July 2002

Well, it's been a long time since I wrote up a newsletter, and for good reason. From the period of time since the last one in March 2001 up until this one, I've been busily working at my previous place of employment with little time to do anything else having to code for a mud and work on a mud hosting site mudlist. My state happens to have a very corrupt governor, who's badly mismanaged the state budget with many congressmen spending huge sums of money on member pet projects and political payoffs they titled "Illinois First", which happens to equal the size of the state budget deficit. He has also taken a number of bribes in exchange for licenses for truck drivers who can't drive of which one of them crashed his truck into a passenger car killing several people. Rather than cut those pet projects to fill the budget hole, they cut a lot of other things such as closing a development center that houses people that can't care for themselves due to various disabilities and of which the families don't have the ability to care for them either. They also layoff a lot of prison guards to keep the criminals housed in the jails in line. The governor makes major cuts in Medicare and Medicaid payments. And to top it off, they are delaying payment of income tax refunds by several months. In total, the budget deficit is $2 billion dollars and climbing.

Republican Impersonator, Hardcore LiberalWhat's this all have to do with me? Buried in the pile of cuts, is the elimination of $1.5 million for my little agency where I had been working for the past 2 years. For no specified reason, my agency was eliminated and I was going to be unemployed again after I had just mastered my work. Before my last day, all the people who were going to be laid off had the chance to pick a job from the statewide vacancy list and transfer over there without going through an interview. Alas my choices numbered only three with one being a big cut in pay, another I was unqualified to perform, and one that is a daily overnighter. About ten minutes before I was to make my pick, another position was added to the list. Due to my literal distaste for job-hunting, I ended up taking the last minute position not knowing what I was getting into because there wasn't a defined job description. I could have waived my right to a vacancy, and hope something opened up during the next six months either at the state or in the private sector—but after looking on a few job sites the open spots were mostly senior level positions just like three years ago. So after a week at this new job, I still don't know what I'm doing. I get a new computer, with little stuff on it and lots of restrictions making it far less useful. And initially, the previous machine that was here had full Internet access but the new one has all that disabled. I for a short while was able to telnet while being unable to access websites, but someone figured out I had it and disabled that too. All this because they think I don't need it. Well I *DO* need it, cause they've given me no actual work to do. Boredom is something I don't want to deal with on a daily basis and now it has been thrust upon me. Thank you governor, you crooked piece of garbage and phony impersonator claiming to be a Republican when you're really a hard-core liberal in the wrong party. So what have I decided to do with my time now? Yep, write this newsletter, since I have absolutely nothing else to do.

Now I could give my comments here about the events from the last newsletter to this newsletter, and the events of the past year have been a brutal roller coaster. There have been some good changes that were a long time coming, but there were also even worse changes. As sick as I am about these wacko terrorists, I am equally as sick of these terrorist coddlers claiming to be civil libertarians trying to either excuse their behavior or paint them as common criminals instead of as an invading military force. Frankly, the terrorists aren't worried about their civil rights; they'd rather impale you through the heart with a scimitar. I created five of them to be targeted by players of my mud to be hacked and slashed to death.

The focus of this issue is wide, though I'm going to give a small accounting of over a year's worth of additions to various Abermuds, I will be ranting heavily on the latest efforts to stop kids from playing video games to keep them from turning into violent young criminals, mass mailings of Klez viruses, misconduct of mud owners, and the first ever book review.

Cruel Doubt on the Net Again: Assault on Video Games

In previous issues of AA and articles submitted to the prior incarnation of Mud Journal (which is in business again surprisingly) and the now defunct Imaginary Realities e-zine, I have examined the parents' reaction to people playing MUDs after what my own parents did when I told and showed them my MUD Promised Land. The piece went through multiple editions with current events evolving the content time and time again. Today, I am presenting a sequel to Cruel Doubt on the Net, the quest by a bunch of political leaders and shrinks to blame video games for violent kids in the world. Cruel Doubt by the way, is the title of a book depicting the true story of kids charged with murder when their role playing of Dungeons & Dragons goes too far. Now this is indeed related to mudding in this way, there are commercial MUDs out there like Everquest, Asheron's Call, and Phantasy Star Online, which are video games and muds together (note these have been given their own acronym, MMOG for massively multiplayer online game). And those games in particular have their own set of problems, where people play so much that they lose their jobs, health, and marriages. Online auction services have had to step in and outlaw auctions where people were selling assets that they acquired in the MMOG, but not before one individual paid a few thousand dollars for some real estate in the game Ultima Online. Perhaps next month I'll hammer at the MMOG players' irresponsibility. But first off to all of those who hate those games, I have to say, video games are fun. They're a lot of fun. They're a heck of a lot of fun, and if you're not very good at them or aren't enjoying them that much, you need to keep practicing until you get better at them. When you encounter someone campaigning against video games, quote them that exact phrase.

