|Part of a series on|
|"Role-playing video games|
One of AVATAR's login screens
|"Developer(s)||Volunteer staff and community|
|"Engine||"Heavily modified Merc 2.2|
|"Genre(s)||"hack and slash, "role-playing, "interactive fiction, "social gaming|
A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD is a "free, "online, "massively multiplayer, "fantasy, "text-based "role-playing game (or "MUD), set in a "real-time "virtual environment. It combines elements of role-playing games, "hack and slash style computer games, "adventure games and "social gaming.
It began as an "LPMUD called Farside MUD at "Newcastle University, in the summer of 1991, before ultimately relocating to the United States of America. It suffered catastrophic loss of data in August 1994, which led to a switch to the Merc code base. On 8 August 1995, its name was changed to A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD.
Over two decades, the game's environment has grown into a fictional world spanning 327 "areas across 20 "planes, comprising 20,000 unique rooms with gameplay and features that significantly deviate from the original "Merc "codebase.
The MUD was started in the summer of 1991 as an "LPMUD called Farside MUD. It was initially "hosted on the "servers of "Newcastle University by three Ph.D. computer science candidates. It later moved to "Swansea University until they announced a ban on mudding, before crossing the Atlantic to take up residence on a couple of machines in the United States of America.
Catastrophic loss of data in August 1994, presented the implementors with an opportunity to switch to the Merc code base.
Farside MUD was created during the summer of 1991 with the established LPMUD codebase, released two years prior. The original "DikuMUD "code base was released just a few months before Farside's creation on 1 March 1991, and had yet to become popular at that time.
DikuMUD was quickly followed by the creation of CopperMUD in June 1991. In December 1991, CopperMUD released its source code, leading to the creation of "MercMUD on 18 December 1992. The final Merc codebase (version 2.2) was released on 24 November 1993, and this newer codebase was chosen by Farside MUD the following year due to the gameplay similarities with LPMUD.
The MUD trees below depict the hierarchy of derivation of the A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD codebase. Solid lines between boxes indicate code relationships, while dotted lines indicate conceptual relationships. Dotted boxes indicate that the codebase is outside the family depicted. To see the full trees, please visit the main article.
|1992 ~ 1994||1994 ~ Present|
On 8 August 1995, after disagreements between the implementors, Farside MUD became A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD. The MUD administrator, code named Snikt, changed all of the admin passwords and locked out the MUD's owner, code named Rox. Rox would later start a new MUD, Barren Realms, using a heavily modified merc2.2 code base. The MUD's newsletter, published two days later, states:
Although the implementors of A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD retained the right to use the "Farside MUD" name, the new name reflected the change in leadership and avoided the possibility of being sued by "The Far Side comic strip's "creator. The new name is an acronym which stands for "Advanced Virtual Adventures Through Artificial Realities" and was inspired by the computing term ""avatar".
Over the 22 years (as of 2014) that the MUD has been running, the Merc 2.2 code base has been extensively updated and modified.
A.V.A.T.A.R.'s tiered level system is an original "design feature. The original 35 game levels of the Merc codebase, extended to 50 levels, now form the lowest playable tier of the game, referred to as "Mortal." A hero tier was added in 1994, followed by two other higher tiers; Lord and Legend (team-based player-versus-player) in June 1996. Prior to the tier system, the MUD had a simple level progression from 1-1000.
"Characters possess gender, race, and class. The mud has 28 creatable races (of which two are 'evolutionary' - containing 14 sub-races), nine quest races (elemental giants and chromatic dragons, added mid-2013), ten '"remort' (second playthrough) races, and two 'ascension' (pvp legend tier specific) races. All together, players currently have access to 61 races, not counting "grandfathered races or races only available to "non-player characters and staff members.
The game has seven creatable classes, nine 'prestige' (quest accessible) classes, and five powerful 'remort' classes, for a total of twenty-one classes, not counting grandfathered classes or classes only available to NPCs and staff members.
Though the Merc "MUD codebases usually come with a set of "52 stock areas, all of A.V.A.T.A.R.'s areas are non-stock. Some areas retain the theme of the stock areas they replaced. The MUD continues to grow, with 327 areas online as of January, 2014. In addition to these permanent additions, temporary areas and quests are regularly added to the MUD, and older, less-visited areas are either revamped or removed.
