Before World of Warcraft, League of Legends and Runescape there was MUD.
MUD or Multi-User Dungeons is a multiplayer real-time virtual world and probably the origin of the MMORPG’s AKA Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games’ we know now.
Like a lot of MMORPGs’ now, original MUDs implement a role playing game set in a fantasy world populated by fictional races and monsters, player vs player, have ‘non playing characters’ aka NPC and have interactive stories. Only unlike the good or bad graphics of today, MUD is entirely in text.
Many MUD’s were fashioned around the famous Dungeon and Dragons series of games.

Dungeon and Dragons is originally a role playing table top (or board) game. It allows you to take the role of a character and experience adventures in a fantasy world. The rules are set in written and each action of players decides how the story continues. There is a Dungeon master who plays as a god like character and ensures that the game progresses as the rules decide.

Find out more at the official D&D website

Many MUD’s hence also function this way.
Before the term MMORPG was coined MMORPG’s were just called graphic MUDs.
The first widely used adventure game MUD would be Will Crowther’s ‘Colossal Cave Adventure’ AKA just ‘Adventure’. Created in 1975 for the PDP-10 mainframe, this came comprised many of Dungeon and Dragon’s game play features including a computer controlled Dungeon master. Adventure has the player’s character explore a mysterious cave that is rumoured to be filled with treasure and gold. To explore the cave, the player has to type in one- or two-word commands to move their character through the cave, interact with objects in the cave and other actions.
Certain actions may cause the death of the character, requiring the player to start again. The player has 3 lives in the game.
Inspired by Adventure, a group of MIT students created Zork. Zork is set in “the ruins of an ancient empire lying far underground” where the player is a nameless adventure in search of wealth.
This in turn resulted in the MUD named MUD (yes the creatively is astounding), created by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle at the University of Essex. The game revolved around gaining points till one achieved the Wizard rank, giving the character immortality and special powers over mortals.
However MUDs aren’t just about quests and magic and wealth. They also focused on various other topics.
Player-vs-player or Player killing (PVP or PK) games were solely devoted to players fighting against each other.One example of this was the game Genocide.
Social MUD’s were designed mainly to facilitate social interactions. They focused on community activities and role playing which involved more players than NPCs. 
MUD’s where also used for educational purposes, Diversity University was especially dedicated to this; it allowed people to interact real time by connecting to a virtual server, assuming a virtual reality within the realm. People could “walk” into virtual rooms and interact with people in the room. The structure was similar to a college campus and this MUD was used for holding online classes.
Then came the Graphical MUDs which are the MMORPGs we know today.
MUD’s are a great example of how people enjoyed virtual words by using nothing but their imagination. People took on specific characters and created their own stories, many people have been reported to become complete different personalities while playing them. Students have reported playing many different characters at once online all while doing school work, as a way to shut off from the world for a few minutes.
Worlds with many different plots, with their own rules all created via our own imagination.



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