Sunday, April 28, 2019

MUD1: Postponed Victory.

And so, as promised, I come to the end of this blog's overlong involvement with MUD1. I never intended to spend so long playing it, and I certainly never intended to take a ten-month break between posts. Still, real life can be hard sometimes, and virtual life can sometimes be more enjoyable than you expect it to be. MUD1 was certainly far more involving than I was prepared for, even as a single player game, and I got caught up in trying to probe its every secret. It's well past time to move on though, as far as the blog is concerned, even though I'll still be playing it on my own time.

I had a few goals laid out for myself at the end of the last post, and I managed to tick all of them off. There are still two major obstacles in the game that I can't get past, but for the moment I'm completely stuck with them, and will probably remain so unless I can get some hints from another friendly player. I'll go through my goals one by one below.

1. Get past the gate in the tunnel leading from the beach.

The southern beach (the one you can only reach by jumping from the cliff with an umbrella) has a tunnel leading into the cliff. The tunnel is blocked by a gate that can't be opened by a single player. I took the most simple and direct solution to this problem: I created a second character and had them both running in the game at the same time. With the help of Kejakena, I was able to lift the gate and explore beyond.

I forgot that I had no light source the first time I did this.

There wasn't a lot to see, just a single cave where a pirate had stored some treasure: some pieces of eight, a sack full of doubloons, and a bottle of rum. All of these can be swamped for points, although the rum isn't worth anything until you take a drink. Doing so can make you drunk, and liable to move strangely or fall asleep at random for a little while, but one swig isn't too bad.

Later on I found an alternate solution to this puzzle: zapping the gate with a wand. The wand is the most useful tool in the game, but you can't use it effectively until you reach the level of Enchanter (at around 12,000 points). Before that level, you can wave it in an emergency, and it will teleport you out of danger. Doing so makes it disappear though, so it's really a last resort. Once you reach Enchanter though, you can start using the ZAP command on just about anything. Mostly it's good for killing monsters instantly, but it can also blow up most doors and gates. It sure beats typing UNLOCK DOOR WITH KEY followed by OPEN DOOR every time.

The gate mentioned above can be zapped in this manner, but doing so teleports you away to the house. Luckily, zapping gates doesn't make the wand disappear, and it's easy enough to get back and loot the place.

2. Open the gate in the Dwarf Realm.

This was one of the tasks I never completed. At the top of the Dwarf Citadel is a gate, with an inscription that tells you it will open if you "drop the key on me". I tried dropping keys in that area. I tried giving keys to the dwarves that roam around. I tried playing the flute and the violin, hoping a musical key might be the answer. Nothing worked.

I was able to get through in a later game, though. When I logged in another player had been through the game and looted just about everything. They had also left the gate open, so I went through and mapped the place out. What I found was a load of dwarven barracks and guard rooms, as well as a throne room and some treasure chambers. All of them were empty of both dwarves and treasure, but I have an inkling that there would be plenty of both if I ever managed to be the first one in here after a game reset.

Not the kind of throne I was talking about.

3. Explore the island to the south of the wrecked galleon.

South of the wrecked galleon is a small island called the Isle of Woe. It's easy enough to reach using the boat. The island is dominated by a huge arch, which you have to walk through to get to the southern area. There you'll find an effigy, which can be swamped for points.

The game makes it seem like walking through the arch could have major consequences, but I never figured out what they might be. The only thing I noticed was that the command prompt changed from "*" to "(*)". I'm sure there was some negative effect, but it's got me stumped.

Note the changed command prompt at the bottom. I still don't know what it means.

4. Figure out the mystery of the sliding panel rooms.

South of the goblin lairs are a pair of rooms with sliding panels. I never figured out the solution to this legitimately, and I'm thinking it might be one of those puzzles you can only solve with more than one player. Instead, I zapped one of the panels to smithereens and gained access to a "Blue Room" where I found a sapphire and an ornament. Swamped them both, of course.

That KAZAM was pretty satisfying.

5. Solve the mystery of the brass ring.

As mentioned in my last post, slipping a fossilized finger bone into the ring lifted the magic holding it down, and turned the brass ring to gold. It's one of the more valuable treasures, too.

6. Enter the tomb in the graveyard.

Deep in the graveyard is a tomb that can apparently be pried open. There's no great mystery or puzzle here, you just need something strong enough like an axe. The tomb leads down to a room with a statue in it, and a tunnel heading south. When I went south, though, I was immediately torn apart by ghouls.