The coders of the MUD are members of its "Immortal staff, formed from dedicated volunteers who largely forego playing the game in order to devote their time to its maintenance and development. "Trackies" form a second tier of staff which is split into seven tracks (Builder, Design, Publicity, Quest, Retro, Tester, Web).
As Farside MUD, it donated "FTP space to a 1993 inter-MUD project to produce an area editor called "Make.Zones.Fast". Design features and code from A.V.A.T.A.R. has been borrowed by other MUDs. Examples of code featuring copied or imitative code which credit A.V.A.T.A.R. can be found on repositories like MUDBytes.net.
The license for Diku codebase states:
You may under no circumstances make profit on *ANY* part of DikuMud in any possible way. You may under no circumstances charge money for distributing any part of dikumud - this includes the usual $5 charge for "sending the disk" or "just for the disk" etc.
A.V.A.T.A.R. is set in a fantasy world, which occasionally incorporates elements from other "fictional genres, such as "steampunk. Combat is primarily conducted through "melee, "martial arts, and "spells, alongside "thrown weapons and "archery. Most transportation is achieved by "walking" (following "directions to an adjacent room), though there are other options including "foot ferries, "guides, "transportation spells, "planar travel. and "permanent portals. The theme is further reinforced through the use of "ASCII art.
Due to the presence of younger players, the MUD has a strict language "policy which is enforced through "automatic logging of "bad language and monitoring by staff members. In addition to this, players may select the option to "censor common vulgar words appearing in communications from other players.
As a text-based game, it is used by the "blind and "visually impaired with the assistance of "screen reading software, and also the "hearing impaired who are not disadvantaged due to the absence of "auditory cues.
Playing with a screen reader can also help those with low "literacy or "learning disabilities to enjoy the game whilst helping them improve their "language skills, "computer literacy and "social skills.
Some MUD clients include customisable "user interfaces, such as definable buttons or rollers, which can largely remove the need to manually type commands, which is very helpful for those whose ability to operate a keyboard is impaired. "Computer accessibility issues can then be overcome with "assistive technologies, such as a "footmouse.
AVATAR has had a connection with education since 1994, when a large group of students from a US school began to play, followed by some staff members, and ultimately resulting in the principal joining the MUD as a staff member. Since then, those chosen to be immortals have often held careers in education, alongside more traditional fields like programming.
Staff noted that their students' literacy skills improved, with academic literature suggesting it is because they found the creative writing and interactive content of the mud compelling to read, and because they needed a certain level of communicative competence to be able to interact with both the computer server running the game and their fellow players to achieve their goals. Through their participation, they were also encouraged to develop collaborative teamwork and social skills in order to overcome the challenges presented to them.
The students, though playing as part of a player community of various ages and nationalities, were impressed that they were taken seriously and treated as competent peers by older members, and thus had the opportunity to create new content or influence the policies and game mechanics of the MUD. Many of these students went on to become staff members themselves, and apply their experiences in the real world.
Having educators involved in the design and development of the game resulted in new features such as the creation of a "Mud School" to train new players in how to interact and play the game, and a new tier of volunteer staff (angels) to care for and assist new and younger players. This is complimented by the MUD's family-friendly policy.
New characters begin in the "Mudschool" area, which teaches the basic commands, game mechanics and rules of the game. "Roleplay on A.V.A.T.A.R. is encouraged but not enforced, so much of a player's activity involves finding "mobs (non-player characters) to perform "quests for, slay for "experience points, or somehow acquire "desirable items from, and "exploration in order to enjoy the writing and story of an "area or discover "easter eggs and other secrets. As a "social space, the game comprises only half of the attraction of the MUD, with players using various tools such as "public and private chat channels, an in-game "messaging system and "forums to engage one another. Players can buy, sell, and trade "gear.
As player characters gain experience points, they will increase in "level, slowly rising through the four tiers of the game: Mortal ( 1-50 ), Hero ( 51-51 ), Lord ( 125-125 ), and Legend ( 250-250 ). At each tier, the style of gameplay changes. Players can explore the world solo "or in groups.
The MUD has been examined in the papers and presentions of anthropologist Dr. "Mizuko Ito, a thesis by tech entrepreneur Kraettli Epperson, and other papers. It has featured in MUD history articles, "Orlando Sentinel's article on "TELNET and in a "video tutorial and tutorial article about "CMD.
