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The history of modern massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like Ever Quest and Ultima Online, and related virtual world genres such as the social virtual worlds exemplified by Second Life, can be traced directly back to the MUD genre.
Such fantasy settings for MUDs are common, while many others have science fiction settings or are based on popular books, movies, animations, periods of history, worlds populated by anthropomorphic animals, and so on.Players can read or view descriptions of rooms, objects, other players, non-player characters, and actions performed in the virtual world.Players typically interact with each other and the world by typing commands that resemble a natural language.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.By 1978-79, PLATO MUDs 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.
PLATO MUDs are often ignored by historians and by the creators of other MUDs whose work came later.
In 1978 Roy Trubshaw, a student at Essex University 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.
MUDs can be accessed via standard telnet clients, or specialized MUD clients which are designed to improve the user experience.
Numerous games are listed at various web portals, such as The Mud Connector.
Numerous graphical MUDs were created on the PLATO system at the University of Illinois and other American universities that used PLATO, beginning in 1975.