Multi Access Dungeon - 1984-1986
The first global Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game

In 1984, on BITNET, a cooperative worldwide university network founded in 1981, when we were two French students from the École des Mines de Paris, Bruno Chabrier and myself, Vincent Lextrait, we developed and operated a global MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) named "MAD" for "Multi Access Dungeon". It ran on the BITNET node of our school (FREMP11). MAD has been the first global MMORPG, given that 1984-1985's Islands of Kesmai was limited to the US territory. MAD was the first MMORPG in Europe, and the first offered for free. Quickly, through a viral word of the mouth, 10% of BITNET nodes in the world were playing on the central MAD server, until BITNET administrators, frightened by the adoption of the game, ask the École des Mines to stop it. It had operated slightly less than two years. MAD has been installed on several other nodes in the world, until it was completely banned, as a consequence of its success, which had led BITNET several times to complete saturation. MAD was text-based and entirely written in REXX, a script language proposed on VM/370. MAD ran on the IBM 4341 of the École des Mines de Paris. It made use of a listening utility called "wakeup" developed by one of BITNET aficionados. It proposed initially only one, then several multi-storeys labyrinths full of mobile and communicating robots (NPC - Non-player character). These bots irreverently wore ENSMP professor names (which was highly appreciated by the players, including surprisingly the foreign ones - see below). Bots would typically shout a Vogon-like "I am a foul monster!". MAD offered in addition the possibility for avatars to chat with each other.

Here are a few scans of the remaining documents I've been able to dig from my archives:

User feedback s from 27th to 28th of February 1986, including an angry mail from Martin Scheffler from TU Braunschweig (Germany) complaining that MAD does not comply to server etiquette and might trigger message wars.

User feedback s from 28th of February to 1st of March 1986, including a request from Gregory G. Pike from the University of Maine (USA) , asking for a copy of the source code to study it (many people were wondering at that time how MAD was designed). Contains also suggestions for improvements from Larry (Orphic) from the University of Southern Maine Portland (USA).

User feedback s from 1st of March to 2nd of March 1986, containing congratulations for the game from Mugwump (Glenn) from the University of Southern Maine Portland, plus a request from John McMahon (John 'Tic' McMahon or "Fast-Eddie") to install MAD at Clarkson University (USA).

User feedback s from 5th of March to 20th of March 1986. It starts by an answer to Chris Bigelow from University of Southern Maine Portland who asked for a copy of MAD. He plans to convert all comments from French to English. At the bottom of the page is a small bug complaint from Bob Baker (BBAKER AT MAINE), the editor of "CLUB" an electronic magazine on BITNET.

User feedbacks from 21st of March to 28th of March 1986 with a mail from Ron "C1U24000 AT CCNYVME" a student at the City University of New York (USA) who agrees to the distribution restrictions, and plans to run the game on week-ends. It is followed by a mail from Larry, from University of Southern Maine Portland, who sends his congratulations and the suggestion to have "nice" monsters.

User feedbacks from 21st of March to 9th of April 1986 starting with the signature of a player from Utah State University (USA), then a mail from Eyal Nun (this guy?) from Weizmann Institute (Israel), who has got the maps and reports that Bob Baker is going to put MAD as a cover story for the electronic magazine CLUB. Michael R. Dow from University of Maine, complains that his copy has a bug.

User feedbacks from 26th of March to 3rd of April 1986 with two funny mails, one from Larry at University of Maine who likes the names of the bots (professors of the ENSMP) and from Michael R. Dow from University of Maine stating "I'VE BEEN RUNNING IT INTERMITTENTLY ON NMCS186AMAINE. PLEASE TELL PEOPLE NEAR THIS NODE ONLY, AS I DON'T WANT IT TO GET NOTICED VERY MUCH. I RUN IT DURING OFF-PEAK HOURS WHEN I'M AROUND. IF YOU COULD SEND ME THE LATEST VERSION, I'D APPRECIATE IT...".

Extract of MAD connection log showing the very high frequency of connections, and their worldwide origin (University of Maine (USA) , University of Southern Maine Portland (USA), Queens College (USA), École des Mines de Paris (France), Weizmann Institute (Israel), Hautes Études Commerciales (France)). Hundreds of BITNET nodes have played the game.

The game was run from our user accounts (1ACHABRI, 2ACHABRI, 3ACHABRI or 1ALEXTRA, 2ALEXTRA, 3ALEXTRA, sometimes from a borrowed user account, like 3AJANODE - the account of Dominique Janodet).

Page maintained by Vincent Lextrait (vincent@lextrait.com)