What's a MUD?The term 'MUD' stands for multi-user dungeon (originally) or dimension (perhaps more accurate). A MUD is a text-based online environment that can be inhabited by tens or hundreds or thousands of people (or, rather, text-based representations of people). Yes, it's a glorified chat room. Yet if a chat room is a toy car, the more developed MUDs are space shuttles. MUDs have their own very diverse populations, all walking (crawling, flying, swimming) around doing their own thing. Some of these creatures have fairly sophisticated interactive skills. And these creatures make, use, and possess a wide variety of tools and other objects (food, books, magic pendants, warm fuzzies, etc.). Indeed, there's a whole life going on in the MUD whether or not human players decide to engage in it.
The MUD is composed of connected rooms-chat rooms, if you still want to think of them that way. Each room has a description and a number of directions (other rooms) that you can move to. Arcane Ages consists of tens of thousands of rooms, all connected together in a geography that few, if any, have fully explored. New discoveries occur regularly. Exploring is one of the main activities for MUDders. Indeed, exploring, battling the nastier denizens, and making friends with like minded players and mobs inevitably leads to increased power within the MUD-power that's necessary to explore the more dangerous areas. It's often better to travel in numbers in certain areas of known Tera.
Exploring may be a central activity of MUDders, but socializing is probably the central activity. After all, it's still a giant chat room, and there are a great many ways to interact. There are hundreds of socials (what on simple chat rooms are 'smilies'), and you can talk directly to another person, talk within a room to everyone, shout in an area, or use the global gossip channel. Those are only a few ways to interact with other people. Socializing by playing together is the best. Going out on a group run to finish a quest or rack up some XP and money is definitely a good time . . . unless you die.
Yes, I said "die." Unlike chat rooms, the MUD is a structured game, and death is part of that structure. It can be avoided, and it doesn't have to be permanent, but it does suck when it happens.
If you like Tera, you may one day decide to become immortal and help the other Immortals with the immortally kinds of things that they do (I'm not telling).
Why Text?In the early days of MUDs (early 1990s), there was always the assumption that as graphic games got more and more lifelike (less and less pixelized) and multiuser friendly, the MUD environment would be replaced. Indeed, some people claimed that text would become a thing of the past as new, more visually complex languages developed. MUDs did, in fact, suffer from attrition. Many went offline. Yet there has been an increase in interest in MUDs recently. Text-based multiplayer games do offer advantages over graphic multiplayer games. The primary advantage is in imagination. Using symbolic language to represent situations and things forces a reader to come up with her own unique internal visualization. With graphic games, some programmer somewhere is creating what he thinks Mobar the Dull should look like. Working out the imagination by reading benefits the overall ability to think critically.
A MUD is also usually a collaborative effort. It certainly is on Arcane Ages. As direct creators, at least fifty people have taken part in the creation of the world. Indirectly, through democratic action, perhaps a thousand have taken part in the creation of the world and its relations. Well, there's nothing unusual about that. Certainly dozens, if not hundreds, of people create graphic games. Yet with the MUD, it is the players who invest their time and energy in building a better world. It's not up to a group of people who think of the game more as a commodity-a source of money-than as a living social creation. At the end of the day, Teran MUDders can say, "this is ours."
And Arcane Ages is free. Its code base runs with an efficiency that graphic engines can only drool over. All a player needs is a very basic internet account and a telnet program (plenty of freebies out there). There's no planned obsolescence. There's no end to the game, no $60 sequel, and no waiting. There's only tomorrow.