AwakeMUD: A community-first Shadowrun game

ko-fi Written by Andruid
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Nighttime neon cyberpunk cityscape and the text: AwakeMUD CE.

Learn how AwakeMUD CE earned the "CE" in its name, what that two-letter acronym stands for, and what it means to its creators and staff.


Table of Contents

    If you’re a fan of the cyberpunk and sci-fi fantasy genres, I hope you’ll enjoy today’s post. It’s an interview with two staffers from AwakeMUD CE, a multi-user dungeon (MUD) game inspired by Shadowrun 3E.

    AwakeMUD isn’t exactly new or even the first of its kind. In fact, the codebase was forked from its predecessor, which was known as Awakened Worlds (now referred to as “Awake Classic”). Sadly, Awake Classic closed its doors at the end of 2020.

    Both AwakeMUD and Awake Classic are/were open-source games. Meaning, players could view the code and contribute changes.

    However, there are a couple of things that help set AwakeMUD CE apart.

    In particular, we’re going to learn what the “CE” in “AwakeMUD CE” is all about – and how it contributes to AwakeMUD’s success as a MUD project.

    Meet two of AwakeMUD’s admin staff: Lucien and Jank

    Before we dive into the details, I want to first introduce Lucien and Jank.

    Lucien is the head coder and staff lead; Jank is the community manager and roleplaying admin.

    For Lucien, his number one job at AwakeMUD is ensuring that everyone is safe and having fun, which he primarily does by adding features, fixing bugs, and being the backstop for anything that needs escalation.

    Jank makes sure everything’s friendly both in-game and in the community’s Discord server and handles things like rules, rewards, and moderation. As a staffer, he tries to maintain transparency and an open-door policy, so that players feel free to come forward with any issues they might have.

    AwakeMUD CE: A Shadowrun-inspired game played using text

    AwakeMUD CE By Lucien and the CE Community. What's your handle, chummer?
    The AwakeMUD login screen as of October 28, 2023.

    To kick things off, I asked Lucien to describe AwakeMUD for people who might not necessarily be familiar with the Shadowrun universe.

    “We’re a cyberpunk fantasy game set in the Seattle of 2064, mixing magic and technology into a fantastically gritty version of a near-future corporatocracy,” said Lucien.

    “You play as a Shadowrunner, a mercenary for hire who plies the city’s underbelly for the highest bidder. As such, you might find yourself doing anything from offing a rival gang to hacking data out of the Matrix, or even infiltrating a megacorporation’s headquarters.”

    Like most cyberpunk games, AwakeMUD features a dystopian future where megacorporations wield immense power.

    As a Shadowrun game, however, it blends sci-fi with fantasy and advanced tech with ancient magic.

    How closely does AwakeMUD follow Shadowrun 3E rules?

    I’m a fan of cyberpunk, and I’ve played the Shadowrun trilogy on Steam, but I’ve never had the chance to play the tabletop game.

    I was curious about how closely AwakeMUD follows Shadowrun 3E rules – and whether that matters for prospective new players.

    “I’d say around 80% adherence,” said Lucien. “We house-rule whenever something doesn’t fit a MUD style of play though.”

    But that doesn’t mean you need to have played the tabletop game in order to enjoy the MUD.

    There are actually two paths to get into AwakeMUD:

    1. A newbie-friendly path where you select a Shadowrun archetype and spend some time in a newbie walkthrough, where you learn more about the game and how to use the abilities associated with your chosen archetype.
    2. A more advanced path that allows you to fine-tune your character but requires more familiarity with the Shadowrun 3E setup and how the game is played.

    Lucien noted that the only downside to choosing the newbie path right now is that the archetype comes with a pre-selected race (e.g. Human, Ork, Troll, Elf, Dwarf), but he assured me that’s on his roadmap of things to fix.

    The following archetypes are available: Street Samurai, Adept, Shaman, Street Mage, Decker.
    Current list of available archetypes, from Street Samurai (easiest) to Decker (most difficult).

    “We’ve got a variety of playstyles available, and while roleplaying is not strictly required, the RP scene is strong and growing stronger,” he said. “We even have tabletop DMs who run sessions for players to enjoy!”

    Archetypal Chargen - Street Sam. Welcome to Awake CE. As you explore these hallowed halls, you will discover everything you need to know to survive. Type SOUTH or S to continue on your journey.
    Upon entering the game, you’ll be placed in a walkthrough area designed to teach you about Shadowrun and how to play your chosen archetype.

    And while character vs. character conflict is technically feasible, Lucien tells me that it just isn’t something the AwakeMUD community tends to pursue.

    Accessibility features and commands

    For those interested in accessibility, AwakeMUD does feature a screen reader mode, which can be enabled by typing TOGGLE SCREENREADER.

