Saturday, March 30, 2019

MUD1: More Beneath the Surface

I could quite easily stop playing MUD1 now, and move on to the next game in the queue, but every time I play it I find something new.  It's a large game, with an interesting world to explore, and even though there are no concrete goals to it, I'm finding that I never have a shortage of self-imposed tasks to complete.  So, alas for the blog and forward momentum, I'm still plowing ahead with this game and enjoying it more than I had expected to.

The first of these self-imposed goals that I set myself was to properly investigate the items in the Sorcerer's Room: a crystal, an amulet, a mirror, an oracle, a black cat, a potion and a stethoscope.  I already knew that sniffing the vapours given off by the crystal resulted in a change of gender.  Unfortunately, the oracle, the amulet and the mirror are all currently beyond me; I can't use any of them until I reach a higher level.  A clue in a book told me to "do as my curiosity directs me", which I interpreted as meaning that I should kill the cat.  It gave me a satisfying message telling me that I had "graunched" the cat's head in, but no other benefits were forthcoming.  As for the stethoscope, I still have no idea.

The only positive progress I made was with the potion.  The same book with the clue about curiosity also directed me to mix the potion with some medicine found in a bathroom upstairs.  This I did, drinking the concoction, and I got a pretty decent bonus to my score.  I'm able to do this once a day or so (whenever the game resets to its default).

Mixing the medicine with the potion.

While I was tinkering around in the Sorcerer's Room, four zombies and a skeleton appeared out of nowhere.  They didn't attack me, but they also wouldn't let me leave.  I was able to defeat the zombies - it seems you only ever have to fight one on one - but the skeleton killed me.  Fighting skeletons with a 2nd level character has proven to be deadly, but I've been able to defeat them upon reaching 3rd level.  I'm not certain where they came from, but it's possible they were summoned as a result of my failure to activate the room's magic items.  If that's the case, I could always keep this in mind as a way to grind for points.

Also in the house is a locked kitchen that I had yet to explore.  Inside I found some dirty groats, which I was pleased to find increased in value when I washed them.  (You can VALUE any item in the game, and it will tell you how many points it's worth.)  In a side pantry I also found a kipper and a half-eaten bagel, and eating both of these increased my score as well.  There was also a pancake, but it was stuck to a pan and I couldn't take it.  Dropping the groats in the swamp (which is the standard way to dispose of treasure in this game) got me some more points, so I've found a sure-fire way of quickly increasing my score at the start of every session.  Drinking the potion, eating the food in the pantry and "swamping" the groats are generally the first things I do when I play.

There's a garden with some potatoes just outside the house, and off to the south is a deaf, dumb and blind beggar.  Kicking the beggar gets you points if you're first level, but giving him the potatoes is more valuable: the potatoes turn to into gold and can be dropped in the swamp.  This is another thing I usually do early, as long as I can find the beggar.  Near the potato garden is a flower bed with some herbs.  I didn't know what to with them, but a mysterious voice told me I should smoke them.  I was already off chasing another lead by the time this mystery person spoke, but I'll have to go back and check this out.

Punching down.  Way down.

South-east of the house is a dark cave that I finally got around to exploring.  It has a bunch of interesting features: a sacrificial altar, a "sleeping beauty", and an idol with a ruby for an eye.  Kissing sleeping beauty wakes her up, and earns some points.  The altar is a mystery, but I'm thinking of capturing an animal and doing a sacrifice.  I was stumped by the ruby eye, until another mysterious voice hinted that I should WORSHIP the idol.  This loosened the ruby, which I was able to swamp for more points.  There's more to do here: a gate leads further in, but is impassable without a second player, and there's also a cave guarded by a sleeping ogre that crushed me when I tried to pass by.

The bulk of my playing time was spent exploring the areas around the bottom of the waterfall.  In the house I had found a scroll with the following clue:

From beneath the crystal curtain,
Salt to west and hard to cross,
Go south to the death so certain,
Though follow me and have no loss...
South again, the danger stronger,
Once more, or you feel the spray,
Travel on that way no longer,
Southeast, else you slip away.

