The Purpose of MOOs
by Rachel Rein
created May96
updated Wednesday, 12November97

Table of Contents:
What is This?
Terms to Know
The Purpose of MOOs
Bibliography and Resources
Rachel's Super MOO List (a huge list of MOO Links)

What is This?
This was a research paper for my English 1B class at University of California Berkeley. This paper explores the purpose of MOOs and provides many links to MOOs and many MOO resources. This paper was intended to fulfill an assignment, but can be used by anyone to learn about and access MOOs.

Terms to Know
MOO: MUD Object Oriented or less commonly, Multi-User Object Oriented systems
MUD: Multi-User Dungeon/Domain/Dimension
MUSH: Multi-User Shared Hallucination
Multi-User Virtual Environment
VEE: Virtual Educational Environment, a MOO for educational purposes
OOP: Object Oriented Programming
MOOCode: the language that MOOs are written in, a cross between C++ and LISP
WWW: World Wide Web (you're on it now!), referred to here as the Web
WOO: Web-MOO, a MOO that has been put on and can be accessed from the Web
WTP: WOO Transaction Protocol (learn about WTP)
VR: Virtual Reality
IRL: In Real Life
RPG: Role-Playing Game
IC: In Character; refers to RPGs
OOC: Out Of Character; refers to RPGs
CMC: Computer Mediated Communication
CHIME: Collaborative Hyperarchical Integrated Media Environment
EFL: English as a Foreign Language
ESL: English as a Second Language
moobie: A newbie (new person) on a MOO
cyberspace: a virtual area for programming, chatting, and/or interaction created on the internet
chatting: real time "talking" by typing between people
sci-fi: science-fiction, a popular genre of usually futuristic, science-based fiction

The Purpose of MOOs
Technology has had a profound impact on human lifestyle time and time again. Since the advent of personal computers, lifestyle, in the United States of America especially, has undergone another dramatic change. Today we live in a society where America Online has over 7 million members and "cyberspace" is looking for its role in our day-to-day realities. One of the newest internet-related technologies is the MOO (MUD Object Oriented). MOOs evolved from MUDs (Multi-User Domains). The VFF (Virtual FilmFestival) Help web page Some MOO History describes the beginning of MUDs and their evolution into MOOs:

In the beginning, there were text-based video games. You put your floppy disc in and it said "You're standing in a field of green grass. You can go left. You can go right. You see a book on the ground."

After a short while, some adventurous programmers decided to put these games on a machine that a number of people could have access to, either by connecting on-site or by telnet (i.e. connecting to that machine via modem from their own machine). Thus, a number of people could be standing in that field with you, and as you decided whether or not to take the book, someone else could take it first, and run away. You could then 'go left' to catch them. Voila: interactive gaming in a virtual space.

These types of programs (which were used mostly for games) were called MUDs, which stands for Multi-User Domain, and they became very popular with sometimes hundreds of players connected to the same game all at the same time.

One of the things that made MUDs so popular was the fact that they were not static, but dynamic. The user (or gamer) could actually build new parts of it, new "rooms". If you didn't like the field you were standing in, you could build your own, and write the description, determine who could come in and out, create your own objects, your virtual home. People set up their own areas, and most MUDs grew at phenomenal rates.

At some point, the programmers changed a number of things in the code, and they were no longer MUDs but MOOs, (Multi-Object-Oriented, Multi-User Domains) but the plain ol' user didn't really notice a difference. Same old, same old.

So now that MOOs are here to stay, and thousands of people are accessing them every day, we must ask ourselves what these virtual spaces are good for. What is the purpose of MOOs?

When asked what the purpose of MOOs is, one student replied, "Mousse? It keeps your hair stiff." But all joking aside, let's look at what a MOO really is.