Training for snipers???This latest assault on video games manifests itself where shrinks now claim playing the games may slow brain development and politicians attempt to get laws in place to keep kids from playing certain video games. First up are the politicians. I am, as most of you know, a real conservative. The people who are after the gaming industry, though bipartisan, have shown themselves to be stuck toward the left. Yes, the Republicans that have supported anti-gaming laws have demonstrated that they aren't conservatives at all! The Republican nominee for governor now attorney general in my state went after video games himself! And now I'm forced to vote for a Libertarian. They think anyone younger than 18 years old has no business playing games like Unreal Tournament, Diablo 2, or Quake 3. This hasn't been the first time political leaders have gone after the games. Twenty years ago, various city councils across the nation passed laws barring kids under a certain age from going to arcades without parents present. The content of the games didn't matter at that point just PLAYING them was bad. Some put a limit on how many arcade machines can be at any one location, effectively closing down arcades entirely. They also made video games the scapegoats for drug addicts, whom several seemed to hang out there, thieves, who busted into parking meters for quarters, and reckless spending, kids putting their book fees and lunch money in the machines. And some whole countries, mostly in the Far Eastern region of the world, banned the machines entirely. Those kids in the Far East, now grown up, are probably playing the games that were taken away from them on their PCs with MAME, and flipping the dictators off or spitting on the graves of these nuts.

One major city in this country, that being Indianapolis, IN, created a law where coin-operated video games that have graphic violence or strong sexual content (side note, the sexual content games I've seen are usually found in the bars and not the arcade) must be kept ten feet away from other games and be hidden away by a curtain or wall so little kids can't see them. This despite the fact that games already have ratings and warnings on them. Kids that play the games without a parent or guardian present if caught, aren't punished for it, but the arcade would be fined $200 for the first offense, after three in one year they would have to remove all the games or close down. Given the trend that video arcades are going the way of the drive-in theater, whereas they have been increasing hard to find due to the fact that you can buy better games off the shelf and play for hours instead of plunking 50 cents to a buck per game (more than that if they only give three tokens to a dollar), laws like this will not preserve the ones that remain.

Any more dumb laws and these will be the only arcades you'll see.Mayor Bart Peterson, in some sort of twisted logic, claims this law will help improve the quality of life and living conditions in the city. Yeah, right. Having fun playing video games is damaging my quality of life and living conditions? Is that because I'm playing the games instead of mowing the lawn, doing the laundry (many Laundromats have arcades adjoining them for people to pass the time while waiting on their clothes), vacuuming the carpet, washing the dishes, doing homework, lifting weights, running laps, and whatever else? Big news flash, people if they aren't playing the games will be doing some other activity that allows them to avoid doing actual work, like watch television, or hang out at the mall. The games are just a scapegoat for procrastination.

Oh, I've heard claims that playing the shooting games like "Silent Scope" trains people on how to be snipers. Big deal, people were shooting guns before the games came along, they didn't turn ME into a criminal! What about toy guns or water guns? They've been trying to ban those too. It's better that they play the games instead of doing the actual crimes. MY quality of life has improved by playing video games; I got my set of wheels from playing them you know. This is a man who probably has never played video games, has no interest in playing video games, and if he had played any video games he sucks so bad at them that no one else should be playing them so he doesn't look any worse than he already is.

Thankfully, U.S. District Court Judge David Hamilton deemed the law unconstitutional, a violation of the First Amendment, but also ordered the city to pay $700,000 in legal fees and damages to the trade groups representing the amusement industry. Ironically, the city could had put the money to better use by creating youth programs to help these "troubled" youngsters, but it wouldn't had made headlines. They appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, who refused to hear the case. The basis for the unconstitutionality is that most video games are stories, and they have a message or even an ideology just as books and movies do. They also stated that protecting kids until they're 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would be idealistic without regard to practicality, and deforming. They would grow up without learning how to cope with all the violent crime and terrorism in the world. The trade groups representing amusement associations who participated in the lawsuit are hoping the ruling sends a strong message to other politicians trying to pass similar laws. I'm hoping the shrinks will get the message too, but doubt it.

