But what do I know? I'm just a twice clicken brown shirt teabaggin tjroll. Right? --PatP

Not now. There are dirty, swaying men at my door. They’re looking for Brian. I need to go deal with that. --Thor

If Joss Wedon was near me, I'd of kicked his ass. --PaulC

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More M.U.L.E. please!

I recently (earlier today) found myself in need of a Multi-Use Labor Element. So I loaded up the ol’ C64 emulator and found the rom of EA’s last good game, which I haven’t clapped eyes on since three laptops ago.

No, that’s a lie. I scoured the internet for someone who had cloned it. To my surprise, I was able to find one (1) MULE clone. It’s called Space Horse, it’s a decade old and it costs fifty (50) dollars. Needless to say, I’m not writing this blog entry following a rousing round of Space Horse.

I kept looking. I found many (more than 4) abandoned (or seemingly so) Mule clone projects claiming to be updates or remakes, one of which even had screenshots that looked almost as good as the NES screens. That fruitless search lead me to compose this rant concerning the (lack of) evolution of the game called MULE. I was about to post it on the World of MULE forums when I thought “Dude. I have my own blog.” So here it be:

I'd love to see a MULE sequel. I'm not interested in a remake. I can play the old game on my NES or my C64 emulator any time I want (and as I write this, I want less and less). I'd love to see a re-imagining with some new features (longer game and bigger map top my list) which could gain a fanbase and spawn a sequel. On the WoM forum alone, there are at least three seemingly dead remakes. They die (imho) because nobody wants to play the same game with mildly better graphics. Give me the same game with eye-splitting graphics or give me something new. I'm not going to waste my time testing a game that has little or nothing to offer in the way of innovation.

MULE is an awesome game, but I already have it. I play it all the time. I would throw my soul into doing anything I could to help produce an updated version of MULE, but nobody seems interested in doing that. Everybody wants to make the same old game without all the "bother" of consoles or emulators.

The last update of MULE was in November 1990. That had graphics that were vastly superior to the original, and added a gameplay element: multiple Wampus hunts. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but since it's heyday, the evolution of MULE has been hindered at every turn by greybeards and other purists who just want to be able to play MULE again.

To all you old people: Keep playing MULE like the other twelve of us do! Let the developers make something new! It has been announced recently that the heirs of the game’s creator (of questionable gender) recently began producing a remake. I greet this news with both excitement and trepidation. Would I love to play a new MULE game on my Wii? All God’s Mechtrons say “hell yes!” Will I even bother pirating a remake? No.

If it’s just going to be “MULE 2: MULE” or “MULE 3D,” I’ll play Freelancer or X3 and have something to shoot while I trade crystals and foodstuffs. Or (God forbid) I’ll crawl back into the World of Warcraft bottle and make 300 gold a day crafting paper and playing the market (truth be told, about three fifths of the profit comes from crafting paper). No, I don’t know why it’s fun, but it is. It even sounds stupid while I’m doing it. But I damn sure won’t spend money on something I already own in at least two different formats unless it’s a Super Nintendo cartridge of Chrono Trigger or 7th Saga. Or Sim City.

But let me be serial for a minute. Wolfenstein (known to most as “wolf3d.exe”) is a neat game. When I first played it twenty (seventeen) years ago, I was floored. It’s legacy lives on in such games as LITERALLY ANY GAME YOU F*$%ING PLAYED YESTERDAY.

MULE is (not was) a fantastic game. When I first played it five (or something) years ago, I was equally floored. The dynamics behind MULE are still fascinating and that music (Gawd! That music!)! In MULE, four players have to work together and compete simultaneously. I want to win, but if the colony starves, we all die. Where is MULE’s legacy? If anybody sees it, show me. And the Sims doesn’t count. That’s not based on MULE the same way Halo 3 is based on Wolf3D. I’m looking for a direct descendant.

All the developers out there (and I mean the little guys who release to sites like Kongregate or sell their games to PopCap, not the juggernauts like EA and… who else is left…? Blizzard) spend months (years?) at a time making side-scrolling shooters and tetris clones when there’s meat out there like MULE (props to the guys who make tower defense games. You all rock. I don’t care how many different colors you paint the same game, I’ll play it). Where are all the MULE clones? Nay, the updates?

I realize what an enormous undertaking it would be (or maybe I don’t and I envision a mere space station where there exists a small moon), but it’s been nineteen years. Isn’t it about time? Ask yourself: Haven’t I waited long enough for that thirteenth month? That fifth commodity? A mouse? A GUI? 16-bit graphics? An AI that does more than whore out all the mountains for their smith-ore?

