Monday, February 26, 2018

Game 282: MicroMud (1988)

This sounds like an exfoliating body wash.
United Kingdom
Independently developed; published by Virgin Games
Released in 1988 for Commodore 64
Date Started: 18 February 2018
Date Ended: 23 February 2018
Total hours: 12
Difficulty: Easy (2/5)
Final Rating: 19
Ranking at Time of Posting: 60/290 (21%)

One thing that has never interested me is making other people part of my gaming experience. Not strangers, anyway. I guess it could be fun with a small group of intelligent, trustworthy friends, but I barely have five people in my life who will meet in a bar, let alone create Cyber1 accounts and join me for a rousing game of Oubliette. I have no interest in playing with strangers, either cooperatively or competitively. I don't want my success dependent on other people, or theirs dependent on me. I don't want to compete against 14-year-olds with 16 hours a day to devote to developing their expertise. I have no interest in hearing slurs about my intelligence, sexuality, or family. I play video games to get away from that sort of thing.

There must be a lot of players like me, which makes me all the more surprised that some of the big MMORPGs don't offer a single-player option. I think it would be enormous fun to experience a persistent game world in which things were always changing and there was new stuff to explore every few months. I just want to do it alone.

For players like me, or for those without modems in 1988, came MicroMud, an offline version of the famous MUD ("multi-user dungeon") developed at the University of Essex in the late 1970s. The two-disk game simulates the MUD experience by drawing 10 AI characters from a pool of 100 to play along with the PC. They come and go from the various screens, offer insults and platitudes, and occasionally attack without provocation.
As the game begins, computer-controlled characters enter and speak.
These interactions happen within the context of a typical Zork-like text adventure spanning 400 locations. The ostensible goal is to reach 102,400 points by slaying other characters (which gives you one-twelfth their accumulated points), slaying monsters, solving puzzles, and finding treasures and dropping them in, of all places, the swamp. I gather that this basic approach is drawn directly from the online MUD.

The puzzles are adequate, but I can't say that it's a pleasant experience trying to solve them while dozens of messages cycle by about people entering and leaving, along with voices shouting in the distance (replicating the original MUD's ability to message everyone currently in the system). In fact, the experience makes me more confused than ever about how MUDs actually operated. I get the PLATO adventures that mostly focus on combat, but why would it enhance an adventure game experience to have a bunch of other people buzzing around? How did you ever manage to solve puzzles that required inventory items if other people were constantly picking them up?

Making things even harder here, since you've got 11 players running around, finding treasure, and tossing it into the swamp, the number of items depletes fast. The game thus resets every 40-60 minutes, which translates to 20-30 minutes with the modern emulator, because leaving it set at 100% is infuriatingly sluggish. When the game resets, you have to re-enter, and you find yourself back in the starting square, all of your items gone. You do get to keep your points between resets.
Character creation.
For character options, you only have name and sex. MUD allowed you to choose between a warrior path and a wizard path, but in this game you just have a generic adventurer with skills from both classes who gets more powerful with experience. The game automatically assigns your strength, dexterity, and stamina scores, noting that intelligence and charisma are up to you. Characteristics go up and down based on events in the game. You can save the character at any time with LOGOFF, and then back up the data disk if you want to cover your bases.
My character demonstrates a lack of both intelligence and charisma.
(Incidentally, because of the dynamic nature by which the game is run, with constant referencing of the data and program disks, emulator save states don't really work. You have to play this one honestly.)
The game world offered in the manual.
I spent several hours just mapping about 40 rooms, or about a tenth of the total number. The map, which I guess is based to some degree on MUD, is horribly convoluted. Every square can have up to 10 exits (including up and down) and almost all of them have at least six. Hardly ever is a path from one square to another reversible; you often leave one by going south and enter the next from the west, for instance. There are many one-way paths. There are many squares with the same name and a twisting maze of paths between them.
A very small part of the game world.
There are a lot of indoor areas, including a cave, a hut, a cottage, a mine, and a mausoleum. Most of the good stuff is there, but you need a light source to progress, and for more than half of my playing time, I couldn't get anything to work. The opening hints tell you to make a torch out of a stick and some fire. I found plenty of sticks and a roaring fire, but no set of commands I could think of would ignite that stick. It doesn't help that the book only gives you about a dozen of the supposed 200 commands and tells you to figure out the rest on your own. (One of the commands it does provide is COMMANDS, which supposedly "gives you a short list of commands." But if you actually try to use it in game, it says: "Well, if we told you them, it would spoil the game!") It was only late in my experience, after a fan e-mailed me instructions for finding a "firestone" in the dark, that I could start to explore the indoor areas.
Trying to light a stick on fire.
In some ways, whether you can progress through all the game's puzzles doesn't matter, because there's no way you would get it all done before the game resets. Even if you could, the movement of other players disrupts the locations of key puzzle items. Thus, after every reset, your goal is basically to get as much done as you can before the next reset. That might include winning combats or collecting treasures and taking them to the swamp. I managed to rise most of the way to 100,000 points just repeatedly collecting the treasures that don't require me to go into a dark area. These include a golden apple in a southern forest, an umbrella in the cottage foyer, and a crown sitting in the swamp itself. That latter one, at the end of a bit of a maze, is worth 2,000 experience points, so I could have "won" the game in 50 resets with that alone. In fact, I did use the SITE/RESITE spells (a "mark"/"recall" combination), which persist in between resets, to teleport myself to the crown at the beginning of each new game.
Almost 3% of the way there!
Combat is both simple and confusing. You can fight with fists but it takes forever and gives you the worst odds. Even a stick is about twice as effective. Deadly weapons like swords are only found in far-flung places that take most of a session to get to, and you have to defeat a dragon to get the deadliest weapon, a broadsword. A woodcutter's axe fairly close to the entry is probably the best option.

