|Developer(s)||Pavel Curtis, project community|
LambdaMOO was founded in late 1990 or early 1991 by Pavel Curtis at Xerox PARC. Now hosted in the state of Washington, it is operated and administered entirely on a volunteer basis. Guests are allowed, and membership is free to anyone with an e-mail address.
LambdaMOO gained some notoriety when Julian Dibbell wrote a book called My Tiny Life describing his experiences there. Over its history, LambdaMOO has been highly influential in the examination of virtual-world social issues.
LambdaMOO has its roots in the 1978–1980 work by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle to create and expand the concept of Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) – virtual communities. Around 1987–1988, the expansion of the global internet allowed more users to experience the MUD. Pavel Curtis at Xerox Parc noted that they were "almost exclusively for recreational purposes." Curtis determined to explore whether the MUD could be non-recreational. He developed LambdaMOO software to run on the LambdaMOO server, which implements the MOO programming language. This software was subsequently made available to the public. Several starter databases, known as cores, are available for MOOs; LambdaMOO itself uses the LambdaCore database. The "Lambda" name is from Curtis's own username on earlier MUD systems.
LambdaMOO can refer to the software, the server, or the community of users.
To join LambdaMOO requires a working email. Once you submit your email, you must wait a few days before you receive a randomized character name and password. In the meantime, you can play LambdaMOO as a guest.
Once you get your randomized character name you are able to log in to LambdaMOO and change your character name and password. After you choose your unique character name you are able to select your gender as well as editing your characters physical description and personality. LambdaMOO allows you a lot of freedom when it comes to customizing your character. You are offered a wide range of genders and are able to write anything you want in a paragraph about yourself. After you customize these settings you are equipped to begin exploring LambdaMOO.
LambdaMOO central geography was based on Pavel Curtis's California home. New players and guests traditionally connected in "The Coat Closet", but a second area, "The Linen Closet" (specially programmed as a silent area) was later added as an alternative connection point. The coat closet opens onto the center of the house in The Living Room, a common hangout and place for conversation; its fixtures include a fireplace (where things can be roasted), The Living Room Couch (which periodically causes players' objects to 'fall through' to underneath the couch), and a pet Cockatoo who repeats overheard phrases (which is often found with its beak gagged). From time to time the Cockatoo is replaced with a more seasonal creature: a Turkey near Thanksgiving, a Raven near Halloween, et cetera.
To the north of the Living Room is the Entrance Hall, the Front Yard, and a limited residential area along LambdaStreet. There is an extensive subterranean complex located down the manhole, including a sewage system.
Players walking to the far west along LambdaStreet may be given the option to 'jump off the end of the world', which disables access to their account for three months. To the south of the Living Room is a pool deck, a hot tub, and some of the extensive grounds of the mansion, featuring gardens, hot air balloon landing pads, open fields, fishing holes, and the like.
To the northwest of the living room are the laundry room, garage, dining room, smoking room, drawing room, housekeeper's quarters, and kitchen; a popular command allows players in the living room to push others into the kitchen and ask them to "fetch me a cup of tea"; since players can prevent themselves from being moved in such a fashion, this command is more often used on new users, who may have difficulty finding their way back to the Living Room. (There is direct access to the kitchen leading northwest from the living room, but as with the actual house you must head north, east, and then south from the Kitchen to return.)
To the east of the entry hall, hallways provide access to some individual rooms, the Linen Closet, and to the eastern wing of the house. In the eastern wing can be found the Library of online books, the Museum of generic objects (which account-holders may create instances of), and an extensive area for the LambdaMOO RPG.
Since the creation of the original LambdaMOO map, many users have expanded the MOO by making additional rooms with the command "@dig."
While most MOOs are run by administrative fiat, in summer of 1993 LambdaMOO implemented a petition/ballot mechanism, allowing the community to propose and vote on new policies and other administrative actions. A petition may be created by anyone eligible to participate in politics (those who have maintained accounts at the MOO for at least 30 days), can be signed by other players, and may then be submitted for administrative 'vetting'. Once vetted, the petition has a limited time to collect enough signatures to become valid and be made into a ballot. Ballots are subsequently voted on; those with a 66% approval rating are passed and will be implemented. This system suffered quite a lot of evolution and eventually passed into a state where wizards took back the power they'd passed into the hands of the people, but still maintain the ballot system as a way for the community to express its opinions.
While the population of LambdaMOO once numbered close to 10,000 with over 300 actively connected at any time, these days it is rare to see more than a few dozen actively participating connected players at one time.
