Sunday, 11 March 2012

To MUD or not to MUD?

 I believe that there has never been a better time for MUDs to make a comeback. Actually, I believe that this is already happening, although they will of course always stay a niche genre.

Looking at for example – probably the biggest mmo forum around - the increase in threads about MUDs lately is quite striking. Talking to fellow mmo players, I often hear that they are interested in trying them out, but don’t know where to start.

For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about: a MUD is just like an MMO, but instead of graphics, there’s only text. In fact, the first MMOs were called graphical MUDs, as they are basically the same type of games, but with a layer of graphics on top.

The first MUD was created in 1979. That’s a long time ago. Hell, I wasn’t even born then. Nowadays, you hardly hear about them anymore, but they still exist and lots of people are still playing them. One problem – and at the same time this is also an advantage - with MUDs is that it’s really easy to start and run your own MUD.  This means that the playerbase is very dispersed: there are literally hundreds of MUDs available, but most of them only have a handful of players.

You might ask: why would I be interested in playing a text-based game, if there are also hundreds of shiny sparkly MMOs to play? Well, playing without graphics also has its advantages. For starters, since MMOs are so much more complex to make, some systems are just too difficult to implement, or take too much time to implement. While an MMO dev would work a year on an MMO with just combat, questing and crafting, a MUD dev could implement at least 10 times as much features in that amount of time. In addition to that, the setting in MUDs is often much more creative and imaginative, because it doesn’t need to be translated into graphics.

So if you’re interested in trying a MUD, but don’t really know where to start, here’s a little guide:

There are a couple of websites worth checking out if you’re looking for a MUD. On TopMudSites and TheMudConnector, you’ll find databases with hundreds of MUDs. If you’re looking for a MUD that has a fairly large playerbase, have a look at Mudstats. This website will give you a list of MUDs, sorted on number of players online.

-          Since there are so many MUDs available, think about which kind of game you would like to play:

Setting: do you like fantasy or sci-fi? Would you like a MUD with multiple themes? Do you want to play as a hobbit in Middle Earth? As Jedi on Alderaan? As a Final Fantasy character? Or as a knight in Medieval Europe? There are MUDs based on any theme or IP possible. (Yes, there are also “naughty” MUDs. In case you were wondering about those, I haven’t tried any of them.)

Do you prefer a MUD with a focus on combat? On crafting and trading? On roleplay?  The listings on TMS and TMC will tell you more about what a game focuses on. Same goes for features: do you like doing quests or do you prefer a more sandboxy environment? Do you want to run dungeons? Or solve puzzles? You can also look at the codebase: DIKUmud games for example will most likely be purely hask&slash, while LPMud games will tend more towards roleplaying.

     Did you decide on a game to check out? Great, then you’ll need a MUD client: an application that allows you to connect to it. You can use a basic Telnet client, but there are some good free clients our there with a lot of possibilities, such as Mushclient for Windows, Blowtorch for Android, Pocket Mud for iPhone/iPad and TinTin++ for Mac OSX and Linux. You could also try a game that has its own client, as those often offer built-in maps and character sheets. On TMS, you can search for MUDs that have their own client.

  Now that you have a client, all you have to do is connect to the MUD and start playing. To connect to a MUD, you’ll need the address and the port. You’ll find those on the website of the game, or on TMC/TMS. 

          And now, you’re good to go! If you’re an MMO player, you’ll see that you will be familiar with a lot of commands. And even if you’re not, don’t worry, because most MUDs have a newbie tutorial and an extensive help system. There is often also a ‘newbie’ chat channel where you can ask for help. 

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