If you want to attack something, you type KILL RAT WITH STICK or whatever weapon you have. If you get attacked, you automatically retaliate, but I don't know with what since there's no "wield" command. Either way, the computer simply fights round after round without telling you specific attack rolls or how much damage you're doing to the enemy. Success seems extraordinarily variable. Sometimes I kill an enemy in one blow; other times it takes 10 rounds and leaves me with single-digit stamina.
Killing a snake in one round.
This zombie took a bit longer.
Magic is also a bit confusing. The manual lists a bunch of spells, some of which are unique to this game, such as WHERE, which will tell you the location or person carrying one of the game's objects; SUMMON, which automatically brings another player to your position; SNOOP, which allows you to see what another player is doing; and offensive spells called CRIPPLE, BLIND, and DEAFEN. What the manual doesn't tell you is that some of these spells require you to be at a certain level and some require you to have a certain object. If you try to cast a spell for which you don't have the right level or object, the game acts like it doesn't understand your words rather than telling you something useful like, "You need to be an enchanter to cast that."

Levels go something like warrior, superhero, champion, enchanter, necromancer, legend, and wizard. I might have missed a couple. With every level-up, you get a bump in attributes, up to 100. Moreover, your point level itself acts like a "power" level and increases your effectiveness in combat and spellcasting. Some areas are only accessible to higher levels, with messages that only they can read showing them the way through dangerous areas.

MicroMud is underwhelming as an RPG, but it performs relatively well as a text adventure, and I almost wish I could have played it as a straight adventure, without the distractions of NPCs and the constant threat of resets. I didn't solve anywhere near all the puzzles, partly because I didn't figure some of them out, and partly because other NPCs kept wandering off with keys and other items I needed to progress. The text is well-written and the individual areas are well-designed and evocative--particularly the mines in the northeast that slowly open up into a huge underground dwarven empire. Other areas include a dark cave network full of goblins, the surprisingly spacious basement of a cottage, an enchanted forest, and an island across a stormy sea. There are quite a few areas that lead to instant death, but this just kicks you out of the current game. If you're killed by another character, on the other hand, you're gone for good.
One of many instant and amusing deaths.
Most of the puzzles involve the creative use of inventory items, such as using a torch to burn an evil dryad, opening an umbrella to slow one's descent after jumping off a cliff, or using an axe to chop down a Yew tree and finding a cave beneath it. There are numerous doors locked by keys. There are at least two gratings that you need two characters to open; NPCs were always wandering into my square asking for help opening the portcullis.
Don't try this in real life.
My favorite puzzles were a set of word puzzles inside a mausoleum. Each word opened a different door and led to a different treasure. I got them all, but I am obliged to note that Irene helped and I guessed on one. Two of the clues have typos that make them harder to solve, but I've written them below as they actually appear. See how many you can get.
  • Reetirr stalanio xebor luntaw
  • Ruyers seexe nollwarc arolfid
  • Zn+xt=tz  zv+zr=zjr  z+z = ?
  • What has no wings but often flies; has legs but cannot walk; is two of something that can never exist alone?
  • Czech for MUD
  • Republican = onehundredandeight democrat = ?
Finally frustrated at getting deep into the dwarven mines only to be yanked back by a reset, or unable to explore the western half of the map because someone stole the umbrella before I could get to it, I "won" by settling into a pattern of grabbing the crown, going to the mausoleum, yelling each of the answers, looting all the tombs, taking the resulting load to the swamp, and dropping it. Then I'd walk one square away and kill NPCs who came along with their own loot. It took around 20 resets, but I ultimately made it to "wizard."
Crossing the threshold.
When you reach the highest rank, you become a kind of moderator, with some administrative privileges that make the game a breeze. You can kill anyone instantly with "Finger of Death" (FOD), cast a GO spell to take you to any room in the game (if you know its number), and visit a special moderator's room east of the starting square.
A GO command instantly takes me to the most lucrative treasure chamber in the game.
Based on my limited experience, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed MUD. I don't get the value of making an adventure game a multi-user game, even though I understand the tradition goes back to some of the first text adventures, like Colossal Cave Adventure and the Dungeon game that became Zork. I understand the multiplayer rationale in a game like Moria, where you need a party to stay alive, or any game that prizes tactical PvP combat. But to run around the same map iteration after iteration, trying to solve the same puzzles only to find that someone got there first, strikes me as boring and frustrating. Put another way, Moria and Oubliette feel empty without other players, but without other players, MicroMud would feel like a perfectly adequate and less-annoying text adventure. Perhaps I'm missing some aspects that original MUD players can clarify.
The game resets just as I'm starting to make some progress.
The best I can do on a GIMLET is 19. It does worst (0s) in story and setting and economy for having neither. I came close to giving a 0 in graphics, sound, and interface. Entering commands is maddeningly sluggish, and it alternately fails to recognize half your keystrokes while reading others as doubles or triples. It does best in overall gameplay (4) for being nonlinear and replayable, and in encounters (4) for its reasonably-challenging puzzles.

