Editorial: Playing in the MUDs

But didn't the apocalypse already happen when My Chemical Romance broke up?
The end of the world? Oh goody…

Dear Lusipeasants, the time is nigh.

The signs of the apocalypse are upon us, as foretold by the magnanimous Alcorn Bushnell. The moon glows in a blood red ring of death. Plagues and cricket storms fall upon us, although only once a day rather than continuously. The all-seeing eye with its dead gaze is aroused from its unholy slumber, its name (from a dead language unpronounceable by any man’s tongue) loosely translating into “Kinect.”

In the dark days following Xbone’s reveal, it has been easy to give up hope. Some gamers have been contemplating suicide, considering the benefits of leaping into lakes while holding original XBox controllers to weigh themselves down. I know of others who have sworn off the hobby completely and burned their whole collection (or sold it to Gamestop, same result really) in order to spend their last few days with their family. Friends, this is not the answer. The answer is some good ol’ time religion…or games. Games which hark back to a time unbidden by corporate shenanigans or gouging market offices. In order to find this utopia we must delve into the far-flung past, past the opening days of WoW, past the release of Everquest. We must behold a simpler, more pure experience- that of the text-based RPG. The MUD.

In all appropriately measured seriousness, the topic of MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons) is one that I have been meaning to explore for a while now. For too long has attention been showered upon the derivative and uninspired games of today- MUDs provided players with all the standard MMORPG facets without the trash. Tired of the pointless grind in modern MMORPGs, with all its clicking and visual styles? MUDs allowed players to level by typing in commands, often KILL (creature) or some ingeniously simple phrasing like that, until the text screen told them that said creature was dead. What about the handholding found in Minimaps in modern games today? Even the players who mapped out early MUDs found themselves lost in the labyrinthian design of dungeons which refused to bend to the laws of physics or man.

The world of today even brings kittens to despair.

Punctuating their awesomeness is the fact that MUDs were made in a time when games were games and not vehicles of social experimentation. This is in part because MUDs originate in a decade unlike our own materialistic and selfish era, the 1980s. As is the case in all human events, however, later developers came along and ruined things for people. Julian Dibbell, a freelance journalist, in many ways kicked off the downward spiral with his oft-cited essay “A Rape in Cyberspace.” Dibbell’s allegation that online games could somehow create “virtual societies” brought on a haze of navel-gazing and experimentation which helped bastardize all the was good in MUDs. For example, Matthew Mihaly, the founder of Iron Realms Entertainment, created Achaea using his background in Political Science to develop notions of conflict between citizens without resorting to the tried-and-true “good/evil” of earlier, far superior MUDs. Mihaly would later serve as technical editor for the book “Designing Virtual Worlds,” written by some hack named Richard Bartle, who was probably only writing the book to cash in on unsuspecting aspiring game developers.

Mihaly deserves a special condemnation here. Whereas previous MUDs had generally remained free for use to all who desired it, Mihaly devised a diabolical scheme in which he would charge for special content, the so-called “artifacts.” It was widely accepted among many of the forums that surrounded the game that these artifacts broke the game and its economy, especially the credits which allowed players to learn skills at a faster rate than those who leveled the proper, old-fashioned way. This led to a horrendous situation in which some players were forced (I imagine in some cases at gunpoint by Mihaly’s thugs) to buy premium content in order to remain competitive with other players. For shame!

What you don't see are the rueful tears being shed by the person holding the games.
The only solace to be found.

In our contemporary setting of cheap cash-in tricks and controlling behavior by major gaming companies, it is refreshing to take a look back into yesteryear, to appreciate the times in which games were out to please us in all the ways we hoped they would. MUDs can still offer that pleasure, as many are still active in the nether regions of the internet, but to be sure it is a shallow shadow of its former glory.

So I turn it to you, Lusiprophets. In light of the latest debacle in a series of debacles, do you find yourselves pining away for the trophies of days long past? Share your thoughts in the comments, and then be sure to join our summer playthrough of “Chrono Trigger,” another game which rises above the filth we must play around with today.

3 comments

  1. “Some gamers have been contemplating suicide, considering the benefits of leaping into lakes while holding original XBox controllers to weigh themselves down. ”

    I literally choked on my coffee with laughter. Kudos sir. Now I have to go tend to these first degree burns.

  2. I spent many an afternoon playing MUDs on various local BBSes. They never once surpassed console JRPGs for me, though. They were always, at best, a diversion whilst I waited for the next Mega Man, Castlevania, or Final Fantasy game.

  3. @Wolfe – I always admired Microsoft’s audacity with that controller. While other companies were trying to make controllers smaller, lighter, and able to fit in our hands, Microsoft decided that a controller large enough to club someone to death was what they were going to put their money on. And whaddya’ know- it actually kinda’ worked!

    @Lusipurr – For me it was the thrill of arguing with other MUD players over silly things. Sure, JRPGs put me in charge of leading a rebellion against an evil empire or god or something crazy epic like that, but in a MUD (or their close cousin, the Forum RPG) I acted as City Treasurer, Guild Historian, and even a lawyer in a treason case!

    …actually, on reflection, this probably explains why I always played boring/accountant-type characters in my tabletop games…

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