While this law has been gotten rid of, other laws have been introduced to penalize stores and rental places that let kids get their hands on the M rated games. Early in May the next goof introduces a bill called The Protect Children from Video Game Sex and Violence Act of 2002, actually the goof is U.S. House member Joe Baca, Democrat from California along with 21 other house members co-sponsoring. If passed, anyone selling or renting a game that features anything from beheading, limb loss, killing humans with weapons or your band hands, or felonious criminal activity would be committing a federal crime. Violators of the act would be subject to fines up to $1,000 for the first offense, with a maximum of $5,000 and 90 days in jail for multiple offenses. No word yet on what they are going to do about minors downloading the same games over the Internet and playing them on their home computers. A slew of popular titles would be "put out of reach" of the biggest consumers, those being teenagers. The top selling game targeted by this bill is "Grand Theft Auto 3" where players control a one-man crime wave and commit a number of violent crimes. Australia has banned it out of fear that people will perform the same crimes in the game for real. Baca said when kids play video games, they assume the identity of the characters, some of which are murderers, thieves, rapists, drug addicts, and prostitutes—should parents allow their kids to assume the role of a criminal while they're at work. Take note, a kid can assume the role of a criminal in a theater play or in a home movie they shoot with a video camera. No word on what they will do about the next generation of actors. Many stores now like Wal-Mart didn't wait for a law to be passed, they on their own put in policies where they won't sell certain games to just anyone. Ironically, once again I say this won't stop them from downloading similar themed games on the Internet. Wasn't there supposed to be a V-chip in the X-Box to block kids from playing M-rated games? Oh right, the parents don't know how to work electronics...unless of course they grew up to be a computer guru like me.

Good, clean, entertaining fun--deemed to be brain rotting.Not so shockingly, psychologists have been writing up studies where they tag video games as the scapegoat for the behavior of not just Klebold & Harris, but large numbers of violent kids. Before I talk about recent history, let's go back in time to look at the body of thought made twenty years ago. Back then, they called it "technology abuse" where kids misuse electronics. A professor from the University of Southern California, Dr. H. James Holroyd, who specialized in tech abuse and pediatrics claimed that kids finance their play with begged for or stolen quarters, skip school to keep playing, and is upset at the amount of time kids are playing at home and at the arcade. He frets about documented reports from Gamblers Anonymous where gamblers messed themselves up due to playing pinball machines when they were kids. WHAT? What about having access to a deck of cards? Did they play cards when they were kids? A lot of gambling games involve decks of cards! And dice too! Well guess we can't exclude pinball machines from the equation here can we? Pinball machines were responsible for turning innocent people into obsessive gamblers! Note that in the very early days of pinball, they didn't have flippers, and they were specifically gambling machines. But when flippers were put on the machines, they became amusement devices. This doctor tries to make a cause and effect connection, if pinball machines turned people into gamblers, what would video games turn people into? Okay everyone, if you were playing video games twenty years ago as I was, take stock of what you turned into. Did you turn out okay? I think I have. The Southern Cal professor predicted hooked kids would grow up as stunted adults, without fully developed social, intellectual, emotional and physical skills. Ahem, SCHOOL and the students in them did that to me, not the video games. Once I got out of school and away from that group of kids, I was allowed to recover from the damage that was done, though it took some considerable time leaving a residue of bitterness. The president of the Parent Teachers Association got her scapegoating in as well saying arcades where little or no supervision existed, drug-selling, drug use, drinking, gambling, gang activity and other such behavior were occurring. The Southern Cal professor did make the connection between violence on television and desensitized aggressive youth unlike the present day studies I'm going to talk about next.

