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8:26am on Thursday, 19th January, 2023:
This being the first week of my CE317/CE817 module, yesterday I got all the students to play MUD2. Well, I told them to play it; in the end, only around half the people enrolled on the module did so. Still, that did mean we had over 40 people in the game at the same time.
I have this lab every year, for four main reasons:
1) So that should I ask an examination question asking about "a virtual world with which you are familiar", the students can't claim they are familiar with no virtual worlds.
2) To show that the graphical worlds of today are basically the same as the textual worlds of yore, with only the interface and its affordances different (although these differences are significant).
3) To give the students a hint of how virtual worlds felt to people who had never come across them before back in the day. For most students today, something like MUD2 is not in their experience so they were learning from very general information rather than falling back on common standards (although those who had played MMORPGs would be at an advantage).
4) To show different player types in action. We even had a nice griefer who was shouting obscene messages, allowing me to demonstrate use of the Finger of Death command (and when he persisted, the inconvenience of being dropped in the room called Limbo, where not even the QUIT command works).
The students this year seemed to have a lot more fun than in previous years. At the half-way mark, I said they'd learned enough to meet point 1) so they could leave if they liked. Only maybe two or three did so. The rest kept playing, presumably because they liked it.
There were hardly any students who had problems logging in this time (usually, a good 25% of them can't follow the written instructions). The only thing that did faze a significant number of them was that when they were asked for a password, it didn't echo it back in *s or something, it just sat there silently until it saw return (then it either accepted the password or complained). The very next line of the login instructions explained why this was the case — so people looking over your shoulder don't even know how many letters are in your password — but the students got confused before reading that.
One of the students asked if there was a Discord server that could be used to play MUD2. There isn't, but it's such a good idea that there's probably someone out there right now writing one for another MUD, if they haven't done so already.
Needless to say, several students were enthused enough to say they'll continue to play the game in their free time.
Even more needless to say, they won't.
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