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In 1978 Roy Trubshaw, a student at Essex University in the UK, started working on a multi-user adventure game in the MACRO-10 assembly language for a DEC PDP-10.He named the game MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), in tribute to the Dungeon variant of Zork, which Trubshaw had greatly enjoyed playing.
Players typically interact with each other and the world by typing commands that resemble a natural language.
Many MUDs were fashioned around the dice-rolling rules of the Dungeons & Dragons series of games.
Such fantasy settings for MUDs are common, while many others have science fiction settings or are based on popular books, movies, animations, periods of history, worlds populated by anthropomorphic animals, and so on.
Neil Newell, an avid MUD1 player, started programming his own MUD called SHADES during Christmas 1985, because MUD1 was closed down during the holidays.
Starting out as a hobby, SHADES became accessible in the UK as a commercial MUD via British Telecom's Prestel and Micronet networks.
By 1978-79, PLATO MUDs were heavily in use on various PLATO systems, and exhibited a marked increase in sophistication in terms of 3D graphics, storytelling, user involvement, team play, and depth of objects and monsters in the dungeons.
PLATO MUDs are often ignored by historians and by the creators of other MUDs whose work came later.
The history of modern massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like Ever Quest and Ultima Online, and related virtual world genres such as the social virtual worlds exemplified by Second Life, can be traced directly back to the MUD genre.
Colossal Cave Adventure, created in 1975 by Will Crowther on a DEC PDP-10 computer, was the first widely used adventure game.
Numerous graphical MUDs were created on the PLATO system at the University of Illinois and other American universities that used PLATO, beginning in 1975.
Among them were "pedit5", "oubliette", "moria", "avathar", "krozair", "dungeon", "dnd", "crypt", and "drygulch".
Traditional MUDs implement a role-playing video game set in a fantasy world populated by fictional races and monsters, with players choosing classes in order to gain specific skills or powers.