Coming out of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, they print what they claim is persuasive evidence that violent video games increase aggression in some people. The duo behind these studies are Craig Anderson and Karen Dill. Their first study looked at college students who played the games and had reported prior aggressive delinquent behavior, which is failure to fulfill their required obligations. The more they play, the more aggressively delinquent they get. The ones who played the most have the lowest grades in college. I myself chose not to take my Nintendo to college, but I still hung out at the arcades and played games at the computer lab anyway. My grades though, didn't suffer that much. Truth be told to these shrinks, I HATE school, I HATE doing homework, and doing ANYTHING else is better than being in school. School is dumb, school was dumb yesterday, school will be dumb tomorrow, school will be dumb next week, next month, next year. Video games just happened to be the activity I took up as a hobby to counter the effects of schooling. Video games weren't the only activity I engaged in, I also engaged in political debate in newsgroups…and guess what, the parents complained about me spending time doing that because it was hurting my grades. Other college kids however, like to hang out at bars and if you've ever been to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale you can drive through the strip and see the large numbers of college kids hanging out over there. So to your shrinks out there, it's not the games, it's the irresponsibility of the people. The people don't want to be doing homework, they want to be doing something else. That's a pretty simple concept that doesn't require a lot of thought.

The next goofy study had two groups of students play Castle Wolfenstein 3D and Myst. These games were chosen in a pilot study because they differed only in the degree of violence in the game and not on the amount of physiological arousal that they produced. First off, Wolfenstein 3D is an action 3D shooter, and Myst is a graphical adventure game of mostly still images with no scoring. Myst doesn't have any violence in the game that I could see. So we got polar opposites here. They paired off the students where they played against each other and whoever beat the game first they could blast the other student with any kind of noise without restriction. You can just guess what they found. The Wolf 3D players made the loudest and longest noises, even more so when the losers of the previous rounds won a round. Girls always made louder and longer noises than the boys as an interesting side note. Note to the shrinks, competition sports produce the SAME BEHAVIOR. Baseball, basketball, football, soccer, you name it--the kids get all worked up when they experience the thrill of victory, and parents are throwing the biggest temper tantrums when the umpires make calls that go against their kids. Winning something makes me want to shout, so what's the problem? They picked the wrong non-violent game in the test, what they should had used was a game like Tetris, where you are scoring points and has competition modes. They picked Myst because the excitement gap wasn't big enough between Tetris and Wolf 3D.

My reaction after reading these 'studies'.The authors of these two studies conclude that there's a correlation between violent video game play and increases in aggressive behavior. People who played violent games were more aggressive to an opponent than those who played non-violent games, and students who play these games over a period of years engaged in more aggressive behavior in their own lives. And they note Columbine where Eric Harris had a special version of Doom where there were two shooters, extra weapons, and enemies couldn't shoot back. They say parents should closely monitor their kids playing and limit it so the next school shooting can be prevented. If I read any more psychobabble junk science like this my aggression and violence will shoot through the roof! Lost upon these researchers is the fact that the parents allowed their kids access to firearms. If they didn't have the ability to get their hands on guns, there obviously wouldn't had been a school shooting now would there? And these two kids were expressing their violent behavior for months prior to the shooting and the parents didn't seem to notice.

Besides the complaints about the video game violence, we also have a study that claims playing video games contribute to brain rot. A professor at a Japanese university, Ryuta Kawashima at Tohoku, that specializes in brain imaging investigated the levels the brain activity in kids playing games in hopes to benefit game manufacturers. He measured what parts of the brain were being used while one group of kids played Nintendo and the other group adding single-digit numbers continuously for 30 minutes. The kids playing Nintendo only used the parts dealing with vision and movement, while the adders were using the areas of the brain that deal with learning, memory, emotion, and impulse control that make up the frontal lobe that controls behavior. Now that's hogwash, when I play games, I have emotions when I mess up or beat the game, I'm learning the patterns of the game play, remembering what to expect as I go along, and have impulses to take chances in order to improve my score or get further. How can they say playing the games is using ONLY the vision and movement parts of the brain?

The next statements will floor you. This professor says we'll have a problem with the new generation of kids who play video games that we've never seen before. The kids will be doing more and more bad things if they are excessively playing games and not doing stuff like reading aloud and doing math. They won't develop their frontal lobes and be prone to act more violently as they grow up. ARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!! Reading this psychobabble is making me want to go postal! I'm 30 years old now going on 31 (eek!). I've played video games excessively at times. I did not turn into a mental wreck. Other people may beg to differ but they don't see the world through my eyes and see everything I do ala The Truman Show movie. This study by the way didn't look at kids watching television, didn't look at how any adults turned out who were playing the games twenty years ago, or seeing pro wrestlers beat the crap out of each other. The people that need to be committed to the psycho ward at the state hospital are these psychologists!

