by Starquest

  • Avoid playing just for power and points!
  • Be honest, reliable, faithful, and aggressive!
  • Consider things from every angle!
  • Don't give up and don't give in!
  • Enjoy the game today, yesterday is gone, and tomorrow may never come!
  • Free rides don't exist!
  • Give a little more than you planned to!
  • Have confidence that you can make a difference in the game!
  • Invite constructive criticism, and Ignore those who try to discourage you!
  • Just doing enough to get by won't get it done!
  • Keep trying no matter how hard it seems, it will get easier; never make excuses!
  • Listen, learn and always work to improve your game!
  • Mean what you say, and say what you mean!
  • Never lie, cheat or steal, always strike a fair deal!
  • Only one person can control you, and that's you, Open your eyes and see things as they really are!
  • Practice make perfect, and a good pray might help!
  • Quitters never win and winners never quit, and Quality, not Quantity is the rule!
  • Read, study and learn about everything important in the game!
  • Sometimes, slow down and smell the roses!
  • Treat others with respect, and they'll respect you!
  • Use your assets wisely, Understand yourself in order to better understand others!
  • Visualize the game, and Voice your opinion!
  • Want it more than anything, Work as hard as possible, without forgetting your friends!
  • Xpect obstacles, but accept challenges, Xcelerate your efforts in the face of adversity!
  • You are in charge of your own actions.
  • Zero in on your goals and reach for the STARS!

Note: This interview was conducted by Zedd the wizard, known at the time as Asterix the arch-wizard at a former MUD2 site.

INTERVIEW WITH DR RICHARD BARTLE

Many of you are familiar with the name of Richard Bartle, the man behind MUD1 and MUD2. Richard lives with his family in the English countryside, and spends his time working for MUSE Inc, the company which develops MUD2.

Arch-wizard Asterix ("AX") caught up with arch-wizard Richard ("RB") recently to chat about MUD past, present, and future:

AX: Most people know that the original MUD was developed by Roy Trubshaw and yourself at Essex University, during 1979-80. How did you and Roy first meet?

RB: "Most people" have never heard of MUD! Roy and I first met when I went to sign up for Essex University's Computer Society ("CompSoc" -- not to be confused with "ComSoc," the Communist Society). This was within days of my arrival at Essex, although he was just another face at the time. I didn't get introduced to him properly until I was waiting in line for tickets to a free Lindisfarne concert (!), when he gave me his opinion on a game I'd written a couple of years earlier ("The Solo Dungeon," one of those paper-programmed games where you read a paragraph and it tells you a new one to go to based on your decisions -- I really must do a WWW version of it someday). He said it was definitely programmable, but that he had this idea for another fantasy-oriented game...

AX: How did the computer department at Essex Univerity react to their nice expensive mainframe being used to run MUD?

RB: They were great. Their Computer Manager, one Charles Bowman, was of the opinion that if the DEC-10 was lying idle then there was no harm in letting people hack about on it, and that it might actually lead to more computer-literate students. This is indeed what happened: we could play with the DEC-10 as much as we liked, within reason, so long as we did so out of prime time. It cost the University nothing, and gained them goodwill from the students while advancing their expertise. Whether this kind of magnanimity would prevail in today's academic climate is, however, another matter.

AX: If development of MUD had halted with MUD1 at Essex University, what would you be doing now?

RB: Who knows? If I'd kept on my original career path, I'd still be a University lecturer, although probably not in a senior position because I used to spend too much time teaching students, preparing material, running classes and debugging their programs, when I should have been jumping on a research bandwagon, writing banal papers using as much neo-jargon as I could, while politicking within the Computing Department as much as possible to ensure that the only administration I had to do involved little work but lots of power, and that anyone who was attracting larger research grants than myself got insignificant amounts of kudos from it.

AX: How did the formation of MUSE come about?

RB: One of our players, Jeremy San, was writing a book about the Sinclair QL, and enthused to his editor, Simon Dally, about MUD. Simon played it, saw its potential, and approached me with regards to setting up a company to market it. I'd been thinking of doing something similar myself, but with no business experience had no idea what was involved. That's how come I ended up with only 15% of it (although it's now 45% -- Roy Trubshaw has 45% too, and Simon's ex-employers have a totally unjustified 10%).

