MUD1 (1978)   5 comments

Multi-User Dungeon, or MUD (referred to as MUD1, to distinguish it from its successor, MUD2, and the MUD genre in general) is the first MUD and the oldest virtual world in existence. It was created in 1978 by Roy Trubshaw at Essex University on a DEC PDP-10 in the UK, using the MACRO-10 assembly language. He named the game Multi-User Dungeon, in tribute to the Dungeon variant of Zork, which Trubshaw had greatly enjoyed playing. Zork in turn was inspired by an older text-adventure game known as Colossal Cave Adventure or ADVENT.

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Even though the interactive fiction community regularly communicates on ifMUD, there seems to be little intersection between them and the MUD community. Given MUD1 was inspired by Zork, I figured it’d be worth a try.

It’s somewhat cosmic that MUD1 is even available. Development started in 1978 and was handed from Roy Trubshaw to Richard Bartle in 1980. It was licensed by CompuServe in 1987 where it remained until 1999 before being revived a year later on British-legends.com.

You can play it, right now, if you go here.

I have only tried wandering around once so far, and have only run into one other player (idling in the starting room). Whether this is going to be a full multi-player experience or a place quiet enough I’m essentially going single-player, I don’t know.

I’m also not sure how long I’m going to play this thing, partially because I have no idea what I want my objective to be. I’ve worked out four possibilities.

a.) The “more advice” section of the help mentions there is an overall objective: become immortal by scoring enough points. You can work your way from “novice” to “wizard” or “witch”. However, the point-scoring methods are

1.) by dropping valuable items in the swamp
2.) by performing certain actions
3.) by killing and/or defeating other players or ‘mobiles’ in combat

#3 means you can essentially “grind” your way to victory from combat. I think? I also think objects reset to an extent you can redo puzzles and get points that way. Hence becoming immortal might not represent a full gameplay experience, but I don’t have enough knowledge of the game to tell for sure.

b.) The “more advice” section also lists a series of “quests” for novices to try.

Find a stick, find a fire, and make a fire brand
Find the mausoleum
Find the portcullis and open it
Find the golden apple
Find the mine entrance
Flood the mine
Find the jetty
Find the sorcerer’s room
Find the attic
Find a light source other than a fire brand
Get into the badger’s sett
Find the magic spring

Trying to do all the above might be impractical, too easy, or just the right amount to feel a sense of accomplishment.

c.) There are treasures that can be converted for points by dropping them in the swamp. (The players call this “swamping”.) A “find all the treasures” objective might be manageable, but I have yet to find a full list.

d.) Richard Bartle has Roy Trubshaw’s original maps, so it is possible to play MUD1 in essentially the 1978-1979 version. The areas are The Narrow Road, The House, The Maze of Tombstones, and Beneath the Yew Tree. This kind of goal would likely be just a quick visit.

At the moment I’m just going to wander with “d” as a goal and see what happens. If I only can manage a post or two, that’s fine. It turns into a full-length game, I’ll write about that too.

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Posted February 9, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “MUD1 (1978)

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  1. MUD1 is essentially a museum piece. You’re maybe not going to have a great deal of fun in it unless you come across other players, but those other players will probably have tried MUD2 rather than MUD1 (MUD2 being slightly less of a museum piece).

    I feel I should warn you that although you can try grinding your way to the top in combat, MUD1 (and indeed MUD2) is a game with an XP loss if you flee a fight and permadeath if you don’t flee and lose. Don’t start a fight unless you expect to win or don’t mind losing.

    • This place is all about museum pieces! (Also, I think I can get some friends in temporarily to test out the multi-player stuff for documentation purposes.)

      Do you mind if I snag the images off your site to include with posts? (I will of course link/credit everything.)

      • You’ll need your friends in there for longer than “temporarily” to get a true feel for what MUD was like, but you can probably extrpolate from that plus your experiences in other games to get something close.

        Feel free to snag those images.

  2. Pingback: MUD1: The abandoned edifice | Renga in Blue

  3. I don’t like either MUD or old treasure hunting text adventures. I’m tired of repetitive combat, which is why I’m more and more into IF and less into arcade games or rpg’s – and MUD is pretty much combat, or is rogue is a variation?

    Anyway, somewhere between Infocom’s later and most audacious titles and the early 2000’s IFcomp, the best parser IF flourished: that which combined top notch prose and story and fair but still engrossing gameplay and user agency. Today people call bad-written and bland twitter posts fiction and clickable static text games and I feel lost and lonely…

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