The World Does Not Need Another (Diku) mud
by Jeff Bennett
OK, let's face it, the proliferation of various code bases (a.k.a stock
muds) has profoundly damaged the mudding community. Since the launch
of the original gamma Diku, the number of available code bases has constantly
grown. In fact, whole entomologies have been created to trace various
muds back to Gamma 0.0. At the same time, the number of members actively mudding has also been
declining. Likewise, the amount of innovation seen in various muds has also
diminished. These events are not unrelated.
The Good Old Days
Once upon a time, there were only a handful of muds. Sure, Gamma 0.0 was
available to everyone, but it had a bunch of (intentional?) problems.
At that same time, the Internet was in its infancy. Resources were scarce.
Disk space was at a premium. CPUs often had to be shared with other users.
And good machines were hard to come by.
Setting up a mud meant solving the fairly daunting problem of not only
locating a no-cost, lag-free server willing to host a mud, but also
solving the myriad programming and administrative challenges of the early
The result was that there were fairly few muds in existence, and players
tended to work their way up the ropes and became part of the administrative
staffs of the existing muds. Development teams would form where one member
had a host but no programming skills, and others were able to handle the
administration or programming.
The low number of muds and the need for a large pool of skills kept numbers
on individual muds high. Thus, when a problem cropped up, be it a need for
a new server, or a way to tackle a dicey balance problem, there was almost
no end to the number of people throwing out ideas on how to solve it.
Fortunately, large staffs were also available to implement those ideas.
But as the years passed, Moore's law has caught up with the needs of modern
muds. At the same time, more and more muds have followed in the footsteps
of the original Diku team, and released their own code bases to the public.
The result is that everyone and their brother can download a fairly well
developed code base, and run it on their personal desktop. The number of
muds has ballooned and there is no longer any compelling reason to maintain
unity within a given mud.
Upset with some mud's new policy? Don't bother complaining or suggesting
alternatives to improve the policy, simply download your own ROM or Circle
and do things your own way. Of course, some players will follow you to your
own new mud.
While the increase in the number of muds might make the maintainers of mud
lists happy, it has also diluted the overall mudding community. Fewer players
play each mud, meaning there are fewer ideas offered when problems occur.
Unfortunately, the availability of the stock muds makes going your own way
all too easy. No longer is there any compelling reason to correct a wayward
mud through debate or reasoned discourse.
The Downward Spiral
Tragically, a disheartening spiral is also created. With fewer numbers online,
a new player on a mud is less likely to discover the virtual community that
characterized the early muds. Likewise, the cookie-cutter look-&-feel of
the stock muds is quickly realized by true newbies, and more often than not,
they give up on the idea of becoming a mudder and find other online pursuits.
The few, truly unique muds are hidden amongst a vast sea of stock muds that
are simply draining away players and discouraging new people from becoming
OK, I'll admit that offering a code base isn't altogether evil. Certainly,
the arguments of the open-source community apply in terms of discovering
problems, and I am sure that more than one person has learned to code by
administering a mud.
However, it now seems like the only skill it takes to run a mud is the ability
to successfully FTP and untar. Likewise, the only commitment in terms of time
that an imp needs to make is the 5-10 minutes it takes to download. Gone
are the days when UNIX skills came in handy and implementors were expected to put
in a few hours of coding a night in order to keep their muds on the cutting
Now, I'm not advocating that distribution of mud code should be abolished.
Obviously, no one wants to keep reinventing the wheel. But it sure would be
nice if the stock mud distributors placed more restrictions on the people
that downloaded their stock.
What possible benefit to the mudding community is there to allow the existence
of an infinite number of essentially identical muds?
Can't the licensing agreements be written so that a few weeks or months of
modification are required before muds may open to the public?
Aren't all muds better served if each is unique?
The World Does Not Need Another mud.
January 2000 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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