December '98 Mud of the Month

Clandestine was first started in August 1997 when two of the immortals on the mud Land of the Lost Unicorn (LUN) felt their creativity far exceeded the ability of LUN to implement the vision they had for a mud. Their initial vision was to create a world where the players’ fun was the highest priority, and with many hidden secrets. The MUD was initially named “Reality’s Edge” until it was discovered that the name had already been taken. Drawing from the “secret underworld” in the MUD’s main area, the name was changed to “Clandestine Realms”, or just “Clandestine.” The initial IMPlementors were Fyre (Server Administator/Coder), Sebek (Builder/Coder), Malkoth (Builder), Cotharyus (Coder), Nightfall (Coder), and Damia (Mortal Relations) and the MUD owes all of them a great deal of thanks for the initial work they did in establishing the MUD.

By September, however, only Sebek and Damia were still actively involved. The initial coders found more work elsewhere, Fyre returned to LUN, and Sebek lacked the coding experience to make significant progress to implement his vision. Coincidentally, a friend and player named “Nebulous” had just heroed on LUN, had just started playing on Clandestine (as “Nebseni”), and was seeking to code to earn immortal levels.

Unsure of Neb’s abilities, Sebek assigned him a spell to write that had stymied him for weeks. Without any previous MUD coding experience, Nebulous scanned the stock ROM code for the appropriate functions and put the spell together in about 10 minutes (complete with liberal comments!). He went from newbie to IMPlementor in about 24 hours… a Clandestine leveling record!

The “Seb & Neb” team then rapidly took the mud to higher levels. Together they implemented the religion spell system, reincarnation, and several immortal utility functions. The MUD officially opened to the public on October 25, 1997 with a player base of 200 (averaging 10-15 online). What they didn’t realize was how successful the choices they had made establishing the mud were in attracting and keeping good players.

As mentioned previously, the first priority of the MUD is to make it fun for the players. One of the keys to this was allowing high-level mortals the ability to use skills and commands not normally available until immortality on most MUDs, such as posession of mobiles (similar to immortal “switch”), powerful spells and stats, and many unique choices of races and classes to allow for maximum roleplay.

The player base swelled, ideas kept pouring in, and many of the ideas became reality. Today Clandestine has a player base of over 2000, with over 50 players on most evenings. The mud boasts a strong international contingent, with many players from New Zealand, Singapore, and many countries in Europe. Most of Clandestine’s success is due to its constant state of change, constant improvement and implementation of player ideas. Since it opened, several unique features were added including master levels (high level mortals who choose not to pursue immortality may become even more powerful), multiclassing, powerful religion spells based on an established religion rank organization, and most recently the ability to link multiple players together in a chain to improve the power of spellcasting. And there’s more to come!

Clandestine’s current IMPlementors are Sebek, who codes, builds, and gives overall guidance, Nebseni, the head coder, and Sassy, an accomplished builder who earned her IMP level through several months of dedicated excellence as the head builder.

There’s only one problem at Clandestine: there are not enough IMMs around… it’s just too much fun being a mortal!

1. Describe your mudding history and how you came to be an implementor.

Sebek I was introduced to mudding in September 1996 by one of my friends, Kage. Kage and I go to college together and I always used to walk by when he was in the computer lab and talk to him, and I was always asking “what is this stuff, what are you doing?” I was heavily into talkers and chat rooms at that time as well as surfing the web, so I didn’t really take mudding seriously until he pretty much dragged me to a mud that he went to called Lost Unicorn and told me “TRY THIS NOW.” I gave it a shot, and from then on I was hooked. I have had a long background in D+D and various roleplaying games and it has always been my favorite gaming genre for as long as I can remember. After about a year and a half, I wanted to be an IMM at the mud so I could see what it was like and gain administrating experience, so I downloaded the MZF area program, hacked away at it for a few days and made my first area. I became hooked to area building and enjoyed it very much, so the IMPs of the mud decided to let me have a test port with the code, so I could learn how to do area stuff in the actual code and learn a little bit about the source code and linux functions. I worked away for months adding areas, and learning to put in snippets and gradually put in small pieces of my own code. After about 6 months of coding and building at the test port, I knew that my creativity and ideas were going to require me to have my own mud in order to do all the things that I wanted to do. I got together with Hammurabi, one of my friends from Lost Unicorn, and planned on starting a MUD called Horizons. That project fell through because we couldn’t get a machine to host our mud and neither of us had the money to pay for one at the time. I continued to work on my Immortality at Lost Unicorn and play there for enjoyment, while in the meantime thinking of a way that I could start my own mud and have the experience of making something that I could call my own and share with others. Another of my friends at Lost Unicorn, Damia, was interested in IMPing a mud and taking care of the player relations, so we began planning to start the mud. She was originally going to pay for a server for the mud, but one of our friends and head coder of Lost Unicorn at the time, Fyre, offered to host us on the ISP he administrated at the time. I then began to get very seriously into coding. Nebseni joined the scene shortly after I started Clandestine and taught me alot of new stuff about coding, and I’ve been coding, building, and enjoying Clandestine ever since.

