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The MUDzilla Simulation System

The Genesis of MUDzilla

"An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come." -- Victor Hugo

Our Roots

The Stuff of Creation

To meet the the challenges of Simulating Anything has taken us twenty years of thought and action, beginning in 1980. For the first 15 of these years, the authors of MUDzilla educated themselves in a variety of areas, including the sciences, performance art, music, creative writing, graphic design, software development, business management, and computer data networks. In order to practice the notion of operating an entire Multiverse, all of MUDzilla's authors, without exception, have participated in role-play gaming. In fact, MUDzilla began life at the gaming table, where a group of people join together to take on fictitious personae in order to tell some story. One person, often called a referee, or game master, is charged with creating the adventure, acting as the player's senses while guiding the story along. In 1995, the game masters within our group made a concious decision to share their works, and collectively expand their ideas. The results have been phenominal! Taken together, these adventures form the background and history for our first MUDzilla simulation, called The Monastery of Ages, and represents a direct outgrowth of our combined, 20-year gaming history.

Epiphanies

What follows are a number of key events which led to the creation of MUDzilla:

Fall, 1980. It occurs to us that computers could be used to simulate artificial realities. We spend the next 15 years learning the skills it will take to build MUDzilla, while we wait for computer technology to catch up.

An Epiphany May, 1994. The project enters the Feasability Stage: can we actually simulate anything? We set about a vigorous period of systemic and philosophical discussion which lasts five months.

September, 1994. The project earns its name, MUDzilla, along with the first MUDzilla simulation, an adaptation of the combined gaming environments we have been using since 1980, called The Monastery of Ages.

October, 1994. The project enters the Design Stage, as we gain confidence in our abilities. By now, we have an administrative policy in place with regards to simulation management, and spend the next year designing the necessary elements of MUDzilla.

November, 1995. The project enters the Development Stage, which takes five years, during which the World Wide Web comes into existence. Often tedious, but never dull, the development of MUDzilla will prove to be a life-changing experience for all involved.

November, 1996. It occurs to us that MUDzilla can be used for much more than a gaming environment. We see that any environment where a participant benefits from actually experiencing a thing, rather than simply reading about it, is a candidate for MUDzilla!

Practice Makes Perfect

Over the years, we have developed a number of software applications designed to remove much of the tedium associated with role-play gaming environments, which typically consists of innumerable dice rolls, the results of which are used to extract data from dozens, if not hundreds, of tables. The constant interruption of the story's flow to resolve some matters can impact a participant's ability to deliver consistent character performances. The first software tools created on the road to MUDzilla focused on moving the dice and the tables into program code and database files.

What follows is a list of these applications, and while none were marketed commercially, all were crucial to the development of MUDzilla.

The Commodore 64 Roomer (1982, Commodore 64). Roomer started out as an underground adventure design tool. Its primary purpose was to eliminate the tedious dice-rolling associated with dungeon creation where random room population is often required. For each room, the program took information about the current depth undergound, plus the physical characteristics of the room in question, and created contents for the room based on a myriad of tables. Encounters, treasure, and miscellaneous contents were all included. It should be noted that over half of the rooms located within The Monastery of Ages itself were filled back in 1982-84 using this utility.

Chargen (1984, Commodore 64). This program started the process of migrating player character generation from the gaming table to the computer. It was short-lived, however, due to a rogue winter thunderstorm in late 1984 that completely destroyed the hardware of the development environment, and ended the authors' relationship with the Commodore 64, itself a vital step in the evolution of personal computers.

The IBM PC Roomer II (1986, IBM PC DOS). Once the IBM Personal Computer became mainstream, the authors of MUDzilla transferred their development environment to a series of clone machines. The Roomer application was rewritten in Borland Turbo PASCAL, a PASCAL language compiler that contained an integrated editor and debugger. Roomer was extended to include complete random dungeon generation features. Lore which had evolved since the C-64 version was also added.

Chargen II (1988, IBM PC DOS). The CharGen application was revisted and completed in the early winter of 1988. By this time, the gaming system used by the authors had evolved into a complex sprawl of notes, tables, and maps which had only a vague resemblence to its original roots. Perhaps the most important and difficult gaming process involves the creation of new characters, and weaving them into the adventuring universe. CharGen was designed not only to create characters, but maintain them over the life of the player. The primary output of this application was a character sheet that detailed the abilities, skills, possessions, beliefs, and origins of each character.

Campaign Management System Campaign Management System (1992) The last application developed for the Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS), the Campaign Management System combined all the features of both Roomer and CharGen, added a random encounter engine, an experience point accounting system, and user accounts for shared access to application data within networked environments. The CMS was also the first application to use a relational database model. Character sheets were created using Microsoft Excel, which involved an Excel macro to translate CMS data into row and column spreadsheet data. The CMS was the first application used directly at the gaming table, vastly simplifying the generation of random encounters, and providing live experience point tablulation. Many of the design features of this application, which consisted of over 30,000 lines of Clipper code, were translated directly into Object PASCAL code during the development of MUDzilla.

About MUDzilla MUDzilla (1994) On May 10, 1994, the authors of MUDzilla distributed an element design worksheet detailing how various gaming policies and procedures have been implemented in a variety of systems. We spent the summer of 1994 evaluating these elements in order to establish the course we wanted MUDzilla to take. On September 10, 1994, the authors met again, and formed the TMOA Executive Committee, the steering body of the project. The element worksheet had been completed, and most of the key design goals were established, including choosing an object-oriented development environment, and relational database technology. Both MUDzilla and The Monastery of Ages were so named on that same evening. By October 4, 1994, the Feasability Stage had ended abruptly when one of the MUDzilla authors sucessfully sent a MUDzilla login screen across a data network using TELNET. From then until 1996, detailed design proceeded. Development officially began on January 1, 1996, when one MUDzilla author began to work on the project full-time. The first MUDzilla simulation will open its doors when it's ready, and not a moment before!

Simulating Anything

The Separation of Light from Dark Not long after September 10, 1994, when project design was well underway, the authors of MUDzilla began to realize that an object-oriented model meant that gaming environments were not the only good candidates for detailed simulation. A computer's ability to simulate complex constructs continues to be one of its major contributions to the evolution of humans. From early in the design phase, the authors set a goal of complete arbitrariness with regard to the content of a simulation. The object-oriented model directly supports this goal, for it divides up the universe into containers and the objects located inside these containers. It was simply a matter of solid object design at that point to keep the simulation system completely separate from what is being simulated.

The implications of this are staggering! It means that MUDzilla can be used to simulate classrooms for teachers, hospitals for nurses, and courtrooms for lawyers. Any place where participation in a simulation can bestow valuable learning experience is an excellent candidate for a MUDzilla simulation. And choosing a relational database model ensures the logical integrity of simulation data over the long haul. After all, a living, evolving simulation environment will encounter perhaps the most random force in nature: human behavior. MUDzilla meets these challenges head-on, combining proven tools with decades of experience, all dedicated to simulating anything!

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