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March Mud of the Month
End of the Line (EotL)

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A Brief History of EotL

Duncan, the Janitor: I was lucky enough to participate in Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw's MUD1 when it was developed at Essex University. After returning to the United States, I was determined to continue exploring my interest in MU gaming. When I saw the flexibility of the LP parser released by Lars, I knew this was the way to go. In addition to supporting a dynamic database (modifiable from within the game!) it also allowed for time-based events with its heartbeat mechanism.

I launched UCR's Let's See Yours shortly after the first release of the LP parser. We soon merged with another MUD known as The Pitt, and changed our name to The End of the Line.

Shortly after its creation, the University of California in Riverside began to question whether or not they wanted to be associated with a "game", and withdrew their support. Fortunately, Stanford University (specifically Dennis Michaels) came to our rescue and have provided a venue for EOTL ever since.

Hannah, Archwizard: I started playing UCR's Let's See Yours (LPmud version 1.4.1) in the Fall of 1989, the beginning of my senior year at UCR. At the time, the majority of players were students at the University. I was a big fan of Infocom adventure games so I was easily drawn to this new, interactive adventuring. When you first created your character you logged into the Endoplasmatorium with a small amount of cash. There was the famous money bug in the earlier mudlibs--repeatedly going net-dead and logging back on during the login process increased the amount of money you carried. In the game you killed monsters and collected coins from the corpses (or from robbing the bank). You had hit points, but there were none of today's standard statistics (str, con, dex, etc.) nor were there any player guilds. The God of the mud was Duncan. The first player to make Wizard was Kevin; the second was Benz; and the third was Yakker.

When the mud became End of the Line we gained a second God, Xurbax, and a few wizards such as Tkela and Totenkopf. The areas drastically changed as well. There was the central town of Glamorgen, and the rest of the mud was divided into North, South, East, and West clans (with Down clan added later). EotL's first notorious player killer, Molak, terrorized the mud during this period, sometimes aided by his friend, Yakker (who became an ex-wizard after deleting most of South clan). This Clan period lasted until July/August 1991, when the mud was taken down without notice.

When the mud came back up again in September 1991, it was rechristened The Revenge of the End of the Line and all the old wizards who wanted back were reinstated, including Zamboni, Jimbotomy, Mute, Death, Cossa and Bannor. For the first couple of weeks, EotL consisted of one room which was frequently crowded with old players wanting their mud back and wondering what happened to it. Talk about dedication! This single room soon expanded into Eternal City, which continues to be the center of the EotL universe. The mudlib was slowly rebuilt from scratch, at first by newer wizards Sonja, Mortekai and Locus, and later by Mordrick. The clan system was replaced by cabals (still in effect today), which allows more smaller groups of wizards to work together on a common area. Mordrick managed to finish a few base items (e.g. WeaponCode, ArmorCode, RoomCode, ShopCode), implementing them without notifying the other wizards first. Several wizards became fed up with Mordrick and left, including Sonja, Mortekai, Elvis, and Mervyn (formerly Benz). Mordrick would be gone only a few months later in early 1993. It was around this time that Locus promoted himself to archwizard and began a big Frob Fest.

Mid-1994 saw the next big wave of mudlib coders which included Gridpoint and Zippo; they rewrote and optimized much of Mordrick's code, and Zippo created the BW (Binford All-Purpose Wiz Toy [tm]). Jimbotomy's WeaponCode2 arrived on the scene and radically altered combat (whether or not it was for the better is still debated). Itchy rewrote SkillCode. In mid-1995, EotL's web page was opened. In 1996 archwizards such as Iffy, Devo, and Sterno/Morph continued to further optimize the mudlib using closures, and ANSI color options were added to most forms of communication such as channels and tells.

There has been a steady rollover of archwizards over the last several years--major coders burn out and quit, fresh-blooded hotshots arrive and replace them. But there is always a base of "old geezers" who stick around and add their two bits to every policy change or debate. This trend will probably continue for years to come.

