[MUD-Dev] MUD timeline
Kristen L. Koster
koster at eden.com
Sun Mar 5 00:55:40 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000
on 3/4/2000 6:01 PM, Raph Koster wrote:
> I'm still getting additional data from other sources beyond this list, so
> we'll probably end up diverging if you maintain a separate timeline... It's
> certainly going to be on my website as well, at any rate, probably with a
> lot more detail in specific areas.
I haven't had the chance to integrate any of the mud-dev feedback yet, but
the latest version of the timeline is available at
And here it is:
Online World Timeline
The following is a timeline for the development of virtual worlds. I welcome
more additions to the timeline. Check at the bottom of this for a list of
1947 * Vannevar Bush conceptualizes hypertext, the Internet, virtual
spaces, and lots more.
* University of Illinois introduces and patents PLATO, "Programmed Logic
for Automatic Teaching Operations", a network running on the ILLIAC computer
system. "The nation's first computer-assisted program of instruction. PLATO,
conceived by physics professor Chalmers Sherwin and developed under the
direction of electrical engineering professor Don Bitzer, co-inventor of the
plasma display panel, was the world's first time-shared computer-based
education system" according to the UI website.
* Spacewar! on the PDP-1. It's 2 player. And it's graphical. And it is
* Modem patented. Concept of network connected by modems defined in a
* According to Richard J. Auld, the concept of the "FAQ" is developed on
* Ralph Baer conceptualizes the videogame.
* By now they are up to PLATO IV.
* Baer files a videogame related patent. This is going to be the Odyssey.
* Rick Blomme writes two-player Spacewar on PLATO. It works on the remote
network, so it is now true network gaming.
* ARPANet is founded.
* UNIX is written.
* CompuServe is founded by John Goltz. This seems awfully early? Source:
"Hacking Into Computer Systems."
* Peter Langston's Empire: multiplayer space empire game on PLATO
supporting 32 players. "A game called "Empire" allowed you to play over
weeks at a time, making moves every time you logged in, building up your
resources in an interstellar empire that eventually would interact with
other players' empires. But somehow it took so long to set up your own
empire that most players lost interest before they ever encountered any
other empire. " - Guy Consolmagno, SJ. According to Antic Magazine in a 1984
article, it was in fact Star Trek based, with Romulans, Orions, Federation,
and Kazars (formerly Klingons).
* Plato reaches capacity for 1000 users.
* Hunt the Wumpus is developed by Gregory Yob on a Time-Sharing System at
the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. This is not an adventure game
(it's a text-only maze game), but a precursor. (Hans Persson, Adventureland
* Will Crowther creates the first version of ADVENT in FORTRAN on a PDP-1
while working for Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) in Boston. (Hans Persson,
* Atari is founded by Nolan Bushnell.
* Airfight aka Dogfight (flight sim) on PLATO. It may have existed
earlier, but this is the first reference with a hard date that I can find.
"In "Dogfight," two players tried to shoot down each other's "airplane" -- a
tiny spot on the screen -- and avoid being shot down. You could control the
position of your own airplane using the various keys on the keyboard. (This,
of course, was ten years before joysticks and computer mice became common.)
Unfortunately, the person with the fastest connection to the main computer
in Illinois usually won that game." - Guy Consolmagno, SJ. The literal
command line name appears to have been "airfight" (Antic)
* Talk-O-Matic, a proto-IRC with handles and chat rooms, is on PLATO at
this point (it may have existed earlier). "One of the more popular
activities was "Talk-O-Matic". Five people at a time could write messages,
and read each other's messages, on the same screen. Today, Internet chat
rooms work on the same principle. One of the remarkable new features of this
page was that you could log in with an invented name, and pretend you were
anyone you wanted -- any name, any age, any gender. One favorite trick was
to log in using the name of someone else already logged into the page,
simply to confuse everyone else. " - Guy Consolmagno, SJ.
* The "Hacking Into Computer Systems: A Beginner's Guide" doc reports
PLATO hacked with the starship Enterprise attacking people on Airfight (who
were expecting airplanes!)
* Somewhere in here, Mines of Moria (it had 248 mazes, according to Antic
magazine in 1984) on PLATO.
* DND (Avatar) existed by now, according to Steve Gray, who was 11 at the
time and writing code for PLATO. DND was apparently the command line name,
and Avatar the game name.
* Somewhere in here, Oubliette on Plato. I can't find any info beyond the
* "When I was a little boy, I went and played in the basement of the
Lawrence Hall of Science where they had a small number of primitive
terminals (I can still remember the sound of the teletypes!). On those
machines, you could (if I remember correctly) login to the "Plato" network.