    Related commands include TOGGLE NOCOLOR, TOGGLE NOPROMPT, and TOGGLE NOPSEUDOLANGUAGE.

    • Nocolor toggles the display of color.
    • Noprompt toggles the display of the game’s prompt.
    • Nopseudolanguage toggles the display of “pseudolanguage.”

    Pseudolanguage is actually a pretty common feature among MUDs. It’s when emoted speech is replaced with gibberish to represent an unknown language.

    For example, if another character was speaking in Russian, and my character didn’t know Russian, the text would appear on screen as gibberish to me.

    The ability to toggle this off is a useful accessibility feature, as gibberish is easy for players with sight to ignore but may come across as spammy and unnecessary to those who use a screen reader.

    As an aside, I liked the friendly and inviting text output of HELP SCREENREADER:

    If you haven't done so already, you should type TOGGLE SCREENREADER to make the game more compatible with screenreaders. We're very interested in making the game more screenreader-friendly, so please let us know if anything does not work well with your software! You can do so with the IDEA or BUG commands.

    A brief history of AwakeMUD CE

    So, how did AwakeMUD CE arrive at its current state? Lucien broke it down for me:

    “CE existed in several forms over the years, ranging from a small-scale talker to a tinker-toy MUD set in bug-infested Chicago, but the current iteration came about due to the decline in playerbase of our predecessor game, Awakened Worlds (aka “Classic”),” he said.

    “I wanted the community to continue, so I stood up a copy of Classic’s code that its owner Che had made available and invited the community to join and contribute in whatever way they pleased.

    By the time Che was ready to close down Classic in December 2020, we were in a position to pick up the world files he released and launch a new-and-improved version of the game.

    We’ve been open since January 15th of 2021.”

    What really sets AwakeMUD CE apart

    At this point, it should come as no surprise that the “C” in “AwakeMUD CE” stands for “Community.”

    While quality-of-life and gameplay improvements were important foci for Lucien, the community itself served as the biggest motivator for carrying the game forward:

    “I’ve stripped out dead-end builds and newbie traps, designed for streamlined play, added in a robust emoting and socializing system, and generally framed the game around consent and mutual enjoyment, all of which have contributed to us having a strong and welcoming community that’s focused on the happiness and comfort of the people at the keyboards,” he said.

    “This community is actually our strongest selling point in my opinion, as you could stand up an identical fork of CE tomorrow, but it’d be a shell of what it is without the people we have playing now.

    We even named the game after them: that CE stands for Community Edition.”

    Pull requests on the game’s public Github repository. Unlike most MUDs, AwakeMUD is an open-source project that accepts contributions from the community.

    Jank, the game’s roleplaying admin, was in close agreement with Lucien’s community-first approach:

    “The community really is probably one of the major changes from previous iterations,” he said.

    “Games of this sort all tend to encounter problems with cliquishness, esoteric systems that players who don’t find them intuitive (or have an experienced OOC buddy) will have a hard time understanding.

    We’re trying to get away from those issues and keep the community inclusive and encourage participation, with staff accessible to those who need it on a friendly and conversation level, rather than playing the role of lords handing out edicts from on high.”

    For tips on how to make your own game more friendly and inclusive, check out the post on ways to welcome and include new players.

    Lessons learned while staffing on AwakeMUD

    I asked Lucien and Jank to share some lessons learned while working on AwakeMUD. If they could go back in time, is there anything they’d do differently?

    For Lucien, the sticking point was code-related:

    “I’d spend more time designing the system for extensibility and maintainability,” he said. “A lot of the old code we’re working with today is a spaghettified mess, and it’s at the point that it slows down development while we untangle things. Of course, that’s true for a lot of the Circle / DIKU / etc. games from the ’90s.”

    For anyone who’s not super familiar with MUD codebases, this just means that Lucien is working with code that was developed by multiple people over the course of many years.

    The original code wasn’t designed specifically for a Shadowrun 3E game. As such, he’s built his game on top of some stuff that’s probably not super relevant to his game or that works differently than he’d like it to.

    Trying to untangle it all is no easy task, and I certainly don’t envy Lucien!

    In fact, when I asked him what resources he’d recommend to readers thinking about creating their own games, he suggested starting with the Evennia codebase:

    “It’s in Python, which is easy enough to pick up compared to other languages, and has a robust community and documentation set that will help you get on your way to building a proper game with modern features,” he said.

    “I had to teach myself pointer logic and string manipulation in C to work on AwakeMUD, and I would have dearly enjoyed the ability to pick up something like Python instead when I was starting out!”

    Taking a more humble approach to staffing

    For his part, Jank reflected on what he’d learned as a community manager:

    “Working with people can be rough, and no matter how well-meaning you are, you’re just not going to get everything right the first time. Stumbling is inevitable,” he said.