The trick to getting past lay in the statue. Whenever you look at the room, the statue's eye colour is mentioned, but it changes every time, cycling through the following colours with no seeming pattern: red, blue, yellow, green, and emerald. When the statue's eyes are red, you can get past the ghouls safely. There are clues about this written on a curtain in the temple below the yew tree.

Beyond is a room with a collapsed grave above. It also contains a golden disc and an old leg, both of which can be taken. The disc is worth points, and the leg can be used to solve another puzzle. The room also has a chute that leads into the temple beneath the yew tree, but you can't take any items through it with you. I tried dropping items into the chute, but that didn't work either.

You need to get back out through the tomb door, but the ghouls will tear you apart on the way back as well. Taking the statue with you is a simple solution, as you can always set it down and look at the eye colour. The statue can also be swamped, and its value is different depending on its eye colour at the time. It's worth the most when the eyes are emerald.

7. Get past the ogre.

There's an ogre in the cave near the swamp, and he'll squash you flat if you try to fight him bare-handed or to get past him. He'll happily accept the leg from the tomb as a gift, though, and will ignore you while he munches away on it. I also discovered later that you can zap him into oblivion, and that attacking with pretty much any weapon will give you an instant kill. This even works with the pickaxe. Apparently the ogre has no understanding of weapons beyond his own club, so he's easy to kill.

Past the ogre is a single cave where a leprechaun guards a pot of gold. He won't let you take the pot, and he doesn't accept any gifts or food that I could figure out. Eventually I tried just taking him, and much to my delight I was able to stuff him under my arm despite his protests. He can be swamped for points along with his gold, which seems cruel but is probably a just fate for any leprechaun.

I have Irish ancestry, so this is a racial stereotype I'm allowed to enjoy.

8. Explore the north-west island.

The island to the north-west is the other area of the game that I'm stuck on. Getting there is a little difficult. There's a chart with directions in the wrecked galleon, but one of those directions isn't given, and you have to guess. I figured it out through trial and error, as well as a lot of wrecked boats, and was soon on the island reading the following sign:

It's not wrong about dropping the boat; if you enter the water from anywhere other than this beach it's game over. As for the rest, it's a warning about a dragon, and a hint that it can be killed if you feed it something.

Said dragon flies around over the island, and will eventually swoop down and mangle you in combat. I never came even close to defeating it, and running away gets you instantly incinerated. The wand doesn't work on it either. Whatever you have to feed the dragon, it has the letter C as its first or second letter (I think). I've tried an acorn, a piece of coal, and a cross. None of them worked. (I was especially confident about the cross, because it's been warped by a great heat when you find it.) I've given up on this for the moment, as any experimentation here is a suicide mission. As with the dwarven gate, I'm hoping for a friendly player to help me out.

The island itself is dominated by a ring of stones, with a slab that can seemingly be moved. Scattered around the island are various items: a sickle, a chalice, an acorn, a broadsword and a bell. There's also a fairy ring with a poisoned toadstool. The whole set-up seems to hint at something druidic, and I suspect I might have to perform a ritual or a sacrifice of some sort to open the slab. It's not happening until I can kill that dragon though.

One of many ignominious deaths.

I also mentioned in my last post that I had transformed the ox into a worthless statue by hugging it. After some experimentation I figured this out. In the cave near the swamp there's a sacrificial altar, but the ox can't be dragged in there. You can get it in there after hugging it, though, and hugging it again brings it back to life. Then you have to sacrifice it and hug it again, which turns it into a golden statue. It's totally logical!

I also found some uses for the cat who is found in the Sorcerer's Room. Firstly, it eats the rats in the cellar, which can be very helpful when you're lower level. There are a lot of those things. Secondly, you can earn points if you kill the cat nine times and then eat it. It's just one of the sick, twisted acts that this game rewards.

In a nest above the secluded cove where the boat is found, I discovered a golden egg with a flame pattern etched on it. Once you take the egg you can't drop it, and you also can't pick up any other items. It can't be dropped in the swamp, but it gives plenty of hints that it needs to be dropped somewhere hot. Eventually I figured out that it needs to go in the fiery pit past the wolf, an area that had previously seemed a bit pointless.

