A Brief History of Sociopolitical Ramifications
1. SPR was created the 19th of September 1994 by me (Martin Gauffin, email@example.com) and Snout (Henrik Isacsson, firstname.lastname@example.org). It first ran on my old DECstation (may it rest in peace). The reason for at all starting it was that I wanted to learn MUF (the language of the MUCK system), and thus wanted a server running. Snout was also in on this, and at a fullsave (database copied to disk) on the largest furry MUCK, named FurryMUCK [:)], which took quite a lot of time, Snout shouted (on FurryMUCK) about a new one, thereby making tens of people connect. We had a MUCK. The theme was clear, we wanted a furry, not too serious, not too controlled, MUCK, so we inserted a lot of techie puns but no policies.
It all started very spontaneous - with the absolute minimum for a MUCK: one room and one character. Many of those who connected first were immediately made wizards and started building up the MUCK. So, Tuxedo started building the core of the MUCK (Matrix Plains City), and I coordinated most nature areas surrounding the city. It grew at a fast rate back then, because many furries were happy about not being restricted by building quotas or tough requirements for getting permission to program in MUF. Also FurryMUCK was having problems with lag even back then - and the European furry community was just starting to form (first EuroFurence was in 1995), so a fast-running MUCK in Europe was something that many appreciated who were frustrated by slow overseas connections.
2. By the end of 1994, I got tired of the fact that the administration for the network I used refused to change a broken network bridge, and SPR moved to tigerden.com in Ohio, USA, run by Tigerwolf. It ran there for a while, but as we got more computers and the political winds in Washington blew CDA-wards, we decided to move it back in 1995.
3. Summer 1996, SPR got policies which also, together with the fact that we had no age limits (other MUCKs do, and I know for a fact that they are ineffective as age cannot today be 100% verified over the Internet. Now, in the USA, having none can still get you in trouble, because of legal discrepancies between USA and EEC countries/states, but here it doesn't per se. We of course look after all harassment and alike against minors that we know of, though.) caused a massive exodus, at times leading to clearly illegal attempts at computer resources and property, but the loss of these people IMHO rather strenghtened than damaged SPR.
In January 1997, the server was moved to the apartment of DivineVixen and Snout in Linkping (Sweden). Thankfully, hardware was upgraded as the MUCK grew in size, so we didn't suffer from the lag problems of other MUCKs even when we became the second largest furry MUCK (after FurryMUCK). We installed the weather system which was originally created for Brazilian Dreams, and continued to expand by giving space to everyone without setting a theme.
4. Perestrojka. The policies had several weaknesses. One was that they said they couldn't change. Other ones were that they were hard to interpret and very large, leading that any abuse resulted in an investigation that took weeks. When one wizard failed to follow the base policies and instituted a rule contradicting it, we decided that the entire ruleset was false and made a new one that was far simpler and far more flexible. This was done during the month (Feb 1998) of downtime when basically everything was remade and repaired.
Interview with the Mud Administrators
1. Describe what a muck is, and how mucks differ from other types of muds.
A MUCK is a more social version of a MUD. No fighting system, no death, no dangerous NPCs. There are 2 programming languages, MUF (Ugly, inefficient FORTH from last decade) and MPI (LisP-like, fast, compact and written by Revar, who created MUCK from TinyMUD.), so can have for example spaceships fighting, utility programs or whatever you like. The programming is done online while the MUCK is up. Anyone can use MPI, and anyone with the privbit can use MUF.
As the official definition says when you download the server software: "This server is a UNIX based networked chat program, with multiple rooms, users, and built in expandability via an interpreted internal language. For those of you who know what one is, yes this is a MUD. A social based MUD, and not a hack and slash type MUD. You won't find weapons or orcs in this game, unless you spend the time to make it have those things. This game is primarily designed for those who just want to socialize."
The TinyMUCK server software was developed from TinyMUD with the addition of a stack-based programming language called MUF. MUCK doesn't have any meaning as an acronym. Further on, the development was split up, one development branch is called FuzzballMUCK, which was an adaptation of TinyMUCK for FurryMUCK, the oldest and largest of the furry MUCKs. Another programming language, called MPI and usable by every player in descriptions and messages, was added to the system. For MUF programmers there are three levels with different permissions.
The idea of MUCK is not to have a multi-player adventure game, but rather a text-based virtual environment for freestyle roleplaying and chatting. Every user can extend the system by building rooms, connecting them with exits and creating objects. In some MUCKs the total number of rooms and objects that you can own is restricted by quota, but on SPR we chose not to limit our players' creativity by this, as we have enough server space.
