Colossal Cave Adventure, created in 1975 by Will Crowther on a DEC PDP-10 computer, was the first widely used adventure game. The game was significantly expanded in 1976 by Don Woods. Also called Adventure, it contained many D&D features and references, including a computer controlled dungeon master.
Numerous dungeon crawlers 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". By 1978-79, these games 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.
Inspired by Adventure, a group of students at MIT in the summer of 1977 wrote a game for the PDP-10 minicomputer; called Zork, it became quite popular on the ARPANET. Zork was ported, under the filename DUNGEN ("dungeon"), to FORTRAN by a programmer working at DEC in 1978.
In 1978 Roy Trubshaw, a student at the University of Essex 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. Trubshaw converted MUD to BCPL (the predecessor of C), before handing over development to Richard Bartle, a fellow student at the University of Essex, in 1980. The game revolved around gaining points till one achieved the Wizard rank, giving the character immortality and special powers over mortals.
Wider access and early derivatives
You haven't lived until you've died in MUD. — The MUD1
MUD, better known as Essex MUD and MUD1 in later years, ran on the University of Essex network, and became more widely accessible when a guest account was set up that allowed users on JANET (a British academic X.25 computer network) to connect on weekends and between the hours of 2 AM and 8 AM on weekdays. It became the first Internet multiplayer online role-playing game in 1980, when the university connected its internal network to ARPANet.
The original MUD game was closed down in late 1987, reportedly under pressure from CompuServe, to whom Richard Bartle had licensed the game. This left MIST, a derivative of MUD1 with similar gameplay, as the only remaining MUD running on the University of Essex network, becoming one of the first of its kind to attain broad popularity. MIST ran until the machine that hosted it, a PDP-10, was superseded in early 1991.
1985 saw the origin of a number of projects inspired by the original MUD. These included Gods by Ben Laurie, a MUD1 clone that included online creation in its endgame, and which became a commercial MUD in 1988; and MirrorWorld, a tolkienesque MUD started by Pip Cordrey who gathered some people on a BBS he ran to create a MUD1 clone that would run on a home computer.
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. A scandal on SHADES led to the closure of Micronet, as described in Indra Sinha's net-memoir, The Cybergypsies.
At the same time, Compunet started a project named Multi-User Galaxy Game as a Science Fiction alternative to MUD1, a copy of which they were running on their system at the time. When one of the two programmers left CompuNet, the remaining programmer, Alan Lenton, decided to rewrite the game from scratch and named it Federation II (at the time no Federation I existed). The MUD was officially launched in 1989. Federation II was later picked up by AOL, where it became known simply as "Federation: Adult Space Fantasy". Federation later left AOL to run on its own after AOL began offering unlimited service.
Other early MUD-like games
In 1978, around the same time Roy Trubshaw wrote MUD, Alan E. Klietz wrote a game called Milieu using Multi-Pascal on a CDC Cyber 6600 series mainframe which was operated by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium. Klietz ported Milieu to an IBM XT in 1983, naming the new port Scepter of Goth. Scepter supported 10 to 16 simultaneous users, typically connecting in by modem. It was one of the first commercial MUDs; franchises were sold to a number of locations. Scepter was first owned and run by GamBit (of Minneapolis, Minnesota), founded by Bob Alberti. GamBit's assets were later sold to Interplay Productions. Interplay eventually went bankrupt.
In 1984, Mark Peterson wrote The Realm of Angmar, beginning as a clone of Scepter of Goth. In 1994, Peterson rewrote The Realm of Angmar, adapting it to MS-DOS (the basis for many dial-in BBS systems), and renamed it
Swords of Chaos. For a few years this was a very popular form of MUD, hosted on a number of BBS systems, until widespread Internet access eliminated most BBSes.
In 1984, Mark Jacobs created and deployed a commercial gaming site, Gamers World. The site featured two games coded and designed by Jacobs, a MUD called Aradath (which was later renamed, upgraded and ported to GEnie as Dragon's Gate) and a 4X science-fiction game called Galaxy, which was also ported to GEnie. At its peak, the site had about 100 monthly subscribers to both Aradath and Galaxy. GEnie was shut down in the late 1990s, although Dragon's Gate was later brought to America Online before it was finally released on its own. Dragon's Gate was closed on February 10, 2007.
In the summer of 1980 University of Virginia classmates John Taylor and Kelton Flinn wrote Dungeons of Kesmai, a six player game inspired by Dungeons & Dragons which used Roguelike ASCII graphics. They founded the Kesmai company in 1982 and in 1985 an enhanced version of Dungeons of Kesmai, Island of Kesmai, was launched on CompuServe. Later, its 2-D graphical descendant Legends of Kesmai was launched on AOL in 1996. The games were retired commercially in 2000.
The popularity of MUDs of the University of Essex tradition escalated in the USA during the late 1980s when affordable personal computers with 300 to 2400 bit/s modems enabled role-players to log into multi-line Bulletin Board Systems and online service providers such as CompuServe. During this time it was sometimes said that MUD stands for "Multi Undergraduate Destroyer" due to their popularity among college students and the amount of time devoted to them.
Avalon: The Legend Lives was published by Yehuda Simmons in 1989. It was the first persistent game world of its kind without the traditional hourly resets and points-based puzzle solving progression systems. Avalon introduced equilibrium and balance (cooldowns), skill-based player vs player combat and concepts such as player-run governments and player housing.