Well if you still have any hair left on your head or your brain didn't rot away to nothing after reading the nonsense and stupidity of people trying to protect us from the brain rotting and violence inducing video games, congratulations. I'm gonna go back to playing Diablo 2, have fun doing it, and imagine that the monsters are those idiots running around telling me how lethal those games are to me. But remember, you must do what you have to get done so all these people will stay out of your hair! Anyway, you have been presented with some real mental midgets that are looking in all the wrong places for the reasons why Columbine happened. Now it is time to stop them in their tracks before they do any more damage.

Politicians have continued to scapegoat video games for violent youth crime due to the Columbine shootings years ago because the suicide shooters were avid fans of the video game Doom. I had hoped the fallout over Columbine had subsided this year, but it appears to still be a premature notion. As for the number of school shootings that have occurred in the last 15 months or so, there hasn't been the frequency of incidents reported in the press like there has been in the past. In theory that could be mostly due to the WTC bombing, but also due to irrational behavior by school administrators where they come down hard on kids who do things that I consider to be nothing. The end result is kids aren't being allowed to act like kids anymore. Hello home schooling!

Are video games responsible for all our ills? Answer this poll!

Read the articles...

Violent Video Games Produce Violent Behavior, About.com, no date
Heavy Video Game Use by Kids May Slow Brain Development , About.com, no date
Heads Won't Fall With Video Game Bill, ZD-Net News, 5/2/2K2
Federal Court Enters Permanent Injunction Against Indianapolis Ordinance , AMOA News, 1/2/2K2
Federal Appeals Court Puts Indianapolis Video Game Law on Hold , Freedom Forum, 10/19/2K
Video Games Assailed in Asia, Facts On File World News Digest, 12/31/82
Herndon Limits Firms To Three Video Games, Washington Post, 12/29/82
Video Games: Help or Hazard to Children's Health?, BC Cycle, 11/16/82
Video Games--Fun or Serious Threat?, US News & World Report, 2/22/82

Klez Viruses All Over

One of the most annoying troublesome e-mail viruses flooding the Internet is the so-called Klez virus. This worm has the horrid ability to mail copies of itself to thousands and thousands of people by stealing other people's email addresses and spoofing the sending address while they all really come from one particular address. Usually you don't get just one fake email with a pair of infected attachments, you get several of them at once. What made this worm spread as far and frequently as it did was because of spammers. The spammers harvest massive amounts of email addresses from all the Usenet newsgroups using various software programs. Then of course the careless spammers get infected and the computer works overtime constantly sending infected spam emails. And stupidly, the ISPs are slow to shut them off or else don't care. I've tried contacting the ISPs from where the copies of the virus are coming from and complaining, but now I'm getting them from so many people with spoofed addresses it has become such a troublesome chore it's not worth my time. After receiving hundreds of copies of the Klez virus, I was forced to get a new email address from a service called deadspam.com for posting notes solely on Usenet. Anyone sending mail to a deadspam.com address gets back a note telling them to stick it. There are those that suspect Klez is nothing but a dry run test by some computer cracker before they put out a very destructive version of Klez. Beware.

Conduct of Powers On Other MUDs

Time and time again, you have people who are master coders but have extremely poor public relation skills. If you can't do public relations correctly and ethically, you have no business being a MUD owner. And the reason why you have these well-designed MUDs out there with no players on them is that the owner of the MUD has pretty much chased off everyone with their poor attitude. Occasionally, you'll run into one well-designed MUD with a large player base and a combined ownership with one guy coding and the others handling public relations as a means of getting around that problem. I'm going to talk about two incidents I've had with a MUD owner that has absolutely pathetic public relation skills. The first is with the MUD called Bad Trip, which incidentally is a Diku type of MUD. My job with Betterbox is to build their mudlist and id new entries to the list by telneting to each of them. I always log in as a guest character, if the name isn't blocked. So I log into this new mud as Guest, and someone teleports to me invisible (another public relations no-no) and tells me to change my name. I say to them I am just the mudlist maintainer and just looking. This guy insists on me changing my name, and I suggest that they should keep a guest character around. He rudely throws me off, I send an email complaining about his public relations, then he mails back an obscenity-laced tirade to me and the owner of the Betterbox hosting service. Needless to say, the moron ultimately left Betterbox for some other hosting service, of which the perils of having to deal with this immature brat followed close behind. It is too bad that I had to be restrained from responding to him the way I wanted to, but whenever an ad for this mud shows up in the newsgroups I will be leaving my strongest recommendation to avoid. Like I said, bustin' ain't easy!