AX: MUD1 survives to the present day, under the name British Legends on Compuserve. How did the Compuserve deal happen?

RB: Simon Dally did most of the background work. We knew that CompuServe was the dominant marketplace in the USA, and that they had DEC-10s, so in about 1985 we approached them and flew out to Columbus. CompuServe exhibited their usual attitude of "it's only our magnanimity that allows your game on our system, and we deserve far more than the meagre 90% of the income your game generates that we will be keeping, and although we have computers coming out of our ears we can't allow you to use more than 0.45% of a CPU's cycles per player, oh and we've modified the operating system so that programs that work perfectly well on a variety of sites will not function here until you perform major surgery on them, and while you're at it we insist you use our libraries even though your own are smaller, faster and much more appropriate, and don't expect us to publicise your game because it's a game and that will put off our corporate customers who will think we're a games system" attitude for which they are justly famous.

AX: There are probably not many people in the world who can claim to be fulltime MUD programmers. How do you describe what you do to people with no experience of MUDs?

RB: I just tell them I write computer games. If they say "Oh really?," I reply, "Well someone has to." If they ask what kind of computer game, I tell them multi-player games played over telephone lines, then I increase the detail and technical explanation until their eyes glaze over.

AX: What games, other than MUD, have you played seriously in the past? How much influence did they have on the design of MUD?

RB: I have played many, many games. I come from a game-playing family. Just look at the entire catalogue of Waddingtons in the 1970s, you'll see what kind of thing we used to spend our time on. As I got older, I started playing games by post -- Diplomacy and Railway Rivals, mainly -- in fact I still play RR by post to this day. In the mid-70s, though, I read a magazine article about this amazing game called "Dungeons and Dragons," and our small gaming group clubbed together to raise the enormous six pounds necessary to buy it mail-order. From then on, we played a LOT of D&D. Its influence on MUD, though, was minimal: the atmosphere of The Land owes more to Tolkien than Gygax and Arneson, and I'd designed several story-telling games myself which would now be classified as "role-playing," although they were single-player only, for my own amusement.

AX: What books do you enjoy reading?

RB: Science fiction and fantasy, when I get the time.

AX: Describe a typical day in your life as a MUD programmer.

RB: Log on, read my mail, reply to my mail, react to anything awful which has happened to the game while I slept, fix any minor bugs which have been reported, then get on with the main task of the day. These are prioritised as: bank any cheques received in the post; pay any bills that absolutely have to be paid; perform any administrative tasks required by officials (tax forms etc.); do any programming asked for by Mike (a/k/a Stripe), the guy who's writing the MUD client software; do any tasks requested by people at Engage (a/k/a Interplay Online); choose the next task from my list of things I have promised Jessica at Engage that I'll do; fix minor bugs; fix major bugs. Today, for example, I've read my mail, and am currently replying to it while I'm compiling some changes I've made (I'm about a quarter of the way through implementing TOUR 6, "commands," which Jessica asked me to do when I was in California last week). Stuck to my PC is a yellow sticker telling me that I need to do last month's Income Tax and National Insurance admin, which I'll either do late today (if I reach a convenient point to break off programming) or tomorrow (when it really has to be done, because it's Father's Day coming up which will clog up the postal service for the remainder of the week). I also have a pile of yellow stickers telling me the ideas/suggestions/bugs that merit attention sometime soon, but I doubt I'll give them any today...

AX: Describe your MUD development system.

RB: At the moment it's just a 486/66 running SCO Unix, with a couple of hard drives and 8mb of RAM. I have a P90 sitting next door to it, but I don't use that for MUD programming.

AX: After working on MUD all day, what do you do to relax?

RB: I have children: I work on MUD all day to relax! It's when I stop that life gets stressful!

AX: What sorts of new areas might we see added to The Land in the future?

RB: I'll be putting in the temple itself, which will complete the northern section, and then I have two other areas written. These are linked to one another, and are set in a sort of foggy Victorian London kind of environment which you reach by going through the wardrobe.

