May '99 Mud of the Month

Order: Dave (Chaos) and I started out MUDding in 1991 on the “Epic” server at MIT using the Apollo computers in the EE department at The University of Tulsa. We never got very far on that MUD, but I remember chasing a Baker Elf around a lot, killing a bunch of smurfs and chess pieces, and getting healed by a two-headed healer. Then some people at TU started a MUD based on Diku called “Quest” (yeah, lousy name, you just had to know the implementers), and we became instrumental in creating a few things for that MUD (as well as taking advantage of a few “bugs” to become immortal :)). I created the original Gahld area for that MUD. I even had an Independent Study course for creating a visual interface for the MUD using CURSES (a UNIX text-based interface, I never got the code into the MUD due to technical limitations of CURSES). In the fall of 1993, we downloaded the Merc 2.1 code and started our own MUD at the 4321 location at TU in November of 1993. Our primary goals were to not allow the Immortal class that was common on most other MUDs at that time (hence the name: “Mortal Realms”), expand the Merc code to create a more extensive class system, support a VT100/ANSI Color interface, and add lots of skills and spells. I implemented most of the new skills for the Necromancer (Rip, Rift, etc.), Rogue (throw, greater peek, etc.), and Assassin (spy, assassinate, etc.). I also created the Tower of Reason using a mixture of C programs and MobProgs.

Chaos: Mortal Realms, as Dug mentioned, really started as an experiment to see if we could put together a decent mud. Both Dug and I enjoy coding as a hobby. We both graduated from the same class at the University of Tulsa with electrical engineering degrees. During this time, we played several muds, but really didn’t find much of interest besides that we liked to work on them. I developed several areas for Quest, and even a working VT102 system, which was never used. Quest finally died when the main people abused too many privileges on their college sanctioned mud. Dug and I wandered the mud either for a year or two, and then started Mortal Realms after we graduated. Although we did not wish to have players in god position, we took the role of Order and Chaos to give the Player Killing system a theme. We each had followers that battled in a constant war. Our initial format set the main motif that we follow to this day. During the first few months after startup, we had a visit from Kahn, one of the three main coders for Merc, who gave some quite nice compliments. Mortal Realms basically grew up as a hobby for Dug (Order) and I. When the tasks grew too large for the two of us, we added other admins to help with certain areas, although we maintained the coding group. We’ve seen several interesting events happen in the time that we’ve been operating. A book, Net Games, has about a third of a chapter devoted to Mortal Realms, and Strategy Gamer Plus magazine had us spotlighted under a section for MUDs for two consecutive months. At one time, Dug and I spent a Saturday afternoon discussing to a large group of people, the Tulsa Computer Society, what a mx1ud was. We also received a large boost from being hosted by the now deceased web sites of Arcadium. Mortal Realms was the only actual game hosted by the Arcadium network, and it received the honor of being in the top 5 Coolest Sites under Netscape for about a year. We spent several years looking for a great site, while working under fairly adequate machines and system admins, until recently. A large Internet content provider picked us up simply to give them a marketing statement. Currently we are running on a relatively huge computer system directly linked to the Internet backbone. As far as hosting sites, things have never been better.

1. Describe the admin structure, and how it relates to your job function. Was it always this way?

Chaos: The admin structure has developed into a top-down hierarchy, with my position being that of something like president. Under that is the coder group, the area editor group, and the police group. We also have several smaller special-interest groups, such as the web-page authors and system admins. I spend most of my work with the coding group, although I also try to work out differences between the other admins. Initially we had nothing like the present structure, as Dug and I did almost everything. This changed when we started getting more areas, and we made the area editor group. Then Dug and I were overwhelmed with requests for assistance from players, so we developed the police group. I would say the present structure of admins, which total around fifteen is more of an evolution, than anything planned. Personally, I still like coding and rule construction the best.

Presto: The admin structure is broken out by job responsibility. Chaos is the lead programmer and head administrator of the game. All game-critical decisions go through him. Then we have coders, who also program (one of which is our site admin), area administrators, who supervise the additions and changes to any areas, game enforcers, who enforce the rules of the game, and we have a web-site admin. It wasn’t always structured this way. When I started playing in January of 1994, our only administrators were Chaos and Order, who supervised any and all changes to the game.