Heated arguementThe second incident I wish to talk about happened quite recently on my own mud. Given how small the Aber community is, someone's going to figure out who this guilty party is and start asking questions. Well don't go over there and bother them. Ask me, if anyone. If the guilty party happens to be reading this segment, well this is what I was going to tell you before you ran off like a banshee. The party came onto my mud and made a sales pitch to me to send them every zone I had on my own mud because I hardly have anyone here playing it. Well this didn't go on for just one day it went on for several days, when I'm in my last hour at work and busy with other stuff. I didn't have the time to go ripping zones off my mud and send them over, but pointed out that he could had downloaded files from the Incomplete Zone List on my website. I shrewdly suggested they lend me some of their players if I were to send them any zones. While the person was here, they noticed someone in particular on another mud through the Aberchat gateway who've they've detested for quite some time. Then the person launches into a tirade attack against the other. I was watching all this and my stress level was climbing rapidly. I did not move to stop him, because I was still fuming at the target for their similar conduct toward an innocent person. Yes I let this troublemaker do his worst because the target needed to be treated the same as they had been treating others for a while. Other people got sick of the antics of the troublemaker and proceeded to zap the vagabond. After seeing what transpired and becoming sick of the person's behavior I used my hardly utilized PUTGAG command to keep the guy quiet and explained to them that they were no longer going to act the way they've been acting on my mud anymore and that they wouldn't allow it on their own mud. In one of the most shocking displays ever of a temper tantrum, the person ORDERS me to delete him, calls my complaints about them pompous, claims I'm like all the others—a no good something-or-other, refused to listen to anything I said, would not ever talk to me again, and if I didn't delete them now, they would delete me on their own mud. First off, telling someone how to run their own mud is a no-no, secondly ordering a mud owner to do something on their own mud or else they'll get the death penalty on the other mud is criminal! I considered filing a complaint against them with the other powers of the certain mud but I didn't feel like bothering. The lesson here is the said person violated a number of rules and regulations they established on their own mud, how in the world do they have the moral authority to tell someone they aren't permitted to do those things? And additionally, what kind of an ambassador are you trying to be if you're acting like a total retard? GROWL. So, so ridiculous.

Book Review: Avalon

AvalonAs a change of pace for this rare edition of AA, I present this first ever book review segment. I am not one who reads books; mainly because playing video games on the computer is much more entertaining and I do all my reading with newspapers, magazines and surfing the Internet. And frankly I'm burned out with reading due to all the schoolbooks I've had to read over the years…of which I'm still reading more and more of them since I am a computer guru. This book I'm reviewing is named Avalon, which is authored by the pen name of Serena Covington. The publisher of the book is iUniverse.com, which is a company that will print any book on demand, once you plunk down 150 bucks. For those who are thinking of using this company to publish your own book, beware. If you plunk down the money to get books printed at their least expensive rate, you better be sure you have no typos in your manuscript, or else you will have to plunk down another couple hundred bucks to fix the errors. But even if you don't have typos in your manuscript, they can and have made printing mistakes of their own of which they will not fix even though it's their own fault. You will have to foot the bill to fix THEIR errors, and if you don't have the money to fix it, you're screwed. Of course if you initially pay the higher rate packages, they will fix the errors (about $1000). These rates, by the way, were raised sharply on all their printing packages from a year ago. In this case, they did indeed screw up the printing and refused to fix their own mistakes. So I do not recommend iUniverse.com, even though this would be a great way to get your book published when you can't get any of the big boys to print your book because it's not by a big-name author.