2. SPR is described as a "furry" muck. What does this mean?
Furry can be very much, but all of these things are aspects of the culture around and interest in anthropomorphic (humanlike) animals. Examples of such are many, and the idea of them is as old as human culture. Some examples are Donald Duck, who is an anthropomorphic duck, or Disney's Robin Hood. where anthro foxes are lead characters. Another one is the talking ravens owned by the king of gods in nordic mythology, Odin. Another angle can be everything from DNA research's philosophical thoughts to the sexual desires put forth by different animalistic traits. Or MUCKing, where you play a 'furry'. You can of course be hardcore and really live in the SF space station, or whatever, or just extend the RP to pretending that you have a different body. There are also conventions, comics, books, movies (as mentioned above), academic studies and even music pertaining to this subculture.
The definition of a furry is fuzzy and blurry :)
Generally, a furry is being seen as a character based on a non-human animal, which often has human-like (anthropomorphic) characteristics, be it the way of thinking, the ability of walking upright, to make tools etc. Not all agree that "furry" means "anthropomorphic", some don't want to have to do anything with humans at all. On SPR we allow all types of characters, regardless of species.
The furry community is quite diverse - it consists of artists, comic collectors, readers and writers of stories, plushie collectors, fursuiters, and many who just like to play a "personal furry" (character which represents their personality) - or a not-so-personal character just for the fun of roleplaying. Furries are mostly connected via the internet nowadays, but there are a number of furry conventions every year.
As there is no requirement to roleplay "in character" on SPR, many just use it as a way to communicate with their friends all over the world.
3. What are the backgrounds of the staff members of SPR? How did their paths lead to the creation of SPR?
As seen above, the only ones involved with the creation as such were me and Snout, with unci being part of what made SPR into a MUCK. The staff has changed, and I would really like to give each part of it credits for the part they added. Background of staff has varied. Some wizards are working, some have PhDs, yet others are highschool and university students.
Myself, I started in January 1994 on FurryMUCK after following the discussion on alt.fan.furry for some time. I was fascinated by the possibility of playing my personal character, but with the lag of FM's server and the quota restrictions, I couldn't realize my plans of an extensive landscape there. When DivineVixen opened a new MUCK in Sweden in September 1994, I was one of the first players checking it out and getting a character - I was then given a position as building wizard and created large parts of the landscape there. I also found that by being a wizard, I could help others much better with finding around in the world and adding their own parts to it - however, the job involves a lot of responsibility, and you must pay closer attention at what you say and do. It has grown a lot since that, but still I try to keep track of the location of all public areas on the planet, to show others the way and to help them finding a location for their own area. I also run the WWW pages of SPR, I sometimes have players contacting me to solve disagreements, and I make policy suggestions if I see how something could be regulated better or in a more fair way. In "real life" I am studying railway technology at the technical university of Dresden.
Winged was responsible for creating a version of the MUCK driver that could handle running on the DEC Alpha chip. This process was completed during the month of February, when the policy changes were made (mentioned in the history). He's a UNIX System Administrator at a computer sales firm in Tempe, Arizona. He is also a character administration wizard, as well, which means that he mediates in quarrels that affect other players.
4. In your own words, what do you think keeps your players coming back? What is it about SPR's virtual community that keeps your players happy?
I believe that it is a sense of community that stems from the fact that we, as wizards, attempt to pay regard to the wide variety of objectives being the thousands, if yet not at the same time, of users' reasons for at all using SPR. This, and the fact that we have a strong system against abuse nowadays, if yet at times failed (and this i blame myself more than anyone for), not to mention that SPR is the only truly international MUCK that I am aware of. We have administrators (wizards) from quite a lot of european countries, not to mention Zimbabwe, Australia and a number of US states.
We try not to impose too much on our players. We provide a planet, a working system, it's up to everyone to fill it with life. Uncomplicated character creation and not having building quotas seems to have stimulated the creativity of many - so we have numerous areas and programs that you won't find anywhere else. There should be some place for everyone - and if not, you create yourself a corner of the world where you feel comfortable. It also seems that the community that has formed over the years is nice to be with, and we helped a number of furries to come together and become friends. Myself, I met many of my furry friends on SPR; not just out in the world, but also in the city where I live.
What the players are saying!