Jaxom: The admin structure is divided into three main groups. Coders, Area Admins, and Enforcers. Coders add to and maintain the hard code of the mud. Area Admins facilitate the creation of new areas for the mud, and the Enforcers police the mud enforcing its rules and provide assistance as needed. This structure has been in place for several years although each of the divisions has recently added new people to help. I am one of the two current Area Admins.

Picard: As an area creator, for now, my interaction with the administration is limited to those right above myself, mainly the content and implementation. They answer my questions, when available, and run daily updates on the test mud ports for debugging purposes. They are also available to manipulate statistics beyond the trust level given to standard area writers. In the past few months we’ve seen a new influx of creators, several from my clan (it’s easy to addict them), and the upheaval that usually accompanies new minds and personalities. There seems to be much more communication than what was previously in place. MR has an unique position with regards to coding….. only recently have I been privy to some of the behind-the-scenes work that happens. For awhile, we had no clear idea what was happening, but now several players have returned after their lives have settled down, and we are once again seeing the fruits of their works. Since, like anything, players come and go, MR may go anywhere. With continual optimization, addition of new skills and opportunities, there is a limitless potential for growth.

2. Describe the enhancements in MR that set it apart from other Merc/Diku based muds. What is unique?

Chaos Mortal Realms started as an experiment in user interfaces and unique classes. All of our classes are considered subclasses in the traditional fantasy role-playing world. The class Elementalist is one that I coined, and interestingly, has been showing up on several other muds. Many areas are unique to Mortal Realms, such as the player-killing system, the enhanced terminal program for Win95, object and mobile programming for area creators. We also have a highly optimized code set with very fast RAM compression, which allows us to handle large player bases with smaller machines. We have a very detailed world with mostly unique areas, and many unique skills for the classes. Our areas also include the ability to track a player’s progress in a task, and allows for incredibly detailed quests. At last check, our source code was up to around 2.6 Megs, so we’ve grown about four times the base size of the original Merc 2.1 code we started from.

Presto The biggest enhancement we have over other Merc/Diku based muds in my opinion is the VT102 interface. It draws players into the game when they first log on. Then when they see how huge the game is and make friends with some of the players, they usually decide to stay. Other enhancements worthy of note are the way we implement the mob and object programs, our multi-classing structure, re-incarnation, and the ability for area editors to add sound and video files to their areas, which are downloaded during the game if you use MRTerm, a color telnet client written by Chaos.

Jaxom The best and most noticeable enhancement in MR is its vt100 interface which includes a heads up display containing everything needed to play the game. The tactical display includes a small map of the immediate area, as well as a constantly updated list of mobiles and characters in the room and their fight status. Two status bars also provide access to character status including current hit points and spell affects.

Picard I found MR by accident, several years ago, while scanning what people were doing on our email hosts. Having tried several different ‘unusual’ connections, I settled on Mortal Realms. The choice was immediately clear: A tactical that showed not only where I was, but also which rooms were around me. All the other muds I tried simply had archaic text interfaces…. This one had a beautiful screen to play around with. Coupled with a very good introductory area, built specifically for new people, and others that leveled around that area giving assistance, I was able to figure out much of the command structure easily.

3. How has MR affected your life?

Chaos: Mortal Realms has given me something more than a hobby. I actually see it as helping people, or at least providing entertainment. I never wanted to do this for any monetary return, and thoroughly enjoy coding and working on rules. As far as outside of the game uses for MR, I’ve used the programming experience in all my engineering job interviews. The single most important affect to my life was meeting my wife at a mud-meet. She hated my in-game character before we met, and was not really looking forward to meeting me. And, yes, she was a game admin before we met.

Presto: MR has definitely given me a better understanding of the C programming language. I started as an area programmer. At one point I had written seventeen percent of the realm. It’s pretty cool knowing that people from all over the world can log in and live in a world you helped create.

Jaxom: The most profound effect MR has had on my life is that is where I met my wife. We met first on MR and then after about 6 months, we decided to meet in real life. Five months later we were married. I spend a portion of every day on the mud working with Area Creators helping them get their areas ready for MR.

