Until the End of the World
By Dwip February 4, 2004, 4:36 am Comments (8) RSS Feed for this post

(You non-MUD types will have to forgive this one, I’m afraid.)

Well, here we are, camped inside Argalath’s Keep, sleeping after beating the hell out of some undead. Oddly appropriate time to be saying this, I guess.

One score days and eight years ago, I came forth into the world of Multi-User Dungeons. It was January of 1996. I’m all of 15 and a month. I’d had my first computer of my very own, a blazing fast P166 with a monster 1.2 gig hard drive, and it was about time to explore the wonders of the Internet.

Understand that I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1993 or so, and roleplaying was something akin to life at that point. So when Dad began describing these things called MUDs, I was all ears. It’s like D&D, except it’s on the ‘net with like 30 other people? Sign me up.

It’s pretty easy to start a MUD. All you need is some basic proficiency in Linux, some disk space, and some bandwidth. You can download a codebase to get you up and running, complete with some stock areas and such, with ease. And 1996 was like, the Age of MUDs. This was, of course, before Everquest and the MMORPG craze. So everybody and their dog ran a MUD.

I picked one, at random, called the Crystal Shard, because of a certain RA Salvatore book. I think I expected a Forgotten Realms MUD or something. What I got was something that wasn’t exactly a stock MUD, but wasn’t trying all that hard to escape the generic fantasy mold, either.

Didn’t matter. I loved the place. Dwip the dwarven warrior was pretty fun to cruise around the world, killing stuff. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of jumping in some random portal to the other side of the world at level 1, or picking up a crappy dwarven waraxe think it’s the best weapon ever.

I met a pretty good group of people. I think Cam was first, Samson second. Darkelf, who became Serpent. Whir came later. There were a few others from the time.

How I met Samson is a tale in and of itself. I had been playing for, oh, maybe a week at that point. And here’s this guy on chat offering a bunch of maps of the world for free. Well, shit. You better believe I’m all about THAT. So he asks me for an email addy. I knew I HAD email, of course, the addy was written on this little folder Dad gave me when he set me up. But I’d never used it. So, in my vast experience, I told him my password, thinking it was my email. Oops. He set me straight, and I soon had maps. Real live maps, in all their ASCII glory.

Probably a couple of weeks later, I decided that, yknow, this mapping business sounded pretty good, so I’m like “Say, you want some help with this stuff?” Yeah, actually. I think the Cartographers’ Guild had been going in name before that, but we kicked it into high gear. In amongst gaining levels and stuff like madmen, we proceeded to map the entire MUD. Everything. And we gave away, then sold, the things. Made a killing. Ended up to where the immortals running the place came to the Guild for maps.

Those were good times. So good, in fact, that they ate about 6 months of my life. I would sleep for like 4 hours, go to school, and MUD all night when I got home. On 28.8 dialup, mind you. This was 1996 after all. My parents were eventually annoyed enough to get me my own phone line.

Eventually, I wanted something a bit apart from just being your average mortal player. I wanted…more. To build things, create things. So, one night in August ’96, Samson and I became members of the immortal Kingdom of Graecia, one of I believe five dedicated to building the Shard world. We were under a guy(?) named Murik, who I think we saw…once after. But it gets better.

Back in the day, with the SillyMUD code Shard ran, building an area was pretty tedious work. Everything, and I mean everything, was numeric, and for a lot of things you had to add some pretty attrocious numbers together. Plus you have to be able to write like a hundred little room paragraphs, plus populate the place, plus come up with unique objects. And the formatting was pretty strict. Miss a ~, you’ll crash the whole place. And doing things by hand, you miss a lot of ~s. Nevertheless, I finally wrote an area, Samson wrote his, and we even got some code done to link the two with a quest. That was pretty special. Not many people did that, in the day.

