In 1994 a friend of mine introduced me to a game that blew my mind. It was called Realms of Imaginations. It was a MUD, also known as a Multi-User Dimension. It was a text based role playing game that was enjoyed by people all over the world. You could actually interact with people across the world. What I didn’t know was this wasn’t the only one out there. There were 100s of these such games. There were science fiction ones, fantasy ones, some were even based on books.

MUDs are usually lumped into 2 kinds. Roleplaying and hack & slash. Hack and slash are my favorites. On roleplaying MUDs, it’s not easy to just sit down and socialize with the real people playing on the other end. I guess that’s why I prefer hack & slash ones. I can get to know my friends that also playing instead of get to know their character.

In 1997 Realms of Imaginations went offline and I had nowhere to play. It eventually went back online as Alternate Illusions, but by then I found a new one I was hooked on. The new game went by the name of Age Of War. The game was in the beta stage then. It was still being worked on.

I have played the game for the better part of a decade. I have been playing since 1997, but there were times I wasn’t active for a few years here and there. 6 years ago in 2004, I became a staff member on the game. I was tasked by the people that were in charge of the game at the time to revamp the website.

Below is the log in screen for Age Of War

               _     ___    ____            -------
              / \   | __|  | ___|           \/\/\//
             |   |  ||     | __              -----
             | _ |  || __  | __|             |  /|       Based on
             || ||  ||_||  | ___             | / |       CircleMUD 3.0
             || ||  |___|  |____|            |/  |       by Jeremy Elson
                  _    ___                   |  /|
                 | |  | __|                  | / |       CircleMUD based
                 | |  | _|                   |/  |       DikuMUD (GAMMA 0.0)
                 |_|  | |                    |  /|       By Hans Henrik
             __   __    _    ___             | / |       Staerfeldt, Katja
             \ \ / /   / \   |  \            |/  |       Nyboe, Tom Madsen,
             | | | |  |   |  |  |            |  /|       Michael Seifert,
             |  -  |  | _ |  |  /            | / |       and Sebastian
             \     /  || ||  ||\\            |/  |       Hammer
           -  \/-\/   || ||  || \\           |  /|
          //                                 | / |       Implementors are:
    |/\/\/||ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ>   -----       VonHenlen
          \\                                /\/\/\\
           -                                -------
                                  Mud Email:

By what name do you wish to be known?

As you can see, the screenshot above has no real graphics. The game itself is all text. It has no pictures save for a few examples of ASCII pictures. It has no sound. Pretty much playing the game is like reading a book. You need to use your imagination. I guess that’s what drew me and 1000s of other people in since 1980 when the first MUD had it’s debut. It’s kind of like a constantly evolving book.

You connect to the game using the Telnet protocol or by using a specialized Mud Client. The game is played by issuing commands. Commands like:

Kill Guard
This command initiates combat between you and the guard
This command lets you look at your surroundings
This makes your character sit down and rest
Say Hi!

This would make your character say ‘Hi!’ to anyone in the room.

Let me show you an example of a room: (NOTE: Moignus is one of my characters names.)

 Plaza Center
   Here at the center of the heart of Torath-Lok is a paved plaza, built
to be the width and breadth of three normal roadways.  Smooth flat stones,
laid well side by side, are underfoot.  A large covered stone well sits
in the center of the plaza, the city's main source of drinking water.
   The impressive residence of Baron Fynglas lies northeast.  A short
path at the southern edge of the plaza connects to a large courtyard. 
Magister Street heads off north between the gated gardens of the residence
and a guardhouse at the bridge.  A chapel sits just south of the bridge
entrance to the southwest, and the city's main bank is southeast.
   Fynglas Way winds through town east and west, connecting Torath-Lok's
three sections.  Beside the well a large wooden roadsign catches your
attention.  It seems to have been erected recently.
[ Exits: n e s w u ]
A wide circular well made of stone, filled with fresh water, is the focal point of the Plaza.
A small stone tablet is sitting here. ..It has a soft glowing aura!
Moignus is standing here.

Combat can be intense with the battle going in realtime. You can quaff potions, kick, bash, cast spells, etc. during battle. Some character classes get more than 1 attack per round of battle. Let me show you a typical battle:

You ERADICATE an honor guard of Torath-Lok with your deadly pierce!!

894H 255M 466V 3366854X  Mob: small wounds > 
What a stroke of luck, an honor guard of Torath-Lok seems to have missed you with her thrash!
You ERADICATE an honor guard of Torath-Lok with your deadly pierce!!
You  ERADICATE an honor guard of Torath-Lok with your deadly pierce!!
You ERADICATE an honor guard of Torath-Lok with your deadly pierce!!

894H 255M 466V 3366854X  Mob: big nasty wounds > 
An honor guard of Torath-Lok MASSACRES you with her deadly thrash!!
You ERADICATE an honor guard of Torath-Lok with your deadly pierce!!
You ERADICATE an honor guard of Torath-Lok with your deadly pierce!!
An honor guard of Torath-Lok is incapacitated and will slowly die, if not aided.
You successfully pierce an honor guard of Torath-Lok and her dead body falls to the ground in a lifeless heap.
An honor guard of Torath-Lok is dead!  R.I.P.
You receive your share of experience -- 3025 points.
Your blood freezes as you hear an honor guard of Torath-Lok's death cry.
You get a big pile of gold coins from the corpse of an honor guard of Torath-Lok.
There were 3750 coins.
You split 3750 coins among 3 members -- 1250 coins each.

This all may look like it would take a bit of getting used to. You know what? It does. But, once people are used to it, most people don’t see words flying by, they see pictures. You know how you see the world unfolding in front of you when you are reading a book? Mudding is like that. In the real world, when you are in a room you are familiar with, you don’t need to look at it in detail, you just know how it looks. Again, mudding is like that. The worlds don’t change, but people and circumstances do.

To loosely paraphrase a line from The Big Bang Theory, text games like MUDs use the worlds more powerful graphics card, your imagination. MUDs are not for everyone, but everyone can play them. Why not try one? You can find more information at the Mud Connector.

Posted November 1st, 2010