I found one favorable review in Advanced Computer Entertainment, which praised the NPC AI, noted the problems with the sluggishness of the interface, and concluded that it was "definitely worth checking out by anyone not totally addicted to pretty pixels." I get the impression that it sold poorly, though, as most all-text games would have by the late 1980s.
MicroMud was written by Jon Stuart and Paul McCraken. They would later establish Manic Media Productions, based in Oxfordshire, and enjoy success with a series of racing games titled SuperKarts (1995), Manic Karts (1995), and Formula Karts (1997). I lose track of them after that, but it doesn't appear that they worked on any other adventure games or RPGs.
MUD was written by University of Essex students Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle between 1978 and 1980. In 1980, Essex hooked up with ARPANet and MUD went global. It was enjoyed by avid players until 1987, when Bartle licensed it to CompuServe, who insisted on shutting down the free version. (Though apparently a variant called MIST remained up and running until 1991.) By the mid-1980s, MUD had become a generic term for the many available games that we would later call MMORPGs. If I ever get caught up on the backlog, maybe you'll get to hear about my experience with a MMORPG as a special topic.


I want to play the German Nippon (1988), which seems like an authentic RPG, but I'm having trouble with the controls. I really need a manual. If any of my German readers knows where to obtain one, I'd appreciate it.


  1. One of the authors of Nippon has a page with lots of information about the game, including the manual:

  2. There is a dedicated Nippon website that also has the manual:

  3. Regarding Nippon, here is the manual:

    You can also find most of the information here:

    C64Wiki is very low-spoiler (unless you enlarge the map). Nippon Museum was created by one of the authors of the game and contains many spoilers (city maps, dialoge text, riddles, ...). But the manual link is safe. You'll also need the story ( to solve some of the riddles of the Bhudda statues.

    It's all German unfortunately (you can thank Activision for that).

    Control is joystick only (must be a C64 thing), using Joystick 2. Use the joystick button (Right Ctrl in WinVice) to access the menu at the bottom, and the left/right-Keys to scroll through the menu items. After you entered combat (only possible outside of cities), press the joystick button for a few seconds to leave it again.

    An important hint from the manual: Talk to shopowners in a "NORMAL" fashion.

    1. I've had some minor problems using save states in WinVice with this game: Namely shop prices ending up at 0, wrong texts, and a messed up overland map. I think it happens when you jump to a map/city that wasn't loaded from disk before. It was nothing permanent, though, loading from disk fixed it. It might be wise to occasionally save to disk, though.

    2. The Wiki also has Information on the meanings the icons, google translate should Work well at least for the Single Word headlines

    3. Thanks to all three of you on the Nippon documentation!

    4. Oh, man. This is going to be a tough one to crack.

    5. Because of the language? You'll probably have the standard RPG stuff down quickly - buying Food (Nahrung), Weapons (Waffen), Armor (Rüstungen/Schutz), etc.. You can only guess their effectiveness from their price anyway, so names don't really matter.

      I (or someone else here) could write down the most important items from the manual in English if you need it, it shouldn't be that much.

      Conversations will be the tough part, merchants aside. Some NPCs in towns offer clues on how to play the game, where to find artifacts and spells, and how to solve the game.

      There's a list of persons in the game with all their text, that might help a bit. You could look up a persons name in that list and at least Google translate their replies:

    6. Of course, the mainland map isn't exactly small either...

      For a 1988 C64 game, at least.

