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Introduction

Multi-Trek is a multi-user Star Trek-like game which can be played from any ASCII terminal or xterm with Internet access. This is a real-time space battle game where the statistics of a player’s ship and what he’s scanning are updated several times a second. There are no graphics — its all numbers updated with cursor movement sequences.

The game was originally designed and written by Tim Wisseman and Chuck L. Peterson at the University of California at Santa Cruz and played there from 1986 through 1990. It was later made available via telnet world-wide in 1993. It ran until 2001 when it was taken down.

In 2003, it was re-written from scratch by Joe Hopkinson and Jay Ashworth and later released as an open-source project.

The new engine was named Java-Trek(JTrek), being written in the Java programming language.

The object of mtrek is to fly a starship around inflicting the most damage to other players as possible, or to just fly around. Score is based on the amount of gold accumulated. You can save your ship to resume play at a later time by going to a starbase and saving. The high score list consists only of ships which have been saved at starbases. A ship is taken off the high score list when it is brought back into the game by its owner resuming play.

There are 28 ship types with various capabilities and of several races to choose from. No alliances are enforced by the game; it is left to the players to create their own gangs or to fight for themselves.

A much abbreviated history of the game:

Tim Wisseman (grad UCSC ~1989) took the original concept to Chuck L. Peterson (grad 1987) and together, they designed the game to run on the University’s UNIX system. The actual development, from initial concept through release as a functionally similar game to today’s, spanned several years, with the 3-D universe appearing in the late 1980’s. It ran on UCSCB 1986-1988, and was later moved around on other campus workstations until about 1991 or 1992. Afterwards, it was hosted on other machines and accessed by the general public via TELNET. The newsgroup, alt.games.mtrek was created, drawing players in from all over the world. It moved around several times over the years until clp could no longer maintain the game. It was taken offline in 2001.

In 2003, it was rewritten from scratch by Joe Hopkinson and Jay Ashworth, later to be released as an open source project. (dubbed “Java-Trek”, referring the the language used to program the new engine)

The mtrek.com server hosts a modified fork of the JTrek engine,

accessible via TELNET, and a WordPress website with documentation and resources for players.

Along the way, many people have contributed to the game, and it has evolved slowly over the years with many enhancements but still maintains the same basic functionality, look, and feel of the late 80’s.

(note: this game should not be confused with the game written in FORTRAN and distributed on DECUS tapes- there are some similarities, but the DECUS game looks and plays very differently)

Here’s a timeline of the evolution of this game (not 100% inclusive):
[please feel free to point out any inaccuracies, or to add to anything]

1983-1984: Tim Wisseman wrote a program in BASIC, which he called “Multi-Trek”. It ran on a Xerox Alto with 4 terminals. I don’t know whether it was inspired by the “Multi-Trek” FORTRAN game, “Trek”, “Alto-Trek”, “Star Trek” (a text-based game), any combination of the above, or if it was a completely original idea–I’ve never asked.

1985: Tim approached Chuck L. Peterson at UCSC, with the early ideas for the game. Chuck began writing the program in C for the university’s UNIX BSD system.

1986-1987: Multi-Trek, called “M-Trek”, “mTrek”, “mtrek”, or simply, “mtr” by some, began to pick up in popularity. Players used clients which contacted the server through a local connection. ADM-3A was a common terminal choice.

1987-1988: Multi-Trek ran on UCSCB. Around this time, Chuck added the Z-axis, making the game 3-D. From this point until present, the display layout, general functionality, and overall feel, have been nearly identical.

1988-1990: Multi-Trek was removed from UCSCB in 1988. The Torp-fire delay had been corrected by this time and the game was running at 4 updates (or tics) per second.

1991-1992: The game was mostly offline during this period. It would occasionally show up on workstations around campus.

1993: Multi-Trek first appears on netcom.com. Gopher/Veronica had begun returning search results for the Multi-Trek servers under the menu item: GAMES by this time. The game began to quickly recover its playerbase as word got out among UCSC players.

1994: This year saw a surge in the player base when Chuck created the usenet newsgroup alt.games.mtrek and began spamming other gaming-related groups about MTrek. By this time, TELNET gaming was popular at college campuses across the country and players were connecting from all over the world. There were a few significant changes to the game itself, with the elimination of several ship classes and the addition of several others. Also new, was the wormhole object, which allowed players to travel to other quadrants.

1995-1996: Beta and Omega quadrants were added. For a short time, there were 2 servers. One of them only allowed ships to fly around in the Beta quad. Presumably, this was for playtesting the new quadrant.

