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What is a MOO?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2014
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MOO stands for MUD object oriented, and the acronym MUD can be translated as multi-user domain, multi-user dimension or multi-user dungeon. The MOO is a text-based virtual reality system, which was once commonly used as a means of socializing or game playing. The idea for MOOs came from the number of people who played games online together, which were often text-based adventure games.

The earliest MOO programming was developed by Stephen White, but the first huge step was the text-based “world” called LambdaMOO, created by Pavel Curtis, who corrected earlier bugs in White’s programs. It first went up in 1990, when most people had only dial up connections to the Internet, and was often accessed through UNIX based servers, through telnet connections. Users could not only talk and chat in various “rooms” together, but could also create their own objects, rooms, characters, and commands using fairly simple programming, called MOO programming language, which then would be added to the total MOO.

At the height of its popularity, Lambda had over 10,000 members, but now this number has dwindled with more user friendly text-based Internet virtual worlds. Unfortunately too, Lambda became primarily associated with Internet flirtations and graphic sexual liaisons. Early servers and too much traffic on MOOs could also create significant “lag” which created impatience and annoyance among users.

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A more “friendly” application of MOOs was applied to teach distance learners, or to conduct online forums and classes, since these domains allowed for multiple users to communicate. Other MOOs allowed people of like minds to play scrabble together, or perhaps convene on issues in their profession. Yet others became the new forum for adventure games or to create fantasy worlds like Rupert, which is based on the Douglas Adams book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

MOOs tend to have administrators called wizards, who can expel people from the MOO and might occasionally offer technical assistance. However, newbies were warned to read all help and frequently asked questions (FAQs) before approaching a wizard for help. Some wizards resented intrusions when information to a question could be found elsewhere. Some MOOs also had built in registration limits, but many MOOs like Lambda, allowed people to register as guests. Even if their characters had been expelled, they could come back.

The MOO heyday is primarily over. There are now multiple user online forums that allow for quicker communications, chats, and the like, and even allow for graphic based fantasy worlds instead of those based on text. The charm of MOOs, however, was the individual’s participation in the design. People came together to build “new worlds” of text.

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