4. Where do you see MR in 5 years? What will have changed and/or remained the same?

Chaos: In five years, Mortal Realms will be seeing a change in focus to include more intelligence and detail in game play. I realize that games such as Unreal and Thief have fairly good content, and an excellent gaming interface, but I don’t see it crossing the boundary that is imposed by a graphics interface. I feel that text based muds will always exist if people still read and write, as the written word can always convey a concept or vision better than any picture or movie. Game play will be detailed, and abilities diverse in the extreme, and we will have supplemental graphics and movies besides the static jpgs that we have now.

Presto: I’ve been with MR just over five years, and a lot has changed in that time. Over the next five years, I think we’ll see an increase in our player base, as more and more people get connected to the internet, and as we bring back voluntary player-killing. I see our builders producing more and more areas, and we have some pretty neat ideas we’ll be coding yet.

Jaxom: In 5 years I can see a MR full of old and new players. Many new and fancy improvement will have been made to the code. I can see an expanded player base, and the same great social system that has evolved on MR.

5. What do you think modern mudders value? How does MR cater to this?

Chaos: Modern mudders like a lush world, and a clean, but detailed interface. They like lots of diverse abilities, and tough, yet attainable challenges. They are looking for the rush of a player-kill and the satisfaction of mastery of a class. To these desires, Mortal Realms is always striving to add more and improve everything. One of the founding premises of MR is that change is the only constant.

Presto: I think modern mudders value meeting people not too different from themselves, who they can share a good time with, whether it’s sitting in a clan hall and chatting about real life, or adventuring into the realm and slaying beasts together. MR gives them the opportunity to do either.

Jaxom: Stability is one of the things many mudders look for. They want to be able to get online and on MR when they feel like it and have it always be there for them. On MR stability is the highest concern to the admins who are constantly striving to make the mud more stable. Another thing mudders like is a large number of players and areas. As MR is open to all who wish to create, its list of areas is ever increasing. The admins are also always looking for new ways to entice new players to the game.

Picard: I think back to my first 24 hour mudding session….. that was such a blast. I had had 3 characters going for awhile, and found someone in one of the ‘prime’ leveling areas….. that person helped me get some 4 or 5 levels that night on all 3 chars… I was amazed. I was also assassinated for the first time, and that pretty much ended my night of mudding. Oh well, take the good with the bad….

I am someone with a short attention span; I can admit that. Now what was I about to say… Oh yes, short attention span. Several creators have noticed this, and given areas over to this theme, call them ‘attention getters’. Others, like myself, choose the strong, silent approach. But the wonderful thing is that both new and old mudders can be served… you don’t like a particular area, move on to another… It really is just that simple. Coupled with some really ingenious individuals that must eat, sleep, and dream in quest-bits, I can say with certainty that there are quests to intrigue the most advanced questor…. And some that may even stump them.

6. What is MR’s greatest asset in terms of catering to adventurers?

Chaos: Mortal Realm’s greatest asset is the area creator and area editor groups. We have over a hundred unique locales to adventure in, all with excellent detail and programming. Our area editing group screens all new adventures to make sure that they follow the fantasy theme, for a clean tradition adventuring style. We do have several areas that are considered stock Merc/Diku areas, but these have been given fairly extensive over-hauls to bring them up to standard with the other areas. Our world is very large, and those interested can find a graphical world map on our web pages.

Presto: Our greatest asset for catering to adventurers is our builders. They do an excellent job of creating quests and areas that challenge the players.

Jaxom: The greatest asset MR has when it comes to catering to adventurous players is its great number of areas and quests. I myself have code over 50 different quests that are available to players of all levels. MR is large enough now that every player on the mud could stay in a different area if they so chose.

7. What is the political nature of the game, and how does it affect the day to day lives of the players?

Chaos: There are several political structures within the game. We have the two Gods and their followers who are constantly engaged in a power struggle as played out by the players. There are clans that tend to have rivalries while offering support and friendship. Some player races have put together a loose network of friends to make something similar to kingdoms. And the police, with their Duke and Duchess (not related), and their Sheriffs help players that are being harassed or simply oversee game-play. With all these groups, very few players are avid GDIs.