Nebseni I’ve been programming since I taught myself BASIC on my Tandy Color Computer in 1982. A few years later, at the U.S. Naval Academy, I translated my interest in computing into an independent research project in Artificial Intelligence using the Prolog language. I was fascinated with the seemingly unlimited potential of the computer to represent many physical models and continued programming work for the next several years doing various modeling and simulation projects, culminating in my Master’s thesis which included an extensive Naval tracking system modeling ship motion and sensor performance. Coincidentally during the years I was working on my Master’s, I had just become hooked on the multiplayer games available on the CompuServe network. I wrote several trivia and word game programs that are still used on the Compuserve Chat areas, and several utilities for other multiplayer games. I eventually became one of the Assistant SysOps of the MultiPlayer Games forum (GO MPGAMES) there. In 1994 I discovered the “British Legends” game on CompuServe. Most people familiar with MUD history will recognize this game, by Richard Bartle, as the original MUD. (Other multi-user environments existed, but the name “Multi User Dungeon” was coined in reference to the original version of British Legends.) Although basic in its features, it displayed the characteristics that make a MUD successful… the players. BL is still going and is the longest continually running MUD in existence. After achieving immortality in British Legends, some of my fellow wizards introduced me to the internet MUDding environment. I began on a Diku mud called “Chaos Wastes” and was fascinated by all the capabilities of a net mud. Unfortunately, although the game had many features, there was a huge frustration factor of never being able to “win” the game… to achieve Immortality or some other goal… so I began to look elsewhere. I followed some friends to a ROM mud, Land of the Lost Unicorn. The large and friendly player base there… and a finite, achievable goal of making HERO got me addicted. Two months later I became only the fourth player there to HERO with a remorted character… and immediately became bored. I began to pursue immortality, hoping to use my coding experience to my benefit. Fortunately for me, Sebek was just starting Clandestine, and turned the primary coding job over to me… and the rest is history.

Sassy I started mudding because Diablo got boring and the person I played with introduced me to mudding. Clandestine is the 3rd mud I have really ever played on. I’ve been mudding about 2 years. I loved the mud when I came here as a newbie and people were so friendly and helpful. When I became an IMM the IMPs were impressed with my building abilities and after a few months gave me the position of Head Builder. This is my 2nd home. I have watched the non-stop changes being made to better the mud. I continued to try to add to the mud where ever I could and have turned down offers to build on other muds to stay here fulltime. “I Love This Place” [Admin note: Sassy was the first player to earn her way to the IMP position by leveling all the way to Master and earning each IMM level with her hard work and dedication!]

2. Has the mud made a significant impact Out Of Character?

YES!!! On October 3, 1998, Nebseni the Implementor married (in real life) Maybelle the Mischievous Pixie, whom he originally met on Clandestine in February. Mud conversations gave way to email… then meeting in real life, then engagement, and finally marriage. We can’t promise all our players will find the love of their life on Clandestine, but it’s certainly possible.

3. Clandestine has obviously embraced the WWW as a valuable medium of information exchange. How has your web presence helped with the mud?

One of the most difficult choices facing a new MUD player is their character selection, specifically the race and class. Because Clandestine has so many options (a total of 50 races and 30 classes) a player could spend hours trying to read through all the help files. Clandestine’s web page includes several pages of detailed information on races, classes, spells, skills, religions, areas, and many other items in a format that is very easy to browse and quickly compare and select their best choice. [Admin note: The Clandestine web page is at http://clandestine.mudnet.net/]

4. What features have you coded into Clandestine that distinguish it from the “stock” ROM muds out there?

The most obvious feature is the leveling system. After reaching HERO the first time, players can reincarnate or continue leveling to LEGEND and MASTER levels, gaining many more powerful statistics, skills, and abilities. MASTERS can pursue immortality or become the ultimate super-mortals.

Additionally, players may multiclass — level multiple classes at the same time, so they can earn benefits of both warrior-type and magic-type classes.

Clandestine has a religion system which uniquely defines its roleplay/social structure. Religions include priest ranks in which players contribute to their religion’s rules and policies, and warrior ranks, whose primary purpose is to enforce those rules and policies… and avenge fellow members when necessary.

You can ride your pet at Clandestine and gain some benefits (flying, swimming ability, for example) by doing so.

In addition to the standard ROM grouping in fights, players can form circles in order to combine their power for spellcasting and produce much more powerful spells.

Clandestine also has many small but unique features which add to the fun. A game of “Freeze Tag”, a sun, moon, and stars that move across the sky, a wide variety of unique skills, spells, and magical objects, and even a hidden underworld with the most powerful objects… which only a few players can find.

