Getting Started at PennMOO

English 88 -- Spring, 1995

Susan Garfinkel, MOO advisor
mehitabel and auntie.em
at PennMOO

PennMOO is an on-line virtual environment where we will meet throughout the semester as a supplement to in-class sessions. MOO is in many ways easier to show than explain, but this brief introduction should help you get started. MOO is a virtual "place" made up of computer code and text descriptions of spaces, players and objects. In the MOO you can talk to other players, move through spaces, manipulate objects or make things. Regular MOOers report that the experience feels "real" to them.

Each student in English 88 will be assigned a character at PennMOO. You should receive an e-mail note directly in your account telling you the initial name of that character and a computer-generated password. Once you have this, you can connect to the MOO from inside your e-mail account.

Use these instructions as a guide, but don't feel you have to be prepared before connecting. The best way to learn MOO is as you go.

(Note: In this document, and in on-line MOO help, a word in angle brackets (<>) indicates a variable, e.g.. <player> means to substitute the particular player you are interested in. Commands in quotes ("") should be typed verbatim, except for the substitution of variables.)

I. Connecting To and Leaving PennMOO

You can connect to PennMOO directly with telnet, or by using a program called TinyFugue that is installed on TinyFugue is recommended as it will make your interactions in the MOO easier to read (we will cover its other features later in the term).

1) Connecting directly. At the main menu inside your e-mail account, type "unix" to leave the menu. At the prompt type "telnet 7777" making sure to leave a single space before the numbers, and hit return. You should next see the PennMOO welcome screen. At the bottom of the screen type "connect <name> <password>" filling in your character name and password. ("Connect guest" is also an option if you don't have a character or don't want to use it.)

2) Disconnecting. When you are done in the MOO, type the command "@quit" and you will be returned to your Unix prompt. Next type "menu" if you are not familiar with the Unix environment.

3) Using TinyFugue. At the main menu of or dept.english type "unix" to leave the menu system ("menu" will get you back when you're done). Next type "tf" and the TinyFugue program will take you directly to the PennMOO welcome screen. You can also use tf to connect to other MOOs. Type "tf <mooaddress>", for example "tf 8888" to connect to LambdaMOO. If you want to save additional MOO addresses for regular use you can create a file in your e-mail account called ".tfrc". To do this, exit to Unix from the main menu, and type "pico .tfrc". A document that looks like an e-note will open. Inside it type in a line like the following, one for each address

/addworld lambda 8888

where lambda is the nickname you will use in TinyFugue to refer to LambdaMOO. Add a line for each MOO address you wish to store. Then type Control-X to exit (as you would in e-mail) and save the file as .tfrc according to the prompt. Now, at the Unix prompt again, type the command "tf" -- this will start up your TinyFugue session -- but if you wish to go to a different MOO than PennMOO, specify the nickname. For example, "tf lambda" will take you to the LambdaMOO address you stored. All TinyFugue commands start with a backslash (/). TinyFugue will let you connect to more than one MOO at a time, and refers to each of these as a "world". You can toggle between worlds by typing "/world <nickname>" for each one. The automatic nickname for PennMOO is... "PennMOO", so use "/world PennMOO" to get to it. Type "/help" for more information on TinyFugue at any point after you start it up.

When you are done MOOing and have typed @quit inside the MOO, you will also need to type "/quit" to exit TinyFugue. If you type /quit before @quitting first, it will disconnect you from all MOOs you are connected to.

II. Getting Around PennMOO

When you connect to PennMOO you will find yourself in a space called "PennCentral". Read the description and look over the map. The first time you visit the MOO you will want to go over some basic commands, and do a couple of one-time things to set up your character.

MOO provides on-line help. At any time, type "help" or "help <topic>" or "help <command>" to supplement these introductory instructions. "Help" will list a series of introductory categories.

1) Basic commands. Attached is an appendix listing the basic MOO commands you will need. The ones you will use first and most often are "look", "say", and "emote". Learn these, and how to move around from room to room.

2) MOO objects. MOO is both a kind of environment, and a programming language. As a language it is object-oriented, which means that each "object" exits as a separate entity within the larger program -- you can, in other words, change one thing while the rest is still running. Each element of the MOO -- players, rooms, things, exits, etc. -- has a number assigned to it. These are written in the form #xxx. Objects also have names assigned to them, but the number is the most basic identification for it. Beyond that, objects come in generic types and then specific examples. So, an object #218 is based on the generic player, and is named "mehitabel." An object #xxx is of the based on the generic room and is named "outpost of american civilization."

