Imaginary Realities 1999 May Edition

Summary of May 1999 issue of Imaginary Realities. Imaginary Realities was an ezine dedicated to MUDs.

Summary of "eBay Launches Virtual Property" by Jon Katz

Jon was a writer for Slashdot, where the article originally appeared.

Digital property is the huge story that the media is missing. MP3s, e-trading, open source software, and virtual property are a completely new type of property. Virtual properties includes in-game items and characters. " It suggests that space on the Net isn't infinite after all, and that people may have to begin paying or trading for access to the parts of it they want to use. Also that people with money can alter the balance of Net and Web culture suddenly and dramatically."

Ultima Online has introduced the world previously only known in MUDs to a greater audience, including real world purchases of in game items on eBay. This is bringing urban and suburban problems of resource scarcity into the virtual world. The whole nature of gaming has changed.

"People are trading real-world money for virtual property." The first case of trading is reported to have been a firefighter from Texas who got a second job leaving him without time to play Ultima. He offered his game account for $39 and sold it for $521.

Summary of "How it Really Happened" by Richard Bartle

Richard ran MUD server in the UK. He was also the co-editor of the Journal of Mud Research

Roy Trubshaw wrote the first MUD using MACRO-10 machine code for the DECsystem-10. It was essentially just a few rooms that permitted chat. His second version was also written in MARCO-10, and had definitely gained the name of MUD by then. The second version allowed users to add rooms and commands. This was quickly used to destroy the theme of the game, which was exploration and adventure.

Starting in 1979, he rewrote everthing in BCPL, finishing around Easter of 1980. Most people refer to this as the original MUD, but it was really version 3. When Roy left Essex, the author took full control of the MUD. At this version of the MUD, two people could be in a dark room, and only the person with the torch could see.

"Roy's reasons for writing mud were twofold: to make a multi-player adventure game; to write an interpreter for a database definition language. The language he developed was rather crude, and I had to hack it to get it to do a lot of the things I wanted to do. This was partly because Roy didn't know the kind of things that would be needed from a game-design perspective, and partly because the multi-user aspect came to dominate the project. However, the core of the database definition language (mud definition language - MUDDL) was all Roy's. I didn't add it, I added TO it."

"Mud was created and written by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle at Essex University in the UK."

Essex University linked with ArpaNet in the USA, and in the spring of 1980 the MUD had its first external players. There is a reference to an earlier multiplayer version of Zork in the December 1980 issue of Byte magazine. However, the creators of the first MUD were unaware of it and have never seen it, so don't know how MUD-like it was.

The author used the base code for the MUD to create a game called Valley. With permission, some other games were created using the base code, including ROCK, BLUD, UNI and MIST.

After leaving Essex, the author let them run MUD for a few years, but then took it away, because it was being corrupted by new undergrads. "And besides, they'd removed my name from the arch-wizard list!"

"University authorities were kind enough to allow people to log in from the outside solely to play mud, so long as they did so between 2am and 6am in the morning (or 10pm to 10am weekends). Even at those hours, the game was always full to capacity. Thus, mud became a popular pastime throughout the modem-using computer hobbyists of Britain. I also sent copies of the code to Norway, Sweden, Australia and the USA."

The original game was licensed to CompuServe under the name of "British Legends".

Summary of "Mob Programs" by Jeremy Music

Jeremy Music ran the MUD "Wyld Knight: The Land of Erehwon"

"Mob programs can be as simple as purely a way to improve the role-playing aspect of a mud, by having the mobs do and say things in response to actions by the players, and as complex as an entire automatic questing system based in mob programs." This was accomplished in Diku-style MUDs by use of special procedures.

Mobprogs are variations of Mob Programs, and include ROM, Circle, Merc, and Envy. They were written N'Atas-Ha and DG Scripts. Those are specific to Circlemud.. Other scripting implementations are found in Smaug and RoA. Overall, all scripting implementations follow similar guidelines.

  • Triggers: the MOB is triggered by an action and has a percentage chance of reacting. The trigger may be as simple as entering the room, and have an action as simple as greeting the character. The MOB can also respond to dialog.
  • Variables: substitution of variables in text allows for names and gender-specific pronouns to be used in customizing dialog with the MOBs.
  • Commands: Most MOBs can use all the commands a player can use, if programmed to do so. Usually, the MOB's list of permitted commands is a safe subset of the admin's (wiz or wizard) commands. Many times the commands for MOBs are prefixed with 'mb' so it is obvious they are for use by MOBs. Display messages for MOB commands are usually customized by the author.
  • Ifchecks: These are IF commands that prevent the MOBs from reacting to other MOBS, or limit the interaction with players based off characteristics of their characters.

