It seems only fitting that the inaugural article on this site should be about the oldest virtual world, MUD (or MUD1 as it was later named), which was developed in 1978 by some students at Essex University.
I remember a friend of mine used to play the game in his off days. He was and still is a plumber from Plymouth. [In-case you need a high tech plumber in Plymouth here is a quick plug for his website ….plumberplymouth.uk ] He LOVED the game.
MUD stands for Multi-User Dungeon. But this one game was so influential that it has now lent its name to an entire genre of role playing computer games, where the acronym has developed to include the terms Multi-User Dimension and Multi-User Domain.
The ‘1’ was added to its name to distinguish it from a later version which was named MUD2, and from the entire MUD genre.
The brains behind MUD1 were Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, and they spent several years at Essex University developing the game. Starting off as an internal program accessible just to students on a local network, MUD 1 in 1980 became the first internet multiplayer online role-playing game and within a few years had developed an international fan base.
So what exactly does the game involve?
Remember we’re talking 1978 here, so there aren’t any high-res graphics and realistic sound effects. There aren’t any graphics or sound effects at all actually, as the game is entirely text-based, operated by a series of commands typed by the user.
After choosing a name for your character, you find yourself in an Elizabethan tearoom and from there the adventure begins. Along the way you’ll collect treasure which you can then exchange for points in the swamp. The ultimate aim of the game is to level up (by collecting points) to become a wizard or witch.
Another way to collect points is to kill other players and the creatures (“mobiles”) that roam around the game. As a result, it’s not uncommon for players to find themselves dead on numerous occasions.
MUD1 even comes with its own chat functionality that lets you communicate with other players, albeit with the awkwardness of the commands that the game requires.
In the mid-1980s, MUD1 was licensed by CompuServe and it ran successfully under the name ‘British Legends’ for over a decade. In 1999, as part of the Y2K hysteria, the company decided to retire the game. The good news is, if you want to take yourself back 30 years and enjoy some traditional text-based role-playing gaming, a Windows-friendly version of the original is available here.