I did some more reading up on the game, looking for a way to kill the dragon. I didn't find that, but what I did discover is that the swamp is also a maze. You can't map it with the usual method of dropping items, because they will disappear. But you can do it with multiple players, apparently. The reward at the end is a crown, which I hear is the most valuable treasure in the game. I might have to make some more guys and give this a try.

Similarly, you can apparently get some treasure by having three characters meditate simultaneously in the Shrine, the Sacred Chamber and the Ancient Chamber. This is another one I'll have to give a shot.

The last thing I set out to discover was the "reset button". During one of my first games of MUD1, a friendly player named Saruman took me under his wing and showed me a lot about the game as he was looting everything in sight. The last thing he did was summon me to a ledge overlooking the Dwarf Realm. After explaining that he'd swamped pretty much all of the treasure, he showed me a button that would reset the game back to its default state. I pressed it, and it did exactly that.

I hadn't been able to find it since. I thought it might be accessed through the Dwarf Realm, but I didn't find anything when I mapped the place. The other likely locations were the narrow cracks in the mines, which can only be accessed if you're not carrying anything. There turned out to be three of these areas, and mapping them with no light was a difficult task. One of them simply led to a "Doom Room", which was seemingly inescapable. Another just seemed to loop around, leading nowhere, but when I went through and typed GET ALL in every location I found a wand and a piece of tin ore. I couldn't move while carrying them, but I was able to wave the wand and teleport out with the ore. The wand disappeared though, so I'm not sure if or how it can be kept.

The third of the narrow cracks was a long, linear path, and it eventually led to the ledge I had been summoned to so long ago. I tried hitting the reset button, but it wouldn't let me reset the game as there was someone else playing at the same time. It makes me question this button's utility, because the game resets pretty quickly if there's nobody playing. You can quit and come back in a minute or so, and the game is back to its default state. Perhaps it was more useful back in the old days?

That leaves me with just one thing to discuss: becoming a Witch or Wizard. This is the ultimate goal of the game, and you need around 104,000 points to do it. From what I've read, doing so grants you immortality and a number of other powers. I'm pretty sure they can turn invisible; I've been trolled by mysterious voices more than once. Anyway, I'm trying to make Wizard as my ultimate goal with this game. It should be doable as long as I can avoid being killed by other players, but I've heard that once you reach the rank of Legend at about 50,000 points treasures are worth far less. This is apparently to encourage earning points through killing other players, which I gather was a large part of the experience. I've tasted a little of that, but I'm not really game to try it again. I don't relish killing low-level players, and I don't like the idea of being murdered when I'm close to my goal. I'll stick to treasure hunting, and take the long, safe road to Wizard.

With that, there's nothing left but to give this game a Final Rating. It should be noted here that I'm playing the version of this game available at British Legends, which is from 1987. It's probably more advanced than the 1978 game, but a look at the original source code shows that the content is pretty much the same.


Story & Setting: There's no story to this game, as a single player experience; it's a simple treasure hunt much like most other adventure games of the era. As a multi-player experience, I imagine that all sorts of emergent story-telling was happening, as well as organised events. As for the setting, the Land is evocative and mysterious, and is put together in a way that everything fits and makes sense. None of it is explicitly tied together, but it's all there in such a way that I couldn't help but make connections, and exploring the Land has been a joy. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: A lot of characters and monsters roam the Land. Some are combat obstacles, such as the dryad, the rats, the zombies and the skeletons. Others are involved in puzzles, like the ox, the beggar and the ogre. Pretty much all of them can be killed though, and they're all worth points in one form or another. None of them really come alive as characters though, and the combat isn't varied enough to make them stand out either. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Aesthetics: As usual, I have to knock this down for being a text adventure. I'm also tempted to dock it for the WizTerm client's ugly cyan background, but that's no fault of the original game. What it lacks in visuals, though, it makes up for with atmospheric writing that gives it a real sense of place. I mentioned before that I enjoyed exploring this game, and that wouldn't have been possible without the quality of prose. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Mechanics: As a text adventure this game does okay, although it's nowhere near as advanced in this regard as Zork. Most of the impressive features of this game come from its multiplayer aspect, of which I sadly only brushed the surface. It should also be given some props for its magic system, something else I didn't get to try out much. Rating: 4 out of 7.

