MUD-Dev (or MUD Development mailing list) was the principal mailing list concerned with the development of virtual worlds, including MUDs and other online games. Participants included the designers of Dark Sun Online, EverQuest, Meridian 59, The Realm, and Ultima Online, as well as many experienced hobbyist MUD developers/administrators, and others. MUD-Dev served to facilitate the exchange of knowledge for the MUD community and the nascent MMORPG design community, and was notable for the rigor, detail, and usefulness of discussions.
Material produced on MUD-Dev is considered an important primary source for the cutting edge of MUD design in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Citations for MUD-Dev articles and references to discussions on the list appear frequently in presentations and publications from the period, such as the book Designing Virtual Worlds written by Richard Bartle.
MUD-Dev was active from 1996 to 2004 and moderated by J. C. Lawrence. MUD-Dev was preceded by an earlier mailing list that was referred to as "Wout's mailing list". (The archives for "Wout's mailing list" are not available. The archives reputedly existed, but they were never made available for download by the public.)
Subscription to MUD-Dev was limited to only those who were invited until 1997 or 1998 when the policy was changed to allow anyone to join. The mailing list was tightly moderated, with all posts requiring approval by the administrator. Approval was issued on the basis of posts satisfying strict criteria regarding the tone, clarity, and even quotation format. This procedure led prominent developers, such as Brad McQuaid, to choose not to participate.
A guideline announcement from the USENET newsgroup rec.games.mud.admin read:
The MUD Development mailing list is not platform, language or game specific, but concentrates on discussing the design and implementation of any and all MUD servers and systems. Another large related topic is game design. This does not mean that the details of a specific server or game design point can't be discussed in excruciating detail, or even that server or game source can't be bandied about and picked over, just that the lst isn't to become a religious stomping ground for your platform, language, server, or hobby horse of choice. The topic definition is not limited to technical areas — social engineering, cultural considerations, applicability of technical addresses to "soft" problems, and other less rigorous avenues of investigation are also fair game. The goal is high signal, low noise. The MUD Development list is NOT an email version of the rec.games.mud.* newsgroups.
MUD-Dev was closed as a result of a catastrophic hardware failure.
Conferences and gatherings
In circa 2000, a tradition developed where an evening MUD-Dev dinner would be hosted during the Game Developers Conference at Teske's Germania in San Jose, California. Introductions were solicited in round-robin fashion, which occasionally formed business relationships, such as when Jeremy Gaffney at NCsoft announced that he came prepared with funding and publishing deals for independent developers.
Despite the closure of MUD-Dev and the lack of a MUD-Dev conference, an informal MUD-Dev dinner was held in remembrance in 2006. Dinners were often followed with games at a nearby residence.
The MUD-Dev community was eventually strong enough, and the discussions sophisticated enough, that conferences were organized to parallel the Game Developers Conference. Attendees and speakers were drawn from the professional MMORPG and MUD communities. J. C. Lawrence and Brian Green were among the organizers.
In 2001, the first MUD-Dev conference, which was named MERA (an acronym for Mediated Environment Research Association), received coverage by GameSpy:.
On the agenda were roundtable discussions about interactive fiction led by Lee Sheldon, a discussion about grief players and how to handle them led by Raph Koster, and a variety of topics about the future of multiplayer environments led by Randy Farmer.
(Photos are available in GameSpy's archives.)
As an organization, MERA had disappeared by 2002, leading some to ask whether there was a conference or simply a dinner that year. The conference was renamed "MUD-Dev Conference" and featured the following speakers and presentations:
- Adam Martin, "An Evolving Architecture for Evolving MMOGs"
- Matt Mihaly, "Managing PvP"
- Nathan Yospe, "Matching Words to Meaning: A Retrospective Look at the PhysMUD Formed Text Output and Natural Language Input Models"
- Dave Rickey, "Coping with Omniscience: Player Feedback and the MMOG QA Process"
- Gordon Walton, Scott Jennings, Damion Schubert, "Less is More? — A Debate on the Number of Characters per Server" (Jennings' presentation is archived on his blog)
- Lee Sheldon, "True Multiplayer Quests"
- Brian Green, "Redefining the PvP Flag"
- Dr. Cat, "What ELSE Are These Things Good For?"
- John Arras, "Generated Worlds and Meaningful Activities"
- Larry Dunlap, "Is There Intelligent Life Beyond Massively Multiplayer for Online Games?"
- Elonka Dunin, "Steganography, Terrorism, and Multiplayer Games"
- David Kennerly, "Better Game Design through Data Mining"
The third conference in 2004 featured the following speakers and presentations:
- Alistair Riddoch, "Designs for Continent-Scale Persistent Online Worlds"
- John Arras, "Hierarchical World Generation"
- Daniel James, Andrew Tepper, Brian Green, "Running an Independent Online Game"
- Constance Steinkuehler, "...Who Encouraged Developers to Provide Resources for MMOG Guild Leaders"
- Edward Castronova, "The Future of Cyberspace Economies"
- Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar, "New Lessons from the Virtual Outback"
The MUD-Dev conferences became less formal, featuring workshops, such as the one that originated this cartoon. Over the years, attendees included notables such as Jake Song, designer of Lineage, Cory Ondrejka of Second Life, and many others.
A complete archive of discussions held on MUD-Dev was preserved on muddev.wishes.net (Dead link) in addition to other locations on the Web. The reappearance of the MUD-Dev archive, after the messages had been believed lost for multiple years, was sufficiently notable to warrant recognition by popular technology blogs.
- Raph Koster
- Designing Virtual Worlds, page 37. Richard A. Bartle. New Riders, 2003. ISBN 0131018167, 9780131018167
- A private conversation between Raph Koster and Brad McQuaid.
- MUD-Dev2 homepage