Addicting Games Led Me to Discover Zork

RPG Knight

By Ryan Kalmoe


 I distinctly remember being the first to play Minesweeper on the family's new home computer once it arrived. The following day, my family went shopping at Best Buy and, suddenly, the computer game section had relevance. My older sister and I were each allowed to select one game each. Diligently, my sister read the back of the boxes and ultimately selected Myst for its puzzle-solving appeal. While my method of selection remains foggy, the selection itself is clear in my memory. I had chosen Return to Zork by Infocom. It took a day or two before my father got around to installing our games, but I quickly learned how to start the game up myself. Before long, I was adventuring the graphical universe of Return to Zork.


My mother has a keen knack of picking up on the name of my hobbies and games, finding really old copies of everything related to the hobby at garage sales, and then purchasing them for my amusement. While I never played the second edition of Dungeons & Dragons, my collection of nearly fifty D&D books stand as a tribute to my mother's uncanny ability. In the summer of 1994, my mother stumbled upon a copy of Zork III: The Dungeon Master for ten cents at a garage sale. I had to dust off the old Apple IIe sitting in the corner of the office, but I was almost instantly hooked on the green-text adventure.


Pretty soon, my older sister became jealous. How on earth could I possibly be having so much fun on the really old computer while she was on the fancy new computer? Little did I know, she set out to one-up me, and she would succeed on an epic level. I don't know how, but she managed to find an interactive game on AOL that was very much like my Zork III, but could be played with other people. When I noticed she was playing what looked like Zork III on the new computer, I asked her what it was. At that precise moment in time, I was introduced to multi-user dungeons, or MUDs. Given how quickly I took to Zork III, I quickly became flat out addicted to MUDs.


I played these text-based adventure games religiously upon discovery. After school I would log on for my 30 minute fix. Once we had unlimited dial-up, I would play for hours on end. The interactive, fictional environment satisfied my thirst for action and adventure. My mathematical abilities were tested by various systems, my vocabulary grew, and I could type faster than my typing instructors at school. I continued to play throughout high school and even through college. After I joined the Navy, my play time became rather limited as I was working most of the time. However, being stationed in Japan meant I was far from my fiancee, now wife. It was her idea to look into playing Achaea, now my favorite text game, and once she moved to Japan we began playing together.


However, being stationed in Japan meant I was far from my fiancee (now wife), and we found ourselves on a continual search for activities to share over the long distance. We had discovered Achaea prior to my leaving for Japan, and while my wife does not have the background experience with MUDs that I have, she suggested we look into it. Once she joined me in Japan, we began playing together. We continue to play together, though we've chosen to keep our characters merely friends as to not force any constraints on our role play. Achaea provides us countless hours of inexpensive entertainment each month, and even more hours of conversation outside of the game.


If you were a fan of the Zork series, I encourage you to try these old-school massive multi-player online role playing games. There are numerous articles written by my fellow players on the advantages of text-based adventures, and you don't need to have played them for over a decade to get into them now. Many games are very newbie-friendly, whether to their specific game or to MUDs in general. I encourage you to try one out, and to not get too discouraged or overwhelmed if you do.


If old school is your style, check out these online text games today.

Ryan Kalmoe is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from

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I've been nudging my friends towards MUDs BECAUSE they enjoy the older games. Fun times, indeed!

Some people switch to MUDs after they see how limited MMORPG games are when it comes to roleplaying. That's why new folks should at least try a MUD once to see the difference.

While it's true that roleplaying is unmatched in MUDs, one thing that makes IRE different from some of the other ones I've seen is that here there is an overall theme and continuing storyline that supercedes individual needs. For someone like me, this is GREAT! The burden isn't placed on me to constantly drive the roleplaying, and if I need to step back and go with the flow, the tools are there for me, but some can find it a little stifling (you know the type: In tabletop games they're either the ones who ALWAYS DM and obsessively plan your adventures out with a plot only slightly less flexible than an AmTrack route, or the ones whose characters take the limelight even when the actual DM is trying to move on with things)


MUDs are a wonderful, WONDERFUL source of roleplaying potential, though, and even if an IRE MUD isn't the type of thing a given player is looking for, almost anyone can find a home in a MUD