A MOO is a virtual space on the internet, as described above. The Mizzou MOO web page describes MOOs:

MOOs (MUD Object Oriented or, to some, Multiuse Object Oriented systems) are text-based virtual realities housed on computers connected to the internet. The first of these was developed at the famous Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) by Pavel Curtis (aka Haakon, aka Lambda), and is known as LambdaMOO. Since the public domain release of the MOO server code and its subsequent porting to various operating systems, MOOs have become a vastly popular form of communication and learning. They serve a variety of functions, both social and educational, and are not simply games (although certainly people do play games of one sort or another on MOOs, often involving skill or intellectual challenge). Some people use them to work on their programming skills - the MOO server code has a built in programming language for developing objects and verbs (commands) in the virtual reality interface and making them interactive and interesting. The language is a combination of C and LISP, but it is its own language altogether in some respects. The MOO Programmer's Manual, written by Pavel Curtis, is the official guide to this language.

So a MOO is a place, not a physical place, but a virtual place created on the network of networks that we call the internet. The MOO is housed on a computer, called a server, and is accessed through a text relaying client program, such as telnet, using a modem. MOOs are written in a language that is a cross between C++ and LISP, called MOOCode. MOOCode is a form of OOP (Object Oriented Programming). Users of MOOs can get what is called a Programming Bit (basically a level of access to the core computer) that allows them to program in MOOCode. Most MOOs have information about this by typing 'help programming'.

Recently, some MOOs have expanded or moved to the Web. This allows people to access the MOO through their Web server, rather than through a program such as telnet. Why do this? Well, remember that MOOs are entirely text-based. By moving a MOO to the Webyou can incorporate graphics and sound. Also, you would be able to access the MOO from your Web server (what you are using now to access this) rather than a program like telnet. There are three basic ways of joining MOOs and the Web. There is (1) MOO to Web, which is connecting to the Web from a MOO. The flip side is (2) Web to MOO, which is using the MOO to serve information on the Web. However, the most promising is (3) the WOO (Web-MOO), which uses a Web client to access a MOO and allows the use of HTML and HTTP to include multimedia (sound and graphics) aspects to the MOO experience. (This information comes from MOO-WWW.) Various problems have arisen in implementing this new WOO technology. One of the problems is a Web server's lack of continuous connection, as opposed to telnet. The VFF (Virtual FilmFestival) Help web page Some MOO History describes this problem:

A WebMOO is the latest incarnation of a whole bunch o' exciting technological inventions over the last 15 years . . .people started to put their MOOs on the Web, with varying levels of success. One of the main problems stems from the basic fact that a Web connection is very different from a telnet connection. When you connect to a distant computer via telnet, it's a continuous connection, like a phone conversation: you stay connected until you hang up. But a Web connection is different, at least for the time being. The only times you connect to the distant computer is when you click something. The computer then feeds your computer the information, and terminates the connection when the information transfer is complete. The connection isn't renewed until you ask for more information, by clicking on something else. This is why web browsers are what are called off-line document readers, and it causes problems on most MOOs because if someone wants to send you information (perhaps they want to say "hi"), you won't get it until you reconnect to the main MOO computer. We've taken care of that by having an `automatic update', in which your computer will automatically connect to the MOO every so often . . .

MOOs can be divided into three main groups: (1) educational, Foreign Language, EFL/ESL (English as a Foreign Language/English as a Second Language), and research MOOs; (2) gaming MOOs; (3) social MOOs. These categories are in no way mutually exclusive. Often social MOOs, and sometimes educational and research MOOs, are set in a science-fiction (sci-fi) or fantasy setting, much like a gaming MOO. All MOOs have social aspects. With the exception of ZenMOO, all MOOs are programmable, and could thus be considered research MOOs. I have categorized my super MOO list by what the main focus is.

It is not surprising that so many MOOs are socially oriented. People are excited about this new form of interaction. Communication in cyberspace allows for a safe environment to share ideas and allows for cheap access to people worldwide. Cyberspace also creates a space for people to meet. Where else would one meet a biologist in London and a student in Spain, let alone chat with them for free. All this can be done from the comfort of your own home. One can meet people worldwide in a space designed to promote discussion of a specific topic or simply for free socializing. For example, BioMOO is strictly for biologists and QMondo is a self-proclaimed gay MOO.

By the same token, educators are excited by the possibilities that this new technology offers. They have a new way of encouraging students to write, they can connect classes worldwide, and they can help student overcome fear of the internet. CMC (Computer Mediated Communication) offers a new way of examining language and communication.

