[MUD-Dev] Re: Influential muds

Dr. Cat cat at oldzoom.bga.com
Fri Feb 26 04:11:16 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999


Raph Koster wrote:
> So my question is something that sort of overlaps material that is in the
> FAQ, but not really. What do you think are the most important and/or
> influential muds, and why? What contributions did they make to the state of
> the art, or what significant muds owe a lot to them?

Well, where serious MUD players and developers might look at a lot of 
details as being significant and influential, I think the rest of the 
world would look and just say "Well, which was the first MUD, the first 
MUD with graphics, the first MUD with voice-chat?"  Noticing the BIG 
technological changes, not smaller changes like skill trees and such.

Personally, I think the biggest piece of history that most people 
overlook (and probably always will, when I've mentioned it before on this 
list nobody even responded to it, so I doubt many people care) is what
were the first multi-user dungeon games.  I believe that these were 
probably games like Moria and Oubliette on the Plato computer network in 
the mid 1970s.  They certainly qualify as the first graphic muds, having 
simple line-drawings of the dungeon corridors displayed on 512*512 plasma 
screen terminals, with their distinctive orange pixels.

I think Habitat certainly belongs on anybody's list of important MUDs.  
It also is more qualified as "influential" - at least in the form of 
Morningstar and Farmer's essays, which have been read by many MUD 
developers, even though most of them probably never got to play it 
themselves.  (For the curious, I see there's a free trial of the latest 
incarnation at http://www.worldsaway.com)

I think the first MUD with voice-chat was the demo world put up by
OnLive Chat, in an unsuccessful attempt to get people to license
their spiffy technology.  But their company doesn't seem to have
been very successful, either financially or in getting a lot of
attention.  So for a "most influential" list maybe they will be
like Moria and Oubliette - historically significant, but didn't
influence a lot of people because they just faded into obscurity.
(One of the later Plato dungeon games, Avatar, did serve as the
model that Wizardry was based on, although without the multiplayer
aspect.)

Amongst the text-only muds that only us MUD developers would notice the 
innovations in, like I said before, I would list two.  LambdaMOO, for
getting far more mainstream press coverage than any other MUD.  And also 
for getting far more non-programmers to make programs than ever before, 
back when Object Oriented was such a hyped thing that anything containing 
it was automatically good.  And you could tell a non-programmer "It's 
easy now, all you have to do is inherit everything from some other object 
and change one thing, and voila, you made something new!"  Which led to 
their other innovation, whereby novice builders didn't realize they were 
taking something that inherited 37 levels deep already, adding three 
feeps, and passing it along to the next guy who wouldn't realize it was 
inheriting stuff 38 levels deep...  Leading to the innovation of "more 
lag than you could shake a stick at".

Well I kid them, but the media coverage and the big well-known corporate 
sponsor and having a lot of people from outside the normal mudding and 
gaming communities made it significant and influential.

The other text mud I'd list is TinyMUD.  Which seems to be the main 
brancing point at which MUDs sorta forked from being "just combat muds"
to "combat muds and social muds".  Most of the social ones trace their 
ancestry back to TinyMUD.  We've since sorta branched into three main 
families, combat, social, and roleplaying.  The roleplaying category 
consisting mainly of MUSHes.  But the roleplaying category is sort of a 
"subcategory" of social, and definitely forked off from that side and the 
whole TinyMUD family.

Ultima Online will probably turn out to be very influential, but better 
to let the years go by and let history be the judge.  :X)

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