  4. MMORPG..what a word. Is it even a word?
    It's strange, I think I'm 'single-player', yet I like playing those. It's somehow comforting to know you are not the only living person in the game.

    1. It's an acronym, it stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. Interestingly, this terrible mouthful was originally conceived by Origin/EA as a marketing description for Ultima Online 2. I vaguely recall a lot of people online at the time mocked the ridiculousness of this term. Yet, twenty years later, here we are: MMORPG is a mainstream term. And ironically, Ultima Online 2 was never released.

    2. Here's a fun video explaining the effect of players on UO's ecology:

  5. Replies
    1. Yeah, wow, those puzzles make me feel stupid. Though maybe they would be slightly less tough if it weren't for the fact it's very late at night and I'm tired and I really need to go to bed.

      Here's what I've got so far, ROT13d:

      Gur svefg gjb ner yvfgf bs fpenzoyrq jbeqf:

      greevre nyfngvna* obkre jnyahg

      *Npghnyyl vg qbrfa'g hafpenzoyr gb Nyfngvna, ohg V'z thrffvat vg'f fhccbfrq gb naq gung guvf vf bar bs gur gjb glcbf Purg zragvbarq

      Fheerl Rffrk Pbeajnyy Sybevqn

      Ohg gura jung jbeq vf fhccbfrq gb or vachg nf gur nafjre gb rnpu bar? V'z thrffvat JNYAHG naq SYBEVQN orpnhfr gubfr ner gur bqq barf bhg va rnpu pnfr, ohg V'z abg fher.

      Ab vqrn ba gur bguref. Gur guveq bar pna'g or n fvzcyr qvtvg fhofgvghgvba chmmyr, orpnhfr vs gjb gjb-qvtvg ahzoref nqq gb n guerr-qvtvg ahzore gura gur guerr-qvtvg ahzore zhfg fgneg jvgu 1... ohg vs M=1, gura gur gjb gjb-qvtvg ahzoref ner gbb fznyy gb nqq gb n guerr-qvtvg ahzore va gur svefg cynpr. Fb gurer zhfg or fbzrguvat qvssrerag tbvat ba urer. Cbffvoyl gurl'er inevnoyrf naq gur whkgncbfvgvba vaqvpngrf zhygvcyvpngvba? Ohg gura gur zvqqyr rdhngvba jbhyq or hfryrff fvapr I, E, naq W qba'g nccrne va nal bs gur bgure rdhngvbaf.

      Ba gur ynfg bar, zl svefg vzchyfr jnf gb gel hfvat N=1, O=2, rgp., naq gura nqqvat gur inyhrf gbtrgure... ohg gura Erchoyvpna pbzrf gb 101, abg 108, fb gung'f abg vg (hayrff gurer'f nabgure glcb gurer).

      Bs pbhefr, lbh pbhyq hfr n qvpgvbanel naq ybbx hc gur Pmrpu jbeq sbe "zhq"... Tbbtyr genafyngr tvirf vg nf "oyágb" be "onuab"... ohg gung frrzf gbb rnfl. Fgvyy, vs V jrer cynlvat gur tnzr V'q ng yrnfg gel glcvat gung va naq frr vs vg jbexrq.

      Fghzcrq ba gur sbhegu bar. "Unf ab jvatf naq bsgra syvrf" znxrf zr guvax bs gvzr, ohg gung qbrfa'g svg gur erfg bs gur evqqyr. N wbhearl unf yrtf ohg qbrfa'g jnyx, nf qb znal negvpyrf bs sheavgher, ohg ntnva, abar bs gubfr svgf gur erfg... uz.

      Eh. I really need to get to bed.

    2. Oh! Wait! I think I may have figured out the fourth one!


      Gurl unir ab jvatf, ohg bsgra [unir] syvrf. Gurl unir yrtf, ohg qba'g jnyx. Naq vg'f "gjb bs fbzrguvat gung pnaabg rkvfg nybar" va gur frafr gung lbh nyjnlf ersre gb n cnve bs gebhfref (be cnagf), arire n fvatyr gebhfre (be cnag).

      Okay, now I really need to get to bed.

    3. Okay, I'm still not in bed where I should be, but some further thoughts on the third one:

      Znlor vg VF n qvtvg fhofgvghgvba chmmyr, ohg gurer'f nabgure glcb. Abg va gur yrggref (gung jbhyq znxr vg cerggl zhpu vzcbffvoyr!), ohg va gur bcrengbef. V rkcynvarq va gur rneyvre cbfg jul vg pna'g or n qvtvg fhofgvghgvba chmmyr nf vg fgnaqf... ohg vg pbhyq or vs gur + va gur frpbaq rdhngvba vf fhccbfrq gb or n *.

