Happy Birthday MUD2.COM

It's now more than two years since MUD2.COM first opened its electronic doors to MUD2 players from around the world. In lieu of any other celebration of our site's recent 2nd birthday, Admiral Bombow's Chronicles was keen to publish a review of events since 1st February 1997. We were delighted when Viktor the arch-wizard, MUD2.COM's sysop, accepted our invitation to particpate in an email interview conducted by Tobias.

[MUD2.COM over the years]

Congratulations on MUD2.COM's 2nd Birthday and thank you for taking the time to answer ABC's questions!

It's not I who should be thanked but the players who made it possible. And you in particular for taking over the ABC! But I guess we shouldn't turn this interview into a chat session of the Mutual Admiration Society, so let's just get on with your questions instead.

What was it that motivated you to license MUD2 from MUSE in early 1997 after Kesmai closed its system?

A few months before that dreadful day a similar thing happened to MUD2 at IPlay. Afterwards, several players showed up at the Kesmai site who were reluctant to play, because they didn't want to end up losing their accounts again. I assured them that whatever happens, I'll make sure that MUD2 (and their personae) will continue to exist. I certainly didn't expect that I would be forced to deliver on that promise just a few short months later, but when the time came, I felt I was obliged to do something.

The other motivation factor was simply that I could; namely, that I had a running test copy of MUD and a working near commercial grade Internet connection, so it was "simply" a matter of opening up the test copy, transferring the persona file and obtaining MUSE's permission.

In the MUD Connector, the stated goal for MUD2.COM is "to provide a stable, long-standing home for MUD2 players around the world". Do you think that you've achieved this, or is there more work to be done?

There's always more work to be done but I think that the original goal has been accomplished. MUD2.COM has been in existence for over two years, and while it certainly isn't a killer in terms of revenue, it is solidly in the black as a business venture. We get, well, not a flood but a steady treacle of new players as well, which as you know is the lifeblood of any on-line game.

Has running your own site ended up being harder work than you anticipated?

Not really. I've had years of experience as a MUD2 arch-wiz before starting MUD2.COM; I've also been running a full-featured Internet server out of my home office for other purposes. So it was just a matter of combining these two.

The hard part, actually, is the bean-counting; quite honestly, I HATE doing the books every month! Fortunately, this foulest part of running the game is made easier by the fact that the vast majority of MUD players pay on time. To date, we haven't had a cheque that bounced, and only a few problems with credit cards, most of them easily resolved.

Could you describe a typical day in the life of a MUD2.COM arch-wiz?

Hehehe, well, as you know, I spend most of my days in front of my computer (my main workstation, that is.) A MUD2 window here is always open, so I am constantly logged on to the game. Several times a day, I check my MUDmail and BB messages, and I also enter the game proper, just to keep an eye on things.

Even when the MUD window is in the background, I do sometimes hear a bell sound. If there's no new mail icon on my Windows NT taskbar, this can mean only one thing: a magic-user's death. So I usually just switch over to the MUD window and check who the unfortunate victim was.

Interestingly, early this morning was a rather atypical morning in the life of this arch-wiz; I had to perform emergency hard disk surgery on another system (which some readers know as the 'test' system.)

Richard is responsive to suggestions and comments about MUD2 from all players; is there any aspect of game that you would like to see changed or added to?

Yes, Richard is very good about this, and I certainly appreciate his on-going support and his attention to detail.

Presently, I'm looking forward to two changes, which hopefully he'll be able to incorporate into the game in the near future. First is better handling of the way invisible vs. absent personae are/can be referenced; the second is a fix that resolves the password corruption bug that recently disabled several accounts.

Other than that, I am pretty happy with the game the way it is.

Have there been any changes you have particularly requested for MUD2.COM?

Yes, quite a number of them, and Richard always obliged when my requests were reasonable. In the upcoming version that is currently under test, there are also a few changes which were in response to my requests. (No, I cannot tell you what they are; most of them are arch-wiz secrets, as a matter of fact!)

MUD2.COM's first anniversary was extensively celebrated in The Land, this year's birthday was a lower key affair. Is this because our players have grown accustomed to MUD2.COM's presence on the internet, or are the wizzes just getting lazy?

Actually, I think I must take at least some of the blame here. During the last several months, I was extremely busy with my upcoming book on the Linux operating system (which, incidentally, is the platform used for running the game here.) You know it better than most, as I still have unanswered e-mail from you from March on some pending issues.

Then again, maybe we should all blame Tethys; he's an arch-wiz now and as we know, it's always the arches' fault, isn't it? :-)

Is there anything particularly unique about the MUD2.COM incarnation of the game which sets it apart from others, either atmospherically or otherwise?

I think I can answer that question with another: which 'others'?

The unique characteristic of MUD2.COM is that it IS a stable home of the game on the Internet. But before some think of this as an unjust and smug remark, let me quickly add that I know that in several cases, it was through no fault of their operators that other MUD2 sites were forced to close. Had they been permitted to continue, in all likelihood they'd have provided just as good a home to this game as I did, if not better.

