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Memoirs of a Crash Test Dummy

Inside the head of a virtual avatar...

[ouch!] Blixa was damaged by misadventure. Again.

Comic Visualation by Ben MaguireBlixa, my first ever MUD character, was named after "Blixa Bargeld", the leader of a German Industrial band called Enisturzende Neubauten I had just begun listening to because I liked the way the name sounded and, in my head at least, that name was associated with a mighty warrior.

He first appeared as a Barbarian on Sanctuary - the first MUD I ever played in 1992. As an affable but thick-browed mountain of meat he faithfully defended group members, boldly ploughed through enemies, explored and provided endless amusement for me (the PLAYER). He was honorable above all else, modeled on a Klingon in thought and deed and I held great affection for this avatar.

Blixa was reincarnated for TMUX but in a very different role - tester of new code, new monsters and new areas for me (the DUNGEON MASTER). In this role, he has been changed into all classes, been high rank one minute, stripped to noob the next, worn everything, been attacked by everything and is probably the most loved and abused of all characters in TMUX.

To clarify, I am talking a MMORP textual Game, right? Blixa is an avatar: an in-game presence that takes on the many and varied roles, classes, races and other capabilities necessary to test code changes and experimental gear and monsters BEFORE real players encounter them.

I thought it might be fun to explore his virtual world through his eyes, this is his story [a little like verbally role-playing, or maybe it is therapy, will see what turns up]. This bunch of electrons has a soul, surely – read on...

An excerpt taken from "The Unauthorised Biography of a Bunch of Bytes." by Peter Whitehouse, Comic Illustration by Ben Maguire, UberPress 2007, available nowhere that quality books are sold.

page 13:

The gatekeeper asked "who goes there?", detached but mindful of the traffic already past this point, obediently questioning all who wish to pass into the realm and compulsively noting travelers comings and goings.

"Blixa", yelled the controller, eager to get on with it, impatient of the gatekeeper's fastidious record keeping but mindful that authentication is important.

"What is the pass phrase?" the gatekeeper prompted, impatient and about to lose interest.

"**************", yelled the controller, mind on other things.

"Welcome Blixa to the World of TerraMUD, have a nice day", said the gatekeeper distractedly, eyes firmly fixed again on the gate, awaiting the next arrival.

Electrons coalesced into bits, bits agglomerated into bytes as the electronic stuff of life rushed to the entry point filling out details as they arrived, a bit of armor here, a weapon there, a potion, then feet, legs, torso, arms and head. Further bits enrich the newly formed avatar as racial features arrive, others inform of class and gender as the newly formed avatar. Memories flood back in nauseating waves, skills and proficiencies weigh heavily on his shoulders, realization of age and name arrive as the avatar becomes self aware just in time to be scrambled again.

The bottom drops out of Blixa's world as he is disassembled and ported to a room, his spawn point. A team of routines package, transport and reassemble, feverishly reforming the stream of consciousness in a new room. Vision blurred, head giddy as he rematerializes, the world solidifying around him as the teleport is over. He catches his breath, fights back the familiar nausea caused by signal transfer, wondering how he ever became aware of that sensation, alarmed that in the darkness there are unknown routines working away at the very fabric of his universe. Blixa's head clears to the point that he realizes he still has a dull metallic headache, but commences the ritual, so often repeated it has become automatic.

Check for damage – cuts and abrasions [and the memories of a slathering plant-like creature that had him cornered without a weapon – what was the controller thinking?] … the controller. Now the avatar remembered. Against better judgment, the controller requested he drop his weapon and enter a space to goad a creature. Anyone could see he was totally outclassed, never stood a chance. How could the controller let this happen, not that this was the first time. A facial tic began twitching down his right cheek, just above an old scar, a claw mark, a suppressed memory that made him uncomfortable even to begin to recall, so he busied himself with other things.

Check for race – he had become used to the indignity of being a dark elf, although his racial memory was originally human, he no longer recognized himself when changing as his body image had been re-engineered so often. Blixa was happy to stay racially stable, the morphological changes that accompanied such manipulation hurt and his ancient frame adapted less and less well to the ever changing body shapes. He still had helms and shoes he could not wear because they no longer fit, a magnificent set of sleeves that were perfect when he was half giant, now useless as they burned when this twisted orc-like persona tried to wear it. Although still dark, blixa's tired eyes could see clearly – some recompense for being trapped as he was. Night vision at least made the attacks less of a surprise. He shuddered with dread at the memory of the many times the controller made him blunder into a dark room to be torn apart by something lurking in the shadows.

Check for class – something new. Blixa had no memory of being a mage – that is not to say he had not been one many times in the past, there were no surviving memories of that profession is all. He felt grossly under qualified. He checked his stats and realized the controller had carelessly left his vitals as they were for the last mission, suited to a fighter. Surely the controller would grant him more intelligence – but with intelligence came remembering and analyzing; no, he was happy to stay dim and muscle-bound. He felt a familiar burning tingle down his spine as the controller taught him spells, cold dread as he realized they were offensive spells – he was too old for a casting battle, surely? He never quite mastered magic, the combination of complicated incantations and the panic of battle often caused him to mispronounce them, spells to fail or worse, backfire. All too familiar the searing pain as all his nerves explode simultaneously – at least weapons damage was localized pain, pain you could soldier through. His shoulders hunched further, the weight of realization that came with increased magic points; the controller was ensuring he had the reserves necessary to cast a number of times.

Check for gear – the controller removed Blixa's shield, a time worn but favourite item chipped and dented. After a moment, it was handed back, polished and repaired, glistening like new but heavy in his thin green arms. The trusty broadsword was removed and junked; Blixa did not mind. All appearance little battle effectiveness typified that weapon, the jeweled hilt made it sluggish to wield. Cloth armor would be replaced next. Blixa waited for what seemed like ages, surely the controller would replace the tattered and largely ineffective cloth armor?

A dizzying surge of restorative magic coursed through Blixa, making his legs tingle and an old hip injury throb dully. The controller was fond of casting restore, assuming that compensated for the otherwise callous disregard for Blixa's condition. Momentarily Blixa's eyes fogged over as the controller began to see the world through his eyes – how detached he became from his own body, like an un-willing marionette with no means to detach the strings.

A blinding flash as a new doorway appeared; panic rising as an attempt to scout the door failed, leaving Blixa no idea what was beyond.

Blixa stood, head held high, took a deep breath and walked towards the door …

What happens next? Mail wonko if you think you know. Should you play MUD? Is there anything vaguely educational in this form of active problem solving? Is there any appeal in this sort of textual adventure? IWHO YES!

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