The most useful reason to use mob programs is to create quests for players. "Mob programs go a long way toward creating a "living, breathing" mud that is more enjoyable to players and Implementers alike."

Summary of "Rules of Immship" by Brant Harvey

Brant was Azhanith on DragonRealms. Then he was Immortal staff on Aarinfel MUD.

The author has been an Immortal on a MUD long enough to find it boring. "I've found Immship is a lot easier to bear if you keep in mind four rules, which I continually pay a sort of hypocritical lip-service to."

First, "Get Over Yourself." Your world as a creator on the MUD is not as important as you think it is.

Second, "Don't Let the Players Get to You." Players throwing tantrums, being losers, or getting angry at you is going to happen, ... a lot. Relax. Take a deep breath. Let it go. They want basically the same thing you want out of the MUD.

Third, "Don't Let the Imms Get To You." There's going to be political games. There's going to be insults. They'll be lazy. They'll complain about you and your work. They'll disagree with you. Remember, the other Imms are dealing with you, too. You want basically the same thing from the MUD. "Be calm and conciliatory, and don't ever convince yourself that the other person is the irrational one."

Fourth. "Have Fun." It's a GAME! If you're not having fun being an Imm, why are you wasting your free time on it. Chant to yourself, over and over, that "It's a game," until you remember it.

Summary of "Toei Rei, a Mud Robot" by Paul McCarty

Paul listed several (I'm sure) great chatbot resource links, but like most information in the these "Digital Dark Ages" have gone missing.

ELIZA was chatbot created by Joseph Weizenbaum at MIT in the mid 1980's. It was included in MUDs to simulate human interaction. Hundreds of chatbots followed.

ELIZA used the trick of searching for keywords, then using a canned response with keyword substitution for responding the the user. ELIZA always answers with a question. "ELIZA really knows nothing at all except how to parse sentences and reformat them in the form of a question."

A more advanced bot, Julia, entered the Loebner Turning Test competition in 1994. Julia keeps track of conversation topics and uses anecdotes about those topics.

"Many [chabots] have been programmed to learn from their conversations, play games like hearts, and give directions on muds, in addition to just carrying on a conversation." The author wrote a chatbot called Toei Rei in the Perl programming language. Toei Rei can get the hiccups, get tired, get hungry, get upset, control puppets, answer email, sing songs, and read poetry. Also, Toei Rei can be puppetted by other players for role playing purposes.

Toei Rei is made from Perl scripts and some flat files for rules and data. "All the Perl scripts do is open a socket connection, logon to the mud, and loop over all the rules updating the state of the bot. The loop includes a one second pause to limit how fast Toei can respond to things she hears, to make her conversations and actions more realistic."

The author gave a lot more technical details of how Toei Rei was written, but a summary would not suffice to relate them.

At the time of the original article's writing, Toei Rei was still a work in progress. Occasionally, code changes result in the chatbot getting into an infinite loop, or to start talking to herself. The chatbot could conceivably add features to MUDs like answering emails about rules, finding players' locations, or giving the status of the MUD. Several instances of Toei Rei running on multiple MUDs could also pass information or MOBs back and forth between servers.

The author gave out a link to the source code for Toei Rei. Unfortunately, the link is dead, and the code does not appear to have been added to any currently running repos like Github.

Summary of "What is Remort?" by Natalia

Natalia ran Game Commando's with Ilya (her husband).

Remort is a MUD term for starting over. On rare occasions, remort is referred to as rerolling.The ability to remort is implemented differently in different MUDs. Some have an experience requirement, while others have a huge fee or completing certain quests. Some systems require a mod or admin to issue the remort command.

Usually, a remote starts your character back at level 1, but retains all money and equipment. Mana, hit points and movement may also be retained. Skills and spells are retained. Remorting is usually optional.

Besides the advantage of having advanced skills, spells, etc at a low level, remorting may open up more advanced classes, or even a second class or special spells/skills that we're available until a remort. Some MUDs provide additional skills/spells/classes for third and greater remorts. Even some equipment can be made available to remort characters, but not unremorted characters. Many MUDs only allow multi-classing by using remort.

Remort "gives your higher level players something to continue to work towards or for."