Interview with the Mud Administrators

1. EotL has been around (more or less) since 1989. Many muds enter the scene and then depart almost as quickly; what does it take to build a mud that will be around almost a decade later?

Duncan: A stable site. Most MUDs go away because they lack the infrastructure to support them for long periods of time. A MUD without a home rapidly turns into a memory.

Secondarily, you have to acknowledge the fanatical dedication of the game's players. Many of EOTL's regulars have been actively playing since the game's creation.

Jimbotomy, Archwizard: Well, most obviously a stable host. Without a machine to run the game on, the game goes bye-bye. The people involved in providing a host for the game have done a wonderful job ensuring that computing power has never been a real problem.

Beyond that, I think the key reason for EotL's survival is its decentralized nature. EotL doesn't follow the vision of any one person (which at times can be a drawback), meaning that no one person is really critical to the mud itself. The mud lives on without one person needing to continually drive its development.

Zippo, Archwizard: A stable site and a good combination of smarts and creativity in the players that become wizards. I don't mean people that are just completely badass smart, and creative too, but people that are smart and learn fast and can think logically very well (me), and people that are creative and may (or may not) need help from the other group to put this creativity into code. If you have both, you have a project that is never finished, growing constantly.

Xyzzy (A.K.A. Yakker), Archwizard: That's a good question. Each character on EotL brings their own individual attitudes, moral complexities and needs to the rest of the MUD community. Through interactions and role-playing, each person gains a sense of individuality that might not be as easy to do outside of a MUD environment. EotL remains because it draws people together (for whatever reason) and allows them to communicate together in a real, yet not so true-to-life forum, and that makes people want to come back.

Rookie, Archwizard: It takes a dedicated group of people to want to make a good mud a great mud ten years down the road. The original group of people that started EOTL were all very avid mudders that were very discplined in their tasks and lay the groundwork for the EOTL today. They provided excellent and inventive code modules and libraries which allowed the coder to go crazy with an idea. When those mudders left, they kept for the most part being replaced by people just as interested in running a good mud. Another reason this mud has been sucessful in my opinion, is that the mud is American-based, right here in California, and many of the original coders and high ranking officials were good real life friends before they embarked into their mudding hobbies. As acquaintances, they introduced many different themes -- anything from fantasy to futuristic -- and all themes brought here were accepted, unlike some other muds. The best advertisement in the world is still word-of-mouth, and at one time, this helped EOTL to reach the 150-200 goal in users online at any one time. From a mortal standpoint, EOTL can be fun. Not many muds allow the anarchy involved with level advancement and condoned player killing that EOTL has.

2. How has running and being involved with EotL affected your life (for better or worse)?

Duncan: My "hands off" policing breaks from actively intefering with the game's development. I really enjoy seeing how the game's players choose to organize themselves without outside (read: my) influence.

On the whole, I'm very pleased with EOTL's impact on my life. Over the years, I've met a large number of extremely interesting people through a mutual interest in the game.

Jimbotomy: When I first considered this question, I thought of the people I've met through the mud. Some of them were nice, some of them were nasty and mean, but on the whole I've been able to establish a number of decent friendships over the mud, which would have probably been impossible otherwise.

But then I considered the greater impact EotL has had on my life. When I first started on EotL, I didn't know how to program or code anything beyond the most basic scripts and basic programs. Now I work at a company designing HTML, supervising a network, and coding some relatively simple programs. If I hadn't become a wizard on EotL, and didn't have the coding help that other wizards on EotL were able to provide me, I doubt I would have this job. Of course, there were other considerations, but I doubt I'd be anywhere near as computer literate as I am now without EotL.

EotL's also provided me with an amazing outlet for my creativity. I can put anything I want on this mud, and that freedom of expression has had a very positive impact on my everyday outlook.

Devo, Archwizard: I can easily say that EotL has made me a better person. I'm probably one of the few that can. For many, the mud has only been a distraction, leading to a breakdown in real-life activities. People "ditch mud to get a life." While people like that use mud as a substitute for real life, for me, mud is my life. I hang out with mudders in real life. Mud is my main means of communication with these people. I use mud as a testbed for many practices and ideas I may later apply in real life. LPC gave me a new desire to code in other "real" languages, and I've learned more about administration and leadership than I could from any of those weekend seminars.