      Vs gung'f gur pnfr, M unf gb or bar, orpnhfr bgurejvfr gur gjb gjb-qvtvg ahzoref va gur frpbaq rdhngvba pbhyqa'g zhygvcyl gb znxr n guerr-qvtvg ahzore jvgu gur fnzr svefg qvtvg. Fb M+M vf gjb. Gung'f n ovg gbb rnfl, gubhtu, fb engure guna glcr va gjb znlor gur vqrn vf gb glcr va n yrggre gung ercerfragf gjb.

      Gur ceboyrz vf gung gurer ner gjb cbffvoyr fbyhgvbaf sbe gur erznvavat yrggref:

      A = sbhe, K = svir, G = frira, I = fvk, E = gjb, W = avar


      A = frira, K = gjb, G = sbhe, I = guerr, E = svir, W = avar

      Fb V thrff vs V jrer cynlvat guvf V'q gel obgu "E" naq "K" naq frr vs rvgure bs gurz jbexrq.

      Vg'f ragveryl cbffvoyr, bs pbhefr, gung arvgure bs gurz jbexf naq gung V'z pbzcyrgryl bss ba gur jebat genpx.

      Okay, now, as strong as the temptation is to continue to puzzle over these riddles, I really need to get to bed...

    4. @Jalen, I think your second substitution is the right one, because vs lbh erirefr gur nycunorg naq gnxr rirel bgure yrggre, lbh'yy raq hc jvgu mkigecayw frdhrapr, pbeerfcbaqvat gb ahzoref sebz bar gb avar.
      As for the the fifth puzzle, V guvax vg'f whfg "ZHQ" - 1) vg jbhyqa'g or ernfbanoyr gb rkcrpg gur cynlref gb unir n Pmrpu qvpgvbanel ba unaq; 2) grezf gung qba'g ersre gb n cerivbhfyl xabja pbaprcg ner hfhnyyl vzcbegrq sebz gur bevtvany ynathntr nf vf.

    5. Ah, good catch on the substitution. As for the fifth puzzle...

      Gung nafjre qvq bpphe gb zr, ohg V qvfzvffrq vg nf gbb fvzcyr. Fher gur cynlre jbhyqa'g or rkcrpgrq gb unir n Pmrpu qvpgvbanel ng unaq, ohg vs gurfr ner fhccbfrq gb or qvssvphyg chmmyrf (naq gur tnzr vfa'g rkcrpgrq gb or "fbyirq" va bar fvggvat) vg zvtug abg or bhg bs gur dhrfgvba gb erdhver n gevc gb gur yvoenel. Fgvyy, vg'f irel cbffvoyr gung V'z bireguvaxvat guvf naq gung lbh'er evtug; pregnvayl vs V jrer cynlvat gur tnzr gung'f na nafjre V'q gel.

    6. Hm, I have a guess for the last one...


      Gurer ner sbhe uhaqerq naq guvegl-svir frngf va gur Ubhfr bs Ercerfragngvirf; vs gur Erchoyvpnaf uryq bar uhaqerq naq rvtug, gura gur Qrzbpengf jbhyq ubyq guerr uhaqerq naq gjragl frira (nffhzvat ab frngf jrer uryq ol vaqrcraqragf, ohg ng gur gvzr guvf tnzr jnf eryrnfrq, gurl jrera'g; orgjrra 1974 naq 1992 nyy gur zrzoref bs gur Ubhfr bs Ercerfragngvirf jrer rvgure erchoyvpnaf be qrzbpengf).

      Gur Erchoyvpnaf qvq abg va snpg ubyq rknpgyl bar uhaqerq naq rvtug frngf ng gur gvzr (be ng nal bgure gvzr), fb guvf vf n ulcbgurgvpny fvghngvba, naq V'z abg ng nyy pbaivaprq guvf vf gur pbeerpg nafjre, ohg vg'f zl orfg thrff fb sne.

    7. Well, now I'm pretty sure I'm right about the 5th one because gung'f ubj gur Pmrpu Jvxvcrqvn cntr pnyyf vg.

    8. Well, Jalen pretty much got them all. He got the answers to #1 and #2 immediately. You solve the anagram and then enter the solved word that is unlike the others.

      #3 he solved the way I did. The answer is a variable, not a specific number, but he would have gotten it with his second guess. I like VK's addition to this. I didn't think of that.

      #4 is a classic linguistic riddle. It took me a while to find the right synonym, which is of course the British version. Jalen identified it first.

      #5 is a simple translation, though players didn't have the Internet in 1988 and would have to go find a Czech-English dictionary. The answer is BAHNO.

      #6. This is the one I guessed on. I have no idea why the answer is what it it is (ROT13: RVTUGLSBHE). I assume it has to be lingustically related, because this is a British game and I wouldn't expect British players to understand something like the number of senators and representatives in the U.S. congress, and either way the answer doesn't work. I tried adding up the value of the letters in order, but that doesn't work either. Neither does any multiplication with the number of syllables.

