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The Alter Aeon "Muds and Mudding FAQ"

What is a MUD?

A MUD is a type of online game where players can interact and explore the game either by themselves or together. A lot of games are like this - for example 'World of Warcraft' - but in order to qualify as a MUD, a game must be playable without graphics, using only text and commands.

Most MUDs have the look and feel of an old 1980's era adventure game, but newer and more modern MUDs may have graphics and other enhancements that are not required but may make the game easier to learn and play.

Lack of graphics is in some ways an advantage. Rather than focus on creating skins for every object, monster, and place in the game, MUDs focus on creating an outstanding game. Many MUDs have huge worlds, with countless quests and other things to do, for all types of players at all skill levels.

Where did MUDs come from?

MUDs have a rich history, starting out with the first text-based adventure games in the mid 1970's. In the mid 1980's, the first network based adventure games began to appear on what was to become the World Wide Web; a fairly comprehensive list of the original games and their timeline can be found in the Wikipedia Article on MUDs.

One of the first widely distributed MUD codebases was AberMUD, written in 1987 by Alan Cox. AberMUD's popularity resulted in several inspired works, the most notable of which were TinyMUD, LpMUD, and DikuMUD.

Both TinyMUD and LpMUD have comprehensive internal languages which can be used to construct things in game; TinyMUD is the basis for a lot of free-form MUSH and MUCK style servers. For LpMUD, it is possible to build a complete game without modifying the C code of the server. Both of these codebases and their various derivatives make up a large fraction of the currently active MUD/MUSH servers.

DikuMUD was one of the more popular code bases in the mid-1990's, with most of the game mechanics already present and hardcoded into the server. Prefab worlds were available, and the idea of being able to simply modify areas without having to program or modify the server code was attractive to many new MUD administrators. From this hack-and-slash style code base were many other code bases derived, including Circle, Merc, ROM, and Smaug.

Wikipedia also has a Hierarchy of Public Mud Bases, which shows inheritance trees for the LpMUD, TinyMUD, and DikuMUD code bases. These three codebases are the ancestors of most public/free muds.

Are all MUDs free to play?

Most MUDs are in fact completely free to play, and are graciously hosted by their owners or a small group of dedicated players - but some are not. Public codebases are available from a number of web sites, allowing anyone with a bit of skill and spare time to start their own mud; however, most public codebases prohibit charging fees for the game.

In the very beginning, there were only a few pay-to-play MUDs, two of the more famous being the initial versions of Gemstone IV and DragonRealms. The limitations of public code bases ensured that the vast majority of new MUDs were not commercial. Recently, custom commercial servers have become more commonplace. This has allowed MUD owners to charge for various things without violating any public licenses.

Some MUDs, such as DragonRealms, have monthly fees. Other MUDs, such as those run by Iron Realms, require you to pay (or get someone else to pay) to advance your character. Another business model, used in the past by Medievia, is to allow players to buy limited time 'super equipment', without which the game is vastly more difficult.

Alter Aeon takes a much less aggressive approach and is completely free to play. The only things that may be purchased are for convenience and decoration, and do not substantially affect game play. From the Alter Aeon Donations and Services FAQ:

Our policy is not to offer rewards that would unbalance the game or grant donating players a meaningful edge over other players.

[HISTORICAL NOTE - A lot of MUD codebases are derived from the DIKU source released in the early 1990's. This codebase has license terms that prohibit the use of the code for commercial gain. A handful of MUDs, notably Medievia and NiMUD, have attracted widespread scorn from the mudding community for DIKU license violations. The DIKU team is widely respected and appreciated for their contributions to MUDs and MUDding, making the actions of license breakers even more reprehensible.]

What are common MUD terms and lingo?

There are a lot of unusual terms used by mudders. Some of these are common to graphical games, massively multiplayer games, and even strategy. Rather than attempt to address them all here, we have a short Glossary of Common Mudding Terms in our articles area.

Most of the most commonly used phrases and words will be listed there, as well as Alter Aeon specific terminology that may be less common on other MUDs or games.

For even more MUD related terms and FAQs, see also the TinyMud FAQ hosted by the Mud Connector.

Can MUDs be played by the blind and visually impaired?

