In article <2975F4D7.22...
@ics.uci.edu (Brett J. Vickers) writes:
<Before there was TinyMUD there was Scepter, a game that could be
<played on several multi-line BBS's in the early 80's. I believe
<Scepter was originally owned by the fine folk at TSR, but it was
<eventually released to a computer gaming company that sold it to
<BBS-owners who wished to run it on their mini-frames.
As the author of this game, perhaps I can contribute a few historical
The game was written in 1978 for a CDC Cyber 6600 series mainframe
which was operated by the Minnesota Educational Computer Consortium.
MECC predated CompuServe by at least half a decade with a CB simulator
and multiuser games (many better than CIS today, IMHO). Every high
school student in the state had an account. The "educational" programs
such as career placement guides and arithmetic drills were generally
ignored as we high schoolers wrote multiplayer games and talk programs,
mostly on TTY43s at 110 baud, and we had a great time :-).
Scepter was inspired by Gary Gygax's AD&D game series. Each player
had "hit points" and achieved "levels" by vanquishing monsters and
acquiring treasure. Gameplay was highly interactive and constructed
in such a way that only cooperation between players could defeat the
more powerful monsters. Players could also fight each other.
It was probably the first game that would be recognized today as a MUD:
the basic mechanics of the game featured a multiplayer exploratory adventure
where the database could be changed in real-time by privileged users
called "wizards". The look-and-feel has since been reinvented
independently many times (cf. British Legends and the original VMS MUD).
Anyway, back to the history lesson. As micros became cost effective, the
MECC mainframe became obsolete and was shut down in 1983. Scepter then went
commercial in a collaboration between several ex-MECC (and by then also
post-highschool) game hackers. It was rewritten in C and ran on a PC XT
running QNX. It supported 16 dialup users, and dialup installations were
set up in 5 states and Canada. This exposed Scepter to a lot of budding
MUD developers at a time when the Internet was just getting started.
Scepter's downfall occured when it got involved in the anti-D&D media blitz.
The son of a well known St. Paul newspaper columnist became a Scepter
fanatic, but the game was viewed the game with some suspicion by Dad.
He wrote a column that caused a lot of negative publicity after an
infrequent game player was arrested for a sensationalized murder,
and the column insinuated a cause-and-effect relationship (there was none).
However, the TV media picked up on this and the game was mentioned
in the TV reports. Subscriptions dropped off thereafter and never recovered.
In reaction to this, in 1985 I began a non-violent sequel to Scepter called
Screenplay, written that run on a Charles River 68000 UNIX box. The game
featured various themes - wild west, science fiction, mystery/detective,
and so on but with much much less violence than Scepter. Here the
monsters were intelligent -- you could carry on a rudimentary conversation
similar to an Infocom game. The object of the game was to solve puzzles
and gain knowledge rather than to accrue levels by killing things.
In 1986 I decided I wanted to go to college and cashed out. After
selling a dozen or so non-exclusive licenses, Scepter was sold to Interplay
International of Fairfax Virginia. Interplay went bankrupt in 1988 and
the assets were distributed to the creditors. The source code for Scepter
was sold to a holding company in Phoenix where it languishes today,
Multi-user D&D games have certainly grown popular since then, but I still
keep in touch with a lot of ex-Scepter players who like to talk whistfully
of the "good old days".
<It was a great online game, and I was just wondering if any still
<existed. I seriously doubt it is on the Internet, but does anyone
<know if there are still dial-in versions of Scepter anywhere?
The last site, in Toronto, shut down a couple years ago. It exists
only in memory now :-(.
Alan E. Klietz
Minnesota Supercomputer Center, Inc.
1200 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Ph: +1 612 626 1737 Internet: a...@msc.edu