An introductory article to A.V.A.T.A.R. was printed in "Mensa's RPSIG publication 'Re:Quests!' and also in the 1 October 1994 edition of the "Sunlight Through The Shadows" "BBS's "electronic magazine, and other publications. After running for a couple of years, Immortal "Asamaro" created the publication "the Farside Gazette" on 15 December 1994, which continued to be regularly published, latterly as "the AVATAR Gazette", until May 2009.
The idea of role-playing is that one can become, temporarily at least, what one is not, and the Farside MUD designers created a world in which anyone could become anything they desired, while logged-in.
'Farside was established in the summer of 1991 by three Ph.D. students at Newcastle University on their free time. Since then, it has been moved to Swansea University.
When I first started playing Farside, the primary mud that I have been studying, it resided on a machine at an English university, where it had been set up by some computer science doctoral students in their free time. Since then, it has changed sites to a couple of different machines in the US.
Soon after, the university that Farside was residing at announced a ban on mudding.
Muds are anathema to many universities because they take up valuable space on computers, slow down network responsiveness, and tie up terminals in computer labs. They have been banned at various universities across the country, yet they continue to proliferate.
Diku-MUds, Aber-MUDS and LP-MUDs usually involve armor, weapons, gold coins and the killing of ogres, giants, and sometimes other players. In contrast, MOOs, MUSEs, and Tiny MUDs are primarily social, often have a space-age theme, and have little in terms of the adventure game component.
Having played both AberMUD and TinyMUD, he decided he wanted to write his own game with the adventure of the former and the user-extensibility of the latter.
AberMUD spread across university computer science departments like a virus. Identical copies (or incarnations) appeared on thousands of Unix machines. It went through four versions in rapid succession, spawning several imitators. The three most important of these were TinyMUD, LPMUD and DikuMUD.
DikuMud first appeared in mid-March of 1990 when a group of programmers at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark got together and began work on a multiplayer game that is similar to but improved on AberMuds. These coders were Hans Henrik Staerfeld, Katja Nyboe, Tom Madsen, Michael Seifert, and Sebastian Hammer.
...several major codebases (standalone MUD program suites) were created from the basic DikuMUD original, the main ones being Circle, Silly, and Merc. Merc spawned ROM (Rivers of MUD) and Envy, among others, and these in turn had their own spinoffs.
Or, as it is officially known, "Advanced Virtual Adventures Through Artificial Realities."
Morphing allows evolution through 999 Hero, Lord, Legend and Titan Levels
Farside is a fast paced merc mud with 1000 levels of play.
When first creating a permanent character, you are asked to choose a character name, a gender (usually male or female), and a race (such as elf, dwarf, human etc.), and begin playing as a first level player. Your character has certain attributes and assets that improve as you accumulate more treasure and kill monsters and other players, and solve quests on the mud.
Farside is continuously evolving; new towns and lands suddenly manifest, and outdated spaces disappear without a trace. The world is in a perpetual state of magical flux. In the space of a few weeks absence from the system, I found that a new combat system had been implemented, a new "Gotham City" environment was added, in addition to a "Newbie Forest."
MUDs are also friendly to disabled players, something that has concerned me for a long time. There are even blind players in many MUDs, players who use tools that read text out loud and respond to voice commands. Imagine if you could listen to your favorite audiobook and give it commands. That's the beauty of MUDs. These games are also good for people with colorblind issues, mobility issues or for people who cannot afford gaming PCs.
Here at the British Council, we have provided Browsealoud, a speech tool that reads aloud the contents of each page. This service helps users with low literacy and reading skills, where English is not the first language, dyslexic and with users who are mild visually impaired. Our audience (mainly from overseas, with English as the second language) will benefit hugely from this service.
Back in the olden days, before Avatar was called Avatar, my fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students rushed home from school each day to play a text-based game that involved creating characters and slaying all manner of ordinary and extraordinary beings.
He was stunned to know that a PRINCIPAL was playing on his mud, intrigued by the fact that I had so many proficient players who were so young, and that I had willingly followed them there. Thus began a wonderful friendship, and my custodial care of younger players on Avatar. I've been here ever since, although most of my students are long gone.