We had to wait about three months to get those areas installed. Murik was gone, remember. Finally they dumped Murik, installed a guy named Teklord in charge of us, and that worked well for a time, call it another couple areas or so, before Samson and I got fed up with the slow pace of progress. We had an agenda, see. So we pondered, and plotted, and half-jokingly talked about a revolution and overthrowing Tek and taking over. Little did we know we were being secretly listened to, snooped, by some of the higher-ups. So we got hauled on the carpet for that conversation. It was…frightening. In the days before IM progs, there was email, and we did something like 20 emails in the course of that conversation. It came out well in the end, though. Samson got installed as Kingdom Lord of Graecia, in charge of a big chunk of the world, and I was his right-hand man. Pretty much only man, as it turns out, but nevertheless.

Between the two of us, we transformed what was singlehandedly the worst, most underdeveloped, most totally shithole kingdom on the MUD into the single BEST kingdom on Shard, all by late 1997, working by hand, with code which crashed more than Windows 95 ever dreamed. I believe at one point I was the single most prolific builder in the entire place, except a guy named Lister, who was Kingdom Lord of New Thalos, and who had been there since like, ’93 or something. If I’m proud of nothing else I’ve done, I’m proud of that much.

You have to understand that being an imm on Shard exposed you to a LOT of petty political crap. Getting snooped by your superiors was par for the course, and if you were to see said superiors, you were lucky. Egos and attitudes reigned. At one point, one guy got his girlfriend installed as a KL, which annoyed us meritocracy types quite a bit. As it happens, some of the protests were a bit loud. Samson got deleted. I followed him into it. The Shard eventually spiraled into oblivion, and despite a few brief revivals, has never really come back.

But I’ve been doing this for 8 years, and it’s only 1997. What’s the deal?

We cheated.

September 4th, 1997. A day which will live in infamy. On that day, Samson and I opened the Lands of Solan, one day to become known as Alsherok. Those of you wondering why there’s an Alsherok in that URL up there now know. Samson ran the show as Implementor, I got to be head of building.

I said before that pretty much any idiot can start a MUD. We’re living proof. We didn’t have much. The Smaug codebase we started on was at least stable, and had way better features than Shard’s SillyMUD base. We had our areas from Shard, having kept copies (luckily. Samson’s areas all got obliterated, and only one of mine got kept, returning GR to the sinkhole it had once been). We got a few folks from Shard that we knew to come with us and help build.

Amazingly, it worked. As a builder, I fell in love with the much easier online creation system that Smaug has, and started writing areas again. Samson, despite having very little knowledge of how to write C, managed to pick it up, and slowly but surely, we became something.

Time has passed. The MUD community is dying, killed by Everquest and those like it. Our textual format, command line interface, and lack of graphics and music have kept us from the hands of the younger generation. With college, I no longer have the time to write areas like I once did, though I still make my contributions here and there – I’ve written some code, suggested things, outlined many of the features that make Alsherok what it is. Over years of tinkering, Samson has made something unique of the code – we call our codebase AFKMud, now, any I now have my name on a copyright now. Something else to be proud of.

My glory days of morting, of building, have passed, I think. We may be sort of hanging on through inertia now. But I say that it’s been a lot of fun.

Alsherok Comments (8) RSS Feed for this post
Comments on Until the End of the World
avatar Comment by toasty #1
February 4, 2004 at 5:15 am

There are two things of note here:

1You’re a partowner of a copyright, which is cool, despite that I don’t have a clue what the copyright is really protecting…

2Posts containing MUD/RPGs/Mechwarrior or such will always (notice the exceptions that confirm the rule) be longer than other, more ordinary updates :P

avatar Comment by Regina #2
February 4, 2004 at 12:35 pm

*still humming from the title* You miss too much these days if you stop to think…

I went over to Alsherok once and realized that this was a game for people who knew computers. Command lines, and Linux, and all that. The only command line I’ve ever commanded is the “Run” in the Windows taskbar. :P It does look cool, though.

