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The lost art of MU*

These days when someone says they enjoy “online gaming” you probably think of 3d games engines with lots of monsters and vast quantities of bullets being fired by players all using the internet to connect to each other and play against each other. Either that or one of the many online casinos where you can’t tell if you lost because the computer at the other end was programmed to make you lose or if it was simply bad luck.
When I was first introduced to the internet back in the early 90s, there wasn’t much to do except download demos from a few large ftp sites, browse some fairly primitive webpages and telnet to various text based services. Online gaming took the form of MU* – MUD, MUCK, MUSE and MUSH.


Thanks to a certain group of students in the year above me I quickly got hooked on using MUSHes and the addiction spread rapidly through a number of the other students in my year.
CyberMUSH was the name of the game and it was run out of De Montfort University (or Leicester Polytechnic as it was then). Lots of people from all over the world had joined together to make a virtual world and had been at it for about 3 years before I started. Unfortunately I only had about a year before it was shutdown but by that time others had sprung up to take its place. Absolute MUSH was one of those.
You’re probably wondering what a MUSH is.. well it’s a text-based multi user environment that’s mostly social rather than combative like a MUD (Multi User Dungeon). Quite often you could connect, create a character and then proceed to setup several rooms, a few objects and go exploring to see what everyone else had done.
People would congregate in virtual rooms and chat about anything and everything. The rooms didn’t have to be indoors, “room” was just the terminology used within the system. They were linked by exits and although it was common for North South East and West to be used, there was no rule that said you had to call the exits those, you could quite easily have ‘Out’ ‘Hallway’ and ‘Garden’.
Just to make things more interesting was the fact that an exit was merely a link from one room to another. You didn’t have to create one back the other way. This lead to one-way exits so you could go (for example) from the front garden to the hallway, but then be unable to leave back through the front door because the exit didn’t exist or was locked to a specific object so you could only leave if your name was ‘Simon’, you were carrying a key or even if your description contained a certain word.
Part of the attraction stems from the fact that MUSH has it’s own programming language built in that allows the creation of objects, rooms, and exits and to assign attributes to these items. Of course for students studying programming, a MUSH is far more interesting than C, Visual Basic or Modula-2 could ever be.
Players can create objects that have the ability to react to certain stimuli, for example a player arriving in a location might be greeted automatically by a robot butler. The butler being an object created with the name “robot butler” and programmed to listen for “* has arrived.” which indicates another object, usually a player, arriving in the room.

Absolute MUSH is one that was started back in 1994, and I’ve been running it since about 1995/96. For the most part it looks after itself now, but that’s mainly because we rarely seem to get new people connecting since everyone seems to want fancy graphics and fast-paced action.
A quick “Hi!” to all the MU*-oldies that I know including (but not limited to, and apologies if you’re not on the list): Avatar, Babbage, blob, Devlin, Dream, Electora, Goth, Jaq, Legs11, Luna, Lythia, Miffy, Mike, Nutter, Robin and Taz.
If you were on CyberMUSH, or are on Absolute and haven’t been around for a while, then please leave a comment here, drop by Absolute and send me +mail, or send me an email (mush at simon.me.uk).
[ updated 27th April 2004 to take into account new information from Babbage regarding CyberMUSH ]

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