Answer: Multi-User Dungeon
Long before the advent of richly textured video games and massive online universes, there were text-based games. The 1970s gave rise to the first of these text-based adventures and the very first one to offer multiple players an opportunity to adventure together.
The first text-based game to gain widespread attention and play was Colossal Cave Adventure, designed by Will Crowther in 1976. Building on the success and fun of Colossal Cave Adventure, a group of students at MIT built Zork, which was then ported to FORTRAN IV by another student during the short time period that Zork was known as Dungeon (TSR, Tactical Studies Rules, soon legally forced a name change back to Zork). As fun as these games were with their Dungeons & Dragons inspired hack and slash adventures, play was a solitary experience. It was you against the machine with no opportunities to romp in a virtual space with your friends.
No chance, that is, until 1978 when Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle, students at the University of Essex, created a game much like Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork (which they knew as Dungeon) that allowed multiple players to go on adventures together and interact. In tribute to the Dungeon variant of Zork, Trubshaw named the game MUD (Multi-User Dungeon). The game was played on small networks until, in 1980, the University of Essex was connected to ARPANET. From its humble beginnings as two students’ side project, the whole concept of MUDs took off. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, MUDs (and variants like MUSHes and MOOes) were where you went if you wanted to play a fun and low-bandwidth friendly online game.
The original MUD, now known as MUD1 to denote it as the original MUD game, is still online and ready to dish out all the text-based adventure you can handle.
Image by How-To Geek Staff.
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