Wednesday, December 30, 2015

So, what is a MUD?

So, what is a MUD and what does the word MUD mean?

MUD is an acronym that can mean Multi-User Dungeon, Dimension or Domain, other uses for the letter D may be applied as deemed fit (no pun intended).

A MUD is a program that is run in a computer that can be either a low-end PC, which nowadays for 2015 it can even be run smoothly in a Raspberry Pi, or a high-end server. It can be run in different operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS X or Unix/Linux to name the most commonly known and the users access to it by using a Telnet, SSH or GUI (Graphic User Interface) that can connect through a name, commonly known as a DNS (Domain Name Server) such as or an IP address.

A MUD can combine and is not exclusive to elements of Role Playing, Hack and Slash and Social Channels, other uses can apply such as the Builder Academy which is, or was, a MUD where one learns how the innards of the MUD work in order to create a world of your own without the need to install it.

Aspects of MUDs can vary as mentioned with the elements of Role Playing being adapted from Dungeons and Dragons, although other systems such as GURPS and BASIC could be used for the purpose of number crunching, which were common in the initial days of MUDs, the Hack and Slashing could be done either PvE (Player versus Environment) or PvP (Player versus Player) using said mechanics. Although Hack and Slash would refer to melee weapons in other cases it also involves ranged weapons and magic, in futuristic settings it could also involve other methods of defeating your opponent such as artillery or bionics but in the end this is more visual than mechanic.

Another important aspect is communication through certain channels, some can only be heard inside a specific range from the player, other can be heard in a region or throughout the entire game, this depends on the channel being used for this purpose.

Communication also helps another aspect of Role-Playing and that is of fleshing your character in order to interact with others being that character. For that purpose there are two additional terms used for this which are known as IC (In-Character) and OOC (Out Of Character). IC means that all interactions and communication with others is done as if you were the character you have built, an OOC interaction is outside of this realm and back into our reality. Some MUDs could be dedicated solely for the purpose of Role-Playing IC with all Hack and Slash stripped out or it could be the other way around where there is no Role-Playing IC and only Hacking and Slashing, the choice is left entirely to those building said games. In other instances the game may have both but Role-Playing IC may not be enforced, in others it could be, or there could be specific areas where Role-Playing IC is mandatory or allowed with Hacking and Slashing, including PvP, is frowned or forbidden.

MUDs have been around for more than thirty years, since the early 80s, while not new to the game genre it belongs to a minimal percentage of the on-line games currently it was back in its day it held the position of “Multi-Undergrad Destroyer” at some campuses where it was common for them to spread, this joke in turn to the time students spent on them.

There are also hundreds of versions that came to life after the official first MUD, which came on-line somewhere in 1980 and ended in 1987. DikuMUD is probably one of the most famous, yet not the first copy, of MUD. Some of the derivate from the original MUD are:

Dead Souls MUDlib
Discworld Mudlib
Fuzzball MUCK
Lima Mudlib
Merentha Mudlib
Nightmare Mudlib
TMI Mudlib

This list of MUDs is just but a few that can be found on the Internet nowadays, the reason why so many of these exists is due to the open nature of the MUD project, one can follow through, for example, on the steps of DikuMUD and create a new version based off from this, such as CircleMUD, as long as the person modifying and renaming the final product retains the name of the original authors giving them credit for their work. An example of this would be the original DikuMUD, created by Sebastian Hammer, Tom Madsen, Katja Nyboe, Michael Seifert, and Hans Henrik and a derivate called CircleMUD created by Jeremy Elson.

Another considerable aspect from the original MUDs back in the late 20th century and the early 21st is the type of players and environment, originally MUDs were restricted to college campuses due to available hardware and software, also being a place where programmers had the opportunity to work on their own projects which included MUDs. At the 21st century the hardware and software necessary for this purpose are readily available through and considerable cheap, the important difference would be the interest there in MUDs and text games in general, with a constantly growing population more interested in graphics and less by a storyline, also an importance would be the way people communicate nowadays.

The inside working of a MUD is quite simple but it doesn't build itself from the ground, there may be a pre-built world or certain inner workings already defined but the world is created by a Game Master or Implementor. The four basic concepts used in a MUD are MOBs, OBJects, ROOMs and TRIGgers.

The first one we would talk about would be an area, an area would be a perimeter of a rectangle, to give us an idea, a ROOM. The way it applies in a MUD is a bit more complicated, while it may put a limit to an area it could be as small as the head of a nail to the whole universe, in a single area or room, there is no up, down, left or right, front or back, not unless you define this inside the room itself. Care must be taken when building and connecting the rooms with one another as it works different to our logic. Room 1 can have an exit to the west but it will take you nowhere until you define Room 1 connects to Room 2 through the west of Room 1 and if you are not careful enough you can be trapped in Room 2 if no exits indicating another room exist.

