Check Your Stripes
On more than one occasion, a guest has logged onto OtherSpace and asked, “Is this a good MUD?”
Inevitably, someone on our Newbie channel replied: “This isn’t a MUD.”
The ugly, baleful yellow eye of prejudice manifests itself.
Ick, thinks the Not-A-MUD purist, MUDs are nothing but hack-and-slash, rabid-fido-chasing XP fests.
Yeesh, thinks the guest, what a snob.
And to think I once wondered where people got the impression that MUSHes were elitist.
Let’s get the facts straight: MUDs are Multi-User Dimensions. OtherSpace, although it uses a PennMUSH code platform, still provides an alternative dimension for more than one user. So, by that most basic definition, it’s clearly a MUD that just happens to belong to the MUSH subcategory.
Star Wars is a space opera and Howard’s End is a highbrow Victorian drama, but they’re both movies. Watchmen is a graphic novel and Grapes of Wrath is a literary classic, but they’re both books. The differences are clear, but they’re all still part of the same overall family.
With me so far?
Maybe it’s better to think of MUDs in general as a herd of zebras: The direction and pattern of the stripes may change from one to another, but they’re still zebras.
Bottom line: OtherSpace may be a high-concept, ambitious, RP-oriented MUSH, but that doesn’t make it unrelated to the most primitive mob-killing hangout.
Online roleplayers start somewhere, and quite often it’s in a hack-and-slash environment. I got my start on a MUD called Avatar, running around solving puzzles and slaying woodland creatures. I graduated from that to TOS TrekMUSE and Hemlock, both of which required me to assume and play out a multidimensional character whose purpose in life wasn’t to gain XP but to become an integral part of a story in progress.
When I started working on OtherSpace, I initially chose PennMUSH as a codebase for one simple reason: That’s what my hardcoder knew. If my coder had been more comfortable with Diku or SWR, we might have used one of those, and I’d still be doing what I’m doing with OtherSpace, just with a different platform.
The platform doesn’t necessarily dictate the concept. The concept can be made to fit any platform, if the person behind the project can see beyond the boundaries of the box.
Quite a few MUDs using traditional MUD codebases and their derivatives offer RP-intensive environments some of them even more militant about their immersive experience than a MUSH like OtherSpace.
Embrace the heritage. Accept we’re all related by common lineage and revel in it. The broad assortment of MUDs allows for myriad points of entry for newcomers, who can work their way through until they find the place they belong.
When they’re finally ready to take on the challenge of immersive roleplaying, don’t turn them off by looking down your nose at them and proclaiming, “This isn’t a MUD.”
Instead, try: “This isn’t the same as other MUDs, but I can help you fit in.”
Wes Platt, known online as Brody, is the creator of OtherSpace: The Interactive SF Saga, which can be found at http://www.otherspace.org. He is the author of OtherSpace: Revolutions, now available through IUniverse.com at the following address: http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0-595-20970-X. He also moderates the Top MUD Sites roleplaying forum at http://www.topmudsites.com and the Theater of the ‘Net discussion area at http://communities.iuniverse.com/bin/circle.asp?circleid=8304. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.