5. What do you mean by a “healthy mix of roleplay and hack’n’slash”?

The highest priority the IMPlementors have is the players’ fun and enjoyment. There is an inverse correlation between reality and fun. After all, if real life were fun, why would people MUD? The two key areas of enjoyment on a MUD are interacting with other players, both in and out of character, and pure, unadulterated blood-and-guts slaying of monsters (and occasionally other players!) We have tried to provide an environement where players can do both of these activities. Our large selection of races and classes and our religion system provides for great roleplay. We have made several features normally available only to IMMs on other muds available to the highest level mortals on Clandestine… essentially super-mortals. With the ability to multiclass the leveling experience is never truly over until a player wants it to be… there is always a goal… a new skill or ability to gain.

6. Do the administrators also play mortal characters?

Absolutely. We actually have a few each. Some are well-known to the mortals and are used primarily for roleplay. Others participate and blend in with all the other mortals without them knowing who’s on the other side. It’s essential to see the game from the player’s perspective to know what’s good, what’s bad, and what features are being abused.

7. You awaken to find yourself living in the world of Clandestine. What do you do to survive?

Make friends. There are many ways to improve your lot in life at Clandestine, and those who have been in the realm longer know better what they are. You don’t have to wait around long as a newbie before someone offers you assistance in obtaining that much needed gold, good equipment, and directions to the best monsters to kill. Clandestine is as much a social-roleplay MUD as it is hack-n-slash so you’ll enjoy alternating your time between these two activites.

Once you have been in the realm long enough to know your destiny, join a religion. This will give you many more … and closer … friends and allies, as well as access to the power of your diety.

8. What features are you presently working on?

I’m still working at some half-finished coding projects. Shootable weapons such as a bow-and-arrow that allow players to shoot into the next room are coded, but we haven’t decided exactly how to prevent their abuse so they remain unimplemented. We also have an extensive jousting (remember the ridable pets mentioned earlier?) and dueling field in planning. Finally, we’re still experimenting with web-based interfaces to the mud to make it more accessible and user-friendly for the non-telnet world.

9. Where do you see the mud in 5 years?

We just went over the one year mark, and could never have predicted our success a year ago. We have heard that the typical MUD lifespan is 2 years and we are determined to break that mold. Obviously the key to our success has been the RAPID implementation of new ideas from our players. (Many MUDS go through a laborious administrative process… at Clandestine we tend to try out new ideas and immediately let the players try them out. Typically we find loopholes and abuses and close them up, but it’s more fun that way!) I expect that in 5 years Clandestine will look totally different from what it is today. It will be playable from the web with pictures and sound, in addition to the normal text-only version for the die-hard MUDders. LAG will be a thing of the previous millenium.

Ariadne:

I found clandestine through the Mud Connector. Many things convinced me to stay. First was the friendly staff. There was always someone on willing to heal me, or give me some spells, or help me out when i needed cash. Another thing i liked was the original areas. Clandestine has several of them. Also, it has lots of original code, like the chain command, allowing players to pool their magical energy to make spells more powerful. I think what i like most about the MUD is all of the original code. It has many original spells, a unique (as far as i know) religion system, as well as several original skills.

[Admin note: the base “religion code” has nine religions based on combinations of good, neutral, evil and lawful, neutral, chaotic, and was modeled after the religion system on “Land of the Lost Unicorn (LUN)”. Clandestine added a unique rank system with priest and warrior ranks (each with special spells).]

Raveter:

I was referred to Clandestine by another player. I tried several characters before settling in. The large player base and the many hidden surprises made each visit entertaining. The best part of the MUD is the active players and the immortals. Clandestine has so many unique features, you can’t help but to be drawn into it. It is by FAR the best MUD I have ever played. It is challenging, yet SO much fun to play. The races, the classes, the religion code…all fantastic.

Skywise:

I found Clandestine on the zMud archive, and what convinced me to stay was the large amount of skills/races/classes etc. Lately what I have been enjoying most is talking with other mudders, especially the riddle contest Lagzilla had a few days ago. Other muds I have played on were small (not in player base but in stuff) and people weren’t as helpful as most people on this one. Of course they generally don’t complain as much, but one can’t win all the time!

Mapes:

I had been mudding for about a year when I found Clandestine. My first mud was strictly hack’n’slash. It taught me how to mud with the idea of getting big and bad and whooping everyone. My second mud was so strictly role-play that I could not handle it after my first few days. While RP was fun, I felt like I was accomplishing nothing. When I found Clandestine, it was perfect. I could level quickly yet still hang out with people and RP as much as I wanted to. In time I joined a religion, adopted a granddaughter (Maybelle), and reached the highest mortal level. After all this, the reason why I stayed is simple. Clandestine is just the most fun I have ever had on a mud.

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