Games are another obvious use for MOOs. This is where they started and this is where they continue to grow. There are many RPGs (Role-Playing Games) that users can become a part of. This interactive gaming takes away the static nature of games. This is why many popular computer games are now sold in network form (the ability to "connect" computers through networking so that players can play against each other rather than against the computer).

One surprising aspect of MOOs is the focus on sci-fi themes. While MOOs could be used for almost anything, such as recreating historical events or exploring real life locations virtually, my search for and consequent listing of MOOs finds that there is little use in these areas. On the other hand, an unusually large number of MOOs have been used to create, or recreate from books and movies, the possible futures presented by sci-fi.

Computers and sci-fi have often been linked. Searching for StarTrek on Lycos produces 4668 matches. That is over four thousand references to StarTrek on the Web.

Why is sci-fi so popular with people involved with computers and why are people interested in sci-fi so computer oriented? Perhaps there is a type of personality that makes a person gravitate toward both computers and sci-fi. Such a person might be a visionary, look towards the future, be technically oriented. Perhaps the reason for the link between sci-fi and computers is the cognitive style of the individual, the way that such a person makes mental connections between things. Such a person might be working in cutting edge (future) technology, such as computers, and would thus be very future oriented, and thus would find the futuristic aspects of sci-fi appealing.

Whatever the reasons that sci-fi and computers are linked, that link is self-perpetuating and thus is here to stay. A market has been created for sci-fi literature which is computer oriented and for computer access which is sci-fi oriented, such as MOOs. In working in either field, one is automatically exposed to the other. As long as consumers continue to want these materials, sci-fi will continue to influence computer access and computer technologies will continue to permeate the sci-fi genre.

Bibliography and Resources
Most of my research went into compiling my
Super List of MOOs. However, there are many other great Web sites that I used in my research. The following is a list of sites that I used for research and many useful Web sites you may want to check out:

A Nice Big List of MOOs
A large list of MOOs

The Butterfly's Web's Guide to MOOs and MOOing
Lots of helpful MOO tips from the creators of The Butterfly's MOO

CCCC95 Online's MOOinfo
A good list of articles about MUDs and MOOs

The Communal Groove Machine
The Communal Groove Machine (CGM) is Canton Becker's algorithmic techno music composing agent that generates songs by interacting with people in CTDMOO (which has since been abandoned), where it lived.

Educational MOOs/MUDs
A list of telnet sites for educational MOOs

E-Zone MOO List
Lots of links to MOOs and such from the folks at E-Zone

Grump's MOO page
I added all the links from this site that worked, but you may want to check out was he says about certain MOOs

The help@MOO Project
This project is run by the The Globewide Network Academy and offers many wonderful resources.

Gurk's MOOGate
An even larger list of MOOs (apparently inherited from Bob, since it used to be called Bob's MOO Gate)

Lost Library of MOO
A great site with lots of links to useful articles and tutorials

Mark's Favorite MOOs
A list of MOOs, not all of which I've put on my list here, so you may want to check it out

MOOgens: The Database of MOO Generics and More
This database has been made so that wizards and players on any MOO can download and insert code directly into their moos without having to search the whole internet for it. It contains often seeked generics and code for MOO Administrators and the average player as well.

FTP MOO Programmer's Documentation and Webbed MOO Programmer's Documentation by Pavel Curtis
Technical documentation of programming in MOOCode

The MOOring
Part of the WebRing, this site links different MOO related pages.


This MOOring site owned by Rachel
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MOO Tapping Magazine
Contents include Introduction to the WWW and the MOO, Flames on the MOO, MOO Addictiveness, and Fashion Fricasseed

Useful information about WOOs, including the information I cited

More about MOOs
A list of MOOs, and related articles. Created and maintained by Steve Thorne.
This page is no longer online, but it was a resource which I used in writing this essay.

Thee Church Ov MOO
(Un)Official site for MOOism, an extropio-discordian religion created to spread weird themes and foster thought in the minds of the hypnotized masses.

Rachel's Super MOO List

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