The MUD was founded in 1991 and opened to the public in 1992. Originally containing a small section of the then rather loosely defined Ankh-Morpork, over time more locations have been added as the world has been further described in the book series, and laid out in the map supplements. It now consists of areas that attempt to simulate several big cities (Ankh-Morpork, Bes Pelargic, Genua and Djelibeybi) on two continents, a larger number of smaller towns, and more than a million rooms which form the land between the cities and towns, with markers designating canon cities yet to be built.
The mud was originally founded by four people in Perth, Western Australia, as an outgrowth of a different mud (Discworld II) by David Bennett (known as Pinkfish), Craig Richmond (Furball), Sean A Reith (Lynscar) and Evan Scott. The mud ran for a while on a machine in Melbourne before moving to run in the uk on a machine at compulink where DrGoon (Gordon ...) was added to the administration team. After a while the machine was moved to the US, in Seattle, running on a machine at once of the admin's workplace, Derek Harding (Ceres), before again moving back to the UK to run at Sojan (Jake Greenland)'s house.
Discworld has publicly released the code base under which it runs on a couple of occasions, allowing other muds to use the same base for writing their worlds.
- Main article: Discworld Mudlib
The MUD's software is divided into two sections - the 'mudlib' and the driver. The MUD is based on a from-scratch mudlib and currently uses a heavily customised version of the MudOS driver known as FluffOS. The driver is largely open-source, with new releases usually made available quickly, while cut-down versions of the mudlib including most of the underlying features are occasionally released (most recently in 2003), allowing the use of most of the basic object classes and tools of the MUD.
It is expected that players who wish to help with coding the game will apply to join the game's development team, rather than working independently and submitting patches. Developers are not automatically taken from players at a certain skill level, instead being recruited into a hierarchy from the player base with an application and interview system. The underlying code is largely obscured from other players, with developers holding a policy of secrecy with actual game code and algorithms. Several useful algorithms such as that for determining experience costs have been either reverse-engineered or extracted from the released code by players, however, and can be generally found on various informational websites.
The Discworld command system is a customized text parser allowing for flexible interactions with objects and a way to specify how the command is structured. In addition to adjectives and properties attached to game objects, allows advanced semantic recognition to specify in-game objects (including 'living' things):
You are unburdened by: [[Holding]]: a set of pearl prayer beads (left hand). [[Wearing]]: a black backpack, a neat off-white linen robe and two silver rings. (under) : a utility belt. [[Carrying]]: a prayer book. > locate leather things The utility belt (worn) is in your inventory. The black backpack (worn) is in your inventory. > locate leather things except black things The utility belt (worn) is in your inventory. > [[glance]] at second worn thing The neat off-white linen robe.
Other interface features include a basic in-game text editor, for editing in-game mail and other chunks of text, context-sensitive help, and optional sections of topological map (known as "lookmaps") to aid navigation.
One of the strongest development priorities in recent years has been on textual depth, providing rich descriptions and additional details, rather than on expanding the world or on providing higher-level content. Many interesting or useful details in descriptive text can be elaborated upon by applying more specific criteria to the "look" command.
For purely message-based interaction, the MUD provides a talker system with a number of fixed channels, including general chat channels, channels for development organisation, and channels reserved for members of many in-game organisations. In addition to these, clubs can be formed which gain their own channels and optional electoral system. Some examples include Taxi (providing magical transportation around the game world), Synod (for the High Priests of the various gods),OOC (for roleplayers to chat and organise events out of character), and Begorrah (for Irish players to chat and organise meeting up in real life).
RP & PvP
Roleplaying is optional, and players can be observed playing in many different roles both in and out of character, from organisational, to social, to 'numberchasing' (grinding, especially for skills). Player versus Player interaction is on an opt-in basis, with characters over two days of play old being allowed to remove their protected status. There are some notable exceptions to this - for example, the player councils can hire in-game, NPC (non-player character) assassins to kill a player who hasn't opted for PvP status.
The game world includes several political regions. The cities of Ankh-Morpork and Djelibeybi are run by [[councils of elected player magistrates. Despite an effort by the Djelibeybi council (usually referred to as the Klatch council, after the Discworld continent and coding area in which Djelibeybi is located) to seize control over those areas with no player council, it is generally held that there are no written player laws which apply to these areas, and that only the game's acceptable use policy, invariably referred to as "the rules", applies.
Ankh-Morpork has seven magistrates, while the Klatch council has five. Elections are held every six months. The council system is based on the game Nomic.
The fundamental game mechanics of the MUD are based on a 'stat/skill' division, with stats (statistics), relating to intrinsic properties, being semi-permanent, and skills being learnable at cost of experience points. Skill abilities are based on a diminishing returns system, in which your 'bonus', or actual ability, is calculated on a logarithmic basis from your skill level and a geometric mean of related stats. Levels are uncapped, but also rise in experience point cost per level.
Experience points can be gained in a number of ways - in successful combat with NPCs, in the use of guild points (categorised action points), for exploration of areas, in the solution of puzzle-like 'quests' , the accomplishment of in-game achievements, and simply by waiting - a very slow rate of 'idle XP' is given to players merely for being online.
The skill system contains a number of quirks and odd features; for example, some skills are used in unexpected ways, such as the skill "other.movement.climbing.rock", which, while it is used for climbing rocks, is typically used to climb virtually any surface which isn't a tree or rope, such as a metal drainpipe. Because of the wide range of uses that skills are put to, individual skills are not documented, so working out what skill you need to perform a given task can sometimes be challenging - for example, the skill "other.direction", typically used to avoid getting lost in extreme circumstances, is also the skill used in both reading and crafting maps.
The game has circumstantial permanent death - characters begin with seven lives, which can be replaced in-game, but a player who dies with no lives remaining cannot be revived. PvP deaths do not reduce your life total, but otherwise have the same effects.
The majority of the game world is not persistent, resetting areas and objects invisibly, but players' inventories, the contents of rentable houses, and safe deposit box-like vaults are saved.
A large part of the original intent for Discworld MUD was to move away from a restrictive class system, and to allow any player to do (almost) anything with enough effort and advancement. However, each character can only join one of a selection of guilds - a combination of class and in-game organisation (which may not necessarily be an actual guild) - and each guild has several unique abilities not shared with any other. Most fairly fundamental abilities such as health, perceptiveness, and swimming skill are not guild-based, however other such abilities, such as guild point regeneration rate, or access to certain powers, such as the ability to backstab or perform rituals, are limited based on guild.
Canon and Divergence
Content has been worked upon continuously as the Discworld series of books has been growing, therefore there are smatterings of continuity taken from different books introduced in different regions. Additionally, some changes to the world have been made to allow a limited degree of player-control (such as player-elected administration for some of the in-world organisations) rather than using NPCs created from book characters.
The largest divergence from canon, however, is the addition of a range of divine magic not unlike that described in the Warhammer Fantasy or Dungeons and Dragons systems, mostly restricted to a small number of player-worshippable gods.
Mentions in the Media
- Total PC Gaming Issue 7 (UK edition) - Came 2nd in Top Three MUD's in the MMO Supplement
- Total PC Gaming Issue 15 (UK edition) - Special Mention in the MMO suplement in the "We Love" section
- Eg. The Streets of Ankh-Morpork, The Discworld Mapp
- Armchair Arcade Interview with Pinkfish
- Karlsen, F. (2008). Quests in context: A comparative analysis of discworld and world of warcraft. International Journal of Computer Games Research, 8(1)
- Discworld Mudlib
- Discworld MUD official site
- Page Scan / Discussion of Top Three MUD's in Total PC Gaming Issue 15 (UK edition)
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