I dunno. Maybe this is the thing that finally makes me learn FLEX (after several months of saying I’m gonna do it and finding many resources, and having read the first chapter of several books, I am now very well-versed in what FLEX is capable of).


  1. I trust that
    “Dude. I have my own blog.” was said in the proper henchman voice?

    You first played MULE five years ago? Dude, talk about showing up late to the party. Hell, the cops are gone, the party goers have posted bail, some of them are even over their hangovers, and you show up with wine coolers.

    I first played MULE ~30 years ago, I shit you not.

    MULE is the best game EVER, in fact, its the only reason that I have a C64 emulator. And I agree 100% about a re-imaging.
    But like wolf3d.exe, MULE DID spawn an entire generation of games. MULE was (to the best of my knowledge) the first resource collection game. This spawned the genre that includes DUNE, Command and Conquer, and even your beloved Warcraft. (Recall that Warcraft started out as a resource collection game, then morphed into a role player.) And C&C/Warcraft gave birth to the Tower Defense genre.

    I am not sure that you could capture the essence of MULE without the multi player hardware that we had with old school computers and consoles, where we all stared at the same screen gripping the joystick in our sweaty hands, getting ready to stake our claim. A large part of the MULE strategy was playing to the weakness's of the hardware interface. Stay away from the corner and edge plots! Not only are they too far away from the store, but its hard to get adjoining plots due to the slowness of the joystick button.

    So while I would love to see a new MULE, I really do wonder if it could be carried off.

    Create it in flash as a multiplayer across
    machines? Then I cant see your turn and ridicule your child like manipulations of the joystick. :(

    Create it in flash as a multiplayer on the same machine? Its not impossible, but have you ever seen that work?

    Create it in flash as multiplayer across machines, but make it more realtime. Yeah. Thats it! Then have farm equipment like harvesters that you can buy! OH! And add an element of military strategy by creating strife between the colonists and let them put up rocket turrets! OH! And ask Frank Klepacki to record "Mechanical Man" for the soundtrack! We can call call it "Command and Conquer"! :D

    Ok, seriously, I would love to see a MULE remake, and like you, I would even devote significant time to it. :)

  2. In my mind, MULE's not a resource-gatherer. It's a primitive economic simulator. While many games pull elements from it (C&C, Warcraft, etc), there's not the same direct connection there is between Wolfenstein and Halo.

    Your rendition of the birth of Command & Conquer seems totally ass-backwards. I think it was more like "how can we make Dune 2 more differenter?" "Make spice important."

    C&C (previously titled "Dune 3") and Warcraft are not direct descendants of MULE. They're direct descendants of Dune, which eventually incorporated resource management. The original Dune was an awesome adventure/RTS in which resource gathering was something that just happened and you never really had to bother about. Yes, you had to put your men in places where they could mine spice, but this was obviously not meant to be a focus of the game. You've got to be totally clueless to not have enough to pay off the emperor every day.

    Dune 2 was really the first "modern" RTS. Instead of "find men and give them weapons to take over territories" it was "harvest spice to use as money to buy tanks and take over territories."

    Dune 3 (known post-release as "Command & Conquer") was the same but better. I would argue that it wasn't until Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, and the dawn of multiple resources, that MULE can be said to be any influence at all. In fact, I don't even think that's fair. I think Total Annihilation, and the concept of "how much I can produce right now" as opposed to "how much is in my storehouse right now," as well as the ability to actively trade resources, is really the first RTS to fairly owe a game mechanic to MULE.

    The difference between MULE and all these other games is that MULE is about playing with a simple economy and the idea of simultaneous competition and cooperation, while the modern RTS is about combat and military strategy.

    All that being said, the original Civilization boardgame was released in 1980. MULE was released in 1983. Sid Meier's Civilization was released in 1991. Civilization (at least its newer incarnations) can certainly be said to be a descendant of MULE. While Civ is about far more than resource-gathering, there is the idea of competitive cooperation.

    While technically Tower Defense is a child of Starcraft, the two games couldn't be more dissimilar in spirit or purpose. Starcraft (and its progeny) is an RTS with a resource management element. The original TD was a custom map with some heavy scripting that somebody made to play on Battle.Net. It happened because Starcraft was the first game that was so easy to modify to do something drastically other than just play Starcraft. It really owes only its physiology to Starcraft and the RTS genre. The rest is unique. imho.