    9. Well around 1980 which is possibly when this puzzle might have been written in the original MUD the Republicans had 54 senate seats, which doubles to 108. Unfortunately Democrats had 46, so it mathematically doesn't work out to the answer Chet says it is :(

    10. #5 That makes sense. At first I was thinking about translation of MUD, but then I realised that there was no chance, that anyone in communist Czechoslovakia knew anything about MUDs, which means it has to be mud, as in "covered in mud". Also MUD nowadays is just MUD in czech.

    11. Oh man, the last one is killing me...

      Nqqvat hc gur yrggref jbexf vs lbh nqq bar sbe rirel yrggre nobir 'Q'.

      But that seems more like a coincidence than the real solution.

  6. yes you're totally missing the point of good MUDs and should read up on them, fascinating bit of history and the emphasis was on socializing and creating things, not solving stale puzzles. At least in hazy recollections of the good ones I tried in the early 90s.

    1. I don't think it's nice to tell someone that they're missing the point of something that they were seeking but fail to find despite being promised it.

      It's true that MUDs were used as socializing tools for like-minded nerds & geeks who were into computers and D&D, but... MicroMUD?

      It was a very sad piece of work that fails to be a good a) single player RPG and b) example of a social tool in a closed environment.

      Seriously, WTF is this game meant to prove or accomplish?

    2. This is actually a pretty accurate simulation of a MUD. From the other players constantly leaving and shouting, to the descriptive non-number combat, to the text adventure interface, to ganking other players for their treasure, to becoming a MUD administrator after you become high enough level ("Wizard"). It's actually pretty spiffy, I'm impressed. And yeah, areas did reset on a schedule to prevent them from being permanently cleaned out. The crown jewel would be being able to create new rooms and areas once you hit Wizard level.

      It's informative to note that MUDs were just as addictive and harmful to students as modern MMORPGs. They hit all the same satisfying mental buttons.

      Yeah, Kenny, you DO know that back then most people didn't have access to computer networks and couldn't play MUDs? So why shouldn't someone create a single player one that simulates a MUD? You really can't see that? You have to call it a very sad piece of work? Sheesh.

    3. I thought it was clear from the title that this game is not primarily about MUDs but the single-player MicroMud, and to the extent that it WAS about MUDs, it was about MUD specifically, and not hypothetical "good MUDs," but in any event, rather than tell me that I don't get them, why not tell me the value that you see from your experience?

    4. @Harland
      Hmm... I've not considered that point. Sorry for saying that this game is a sad piece of work. It's the player who had to resort to playing this game to *feel* like they're socializing on a bad RPG that is a sad piece of work. XD

  7. I remember playing the MUD Dragonrealms on AOL back in the 90s. It was fun but there wasn't really a story or quests so you had to find a group of people to play with and enjoy that aspect of it.

    1. Gemstone, whatever version it was, dominated my AOL days in the mid-90s. My parents were considerably less enamored of it once the phone bill came in!

  8. I can see the idea behind simulating a "multiplayer" environment, but obviously these developers didn't have the technology/time/skills to do it properly.

    This idea of missing quest items reminded me of a more serious game who did a similar thing, which is Wizardry 7. Ah... the pleasure of arriving at the final chest of an awesome dungeon loaded with tough battles and devious puzzles, and find it full of dust and spiderwebs because another "adventurer" beat you to it.

    Did any other game ever attempt to do that with essential quest items?

  9. Ref "single-player versions of MMORPG's" - that's actually how many of us play them. Lori and I have spent way too much time in World of Warcraft and Star Wars: the Old Republic. We sometimes pair up, and sometimes play solo, but we don't do that much with other groups.

    There are exceptions. Sometimes I do group "raiding", which Lori finds frustrating. We occasionally join a random dungeon group, which can be fun or obnoxious depending on the attitude of the other players, but most often swings to the "fun" side. And we've both done some player-vs.-player battlegrounds, with Lori surprisingly getting into it much more than I even though I'm usually more competitive in games.

    SW:tOR in particular had an engrossing single-player experience, particularly with regard to each character class's Companions, but also in the questing. Lori played through the full story line of every character class, and I did most of them.

    WoW has had a similar experience in the latest expansion with Class Order Halls for each character class. Each one has a set of mostly-unique missions that help fill out the "story" for that class.

    What about all those other players in the game? We see them doing the same things we're working on. Occasionally we joke about "Disneyland" in very crowded areas, particularly ones that recently opened. But for the most part, we all play by ourselves and only occasionally group up with other players for a difficult battle or quest.