As of November 13, 2005, LambdaMOO had 10 official wizards (administrators) and approximately 2,900 general users. Of these, approximately 1410 players reported themselves as male, and 916 as female; the remaining players either stayed with the default neuter gender, or deliberately chose another. (LambdaMOO supports custom designations of gender, and comes with the following presets: neuter, male, female, either, Spivak, splat, plural, egotistical, royal, and 2nd-person).
- Quittner, Josh (March 1994). "Johnny Manhattan Meets the Furry Muckers". Wired 2 (03). Retrieved 2008-09-21.
In come into LambdaMOO through the closet. The closet is the port of entry, the Ellis Island for all immigrants to this virtual world. It's a dark, cramped space and I keep bumping into coats, boots, and the bodies of sleeping, huddled masses. [...] That's what's happening at LambdaMOO, a 3-year-old MOO set up by Pavel Curtis at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (see WIRED 2.02, page 90). Curtis, a programming language designer and implementer, put the MOO together as an experiment; it has turned into a real community.
- Mulligan, Jessica; Patrovsky, Bridgette (2003). Developing Online Games: An Insider's Guide. New Riders. p. 452. ISBN 1-59273-000-0.
1990 [...] Pavel Curtis does substantial modifications to White's MOO code, creating LambdaMOO. LambdaMOO opens, hosted at Xerox PARC, where it promptly becomes a major influence in the development of social issues in virtual spaces.
- Bartle, Richard (2003). Designing Virtual Worlds. New Riders. p. 11. ISBN 0-13-101816-7.
MOO had two important offspring: Pavel Curtis' LambdaMOO (which was to become a favorite of journalists, academics, and social misfits) [...]
- Rheingold, Howard (April 1994). "PARC Is Back!". Wired 2 (02). Retrieved 2010-04-07.
One PARC researcher, Pavel Curtis, is looking closely at MUDs [...] Curtis built on the work of Steven White, a student at the University of Waterloo (Canada). In January 1991, he opened LambdaMOO. Hundreds of players flocked to it.
- Stivale, Charles J. (1997). "Spam: Heteroglossia and Harassment in Cyberspace". In Porter, David. Internet Culture (pbk. ed.). Routledge. pp. 94–95. ISBN 0-415-91684-4.
I will examine this spectrum of practices with reference to a specific chat and role-playing site on the Internet, one of the numerous MUDs (multi-user dungeons or dimensions) known as LambdaMOO (MOO referring to MUD-Object-Oriented programming language), located at Xeroc PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) and installed and run there since 1990 by Pavel Curtis.6 This site is structured like a large house with nearby grounds and community. It forms a paradigm within which participants can log on via telnet from different locations around the globe, adopt character names ranging from "real" to, more commonly, some form of fantasy, and converse directly with one another in real time.7 In this house, one may move from room to room by indicating directions to "walk" or by "teleporting" directly, create one's own personalized abode, and entertain discussion with the vast population—over 8000—of inhabitants. [...] interactions within the LambdaMOO commons, the Living Room, acclimate one quickly [...]
- Dibbell, Julian (1999). My Tiny Life. London: Fourth Estate Limited. ISBN 1-84115-058-4.
- Malloy, Judy (1999), "Public Literature: Narratives and Narrative Structures in LambaMOO", Art and Innovation - The Xerox PARC Artist-in-Residence Program (MIT Press), retrieved 2008-08-05
- Pavel Curtis and David A. Nichols. "MUDs Grow Up: Social Virtual Reality in the Real World". Xerox PARC, May 5, 1993.
- Hess, Elizabeth (2003). Yib's Guide To Mooing. Trafford Publishing. pp. 7, 14. ISBN 978-1-41200-290-5.
- Hess, Elizabeth (2003). Yib's Guide To Mooing. Trafford Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-41200-290-5.
- Bartle, Richard (2003). Designing Virtual Worlds. New Riders. p. 60. ISBN 0-13-101816-7.
The original designers only create the core of the world and the means by which it can be extended; thereafter, they hand it over to the players to do with as they wish (although there's a problem if what the players wish for is that the designers will take back control, as they famously did with LambdaMOO).
- Maloni, Kelly; Baker, Derek; Wice, Nathaniel (1994). Net Games. Random House / Michael Wolff & Company, Inc. p. 210. ISBN 0-679-75592-6.
Definitely the leading candidate for the title of largest MOO (more than 8,000 residents), Lambda is a veritable universe, centering on a cavernous mansion [...]