1996 Interview with Manwe by Prather
In the beginning as told by Manwe to Prather the Minstrel
Florida Tech --Winter 1992
A guy with blonde hair and black leather jacket struggles down a hallway, his arms full of boxes. He dodges around some on-coming traffic, stops beside a closed door and fumbles at the doorknob, trying to get the door open without dropping anything. Across the hall a man wearing a cut-off F.I.T. sweatshirt and plaid shorts pokes his head out of a door, notices the balancing act and comes to the rescue.
"Hi Rob. Gee! You're back early." He reaches across to open the door and notices the computer logo on the side of the boxes, "What did you get, a computer?"
"Yeah, for Christmas, a 486/33 with 8 megs. Brand new!"
"Cool. Does it work okay? How fast is it?"
The two go into the room and the one called Rob adds the new boxes to the haphazard pile already on the floor. He seizes the one on top and begins to open it.
"It worked OK at home," he says, "Guess we'll know in a minute."
It was my 2nd semester at Florida Tech and I was back in the dorm, enjoying the spoils of a bountiful Christmas. As I unpacked the monitor and carefully placed it on the built-in desk in the corner of the tiny room, I was thinking in terms of the computer being a tool to reduce the work required for assignments. I didn't recognize it as the devil who would define my friendships, challenge and direct my skills, redefine my concept of job satisfaction and generally devour my life. After all, it was ONLY a computer.
Dan Pezet, the guy who opened the door for me and was helping me set it up, would, years later, become Tulkas, long- time friend and fellow Valar on T2T. As we breathed life into the computer and it started through the memory checks, I had no conception of the disease with which Dan was about to infect me.
We unhooked the phone and plugged the cord into the modem. Dan dialed into the campus network (I didn't even have an account yet), jumped to the WEB and while we were waiting for a connect, he asked me, "You remember all those Star Wars movies?"
When I nodded, yes, he gave me a knowing smile, "...well you're going to love this."
The screen changes to a black background on which a logo is starkly displayed against a field of stars. "...in a galaxy, far away..." Two heads are silhouetted against the flickering CRT, "...KoBra Space Station - Central Control... your only exits are..."
Suddenly the gray light of dawn brightens the window. Traffic is beginning to increase on the north-south expressway to the west and the street lights around the campus are turning off, one by one. A finely drawn skull-and-cross-bones tattoo graces the arm the player who now calls himself Raiden in world that exists only in a memory chip. He rubs his eyes, yawns volubly and as he stretches his arms, the Jolly-Roger seems to grin.
By the time Dan finally returned to his room to get some sleep, I was hooked. Until that night, my primary bad habit was a fondness for the sound of a tight rack being struck by cue ball. I didn't realize, how easy it would be to develop a heavy-duty addiction to mudding. Now that it's too late, I doubt that I'll ever recover.
On KoBra, Raiden meets Jalrow. They team up and hunt together, forging a close bond between them as they fight and overcome the lethal challenges of an unfriendly galaxy. One day they are in ship, traveling back to the space station when they begin to talk about thier lives in a world they have left behind. Jalrow is tells Raiden that he is logged on from a school called Florida Tech and Raiden falls out of his chair, laughing. It turns out that they had even run into each other on campus a couple of times but never spoken.
Jalrow's real name was Seth, and we became fast friends, practically living in the campus computer lab where net time was free. During one of our all-night MUD sessions, a guy who was looking over my shoulder mentioned that he was setting up his own mud. He explained that it was all gods and what he needed was some play-testers. Seth and I became the first players on Silicon Realms and were still there when SR finally opened to the public in early spring of 1993.
Toward the end of my sophomore year, Seth and I and couple of other friends, decided we were sick of dorms and rented a house, a nice place with a pool and fireplace. When summer came and the others left for home, Seth and I were left on our own to look after the place. We MUDed our brains out. I had characters on 20 - 25 different locations and was immortal on 11. I was also learning to code in LPC on a startup MUD called Woodstock that was run by a heavy-hitter from TMI-2 (The MUD Institute-2) which is one of the places that develops the MudOS used by most LP worlds.
Having worked with both, I instantly liked LPC better than Diku because of the stable structure and a lot of other technical things with which I won't torture you but basically, it's easier to program.
Summer had ended. Carloads of students were showing up and the parking lots around campus were jammed again. Our house-mates returned and we were all getting ready for the fall semester and life was good... then Seth walked in one day and announced that he had been kicked out of school. I guess he knew I would be disappointed so he put off telling anybody until school was about to start and he couldn't stay any longer. That he had known all summer and said nothing really upset me and it pretty much ruined our friendship. The simple fact was that for the entire previous year Seth spent 16-hour-days in the computer lab doing MUDs and flunked out. Beware! --A MUD addict is not a pretty sight.
