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Before there was WoW, there were MUDs

Depending on which definition you read, MUD stands for either Multi-User-Domain or Dungeon. Their origins go back to 1976 when Adventure which was programmed on a computer likely running with a Dorito processor. This was a dungeons and dragons themed (D&D) text based game where users played by entering commands into the game to perform actions and reading descriptions. The following year Zork came out on the ARPANET (great grand father of that thing we call the Internet) – this was the first Multi-User game that people could dial into the ARPANET and play together. Much like WoW of today MUDs also had a reputation of consuming people’s lives. At their height of their popularity some of them were even pay-to-play and made even more money than WoW in subscription fees. MUDs of more modern day are connected to via TELNET (built into all operating systems) or more sophisticated MUD clients which support an array of different things.

And now, here’s how I come into this:

In 1999 the Internet was still a relatively new and exciting thing to my friends and I. One of the people outside of my group of friends began playing a MUD – this gradually spread like wildfire and soon there were about 30 of us playing in our area. I spent the next 4 years playing it, ignoring other graphical online games just because I had so much fun and enjoyed it with all my friends. We always would tell stories of our exploits either killing other players or completeing quests, or our tragic down falls to some super NPC or even sometimes bitch to each other when one of us killed the other. I always look back at that period of my life fondly, you could no doubt about it label me a geek.

Sometime in 2002 – our beloved game went offline without much warning. We were all in shock – some of us began to bide our time, some of us went off to find new MUDs and then there was my friend Chris and I. Sometime in June 2002, we pushed off the shore in his dad’s canoe with a notebook and brains bursting with ideas. Together we drafted our initial idea for a game at that point we called “Mystic Shadows” – this was great and all but neither of us knew the first thing about creating one of these games or the language that was used to make them. It was later on in that summer I began to press myself to learn C, and after finding a suitable code base to build up from I began to slowly but surely make the changes to the code and add in the features we had discussed. In the fall, “Mystic Shadows” would occasionally go online from my Windows 98SE box for a few hours a night on the weekend and my friends would come in and play and give me feedback. Surprisingly, there was little bad feedback.

Around this time the game I mentioned that inspired me to work on this came back online – and is still online to this day, it is nearly 20 years old now!

I continued to write areas along with friends and put it all together until February 2002 we finally went online live as “Realm of Shadows”! Within the first few hours people began to pour in, I think it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Looking back on what the game was then compared to what it would be later after I continued to improve my skills, it was really not that impressive – I think one of our hugest successes was to have such a dedicated and friendly staff there to help people when they needed it.

From February 2003 – until January 2006 I spent thousands of hours working on making the game better and better. The game was doing fairly well, much better than several other games I had seen and before it was over I even inspired a spin-off which still is online today running large portions of my code.

The doors were closed in January 2006 due to my increasingly busy life. Being a firm supporter of the Open Source movement, I put my code where my mouth was and released it to the public.

3 years passed. I often would think back on those days very fondly and how exciting it was to run to the library to check in on my world and see how everything was going. I’ve made many friends, met many people and learned so much – and as I mentioned, spent thousands of hours on it. I literally have 5,440 hours in game alone.

On July 1st 2009, the code base for Realm of Shadows was dusted off, recompiled and fired up again after buying my old domain name back and tracking down a new host. It is open to the public and has been seeing steady amounts of new players coming in daily.

For those of you who used to play this type of game maybe when you were just a teen like me – or those who have no idea what it was like before WoW – I invite you to come over and play with me! I look forward to seeing you there!

Realm of Shadows

Edit: The date ROS went online was February 2002, not 2003.

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  1. Ferrel

    It is funny that we have to bring these things up. I’ve had to explain to many a guild mate that WoW was not the first online game. It didn’t invent the genre or much of anything really. It just does what is already out there really well and made it accessible to everyone. I do miss the days of the MUDs. I still play one myself every now and then.

  2. Chris "Syeric" Coke

    Whoops, I forgot to set the theme to display the author and post time! Fixed!

    Anyways, I agree. I really like this article. It makes me nostalgic, lol. There’s something a text based game provides that graphics, even though they can be beautiful, just can’t replace.

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