A. [as B. enters] I'm exhausted.
A. I mean, this class is interesting and all, but we're just barely half way through the semester and its starting to feel like it will never end.
B. Well I've got some great news for you then.
A. [jumping out of seat] No class today?!?
B. Even better!
A. [sitting down again in disappointment]. Great. What?
B. Three of the last six weeks of class you're going to spend part of your course time playing video games.
A. [mouth opens.]
B. And reporting the hours on your blog so that I can make sure you played the games as assigned.
A. You're kidding?
B. We're going to start with a classic. One of the first video games ever, part of a genre referred to as " Interactive Fiction ."
A. So this week's not about MUDs and MOOs?
B. [chuckling] Slow down, turbo! The genius of my cunning plan ( MP3 ) will shortly reveal itself.
A. Ok! A game sounds cool. I'm up for a game. How do we play?
B. If you're lucky enough to be on a Mac [winks to student in back], download "Zork I for Mac" ( HQX ). If you're on Windows, download "Zork I for Windows" ( EXE ). As a last resort, if for some reason you can't get either of these to work (I have downloaded, installed, and tested both myself as of 8/25/04) you can play the game online .
A. As eager as I am to do some gaming, how does this all connect with MUDs and MOOs?
B. Let me give you a bit more context. Zork is a text adventure game. Instead of high-res 3D graphics, the entire world is represented in text. For example, when you get Zork I installed and working, you'll see something like this:
You enter simple commands like 'w' to go west or 'read leaflet' to read the leaflet you find in the mailbox. You might be tempted to think "No graphics? This is gonna stink!" but in the hands of a talented writer, the genre is infinitely more captivating than today's popular computer games.
B. We're spending time playing a text adventure game because this genre really inspired MUD and MOO authors. Playing the game lets you get some context and insight into how moving around and interacting in a MUD will work. Since MUDs are basically multiplayer versions of the text adventure games, you can play Zork I without worrying about being culturally insensitive or offending anyone, and just have a good time learning your way around the system.
A. So how do I play? What do I do?
B. Play the game for an hour or so. Commands you should know are east, west, south, north, up, down, take, drop, say, and inventory. Other common sense commands will work when they should like open, read, etc. (If you get completely stuck and are having more frustration than fun, check out a walkthrough .)
A. So I assume MUD and MOO are acronymns - what do they stand for?
B. MUD = Multi-User Dungeon or Multi-User Dimension, depending on who you ask. MOO = MUD, Object Oriented.
B. In honor of the great adventure games like Dungeons and Dragons .
A. But what's the difference between the two?
B. MUD is the broader category of software. Many MUDs are multi-player versions of the text adverture games like Zork, where there are items to collect, creatures to kill, and other goals to accomplish. A MOO is a kind of MUD, however, MOOs differ in that they are generally goal-free hangouts - places where people socialize with each other, meet to chat, etc. The object designation in the name MOO represents that fact that most MOO users can actually create objects (like chairs or lamps or anything else you could imagine) in the MOO.
A. [with wonder] So in a MOO you just use words to make / describe / create the rooms, terrain, items, etc. in the world?
B. Pretty empowering, right? Amy Bruckman thought so too, and she saw some pretty interesting educational potential in this technology -- in 1994. Read Programming for Fun: MUDs as a Context for Collaborative Learning . You'll want to read this paper this week.
A. In 1994!?!
B. Yep. The technology is pretty old by our standards. In 1994 MediaMOO (the MUD at the Media Lab) was old enough that Amy had used it, researched it, and was making presentations about it.
A. [to self, but out loud] I thought I would have heard of all the cool things like this on the Net by now.
B. There's actually been a lot of interesting research done on MUDs and MOOs. One of the best articles of all in this genre is Bartle's Players Who Suit MUDs . It does a great job of highlighting the interaction between several variables and teasing out how they impact the MUDding experience. This is from 1996.
B. Another great piece is Lynn Cherny's The Modal Complexity of Speech Events in a Social MUD from 1995. Read that this week, too.
A. So do we get to play with a MOO this week?
B. Lynn's piece will give you a great feel for some of the ways social interaction happens in MUDs and will be the last bit of preparation you should get before you connect to a MUD.
A. [excitedly] So how do we connect?
B. Let me explain it this way:
The assignment for this week is to:
To connect to LambdaMOO, first read through and then follow the directions on LambdaMOO: An introduction . Be sure to scroll down far enough to see the list of common commands.
Finally, write a brief piece describing the way in which social interaction is different in the MOO than in other environments we have studied. How does the ability to create artifacts seem to affect the way people interact with each other? Do the artifacts (rooms, trails, buildings, furniture, etc.) play an important role in mediating the interactions? What role do the different speech modalities play in facilitating interaction?
Don't forget to post it on your blog!
A. Yes, I've figured it out now.
B. Well then -- go forth and play, interact, and build!