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The first prequel for the Star Wars movies is coming out in a few days, and one of the most amazing parts of the movie is that 95% of the scenes were digitally enhanced, at least partially. Many, many years ago, movie-goers were amazed to see the graphical power of A New Hope; movies have come along way in that many years. The same is true of games we play on our computers. One of the very first uses of the Internet was to communicate: E-mail, chat programs like mIRC and ICQ, and muds are just some of the social interactions that people on the Internet use. The Internet, like movies, has progressed incredibly in recent years, such that some people say that the Internet will replace shopping malls and many other public activities. Yet the Internet's roots do not come from a way of shopping or reading news, the Internet is foremost ability is communication.
These are not the droids you are looking for.
The original muds were one way of communication, people logged onto the site and created characters that would travel and explore the world and interact with other people and mobiles. Diku muds, which are the muds I am most familiar with, are based on a system similar to the Dungeons and Dragons role playing system. Muds have progressed and changed over the years, but the premise of grandiose interaction remains the same. Characters are never basic humans, but heroes of renown, whether they be for good, evil, or otherwise. Instead of gathering around a table, the players connect to an Internet site. Each player has the full attention of the mud (the Game Master as it would be if you were playing an Role Playing Game) and can choose to go on his or her own way or gather with other players. The exploration and gaining of levels, equipment, and other stats is addictive and the first muds were incredibly popular.
Since the days are of the first muds, muds and the like (MUSHes, MOOs, etc) have come to cover the Internet. A quick exploration of a log of the muds out there, unfortunately, comes to find that so many are completely empty. Why are all the muds empty? The code is incredibly beyond that of the first muds. The mud which I currently frequent, Roninmud, has an incredible collection of coders and builders that put the first Diku mud to shame. The Internet is also filled with many more people than it was ten years ago. The home computer is a common item in countries across the planet and the Internet is a staple part of all new computers. So why are so many muds empty? And, of the rest, why do so many have an aging player base?
A while ago the computer game Diablo came out and I, like so many others, bought the game, connected to the Internet site and played Diablo with people from far-off lands just as I would on a mud. Then came Ultima Online, and most recently Everquest. So with these great new games out, why do people still mud? Those people that mud are in the same predicament as those who read books instead of watch movies. Movies have entertained us for decades, yet books are still popular. Why? Books enthrall us by allowing us to use our imagination. If the pictures are shown to us, what is left to imagine? A mud works in the same way as a book, both are written word that encourage us to use our imagination to see what we read. A mud, in a way, is an incredibly complex Choose Your Own Adventure book, and one in which we can share our adventure with others. The concept of a mud allows for unlimited entertainment. A good mud offers a player near-infinite choices that allows the player to progress as they wish, people to increase continually further reaching new plateaus.
So, are muds a thing of the past? Unfortunately, muds are not a mainstream part of the Internet and few people know what they are. It is up to the mudders to find new players and teach them about muds. mudding allows for creativity and imagination and creates an exciting social outlet. Muds by no means deserve to be a thing of the past, but it's up to the mudders to keep them alive. Lots of sites, such as The Mud Connector [www.mudconnect.com] can help explain to a potential mudder what muds are and give them a forum to which to research and pick some muds to play. Help keep muds alive by telling all your friends about muds. They'll thank you after they give it a try, and you'll have people you know around with which to interact on the mud. In fact, I'm sure I'll mention mudding to a few people while we're all waiting in line to get good seats for the opening showing of the Star Wars movie. I may look forward to the amazing special effects, but I still mud because mudding lets me mind make the pictures, and my mind can make better pictures than even the might George Lucas can.
June 1999 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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