Avalon is a series of short stories all taking place in a fantasy world where the gods and goddesses are the sun, the moon, the clouds, and various emotions and behaviors. The book is divided up into three parts. The first part introduces us to Princess Constance, who is destined to become queen and one of the chosen ones to have a unicorn companion. Then we are introduced to some of the gods and goddesses focusing on Corobon, the God of Mischief, who schemes to deceive and disrupt the lives of the inhabitants of Avalon and his own family resulting the deserts, the seasons, and day and night. We find out how the elf and fairy kingdoms merged. In part two, an evil wizard creates a new race of beings called the Nin Oro using hundreds of unwitting victims. A new romance forms between two young people, but Corobon, seeking to entertain himself spreads lies about the groom, but fails to stop the marriage. At last, the evil acts of Corobon come to a climatic battle with his own sister Lyndra, the Goddess of Nature. In part three the story follows the activities of Altheia Summers, a Nim Oro, on her quest to become a mage after her parents were murdered by a bigoted village that hates humans. Elsewhere, we follow the quest of two battlemages as they battle a gang of marauders who kidnap an entire village. After their rescue, Altheia happens to collapse on their doorstep in a blinding rainstorm. They help her realize her magic powers and send her to be trained in the arts. The story soon comes to a head once she enrolls in a school that resembles Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series except it is for mages and bards and battles an evil bard.

Avalon is a bit of a fast read, with several trips into tragedy, and covers the past histories of some of the supporting cast. If you can ignore what iUniverse did to the printing, support a first time author and pick this book up.

Order the book Avalon...

News From the Abermuds

Excalibur has released a brand new version of Zone Writer at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zonewriter/ which has a completely redone interface and should be a lot easier to use over the previous version.

Well, here is a recap of the major additions to the various Abermuds in the past 15 months. I am only going to mention the name and author of the new zone and quest additions and not give a description of the game play due to the volume of zones added on some muds. As you can see, this is really brief compared to what I wrote in previous issues.

Astral Plains despite being one of the largest Abermuds around with up to 80 quests and puzzles (other quests under a separate set of flags) hasn't had a big draw, start playing that mud! The new zones and quests added include: Theshire by Dralnu; Myce by Seawolf; Drunkard and Darkroom by Jebus; IsleOfTheDead, Triton, Dojo, Adrilankha, Besieged and Bountyhunter by Dragonfly; Faralanda by Dale; and finally Asylum by Denial. A character class system was added, with initially five character classes of which split up into more distinct classifications once you pass a certain level. Later three new character classes were added to it being the Priest, Monk and BattlePriest classes. The combat system was reworked where certain weapons generate appropriate combat messages and do various amounts of damage to certain types of mobiles. There is equipment save for those Diku mudders who can't seem to run like an Aber mudder. And finally there is a new casino where players can gamble away their hard earned cash by playing poker with a group of four.

Asylum, always busy has added a number of things over the past 15 months, and is striving hard to get to 100 quests installed in the game by year's end. Asylum celebrated its seven-year anniversary on April 17. Several bands (a.k.a. classes or guilds) have been added to the game including Barbarians who don't have to run any quests just hack'n'slash for points, Conjurer for summoning mystical energies, Monks for unarmed combat, and lastly Hunters who basically hunt Outlaws. New quests added include Venture by Herbert, Elfstones and Silverking by Shi and Gandor, Emerald by Gemmell, Rescue by Jinxster and Marvin. The size and weight of objects have led to certain objects so heavy that they have to be dragged along one at a time. Lastly, players can save their equipment for up to four weeks, which is for those Diku mudders out there that can't stand to run for equipment every time they log on.

Atrocity has undergone a major architectural reworking of the mud—I don't quite know what all of that involved but they say it is all internal. New quests include Gathering by Bargalad and Shadowstorm, and Drow by Keen. The Gilgamesh quest by Hope was added and removed within the span of a year (why?) Interesting tidbit, a lot of people have signed on as powers and retired within a year due to real life commitments getting in the way. If you've been looking for that all elusive power spot, this may be the place to go after you've run a character to wizard.

Cryosphere, a MUD coded from scratch using some iDirt code once thought to be dead, is quite alive and active. The codebase is now MUSIC 2.0. New quests (missions) include: Ocean by Orange, Kazimierz by Yoru, Eviction by Orange, Rescue by Gaz and Twiglet, Mercury by Sniper, Medical by Sniper, and Recover by Orange. On some telnet clients that have the ability to set the title of the currently active window, the game will set the window title to the room you are currently in. On some other telnet clients line drawing characters are used to make tables. Players can move around the mud on skateboards and use various color schemes for them. There is equipment save and your own private quarters for those Diku mudders that hate running for stuff every time they log on. You can buy a hover bike to drive around the MUD. And lastly, you can play as a member of Starfleet or run as a civilian.

