Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
machines or small computer clusters and typically accessed via dial-up
modems. In the mid-1980s, before much of the world had even heard of email
accounts, these BBS systems acted as basic mail servers, discussion forums,
and central hubs for uploading and downloading files. They also had games.
These were games that required a great deal of imagination, but also took
advantage of a medium in which different users could log in and play their
turns at different times of day or night (because being online tied up a phone
line, many BBSs could have only one user online at a time). In games like
Ole West and Legend of the Red Dragon , users would log in, be given a fixed
number of turns per day or hour, and take their turns in a world inhabited by
other players (albeit asynchronously).
For the few hundred thousand early adopters who happened to under-
stand things like baud rate and the BBS concept of doors, these games
offered a first glimpse at the world to come. They featured early leader-
boards—and even ways to taunt other players. By most standards, these
were the first online social games because they used interactions with other
players to drive adoption of the game (users showed up on the BBS to down-
load a file or ask a technical question, then saw dozens of posts about in-
game events and were thus enticed to begin playing). Players dialed in every
day (sometimes “wardialing” with modem software that would automatically
keep dialing the BBS phone number in the hopes of getting through the min-
ute it stopped being busy) to get those precious ten or thirty turns, because
that was the only way to stay ahead of your friends or help out your cor-
porate team in venerable groundbreaking games like Trade Wars . The social
element made the game “sticky”—users came back, again and again, to stare
at those 16 colors of text that transported them to fantasy worlds, to the Old
West, or to the depths of space.
Simultaneously, MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons) pushed these concepts
further, allowing simultaneous play in which dozens or hundreds of users
could coexist in the game world, interacting with one another in real time.
Many MUDs did away with the concept of limited numbers of moves or
turns per day. MUDs typically featured turn-based play, in which turns
passed at a fixed rate (called “ticks”). The MUDs required access to univer-
sity mainframes or networks, or private servers on which users would pay
for access and connect to using Telnet clients and later custom MUD clients
that enhanced the experience by parsing information from the MUD server,
translating the information into more user-accessible user interface (UI) ele-
ments, and automatically running scripts that helped automatically perform
tedious gameplay tasks. TinyMUD, LPMud, and DikuMUD were popular
pieces of backend server software that were customized into hundreds or
thousands of different individual games, some of which still run today, usu-
ally with web-based main pages that let users discuss the game world out-
side of the MUD itself.
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