Zippo: I started out procrastinating a history test when I was in early college heading towards some sort of architect career. I had a girlfriend and some other friends of course. The girlfriend is long gone, as I buried myself in The Game [tm] for a year and a half or so. My major is Computer Science, though I don't go to school right now. I have a fulltime job as a systems administrator for a large ISP/Webhosting company administrating >60 powerful linux machines, some Sparcs, etc. I now am proficient in C, Perl, various shell scripts, some assembly, etc. etc. EotL did all that to/for me. I like it. Oh yeah, I got a new girlfriend anyway. :) I've been on here for about 6 1/2 years, I think.

Havock, Wizard: A lot of people would like to say that mudding has not had an effect on their lives. If they say this, then they are way off in some little universe of their own. EotL showed me that I have a great interest in coding and because of EotL I have changed the course of my life goals and I am now working towards a career in computer programming.

Xyzzy: I have been around EotL as a number of characters and wizards for the last nine years, since the opening of UCR Let's See Yours LP back in 1989. I have made and lost friends, created and destroyed player environments, and for the most part used EotL as a place to interact with friends, vent frustrations, and simply exist. I believe people like myself use EotL has a place to get away -- to stop dealing with day-to-day existence for just a little while. It's refreshing.

Rookie: Reading this question made me laugh out loud. Both for better and for worse. Let me start with the bad. I know for a fact EOTL is the singlemost procrastinating hobby I have ever encountered. Growing up, I never played ATARI or Nintendo (I was too po'), but mudding from school initially provided free 'entertainment'. Therefore I got hooked into it, and my schooling suffered badly. An engineering firm I would have had fulltime employment with after school rescinded its offer after noticing my suffering grades, and I was sure that EOTL was something evil. The irony since then is that EOTL got me every job I've had since graduation (long story), and EOTL taught me that I would never make a good engineer or a good coder, for that matter. I learned from mudding that memory and rapport are my two best qualities, and I have met a lot of great people on here that have helped me with advice, either technologically or emotionally. Plus, EOTL was the gateway I needed to introduce myself to the computer world and to reach beyond the mere knowledge of WordPerfect 5.1.

3. When EotL was first opened to the public the internet was still pretty much a private playground for universities and research facilities. How has the recent explosion in internet usage affected EotL?

Duncan: We see a lot more players. We see a lot more clueless morons. Since EOTL studiously avoids commercial affiliation, the impact of the Internet's commercialization on the game has been fairly minimal.

Jimbotomy: Certain events conspired to ease the "usage explosion" that everyone talks about. Prior to what I see as the heavy commercialization of the internet, EotL had a lot of players logging in through a modem connection in Palo Alto. This, as I understand it, stopped a while ago. The number of mortals on EotL is down from then. I also think that the web itself draws most of the new traffic, as opposed to a telnet-based game.

Devo: It hasn't really. This mainly stems from the fact that the majority of our player population came from a toll-free dialup line at Stanford. The internet wasn't even an issue for these people. While the line is gone, our roots are still fairly set in this internet-less ideal.

Zippo: I haven't noticed much change to EotL with the recent commercialization of the internet, as most of that is web stuffs, and, since EotL isn't graphical, most people probably aren't as interested right off the bat, so they wouldn't give it a second glance (if they even find out about it).

Havock: The only real effect that the recent explosion of internet usage has had on EotL in my opinion is the large cross-section of users that now log into the mud. In the past it was mostly computer students or others in very similar fields. Now a wide varaity of people access the mud and play the game.

Rookie: If you ask me, I think it has hurt EOTL. EOTL isn't the main attraction anymore; there are so many different things to do when you are online. I remember when I first mudded, we used monochrome VAX machines in the computer lab at school. No browsers, no games, nothing. Excitement was mudding, irc'ing, and browsing useless bulletin boards. Now, with the infusion of the internet into society, less and less people have a direct interest in EOTL. People used to login to EOTL for EOTL's sake; now people do it as a background task to something else. More and more, looking at the wizard who list, more than half the wizards are idle; this was not the case five years ago.