I lucked out in picking an IRE as my first dive into MUDs. I'd played the older single player types long ago (bits of the Zork series in particular), and a bit of D&D. Through the time before I stumbled upon IRE (through an ad on Ctrl-Alt-Delete, of all things), I played everything including the most high-end FPS's... but nothing really filled that 'story' side like D&D with friends, which was a rarity, other than things like Sierra's Space Quest and Kings Quest seires. Within days of starting in Aet, I was completely immersed in the history, the stories of those around me, and... I realized as I stepped away for something that I'd gone so far as to 'forget' I was staring at text scrolling past me on a screen. Add in the fact that I wasn't using a real 'client', but had resorted to Putty instead, and that's a rather impressive feat on the parts of the game's design and the RP of the other players.


I've tried other MUDs... and I just haven't found any that manage the level of role play IRE does with a simple, easy to use interface to the game-mechanics side, the quality player base, and the immersive worlds here.

Right, I just managed to convince my first victim to join in MKO today. One of my friends! I'm so proud of myself

Nice :D

You DHOOOMED your friend.

Nicely done!


I personally can't get enough of MUDs and the experience they offer in terms of creativity, originality and ease of access, but I know it is a hard sell for a lot of my peers.  Unfortunately they need the thrill and show involved in most MMOs.


That being said, I have never had more than a passing interest in MMOs.  MUDs have always drawn my attention and been an addiction of sorts.  I too remember finding MUDs on AOL and using dial up connections.  I was logged in for days worth of my life.

you and me both. for the life of me, i can't remember my old MU/Ragnarok password anymore, much less the Diablo/WoW/ accounts i have. but my MUD characters are all safe and sound!

I've played a few different online text games but none are as addicting as the ones at iron realms. I guess playing Leisure Suit Larry and Mavis Beacon when I was a kid set me up early for text gaming. Text games are the shizzle.

I try really hard to get away from Iron Realms, but it keeps drawing me back in! Every other mud...seems so undeveloped...

I guess Iron Realms has just assimilated me into their games cause its just really hard to get into any other, but maybe I've gotten soft after being so used to these mudds.

I've been addicted to roleplaying games almost from the first time I touched a game controller and tried Zelda. I'd never thought back then that I would be as hooked to text-based MUDs that I am now... I can't even play a game with graphics without nodding off these days, which never happened before. I guess it's the fact that I can use my imgaination a lot more as I read the text flying across my screen. :P

I think a love of old games helps a lot. That said, I was drawn in through one-player text adventures written on the likes of TADS and ADRIFT, which are still being developed to this day!

I played Federation on AOL way back in the days of dial up. It didn't matter too much how slow my connection was. A couple years later, working in a computer lab, I discovered other muds. Played until I left that job.

Years later when other games bored me I thought to look for muds again. That was 2005 and I've been playing Achaea since.

I remembered playing federation back in the day.  I loved that game.  Tons of fun and awesome customization with ships and planets and such.  I hated that you could perma-die though.  That's when I found Achaea, death wasn't as permanent which made the game a ton more fun!

I tried to play Fed after it moved from AOL, but they ban macros and scripts. Hauling commodities endlessly got old really quickly that way. But I do remember creating a planet, and how amazing that was. I think I got it completed right before they moved. :(

Since the first time I picked up final fantasy 1 and put it in my newish Nintendo as a kid... i've been hooked on rpg's on gaming consoles and computers.. that and I loved roleplaying tabletop D&D with friends along with many other games...I've always been a gamer at heart.

There's a lot that's similar about the two mediums, especially the possibility for a compelling story. I remember playing final fantasy on my old SNES and it was one of the only games I could really get into, simply because of the story.

When I first heard of MUDs, I couldn't wrap my head around it. I hated Zork (and still do, actually). Why play a game with only text when I could just pop in PS game instead? It took my years to take to Achaea, but I now spend more time playing MUDs than I do playing other larger-budget console and PC games.


I've tried to get my friends to play, but no dice.

It's odd but I'm not a big reader, I'm not old enough to have enjoyed those old games like Zork and was never a D&D kinda guy. I also do not enjoy MMORPG's and any RPG in general has to be amazing for me to really get into it. The paragraph that mentions the creative fix, the typing speed, vocabulary.... those are all reason that I get into MUD's, and only IRE's can offer the full spectrum of RP creativity that I actually play for.