I figured that this referred to the waterfall and the slippery rocks, and I used the clue to make my way through to a sheltered inlet where I found a coracle.  It looks like I'll be able to use this to get across to the wrecked ship I can see in the ocean, but I haven't tried yet, as I was really set on fully exploring the goblin caves behind the waterfall.

The first thing I discovered was a use for the conch that's lying just behind the waterfall.  Blowing into it causes a slight reverberation.  At the top of the stairs behind the waterfall there's a Reverberating Room.  Blowing the conch opens a hole in the wall to a Fossil Room, but the only things I found in there were a skeleton (which I was now able to kill being 3rd level) and a finger bone.

From there I descended to the goblin caves, but before delving right in I explored a few side passages.  One led to an underground river, where I found a platinum sphere.  Another led to a cannon.  Now that I write it out I can see that the sphere can probably be fired from the cannon, so that's something else to try.

On my previous trip to the goblin caves I had found their treasure room, which contained a bracelet, a gold plate and a silver flute.  The only way out was through a locked door though, and I had no key, so I'd had to quit rather than making my escape with the treasure.  This time, I wanted to explore the caves fully, so I rampaged around killing goblins with impunity.  While I was there I met a friendly adventurer, who gave some helpful hints, including one that typing OUT is usually a good way to get back to familiar territory.  I didn't try it, because I wanted to keep exploring, but I'll keep it in mind.

Slaughtering goblins.

I found my way through to another staircase, which led to a Guard Room.  The room was unoccupied, but I did find an axe, a rolled up carpet, and a die.  I tried unrolling the carpet, but all this did was decrease its value.  Rolling the die caused its value to vary: the higher the number rolled, the more it was worth.

The stairs continued deeper, but at that point I was whisked away, magically summoned to the mausoleum by another player called Lux the Legend, who tried to kill me.  I quickly fled, dropping all of my stuff, and was able to escape.  I also lost a few hundred points, but it was better than dying; the Legend rank is higher than I had reached, and I wasn't going to win.  At that point I quit, further along than I had been but not as far as I'd hoped to be.

I wouldn't say that I'm an experienced player of MUD1, but I feel like I'm starting to grasp what it's about, and what playing it at its height might have been like.  I imagine it as something of a mad scramble to beat other players to the various things that can increase your score, and a fairly chaotic game experience.  Being almost murdered by a fellow player was frustrating, but also exciting.  The unpredictability of online multiplayer gaming has its downsides, but it can create a gaming experience that single player games just can't.


While I was getting screen shots for this post, I tried smoking the herb and lost about 700 points, dropping me back to first level.  My enthusiasm for this game has somewhat lessened.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

MUD1: Wading In Once More

Thought I was dead, didn't you?

I am in fact very much alive, and ready to resume blogging. Over the last year I've had a hellishly long commute to work, and I haven't had the time or the mental energy for writing.  But due to certain very positive changes in my life that commute is gone, and I'm able to resume blogging.  I can't guarantee that I'll stick to any kind of decent schedule - because when have I ever - but for the moment I'm back, and I'm ready to continue exploring MUD1.

To be honest, though, when it comes to MUD1 I wasn't exactly looking forward to starting up again.  It's not that it's a bad game, but it is a nebulous one that has little in the way of concrete goals.  It's more of an environment to facilitate multiplayer interaction rather than a single player experience, so I'm struggling to find the motivation to play it.  I like a game with an end point.  I suppose I'll have to set my own goals to decide when I'm done with MUD1, but for now I'm not sure what those are.  Maybe I'll just explore it until I run out of interesting things to find.

In an attempt to finish MUD1 as quickly as I could, I went looking for a walkthrough or a guide.  I didn't find one, but I did find the following map on the website of Richard Bartle, MUD1's co-creator:

I've explored pretty much all of the large eastern area, but I haven't managed to get to the shipwreck or the island to the west.  I'd like to check them out before I give up.

