again? The way he stated it, it didn't work for me...

Download ZMUD and play on either Red Dragon, Elephant MUD or Discworld. Highly recommend all three but especially Elephant.

Tell 'em Gatwyck sent you. :)

Who needs ragdoll physics and bump mapping when a few lines of well-written text provide all the imagery you need?

Well, i think you are a bit off here...

At first i thought this would be exactly the same question as "Who needs movies, cg and special effects when a few lines of well-written text provide all the imagery you need?" - Well, i don't think that the relation of films and books is some "either-or" thing... There's nothing a movie can show, that you couldn't also describe in a book, but the way a film delivers this information is quite different. Especially when it comes to describing the feelings of a character, a written book has quite some advantages to a movie, since describing emotions is a bit easier than depicting them. Neithertheless you can't say nobody needs movies, since you can do that all through words alone.
Movies allow expression through colors, sounds, imagery. This can be used to create a dense atmosphere or even for art, in a way you couldn't do with text.
In the same way you can't say that now that there is film, books are done for... I believe that books won't be gone for a long time to come. They will continue to coexist with the movies, and stay an artform of their own.

Well, at first i thought it was the same thing with text based and graphics based games, but then i noticed i was wrong. These games described here, don't use words to describe and explain a scenery, like a book does. A text-adventure like Zork would... But these MUDs and Roguelike games are using the ASCII character set for some sort of graphical depiction of a scene. So they are not to be compared with books, where words are used to stimulate your imagination, without giving you any visual representation at all.

These games to give visual representation, they are focused on graphical depiction, they are not using words to describe... So they are graphical like games with shaders, bump maps and physics, just in a technically limited way. Heavily limited way. Games back then didn't have any more possibilities for graphical depiction, and the way they used ASCII to "paint" images with it is a really ingenious way to overcome these limitations. They made a virtue out of necessity.

Now that the necessity is gone, what's the reason to keep up the virtue? That's the point where i always do get the feeling, the arguments are getting kind of "religious". For someone who isn't tied to these games by feelings of nostalgia, it will be impossible to understand why you should use ASCII, when you can have physics and bump mapping.

I don't want to say, that these MUDs are "bad" games. I truly believe that, since those games didn't have the graphics, they had to focus on different things, like story-telling, plot, etc.
Nowadays the focus lies on hyperrealistic graphics, and the newest special effects, graphical tricks and visual polishing is so damn important, that most other aspects of games are getting lost on the way. All those great big successfull games feature stunning (and most expensive) graphics, but little else. MUDs may be better than that, when it comes to story-telling and plot, but not because they use ASCII. Not because they implement those old virtues that were made out of necessity back then, but have lost their reason d'etre since those necessity doesn't exist any more.

New blockbuster-Games do not lack Story and other Aspects because they use bump-mapping, shaders and physics... It's all because of the money. Making Games with newest technology has become quite expensive, with costs comparable to Hollywood film productions. And if you don't invest that money, your game doesn't look like a low-budget independent film... It does look like a b/w silent picture... The gap inbetween the massproduced shallow blockbuster-games and independent low-budget games is enormous. That's the problem.

This brainless mainstream factory-ware (with it's endless stream of totally un-innovative sequels)is exactly equal to what you can find in the movies, or in the music genre. But in difference to the film- and music-genres, within the game genre, underground productions absolutely can not compete quality-wise.

When it comes to music, every small unknown band cand produce a CD in their cellar. Audio quality may not be as good as with professional equipment, but for the uneducated end-user the difference will be marginal.

When it comes to film, B-movies do lack special effects, explosions, cg-grafics but normal scenes just showing actors against some backdrop... these don't differ much from any billion-dollar-production.

But when it comes to games, underground productions feel like riding a horse-carriage with broken wheels, whilst everyone else is driving a porschee or ferarri.

 

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