By then, through vast intellect, perseverance and about 72,000 hours of my life, I had become an "Imp" (equivalent to Valar) on SR and was helping with admin. Unfortunately, the other Imps were less than agreeable to suggestions on ways to improve the MUD and since I was the only Imp who wasn't one of the original founders, I was being stonewalled. I continue to help where I could but no matter what I did, SR lost players as fast it gained them.
Sometime in early in October, Elric and Croaker showed up on Silicon. I talked with them, now and then, and watched them play and they appeared to be very promising, heads-up people. It wasn't long before they immorted and the three of us would talk a lot about how to code things. Winter turned to spring and as the semester ended, the other Imps packed up and went home for the summer which left them with no real access, to speak of... By then I was becoming good friends with Elric and Croaker, who turned out to be Steve (Morgoth) and Todd (Orome). Since all three of us were planning to stay on campus all summer, we decided to systematically correct all the problems on Silicon Realms.
We had LONG meetings over Corleone's Pizza in Steve and Todd's dorm room (they were roommates ), and put into motion a grand design to save the MUD. Silicon Realms was continuing to falter due to what we determined was a lack of organization. With our changes, we got back to between 50 and 60 players and it looked like we were on the right track.
Then summer ended and when the other Imps came back, they immediately either shut down or modified everything we had done. It became evident that the only way we would ever be able to make a MUD the way we wanted, would be to start our own.
Of the three of us, I was the only one with any understanding of the basic MUD code and I didn't have enough experience to get one going from scratch so we started looking for both a site and a good coder.
During my first year in the Mathews hall, a guy named David had lived next door to Dan. While I didn't know him very well, I remembered that he was a high-level coder on KoBra and one day when I ran into him on campus and I asked him how things were on KoBra. He said he was having some trouble with the admin and was so fed up that he was beginning to work on a startup MUD called Crimson.
As the conversation progressed, it was obvious that David's problems with KoBra pretty much paralleled my experiences with SR. When I explained how Steve, Todd and I had been thinking about starting a MUD and I told him what we needed, he seemed interested. He agreed to approach the mover behind Crimson, a guy named Graham, and see if there was any chance of sharing the site. Evidently, Crimson was hopelessly bogged down and after a few more conversations and some E-mail, Graham opened the site for us. It was early in the spring of 1994, David was on board as a coder and The Two Towers was on line from empires.stanford.edu 9999.
Steve, Todd, and I knew how we wanted it run, and David knew how he wanted it coded, but we still needed to pick a theme. I don't remember who suggested Tolkien. At first I was hesitant since there were already several Tolkien MUD's but I finally decided to log on and take a look. They were horrible, not even close to theme. I began to feel a kind of obligation to Tolkien whose works certainly deserved better than the pathetic attempts that I had seen on the other MUDs and when I related what I had found, the rest of our group agreed. In subsequent meetings we spent long evenings putting together law systems, combat, races and quests. As we planned, David would come in with his notepad, write down what we had decided and code it.
Over the next weeks, I wrote all the help files, mostly so that we could have something to refer to when we were trying to remember how we had handled a various topics. David continued furiously pounding away at the driver and mudlib while I did some other things like making the 'people' command for immortals and revising the 'who' and 'look' commands.
David did the lion's share of the work... he was really mazing. Steve and Todd were breaking away from SR, and I was trying to wade through my class schedule. Spring came and although we really weren't concerned with them at that point, we began picking up players. We also gained a few more area coders, and were moving along pretty well.
There were a lot of heated discussions among us as we hashed out the details of the professions and law systems. We had differing personalities and a wide range of ideas. I am more inclined to think that it was our differences rather than our similarities that eventually accounted for the richness and detail that we now enjoy on T2T.
Steve was tryinig to graduate but he was being hassled by some faculty who kept him in school longer than he deserved to be. That turned out to be a lucky break for T2T as it would have been really tough to get through those early planning sessions without his "darker" side to even the balance.
We tried very hard not to interfere with the mortals but we were always very concerned about who our player base would be. On SR we had seen the problems that having a bunch of weak players caused. The constant whining and moaning makes it a totally unpleasant experience to be an immortal. We were all very grateful that, from the start, we had a lot of good players who caught our mistakes and weeded out the bugs. What we did then and what we are continuing to do, is very much a team process. Together we're building a Tolkien world and The Two Towers is an honorable attempt to pay tribute his works.
I can also honestly say that I am proud of this MUD, and that was my only goal from the beginning.