On that system was a primitive D&D-like game whose original name I can't
remember, but it was renamed "Adventure" for a short while. The game was
taken off of the Plato network, and I moved onto other things, as little
boys are wont to do. I know it wasn't the classic text adventure,
"Adventure," because it had Ultima I-like vector-based graphics for going
into a dungeon, finding a Vampire or Balrog, and seeing its representation
on screen. I remember some details about the game, like being ranked with
other players based upon the success of your character." - Paul Forbes. I
don't know which game this refers to. I have seen a graphical title screen
* Dr Cat says that Wizardry was a ripoff of Avatar, down to the spell
* Notesfiles created on PLATO, the first BBSes, almost exactly like
today's Usenet. Also, around now Xerox visits PLATO and they trade ideas,
according to Doug Jones.
* A paper is published on "Teaching mathematics with games" on PLATO.
This is the only formal reference I can find to PLATO and games. PLATO
eventually banned games.
* "When I was in college in the mid-1970's, the only form of computerized
bridge play was on the nationwide PLATO network. After playing against
humans at the local club, we would head for campus for late-night bridge on
big monochrome terminals in the university PLATO lab. If we were lucky
enough to find three other humans on the network, the game could be fairly
challenging. Often, though, at least one of the four players would be the
computer (called the PLATO "freak"), which was programmed with a bare
minimum of bridge knowledge. PLATO's primitive bidding was random after the
first round of the auction, and its defense and declarer play defied logic
-- the program always pulled trumps, always played second-hand low and
third-hand high, etc." - Karen Walker
* Don Woods put ADVENT on the PDP-10. This is the version everyone knows.
* Apple Computer is founded.
* Control Data Corporation buys the PLATO network.
* PLATO is up to PLATO V by now.
* Lebling & Blanc start work on Zork on the PDP-10, inspired by ADVENT.
They form a startup with some friends, called Infocom.
* Roy Trubshaw begins MUD1 development.
* Alan Klietz writes Sceptre of Goth, also a mud system. These two
developments were completely independent.
* AD&D Player Handbook published. Interestingly, according to Lauren
Burka, early mud developers never played the game.
* Walter Bright's version of Empire makes it to the DEC-10.
* Zork released as a standalone game by Infocom.
* Empire introduces annual tournaments.
* Final version of MUD1 completed-Essex goes on the ARPANet, resulting in
* Atari starts trying to put PLATO on their eight-bits. But negotiations
* Kesmai is founded by Kelton Flinn & John Taylor.
* Kesmai launches MegaWars I on Compuserve.
* The first commercial version of MUD1 opens on Compunet in UK.
* Islands of Kesmai launches ($12 an hour!).
* AUSI, a predecessor company to Mythic, formes & launches Aradath for
$40 a month.
* Atari finally puts PLATO on 8-bits. It has a $5/hour connect fee.
* drygulch exists on PLATO by now, but I know nothing about it except it
involved a ghost town. labyrinth also exists, same story.
* Islands of Kesmai on Compuserve
* GEnie launches at $6 an hour.
* QuantumLink, predecessor to AOL, launches in November.
* Habitat is developed by Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar at Lucasfilm,
as a product for QuantumLink. The client runs on a C64.
* xtrek, the predecessor to Netrek, is released.
* Stellar Warrior (rewrite of MegaWars) launches on GEnie.
* Mulligan does first play by email game on commercial online server: Rim
* Air Warrior hits pre-alpha.
* Air Warrior is released on GEnie.
* Simutronics is founded; Gemstone goes alpha late in year.
* MUD2 is launched as British Legends on Compuserve.
* AberMUDs are released.
* Gemstone launches as Gemstone II on Genie.
* IRC is invented.
* Mark Baldwin does a GUI version of Bright's Empire for the PC.
* QuantumLink launches AppleLink, soon to be AOL. Turns down Aradath and
Galaxy II, though.
* TinyMUD is developed.
* Galaxy II launches on GEnie.
* A-Maze-ing, 3-d online shooter, on GEnie.
* Lars Penjske's LPMuds exist (possibly earlier).
* TinyMUD shuts down.
* MOO is developed by Stephen White.
* Diplomacy on GEnie, done by AUSI and Eric Raymond (yes, the open source
* Federation II on GEnie.
* Negotiation for Ultima Online begin with Kesmai and GEnie.
* 100 Years War launches on Genie.
* Gemstone II converted into chat space called ImagiNation.
* TinyMUCK is written.
* Islandia opens using TinyMUD code.
* TinyTIM opens.
* TinyMUSH is written.
* FurryMUCK opens.
* PernMUSH is founded.
* Fujitsu launches a Japanese version of Habitat.
* BSX muds are developed by Bram Stolks.
* LambdaMOO opens.
* Dragon's Gate (a revised and renamed Aradath) launches on GEnie.
* Howard Rheingold's "Virtual Reality" is published.
* "LambdaMOO takes a new direction"-an attempt to have a democratic,
player-run government within a mud.
* Genocide, first PK mud.
