Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Continuing our series of non-game software that still sits in the category of 'Games' in the repositories, we bring you GNOME-Mud. It's a client for MUDs, so while it's not actually a game, it is used to play games, so close enough. Basically, a MUD client is a purpose-built telnet client, and this one doesn't offer much more.

MUDs, for those unfamiliar with the term, are text-based multiplayer games. They tend to be fantasy role-playing games, with a handful of sci-fi games out there and an even smaller number of MUDs that don't fit either category. Those last are usually based on some sort of license, ala Dragonball Z. They play a lot like oldschool text-adventures who've had a veneer of RPG-style character development stuck on top.

You need a client to play them - they all run over telnet, so any telnet client will do, but since most of them use ANSI for color and occasional graphical fun, you're going to want to use a client that at least has support for ANSI. In a game that tends towards walls of text, anything that can spice it up is nice - if for no other reason than to give your eyes a break.

GNOME-Mud is a serviceable client, but zMud, a Windows client I was using when I actually played MUDs, offered more features and better-implemented features even then (call it a decade). GNOME-Mud does ANSI fine, and technically works, but there's very little in the way of extra labor-saving or convenience features that had become standard for purpose-built MUD clients forever ago.

Virtually the only feature it's got that makes it not just an ANSI-enabled telnet client is its auto-mapper, and unfortunately the auto-mapper sucks. Rather than reading your keystrokes to determine when you've moved, and map your movements that way, it requires you to input your movements from the map screen. With the mouse.

These games are played entirely with the keyboard; a full mouse-based interface could be built, for a specific code-base of MUD, but GNOME-Mud doesn't have one, so if you want to use the auto-mapper, you have to go about your business with the keyboard, and then switch to the auto-mapper to move.
There doesn't seem to be any reason at all for it to work this way. If you can think of one, let me know.

For the record, it does have a wizard for creating a list of the MUDs you play with your login information saved, so you don't have to type in addresses n' ports n' logins n' passwords every time you want to play. It's not a big deal, but it is one of those little conveniences that virtually every other GUI-based MUD-client offers.

For what GNOME-Mud offers, you might as well just use any telnet client that offers ANSI support for your MUDding. It works, but it's nothing special. So far it's been the only MUD client we've encountered via Ubuntu's packages, so it wins by default, but I expect that if there's another one, it will be better.

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