AX: Many Internet MUDs now feature 'bots -- programs which connect to the game masquerading as normal players, but which are actually under computer rather than human control. Are you aware of any experiments along these lines with MUD2, and what advice would you give to someone writing such a program?

RB: Most bots are variations of specific prototypes, so I guess people would be able to take one of those and modify it for MUD2. The only experiments I'm aware of are my own, though; I designed a program some time ago to play MUD2, since my PhD was in AI/multi-agent planning and it's something that interests me. I have something lying around which will log me into a chosen MUD2 and handle the i/o, but that's all it does. I did some work on it earlier this year, come to think of it, but it's the kind of thing that needs a lot of work to be any use. Engage would have to sanction it before I could do more than just tinker with it, and they probably have other priorities for my time at the moment.

AX: MUD's mobiles have become quite adept at looking after themselves over the years, but experienced players can easily anticipate their moves. What scope is there for making mobiles more intelligent in the future?

RB: I can make them as intelligent as necessary; they did used to be more intelligent, but I had to dampen them down because they were a lot more capable than many of the players! If people have specific requests for making mobiles behave more intelligently, I'll be glad to consider them, though. I'm interested in variety over predictability when it comes to mobile behaviour, so the more things they can choose to do, the better!

AX: How much work would it take to allow MUD's mobiles to respond sensibly to simple questions from players?

RB: Using what scale of measurement? "More than it would to add a new set of rooms, but not as much as it would to add an entire database?" The question is not how long it would take, but where Engage's priorities lie. At the moment, they want more rooms so that MUD doesn't feel crowded when there are 50 people in it, so that's what I'm doing. If they ever want me to add talking mobiles, or if they give me a free hand to choose what to do, then I'll add them.

AX: Some time ago, you mentioned you had plans for an offline program that wizards could use to help them design blanks. Any news on this?

RB: Not yet, no. Engage were going to commission someone to write one, perhaps even me, but at the moment they have other things they'd rather spend their money on. The sheer scope of blanks is now more apparent to them, too, after I spent 6 months working on the "blank book." The recent over-enthusiasm of certain wizzes in their creation of blanks has obviously set the project back somewhat, as well.

AX: You've said in the past that the most important attribute for a MUD player aiming for wizard is a sense of humour. What other qualities would you rate as important?

RB: I wouldn't: it's up to the individual MUD how it wants to develop. See my forthcoming paper in the "Journal of MUD Research" (which is at http://journal.tinymush.org/~jomr) for a discussion of the different player types, and choose your important attributes accordingly.

AX: 10 or 15 years ago, most if not all MUD players were very computer literate -- they had to be, just to successfully connect to the MUD computer! Do you see much difference in playing style between those players, and the players of today?

RB: Yes, but not because of the fact that they were computer-literate, just general changes of attitudes in society over the past 18 years.

AX: Most MUD2 devotees would agree that the typical Internet MUD doesn't come close to offering the same atmosphere or depth as MUD2. Is this a consequence of allowing too many people input into the game design, or simply a limitation of the programming languages used to implement such games?

RB: Well I have to speak generally here, of course; individual games may be a lot different. The lack of an overall editor (person, not program) will certainly put strains on a MUD's atmosphere, and despite what people may believe, not everyone can write decent room descriptions. There are some stylistic tricks which can be used that most authors don't even consider, e.g. using short, sharp room descriptions to up the pace in an area of danger, followed by a long "breather" description to indicate that the immediate danger is over and the next is about to start. MUD2 uses time as a metaphor for danger, too, so the older something is, the more distant from the present, then the greater the challenge it presents. That foggy Victorian area I mentioned earlier, for example, is more dangerous than the cottage, but less than, say, the tin mines. Unless these things are spelled out to authors, they won't use the same rules, and overall atmosphere suffers. Weak programming languages (or programmers) limit depth, but that's not where most of the atmosphere comes from early on. It makes a game more believable, but by the time players start exploring a MUD's depth they're probably hooked on it anyway.

AX: What do you think will be the next big step forward in the MUD genre?

RB: I don't care, so long as the steps are forward!

AX: Given unlimited resources and time, what are the most significant enhancements you would make to MUD2?

RB: I'd make the mobiles able to talk, and get someone to write a graphical front-end with illustrations of every object and room and full sound effects.