In ninth grade, my Computer Applications teacher decided to introduce our class to Zork. Needless to say that my friend and I, already knee-deep in exploring MUDs and finding our niche, were ecstatic to see that everyone could share in at least a small part of what we enjoyed the most.


Though, as you can imagine, the interest didn't stick for anyone but the two of us. Everything was 'too hard', it was 'stupid' for not having graphics, et cetera. But it was fun while it lasted!

I definitely had a strong interest in fantasy and sci-fi novels when I was younger -- and I still do, really - that opened me up to enjoying the lore and characters of my first fantasy worlds. No graphical game has ever had as much pull for me as text-based games. No doubt about it.

My first MUD was Discworld MUD, which I started playing after reading all 46 of the Terry Pratchetts Discworld books. There's no way you could make such a game as a graphical MMO!

MMORPGs tend to rely more on fancy graphics, professional content developers, and an often lax approach to roleplaying rules in order to grab people who just want a game to play.

MUDs like Achaea, on the other hand, draw their style far more from old classics like D&D: They have no graphics, have content largely produced by former players who do the work out of a love for the game (in the case of Achaea usually the same players who play gods), and have strict roleplaying rules.  The resulting enviroment is very much like that created by a good book, complete with the ability to empathize with the characters.

The other thing that makes MUDs (or at least Achaea) "old-school" is that, like a really good game of D&D, not everything is prescripted.  Players can cause major changes to the fictional world the game takes place in, and have.  This naturally adds both an extra layer of challenge (can you get your name into the history books?) and an extra layer of involvement.

The result is a powerful combination that, while definitely not for everyone, cannot be matched by any of the more popular online RPGs out there.

Text games have always had a special place in my heart, but since I returned to MUDs after years of high budged graphic MMOs, I can say they're about equal in terms of entertainment value. They don't have the big graphics budget, but the gameplay and freedom of roleplay more than makes up for ti.

Until i realised hgpw diverse a mud can be. I love the customization, the player driven roleplay, the economy, the crafting and the guilds and orders. They blow every other game out of the water for me in terms of immersion.

My first computer game was Doom. It was at age 9 that I realized that I would never be successful in FPS games, and gave up right there. Little wonder I ended up in MUDs.

It's a text adventure game, single player. There are copies on the iron realms site.

I loved growing up with those old classics and really suggest that anyone that hasn't had the chance to play them should get an emulator or two and find some freeware or abandonware copies of the old text adventure and interactive fiction games and give them a go as they are still very enjoyable.

The Alice in Wonderland one was relatively advanced and used windows to track inventory and things. Not that I ever finished it.

I can barely remember my first MUD game, but the experience shared is similar: "Played these text-based adventure games religiously upon discovery. After
school I would log on for my 30 minute fix. Once we had unlimited
dial-up, I would play for hours on end. The interactive, fictional
environment satisfied my thirst for action and adventure." That pretty much sums it up. :)

for the days of logging on in the middle of the night so I wouldn't be yelled at for clogging the phone line.

hahahaha good times! 

I fondly remember my first computer my parents brought home. It was a Tandy. I used to play rogue for hours on end. It was a game where you moved deeper and deeper into a dungeon that always changed and had monsters from A to Z..quite literally hehe...I still remember most all of them including the Aquator who made your metal armor decay as it hit you. I used to quiver with fear at seeing the letters T, D, and U...Troll, Dragon, and Urvile respectively. I loved played dungeon and dragons and when I could do a similar thing online, it was only natural.  I love playing text games.



Aquator, Bat, Centaur, Dragon, Emu, Flytrap, Griffon, Hobgoblin, Icemonster, Jabberwocky, Kestrel, Leprechaun, Medusa, Nymph, Orc, Phantom, Quagga, Rattlesnake, Snake, Troll, Urvile, Vampire, Wraith, X, Yeti, and Zombie...hmm, nearly thirty years later and I can still remember all but the X.

We had a Tandy computer. Ran DOS. I thought it was the best thing ever.

Tandy. Tandy 1000 HX, in my case... a lot of fun was had on that old thing... makes me want to go back, dig it out of my parent's basement, dust it off, and see if it even still runs... and if I can find anything to actually run *on* it...