Running from north to south, here are some points of interest to be found:

  • There are some ruins at the far north of the map.  The only thing I've found there is a "silvery cord" which is actually the web of a giant spider, which will gruesomely kill you if disturbed.
  • The jetty has no boat, but it does have an empty lobster pot.
  • There's a railway line that cuts across the entire landmass, from the beach to the mine entrance.  About halfway along the track a golden bolt is embedded, but I haven't been able to lever it out.
  • The mine is quite large, and a light source is needed to explore it.  The only light I've found so far is made by setting a branch on fire, but that lasts forever as far as I'm aware so I may not need another one.  Most of the mine is just empty tunnels, but I did find a valve that can be used to flood the whole complex, and a series of narrow tunnels that can only be navigated if you drop your entire inventory (light source included).  The most interesting find I made was an entrance to the Dwarf Realm, but I was killed by a dwarf very shortly after trying to enter.
  • The mausoleum can be easily entered, though not so easily navigated. There are six tombs, and each one has a puzzle that must be solved before you can enter.  Rather than the more abstract, inventory-based puzzles that most adventure games go for, these are based on logic and mathematics, and I have no idea where to even begin.

Your guess is as good as mine.  Probably better, to be honest.

  • The misty graveyard is full of headstones, each with a message of varying levels of relevance.  Once you enter it's impossible to escape unless you type OUT.
  • At the front of the cottage there's a vegetable garden and a flower bed.  In the former there are usually potatoes, and in the latter a hyacinth and some herbs.  Off to the side of the cottage there's a gardener's shed, where I've found an axe and some keys.  As for the cottage itself, it has enough interesting features inside that I'm going to cover it in-depth below.
  • Also not far from the cottage is a large yew tree.  It can be chopped down, exposing a series of tunnels underneath.  At the bottom there's a fancy temple.  I tried meditating and praying there, but all it did was put me to sleep for a while.
  • There's a tunnel that leads from the beach, which can only be accessed by jumping from a cliff known as Lover's Leap.  The tunnel is blocked by a grate that's too heavy for me to move alone.
  • Also at the bottom of Lover's Leap is the base of a waterfall.  Behind the falls there are some tunnels.  I found a lever there that dumped me into an underground complex that was full of goblins.  I managed to fight my way through two of their lairs, and found a chamber that was loaded with treasure.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to find a way out, but the good news is that I was able to quit the game without my character being erased.  So I couldn't get the treasure, but I also don't have to start with a new guy.
  • Off to the east of the river is a swamp.  You can dump treasures into the swamp as a way of scoring points, which so far I've done with a parasol and a winged stallion.  (Yep, I totally Artax'ed a pegasus, and I don't feel bad about it at all.)

I have no regrets.

  • There are a bunch of things in the large forest to the south: a mysterious sundial; a birdbath; a badger's home, complete with badger that tries to claw your face off; a tree with a golden apple.  There's also a shrine, at which I just tried to meditate, only to be told that "there isn't sufficient meditation going on elsewhere to provide the psychic energy to meditate in such a small shrine as this".

The cottage lies at the centre of the map, and has the highest concentration of interesting features.  I couldn't cover them all in a single paragraph, so I'm breaking them up as follows.

  • In the bathroom there's some medicine.  I think I know where to use this, which I'll discuss below.
  • Halfway up the stairs there's a ghostly voice reciting A.A. Milne, which is yet another mystery I haven't solved.
  • In an upstairs bedroom there's a rattle.  Every time you shake it your score increases, but only so long as you're at the lowest rank.  More on this below.
  • I've barely explored the cellar, because it's completely overrun with giant rats.  They're not too difficult to defeat on their own, but as far as I can tell, there's a never-ending supply of the buggers down there.  Once I develop a stronger character with a better weapon I plan to try and wipe them all out.
  • In the study there's a bookcase that leads to a secret tunnel, where a zombie guards a rune-covered door.  The zombie can be killed in battle, although it takes a while.  The runes should be avoided, as reading them causes a fatal explosion.  Knocking on the door, however, whisks you into a sorcerer's laboratory, with all sorts of weird objects: a potion, a black cat, an oracle, a crystal, an amulet, a looking glass and a stethoscope.  I've barely scratched the surface of this stuff, but there's a book in the study that gives clues as to their respective purposes (as well as a warning about the exploding runes, and a hint about knocking on the door).  It seems that the potion and the medicine mixed together will do something, but I haven't been able to try this yet.   The clue regarding the cat tells me to "do as my curiosity directs", which I guess means I have to try to kill it?  The oracle, it seems, can be used to locate items.  The crystal, if sniffed, will change your gender.  The amulet can be used to force other players to take an action.  Finally, the looking glass seemingly has the power to let you spy on other players.  I have no idea about the stethoscope.  I tried just now to do some experimenting with all of these items, but a player named Good the Sorceress had scooped them all up before I got there.

