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|Developer(s)||Dentinmud Internet Services/Dennis Towne, project community|
Alter Aeon is a MUD, a text-based online role-playing game, which has been running since 1995. Alter Aeon has support for the blind and visually impaired. A custom client for the sighted is also available on the web site, though the game can still be played using ordinary MUD clients.
Over the years, the game was hosted on several different machines and switched locations a number of times. The code base for the game is custom and is named "DentinMud", presumably after the moniker of the creator, "Dentin". The current version is listed as "DentinMud v2.25" using the in-game 'version' command.
The character system is multi-class level-based. The classes are the standard magic user, cleric, thief, warrior, necromancer and the recently introduced druid. These classes may be leveled at any time assuming fame and experience requirements are met. At and above level 30, 'fame' points are required to gain levels in addition to experience. Fame points are only given by killing various difficult creatures in the game; the rationale given by Dentin is that this tends to increase exploration at high levels.
The skill and spell system is broken up loosely into groups with dependencies, with a large number of isolated standalone spells and skills. The thief and warrior classes have much smaller skill trees than spellcasters.
There is in-game support for clans and clan property. Players in most cases can create clans and modify clan areas without administrative support. Clans also time out and self-destruct if not maintained. Clan dues must be paid either in gold, the in-game currency, or though purchase of 'credits' with US currency.
Player killing is only allowed on an 'opt-in' basis, and opposing players must both opt into the desired PK type to fight. There are arenas and events set up specifically for the purpose of player killing. In the past, it was possible for players to become permanently registered for PK, however that feature was removed in early 2010.
The game has several features to improve the text-based user interface. It supports server-side aliases and variables, as well as alias/tty stop using Control-C; the ability to halt an alias and clear the command queue is unusual and very useful for players using simple clients or screen readers. The server-side spam filters are extensive and often used by blind players to reduce the load on screen readers. UUIDs are part of item names, and can be used by players to manipulate those items.
The communication system allows for player-created channels which support access lists, password protection, and player ownership. Unused channels tend to self-delete due to inactivity, but there are several channels owned by Dentin and other gods which have been granted permanence. There is a communications port (port 3011) that shows only communication, which is useful for displaying channel sends that may have been missed by the player if they are heavily spammed. The recent addition of the 'replay' command and client channel windows provides another way to separate communication from real-time game information.
The game is partially supported by donations from the players. A number of things are available for purchase, including custom strings, clan dues, weightless containers for carrying equipment, and more controversially, practices for improving character stats. Weaponry and other worn equipment that would directly confer an in-game advantage is not available for sale.
Item, gold, and credit trading are all supported and officially sanctioned. A global public auction is available for equipment, a private trading facility allows arbitrary secure exchange, and a money market allows liquidity between credits and gold. No facility currently exists for trading of characters.
All game world building is done in-game by the "immortal" staff. Building is done on the live version of the game in real time. Previously there was a "builders' port", which was a separate copy with limited areas that served as a sandbox for new builders. Areas were completed on the builders' port and transferred to the main port, and builders with multiple completed areas were considered for transfer to the main port as well. This allowed well established builders to maintain their existing areas and make direct updates to the live copy.
This policy was changed, with multiple announcements on the in-game boards that the builders' port would be shuttered. Several active builders were transferred, and a few new builders have been created since the beginning of 2009.
New areas must pass a series of automated checks prior to being officially opened, which helps maintain game balance and reduces the effort required to verify that an area is acceptable. The automated checks also serve as a guideline for new builders and can post warnings about unexpected scenarios that have historically been problematic. After the automated checks are satisfied, areas are typically checked by a higher level immortal to make sure it meets the quality requirements of the mud. Occasionally substandard areas make it through this process and are temporarily closed for rework when the deficiencies become apparent.
The automated checks serve to restrict items that are deemed unacceptably powerful. The original item checking code caused the first major political schism which served to break up the original Alaska building team near the beginning of 1996; while now mostly accepted as a useful tool, some builders still consider it an unacceptable constraint on their creativity or declare that it produces obviously bad results.
Administrative staff are the highest level gods, and are the only ones who are allowed to deal with player issues. Originally, there were a large number of administrative staff, usually picked from the list of active builders. Dentin has publicly (on in-game boards) deemed this to be a mistake and has been very restrictive about creating new administrators. As of 2012, Dentin is effectively the only administrator.
To justify the small number of administrators, Dentin claims to be giving the players the tools they need to deal with most problems themselves, thereby removing the need for administrative intervention. There are those who disagree with this policy, and differences of opinion on this subject recently led to the deletion of a long-time administrator known as Heart.
There is a strong policy of separation between gods and players. Building staff are heavily discouraged from getting involved in any player dispute. In general, Dentin serves as judge in player disputes. Only a handful of high level builders (known as "worldbuilders") have limited police powers such as silencing and temporarily freezing offending player characters.
Alter Aeon was first developed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where it was hosted on dec1.uafcs.Alaska.edu for several months during initial development. It was moved to polaris.uafadm.Alaska.edu for a short time during the summer of 1995, then moved again at the beginning of the school year to sl9vg.dorms.usu.edu.
In late 1995 the code base forked due to creative differences and the mud Banished Lands was created by then Alter Aeon god Wyvren. Banished Lands is still in operation, and is hosted on the same server as Alter Aeon. Further, Banished Lands also uses v2.05 as its code base, indicating that there is co-operation between the two games despite creative differences in world implementation.
By the middle of 1996, conflict had arisen between several of the original builders and Dentin, resulting the deletion of several gods. By 1997 the only original gods remaining active were Dentin, Wyvren and Heart. Heart was deleted in 2007 due to conflict with Dentin concerning the future direction of the game.
In 1997 the game moved to dentin.ccb.usu.edu, and in 1998 it began being hosted commercially at xirr.com. In October 2010 it was once again relocated to dentinmud.org and is also aliased as alteraeon.com.
Alter Aeon has been open to the public since as early as 1995, as evidenced by newsgroup archives from that time period.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2008)
Kit Brown reviewed Alter Aeon for GamingHUD focusing on gameplay.
Ashley P. Taylor referenced Alter Aeon for Popular Mechanics as an example of how screen readers allow blind accessibly to games.
Richard Moss referenced Alter Aeon for Polygon as an example of blind gaming accessibly and quoted Dentin.
- "Huang's Premier DikuMUD List". Computer Games Accessible to the Blind. January 1997.
- "Alter Aeon Hardware Specs". Alter Aeon Web Site. December 2010.
- "Blind Player Support". Alter Aeon Web Site. September 2008.
- "Alter Aeon Spell and Skill List". Alter Aeon Web Site. October 2010.
- "Recent Changes and Additions". Alter Aeon Web Site. March 16, 2010.
- "Alter Aeon FAQ". Alter Aeon Web Site. October 2008.
- "Post from Alter Aeon Historical Archives". Alter Aeon Web Site. March 5, 2007.
- "Interview With Dentin (Question #3)". The Ralnoth Times, Issue 2. October 17, 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-10-25.
- Sean Randall (Jan–Mar 2003). "Alter Aeon: A Mud for Everyone". Audyssey; Games Accessible to the Blind.
- Milawe (October 18, 2010). "Mudding Communities Are Alive and Well in Alter Aeon". Bright Hub.
- Kit Brown (July 11, 2011). "Alter Aeon MUD: A World of Infinite Possibilities". GamingHUD.
- Ashley P. Taylor (March 28, 2013). "How to Make a Video Game for the Blind". Popular Mechanics.
- Richard Moss (August 6, 2013). "Blind games: The next battleground in accessibility". Polygon.