A brief history of EntertainMUCK

Written by lar3ry gensch

[ Updated Mon Aug 27 10:11:57 EDT 2007 ]
[ Fourth Revision ]

A few people have expressed interest in the actual history of this place. I have made a few notes and present them below to anybody that is interested. This was updated from time to time from EMuck's inception in 1995 to 1998. If I have left out anything that you consider important, please sent email to me and I will try to incorporate it into a future revision of this document.

In May, 1995, three people that were responsible for the development of a Disney-oriented MU* met face to face in New England to conceive of a follow-on to that game which had lost focus of its original design as a "theme park on the Internet." Some ideas were hashed out in this meeting, and a name for the project was created: Theme Park Of Tomorrow (T-POT, or TEAPOT as it was eventually called).

After this meeting, very little was further discussed about the project for a few months. I looked at the existing game server for the original game and decided that we needed something that addressed many of the perceived limitations of that game server.

Prototypes of TEAPOT were created using (in order) FuzzBall and MOO, and there were problems with each of those game servers. FuzzBall was rejected because it was severely limited in the way it could interact with the emerging World Wide Web (WWW, or the Web), and MOO was rejected because the command structure was radically different from the old game server and that people working on the new site would have to learn completely new building and programming commands.

Meanwhile, during the period between July and December, 1995, I visited many other games—some as a guest, some as a registered player. In each game, I checked out what the games had to offer: what commands they used, what interesting things they did. I was especially interested if the games had WWW interfaces.

In December, 1995, I found a third game server that was command-compatible with the original game server, and had the necessary hooks that would allow it to be accessible via the Web. The third TEAPOT prototype was started at that time. This prototype consisted of porting the original game server's programs to the new game server. This prototype ran at two locations: one on the west coast, the second at my home on the east coast.

Near the end of January, 1996, saw a rift come between some of the principals involved in the TEAPOT project. The west coast game server was discontinued, and the east coast game was ported to run out of the UMN.EDU domain. The "Theme Park" aspect was discarded at this time, and the charter was broadened from a Disney-based theme to a general "Entertainment" theme. The name "EntertainMUCK" was chosen for the new game, or "EMuck" for short.

It took about eight weeks to fix most of the bugs in the new game server, at which time EMuck had advanced from Alpha (only eight players) to Beta status (about two dozen). The administration of EMuck was handled by Charles "Belle" Wong, and the technical development was done by me (lar3ry gensch).

The people that were part of the Alpha and Beta teams spent a lot of time deciding rules for administration of the new game, and building the preliminary database (The "Area" concept was introduced at this time, and Arbordale, Swan Lake, and Toon Springs were the first three areas).

During regular brainstorming sessions, many good ideas were bandied about. It was during these meetings that the EMTrak "train" was born, as well as the concept of apartments, the general AREA system, puppets, the news system, the @PCREATE -> Sendmail gateway, and many other things you that are unique to EMuck.

EMuck went into general release on 14 Apr 1996, nearly a year after the original TEAPOT discussions. Since that time, EMuck has increased its admin staff from Belle and lar3ry to include Rich "Mickey" Koster and Jeff "Beast" Wilson as well as a few others, who help out with admin-related tasks and "customer relations." EMuck's population continued to grow, and new friends were being made constantly. There were daily and weekly events, including a nightly chat session (sometimes with invited guests), and weekly "radio programs."

During 1997, it became apparent that the site at UMN wasn't going to be available forever. We started looking for alternative places to host EMuck starting in about June, knowing that the UMN site probably wouldn't be available the following June. There are two problems to be solved in finding a place to host a MU*—the hardware and the connectivity. Obtaining the hardware wasn't that difficult, but getting the connectivity presented us with some "interesting" problems—mostly in the form of money.

Since EMuck was not a for-profit venture, we couldn't see any point to spending lots of money just to keep the site running. Most Internet connectivity at the time maxed out at 28.8 Kbps for normal "home" use. Other methods of connection were available, like Frame Relay and ISDN, but these were found to be too expensive for our use. While 28.8 Kbps is probably enough throughput to house about 5-10 players, peak usage on EMuck has been known to get higher than 30 players at times. This required a minimum of 56 Kbps throughput... in the range of Frame Relay or ISDN.

In September, 1997, an opportunity was presented to us that would provide us with both hardware (a 200 MHz Pentium-MMX system with 64 Mb RAM and about 12 GB of disk space), and Internet connectivity. We gave ourselves until the end of 1997 to work the deal out, and by the end of the year, we found ourselves with a connection at close to T1 speeds.

We transitioned EMuck's servers (game server, web server, and finally the FTP server) to the new system during January and February, 1998. At the same time, enhancements were added to the game server to be able to speak the HTTP protocol directly, which will help us to eventually allow access to EMuck via the World Wide Web.

With its new hardware, improved software, and new Internet connection, EMuck entered its third year of operation with lots of potential. As usual, we anticipated new players will be joining our ranks: people with new ideas that will help continue to make this place THE online net.hangout for us all.

And, most important of all, we continued to celebrate the concept of "Fun" which, of course, was the entire point of this little operation.

[final notes, added in 2007]

EMuck managed to last almost ten years. Alas, life moves on.

The game server's popularity reached a peak during 1998 through 2000, but attendance started to wane a bit after that. It was universally felt that the game server had outlived its usefulness, and people felt there were better ways of communicating online, including Instant Messaging, email, and newer technologies that were happening on the web.

Despite its growing obsolescence, it was decided to keep the game server running between 2000 and 2004 because it didn't take up too much system resources on emuck.com, especially as the hardware continued to evolve to faster systems with more and more memory and disk space. The game server mostly coasted during that time without a lot of active administration, and attendance dwindled accordingly.

In February, 2004, after noticing that registration requests had basically stopped, except from a few "SPAM" systems, EMuck stopped accepting registration requests altogether. A few months after that, a decision was made by all the administrators to retire the game server itself.

Most of the principals involved in EMuck still remain friends to this day.

The web pages for EntertainMUCK still exist on the web, although some of the links (such as those that linked to the game server's internal web server) are now disabled since the game server is no longer working. Through those pages, you may be able to get a feel of how the place was in its heyday.

Before EMuck existed, in 1990, the Disney Echo started on FidoNet (an early networked system distributed worldwide via dial-up bulletin-board systems, or BBS). Rich Koster has been involved in the Disney Echo since 1992, and became its moderator. In 1998, Rich moved the Disney Echo to emuck.com, giving it a brand new web interface. It is now the web hang-out for all things Disney.

The Disney Echo forum remains operational to this day, with over three million people connecting, from Disney celebrities to friendly Disney fans. Many of the people that used to hang out on EMuck can now be found on the Disney Echo!

Come visit the Disney Echo at the address below, and join in the fun!


Larry Gensch
EMuck's Technical Admin
And Unofficial Historian