Are there any particularly memorable or remarkable events that you are pleased have happened thus far in this incarnation?

There were many memorable events (no doubt you recall a certain wedding ceremony that took place last year; then there was also a rather successful dragon hunt a few months earlier) but to me, the most important thing is that we were around to host these events in the first place.

We have 41 wizzes at this site, to date. In the past there has been talk about artificially limiting the number of wizzes. Is this something you've thought about?

Limiting the numbers, no. But I've been toying with the idea of requiring wizzes to "renew their license", so to speak; that is, make wiz again, say, once a year. Needless to say, such suggestions usually encounter fierce opposition from the majority of the wiz community!

We see very little of you in The Land; is it likely that you'll have any more time in the forseeable future to spend some time with us?

I spend a lot of time with you! I stay invisible for two reasons. First, when I go visible, I usually suffer immediate sensory overload, because half a dozen people try to talk to me at once. Second, I also found that my presence can be quite intimidating; suddenly, mortals stop shouting, wizzes ask for my permission before every move, even the dragon is less fierce than usual. It's better for everyone if I just remain in hiding!

I think most of our readers would agree that MUD2.COM is "the home of the best multi-user game in the world" but, for you, what makes it such?

I presume you're wondering as to what makes MUD2 the best multi-user game, and not what makes MUD2.COM its home, to which the answer should be fairly obvious.

There are several things I like about MUD2. First, the overall "look-and-feel" of the game strongly reminds me of the single-user text games from INFOCOM, the all-time classics of the genre that are still without any real competition. The game's rich texture, subtle humour, and unique flavour make it a classic just like Zork is a classic in the single-user field.

Second, I like MUD2 because it really isn't a role-playing game. That is, it does not force you in any way into a role. You're not asked to choose a race, a class, or make a selection from a confusing multitude of attributes before you can even type LOOK. Not all consider this a good thing, but in my case, this was precisely what attracted me to MUD2's predecessor all those years ago on CompuServe.

Third, MUD2 is quality software. That is not to say that it's without bugs, or that it doesn't have a few "features" that I'd have implemented differently; but this is normal given that we're talking about a living piece of software that has evolved over the course of over 20 years. What is important is that all aspects of the software are well thought out, robustly implemented, and as a site operator, I continue to receive outstanding support from the game's author and his company.

Overall, these and other factors make MUD2 if not the best, then definitely one of the best multi-user games out there. In fact, it's the quality of the game plus, if I may be permitted some self-praise here, the quality and stability of the site that justify charging for usage despite the fact that other MUD-like games are available free on the Web.

You are a wizard on Compuserve's British Lengends, but how did you first discover BL, and then MUD2?

I opened a CompuServe account in the summer of 1991. When I got my "permanent password" (this is how it worked those days) I was allowed access to game areas, and I tried a variety of games, including BL. Since I was already a big fan of those INFOCOM text games, it didn't take very long for me to get my bearings (and it also didn't take very long to get hooked!)

Having made wiz some two months later I was just in time to take advantage of a courtesy account that was offered by MUD2's then current home in the UK to BL wizzes. Paying through my nose for the overseas telephone call, I nevertheless managed to spend a few hours in the game; I even got myself a magic-user (having had no idea whatsoever that the TS can kill you, I bravely went there and touched it as a swordsman... and survived!) Needless to say, there was no turning back; when Satchi opened the first North American MUD2 site at Access24, I was there among the first beta testers!

How does your wife view your fascination with MUD2? Has she ever played?

Although she never actually played the game, she understands my fascination very well. Who knows, maybe one of these days she'll open an account, too!

Does MUD2.COM allow you the time to follow any other interests or hobbies?

It does indeed. In fact, one of the sad things about being an arch-wiz is that it makes the game an obligation, no longer a hobby. Not that I mind; it's a responsibility I accept happily, but I certainly need something else if I want to relax.

That something else, in recent months, turned out to be electronics; when I wasn't sitting in front of my high-end workstation doing work, I was actually sitting at my tinkering table building a processor of my own design from scratch! I'm glad to report that Viktor's Amazing 4-Bit Processor, consisting of appr. 86 individual integrated circuits, with a grand total of 256x4 bits of memory and an execution speed of 250,000 instruction cycles per second (only about a thousand times slower than your average Pentium) is actually up and running, executing simple programs! Keep an eye on my personal Web site... one of these days, when I find the time, I'll post the story of this project there.

Finally, Since this will be published in ABC, I'd better ask if you've ever attempted one of Admiral Bombow's Challenges?

I have indeed, although obviously, I haven't submitted any answers. But the Challenges were quite enjoyable, and I considered it my sacred duty to find out the answers to them, because as an arch-wiz, I'm supposed to know these things. Of course, I have the advantage of being able to cheat and look at the source code, if all else fails...

Thank you once again, and here's to our future at MUD2.COM!

Thank you!

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This Web page copyright 1998 Viktor T. Toth
MUD2 is copyright 1998 Multi-User Entertainment Limited
Page last modified: May 20, 1999