Northern Lights celebrated its 10th anniversary on June 6th. Finally after years of begging and pleading, they put in a mortal chat line but they call it BUZZ. New quests include VolcanoGoddess by Urza and Blaze, Nephilim by Abby and Og, Beanstalk by Og (this is nothing like Seth's JBS zone). New flag types for rooms include Lava for rooms that are on fire, object flags include MagicAir for scuba gear, Money for tracking cash on the mud, and Stopcurses to reverse the effect of cursed items.

Phoenix remains one of the busiest Abermuds out there adding stuff left and right. Boats now have a durability factor of which they will wear out and break from being out in the water too long. Players can buy adept rings to boost the level of their skills and spells. Pirates now invade the villages while you are shopping. New zones and quests include Bleak by Hope and Grat, Golems by Kitra, Dragonslueth was redone by Polgara, six guild zones by Gillybean, Memnoch and Trent, Artifact by Gimlet, Courier by Hope and Tanetris, Caunterbury by Hope, Subterranean Mercea by Gimlet, Cathedral was redone by Johan, Kitra, and Mirth, Verdict by Gazogi, Mana was redone by Kitra, a desert zone by Sock, Norland by Hope and Tanetris, Dracul's Castle and Eden by Gillybean, Diplomacy by Fiddlestick, and Mermaida by Taliesin. Players can run to wiz, remort and defrob back to mortal hundreds and hundreds of times in order to obtain a much higher wizard level with special privileges and play as one of every guild and racial class (one run is enough for me thank you.) A number of commands and various tweaks to the game play have been added over time.

Promised Land has added some zones that have been seen on other muds, but also added a couple of ZGEN conversions of Diku zones including Khanjar by Methem and Han-doer by an unknown person. Some items now have bad properties that decrease your heal rate, chance to hit, and chance to cast. Additional spells were added including bind, earthquake, spy, and insurance. The biggest addition is MUD Sound Protocol support, where while you play the game you can hear sound effects when certain things happen like when you are casting spells or slugging it out with someone. To hear the sounds you must have a MUD client that supports it like zMUD and download all the sounds and unzip them to a certain directory. If your MUD does not support sounds you will see !!SOUND or !!MUSIC messages.

A new Abermud with a completely different landscape has opened called Saorsa. The mud currently is open for exploration but running to wizard and beating quests is currently not possible. They are some recognizable aspects of the stock Aber zones but they plan to not keep any vestiges of them. The theme of this mud is Celtic and features multiple cultures.

Seven Degrees of Freedom added several new quests during the past year including: Evil and Felldwarf by Jaakan, Shaman and Bluediamond by Lumina, Metalian by Marduke, Yoho by Senzcy, and Kian by Vampyra. They also added a currency system and the shops and banks to go with it.

TerraFirma has added the Sewer and Dragon quests by Dale (note Dragon is NOT the one in the Dwarven Citidel, but a dragon in the Cragtooth Mountains), Silverthorn by Milkyeyes, and a number of new shops.

Salutations

Well that's it for this issue. Now will I be waiting another fifteen months until I write up the next one? Who knows? As light the activity is where I'm working now, it could be a very short wait between issues. But if the activity on the MUDs continues to shrink, where there are only about thirty Abermuds left, the next issue can be pretty short.

Please remember that you can speak out about anything you have read here by clicking and posting in the guestbook or forum below.

In closing, I must make note of the passing of some figures in the Abermud world. Thalassa Archwizard of Phoenix, passed away in Feburary of 2001. Estaban Archwizard of Asylum, passed away in July of 2001. Zen former creator of Hysteria/ZenMUD, passed away in early 2002.

Considering the extent and the length of the video game rant, you may find it sometime in another mudding journal. Comments like mine need to be spread, and spread far to inform an unsuspecting public. Just like Cruel Doubt on the Net was well received, I expect this piece to meet the same expectations. Be on the lookout for it. Comments and discussion about any of the content may be made by clicking the forum link below and posting a message. Until next time, bustin' ain't easy!


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