    I guess it's no different than many real-life social activities - if we see a film in the theater, it's usually the two of us. Once in a while, we'll go with a couple of friends. All those other people in the theater? They're watching the film too, but we don't have much, if any, interaction with them.

    I play bridge. At a tournament, I have one partner for a given session, maybe 2 or 3 for a week-long event. We play against many other players, one pair at a time, but while we're playing everyone else in the room is "background noise" (often literally). MMO's are like that - you spend most of your time alone or with a small number of friends, and all those other players fill out the experience even though you rarely interact with them.

    1. Final Fantasy 14 also has a pretty stand-alone single-player experience. There is a whole "MSQ - Main Scenario Quest" that is about a bazillion quests long. The pre-Heavensward MSQ is so-so, but the Heavensward MSQ (from the first expansion) was actually pretty damn great. Stormblood's MSQ is good too, though not quite as good as Heavensward's.

      The only downside is that there are occasional "raids/dungeons/trials" that need to be completed to continue the MSQ, which are multiplayer only. In retrospect, it's an odd decision, as only maybe 1 in 25 quests will require MP, and most of those will be fairly short. If there was a way to play those bits SP, FF14 could basically repackage its MSQ as a solid singleplayer RPG.

  10. I played the Marches of Antan LPMud in college. That one had a bunch of quest areas similar to interactive fiction and wizards dedicated to crafting interesting puzzles and descriptive areas. (One of them was the creator of Omega, Laurence Brothers.) Most objects (such as weapons, light sources, rope) and NPCs/monsters would respawn every 15 minutes without kicking you out, so you could stand in the room and wait for what you needed, and talk to other players while waiting. It was actually quite engaging and some quests required teamwork (as you noticed) to solve. I think this is a pale imitation of the real thing because kicking you out every reset ruins the immersive experience, and because bots aren't nearly as engaging to talk with as actual humans.

    1. I loved the Marches of Antan. Well written, fun teamwork, great puzzles, and fun players.

    2. Marches of Antan-- one of my best gaming experiences ever. Even now about once a year I do a Google search hoping someone has brought it back.

    3. Loved Antan. Knew one of the admins personally for a short time. Wish it were still around.

    4. Talk about zombie replies! I comment, and I get followup replies months to years later. Unfortunately I didn't set up notifications for followups so I'm now seeing these replies years later. If anyone from the Marches sees this and wants to get in touch, email the Addict. He knows how to get in touch with me.

    5. And I'm just gonna add a reply here to say hello because I'm pretty sure I know you. :) I just googled Marches of Antan today to see what came up!

    6. I also Google a few times a year wondering if Antan came back. It would be incredible if it came back. It was such a great experience. I've never found another MUD like it.

    7. Hector! Has anyone ever found a copy of MoA? Tell me it’s not gone forever!

  11. Hmm. This game could've been much better if they dropped MUD premise and used a "Groundhog Day" Loop plot. NPCs could've been just normal NPCs, with better interaction and less running around and fighting. Resets much less frequent (with an option of "manual reset", i.e. character suicide), but required to build up skills of the character and solve some of the puzzles. And a clear goal of getting out of the loop somehow instead of getting a highscore.

    This game looks like it had novel ideas and potential, but needed more polish and some creative ideas besides "offline MUD"

    1. This game was produced in 1988. "Groundhog Day" would not be released until five years later. How could they have possibly known to use a plot from a movie that did not exist?

    2. It's not like the "looping day" was a new idea in Groundhog Day, the movie is only the best know one.
      It's at least as old as 1955, with Fred Pohl's story "The Tunnel Under the World".

    3. Yes, time loops was in science fiction for quite some time by 1988. But I have to agree, that "Groundhog Day" made a tremendous effort in popularizing the concept. A leap of logic "world reset in MUD" -> "time loop" had a low chance of occurring before that movie.

      Still, I think what ideas behing this game has some potential in hands of some indie developer.

  12. Digital Antiquarian has covered MUD recently! I'm assuming these are similar as the maps are:

    It's an interesting read. He references Chet a good bit, so hopefully this is kosher to post. Between DA and Chet one can get a great primer on interactive computer software!

    1. I always welcome relevant links to other blogs. I should have been clearer in my entry above, but yes, the creators of MicroMud adapted the map and most of the text directly from MUD.

      He has a great paragraph dealing with my core angst: " In a single-player game, the player is the star of the show; the (virtual) world revolves around her. Not so inside The Land. Most traditional text-adventure puzzles made no sense at all there. The first person to come along and solve a puzzle might have fun with it, but after that the shared world meant that what was solved for one was solved for all: the door remained unlocked, the drawbridge remained lowered, etc. This was not, needless to say, a good use of a designer’s energy. MUD did include some set-piece puzzles which could be solved by simply typing an answer, without affecting the environment — riddles, number sequences, etc. — but even these became mere pointless annoyances to a player after she had solved them once, and tended to be so widely spoiled by the first player to solve them that they too hardly seemed a good use of a designer’s time."