Orbus (Vulpine), on SPR since 6 October 1995:
The first time I logged on to SPR, I would never have thought I'd see this. It was in the early, early days, back in October 1995. There was nobody around, and I poked around for a few days before leaving for almost a year. When I came back in the summer of '96, things had changed. Gone was the look of emptiness. In its place was a crowd. That crowd's been there ever since. What makes SPR worth visiting, I think, is that crowd. Anywhere from fifty to a hundred or more users congregate there, any time of day or night. It's a diverse group, straying far from the original theme of a more computer-oriented MUCK. The computer imagery remains, in edifices like Matrix Plains City, and the statue of Seymour Cray, but overlayed onto it are a variety of interests. Among that crowd are dragons, wolves, tigers, and more than enough foxes (myself among their ranks). And yes, even a few humans frequent this world, though the furred inhabitants are without a doubt more common. Here, it's the human who seems a little out of the ordinary. Still, it's a crowd that takes anything in stride. Age, race and sex are, for the vast majority of SPR's furs, points so insignificant as not to reqire mention. It really is the friendliest MUD, MUCK, or any other MU* I've been on. To say all that, it might seem like I'm glossing over the bad. Yeah, we've got a few things we're not proud of. We've had our crusades, polarizing the populace into sides of an argument that's meaningless in the big picture. But even these are success stories. We survived. And I say that with a sense of triumph - we SURVIVED! We didn't disappear to that great netsite in the sky, but stayed up, and active, working out our problems. Few other MUDs can say that. So I write this in SPR's honor. I'm not at all surprised that they won. That WE won. Because it's a great place. It's got great people. And it deserves to be recognized for what it is - the best.
Ekwanulti (White-tail Deer), on SPR since 31 March 1996:
There's several things about SPR that work for me. First of all, when you contrast this place against other 'furry' mucks, you find a great deal less in the way of politics, backbiting, and general immaturity present here. Not to say that it doesn't exist, mind you, but that it seems to occur on a far smaller scale than on similar sites. This probably leads to point #2, the point that on SPR one tends to find sharper, more articulate and sensible players than on a number of other furry MU*s I've visited over the years. Again, you do find your drooling luser types here, but as before, they seem to be spread thinner here. But the biggest thing I've seen around here is a level of commitment, especially by the site wizzes, to making SPR work. For example, when lag became a problem on SPR some time back, the site wizzes weren't satisfied with an 'oh, well...at least it's running' stance...and went to the trouble to get the fastest server machine they could: a 533 MHz AlphaPC with a Seagate Barracuda-4; how many systems with 80K-ish object DBs out there can do a fulldump in about 45 seconds, for example? So...decent social ordering, a more articulate and sensible player base, and serious site commitment...that's what characterizes SPR for me and keeps me coming back here, as opposed to other furry MU*s.
Chronos (Wolf Lord), on SPR since 23 August 1996:
SPR keeps a constant update of their hardware and has a friendly understanding staff. Hard work is put into keeping SPR running and the rules are simple and the MUCK is a great place for beginner and advanced MUCKers to go and enjoy their times. I keep coming back to SPR because of the friendly atmosphere and the lack of lag that FurryMUCK has and the fact that the wizzes and staff are *never* too busy to help someone when they need it.
Takat (Drakon), on SPR since 18 April 1997:
I've been here for a year and about three months, and if there is anything about this place that stands out above all else, it is the feeling of freedom here. There is no super-complex character-creation requirement, no fixed theme or story, and the wizards do an excellent job of controlling the MUCK and upholding the rules, while never obstructing other characters' activities. The community is generally friendly, and if guests, newcomers, or even long-time players have a question or need help, and there are no wizards or helpstaff availible, then there is almost always a helpful person in public areas that is glad to help. There are no building restrictions, and you can get an M1 bit just by asking any wizard. There is also no restriction on theme or activities, with the exception of some public areas in the park (No 'bad stuff' there :) ). Also, the MUCK is an all-ages place! When I first came here, I was a minor, and everyone was still friendly to me despite of this. And perhaps most importantly, guests and newcomers are given a lot of help by everyone. When I first came as a guest, I was even given a tour of the MUCK! That hooked me, and I still havn't found a better MUCK yet.
Zara (Skunkette), on SPR since 30 December 1997:
I like SPR. It's a relaxed environment where people can go and not really have a conflict about being furry or not, because it's open to choice. The wiz-staff is really kind and responsive, and the company is nice, usually. It sort of seems like there's always something to do, here.