4. Describe the advantages and drawbacks to running a very multi-themed mud. Has EotL always strived to provide such variety or was there originally a central theme?

Duncan: Early on I wanted to avoid a thematic pigeon-hole. I wanted interested developers to have the freedom to build any kind of world they envisioned. Hence the multi-thematic game. Contributing to this decision was the desire to run very large game. Getting 100 coders on the same page is impossible, so we elected to let them organize themselves via the cabal mechanism.

Jimbotomy: The advantages I've touched on briefly before: the lack of a single person or small group driving development of the mud, in addition to the creative freedom it provides. As long as I've been here, I don't think there's ever been a restriction on the themes of certain areas. I don't think we've "strived" to provide variety, but rather that variety is a natural consequence of not limiting the creative freedom of talented individuals.

The principal drawback to the variety allowed on EotL is that it makes it very difficult to make and implement mud-wide changes. The general style and feel of the game hasn't changed much since 1990, and even small changes to core code or concepts can have catastrophic effects on the mud as a whole.

On the whole, however, the advantages by far outweigh the disadvantages.

Devo: I'm not old enough to know what we "originally" strived for. I don't think it matters anyways. I've talked to administrators at other muds, and I haven't encountered a single mud that gives their programmers more freedom than we do. Joe Average Wizard has virtually full read access, and is free to code pretty much whatever he wants, be it areas, tools, or even core code that an admin will later copy in. I can't imagine EotL without this kind of freedom, so it's hard for me to think of any drawbacks. I suppose this freedom is partially responsible for our inability to establish standards. Standards can easily turn into rules though, so I can stand to live without them.

Zippo: Variety is the spice of life, etc. I don't think there's anything difficult about running a multi-themed mud such as EotL, but then I've never had it any other way. Don't want to, either.

Xyzzy: With the exception of the first two years, EotL has been a continually evolving MUD, with multiple themes and social ranking structures. Evolution is what drives this MUD to some of its success; without change, people get bored and leave. The themes, structures, and environments have always been controlled by the political nature of the wizard environment, and that in turn has been influenced by the players, who in turn say how much they enjoy EotL by coming back. It's a natural process of change.

Rookie: As long as I've been there, we've been down wit' variety. Heck, our /zone subdirs are 'fantasy', 'present', 'null', and 'future', and ideas that mirror one of those themes go in there. When I was a mortal, it was not uncommon to kill a futuristic Trask guard with a Demon Blade or to blow away a drow guard with a Trask gun. The key was in having admin that paid attention to keeping balanced items and rooting out the 'death items'. I like variety, personally. This is the only mud I've stayed at for a long time; every other mud I've tried has been the same fantasy theme repeated to death. I can never figure out for the life of me how those sort of muds can be interesting.

5. Other thoughts?

Jimbotomy: At times I've thought of EotL as a grand experiment in communal collaboration. There are so many different people and different personalities here that inevitably those personalities and philosophies clash. At times, it seems quite chaotic, but to a student of human behavior and interaction, it's never dull.

Devo: If you asked people from other muds to describe us, you'd probably get a rather negative impression. They'd probably say that we're not nice, and they'd probably be right. New players get killed repeatedly instead of helped. On intermud channels EotLers tend to be rude, arrogant, and annoying. Hell there was a time when the majority of the muds blocked EotL out. But all this is just the nature of the environment here, and as such...the nature of the people that make up the environment. The weak try to become strong and the strong try to prevent the weak from doing so. In the midst of the constant power struggle, though, I think that everyone that logs on here has a certain respect for the game. Everyone, weak or strong, wants to have the best EotL possible.

Zippo: EotL is hell. EotL is heaven. Depends on whether or not you can get through your first couple hours. EotL is "Lord of the Flies" on a badass desktop workstation. We hate each other. We love each other. Then, we hate some more. Whee.