You want proof that I have a cool mom? Once I mentioned MUDs to her, and she knew what they were. She also understands it when I refer to slash fanfic (cuz back in the day, she was real into the X-Files, and she used to read some of the fanfic.)

avatar Comment by Samson #3
February 4, 2004 at 5:27 pm

Ah, the good ole days. Shard was a truly kick-ass place once upon a time. I sampled many other muds, but none ever had that same feeling to it. One where you felt like you belonged. At home. That sort of thing. Nobody else was ever able to capture that for me.

My days as a player more or less stopped once Shard went down for good after they removed me from the game. Was a sad, sad thing to see happen. People who once thought highly of me turned against me once I had ben promoted into a position of real power in a restructuring close to the end. I suppose their egos couldn’t handle it or something.

When Alsherok opened, I vowed it would never degrade into that same thing. I’d like to think it never did. We all still get along, even those who have since moved on due to life issues. We still hear from each other at times. Sometimes they even still log in to say hi. Though we are no longer at our prime, we still derive the enjoyment of being there. Sometimes the urge strikes and we even play for awhile again. It’s not quite the same feeling Shard once had, but it’s close enough that it still provided enjoyment. Even if an eye toward bugs and such always creeps in. It’s good for the game. Of course, we also derive plenty of enjoyment from simply sitting around idling like mad, hence the codebase name :)

As time dragged on, I felt it was time we gave something back. So we spent some time deliberating about it and decided the codebase was fit to do so with. January 2001 rolled around, and it got loose on the net to rule you all… Muahahahaa… er… um… sorry :)

Anyway, here we are some three years from that date and some 8 years after our initial dive into mudding. Much has indeed changed. The community was once filled with friendly helpful people who knew their stuff. Nowadays you look around and there’s some 1800 muds, mostly stock, and mostly run by egotistical powertripping young kids who don’t know any better. Most of these kids love nothing more than to backstab and engage in flamewars. For the other 100-200 of us with quality products to deliver, this makes it hard.

Evercrack and friends aren’t the problem with muds today. Much like TV didn’t kill radio, and radio didn’t kill books, MMORPG’s won’t kill muds. Muds will always have a place. What’s really the problem is the infighting among admins. I see it almost everywhere I look, in what little involvement outside our own mud I now have. Politics reign supreme. If someone doesn’t like what you’ve done, they find ways to pick on you. They find things to try and bring you down. They do this primarily out of jealousy despite your reputation. And from what I’m told I have quite a good reputation among community members. Perhaps this is why I’m assailed on some minor little issue every chance they get. Perhaps they do so knowing I have a short fuse and often lash out in return. Fortunately it seems most people who witness these events know better and assign blame where appropriate: On those who chose to launch the personal attacks against me to begin with. As arrogant as it may sound, they don’t seem to be able to find fault in the code I’ve shared with others. So personal attacks are all they have left. I could provide names as examples but chances are if anyone is reading this that knows what I’m talking about, they already know to whom I refer and I need not mention it.

Sound eerily familar to anyone? This is where I make a very thin tie-in to presidential politics and point out it smacks of the same thing. The dems can’t find fault with Bush’s policy or his actions, so they simply attack the man. I’d like to think the American people are also able to see this for what it is. But it scares me to hear so many people who really *DONT* get it.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed the time I spend mudding. I problably still spend far too much doing it. But hey, when you work tech support, often times such things are all you have between calls when they won’t let you do much else :P

Now – Toasty – to answer your question, the copyright existed the moment we fixed the code in tangible form. Even before we released our modifications to it. So the protection existed without our having to do anything. That I ponied up the money to pay the government $30 for an actual registration document ( which I have yet to get mailed to me ) is a sign of the times in mudding. People like to take things others release and claim they wrote it and will often strip the credits in an effort to conceal that fact. Registration provided another level of protection. It’s a software release, so I don’t think it’s too much to ask that credit remain intact. So now if someone does so, releases it and says it’s theirs, I can sue them for it. And I can collect $100,000 in statutory damages despite it being free code. Yes, free as in speech AND as in beer. Regardless, the copyright having our names in it is done to indicate who wrote it, and as an ego thing. :)

Oops. Looks like I ranted again. Heh.

