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In the early 1990s, I played a computer game called KoBra MUD.

I spent 1,000+ hours playing the game and later learning how to program the game—expanding it for other players.

My character’s name was Omerat and I became game-famous for creating a world based on the Aliens film franchise. My most epic creation was a subroutine that mimicked the behavior of real word lice.

About KoBra MUD

MUDs are text-based, real-time, multiplayer games. They combine role-playing, combat, interactive fiction, and chat. Players type simple keyboard commands to view area descriptions, interact with the game, and communicate with other players.

Founded in 1991, KoBra MUD is a free online game based on the Star Wars universe. Over the years, the MUD expanded to include other science fiction themes like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Terminator, Aliens, and Total Recall. And the game still exists!

Within KoBra MUD, players can combat monsters, gain experience, participate in quests, explore the universe, raise levels, and roleplay characters. Or they can chat with other players from around the world.

MUDs are accessed via a now-dated technology called telnet, a network protocol that allows a user on one computer to log into another computer. KoBra MUD is currently hosted on a computer in The Netherlands and players use telnet to connect to that computer over the Internet.

When the game originated, access was only available in university computer labs or on the then-rare personal computer via 14,000 to 28,000 baud modems.

Many of the early players were Northwestern State University students in Natchitoches, Louisiana or students at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in Delft, Netherlands. However, other university students from around the world were also players. At its peak in the early 1990s, you could login day or night and find 100s of people around the world playing simultaneously.

The game play is truly primitive by today’s standards. During game play, players read text on their screen and use their imagination to visualize scenes. The experience could be described as reading an interactive book. Players move around the game by typing shorthand letters to indicate direction. For example:

  • n - north
  • s - south
  • e - east
  • w - west
  • nw - northwest
  • u - up
  • d - down

Similarly, players can use natural language, text-based keyboard commands to perform actions within the game. Examples include:

  • open door
  • look at jawa
  • say hello
  • kill stormtrooper
  • wield lightsaber
  • drink blue milk

As you play KoBra MUD, you gain skills and experience. As those skills advance, your character advances level. As you advance at each level, your character becomes more powerful. As you become more powerful, you can to take on more difficult monsters and situations.

When you reach level 20, you make a choice—you can continue playing to gain additional levels or you can stop playing and instead be elevated to Jedi status. If you choose to become a Jedi, that essentially means that you begin work as a programmer, creating new worlds and expanding the game for other players.

How KoBra Made Me

KoBra MUD ran on LPC, an object-oriented programming language derived from C. To build the world I envisioned, I was forced to learn LPC. Learning those programming fundamentals served me well when I later taught myself HTML and JavaScript.

And even later, this experience paid further dividends when I assumed project manager and product manager roles developing web-based applications. Even though I was unable to write code in modern languages, I was familiar enough with typical programming challenges that I was able to effectively lead teams of programmers and database administrators.

When I hear adults today proclaim that computer games are a waste of time, I know from personal experience that’s not always true. Without KoBra MUD, I would have never achieved the industry success I enjoy today.