I'm pretty new to this whole MUD thing. I wish I could get nostalgic like the rest of you, but oh well! I'm a little reluctant to try out any other MUD besides Achaea. I'm already quite addicted, and could only imagine how hard it'd be to get away from the computer. :)

I never thought a text game could be so much fun!

I never played MUDs before Achaea and I've been playing it now since late 2007. So I can't say I can go nostalgic on MUDs but I do thoroughly enjoy this one thats for sure.

That's quite long though. Just think about how many other games you played for 5+ years.

I'm pretty new to MUDs too. I got hooked by the scripting possibilities, of all things. Roleplay/bashing/politics are all virtual things that have no greater-world significance. But writing a fancy system somehow feels useful...

Since I live really far from the western world, finding an opportunity to interact with people in English is really difficult. MMOs don't offer the same interaction like MUDs. There are times that you have to be creative in the way you express things. Designing items takes the language skills to a whole new level as well as writing In-game stories. Without Lusternia, I think my language skills would have degraded to the point that I would be speaking like a 10 year-old.

I first was introduced to Achaea back in 2006 and I can't even count how many times I barely made it through the tutorial. I was such a stickler for my PS2 and all the joys of graphics that I scoffed at anyone that tried to tell me otherwise. Once I decided to really go with a story and aim to be the best at what I was, it made playing it so much more enjoyable that now, even when I lack internet, I troll around with my iPod looking for a wi-fi connection.

I have to agree that all the IRE games suck me in so quickly but the other games I've tried off of topmudsites has always let me down each time i try them

I can think of so many old school games I would want to play again...but they won't work on today's computers!

I am actually not a gamer myself (outside of Achaea). I haven't played Final Fantasy, never got into World of Warcraft, didn't play any of the role playing adventure games of old (unless Mario counts, but I don't think it does), etc.

I started playing Achaea because I had a crush on a boy who was playing it and I wanted to have more to talk about with him. Such a silly, thoughtless action, really. Now look what it's turned in to!

it's hard to get my friends into Muds... they want graphics.


It takes time to get used to.

I am unable to distinctly remember the first RPG I played.  I know it was on 9in floppy, might have been Dungeons and Dragons...

In any case, FInal Fantasy and Dragon Warrior are what shaped my childhood.  I remember playing Final Fantasy 1 and losing my save file over and over(Stupid NES Save issues).  I finally beat it.  Then FF2, beat this one without dying and completed it 100% first try.  I fell in love, blind love, when i played FF6(FF3 in US).  This game was very BA. 

Growing up I didnt have my own computer until High School so it was hard to play games on PC.  However, all my friends had PCs or Apples so I was exposed.  MUDs were actually very unattractive to me for a long long time.  I mean, no graphics...hard to make pretty colors in some clients.  Why would I want to stare at text and imagine?

Well, my buddy got me onto Achaea...I hated it, had no idea what I was doing and didnt care to learn. 

It wasnt until I realized that I could script my own stuff that I got interested...mostly because I am a developer by trade and do a lot of scripting at work.  This was not only a way for me to practice...but practice and play games.  I quickly became hooked, started role playing and now I log in everyday and have pretty much let all other games with graphics collect dust...even my consoles are unused...


I remember using my ULTRA SUPER MEGA FAST 14400 baud modem to connect to the local MajorBBS to play games like Legend of the Red Dragon, Solar Realms Elite, Barren Realms Elite, Planets:TEOS, Tradewars 2002, TELE-ARENA (so so so so many hours!), and MajorMUD. Man, those were the days...

I have not played Zork, but as a huge reading fan, I like to write my own stories.

IRE games were not the first Muds I played but definitely the one I got hooked on. However, I still have a soft spot for the first I played which was when I was very young and basically thought that it was the most wonderful, imaginative game in the world. IRE games are so much better but I don't really have that sense of wonder, anymore.

It's over nine thousand

I stumbled across Achaea by chance whilst browsing the internet years back. Was playing Guild Wars at the time. Left Guild Wars and been stuck here ever since! 

When I was a kid I remember my father got me this fantastic program called world builder. It allowed us to build text like adventure games for the Macintosh. There were some pictures that were part of the game, but they were still pictures and you still had to type everything. I would have fun building games for hours on end.

