How do I explain my ongoing affair with MUDs? Sure, we only meet a few times per year, and yes we have been off more than we have been on, but MUDs are something special to me. They fill a need that is often left unsatisfied by conventional MMOs. They just do.
Let’s see if I can explain.
Here is a picture of a basketball. See it? I hope you can:
Next, read my description of the basketball I had when I was a kid:
It had been left out in the sun for so long that it had faded into a soft brown. It lost some air so when you grabbed it, you felt like you were grabbing a large, rotten piece of fruit.
OK, now here’s the difference.
In the picture above, you get something that belongs to someone else, to somewhere else.
When you read – or hear – a description, the basketball belongs to you. It’s crafted to your particular tastes and no matter how many people read that description, each basketball will be different in each individual reader’s mind. Just like the descriptions in a book.
MUDs are multiplayer books. Some of them have been around for decades, as well, meaning that the text contained in the MUD is possibly equal to several books. You spend your time in a MUD imagining how things look, or how they feel or smell or sound. It really is amazing when you do it for a while. MUD housing is a wonderful example of how the written word can still have much, much power. Houses in MUDs are functional, and wonderfully so.
Some MUDs are better at describing situations and immersing players, but the following four MUDs have done a great job of encasing me, inviting me, welcoming me inside a seemingly endless world of text. If you are a fan of roleplay or growing a character – sometimes over years – you need to check out a MUD. I can suffer from migraines, and even I have found a way to play MUDs effectively. Later and in other articles, I’ll try to give some hints on how to do it!
I enjoy all of the MUDs on this list, but I have to admit that Gemstone IV is the one that really convinced me that MUDs had so much potential as a genre of the future, not just as a relic of the past. Its tutorial is a blast and I literally get a thrill when I make a new character. There’s something so exciting about telling the game if my character is old or has scars or is ugly… and reading other player’s character descriptions can be a blast by itself.
If you want a great client that is easy to customize, use the StormFront client that is linked on the website. I’ll have to explain more later, but the older video you see above shows how I normally have my game setup.
Gemstone IV is a bit controversial because it charges a monthly fee of $15.00 - $49.95 a month. When I tell people that, they normally say “A monthly fee? For a text-based game? Are you kidding me?”
No, I am not kidding. The higher tiers allow a player access to special, even more roleplay-based servers. My short time on one of the more expensive servers showed me a game with less players, but with mini-events and much more intense storytelling. Within an hour of showing up on one these special servers, I was whisked away to solve a mystery involving the mayor of the town. It was thrilling.
Gemstone IV is special and, yes, very much worth the monthly fee. Everything on the internet isn’t free, despite popular theory, especially such quality content.
I like Threshold RPG because it is part of a suite of games from an indie developer. It’s always nice to see an indie grow, but it’s really nice to see one of the games that the indie makes stay remarkably the same, even after so many years in existence. I had the best, most relaxing time in my time in Threshold RPG, simply spending a few hours fishing and roleplaying. I met some wonderful people and knew that they would probably be there when I went back.
Threshold RPG might be the one for you if you want something that has a slower pace (with options, of course) and a pretty decent web-based client. I prefer to run Threshold RPG in something like Mudlet, because I can adjust the look more.
Achaea is probably the most modern-leaning MUD in the bunch. The developers are actively creating, testing and maintaining an HTML5 web-client that will eventually offer the same options that other downloadable clients do. Achaea offers some really cool options, as well, like many different races, abilities and skills to learn. Its tutorial is a lot of fun but can be a bit confusing, but luckily the game hosts a very friendly and helpful newbie channel. The game also features ships, housing and a ton of activities. The gameplay in this one feels more sleek, in-depth and immersive, but there’s also a feeling of danger and magic. This might overtake Gemstone IV’s spot as my favorite.
The developers have been wonderful to me, as well. When I told them that their web client did nothing for people like me who prefer to read online text as black text on a light background (you know, like a book) they literally adjusted the client for me. The developers are concerned about the newbie experience and are very much into the idea of keeping MUDs around as modern gaming options.
The game is published by Iron Realms games who offers a suite of 5 games to try. I’ve yet to try the other ones, but possibly because Achaea has me hooked. More on this title later!
I have the least experience with BatMUD, but I really like its gameplay, tech and lore. The website is pretty and making a new character is a lot of fun. It offers 100 levels, titles, rebirth options, a diverse spell system, deep player backgrounds, player-to-player commerce and trade, or, from the site:
“Playerbuilt items, castles and cities. Seafaring and shipwrights, including sea battles. Ridable mounts and customizable pets. Hundreds of custom zones (areas) stacked with items of unforeseeable powers and bonuses.”
I really look forward to spending more time in BatMUD, so look for more coverage of it in the future.
Try a MUD, especially if you find yourself looking for more roleplay and adventure. Modern, client-based 3D MMOs are fantastic, but sometimes the slower pace and ease-of-use (once you get past the initial learning stages, that is) in MUDs is a lovely breath of fresh air. Put on some good music, open one of these MUDs, make a new character and you will not regret it.
I’ll be making posts later in the following weeks that cover how to access and play MUDs. The four I listed should be particularly newbie-friendly and the tutorials are great.