SHADES - What the Computer Magazines USED to say..

An occasional look at what some of the ancient computer magazines used to say about shades....

Micronet's Multi-user Game

Despite their claim to have a multi-user game, Starnet, running, Micronet have, until now, lacked any real competitor to Multi-User Dungeon, affectionately known as MUD to its avid followers and players. Indeed, anyone who reads our magazine regularly will know all about MUD by now, as we have been carrying articles about multi-user games (MUG's), MUD in particular, for quite a while now.

Enter SHADES. Written by Neil Newell, originally as a hobby because he enjoyed playing- the original MUD so much on Essex University, SHADES has recently. been launched on Micronet, the computer network, which has a large Commodore user-base.

Shades began because over Christmas'85, Essex MUD was out of action and to satisfy his own curiosity, and because of his addiction to MUD, Neil sat down and started the project.

At this stage the game was only a few subroutines slung together, but a friend convinced Neil to hook it up to a modem and miracle of miracles, it worked!

The original game had only 20 rooms and 5 objects. He put the dial-up number on a few bulletin boards, and received a good response. At this time Shades was being run from home on Neil's own computer. Demand for the game grew, and a few more lines were added, including at one stage his own voice line which was rather annoying if you happened to want to speak to him!

Micronet had for some time been looking for a MUG to run, and had considered quite a few, MUD2 included (which I am told was turned down because BT wanted to charge too much for it). Shades was chosen because of its popularity, and because Neil himself took the time and bother to demonstrate Shades and its potential properly to Micronet. Negotiations began in May, when Neil first contacted Mike Brown--Mnet's Technical Manager because he thought, rightly, that Shades had commercial potential.

The game went into operation very recently and was in fact only a few days late (unlike some.,.. ) Presently it costs only 30p/hour, but this ridiculously low charge will not last long, and after the trial and test period is over this is to rise to 99p/hr; still incredibly cheap for what it is.

Shades is based in principal around MUD, although it differs in theme quite considerably. Neil admits he was heavily influenced by MUD. "MUD," he says, "is still the best!" A large section of it is the standard Middle Earth scenario, but many sub-scenarios exist such as the Ruined City which has a robot wandering aimlessly about and the mansion, which is based around the legendary publishing magnate of Citizen Kane fame, William Hearst's own mansion!

Currently Shades has around 500 rooms, but more are due to be added as soon as they have been written. Four games can run concurrently, each holding 16 players, though both of these figures can be increased, should demand remain at its present level. A few days after the launch, all 64 lines were jammed solidly for hours, with free lines being seized the moment they were vacated by people quitting (or dying ... ?) In fact, some people seem to like the game so much that they are even playing at times when Prestel charges connect time making it very expensive indeed to play.

Asked about Lap of the Gods (better known simply as GODS), Neil says "Clever, and interesting, but personally - and people's tastes vary widely - I
never really got into it. Of course this probably mainly because I haven't the time to play Gods what with programming Shades so don't take my word as gospel!" I must say that I liked Gods tremendously, as anyone who read my review of it a few months back will know.

At present there are no wizards in game (apart from Neil himself of course who plays as an archwizard,(naturally!) as it has only been running for such short time. The original version Shades is still being run from Neil's computer (a PDP 11) but has very few lines.

If you want to play Shades on Micronet, then go to page 81188114 for instructions on how to play. If you ever played MUD before then you won't really need to read these, because commands are so similar, and the idea the same. To get points, you drop treasure in Shade's equivalent of the Swamp the King's treasure room. Once have read the instructions go to 8117 where you will be able to set up your persona and enter Shades is available 6pm to 8am weekdays, and 1 pm f rom Saturday afternoon to 8am Monday morning continuosly (many sleepless nights here I think!). Good luck on your quest, and don't forget where you read about it!

While I have not played it at length, what experience I have had so far make me believe that it is of excellent quality and well worth playing.

taken from "Commodore Computing International November 1986"

Micronet Enhances Shades

Shades, the UK's most successful multi-user adventure game, will be available to Micronet subscribers in an 80 column scrolling text format by early October. Previously only accessible in a. customised 40 column viewdata mode, the enhancement means players will benefit from faster game-play and more on-screen information.

Since its launch a year ago Shades has become one of Micronet's most popular services, and currently clocks up between 3000 and 3500 hours of playing time a week. "Multiuser games are the logical progression for serious games players to make," says Micronet's Technical Director Mike Brown.

The new scrolling version of Shades will cost 2p a minute to play. The price of viewdata Shades remains unchanged 1.62p a minute.

taken from "Commodore Computing International February 1988"

Shades seems to be the most popular MUG around at the moment if you're judging by sheer weight of numbers, though it has something of an
advantage in being part of Micronet/Prestel. The game has, however, made a virtue of popularity by adding several unique communication features between players that must make it the most interactive of all MUGs.

Most people, when they talk of Shades, refer to the Micronet version but there is another version; East Grinstead, or EG Shades. This is the original game and a test bed for new software changes. The only differences between EGS and the Micronet version is that on EGS there are only two lines into the game, so that a good deal of the interactivity is lost. EG is also only available in scrolling format, whilst Micronet offers scrolling and viewdata formats.

Shades is a good place to start for the new player. It's friendly, and fairly easy to get going. This doesn't mean that the game is too simple, merely that it is not too difficult to get to grips with most of the basics, Many people find that if they can at least explore some locations and get a few items together early on in the adventure, they soon become addicted.

taken from "Ace July 1988"

Micronet Update

For adventure game fans, Shades has now been launched onto Telecom Gold making it available to the service's 105,000 users. It should prove popular with daytime users as it can be played at no extra cost during peak period (8am to 7pm when the standard charge is 6.5p per minute). There has already been a big increase in Shades activity during the day and it probably will not be long before someone reaches the hallowed status of wizard playing on Telecom Gold.

Shades will soon be played across the Channel as well, following Telemap's creation of Paris based subsidiary, Telemap SARL. The adventure game will be launched onto the Minitel system' in France, which has almost four million terminals in use around the country.

taken from "Commodore Computing International December 1988"