I too am one of the nostalgic ones, remembering playing the ancient green-text games in DOS, heh. My first MUD was MSN's Dragonrealms, but it was pay-to-play after the 1st 30 days and eventually my paying benefactor had to stop paying for it, lol. I found Aardwolf first (it was 1st on the mudconnect list at the time) *gags* and wish I hadn't. I played it for about 3 days until I got molested by this chick (well and bored with the game in general) trying to rip my clothes off without so much as a greeting first -_- . I then found Achaea (2nd on the list) and I've been there now since May 2003. I tried Lusty briefly but didn't really care much for it.

I've been a multi-media gamer since I was in the single digits...started with my first console: Intelevision (old Sears brand). Then it progressed to the first Nintendo, SNES, PS1, PS2, PS3, and the Wii. The kids have a Gamecube and Gameboy Colors as well. Since 13 I've been playing D&D tabletop, but unfortunately I moved far away from my group and haven't found another since. One unfortunate aspect of my life is my hubby who 'doesn't get it' with my love of games. There's been more than once I've told him that the games came long before he did and if one of them had to!

I'm looking at this from a kind of different angle. I've been a computer addict all my life, but by the time I figured out that hands are for holding things and could use a mouse, graphics were common in games. I only found out about muds a little while ago, and it's been kind of a strange shift (I still use the NEXUS add-on that lets me see a the map as a bunch of interconnected boxes.) It's worth it, though, since I can actually change the game world in relevant and permanent ways, and have gone mad with the power. 

My first experience with MUDs was when my friend introduced me to them. I remember the banner on MudConnect was the same one they still have. It had the goofy little guy in the mage outfit biting another cartoon character. So I've been playing Aetolia ever since then. And while my original character is long since deleted, forgotten and/or lost I have been playing Aetolia for almost...7 years now. Since then Ashtan flooded, was destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed again. The landmarks were lost. Dozens and dozens of new area were opened. A few new classes came out. Reanimation was instituted, completely redone, reinstituted and eventually made its own skill. (Remember sun line balance?)

When peole seen all that text scrolling across the screen and ask me what I am doing, I answer try to explain to them that it is like reading a book.. that you can interact with.

In the future, you might care to read articles before posting them, and delete repeat sentences.

text games are great :) heeheheh

but not really user friendly to begin with.


I remember stumbling across MUDS that were set in in the Wheel of Time Series. After that moment, I was hooked. I messed around in some of the old MUSH games, landing DEVASTATING BLOWS!!!!! until I found Imperian. Mudding  in Imperian is a novel that you never have to put down or finish reading.

I remember when I first stumbled across Muds, my RL went to hell and my RP life went straight to the top!

QFT. :/ I really wish I could find a happy balance.

but it's really only Achaea that catches me, I've tried other MUDs and the IRE ones and they just aren't the same, though they all have some things I think would be bloody brilliant in Achaea

I was raised in RPG in my old Commodore 64. I spent months with Ultima IV and many text-only games.
When I upgraded to PC I never found nothing that could compare the dreamy like experience I had with those old games. Until I discovered MUDs.

Thanks for bringing my teen years back!

Zork was my first game when I was really young. I later looked it up and found Achaea accidentally. 

Ironically, IRE directed me via these articles to Zork :>

I didn't know IRE had Zork on the website until I came across some other articles about it

Achaea was my first experience in MUDS. Prior to that, my computer gaming was limited to solitair, JumptStart Spanish,and The American Girls The Game. Needless to say,  Achaea is the best thing since sliced bread and I've been playing for 9 years now.  .....Wow, I feel old now.

of course, everyone who reads this probably already plays MUDs

enjoyed reading this :)

I should try Zork just out of curiosity

Zork ^^

i agree entirely with above.  I never tried Zork or its spinoffs, but really enjoy MUD's.  Time for a trip down old-game lane.

Dunno. Non-IRE games (Armageddon, Carrion Fields, Aardwolf, etc) have all failed for me. Miserably.


I agree

Text adventure games are a good introduction to moving around, then MUDs are good for improving typing. Type fast or your character dies.

Thanks for reminding me how young I am! Haha

! ^^