* MPG-Net founded, launches Kingdom of Drakkar (top view, graphical).
* Simutronics launches Cyberstrike (grpahical).
* QuantumLink renames itself AOL.
* Sierra network launches.
* Valhalla, an LPMud, supports itself by charging money.
* First instances of intermud networks created using LP.
* Worlds of Carnage, first Diku with embedded scripting.
* Mosaic makes the Internet graphical.
* Shadow of Yserbius launches on Sierra network.
* Doom comes out in December.
* Nightmare mudlib released.
* Discworld mudlib released.
* DGD Lpmuds released.
* Worlds of Carnage closes; Damion Schubert & Co. release scripting
publicly after an abortive other mud.
* By now, CDC has sold PLATO to The Roach Organization. CDC stays in
Computer-Aided Instruction, but calls their clone of PLATO Cybis. CERL at UI
started NovaNET to replace it, but that was then transferred to UCI.
* Electric Communities is founded by Farmer and Morningstar. Their
product is The Palace.
* Howard Rheingold's "Virtual Communities" is published.
* WOO and ChibaMOO meld the web with muds.
* Ron Britvich writes "Web World", which I have not been able to find
anything more on but which allegedly had 350,000 people log in. Could it be
* Dragonspires is opened by ex-Originite Dr Cat.
* News Corp buys Kesmai.
* Netscape makes the graphical browser accessible.
* AT&T buys INN. They subsequently lose their shirt.
* LegendMUD opens with Carnage refugees Koster & Delashmit; first
classless mud? Uses a reverse-engineered and improved scripting language
based on Worlds of Carnage's.
* Merc 2.2 releases with modified Mobprogs from Carnage.
* Imperium Gothique releases with a Diku scripting language also, based
on independent development.
* Fujitsu reintroduces Habitat in the US, as WorldsAway.
* Worlds Inc founded in Seattle, launches WorldsChat.
* Meridian 59 gets going with Damion Schubert & Mike Sellers at helm.
* id starts testing Quake, which is going to be their real effort at
making online multiplayer games. It becomes an instant phenomenon,
redefining online gaming and virtual reality in the process.
* Gemstone III goes live on AOL.
* Air Warrior goes live on AOL.
* LIMA mudlib offers Infocom-style parsing.
* Koster & Delashmit hired by Origin for Ultima Online.
* AlphaWorld launches, also by Ron Britvich. It's a successor product to
WorldsChat, not the same engine. It supports a whole twelve avatar
* "LambdaMOO takes Another New Direction"-the admins take back over.
* Meridian 59 opens.
* The Realm enters beta.
* Dark Sun Online enters beta.
* AmigaMUD, a graphical free mud system.
* Neverwinter Nights closes as a for pay game.
* AOL takes on Gemstone III and Dragon's Gate.
* Quake is released.
* Origin demos Ultima Online at E3; team includes Koster & Delashmit
* AOL buys INN
* Sherry Turkle publishes "Life on the Screen."
* Ultima Online launches commercially and breaks 100,000 users very
* Janet Murray's "Hamlet on the Holodeck" published.
* Ultima Online is sued in a class action lawsuit. The suit is later
settled out of court. Oddly, one of the plaintiffs is an ex-player of
* Verant's EverQuest opens. It is also a huge success.
* Asheron's Call opens.
* Rubies of Eventide opens.
* Asheron's Call releases after 5 years in development, on the MS Gaming
* VR-1's Ultracorps closes on MS Zone.
* TEN ditches gaming to become pogo.com.
* DWANGO dies in the US.
* EA buys Kesmai (& playNation)
* MPGNet bought twice over, now iEN.
* Lyra's Underlight launches doing a roleplay-enforced graphical game.
* Verant's Sovereign announced.
* Simutronics announces a graphical version of their games, to be called
* UO2 announced with Schubert & Jeremy Gaffney (of Asheron's Call).
* Activision & Verant announce Star Trek Online projects.
* Bioware announces a new Neverwinter Nights, to be a distributed mud
* Squaresoft announces Final Fantasy Online.
* Sony announces that the PlayStation 2 will have a broadband solution by
* Me (Raph Koster)
* Lauren Burka's MUDLine
* Several folks on MUD-Dev
* Amy Bruckman (Game Developer's Conference presentation)
* Mike Sellers (emails)
* Dr Cat (mostly on MUD-Dev)
* Damion Schubert (personal conversation)
* Randy Farmer (interviews posted on the web)
* Jessica Mulligan, in particular her History of Online Gaming articles
* Richard Bartle's website
* "Hacking Into Computer Systems"
* "The Dot Eaters"
* University of Illinois
* Antic Magazine
* Oddly, a paper written by a pair of Jesuit astronomers.
* Just as oddly, a website about bridge.
* A bunch of miscellaneous references from mailing lists and newsgroups
and interviews of folks like Steve Gray and Doug Jones.
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