When forming groups to go hunting in the MUD universe, no one cared that Eric and Nate were in 5th grade. People did care if they couldn't do their job, which included spelling reasonably well. Further, the mechanisms for advancement were transparent and well articulated.
The most obvious benchmark of learning was spelling. This may be surprising, but not if you are familiar with most 5th-grade boys' spelling. In order to be understood by the machine or the people grouping with you, you had to at least approximate the English language.
More recently, however, MUDs (Multi User Dungeons) and MOOs have revolutionized the gaming industry. MUDs are text-based online environments where users can collaborate in groups to complete quests, solve puzzles, or slay villains. In Avatar, for example, game difficulty and variables are manipulated so that gamers are forced to quickly collaborate with other players and create the bonds that can sustain an online gaming community. Consistent with the Role Playing Game genre, characters are given unique strengths and weaknesses, and no character can survive without collaborating with others. Gaming communities like Avatar have a wealth of experience designing challenges which foster community building.
For example, when I was a teacher, my elementary students once designed a level for AVATAR (an online game) based on their school and found real joy in creating the "teacher's red pen," an epic weapon that caused enemies to quiver once they were in its presence.
Two 5th graders (Eric Weiner and Nate Berger) wrote an area based on the Hundred Acre Wood (from Winnie-the-Pooh). This area, which was nearly 50 pages long, included maps, room and area descriptions, action-and-response triggers, and monsters and their items (including statistics). They turned it in as a writing assignment and got feedback.
What kids remember most was the chance to be taken seriously by adults as competent peers and the experience of writing something played by thousands of people around the world (including many in their school).
In fact, many of our 20-odd kids who played Avatar produced content or became immortals.
Nate used this experience of writing his 100-Acre Wood as the basis for his entrance essay into Dartmouth's creative writing program. For Nate, the experience was about becoming an author.
In addition to becoming an "immortal" (the highest possible level), she later contributed to several major designs. For example, the angel system enabled level-50 players to morph into angels, giving up their celestial bodies (and goods) to become permanent helpers who specialized in doing nice things such as corpse runs for newbies.
What was innovative about the games of that period (and this is still true today for games that allow mods) was that immortals like Janet created entirely new content. Janet, for example, created a "MUD School' to teach players how to play. Any player—even kids—could invent new creatures and author new areas or suggest changes to the underlying rule structure or administrative policies.
When I became an Immortal, my life actually changed very little. I did the same things I'd been doing for a year, standing in the meadow, just a few steps away from Nom. When I finally got an office, it was in the Tree of Knowledge, and was an exact description of my [real life] kitchen, including my faithful dog, Max. I have not become a computer whiz, I don't code or write areas, although I did write Mudschool. My job is to deal with the interpersonal parts of Avatar, watching over young players, trying to keep language and manners civil and appropriate in public places, and protecting those who need protecting. I sometimes function as a mediator, and often have to use patience to deal with sticky situations. In addition, I do some education-related things, work with the Immortal staff, and act as an advisor to Snikt.
Connectivity to the mud server is enabled by the Internet, and for the particular mud that I have been following, access is open for anyone that has telnet capabilities on the net.
What is restricted, however, is the number of characters that one can run concurrently on a particular combat MUD. Otherwise, a number of virtual characters connected with a particular biological body could collectively gain unfair advantage, ganging to attack a monster or another player. Disposable adjunct characters could die sacrificial deaths in order to consolidate experience points and treasure in a single primary character, creating a monstrous collective organism that defies socially acceptable subject boundaries. In other words, most combat MUDs require characters of a single physically located self to be either spatially or temporally distanced each other.
A MUD usually includes "channels" for discussion that allow one to talk to other players, either individually or as a group. Thus all the time that one is playing the game, messages from other players are flashing across the screen. MUDs are filled with social rituals.
In the MUD, an individual wants to face challenges in a "group" established electronically, so that ones movements are tied to other players who can lend strength at critical times in virtual combat. A leader is established for a group, and all members electronically set their character in the game to automatically follow the movements and actions of the leader, but may leave at any time. Obviously, a leader does not want followers who will leave in the middle of a difficult fight. Battles are initiated with the expectation that the group will be fully present, and with the hope that the collective strength of the group will overcome the creature being attacked.