Presto: The political structure currently is wrapped up with the great assassin debate. A few years ago, just before Order left, he coded the assassinate command, which gave assassins the ability to attack other players without being followers of a God. This was how our involuntary player-killing started. Since then, most of the players who don’t have assassin characters argue that the assassins have too much power, and the players with assassins argue that they don’t have enough power and are treated unfairly.

Picard: Politics, unfortunately, are also a part of MR. Given the nature of a game that imitates life, it would be nearly impossible for it to be otherwise. Oh, I can quote numerous examples of politics, and all the associated cajoling, ranting, raving, name calling, assassinating, retribution, sometimes even jailing if it would be carried too far, but the one constant is that, like life, it blows over. It may take awhile, but it does. Sometimes these situations heal themselves, sometimes it takes an administrative policy, but they always fade away.

Jaxom: The politics of MR is much like politics anywhere. The old and vocal players lead the way in voicing their thoughts while the quiet and newbies happily mud along ignorant of anything besides their next level. MR is suited to either type of player and the player can choose the amount to which they are involved in its politics.

8. What advice can you give new players to help get them started?

Chaos: Advice all depends on whether you’re completely new to muds, new to Merc/Dikus, or just new to Mortal Realms. All Win95/98/NT players should use MrTerm. Making a first time character would probably best if it’s experimental, in that most usually go back and re-make a new character after they’ve played a bit. Once you enter the Realm, I suggest that you type HELP first thing. If you plan on joining a clan, take a look at the web pages to find one of interest and contact them when you first start. Clans tend to help out newbies if they have a desire to join.

Presto: The biggest piece of advice I can give new players is to pay close attention to everything while in the tower of training (our starting area). The quickest way to achieve power in the realm is to learn as much as you can as quickly as possible. If you have a question, check the help files. If you can’t find an answer, ask one of the players.

Jaxom: Read all the help messages available and group with other more experienced players who know the ins and outs. MR has a comprehensive help menu that is easy to use and covers just about anything. Don’t hesitate to ask questions of the older players on the racial chat channels and have fun.

Picard: New players are always welcome on MR. Most of the active members I associate with are more than willing to assist newbies, and the most important thing I can tell you to do is to seek out a few veterans. Don’t ask every question, but rather ask those you can not answer. Try to get a few levels on your own, but don’t hesitate to ask several questions during them. Who knows, maybe they’ll make a new char and come join you, just for fun and old times sake.

9. How does MrTerm and the websites help MR?

Chaos The website is used as a portal for new players, and a reference source for existing players. We have a fairly extensive network of official and unofficial web pages. Some introductory information about the game is located there, but a more experienced mud player can simply jump right into the game. Also stored at the website is MrTerm. MrTerm was developed as a counterpart to Mortal Realms, and as a general telnet application. MrTerm allows those new to muds to start quickly, without the hassle of configuring and learning a terminal program. MrTerm also adds JPGs, MIDIs, WAVs, and GIFs to adventures.

Presto MRTerm is probably the only telnet client I’ve seen that will download images and sound directly from a mud to the computer, allowing area creators to put that media directly in their areas. The website is structured quite well, and I’ve heard of several players joining the game after visiting it.

Picard As a builder, I live off of MR’s website. We (creators) can use it to communicate, although many of us use ICQ to ask questions back and forth. The web is the repository for code and necessities of building areas, as well as a quick reference for help files and policies. The client specifically written for MR has its advantages, but, being a raw telnet user (Ewan 1.052, baby!), I don’t feel the need for any client interface. I do, on occasion, use TinTin, but very rarely.

Jaxom MrTerm is a program that will greatly enhance the experience of MR with sounds and graphics. As it is built specifically for MR, MrTerm makes the most of all of the enhancements that MR has to offer. The websites dedicated to MR contain information that will help the newbie become a confident player in no time. It will also help a player take the next step in MR evolution and become an area creator.

10. What are you presently working on?

Chaos: Most of my current work involves enhancing the player-killing aspects of the game. Currently the class of Assassin is undergoing a facelift to make it more devious and powerful, while at the same time limiting their available targets to those that wish to join in to player-killing.

Presto: Right now I’m working on four new races (bringing our total up to twelve), which should be implemented shortly.