AX: With the announcement that AOL and Prodigy have signed up to run MUD2 (along with other Engage online games), MUD's userbase looks set to grow substantially. How well do you think MUD will cope with 40-50 players in a game, rather than 10-15?

RB: I've no idea until we get a flood test, however I should think that the first few times it happens MUD2 will cope very badly indeed! There's always some system limit which needs to be changed that we never find out about until we can test it.

AX: Rumour has it you've written a novel! What's it about, and when can we buy it?

RB: It's a fantasy novel written like it was cyberpunk. Spells are made up from sequences of gestures, strung together to create an overall effect. The overall setting is a renaissance-level world in social terms, but the codification of magic has brought about an early industrial revolution. The novel concerns two women, one of whom developed a major aid to creating long spells, and the other of whom (unknowingly) represented it as being her own idea, taking all the credit. The former has done some more research, and come to the conclusion that the underlying theory of how magic works is flawed, but the consequences of anyone else finding this out are unthinkably bad. The brunt of the novel is her attempt to get rid of magic in its entirety, so that no individual can use it to master the cosmos. As for when you can read it, well I've had about 9 rejection letters so far, which would seem to indicate that the most likely answer is "never."

AX: Finally, what would be an appropriate epitaph for your gravestone?

RB: Since I'm an atheist, and have no belief whatsoever in life after death, I couldn't care less -- it's not like it'll have any impact on me, since by definition I will be completely extinguished. I guess if someone twisted my arm and forced me to provide an epitaph, it would be "Don't forget." Sound advice...

Our thanks to Richard for taking time out to be interviewed!

Note: This interview was conducted by Zedd the wizard, known at the time as Asterix the arch-wizard at a former MUD2 site, and another former arch-wizard, Taff.

INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD BARTLE -- by Taff the arch-wizard

There can be few MUD2 players unfamiliar with the name of Richard Bartle. Together with Roy Trubshaw, he wrote the original MUD1 in 1979 at Essex University, and went on to create MUD2, the game you all know today.

Taff, the arch-wizard at portal.aladdin.co.uk, one of the three MUD2 sites in the UK, caught up with Richard to ask him a few questions about life in general, and MUD in particular (with a few additional questions thrown in by Asterix).

(TA = Taff, AX = Asterix, RB = Richard Bartle)

TA: How old are you?

RB: I was 35 in January.

TA: Are you married or do you have a partner?

RB: Married (to Gail).

TA: What does she think of MUD?

RB: She doesn't play it -- she's not a gamer. She does wish that I had a more reliable job than being a MUD programmer, but lets me carry on all the same!

TA: What was your degree subject and your Phd title/subject?

RB: BSc (1st class) Computer Science. PhD Articifical Intelligence: "Cross Level Planning" Although naturally it's the PhD I was most pleased to get, I think my BSc mark is still the highest they've ever had at Essex (no one's told me any different, anyway!)

TA: Where do you live these days?

RB: Near Colchester, in a village called Great Horkesley. Since Great Horkesley is basically a road with houses either side of it and little in the way of amenities, we're hoping to move to somewhere else in the district sometime this year. Would have been last year but the house sale fell through (sigh).

TA: Do you have any hobbies?

RB: Apart from the one I'm paid to do, ie. write games programs? Well, my main hobbies (all game-related) had to stop when I became a father; tiny pots of paint and scores of lead figures don't last long when there are small hands eager to grab them. I still play a lot of games, but they're now more computer-based than board-and-counter stuff (for the same reason -- a stack of counters swiftly becomes several stacks once someone has picked them up to see whether they're edible or not).

TA: Do you make all your living from MUD2 or do you have another full time job as well?

RB: I am a full-time employee of MUSE Ltd. Most of my money comes from BL [British Legends, the CompuServe version of MUD1], though, rather than MUD2. I do odd jobs occasionally if they don't take long, eg. I'm an examinations moderator for the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (300 quid for a morning's work, 3 times a year), but I have no other job. I used to be a university lecturer until I found that I could make more money doing practically anything else involving computers (including "Word Processor Operative").

TA: What got you interested in MUD? Was it the technical challenge of writing something as complex as MUD or was it the creative side of putting together descriptions and inventing the puzzles?