Challenge: I found this game difficult at first, but was able to gradually solve most of the puzzles through trial and error (and some help from my commenters with the Mausoleum). Most of the solutions were refreshingly logical, especially in comparison to most of the other adventures around at the time. I always had something to do, and it's only now after weeks of solid playing that I'm stuck. The only sore point I have is the possibility of being ganked by other players, but I guess that's intended as a feature rather than a bug. Rating: 5 out of 7.

Innovation & Influence: As the very first MUD - and the game that the entire genre is named after - I have to mark it high. It's also the first ever multi-player game on the internet, as in 1983 Essex University allowed remote access to their DEC-10 mainframe between 2 am and 7 am. Any way you slice it, MUD1 is a huge part of gaming history and I have to give it top marks here. Rating: 7 out of 7.

Fun: Here's how you know I've enjoyed MUD1: I'm still playing it. It took me a bit to warm up to it though, as the multiplayer aspect was a turn-off. Once I got going though I was really sucked in. At the moment it's gotten a little rote, though. I'm stuck with the puzzles and am pretty much grinding for points. Still, it has enough content to amuse anyone who likes old-school adventure games for a week or two, as long as they don't mind having no particular goal. Rating: 4 out of 7.

I am definitely awarding the bonus point to MUD1, as I'm still happily plugging away at it. The above scores add up to 26, which doubled gives a Final Rating of 52. That puts it at a very respectable third overall, and would place it second on the charts for both adventure games and RPGs. (It could go in either, but its RPG elements are about equal to those of Zork, albeit with a far more overt Dungeons & Dragons influence.) I think that's a fair rating, it's up there with Zork and The Game of Dungeons v5 as games I've legitimately enjoyed.


Somewhat later in this blog I made the decision to overhaul my Final Rating system, so I'm going back through and fixing all of the games I've already played as of March 2020.  I've ditched the Innovation and Influence category, and replaced it for adventure games with a category for Puzzles.  For CRPGs I'm using a Combat category.  I've also changed the purpose of the bonus points, saving them for games that are important, innovative, influential, or have features that are otherwise not covered by my other categories.

Also, the Final Rating is a boring name.  The CRPG Addict has his GIMLET.  The Adventure Gamers have their PISSED rating.  Data Driven Gamer has his harpoons.  So I'm ditching the generic name and calling my new system the RADNESS Index: the Righteous Admirability Designation, Numerically Estimating Seven Scores. It's a pretentious mouthful, but I'm going with it.

Combat: MUD1 doesn't really have puzzles as such, at least not in the way that a lot other adventure games do, so I'm rating it for Combat.  It has a surprisingly robust combat system, mostly to handle all the player vs. player violence.  When you're low level it's fairly repetitive, but once you get spells it gets pretty interesting, giving you the ability to teleport people around and put them to sleep, or zap them with a wand.  It's ahead of just about all the genuine CRPGs that have been released up to this point.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

Bonus Points: 2.  Much like Colossal Cave Adventure, this game is so seminal that an entire genre was named after it, and an influence like that will definitely earn a game the full 2 points.

MUD1 has a RADNESS Index of 44. That puts it third on the list overall, and second as an adventure game. Only Zork and The Game of Dungeons v5.4 are rated higher.

NEXT: My next target is a text adventure called Treasure Hunt, by Lance Micklus. It apparently draws a lot from Hunt the Wumpus, so it will at least be something a little different for the genre. I might be able to knock it off in a single post as well, if I'm lucky. Time to fire up the old TRS-80 emulator!


  1. I've played Treasure Hunt, and I'm not sure I'd really classify it as an adventure game. It's more like an expanded variant of Hunt the Wumpus with some minor adventure game elements than anything.

    1. That's fine. I'm not going to be particularly hardline about genre distinctions. If something makes it onto my list I'm going to blog about it.

    2. Of course. Just wanted to point out what the game is so you know what you're going to :)

  2. Regarding the Isle of Woe players have been known to disappear entirely after visiting the island. Some say that (*) indicates one who has left the world of the visible. A useful feature in a game filled with those who would love to kill you. Or terrifying to find yourself summoned to the isle when you'd thought you were playing alone. When invisible you get no points completing tasks or dropping items into the swamp. You can become visible again by attacking something. Invisibility can be helpful for all manner of dangerous tasks...

    Dragons are a fearsome beast. Once dead they might not even notice it for a while. After doing a thing it may be worthwhile to do something else for a while just to be sure. I think you should give it another go, you could be warm. Or just fiery.

    Feels like this series needs one more entry to tidy up a couple last tasks.