Picard: Unfortunately, being praised for uniqueness and interesting quests is addicting, and as such I’ve begun creation of several more areas. As a Latin student and fascinated with Roman history, I see a distinct theme forming, with 1 of 5 areas coded and in testing, and 3 addition mapped on paper with quests written out. I also have been granted the rights to build the headquarters of a new race being entered into the game, quite an honor.

Jaxom: At present I handle most of the daily updates on MR’s Test Mud. This is where Area creator can get their areas loaded to be tested and refined before that area is loaded onto the Real MR. I assist new builders when they need help with their area code, and recently I have been seeing to the building of four new racial army headquarters.

Pythos: Hello, I am known by many names on Mortal Realms, none of which are my real name. I bought my first computer in April of 1997, went online the first time later in that month, and started looking for a MUD in late June of 1997. In July of 1997, I found Mortal Realms and decided to stay.

The tactical display, status bar, and ability to multi-log make the game much easier to play while the ability to reincarnate keeps my interest so I keep playing. I have one of only five characters that have reincarnated five times, along with six other characters who have reincarnated one to three times.

Some of my better known characters on Mortal Realms are Pythos, Renee, Clipless, Spender, Zealot and Serene. I have a total of 27 characters, which is rather large, even when taking into consideration the rules permitting one to play three characters at a time. In the nearly two years, I have logged over 2000 hours on one character and over 1000 hours on about seven others. During that time, I have had the honor of being selected as a leader of one of the older clans along with the honor of creating three areas (two more are on the way).

I am minimally involved in voluntary playerkilling. There are many people who like to play the voluntary playerkilling aspects of the game, along with many who prefer playing the involuntary playerkilling aspects. The involuntary pk aspects of the game are restricted in that only a pure assassin with the proper amount of levels can assassinate anyone of their desire, and they are only permitted to attempt to kill someone above their level down to ten levels below their level. Assassins who get a killer flag can be attacked by any player on the mud, provided they follow the same restrictions concerning levels. This restricted pkilling aspect of the game permits new players the opportunity to learn how to protect themselves and other aspects of the game before they are forced to protect themselves from other players.

Anyone who has played Mortal Realms can create areas if they so desire and I have chosen to take more of my time creating areas so I can give back to the game that has given me so much pleasure in my nearly two years. It is just another thing that keeps me playing Mortal Realms, watching people work through my areas.

Fandrall: I have been playing MR for 3+ years. I have created many, many characters during that time, but have devoted the most time to my main character, Fandrall. I have logged somewhere around 1500 hours between all my characters during that time. I was introduced to MR back when I was a freshmen at the University of Tulsa and was instantly addicted. It seemed to me that there was this entire online world I had to explore with endless challenges, and I wanted to explore every inch of it and meet every one of those challenges. 3 years later, I still find something new every day, and with the frequent updates and new areas added to the game, MR truly seems alive. Another aspect I grew to love about the game is that the players are very passionate about the game and there is a sense of community about the realms, complete with friends and sometimes foes. My clan is very much like an online family to me, and that makes the game more enjoyable than I had ever imagined.

Winkin: My name is Winkin. I have been playing the realms for about 8 months now. I heard of mortal realms through friends of mine. I was into the D&D scene for quite a while so this game sparked my interest due to their similarities. It took me a while to get adjusted in the realms. I was a so classed “newbie” and knew very little of how things were run. From time to time a veteran would show up and give advice on how to give yourself an advantage. The leveling of my first couple characters went very slow. Trying to find the right areas to level was a very slow but interesting voyage. Now however, after making several characters, leveling has become a breeze. However leveling, like anything else, lost its spark after a while so I turned to other aspects of the game. Pkilling was my next destination. I have just started pkilling in the last month and I have to say this is probably the biggest challenge the Realm has to offer. I am by no means one of the better pkillers in Mortal Realms. (Actually, I’m horrible) But I do enjoy it a lot.

I think the best aspect in Mortal Realms would be its clan system. I am a very proud member of clan ChEcKmAtE, who welcomed me with open arms after only playing for a couple months. Joining a clan has many advantages. In every clan there are the veterans who are always online to help you when you need it most. Equipment runs are done on almost a daily basis. Strong friendships and even stronger relationships *wink Squirt* *wink Warder* are born within a clan.

Mortal realms has gone through some major reconstruction since I have joined. Some for the better, some for the worst, but it’s all opinion, however, the makers of the Realms always have their ears open to suggestions and complaints from their players.