There's a lot more to this game than what I've detailed above, as it's full of small details that serve to make it come alive as a dynamic environment.  There are animals that wander about, such as a seagull that's currently moving in and out of the area my character is idling in as I write this blog.  It rains occasionally.  Other players can be seen wandering around.  And of course, there are monsters: a skeleton, rats, a zombie, a dryad, dwarves, goblins, and more I'm probably forgetting.

As in a number of early text adventures, such as Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork, these monster can be engaged and defeated in combat.  So far I haven't discovered any tactics that can be used: it's just a matter of typing FIGHT or KILL, and watching the results slowly scroll by until one combatant is dead.  The main survival method is to flee, which is easy enough but results in you dropping your entire inventory.  It's better than dying though.

Backhanding a Zombie to death.

Death in this game is odd, in that sometimes it's permanent and sometimes it isn't.  If you're killed by a monster in battle, your character is dead and gone forever.  Other deaths, such as the explosive runes I mentioned above, are a temporary setback, as they don't result in your character being erased, just stripped of items and sent back to the start of the game.  I'm not sure what happens if you're murdered by another player, or if that's even possible.

The game does have a system for leveling up, which is tied to your score.  You begin as a Novice, with a score of zero.  Once your score reaches 400, you become a Warrior, which is the highest rank I've achieved so far.  Usually, I do this by using the rattle: every time you shake it you gain two points.  It only works while you're a novice though, so you can't use it to progress further than one level.  Shaking the rattle 200 times can get tedious, but thankfully your commands stay typed in after you hit enter, so you only have to type it once and then hit enter repeatedly.  Whatever you do, though, don't hold down the enter key to speed things up; you'll hit 400 points quicker, but you'll also have to endure like 20 minutes of messages that scroll by afterwards.  It ain't worth it.  (I was also reminded that you can do the same thing by repeatedly kicking a deaf, dumb and blind beggar.  I guess you can pick which if the two is more fun for you?)

In addition to a level, your character has stats: Strength, Stamina and Dexterity.  These are randomised for each character, but my current guy has scores of 60, 52 and 38 respectively.  Upon becoming a Warrior, all three of these stats increased by 10.  There's also an inventory limit of five items, which increased to six when I leveled up.

The only other thing to talk about is the multiplayer aspect, which I've had a couple of experiences with.  Mostly it results in the odd sighting of other players wandering about, and in items being relocated from place to place.  Fairly often I've gone to pick something up and found that it's not where I thought it would be.  Several times I've seen said item being carried around by someone else.  Once a character even stole an item right out of my inventory.

I've only ever had one extensive interaction, with a player named Saruman.  He explained the rattle to me, and a bunch of other stuff that I'd forgotten until going back over my game logs.  At one point he asked me to follow him, so that I could help him raise a portcullis.  At another, just as I was exploring beneath the yew tree, he used a spell to summon me to his location.  It was somewhere in the Dwarf Realm (I think) and it had a magic button that could be used to reset the world back to its default state.  The whole time we were playing simultaneously I could hear things he was doing: a dragon dying, a cannon being fired, various other screams and shrieks.  He was very helpful, actually, and it was nice to actually experience this part of the game.

So that's my current status on MUD1: still finding new things, and thus not yet giving up and moving on.  With my current schedule, my goal is to update once a week, so hopefully I'll be back with more of MUD1 next Saturday.  Given my blogging history it's unlikely, but miracles can happen.