Havock: EotL is definitely an experience. The chaotic nature of EotL and constant power struggles make the mud a place of intrigue and extreme frustration. EotL is not a place for everyone and was never intended to provide such a place. If you are unable to cope with the nature of EotL then it is best that you don't continue to log in. But if you manage to survive the first while, then EotL can be an extremely rewarding place. Not only is the theme of the mud extremely diverse, but the people that come here are as well.

Rookie: EOTL is an experience in what I call 'realistic mudding.' I've gone to other muds and gotten banned for bad language, player killing, etc. Why? Muds need to realize that mud in effect is a microcosm for life, and that the good and the bad need to be allowed in a text-based game to make it exciting. I've found humor in our intermud channel treatment, in that people take our attitudes way too seriously. As much as mudding mimics life sometimes, it's a good lesson to remember that this is just a game.

What the players are saying!

From Tarrant (player since 1994):
Over the years I've gotten myself involved in relationships with people and done all kinds of stupid things that have screwed up my life. I'm not gonna blame em all on this place but I might as well blame some of em. I've been addicted to playing in the past and believe I've now gotten over that addiction I hope. Hmm the mud has changed a lot since I started. When I first started most of the popular areas were different. Things are pretty cool now but the one thing I miss most is how many of the old school players have moved on from EotL.

From Milk:
the things i like most about eotl would have to be the pkilling and the huge variety of areas. theres almost every kind of area you can think of and everything is really cool. the things i dont really like about eotl are dumb wankers who whine about everything and cant do anything for themselves.

From Ladylunar (player since 1992):
I have been on EotL for over 5 years and for most of that time I have had a wizard and played a mortal. Though the atmosphere has always been one of chaos, it has become more so down the years. Some people ask me why I stay and I guess that will be the things I like about EotL. I stay because there's no other mud like it. Variety is probably the biggest asset of EotL, from the players to the areas one can always find someone to talk to and some place they enjoy fighting. As a wizard I am not closed to only being able to code certain areas. On EotL, a wizard can make anything their imagination can think of and if they have trouble with the code, there is usually someone willing to help. As a mortal, there are so many people to talk to and so many areas to explore. The people are the main reason I stay for rl can be quite bothersome at times and there are some very caring and special people on EotL (course, one tends to have to sort through a lot of frogs to find them). My dislikes of EotL have to do with it being too chaotic. Cheating is rampant, pking is rampant and some of the people higher up that you would hope you could turn to are just as likely to nuke, dest or kill you as help you. The same thing that has given EotL an interesting flavor, chaos, is also turning into its downfall. I have seen a lot of good people leave because of the treatment by mortals or those in the wiz ranks. EotL is not for those who are weak of heart, new to mudding or afraid to die because believe me, chances are you'll die a lot (probably more from being pk'd than anything else). Has EotL changed my life? Well, I've met people that have given me memories I wouldn't trade for anything, but as I've told my friends in a somewhat teasing way, EotL is really only for the masochists in society.

From Mystic (player since 1993):
EOTL eats other muds for breakfast. Since the spring of 1993 I have played on well over 20 different muds and I can quite safely say that End Of The Line (EOTL) is the most exciting there is. Sure EOTL has great descriptions and tons of guilds, skills, equipment and lots of monsters and areas to kill in, but most muds have that. The main reason I find EOTL so exciting is because it is so hard to play and advance. Player killing is allowed and in fact encouraged, there are almost no rules which mortals have to follow. Chances are that within the first 10 minutes of playing EOTL you will be killed. Once you do stop being a newbie and learn to play the mud the satisfaction you get from getting a character up to a high level is much greater than on other muds because of the effort that had to be put into doing it. If you want to play a mud that is easy and power level yourself, EOTL is not for you. If you like to be challenged and have the patience to learn then EOTL is where it's at.

From War (player since 1994):
My soul is pure
I am salvation
My fingers damn cold
No circulation
I'm done with talking
It's time to slay
I dare you to walk through the heart today

I am the master
Of your fate
Because I just
Can't get a date
I think my life
Has meaning now
So I'll shut up
And go eat dead cow.

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