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MUD is an acronym for multi-user dungeon (or dimension), a role-playing computer game that runs on a bulletin board system or Internet server. Many people may connect simultaneously. Once connected, players control a character. They see textual descriptions of rooms, objects, other characters, and computer-controlled creatures or NPCs (non-player characters) in a virtual world. Players may interact with each other and the surroundings by typing commands that resemble plain English.

Most MUDs implement a fantasy world populated by elves, goblins, and other mythical beings. Players pretend to be knights, sorcerers, and the like. The goal of the game is to slay monsters and complete quests. Some MUDs have a science fiction setting. Most MUDs are run as hobby and are free to players. Still others, especially thoses which are based on MOOs, are used in distance education or to allow for virtual conferences. MUDs have also attracted the interest of academic scholars from many fields, including communications[?], sociology[?], law (http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol2/issue1/lambda), and economics.

The popularity of MUDs escalated in the USA during the 1980s, when (relatively speaking) cheap, at-home personal computers with 300 to 2400 baud modems enabled role players to log into multi-line BBSes. Roguelike games were also becoming popular at that time. In Europe at around the same time, MUD development was centered around academic networks, particularly at the University of Essex[?] where it was played by many people, both internal and external to the University. The MUD scene is still very much alive on the Internet, accessed via telnet. Specialized telnet clients exist that give a more pleasant user experience.

Table of contents

MUD variants

Once computer power increased and Internet connectivity became ubiquitous, the graphical MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) developed. Unlike earlier MUDs, most MMORPGs are commercial ventures. Examples of MMORPGs include:

The original MUDs drew their inspiration from paper-and-pencil based games such as Dungeons & Dragons (hence their name), and the computer game Original Adventure[?]. The first MUD was created and written by Roy Trubshaw[?] and Richard Bartle[?] at Essex University[?] in the UK [1] (http://www.ludd.luth.se/mud/aber/mud-history): a version of this first MUD is still running at www.mud2.com (http://www.mud2.com/). The first popular MUD was AberMUD written by Alan Cox, also known as Anarchy, named after the University of Aberystwyth[?], Wales. Over time variants have diversified into other models while retaining the textual format. For example, some variants are called MUCKs[?], MUSHs, LPMUDs, and MOOs.

A MUSH is often said to mean multi-player shared hallucination. MUSHes descend from the program TinyMUD[?]. MUSHes date back to the early 1990s. They are more directly concerned with role-playing (acting) than MUDs, dispensing with the experience systems. Instead, players focus on creating their character's life as accurately as possible. Members of the MUSH family include PernMUSH, PennMUSH, TinyMUSH, TinyMUSE and TinyMUX.

Other variants emphasize building by providing players with a powerful programming language (as in MOOs) to make their own objects and rooms, or function as elaborate chat systems with no fantasy trappings.

Talkers and Spods

A lesser known variant is the talker, typically based on ew-too[?], summink[?], sensi-summink[?], playground, and plenty of other code bases. The talker is essentially a MUD, with most of the complex bits of code stripped away, leaving just the communication level commands -- hence the name talker. People who use these tend to be called spods[?]. The spod tends to be something of a long term fanatic. Where many mudders may move on after a year or two, people who use talkers typically have been doing so for a decade or more. Talkers are signifigantly easier to run than an average MUD, since they don't incorporate very much artificial intelligence, and they are usually much more user friendly, since there is not often much fighting as a focus. In other words, whole families of husbands, wives, children, and siblings have been known to spod in certain circles. They also use very little network traffic, and use simple protocols, making them ideal for setting up quietly at work.

The spod has earned a place in the Jargon File.

Popular MUDs

External Links

  • www.mudconnector.com (http://www.mudconnector.com): Extensive list of available MUDs
  • [2] (http://www.topmudsites.com/) : List of the "top" MUDs.
  • If you want to know more about MUSH coding and MUSHes, take a look at the MUSH Manual (http://www.godlike.com/mushman/), created by Lydia Leong. This document is quite old and out of date in many ways, but it remains the best starting point for newcomers to MUSH.
  • The SMAUG (http://www.game.org/smaug/) MUDserver is an advanced version in the Diku (http://www.dikumud.com/diku/diku.asp)-Merc-ROM (http://www.rom.org/) lineage.
  • TinyMUX (http://www.tinymux.com/) 2.1 is a variant of TinyMUSH 2.0 which incorporates many of the distinctive features of PennMUSH (http://www.pennmush.org/), TinyMUSE, and other MUSH variants.
  • Similarly, TinyMUSH 3.0 (http://www.godlike.com/tm3/) is a variant of TinyMUX 1.6 which has been melded with TinyMUSH 2.4.
  • Further reading for MUD development and server origination can be found at Kyndig (http://www.kyndig.com/)
  • Some history and reviews (http://www.iol.ie/~ecarroll/mud/mr_5b) from Richard Bartle's "Interactive Multi-User Computer Games" report.
  • There is more information about MUD culture and history in The Jargon File, http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/jargon/.
  • For an academic look at MUDs, see Sherry Turkle's writings.

In the game of Contract bridge MUD is a defensive signalling convention that stands for Middle-Up-Down. A defender who plays his cards in this order is better able to communicate to his partner the number of cards he holds in the suit. The partner is thus able to infer the complete distribution of the suit.

Derivatives: Mudding, Mudder

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