Because it's possible to play a MUD using only a text-based interface, blind-friendly MUDs are good games for the blind and visually impaired. Screen-reader software can be used to read the game to blind players, and with the proper screen reader configuration they can play on even footing with the sighted.

Note that not all MUDs are blind friendly. Some make extensive use of ascii art and ascii graphics which are unreadable by screen readers, and a lot of MUDs lack filters and blind-specific modes. Alter Aeon has extensive support for the blind, including plain login screens, blind modes, several sets of filters and built in scripting.

There are also a number of mudding clients that are specifically designed for the blind. These special clients (such as VipMUD) have good support for screen readers and generally include audio triggers as well as other blind-friendly features.

For a handful of other blind-friendly MUD clients, including some free and open source clients, check out our Alter Aeon Blind Player Support web page.

Why the Name 'MUD'?

There are several common definitions for the MUD acronym, two of the most popular being 'Multiple User Dungeon' (named after 'Dungeons & Dragons' themed muds), and 'Multiple User Dimension' (usually associated with more free style muds, or those with no theme at all.)

There are a number of other related acronyms for other types of games and servers, including MUSHes, MUCKs, and MOOs. Most of these are very free-form, often without an overarching storyline or consistent world, and sometimes entirely with user-built content. There is also usually an emphasis on social interaction instead of gameplay and advancement.

What kinds of MUDs are there?

Some different types of MUDs include:

  • Role-playing MUDs - emphasis on playing a part
  • Hack-and-Slash MUDs - emphasis on killing monsters
  • Player Killing MUDs - emphasis on killing other players
  • Social MUDs - emphasis on social interaction

  • MUD themes and settings can be even more varied:

  • Fantasy
  • Medieval
  • Space
  • Superhero
  • Modern
  • Vampire

  • There are also MUDs themed after very specific settings, for example Discworld, based on Terry Pratchet's book series, and several Wheel of Time MUDs.

    How do you play a MUD?

    Before you can play, you have to connect to and log in to a MUD. There are a number of different ways to connect, the simplest (and typically ugliest) being via regular Telnet.

    In the beginning, MUDs were typically played using Telnet, an old communications program found on mainframes and Unix workstations. Over time, Telnet became obsolete as specialized mudding programs became available; many different types of clients now exist, though it is still possible to connect using Telnet.

    For a list of some mudding clients, the Alter Aeon MUD Clients page has a number of current entries, including some blind and reader-friendly clients.

    Once you're connected, you typically need to do the following things:

  • Choose a name for your account or character
  • Customize your character, choosing things like class, skills, and stats
  • If you're new to the game, go through a short tutorial
  • Get your character to a save point so it will be permanently created

  • (To see an example of what a tutorial might look like, you might want to check out the Alter Aeon Starting Out guide for new players.)

    After creating your character and getting to a save point, you will be able to log back in any time you like using your character name and password.

    Where did MUDs first come from?

    MUDs first started long ago, when the only computers that could have multiple people logged in were mainframes. Over time, MUDs moved from mainframes to smaller servers, and now you can download and run MUD servers on a desktop PC and even some embedded devices.

    The topic of where MUDs came from is a very wide one. Rather than make a mess of it here, we refer interested readers to these excellent resources:

    A newsgroup posting from Richard Bartle in 1990.

    A MUD history summary, with other games included.

    Tree of MUD codebases from Wikipedia.

    These references should give an idea of where MUDs came from, as well as what codebases there are and how the different codebases relate to each other.

    What is a bot?

    A bot is an automated program that plays the game for you. Botting is illegal in some games; in others, like Alter Aeon, botting is tolerated. Alter Aeon is special with regard to botting as there is anti-bot code that looks for bots and actively penalizes them.

    Bots should not be confused with client triggers or aliases. With some clients, players can make use of actions, aliases, and triggers to make performing repetitive tasks easier. A bot is different in that a bot runs entirely without a person present. Normally this is done to try to boost skills or gain experience by doing something over and over.

    If you're sure you want to run a bot, it's a good idea to read up on the rules for good bot behaviour on the Alter Aeon FAQ. There is also a good article on bots for Alter Aeon in our articles section that may help you fix or understand problems with one of your bots.

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