An Introduction to Text Gaming and Free Muds
In the age of massively multiplayer online graphical games, multi-user dungeons (MUDs), text-based roleplaying games, have to work harder to create a niche for themselves. Though they have all lost players to some of their graphical competitors, many of the older games find themselves thriving with a loyal playerbase that consist of people who have played for a decade and new players who find themselves wanting more than a graphical button mashing game. One such game, a free mud known as Alter Aeon, has been operating since 1995 and still has a strong following and a dedicated community.
The Birth of Alter Aeon – Free Mud
The birth of Alter Aeon occurred with its creator, Dennis Towne, known to his players and the close-knit MUDding community as Dentin, began writing code for AA in 1995 while attending the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and taking computer science classes. He spent most of the year before playing another MUD called Hidden Worlds before he decided to strike out on his own and bring his own visions and designs to life. Dennis Towne did not have much of a coding background at the time, but he felt inspired and spent much of his time digging around in C manuals to find the information he needed to create a viable game.
Alter Aeon Inspires Its Free Players
After Alter Aeon opened and became a thriving community, it began to make serious and lasting impacts on many of its players. One player named Dylan, who is known as Storm on the MUD, has been playing for nearly ten years, and he first logged on when he was merely thirteen years of age. He feels that he owes a great deal of his personal growth and development to the game and the other players he met while playing. He benefited a great deal from the adults he met on the game who became mentors in addition to being his friends. They aided him in game but then continued to aid him outside the game by helping him through the trials that come with growing up as well as offering advice for some of the difficult decisions in his life. In addition, Dylan feels that AA increased his typing speed as well as his vocabulary. That can be expected of a fully text game.
A second player named John who goes by Lokar on Alter Aeon has been playing for seven years. He started playing when he was 18. He actually met two of his best friends via the game when he found out that they all lived in the same town. John believes that much of his social development can be attributed to some of the strong ties he made in the MUD, and he continues to play to this day due to the strong community. The continuing additions to the game play serve as an extra reason to log on.
One of the most inspiring stories from Alter Aeon comes from Kennie who is known on the game as Sandman. In early 2000, Kennie suffered from an accident in his chosen trade as master plumber. Ammonia splashed into his eyes, and he started going blind. Forty-five days after the incident, he lost all the sight in his right eye, and six months later, he had lost most of his abili
ty to see in his left eye. He went to see doctors up and down the East Coast for the next eight months only to discover at the American Eye Institute in Maryland that he had a very rare and strange eye disease. By December of 2000, Kennie became completely blind. He was only thirty-five at this point.
For the next three years, he tried to work and searched for purpose in life while entering school and trying to relearn how to live. As a master plumber, Kennie always had work and met many, many people. The adjustment to this new way of having to live took its toll. Friends and family had trouble dealing with the new issues in his life, and Kennie found himself depressed, lonely, and with very little hope. He continued to try to connect with people by finding chat sites and trying some online games. Most of these were inaccessible for the blind.
Free Text Games for the Blind
Finally, Kennie stumbled on to Alter Aeon in April of 2003. He accessed the game via telnet, which had very few capabilities for aiding the blind. Many of the administrators on Alter Aeon tried to aid him, and even the creator of the game, Dentin, made an effort to help. Kennie felt that he had found a new home, and he spent every minute that he was not sleeping or working playing the game and helping it grow. Many administrators continued to contact him and ask him how the game could be more blind-friendly.
As a master plumber, Kennie had always loved to work with his hands and create. He suddenly found that purpose again in AA. He began to reconnect with people and make real friends who were not uncomfortable with his blindness. Finally, he fought his way to becoming a builder and developer on Alter Aeon. With the aid of Dentin and several other administrators, Sandman made changes to make the game even more blind-accessible. Finally, Kennie also met his wife and mother of his children on Alter Aeon, making his life complete once more. When asked what his life would have been like if he had never found Alter Aeon, Kennie replied with heartfelt words, “I am not sure and really fear even thinking about it.
Playing the Game
Many of the players that I interviewed offered advice for new players who wish to play the free mud called Alter Aeon:
Alter Aeon can be a very fast paced game, but that doesn’t mean you have to rush! Take your time, pay attention to what’s going on around you and you’ll probably find most difficult situations suddenly seem a lot easier.
- Be friendly! That’s pretty general advice that applies to most things in life really, but if you’re friendly and polite people will help you and return the favor.
- Be social, It’s a multiplayer game and the other players don’t bite (mostly!)
- Decide what kind of character you want to play and try and focus on that in the begining, remember there is nothing you can do to permanently mess up your character, even if you make what you think is a mistake it can be fixed.
- Read everything, I can’t stress that enough, read the room descriptions and the mob descriptions and object descriptions. Talk to mobs and read what they have to say. A lot of work has gone into building the world of Alter Aeon and these things all matter!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The newbie channel is there for a reason. You might not always get an answer right away if people are busy but every older player on that channel is there to help you. Also check out the help files, they are VERY extensive and most questions related to game functionality (commands and how they work) can be answered there, but if you can’t find it there someone can likely help you.
I found the game easy to learn and a vibrant community still in place. Alter Aeon possesses a thorough introductory area that explains the nuances of the game through game play, and players will find it very easy to finish the first several quests they encounter. They will also see where many graphical games get their inspiration. If players do need help, they can contact other players and administrators who will aid to them immediately. The game offers complexities that have not yet made their way into their graphical counterparts. It can be easily accessed with a favorite telnet client by connecting to alteraeon.com port 3000, and Alter Aeon’s website boasts a New Player Quickstart Guide. Last but not least, the game can be accessed through their website with their Flash client that only requires that Adobe Flash be installed on the computer along with a web browser. The game is easy to learn and can take a lifetime to master.