War Of The Words: Text-Based Multiplayer Shooter

Protip: Don't forget to reload.

Text-Based Multiplayer Shooter really shouldn’t work. I mean, it sounds less like a real game and more like a punchline to a joke about modern game design. But, in its own weird way, the medium-straddling mash-up actually ends up greater than the sum of its parts. Tense. That’s the first word I’d use to describe the experience of playing it. Go north, go north, turn east, map, go east, map, look, firefirefireohgodwhy. Those are the words I used to play it. Allow me to explain why it’s sort of brilliant after the break.

Text-Based Multiplayer Shooter is incredibly simple. You just navigate through a fairly confined, box-shaped level with the occasional barrier and – when you can “see” someone using the “look” command – quickly open fire in their general direction until they move or die. It’s kind of like Battleship in that respect, come to think of it. As a result, though, it quickly transforms into this frantic game of movement and navigation. OK, so I just went north a bunch; where am I now? Oh no, will someone shoot me while I’m entering the map command? Is someone right around the corner? I don’t even have a physical body, but I feel so¬†exposed.

Firefights themselves, meanwhile, are chaotic, typically one-sided things. Most of my kills came from getting the jump on people, though I did have one back-and-forth affair where both of us hid behind walls one space to the north of our little Old West dueling range and emerged to blindly spray gunfire and congealed fear at one another.

It’s all so strangely intense for how little (read: basically none) visual or sonic representation there is. Maybe that’s it, though. I’ve gotten extremely used to relying on my senses in shooters, because well, most of the functional ones tend to have graphics and sound. Removing those from the not-picture, then, left me feeling hyper-vulnerable. Hm. Perhaps this means that the greatest weapons of all are our physical gifts – which shape our lives in thousands of borderline-magical fashions that we unfortunately take for granted.

Nah, that’s crazy talk. The greatest weapon is guns.


  1. Jiblet says:

    That was very silly.

  2. dreadmullet says:

    I was in a firefight with someone and we were shooting at each other from across a long hallway. I’m firing at them like crazy, then we both run out of ammo at the same time. They quickly reload and keep firing, but I screw it up and keep trying to fire with an empty magazine. I managed to get out a few last shots, but then I am killed.


  3. Donncha O Caoimh says:

    I used to love MUDs, text based “multi user dungeons”. Even used a MUD client with macros to speed around the map and help with fighting. Hell of a great gaming experience.

    This looks interesting.

    • explodeydendron says:

      Indeed, I loved the MUD experience when I was a kid. I text-shot my fair share of people in the game Modus Operandi, almost twenty years ago. What a crazy game for a 12 year old! If you got tired of shooting criminals, there was always boozing, gambling, flirting, partying, cyber-sexing, bounty-hunting, solving crimes, exploring…

  4. DarrenGrey says:

    Looks like this would be good for blind gamers.

  5. Hazzard65 says:

    Hahahaha this is mind boggling fun! It;s like playing a first person shooter by proxy, commanding a robot to perform the actions for you.

    I like to imagine that it’s a first person shooter actually happening on mars with tiny rovers XD.

  6. GallonOfAlan says:

    Cut my teeth programming on VT52 and VT100 mainframe terminals like the one pictured. Sigh. Where does the time go.

    • zabzonk says:

      That’s neither a VT52 nor a VT100; it’s the mono display of the original IBM PC.

      Also, to be tediously accurate, the VT52 and VT100 terminals did not normally connect to mainframes but to DEC minicomputers, like the VAX series. Connecting to something like an IBM mainframe required a protocol converter such as a 7171 (which I used to program, long ago).

      • GallonOfAlan says:

        You are of course correct. I did plenty of clattering PC-AT keyboards too. It was indeed a VAX 11/780 that I used.

  7. -Spooky- says:

    WARTYPE! *scnr*

  8. CMaster says:

    Decided to leave on a high with a 2:1 K:D.

    I’m a filthy camper.

  9. stillunverified says:

    Kind of reminds me of a simplified version of Genocide.
    I wonder if that game is still alive.

  10. pblackburn says:

    Had loads of fun with this! Would love to see more stuff like it.

  11. Nallen says:

    This is fun!

  12. VanishedDecoy says:

    That was actually quite enjoyable :P

  13. Ironclad says:

    OW My Fingers!

  14. Crazy Horse says:

    So that’s eight whole minutes this game has helped me avoid doing any actual work. Good stuff.

  15. JBantha says:

    This is great1!:D

  16. MrBillwulf says:

    It sounds odd, but if computer programs ever have a sophisticated understanding of natural language, text gaming will probably make a mainstream comeback.

  17. Annandul says:

    Oh god, that was fun. Left after getting K/D ratio of 3 (nine kills, three deaths). I hope they bring in a ctf map.

  18. postmodernism says:

    this is just like one of my favorite MUDs from back in the day, Ground Zero (description and source code here – link to code.google.com)

    basically, it was a team-based “shooter” with weapons, armor, and NPCs scattered throughout a multi-z-level map; think quake or unreal minus any sort of agility, plus more detailed armor/weapons.

    the end goal was to gather parts of a bomb, then infiltrate and annihilate the base in the bottom z-level, which was guarded by the elite button clan npc horde (because they guarded the button … get it). watch out for the space marine on the 2nd z-level! he’s basically the predator, but with an RPG.

    i really, really wish there was interest in something like this these days. certainly never been any 3d game like it.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Ground Zero was FUCKING AMAZING, and has been dead for ages. :(

  19. moltobenny says:

    InFiNiTy CoMpLeX

  20. Daza says:

    This is great. It’s kinda similar to Frozen Synapse in a sense but much faster paced, sorta turn based game. Best to play in short bursts mind you. You need to pay attention. A useful tip is to use the UP key when firing or to repeat a line command. Your greatest enemy can be your fingers as you rush to type turn west and instead type turn wesr while taking fire.

    It would be nice if you could accrue points to get better gear, as well as having randomly generated maps.

  21. Redd says:

    If you liked this you’ll love HellMOO.

    telnet to hellmoo.org, port 8888

    Go on.