Tutorial: How to MOO

Tutorial: How to MOO

introduction | getting started


What is a MOO anyway? A MOO can be thought of as an electronic virtual environment. It is a collection of described locations, objects, and characters, arranged in a discrete, virtual architecture inside a computer's memory. As you traverse the MOO, you navigate your persona through the rooms of this electronic space, typing things like "go library" if, for example, you see a door into a library. Each new room or environment will be described by text (and sometimes with images) on your screen, and you can type "look" to examine things more carefully. Objects that you see can be picked up and manipulated (books can be read, food can be eaten, notes can be written and given to other participants in the MOO). The commands to do these things are basically intuitive and are not difficult to learn. For all you need to get started, click the "getting started" link.

A MOO can be thought of as a site of active, rather than passive, reading. Participation in a MOO involves the same two basic activities as reading and taking notes in a book—as you MOO, you will read, and you will write in response to what you have read. Participants read descriptions of locations, objects, characters, and other participants, and they read what the other characters and participants have to say. Their writing consists of simple commands, and also of dialogue, as they interact with one another and with the objects and characters in the MOO. To use Barthes's term, a MOO demonstrates perhaps the most "writerly" text possible—reading text and interpretive interaction with text are interlocked in ways that are intuitive and immediately apparent to the student. Narrative within a MOO space is intrinsically collaborative, arising from the MOO author's textual space and the user's (reader's) response to that space. "Reading" in a MOO is a significantly experiential activity.

A MOO can be thought of as a playground. Like a playground, a MOO provides space for interaction, directed learning, and play. This space is not an empty tabula rasa; it is organized in ways that suggest or encourage certain types of activity. Much as a real playground's space is subdivided (into sandbox, swing set, jungle gym, etc) a MOO's rooms have unique attributes and qualities, and these spaces contain objects which encourage various types of interaction. Also like a playground, there is no predetermined goal to accomplish in a MOO; there is no way to "win" or "lose. Just as a physical swing set may suggest the activity of swinging, a MOO's spaces and objects only imply certain uses and responses. You can swing on a swing set, or you can invent your own use for the swings that has nothing to do with swinging. The same is true of a MOO's spaces and objects. It provides a venue within which games may be invented and played—it is not itself a single game. Notice that this parallels the activity of literary interpretation in provocative ways. Students can enact and experiment with various responses to the text space of the MOO, and refine and modify their responses in reaction to and collaboration with the interpretive community formed by the other MOO participants. For, like playing on a playground, MOOing is not a solitary activity. Much of what you do inside a MOO is interact with other MOO participants, engage in dialog, discuss, explore, play, learn.

Getting Started

Getting Into the MOO

1. Go to <http://www.rc.umd.edu:7000/>

2. A log-in screen will appear.

You will log in as a Guest. Do not enter anything in the ID or password boxes. The ID box should say "Guest" and the password box should be left blank. Simply click the gray "login" button on the left hand side of the screen.

3. A split screen will pop up (Give it time to load).

On the top are helpful buttons. On the left is the conversation going on. Choose the "normal" radio button to describe actions. Choose "say" to speak in the MOO. Choose "emote" to let your character express an emotion. At the right is what you see in the room. Characters will be represented by an avatar icon. Objects will have representative icons. Doors to other rooms will be represented by an arrow icon.

Registering Your Own Character

To avoid being bumped off of the MOO as a guest, sign up for a character identity. Here's three ways to do it:

1. Before logging in as guest, click on the "Create Account" button at the bottom left-hand frame of your browser. Fill out the New Character Creation Form and send it. Do not use blank spaces in your user ID name.

2. Log in as a guest. Once you are logged in, click the "Request" button at the top of your MOO window. Fill out the New Character Creation Form and send it. Do not use blank spaces in your user ID name.

3. Log in as a guest. Once you are logged in, click your cursor in the bottom left-hand frame of your browser, type "@request," and then follow the directions.

Once you have completed the on-line request process, it will take the server approximately five to ten minutes to process your request and then your new account information will be sent to the e-mail address that you entered in the request.

When requesting a character, please remember that this is an educational MOO and that scholarly exchanges generally work better when others in the MOO know who you are; so, we suggest that you use your real name as your character name. Non-registered users can browse the MOO non-interactively using any Web Browser at <http://www.rc.umd.edu:7000/62/>.

Using MOO Commands: (important commands have an asterisk)

1. *To talk, either click the "say" radio button and type your comment in the bottom left hand corner of the screen in the blank box, or use quotation marks before and after what you want to say in "normal" (default) mode. For example, to say hi, type "hi" then hit return.

2. *To look around at the room, type the word look in the blank box (make sure you are in "normal" or default mode). To examine an object type "examine <object name>". For example, to examine a lake type: examine lake. For an easy way to look and get a basic description of an object, see number six below.

3. To emote, that is to show an expression or action, either click the "emote" radio button and describe your emotion in the blank box, or use a colon before the words expressing your action while in "normal" (default) mode. For example, if I want to smile, I type :smiles.

4. If you see an object and want to take it, type take <object name> (make sure you are in "normal" or default mode). For example, take flower. This allows me to pluck a flower. To drop an object, type drop <object name>, such as drop flower. Note: it is good etiquette to return things where you found them after you are done with the object!

5. At the most basic level of interaction, all you need to do is look and talk. Anything else is extra which you can learn as you gain experience.

6. *The right hand side of the screen has several features. It gives you a description of what you are looking at. You can click on an object and this will allow you to examine the object. Most objects are denoted with an icon looking like a generic blocky object. To look at the whole room type "look" or use the look button on the tool bar at the top of the screen. To move to another room, click the room name next to the door icon.

7. At the top of your screen is a tool bar, which looks like this:

What these buttons do:

About: details of the MOO program
Help: a range of help links from basic maneuvering to MOO programming
Look: shows you the room you are in
Who: shows you what other players are in the MOO
Options: Allows you to create a MOO name, choose a gender, and offer a description of your character
Guide: some basic and not so basic MOO commands
Request:an easy form for requesting a permanent character
Quit: end your MOO session

You will also find helpful hints at Cynthia Haynes and Jan Rune Holmevik's "Beginners Guide to MOOing."