3) MOO syntax. MOO commands follow certain conventions that are easy to get used to. Commands are referred to as verbs because they do things. Look, say and emote are all MOO verbs, for example, and there is computer code hiding behind those verbs telling them how to function. Some verbs are preceded by an @-sign, such as @describe or @send. These @ verbs can be thought of as user interface -- unlike verbs such as say or emote, they break the simulated reality of MOO by doing something you wouldn't do in real life.

Verbs can exist by themselves, or they can be applied *to* something. You can look, or look at something. You can just drop a thing, or drop it on something else. The complete syntax for MOO commands is:

<verb> <direct-object> <preposition> <indirect-object>

following closely from English usage. So, all of the following are valid MOO commands:

put book on table
look table (or look at table)
sit chair (or sit on chair)
open door with key

When you attempt to use a verb incorrectly, you are prompted with the correct syntax.

MOO is based on the ascii character set, so it is universally readable from different desktop computers. It has, therefore, few graphics capabilities. Also note that MOO is not case-specific, that is, MOO will return a word with the same capitalization you used to enter it, but it will recognize that word no matter how it is capitalized. For example, mehitabel, Mehitabel, MEHITABEL, and meHItaBeL are all understood the same.

4) Setting up your character. You will want to customize your character using the commands @password, @rename, @gender and @describe. (See Appendix or type "help <command>" inside the MOO). Note that the MOO will not allow two players to have the same character name -- if it will not let you select a name, type @who <name> to verify that it is taken and pick another. You can continue to alter these settings at any time . You will also want to learn about features and messages, which will be described in detail separately.

You should also adjust some settings for your view of the MOO screen. Type separate lines that say: "@pagelength 24", "@linelength 79", and "@wrap on", which will ensure that the text you see fits onto the standard computer screen. You can try other settings if you prefer. @Pagelength turns on the @more feature, which keeps long text from scrolling off the screen. Type "@more" to read each additional screen when you see the prompt. Note the if you are using TinyFugue these settings are less crucial, but it is important to familiarize yourself with this aspect of the MOO environment.

5) Where to go. Remember the command "ways" for a list of all exits from a given room. English 88 has a cluster of rooms at PennMOO, within the Classroom Center. You can reach these by typing "south" from PennCentral then "88" from the Classroom Center hallway. Inside is Classroom 88 (#260), then "through" or "in" to Cafe 88 (#435), our main hangout. You can reach these directly by typing "@go #260" or "@go #435" respectively. Attached to Cafe 88 are small conference rooms named for poets. Both Al Filreis (Alph in the MOO) and Susan Garfinkel (mehitabel and auntie.em in the MOO) have offices in the MOO, which can be found at Faculty Row and Staff Row, respectively. They are also both connected by exits from Cafe 88. Beyond this, please explore! You will come across some Latin students, and a virtual Furness Library under construction. We will be adding to the 88 rooms in ways unimagined throughout the semester. A committee from our class will start to spruce up the spaces almost immediately.

6) Who can help you in the MOO. Wizards have special programming powers in the MOO and should be able to help you with unsolvable problems. Our wizards are Lee-Ellen Marvin (a Folklore graduate student), Susan Garfinkel (an AmCiv graduate student and 88 MOO advisor), and Michael Nenashev (Sysop for Lee-Ellen will be either Mom or Luna, Susan will be either mehitabel or auntie.em, and Michael is michael. Luna is also a helper in the MOO, and can help you with basics; mehitabel is our class's MOO advisor and here to answer questions. Other players who may be able to help you include: Diane, Beth, Amit and Lumper. Please be polite when approaching them, however, as they are non-Penn people graciously helping out at PennMOO as volunteers.

7) How to find your friends. The command "@who" will list everyone who is connected. Try "@who <name>" and "@where <name>" for further info. You can use "@join player" to go directly to where that person is, or "@go #xxx" to move to a specific room. "@Whois <name> will tell you a player's real name, e-address, and affiliation. Our affiliation is English 88.

III. Using PennMOO

English 88 is the first class ever to use PennMOO as a supplement to regular classroom sessions, and the first large group to come into the MOO with a common set of interests. Feel free to make the most of it. Stop by and get to know your classmates, or keep us busy during virtual office-hours. Plan study sections in the MOO with your classmates. Learn how to make things and make those things related to modern poetry. Help us (re)design our collective spaces. Play with words. Plan events like the virtual poetry slam we will hold later in the semester. Make suggestions!

Watch our class web pages, gopher and e-list for news about new stuff in the MOO and additional documentation.

Appendix: Basic MOO Commands

The most important basic commands you will need include: