A Multi-User Dungeon (or Domain or Dimension), often simply abbreviated as MUD, is a multi-player computer game that combines elements of role-playing games, and chat rooms. Typically running on a bulletin board system or internet server, the game is often text driven, where players read descriptions of rooms, objects, events, other characters, and computer-controlled creatures or non-player characters (NPCs) in a virtual world. Players usually interact with each other and the surroundings by typing commands that resemble a language, often a derivative of the player communities natural language, but sometimes completely unique and specific to the MUD.
Most MUDs implement a fantasy world wherein players inhabit characters which onscure their real world identity and identifying characteristics. There are no reliable statistics or studies that identify the degree to which MUD participants engage in identity play, but it is often assumed by virtue of the characteristics of anonymous online gameplay.
MUDs often have a fantasy setting, while many others are set in science fiction-based universe or themed on popular books, movies, animations, history, etc. Still others, especially those which are often referred to as MOOs, are used in distance education or to allow for virtual conferences.
The first games which were recognisably MUDs appeared in 1977 on the PLATO system. In Europe at around the same time, MUD development was centered around academic networks, particularly at the University of Essex where they were played by many people, both internal and external to the University. In this context, it has been said that MUD stands for "Multi-Undergrad Destroyer" or "Multiple Undergraduate Destroyer" due to their popularity among college students and the amount of time devoted to the MUD by the student. The popularity of MUDs of the Essex University tradition escalated in the United States during the 1980s, when - relatively speaking - cheap, home personal computers with modems enabled role players to log into multi-line BBSes and online service providers.
MUD the game
The first known MUD was created in 1978 by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle. They chose the acronym MUD to stand for Multi-User Dungeon, in reference to another game called Dungeon. MIST (also part of Essex University MUD) which could be played from any computer connected to JANET (a European academic network predating the internet), became one of the first of its kind to attain broad popularity.
MUDs of historical interest
- A working version of MUD.
- www.mud2.com and www.mudii.co.uk: live versions of its descendant, MUD2.
- Avatar. Moria and Oubliette are also available.
- IgorMud.org - One of the earliest LPMuds still running
- Imaginexus The first wiki MUD
- MorgenGrauen - One of the earliest LPMuds in German language. Still running.