    “I’ve found you can’t separate yourself from [the players] or believe yourself in some position of authority. Lest you go mad with your tiny amount of internet video game power. If you harbor some idea that they owe you some special kind of respect, it’s gonna go bad.

    But the [AwakeMUD] community has shown so far that they are the greatest resource for managing the community. Keeping a door open and a non-judgmental human interaction on tap can make a world of difference.

    It would have been nice to understand that at the beginning as fully as we do now.”

    What’s next for Lucien and Jank?

    Lastly, I asked Lucien and Jank to talk about what they’re most looking forward to working on next.

    “I’m wrapping up our housing revamp, which will add multi-room apartments that can have helipads and other goodies, and am looking forward to branching out into reworks of some of our cyberware systems and vehicle handling,” said Lucien.

    “I’m especially interested in showing our remote-vehicle-piloting riggers some love with quality-of-life upgrades and accessibility changes that will make their gameplay much smoother.”

    As for Jank:

    “All of the stuff Lucien mentioned are things worth being excited for in my appraisal, but as community manager and roleplaying admin, I’m always most excited to see what new stories and characters come up,” he said.

    “We’ve got some good player-GMs for our tabletop-style player runs who are making great fun for players in that way only that tabletop style can. They’re my favorite part of the game and I love reading the logs, or even better, getting to participate in them myself.”

    So if you enjoy cyberpunk, Shadowrun, and tabletop roleplay, and appreciate a community-first approach, AwakeMUD CE might be a good fit.

    About Lucien

    While looking for something fun to do on a low-powered laptop, Lucien was introduced to Awakened Worlds. He quickly fell for the elaborate world and got lost in the gameplay. He tried out a few other MUDs after that, ranging from grindfests to roleplay-intensive settings, but in the end, he always returned to the Sprawl. In his off time, he’s active in the local independent film scene and has had roles both in front of and behind the camera.

    About Jank

    Jank first became obsessed with Shadowrun after playing the 1994 Sega Genesis game. After hunting around for other Shadowrun games on the internet, he discovered Awake Classic and was hooked. He’s been coming and going back to the same MUD ever since. As for non-Shadowrun skills, he can play you just about any song Buddy Holly ever recorded.

    Thank you so much to Lucien and Jank for sharing their individual perspectives on AwakeMUD and staffing! I especially enjoyed their shared, community-first approach, and I wish them, the game, and its community all the best.

    If you’re interested in checking out AwakeMUD CE for yourself, visit awakemud.com – there’s a quick and easy PLAY button, or you can access the game via telnet at awakemud.com port 4000. You can also find the game listed on Grapevine, one of the MUD listing platforms I like to recommend, especially to those new to the niche.

    If you have questions or just want to say hi to other players, you’re invited to hop into the AwakeMUD Discord server at https://discord.gg/bKBpvNj. Happy MUDing!

    Finally, if you’re thinking about getting into the Shadowrun TTRPG, here’s a quick link to the core rulebook, supplemental materials, and stories on Amazon. Your purchase will help support this site.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    Does AwakeMUD CE have a screen reader mode or accessibility features?

    Yes, AwakeMUD has accessibility features! Lucien has edited out the ASCII art, visual tables, and other things from Awakened Worlds that weren’t very screen reader-compatible.

    In addition, dense commands like SCORE have been broken out into useful bite-sized pieces, and important words are prefixed with a hashtag (#) to help them stand out in paragraphs of text.

    What are some recommended resources for starting my own MUD?

    In addition to starting with a more modern codebase, Lucien recommends reading game design books, such as The Art of Game Design (affiliate link), and taking the time to draw up a design document to help frame out your game systems.

    While he admits that it’s very tempting to jump directly into code, you’ll save yourself a lot of time later by first iterating through your ideas in a document.

    For more suggestions along these lines, check out the advice from Mystavaria’s creators.

    What is a game design document?

    A design document, in the context of game development, is a written blueprint that outlines the game’s vision, mechanics, story, characters, aesthetics, and other core components.

    It serves as a guide for developers, artists, writers, and other team members to ensure a consistent vision and direction for the game. The document can be detailed, specifying gameplay elements, level designs, interface layouts, and even sound cues, or it can be more general, providing an overarching vision.

    As the game progresses through its development cycle, the design document can evolve, but it always remains a central reference point for the game’s intended design and function.

    What is meant by an open-source game?

    An open-source game is a game whose source code is made publicly available, allowing anyone to view, modify, and distribute it.

    This means that developers, hobbyists, or even players can contribute to the game’s development, make modifications, or create entirely new content based on the original game.

    Open-source games promote collaborative development, transparency, and community engagement, often resulting in a diverse range of features, mods, and expansions driven by the community’s collective creativity.

    Smiling blonde woman wearing glasses.
    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."