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Gaming Roots: MUD and the Birth of MMOs 99

angry tapir writes "I recently had a chance to interview Richard Bartle — the creator of MUD, considered the grandfather of modern massively multiplayer online games. MUD had a text-based interface, but despite that, its design was hugely influential on modern MMOs."
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Gaming Roots: MUD and the Birth of MMOs

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  • by flayzernax ( 1060680 ) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @01:45PM (#43946987)

    MMO's are the visual progression of MUDs into theme parks. Where the something to do was a strategic mind puzzle in combat with your team mates. They've been watered down into theme parks now. A few tried a bit of tactical puzzle as well. But that remains more of an FPS baby.

    The other part of MMO's was the metagame. Which detracts from the immersion and amusement park. Meaning the trend to simplify, tone down, and obscure stats and effects.

    In muds you could kill your character with things like nuclear blasts wiping out several rooms at once. Muds were about community and player interaction and usually had very limited leveling curves. 30 max. With few abilities that either mattered or were required for reaching max level. Gear was 'rented' out on your character etc..

    I think MUDs are a bit to hardcore and more about different game points than I like. Not sure if I would go back to them as a starting point for a new MMO. But I would take a look at current MMO's vs old MMO's.

    EQ was sandboxy. There were no real limitations on where you could go. You could make a level 4 rogue and sneak down to the bottom of a level 50 dungeon if you wanted to explore. You could run accross the world with a warrior at level 1 from 1 city to the next. The game became more about incentives and less about exploration though as the newness wore off and the player populace congregated around the easy to reach spots. If there was a way to increase reward equally with risk and time. The exploration aspect would have lasted a lot longer. People out in the middle of East Karana hunting gnolls at level 12. I did that because Black Burrow was boring and I had leveled a character there already. I think I went with a group to almost every spot in that game at every level pre-50. Just to try something different. I'm also insane and wasted too much time doing that.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @03:06PM (#43947371) Journal

    I heartily agree with the comment about orcs down the hall not hearing or seeing the attack on their colleagues and either coming to help or running away. it is, of course, a game design thing to make each encounter doable, rather than having to worry about more unpedictable situations where the group size suddenly doubles (the famed "ADD!!!") or quadruples because those who ran away came back with helpers.

    Games have done limited variations on this:

    - D&D Online, the monsters can hear you, and specifically will hear you smash a barrel on the other side of a closed door and wake up, being ready for your attack. Sound and sight matter, though still not quite as much as desired here.

    - EverQuest and other games frequently have a monster run away through other packs, hoping you will stupidly follow and aggro a second group. Most people quickly learn not to do this. Sadly, the other pack doesn't join in in this case. I guess when tearing by, the monster under attack forgot to mention his colleagues were currently under assault.

    - World of Warcraft had perhaps the most egregious example, where a group of two wandering (cycling on a large path) centaur "scouts" would attack you. You could kill one then run away. Eventually the other "scout" would give up and go back. Did he do what scouts are supposed to, hightail it back to camp and warn the others? No, he just resumes his path, making a mockery of the concept of being a "scout". Uhh, thanks for scouting for us, Beaky.

    It's all this "idiocracy" of design that bothers me. I want to see dynamic, world-upsetting events and invasions. I don't mean one-shot stupidities, I mean real wars. I want to see cities invaded where the vendors and trainers get attacked and slaughtered, and the players don't know where to go anymore, so they'd better fight.

    Death to the sentiment, "I don't wanna participate in that, and am irritated that I can't go do something else."

    Well, nowadays we have enough games to accommodate you. Let's have a new one that shakes things up. Hell, for that matter, start out with a new principle: Ban all static zones and dungeons from design, and force designers to create a dynamic, ever-changing world. No more theme park zone designs, including safe cities.

  • by Dishevel ( 1105119 ) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @03:22PM (#43947461)

    MUDS have fewer limitations.
    About 20 years ago I was playing a ROM II based MUD. A guy I played a lot with got stuck in a rut and found himself unable to level.
    He got pissed and stood in Market Square and proceeded to summon every level 1 bunny on the MUD to him and killing them.
    One by One. So there he was for hours pilling up dead bunny corpses in Market Square (A place many in the MUD passed through constatantly).
    An Imm decided he no longer wanted this going on. He created a new mob on the fly that could be summoned and then gave it massive attacks and health. Then he removed all the other bunnies on the game and left only the non aggro "Mother of all Bunnies". The guy ends up summing it and attacks and dies almost instantly.
    So here we are with the "Mother of all bunnies" kicking it in Market Square.
    About 30 regulars on the MUD logged in and grouped up with this guy. Market Square is only a couple of spaces from where you come back when you are killed.
    We attacked. Tanks dropped many times. I died 3 or four times and even lost a full level. At the end we all dropped out of the group and let the guy fight while we kept him healed the last few seconds. Bunny died. He leveled a few times and we all have a story that we can remember for multiple decades.

    You wont get that from ANY MMORPG out today.

  • by DingerX ( 847589 ) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @03:29PM (#43947487) Journal
    Obviously, the dude has never played Moria [] either. Maybe the thing was obvious, but it was also present. It's like saying multiplayer flight sims didn't have their origin in PLATO's Airfight. Yes, the concept was obvious, but every implementation was inspired by the predecessors. And before 1978, the only implementations out there were server-and-terminal. MP was easy(ish).

Civilization, as we know it, will end sometime this evening. See SYSNOTE tomorrow for more information.