There is also a peculiar feature in some MUDs, namely CircleMUD, called Buildwalk, inside OasisOLC,. Buildwalk allows you to walk in any particular direction and continue to build connections between rooms, just as if you were creating a mine, but the same care must be taken with rooms and connections as going in circle will not connect the last room with the first one.

MOBs, which could also be known as an NPC (Non Playable Character) are entities inside the game which could be considered as animate objects, persons, monsters, you name it. There is some debate as from what originally the word MOB means and if it's supposed to be written as MOB or simply mob. Some say the word MOB means Monster Or Beast and other say it means Mere Ordinary Beast also it has been said that the acronym MOB comes from the acronym NPC. But what does a MOB/NPC do? Well it can be involved in a rich Role Playing Adventure or it can be just a mere monster that can be killed by a PC (Playable Character). The NPC is much like a PC, it can carry objects, it can speak if programmed to do so and it can even interact with other players, there is a famous case in which Builders and Coders took time, too much time if you ask me, to construct a MOB that would answer back to players and even appear as a playable character if anyone typed the WHO command, WHO allows players to see who is on-line at the moment, their level, their class and even a title, if the MUD allows it.

OBJs, best known as Objects, are items that the player can use inside the game to protect, attack, consume or assemble, can be worn, thrown, burned, etc. ranging from all kind of fantastic weaponry, armors, food and drinks and even some other minor yet interesting objects can enter this definition. It all depends on the Builder, which is the one in charge of constructing them, on how they will look like, what function will it have inside the MUD, and not less important the grammatical ability of whoever is creating the object.

TRIGs, a trigger is an action that runs in the background of the MUD, something such as the weather changing from sunny to rain, a trigger can be activated by the player doing a certain action or by a timer, probably by entering a room or talking to an NPC, the trigger may do nothing more than send text to you or it could probably kill you.

An example of a trigger would be this:

if %actor.is_pc%
     say Metallica rocks!
     emote viciously headbangs while throwing the sign of the beast!

First of all this is a MOB trigger and was activated by the player saying the word Metallica. Then the MUD will analyze first of all if the actor that's saying this is a Playable Character, it can also be triggered by other commands and variables, it all depends as stated what the Builder intends to do with it. At the end we see that the MOB says something and then emotes something, we finish this command with the variable end to tell the MUD it's all it’s supposed to do otherwise it could cycle or crash the MUD.

With that said now we have to pass to the Administrative Tree of a MUD. In a MUD there can be personal working directly in the MUD and outside of the MUD. The Inside Section consists of the "Wizards" of the game, also known as Gods and Implementors. The general structure of the MUD consists of at least one Implementor, which is the leading figure, and then the Builder, Moderator and RP Divisions, to call it in a way. The Outside Section consists of the Coders and sometimes Builders and Implementors, who may be doing two jobs by doubling as Coders. These figures are responsible for keeping the MUD running in perfect shape and also of fixing any internal problem, like errors in the code.

The first line, the so-called front line, consists of the Moderators which are the ones to keep everything in control inside the game, mostly the channels and teaching a lesson to players that just keep bugging everyone (guilty as charged there). They are probably the least admired or considered but their job is important in order to keep balance and order.

Second, also very important, are the Builders. They are in charge of constructing the MUD infrastructure, they are the architects. Their design comes to life with time and effort, sometimes they are free to build up whatever they want, sometimes they have to build what they are told, it differs but the last one can be very annoying especially if you can't let your imagination run wild.

The Role Player Gods are considered to be expert in the topic and also have extended knowledge of the storyline, when it's an original storyline it would be recommended that the creator of the story explained his ideas and was the Head of Role Playing to keep everything under control until the other responsible for Role Playing can get up to date.

The Coders are probably the most important thing in a MUD, without them the MUD doesn't exist or expand, internal issues such as that MOB that shows up for no reason after 6 AM at the newbie area and kills everyone or PvP being removed at random intervals, maybe that Sword of Orcs +3 you have crashes the server whenever you hit something that isn't an orc, all these are verified, or can be verified, by the Coder to understand the source of the problem. Of course there are several MUD types out there and are free but those who can create an original code for a game, for example EldhaMUD which uses an original code, could be known as Gods of MUDding for this simple fact.

The last is the Implementor yet he is the leader of everything, he can be head of Role Playing, Head of the Builders and Head of the Coders, although without knowing much about these subjects it's of no use but many Implementors like these exist.

With this I conclude my little review of MUDs and how they work, I hope this has given you a little insight as to what it is and how it works and if anything is missing do let me know.

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