avatar Comment by Whir #4
February 4, 2004 at 5:57 pm

Geez, I feel like I didn’t get enough airplay here. I did quite a bit of stuff for GR, and helped with the Shard insurrection. And I got into Alsherok pretty quick after the fact. But then, this is Dwip’s glory post, isn’t it? :p I don’t think they like to be reminded that at one time I was a higher level than both of them. ;)

avatar Comment by Dwip #5
February 4, 2004 at 6:29 pm

Yeah, you got gypped, Whir. A lot of things and people did, actually. You did, Cam did. Raine, Karangi, and Rathian didn’t get mentioned at all. I glossed Alsherok hard. I didn’t mention the Squirrel Aliens, the Wedgy, the 666 effigy, tan wars, the meaning behind AFKMud, my five deaths in DCE that one time…all the fun stuff.

Too, I didn’t talk much about the experience of being 17 and in a position of fairly decent power over something. I’m not sure I want to, either. I’m not all that proud of being 17.

I did, however, get killed in Argalath’s like 3 times, though, and got Adjani killed once. Hard to do two things at once. ;)

Something oddly appropriate in writing this at the same time your 7 year old mobs from the second area you ever wrote are kicking your ass, though.

And I had forgotten the one level thing. :P

avatar Comment by Whir #6
February 5, 2004 at 9:20 am

Buaahahah! Baelwick’s crowning achievement, that was.

avatar Comment by Nittany #7
June 2, 2004 at 12:28 pm

Wow, now there are some real Blasts from the past.

My name is Nittany. The orginal Developer / Implimentor of The Crystal Shard was Mendor.

I worked with Mendor for a few years before you stated you began to play The Crystal Shard. I might have the Date incorrect, but I believe Development started on the Crystal Shard around 1990 or 1991. I continued to write code for the Crystal Shard until the Fall of 1995. I remember Great friends there like Qasiin(pook), Anastatsia, Rush, Zameil, Capone, Taerin, Lister, Korath.

The 3 Main developers where Mendor, Korath and I. I was in charge of most of the special proceedures that all the World Creators needed for those special functions they needed there mobs to handle. Things like the newbie worlds and re-writting all the spec_procs for the abyss. In additional to all the procs that Lister needed for New Thalos.

We had alot of fun, burning the midnight oil working on that game. I believe in the Summer of 1994 there was a Group of about 20 Immortals and Players all met in Rolla Missouri for a player gathering for St. Patricks. That was the first time I had ever actually met Mendor, Capone, Rush and countless others.

One other task that I was given was to come up with that Level Quest thing, that you had to complete before you obtained to reach next level. That level of doing Quests from your guildmasters is still found in many games today, though the version I did was alot cheezier than they are today.

I remember Immortals like Samson and yourself quite well, even though you all joined the game late in it’s development cycle and many of us had graduated from college and where busy with real life and the slow down / slow paced changes you refer to, where because of Real Life getting in the way of our prefered life.

I was just surfing around at work here, looking to see if I could dig up some old names that I used to play with and came across this site. Glad to know that so many people enjoyed playing the Crystal Shard and Mendor’s foresite in developing and running this Mud for so many years.

If you can remember the list of Immortals at the time you played I would appreciate it. Hard to remember so long ago.

Today, I’m a Developer at IBM, along with Qasiin and Mendor. Became Life Long friends. Games we currently play (not develop) are Dark Age of Camelot and Lineage II.

Take care and thanks for taking me down Memory Lane.

avatar Comment by Nittany #8
June 2, 2004 at 12:38 pm

Ahh I forgot to mention, it was that trip to Rolla when together among all the people there that concept of Kingsdoms was devoloped with Kingdom Lords that controled the content in each kingdom. Was a fasinating way to allow lots of people work on different pieces of the world and help the mud grow as fast as we could.

Those World files and the ~S and ~s where killer and I remember proof reading and updating the Document about how to create your own world many times to make it was as close to accurate as possible. We basically, unleashed anybody willing to create zones to learn and submit your zones for integration into the Crystal Shard.