Planet M.U.L.E.

Free Download

Dani Bunten Berry was, along with Chris Crawford and Will Wright, one of the giants of the early days of computer games in the United States. Her work was, throughout his (later her) career, motivated by the idea that games should be social activities; as she put it, "No one ever said on their deathbed, 'I wish I had spent more time alone with my computer.'" This despite the fact that she worked in an era when multiplayer games were hard; her Modem Wars was the first commercially released head-to-head computer games to support online play, published at a time when only a small portion of PC owners had modems.

Her best known work, however, is M.U.L.E., originally released for the Atari 800, a machine that had ports for four controllers, and designed for multiplayer play. It is almost forgotten today, except by designers who admire its design greatly. Once, probably 15 years ago, I was having lunch with Warren Spector at an industry conference, and mentioned that I would be seeing Dani later; he got a faraway look in his eyes, and mentioned that playing M.U.L.E. is what had convinced him that worthwhile and meaningful work could be done in computer games, and motivated his transition from tabletop. I offered to introduce him, but he declined, saying he didn't want to appear to be "a drivelling fanboy."

The game has now been recreated, remarkably faithfully, by Turbozilla, with the approval and permission of Dani's children, and is available for free, for PC, Mac, and Linux. Necessarily, the experience is somewhat different from the original game, since the modern version is designed for remote Internet play, rather than as an experience of several people clustered about a single machine; thus, some of the social aspect of play is missing. But the essential gameplay is preserved.

One of the critical problems any such limited-duration game supporting a small number of places face is the difficulty of attracting a critical mass of users. That is, you frequently go to a site that supports such a game and discover that no one is there, making it impossible to get into a game (and Planet M.U.L.E., the new implementation, has no support for soloplay against bots). However, on the small number of occasions I've visited the site, there have always been people waiting to play -- sometimes only a few, but that's all you need.

Unquestionably, you should play this thing, both to experience a vital piece of the field's history, and to explore what many regard as one of the best computer games ever created.


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"The game has not been

"The game has not been recreated" (You might want to correct that)

Looks interesting, I might just try it for the sake of old days (Yay playing Dune). Visually it does look a lot like Dune.


> and Planet M.U.L.E., the new implementation, has no support for soloplay against bots

Nah, that's not right. You can play a local game against AI bots (If I recall, you need to hit 'play local' then 'training'.)

Part of my Home Computer memories...

I very much remember M.U.L.E., from the C64. It was a game that completely captured some, and met with total lack of comprehension by many. My friends from the former group ended up as RTS junkies on the Amiga, and later, PC, so no doubt it was the foundation of a commercially still viable genre.

Here is an acapella cover of the M.U.L.E. soundtrack, courtesy of 'maybebop'.

I spent lots of time playing M.U.L.E. on my C-64....

Which I wish I still had (my mom gave it away while I was in grad school at some point). Among my friends this was certainly our favorite multi-player computer game for a while (and one of only a few that supported more than 2 players).

On a related note...someone should port this to the Wii. I think the platform would be really good for this game.

This is probably old news to the folks here, but there is a boardgame which I have recently purchased called Planet Steam that seems to re-create M.U.L.E. in boardgame form, with a slightly different theme. I haven't played it yet though - hopefully in a week or two I will get the chance.


While this game does not have as many clones as say "tower defense" or Tetris, it has been steadily remade every few years, you might want to look up:
Traders: The Intergalactic Trading Game
Space H.O.R.S.E.

(and that's just the ones I can remember)

I really liked MULE on the

I really liked MULE on the NES and I'm excited to see it recreated. Free market mechanics are a lot of fun to see in action, and the sci-fi theme is a hit for me. I'm not sure that I appreciate that they decided to keep the old control scheme, namely waiting for the game to highlight plots of land in turn and mashing a button at the right time to buy it. They could have drastically improved on the UI and controls, making it more accessible.

On a side note, I showed this to my board game friends, and they were like, "Dude, it's Wealth Of Nations." -_-