> the mud coders guild

The Legacy of Sheng Long

By Danny Nissenfeld

In a “really, it’s ok to be on my lawn” moment I made a joke on the main Hearthstone subreddit the other day. It referenced the Sheng Long incident from 1992.

I was there. I had that copy of EGM when it came out. One thing you have to understand is people were hella gullible before the internet. The proliferation of websites did not immediately instill stupidity in the human population.

Electronic Gaming Monthly was one of the more highly respected publications for gaming in no small part thanks to its editor-in-chief. Nationally distributed April Fools jokes were also not the thing they are today with everyone clamoring to see what Google is going to debut or how silly Think Geek’s fake products will be.

That article proposes a nigh impossible task in probably the most popular arcade game of the time: Street Fighter 2. Even defeating the end boss in SF2 in the arcade was out of reach of many players, so drawing with him entirely unscathed for two rounds was akin to an unaided climb of Everest.

I’ll admit that I was duped. My 14 year old self wasted rolls of quarters in the wee hours when the late night arcades were mostly empty trying to get a chance to fight the legendary Sheng Long (who didn’t even exist in the lore, the Wikipedia article goes into detail about that).

While I never got to meet the mythical master of Ryu and Ken, the incident stuck with me. Thousands of kids were fooled into wasting loads of time and effort on this wild goose chase. I wanted that. I wanted to dupe people.

The first era of twinMUD was brought to life a few years later. It wasn’t called twinMUD at the time. That was the “internal” name for it. It actually had two names: “Persecutions and Paradoxi” and “Realms of Insurrection” (which was renamed to Under the Eclipse later).

The MUD started as a stock DIKU base with a major modification: it listened on two ports. Depending on which port you connected with you either got PaP or RoI. Different race selection, class names, opening splash screen, calendar names and system text. They even had different color code glyphs, weather messages and error/typo responses. The who lists and OOC global channels were also segregated by port so you couldn’t tell who was a player from the other port.

I kept the conceit up for quite a while; years in fact. The first major rewrite and lore retconning ended the guise but the systems remained separate for experience’s sake. These days the codebase is called netMUD and there isn’t a such thing as “port separation” since it’s entirely built as a web application. It’s still an “us vs them” type of affair but the idea that it is two connected MUDs is completely gone.

There’s still a lot of “fooled you” type systems involved but none so grandiose. I never convinced thousands of people to waste hours grinding at a game in hopes of triggering a single event but I’d like to think some people might have been amused when what they thought was an NPC was actually a real person.