RB: Well it certainly wasn't the technical challenge; I find that if I don't see how to program something immediately, I don't enjoy having to find out how to do it, which is what "technical challenge" means, I guess. It wasn't the creative side, either; I can "create" without having to go to the bother of programming -- writing stories, for example. I just liked playing with it, I think, like a child with lego blocks. Specifically, I liked the way that things could be added incrementally, and I liked the fact that what was being designed wasn't so much a world as a world-creation system. Having lots of enthusiastic players was good, too!

TA: Where did you get your ideas from for the rooms and puzzles?

RB: I used my imagination.

AX: You've spent close to 10 years (more?) developing MUD2 to its current state. If you had had the benefit of that experience back when you started, what would you have done differently (either in the gameplay itself, or in how the game was marketed)?

RB: I would have implemented some things differently, in particular GET and DROP are messier than they need be. I may also have graduated the room and object descriptions better, reserving immediacy ("You are standing in a room with ..." rather than "This is a room with ...") for things I wanted to be more intensely experienced. I'd also have added an operator in MUDDLE to return what the parent classes are of an object, so wizzes wouldn't keep asking me why the game couldn't tell them... They're not really gameplay things, though -- I can't think of any major gameplay changes I'd have made with hindsight. Marketing, well, I'm a programmer, not a marketer. I do wish I'd known then what I know now about large corporations, though (sigh).

TA: Did you ever think that MUD would become what is today, with literally hundreds of MUD-like (some might say rip-off :) servers around the world?

RB: Yes, I always knew it was a damned good concept. Roy is still bemused by why people like it with the strength they do, but my background is in gaming and I knew from the beginning what we had. As for the other servers, well, we did MUD1 at Essex University using computers paid for by public funds, so it was only right that we let the idea of MUDs propagate freely without slapping a patent on it. NB: this is mid-1980s talk; nowadays, UK universities are under pressure to "perform", so even patents on trivial, non-respectable things like computer games are still patents...

AX: Do you still enjoy playing MUD as a mortal (incognito of course), or do you know the game so well by now that there is no challenge left?

RB: This presupposes that I ever did enjoy playing as a mortal! I do still play as mortals, incognito, but most of my effort goes into recalling what it is the player I'm pretending to be knows about the game at that point. I have no difficulty in modifying my in-game actions according to some personality type I've concocted for a pseudo-player (maybe because I've done it so often) but I don't really enjoy it, no. This is undoubtedly because I can either remember the stuff exactly, or I can look it up in 20 seconds by switching to another virtual terminal and loading files into an editor. I don't DISLIKE it, I hasten to add, but it's more of a job than a fun thing to do.

AX: What is the shortest amount of time it has ever taken a new player to to reach Wizard?

RB: I've no idea, mainly because we're never quite sure that they ARE new players! I seem to recall someone having done it in a month without having played any MUD (mine or otherwise) before -- I think the player in question was VISHNU. There are others who have done it in under 100 games, though, spread over maybe 2 or 3 months. It's much easier if you've played oodles of BL before, and it's easier if you get in on the ground floor of a new incarnation when everyone is co-operative and friendly.

AX: Would you like to reveal a choice MUD2 game secret that you feel confident few players are aware of?

RB: A "game secret"? It's hard to know what's secret and what's not! There are a whole load of sillies that few people know about (PLAY POKER, that sort of thing) but I expect you mean something useful... Is it well known that if you SIP DJ (DJ=DARJEELING) in the Tearoom you get many more points than simply SIP TEA? Or that you can convert the ORANGE into a golden orange by taking it to the Orangery? Or that if you leave the ACORN in the squirrel room, it turns into a ruby? Probably, yes: I expect these are all known to most mages... Did you know you can kill the THIEF more easily if you get him drunk first? Thought so... No, there are no game secrets I'm truly confident that few players are aware of!

AX: Who is the oldest known MUD player? The youngest?

RB: In terms of age? Hmm, very hard to say, as I don't have access to personnel records for most incarnations of the game. We've certainly had people who've made wiz while aged 14 (DAN), and others who have done it while in their late 60s (DECUS), but I don't know the current maximum and minimum, sorry.

