MUDs (multi-user dungeons, dimensions, or domains) are typically computer roleplaying games running on internet servers or message boards. Players take the roles or characters, and operate them in text based worlds. Instead of using graphics, textual descriptions of rooms, characters, and non-player characters (NPCs) are used. Communication is achieved by typing commands.
In traditional MUDs, players take the roles of characters such as knights and wizards, and explore fantasy worlds populated by mythical animals, attempting to slay monsters and complete quests. Other MUDs have different settings, such as science fiction.
MUDs and [rogue-like] games began to appear in 1978, when personal computers were able to log into multi-line BBSes. MUDs became very popular in the USA in the 1980s. In Europe however, MUD development was focused on academic networks.
The original MUDs used paper and pencil games (such as Dungeons and Dragons) as their inspiration. Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle probably created the first MUD, however, some sources suggest that there were earlier MUDs that were not known about.
MUDs are still played today using the internet, and can be accessed via standard telnet clients, or MUD clients.
Several MUD variants have appeared over time:
- MUSH - often defined as multi-player shared hallucination. MUSHes originated from a program called TinyMUD. They focus more on the actual roleplaying (or acting) than MUDs do, and don't use experience systems. Players focus on making their character's life as accurate as they can. PennMUSH, TinyMUSH, PernMUSH, TinyMUSE and TinyMUX are members of the MUSH family.
- MUCK - defined as multi-user chat kingdom. MUCKs are similar to MUSHes as they focus on interaction between the characters.
- MUVE - defined as multi-user virtual environment. This is quite a recent term, created with the aim of having a less narrow or ambiguous acronym in the MUD genre.
- MOO - defined as MUD object oriented. MOOs can be programmed using the MOO programming language. MOOs are used for academic, social, and roleplaying purposes. Many are web-based, integrating text environments with multimedia features.
- MMORPGs - defined as massively multiplayer online roleplaying games. Once computer power and internet connectivity increased, graphical MMORPGs began to be developed (for example, EverQuest).
- Talker - a lesser known variant, a talker is essentially an MUD with the more complex parts of the code stripped away, leaving just the communication commands. People who use talkers are often called spods.
- RPIMUDs - defined as roleplay intensive multi-user dungeon. In RPIMUDs, players act out specific roles as if they were real. Realism is blended in with fantasy.