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Pueblo, Gateway to the MUD-verse
Pueblo is an interesting hybrid of a 3D VRML worlds and text-based MUD and MOO communities. MUD stands for Multi User Domain and MUDs have been used for almost twenty years to link people together in virtual worlds described completely in text. MOOs are MUDs constructed out of pieces called 'objects' making them somewhat more flexible than MUDs. There are many other variants of MUDs, including LPmuds, DikuMuds, TinyMuds, MUSHs, MUCKs and more.
There are hundreds of MUDs and MOOs where people battle dragons and each other inside imaginary dungeons or live in space colonies in simulations of some future civilization. Pueblo, like SenseMedia's The Sprawl (described later in this chapter), allows users of MUDs and MOOs to offer a 3D virtual world and avatars to their communities. Pueblo was developed by Chaco Communications which recently merged with another firm to form a new company called LikeMinds. As Pueblo is so widely used, LikeMinds will be supporting Pueblo or finding a user group that will continue to maintain it, so you should still find it online when this book is published.
Download the Pueblo Browser from Chaco's home page at: http://www.chaco.com. Visit LikeMinds home page for news of Pueblo and their other products at: http://www.likeminds.com/.
A Crash Course in MUDding
MUDs and MOOs both use a text chat interface to the Internet called Telnet. Pueblo integrates a Telnet program with a three dimensional world. It helps to be familiar with MUD style interfaces (there are a few basic commands to learn). Being a true newbie MUDder it took me a while to figure these out. With Pueblo, the top part of the program window gives you links to select a world. Once you have selected your MUD or MOO world, the Telnet program opens and presents you with a login screen. Each MUD or MOO has a different login procedure. Usually you can log in as a 'guest'. In some worlds you must define a character. Each character has a name and all kinds of properties and objects like clothing, swords, spells, keys, and a defined profession or social status. In these worlds, users called 'gods' or 'wizards' often have great power in the world.
The imaginary 'rooms' in MUDs and MOOs can be built by users (sometimes only by wizards) entering commands to 'create' new virtual terra firma. To travel through one of these worlds, you enter commands that take you through doors from room to room (or out the window or any other direction the room lists for you). You can talk with other people by text chatting. MUDs and MOOs are often full of 'bots', characters that are like software robots that will perform services for you. You can instruct bots to do tasks like buying and selling objects or keeping a record of every person who enters a room.
As you can see, there is so much to MUDding that we cannot possibly cover it all here. There are many excellent books on the subject, including Playing MUDs on the Internet by Rawn Shah and James Romine (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1995, ISBN: 0-471-11633-5) and Michael Powers' How to Program Virtual Communities, Attract New Web Visitors and Get Them to Stay (New York: Ziff-Davis Press, ISBN: 1562765221). These books will show you how to interact in these worlds and set up and manage your own MUD-based communities.
Figure 14.2.1: pb1a.jpg
PuebloMUSH running with avatar selection gallery
Another variant on the MUD is called a MUSH. The preceding figure shows the basic introductory Pueblo MUSH with its VRML avatar selection room. Here I can click on avatars, navigate with my mouse, and enter commands in the Telnet window to move around the world. You can build a VRML 1.0 world and connect it to the text-based MUD within Pueblo. This world will come up, complete with avatars, when Pueblo logs users on to the MUD. Pueblo worlds also support a wide array of streaming media like music and sound files.
The Worlds of Pueblo
Pueblo's worlds are defined by the text-based MUD communities that run underneath the 3D interfaces. These worlds may be only text-based but are certainly not shallow social environments. Many MUDs and MOOs have years of history and hundreds or thousands of dedicated users who have formed complex social organizations and built large virtual spaces. LambdaMOO, run for years by Pavel Curtis at Xerox PARC often had several hundred users logged in at the same time and even experienced a mutiny against the hierarchy of community operators. DragonMUD, run by Jopsy (his world name) has experienced an excommunication in its order of wizards. My character was killed within minutes of entering DragonMUD, showing just how green I am on this side of the tracks in virtual community.
NAU's SolSys Sim
On the positive side, I successfully served as Odiyah, the bartender in the Low Earth Orbit space station in Professor Reed Riner's Solar System Simulation (SolSys Sim), a widely acclaimed MUD used in several universities to teach students the art and science of community. This MUD has been running out of Northern Arizona University since 1989 and has served a whole generation of students in Anthropology and engineering with a rich experience of virtual community. Find a web site for SolSys Sim at: http://www.nau.edu/anthro/solsys/. The figure below shows a bar scene from a Pueblo world. This reminds me a little of my bar in SolSys Sim.
Figure 14.2.2: pb1e.jpg
Bar scene shot from VRML enhanced Pueblo World
Some Innovative Pueblo Communities
Many groups of MUD users and some private companies have aligned their communities around Pueblo. One such company is MetaPlay (http://www.metaplay.com/ which hosts improvisational "Simprov" events in their Pueblo enhanced worlds. A particularly popular world is Mom's Truck Stop, which comes complete with sassy waitress avatars. For a story about Mom's see Stephen Brewer's HomePC feature article at: http://techweb.cmp.com/hpc/mar97/33CHAT05.HTM.
At Star Base Cube (http://www.cube3.com), a 3D Star Trek environment is being built for users in Trekkie avatars to reenact their favorite Trek episodes.