AX: What is the single most important attribute a player should have in order to have a good chance at making wiz?

RB: A sense of humour.

AX: Do you think MUD2 can fill any role other than simply providing entertainment for its players?

RB: It can, yes (I've had several players tell me that playing MUD is what gave them their touch-typing skills!). Sure, there are social benefits to this kind of game, where people can talk out their problems among friends or whatever, but I specifically programmed MUD2 to be a game, and its primary job is to entertain. If I wanted to focus on some other purpose, eg. for rape counselling or for modelling human anatomy, I'd write another program.

AX: What is the largest phone bill ever reported by a MUD2 player that you have heard of?

RB: 3000 pounds for 3 months, back in 1984 or thereabouts. SUE the arch-wiz played every night from midnight to 6am, calling long distance from Wales.

AX: One of the biggest differences between MUD1 and MUD2 is that in MUD2, players don't automatically get magical abilities but must work up to them. What differences in playing style has this caused between players of the two versions?

RB: I put that in so that everyone stood a pretty good chance of losing a persona before they got to wiz. It was a kind of controlled way of allowing players to come to terms with loss, since they're basically expecting to die every time. Then, when it happens to their mage, they're they're not quite so cut up about it. Realistically, anyone who's higher than champion isn't going to last too long unless they have magic, so essentially it IS the same as BL but with a good chance that players have at least to contemplate their own demise, if not experience it. As to how it affects the playing style, well I'd like to think it's responsible for the less bloodthirsty attitude that MUD2 players have. The two games differ in many other respects, though, so it may be that's just wishful thinking on my part.

AX: With any moderately complex system, the users always end up doing things not envisaged by the original designer. What are the most outrageous, unorthodox or generally surprising things you've seen players trying?

RB: Players constantly surprise me with their ingenuity. The classic "stick man" scenario, where someone sits at the rapids with "GIVE BRAND TO PLAYER EXCEPT ME" in their input buffer and repeatedly hits ^L until some poor sap gets the brand and blows themselves up, is one I ought to mention. Players are always finding ways to get around restrictions in the game, though, and I keep having to make changes to keep up with them (that's how come most mobiles will drop the URANIUM now!). Even as I write, there's probably someone somewhere trying out a command that I hadn't expected; the game may handle it, it may not, but the fact it encourages players to try at all probably says a great deal about confidence people have in the program, which is rather nice.

TA: A lot of MUD players around the world seem to be ignorant of the roots of multi-player adventure games. Sometimes it even seems that the creators of these MUDs like to think of themselves as the innovators and the creators of the first "real" MUDs. Does this annoy you at all or do you feel that they've inspired you as much as you have them?

RB: It doesn't annoy me that people don't know who I am. It does annoy me that people try to rewrite history in order to promote either their own interests or the interests of the particular game to which they owe allegience. Trying to categorise "MUDs" as some kind of hack-and-slay game, whereas they play something else ("MUSHes" or "MOOs") is another thing I dislike, as it's borne out of snobbery. I have not been inspired by these games whatsoever. I have occasionally imported items of syntax from them in order to make the games more compatible (the most significant is probably making ':swallows hard.' the same as ACT "swallows hard.") but I wouldn't call that inspiration.

TA: Theres a lot of competition between MUDs these days, especially since free MUDs have become so widely available and a few have become almost as sophisticated as MUD2 itself. Does it worry you that eventually maybe no one will want to pay to play a MUD when they can play for free?

RB: It's a niggling worry, but I know that MUD2 will continue to improve. If these other MUDs want to improve, they'll have to get their programming done for free. That's possible, of course, but it's not going to happen on a large scale. What's more worrying is that a game that's only 75% as good as MUD2 but is free will nevertheless attract players away from MUD2 simply because it IS free -- for some people, it doesn't matter how good a game is, if there's a free alternative that satisfies their basic needs, they'll take it.

TA: Do you, or have you played on any of the free MUDs?

RB: I've looked a few over, but I don't play any regularly.

TA: What do you think of them?