I have played on a few MUDs and I have to say this is the one of the best games on the Internet. You have to have some patience however, because unlike other games, things won’t just be placed in your lap. You have to work hard for what you want.

Eileshe: My brother introduced me to MR in late 1995. He was spending a lot of time there, so I decided to have a look. I was a completely novice mudder, but I got the hang of the interface quite quickly (and having since looked around at a few other muds, I now know that the MR interface is very friendly). I liked that someone who wasn’t a hardcore gamer (yet! ;)) could learn and get into the game.

The best things to me about Mortal Realms are my ability to role-play, and the clan setup. My characters each have distinct “identities”, and although the real me slips into my conversations with friends on the mud, the characters themselves are individuals. For example, I play mostly elf characters, and elf chat is one of the most fun and witty to be a part of. It also adds to the role play identity of my characters because it helps me feel proud to be an elf.

The clan structure is probably the most important thing to me about Mortal Realms. The ability to have a “home”, a place where you can be with knowledgeable players who are good friends, is wonderful. Many real life friendships have sprung up from the people I know in my clan (called ChEcKmAtE) and having a variety of people who know different aspects of the game also means you have help and advice about the game. When I was a newbie, it was nice to have people to help me learn some of the tricks to surviving in the realms, and the help I get from clannies is still invaluable.

In short, Mortal Realms has enough variety to keep it interesting. It lets me be the kind of player I feel like being on a given day – whether I want to be social, or to level hard, or to try out pkilling. Mortal Realms lets you play the kind of characters and situations you like to play, which means it lets you define your own meaning of fun.

Durandel: Mortal Realms is one of the few things that have had a very strong and positive effect on my life. I started playing when I was about 16 years old. I had always been interested in Role playing games, specially the AD&D type. So when i heard about this game from a kid in school, I asked him to teach me how to play. And that’s how in 1996 I created my first character, Durandal, a rogue. There were about other 5 kids that played MR from the school’s lab, and since i was the only girl they were very friendly and helpful. *grin* At first the game was a little confusing, but if you have the basic knowledge about role playing games, playing this mud is rather easy. There are alot of advantages for the new players and people is happy to help out newbies. (I always help out newbies! heheh)

The game has a different interface from all the other muds. I really like the vt102 and the tactical index and the map you are able to see on your screen all the time, they help me know who’s around, what they are doing, and most important of all, I helps me not to get lost!! Another thing i like is you get to pick from a great variety of races and classes when you create your character, that along with the many (many!!!) areas and mobs, present a coherent setting of a medieval fantasy world.

There is nothing more addictive on MR than the people. The players are very passionate, and very different. I have met the most interesting enemies on MR, and my best friends i met when i joined clan RIOT. I love just hanging out with them, we have really good laughs. They have taught me a lot, not only about the game, but they made me an more open minded person, and since I’m not an english native speaker, I have learned a LOT of useful words and phrases *grin* It was a great experience when I got to meet them in real life. *nudge dave*

The game is in constant change. Rules and restrictions have changed to satisfy the needs of the different kinds of players. (And its always a challenge and a privilege for RIOT to break all this new rules hehehehe.. jk jk! *stare*) I like the new skills that rogues are able to use now. And i started player-killing when the reinc restrictions on God wars were implemented. The world is always growing with new areas, new quests, you never get bored! I have played over 1000 hrs on my main characters, and you can be sure there will be many hundred more hehehehe.

  • 12 detailed races, and 7 complex player classes.
  • Multi-classing system allowing a wide range of combinations.
  • Completely menu based, tree structured help system.
  • Graphics and sound when using the MrTerm program.
  • Advanced ANSI/VT102 interface for enhanced real-time play.
  • Tactical statistics and combat display.
  • Reincarnation system for long-term players.
  • Selectable player-killing system.
  • Bounty system.
  • Advanced object and mobile programs for enhanced quests.

    Mortal Realms is an excellent example of how a Dikumud can evolve with the hard work and dedication of talented programmers… The extensive help file system, tactical system, vt102 display and dedicated client (MRTerm) are all great examples of the work and effort that has gone into the mud. I found the player community to be inviting and friendly and the MR website quite extensive.

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