That's the screen I see whenever I start to play Achaea, one of the top MUDs offered by Iron Realms.
It hasn't changed at all, in the ten years I've played, and now it's so familiar that I rarely look at it, but I remember feeling very different when I first started.
This was in the days before Iron Realms (only Achaea, at the time, actually) offered its own custom-built clients, so I was stuck with the program called "Telnet" that was included with Windows 95. It's a miracle I even managed to log on, so clunky was the interface. There was no ASCII color--take a look at that screenshot and you'll see a sample of the rainbow of text colors that are so essential to the experience of contemporary MUDs. There was no way to backspace if you made a typo--and no way to tell, for sure, if you made a typo, because what you were typing didn't appear on the screen. There was no way to scroll up through the buffer text, and I couldn't figure out how to resize the (rather small) window.
You'd think all this would be an insurmountable obstacle to enjoying a game, and for me it might've been--I was fortunate to discover a piece of still-rudimentary abandoned software called Gmud (I now use Mudlet, which is free, and glorious). But other players had been using the Windows client for months and years, successfully navigating under not-great conditions.
So far this might seem like a "we had to walk uphill in the snow both ways" kind of narrative. Why I dredge it up, and what I'm wondering, is what made me give Achaea that initial chance, what made me stick with the game even as others logged in, got confused or frustrated, and quickly left. A large part of it was the excitement of being able to play a computer game with other people. I had a dial-up connection, so games that were less parsimonious about the size of data transfers were right out. I was just about mobbed after I finished the intro tour, with people sending me messages offering help and subtly plugging their guilds and cities. Clearly these people were getting something out of the game.
The other part of it was a pre-existing love of reading. I've always been a bookworm, and the stream of text and verbal description that issued forth on my computer screen was inviting rather than forbidding. That was enough to get me going, and once I remembered that north and south were opposite directions, and therefore stopped walking back and forth repetitiously, I was all set.
And so, reader, if you are wondering, as I was those years ago, "What game should I play?" I hope you'll consider joining me in an Iron Realms MUD.