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The Domestic Online Game Legend Has Come of Age

Nowadays MMO games are everywhere, and the biggest of them, World of Warcraft, with its millions
of players is a goldmine for its creators. However, few people have ever played or even thought about
the kinds of games that were the actual birth of the genre. Even before EverQuest and Ultima Online,
players could adventure in shared virtual worlds, so called MUDs, in the net.

MUDs, short for Multi-User Dungeons, were text based multi-user role playing games, of which the
first one, cleverly named as MUD, was launched in 1979. The heyday of MUDs was, however, the
beginning of the 1990's, when the number of different MUDs grew. MUDs are considered, in many
ways, to be the seed for contemporary MMO games, because even though they were purely text based,
they still contained a lot of the same elements that the first MMOs that followed them contained.
Unquestionably, the most popular MUD in Finland was and still is BatMUD, which was born in the
School of Science and Technology in 1990. The game, which started as a project of a few students, has
grown during the years into a massive entity, with tens of volunteer “wizards”, i.e. users who code new
features and areas into the game.

In its 20 year history, the game has certainly experienced a lot more than just expansion. The player limit
has increased from when yours truly was actively playing to the present day from little over a hundred
to several hundreds, and even the game world itself was in an upheaval in 2006, when the old world
was “destroyed” and divided into several continents.

Most probably, no other online game is as unforgettable as BatMUD. You see, my BatMUD career
began the very same day I first stepped into the wonderful world of the Internet.

Playing games online was not that big a deal in 1994, and the English language skills and
comprehension of a 12 year old little boy gave the gaming significant challenges. When the only
graphical yield was limited to an ASCII map and you had to examine the surrounding world mostly
through long text descriptions, you might have imagined that interest in the game would have run out.

It turned out differently. The game sucked me in so strongly, that game days which stretched into 12-14
hour long at their worst started to harm school studies in a way which is a significantly more common
phenomenon nowadays that WoW is around.

However, for some unfathomable reason, I managed to control the addiction which at first
got out of hand badly, and therefore BatMUD stayed as a solid part of my life for several years.
Therefore, it was great to go and see how BatMUD celebrated its 20 year journey.

A live player has been spotted at Restaurant Kaivohuone, I'll be there

The main stage of the anniversary was Restaurant Kaivohuone in Helsinki, where also the 15th year
anniversary was celebrated five years ago. Approximately 400 more or less actively playing guests
were pampered with delicious food, and considering the gender distribution of the player base and
guests, with very understandable performances. The lovely girls of the band Indica were responsible for
the music in the beginning of the evening, whereas later the atmosphere was uplifted by two DJ girls.
In addition to the performers and the staff, the total number of female guests was probably about ten, so
BatMUD can still be characterized as a very manly hobby.

How has BatMUD fared in the changing world of MMOs? Apparently very well. The administrator and
player base around the game is very dedicated and active. Because it costs nothing to play the game, even the
wizards who develop the game do their work without pay.

Also the size of the game makes World of Warcraft, which is by itself quite large, sound like a feeble
cough. The administrators and players whom I talked with didn't believe that there would be someone
who had seen everything there is in BatMUD. The amazingly large fantasy world with tens of races,
guilds, and secret societies is just the tip of the iceberg.

The player-kept cities, fortresses, and the ever expanding structure of the world make it a really
massive experience, which, I hear to experience completely would require you to have played the
game really actively since its beginning.

In addition to its age, BatMUD is an exception in the world of MUDs for another reason as well: it has
its own game client software. When yours truly was actively playing, the game was mere white text on
a black background, no matter the wishes of the player, and for example monitoring the health of your
party members and many other things were very arduous tasks. The BatClient, which was released a
few years ago and is still under active development, provides a possibility to play this text based role
playing adventure with a user interface that almost fulfills the MMORPG criteria.

The user interface, which previously consisted purely of text based sentences and macros
bordering art, has been streamlined with the help of the BatClient. It gives you clear, graphical displays
of your own state as well as of the state of the whole party, enabling you to handle situations
significantly easier. In addition, for example the chat channels and battle logs are in their separate
windows, which helps the processing of the received information considerably.

All in all, the BatMUD's 20th year anniversary gala was thoroughly a positive experience. Seeing
friends from over ten years ago was a part unto itself, but it was also great to see how the birthplace of
my own online gaming is still alive and well. I can't say that after visiting the gala I'm wouldn't be
tempted to install BatClient to try the game once more. However, due to time constraints it maybe wise
not to do that.

If you are interested in free online gaming and the traditional MMORPGs are not your thing, BatMUD
still is a noteworthy option compared to the growing number of “free” online role playing games.
English language skills are needed though, because regardless of the new client software, the game is
and will stay text based. The game client is available for PC, Mac, and Linux.

BatMUD homepage:
You can download the game client from:

Tero Lehtiniemi/Peliplaneetta

Translation by Teemu Hietanen