1996-2001: Called the “Glory Days” by some, this was also the darkest hour in terms of increasing periods of downtime and frequent server moves. A detachment from the game and from the community became apparent in Chuck. Many offered him cash, equipment, and free hosting–just to keep the game running. There was also quite a bit of hateful admin-bashing during these years. The game itself went mostly unchanged during this time, but despite the later outages, this was arguably the peak of popularity for the game. CLP’s M-Trek went offline for the last time in late 2001.

2002: Nothing happened. At all.

2003: Joe Hopkinson began writing Java-Trek. After a few months of private development, he shared what he had and enlisted the help of the mtrek community. The earlier full versions of the game were probably about 95% identical to the last running version of Multi-Trek. Notably, Jay Ashworth was heavily involved with the actual programming.

2004-2006: Joe and Jay maintained the game-host.org JTrek server and the game began to see a some real improvements over its predecessor. A few new ship classes were created. The website was comprehensive and offered several tools to enhance the player’s game, such as: documentation, forums, and high score lists. Server-side bots were introduced. Players gained an increased ability to manage fleets of ships with the player account function. The Ferengi and D-10 ships from before the update in 1994 were reintroduced.

2007: Again, downtime became more frequent while Joe and Jay had less and less time to give over to running the game. But rather than let it slip away again, they released the source code.

2008-2011: Matt Morey (elixx) hosted a stock version of Java-Trek on a server which was fairly stable for the better part of 3 years. The website is still running but the game has been inaccessible for more than a year now.

2012: Robert G. McCue started the XML-Trek fork with some pretty radical changes to the fundamentals of the game. The project was geared towards a graphical client he wrote, so while players could still technically telnet into the game, a clear advantage is given to the GUI users and the gameplay is vastly different from Multi-Trek. Robert’s game is still online today.

2012-present: Inspired by Robert’s xmltrek.com, I launched a new server on mtrek.com. Since so many players recall the ‘old mtrek.com from the 90s, it seemed logical that re-using this domain name would be a logical way to generate traffic and rebuild our scattered player base. Since this new server has been running we’ve seen many variations, radical new ship designs, bug fixes, enhancements to the robot AI… too much to list in this short description. BUT, in an effort to remain true to the classic game, many of the new features were ultimately set aside, in favor of a “classic” style 90s MTrek-clone. Some “new” things remain, such as server-side robots, seeker probes, lithium mines, player accounts etc. [ -obit, 2016 ]

Comments

10 Responses

  1. […] 30 years ago at the University of California Santa Cruz, Tim Wisseman approached Chuck L. Peterson with some […]

  2. Boston Terrier says:

    Back in the 80’s I used to play this game all the time at UCSC.
    I think the game ran on an old PDP 11/70

  3. John says:

    Just wanted to say “thank you” for keeping the gaming experience alive. Spent a lot of time in the mid 90’s playing mtrek.

    Great service to the community. Thank you.

  4. Robert says:

    I was playing multitrek at Emory University around 1981, 1982, and 1983 (along with many friends of mine on campus. I was always named the Enterprise (originality was my forte), my friend Eric was always “Rock Bottom.” Say “hi” if you remember either of us, and I would appreciate a link to that version of the game, if it still exists, for old times sake. Thanks!

  5. TomasAquino says:

    Oh my…

    My entire freshman year at UCSC is flashing before my eyes…

  6. Quake says:

    Dear God… It’s back.

    Now, who is responsible for resurrecting this abomination from the grave?

    …and who is still around to play this mess?

    – Quake

  7. I may a suggestion about the bot situation.

    Why not have a different number in each quadrant? Say 25 in Alpha, 15 in Beta, 10 in Gamma, and 5 in Omega? This gives the player the ability to choose how much bot fun he wants.

    Today was the first time I logged in a while. I was disappointed to see 13 total bots. Not much to do, so I logged out.

    Thanks for hearing me out,
    “i will kill you”

  8. mtrek.com mtrek.com says:

    Thanks for the comment!

    Cogworkz, what is the max number of bots you think we should have? There have been a wide range of requests- from zero to 30+

    I’d like to find a number everyone is comfortable with. Not enough, and there is nothing to do, or the action is too slow. Too many, and it becomes difficult to keep certain classes alive for long.

    obit

  9. Cogworkz says:

    Shooo… you need to reel in the number of bots. They’re out of control, and very demoralizing.

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