MUD: Multiplayer text games that never get old

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Multiplayer text games, or simply MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons), are a unique genre of computer games that have been around for decades. Despite the advent of modern graphical technologies, MUDs still have a loyal audience and continue to attract new players. In this article, we will look at what a MUD is, provide a detailed description of this genre, and tell you whether it is relevant and why players love it.

What is a MUD?

MUD is a genre of computer games, which differs from most modern titles as it is almost entirely text-based. Unlike games with flashy graphics and three-dimensional worlds, MUDs rely on textual descriptions of events, environments, and player actions. Like virtual books, MUDs allow players to create and explore new worlds, solve puzzles, fight monsters, and interact with each other in a shared virtual space.

In general, MUDs provide players with a variety of worlds to traverse, ranging from fantasy kingdoms to distant Sci-Fi galaxies.

The short history of the emergence of MUDs stems from role-playing games and computer evolution in the late 1970s and early 1980s. MUD is the heir to the tabletop role-playing game boom and is inspired by role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.

In the early 1970s, Duncan Elvind, a student at the University of Essex in the UK, created one of the first MUDs called “MUD1.” It was a text-based game developed on a mainframe and based on role-playing board games where players could choose characters, explore the world, fight monsters, and interact with each other in a virtual environment.

In the early 1980s, Richard Bartle created MUD2, adding new gameplay elements including social aspects and a variety of locations.

This was followed by Alan Cox’s AberMUD and Lars Pensjö’s Multi-User Dungeon (LPMUD), which gave players even more freedom to create their own worlds and set up custom rules. LPMUD has become the forefather of many open-source MUDs.

In this way, MUDs have their roots in role-playing board games, finding new fulfillment in computer format.

MUD Description

MUD gameplay is one of the key elements that makes this genre unique and exciting for many players. Here are some of the features:

  • Gameplay is entirely based on text descriptions, i.e. players see descriptions of the environment, characters, items, and actions presented as text. This allows one to use their imagination to picture every situation that takes place in the game. For example, instead of seeing a monster on the screen, you read descriptions of its appearance and actions;
  • One of the main goals in MUDs is to explore their virtual worlds. Players travel through locations, brave dungeons, visit cities, forests, and other places to discover new characters and find treasures;
  • MUD features a battle system that allows players to fight monsters, other players, or enemies within the game. Battles can be turn-based or real-time, depending on the particular MUD;
  • MUDs provide extensive opportunities for player interaction, allowing them to socialize, create guilds, form groups to complete quests, and even develop political relationships within the game’s world;
  • An interesting aspect of MUD gameplay is the ability to create new locations, usually reserved for advanced players. They can develop their own quests, scenarios, and parts of the world, expanding the experience for the rest of the player base. They can also become gamemasters (“Immortals”) with exclusive rights and may influence the in-game world on a larger scale by creating events, leading storylines, and helping others.

Varieties of MUDs

There are many different MUD variants, each offering a different playstyle and in-game world. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Social MUD: These MUDs focus on social interaction between players;
  • Fantasy MUD: Fantasy MUDs often unfold in medieval fantasy realms, inspired by literature and tabletop role-playing games;
  • Sci-Fi MUDs: These MUDs offer science fiction experiences, often based around space exploration, androids, and alien races;
  • Post-apocalyptic MUDs: In these MUDs, worlds are plagued by catastrophic events and players survive in aggressive and dangerous environments. These can include zombie apocalypse, post-world war survival, and other themes.

Are MUD games relevant or are they outdated?

We believe that MUD games are still relevant. There are examples of successful indie projects in “outdated” formats, such as platformers with pixel graphics and roamers like Eye of Beholder. This shows that certain older formats are still popularm, but MUD games’ popularity is unfortunately not as high, since the usual popularization and monetization systems and methods are not suitable for them, making it difficult to compete against more modern video games.

Additionally, the problem of MUD games is a high threshold of entry for newcomers. For the sake of fairness, we must say that developers often opt to resolve this issue with starting quests and training in the game’s initial locations, which makes MUDs more friendly to new players. Many other modern projects restrict excessive PvP to attract newcomers. However, we believe that a healthy atmosphere in a MUD title requires a PvP component with full loot. We believe that it works as a motivating factor for cooperation, diplomacy, and in-game competition for unique or rare items.

So, while MUDs have their problems, they still remain relevant to a certain audience that appreciates the unique aspects this game format has to offer.

Why do players value MUDs?

MUDs are specifically valued by players for the unique combination of elements that make them memorable and exciting. Firstly, MUDs offer vast virtual worlds with unprecedented freedom of choice and the ability to write your own story, attracting fans of games with deep immersion.

Secondly, they are characterized by rich environments, often created by the users themselves. Players appreciate the opportunity to influence the story and even contribute to the formation of the game’s world. This serves to create a unique experience for each and every participant.

Finally, the social aspect of MUDs also plays an important role in such games’ appeal. Interacting with others, sharing experiences, and solving problems together helps form close communities.

We, on the other hand, appreciate MUDs for the need to spend years exploring the world, as well as for the presence of secrets and unique items known only to a selected few.

In conclusion, MUDs are a genre of computer games that never ceases to amaze and attract players with their unique text-based adventures and rich worlds guided by imagination. Despite the ever-growing popularity of modern games with impressive graphics and virtual reality capabilities, MUDs retain their loyal audience.

Whether you are an experienced MUD player or just beginning your journey in this genre, MUDs provide a continuously evolving domain where everyone can find their own calling. These text-based games that never get old continue to attract new players and delight veterans with their unique atmosphere and the ability to write one’s own story in another world’s history.