RB: From what point of view? From a programming point of view, I KNOW that MUDDLE is better for writing MUDs, so I may be impressed if what I see represents triumph over adversity. On the other hand, it saddens me to see people playing these games simply because they don't know there are better ones out there which might suit them better. The descriptions I see are never all that great, either, and the commands some of them use are about as intuitive as UNIX's...

TA: How many MUD1's and MUD2's are there out there?

RB: Still being played? There's one MUD1 -- BL on CompuServe. MUD2s, hmm, let me see... In the UK we have DRAGON, ONLINE and SONET. In Europe we have IOL. In the USA we have GENIE/DELPHI/CRIS (one game on 3 systems), IPLAY and MPGNET. In the rest of the world, there's a local-to-Toronto one in Canada. Two more incarnations are due out sometime in the distant future, but have met with hitches (due to incompetence, so I won't tell you which organisations they are; suffice to say, it seems that putting a capital letter in the middle of a company's name is a bad sign). So, total number of extant MUD2s is 7. I have one at home, of course, too...

TA: There's a lot of talk on the net these days of graphic MUDs, especially now that Dr. Cat is pushing DragonSpires so hard. Do you see MUD2 evolving into a graphic MUD like DragonSpires or into something entirely different?

RB: Evolving? Or regressing? I don't see MUD2 going graphical like DragonSpires, because I wrote it as a text-based game. As far as I'm concerned, making it graphical would be like doing a cartoon of "War and Peace" -- interesting, but hardly the same as the original. If I wanted to do a graphical game, I'd start from scratch. DragonSpires, incidentally, is just the latest in a line of this kind of game which started with Island of Kesmai and continued with Kingdom of Drakkar. It's attracting attention because it's the first free game of this kind to appear on the net, and its graphics are more modern, but the gameplay is early 80s.

TA: Do you like graphic MUDs, or are you a text-only purist?

RB: I despair of graphic MUDs, because I know that eventually they'll take over, supplanting them like graphical RPGs did text adventures. There'll still BE textual MUDs, because on the net there's no "shelf space", so if there are people who want to play them they'll still be available. I just think that once the big-spenders start using their advertising money to push their flashy graphics games, new players will go for those games rather than MUDs. MUDs do have one advantage over ordinary adventure games in that for the next few years at least there's no way to engage in conversation with other people or mobiles in the game except by typing, so graphical replacements can't be entirely mouse-based (click on the H, click on the E, click on the L, click on the L, click on the O, click on the SEND). It'll come, though, and MUDs will lose something as a result.

TA: What is going to be the next biggest change in MUD2?

RB: I don't know. Probably some kind of user interface to smarten up the appearance, but there are lots of things in the game that I want to add. I've been meaning to give the mobiles the ability to talk, ooh, for ages, but it would take a couple of months of dedicated programming which I don't have time for at the moment. I also want to complete my MUDDLE-to-C compiler -- I've done all but the run-time-system, but again that's maybe 2 months of working on it and nothing else to finish. I'm mid-way through a hefty tome documenting exactly how to use BLANKs, which I'll follow up with a program to help design such objects offline, but I wouldn't call those major changes to the game itself.

AX: What is MUD2's biggest strength? Greatest weakness?

RB: Biggest strength: its players. Biggest weakness: its players.

TA: What do you think the future holds for MUDs, taking into account the imminent arrival of multi-player shoot-em up servers like QUAKE and their ilk?

AX: Do you expect to see MUD2 sites still operating in 10 years, or will we all be playing Doom XIX in 3D over high-speed fibre-optic links?

RB: There are people playing MUD2 and BL who have been doing so for nearly 10 years. This is an enormous staying power for a game, due mainly to its depth and the fact that although graphics have improved over the years, text doesn't date so quickly. People will go out and play multi-player shoot-em-up games, but are they people who would otherwise play a MUD? I'm not convinced. MUDs won't look the same in 10 years time, if they exist at all. However as a caveat, if you'd asked me that 10 years ago I'd have said the same thing -- and been wrong!

Thanks to Richard for taking the time to answer our questions; we hope you found the answers as interesting as we did.

The text of the following interviews was made available to us by Eddy Carroll, aka Zedd the wizard.

March 1995 - by Eddy Carroll and Adrian Mills

June 1996 - by Eddy Carroll