A classic 1986 videogame has been remade, updated, and released for free. M.U.L.E became archetypal in many ways, being a turn-based strategy game that mixed off-world exploration and economics with moral dilemma, and had a multiplayer aspect that was ahead of its time. The update, entitled Planet M.U.L.E., has been configured for online play, being met with enthusiasm from veterans and newcomers alike.
The new game, downloadable from planetmule.com, has sucked in over 2,500 players since its quiet release the weekend of December 15 and is just starting to make itself known on some of the more well-known videogame news sites.
Participants try to forge a profitable existance on the planet Irata by using a limited number of Multiple Use Labor Elements (mule-like robots) to harvest energy, food, ore, and crystal in a fictional world heavily influenced by Robert A. Heinlein's science-fiction novel Time Enough For Love.
In-game produce is then traded with - or withheld from - other players, and the game actively encourages the formation of devious and secret pacts between players as they try and offset the disadvantages that come from over or underproducing certain resources. The combination of gameplay elements made M.U.L.E. comparable to board games Monopoly, Diplomacy, and Risk.
Will Wright, creator of the huge Sims franchise, dedicated the first game in the series to M.U.L.E.'s designer Dani Bunton. Prominent videogames website 1UP.com placed the game at number 19 in their list of Essential 50 games, and retro experts Retrogames.com call it "one of the best games ever made."
In fact, Dani was often regarded as being years ahead of contemporary designers and could be said to be one of the originators of modern social videogaming, as almost all of Bunton's creations revolved around multiplayer gameplay. One of the few that didn't, Seven Cities of Gold, was also hugely influential, prompting games design guru Sid Meier to make the first in the Civilization series, now 13 releases strong and with its own socially tweaked Facebook-specific version prepped for play in 2010.