      He goes on to say that this issue was "solved" by the players not really paying attention to the puzzles and playing it more like a straight RPG, but to be honest, I don't see enough RPG elements to enjoy that way, either. Thus, MUD's appeal continues to elude me.

    2. MUD was novel in it's day though... not much else like it. Heck... I remember booting up a 10 level dungeon in Tunnels of Doom on the old TI 99/4A and playing half the night - it was literally our only option!

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  14. You should give online games a lash, Chet. The thing is, you don't have to be yourself either! That's part of the freedom of it.

  15. This sounds fascinating in a sense, but also like it would only be fun to someone who has already played a lot on a real MUD and could thus be tickled by the recreation. "How anonying, just like actual players! Lol!"

  16. The MUD this is based on is still live. I did a few entries on it at my blog.

    (No actual final goal, so only a few entries.)

  17. I was a late comer to the mud party, so to speak, starting around 2000.
    Liked it and the socializing a lot, fell in love with a girl I got to know from there, fell apart again, all normal life.
    What I liked about muds was the fact that I could easily play it at uni without anyone understanding what I was doing there.
    Plus, while I was/still am an Ultima Dragon and would have loved to play UO, I did not have the money for a machine at home which would run it.
    So I played a Mud, became Immortal, expanded the game, ran quests and so on. It was a nice time for a time :)

  18. CRPG Addict, you're not alone in your game playing preferences. I usually bounce off MMOs the moment they start requiring parties to get anything done.

    I particularly enjoy the idea of playing in a world with other people, and I enjoy the socialization aspects, but having to build my character to optimize its' role in some party/RAID build just turns me off.

    OTOH, some MMOs are very good about letting you build a party/group on the fly, and build their encounters around that.

    Even more so, there are a few MMOs that really embrace the idea that it's the PLAYER's story, and work the multiplayer/grouping aspects around that. Those are the games I stick with, and I suspect those are the ones you'd probably prefer as well.

  19. The MUD influence (or at least the distraction of virtual players in your game world) crept back into the adventure games mainstream in Melbourne House's Hobbit games and I know later Level 9 games featured similar interactions in eg. Knight Orc. Much later single-player games aiming to enshrine this charming but awkward period include Jim Munroe's Guilded Youth and Adam Cadre's Endless, Nameless. Not much RPG content in there, but they are clearly fruit fallen from the same tree.

    1. The Hobbit game was 1982, while Knight Orc was 1987. While the first MUDs were created on university networks sometime around 1978, they didn't get publicly known until the mid 1980s. The possibility of MUDs influencing the text adventures in question is very, very slim.

  20. Off the topic of micromud, just riffing on the MMO RPG comments:

    Modern MMO games seem to know there are players who don't want to interact with others that much, and try to make content for them to play the game without interacting. The idea of someone who doesn't even want to see the other people in the game doesn't come up much. I think realistically the ones I've played would not feel alive without the other players. Or put another way, the games just aren't very compelling without other humans. The social links are what keep people there, and the social interactions are essentially what gets monetized. Sometimes this is selling dress-up equipment or items, and sometimes worse.

    1. I guess what I'm looking for is a single-player game in a persistent universe. Something like Skyrim but where new areas open monthly, not just when the latest DLC is released--where the NPCs that staff the various castles and towns change from month to month, or have new quests, or have different things to say. Has anything like that ever been made?

    2. I'm not aware of such a game, but I'd be interested if it existed.

      It sounds unlikely though. Regular updates is an expensive proposition, and implies online which implies a modern venture. Modern games are vastly more expensive than old or old-style games. Altogether it sounds like you'd need a large steady player base, and most people tend to move on from single player experiences, even when they have ongoing options.

      There are some much more single player games than MMOs (though not purely single player) that I know of, like Fallen London, where the content mostly considers of adding text and a few images to the game, to fill out new minor storylines. There are other games on the spectrum like Kingdom of Loathing, but I'm not aware of anything that would offer any real sense of exploration with periodic updates like this.

  21. MUDs certainly have a place, if you can find the right one - there is a pretty good one (aardmud) that I sign on to occasionally - HUGE world, a lot of replayability (you can go no experience and explore all the areas that are level locked without losing access), a pretty solid economy, and an alignment scale that changes as you perform actions.

    Having said that, there are times when the signal to noise ratio is pretty low - but those channels are muteable.

    Having said THAT, I remember a MUD from college that had non-human languages that were unintelligible unless you made the effort to learn them. So a character playing an Elf would be speaking gibberish to one speaking Dwarvish, something I haven't seen too often in other text only games.


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