M.U.L.E. Turns 25

Happy Birthday to M.U.L.E., which turns 25 today! Interestingly enough, M.U.L.E. was actually SKU #1 for EA, marking quite an impressive debut. Although the game was essentially a flop – selling around 30,000 copies for the Atari 400/800 and Commodore 64 – it is remembered today as one of the most innovative, compelling, and fun social games ever made. I have made the comparison before, but M.U.L.E. and its designer (Dan/Dani Bunten) are our industry’s Velvet Underground. The old joke about the Velvets was that only a few thousand people ever bought their albums, but all of them went out to start their own bands. So it is with Bunten. Will Wright dedicated The Sims to her. Sid Meier inducted her (posthumously) into the AIAS Hall of Fame. Warren Spector revised his top 10 to include M.U.L.E. Raph Koster routinely references it as the perfect multiplayer game. The list goes on and on.

Tragically, there is no way to play M.U.L.E. on modern systems. Emulators (or old computers) are the only options. Personally, I’ve been able to get it working on the CCS64 Commodore 64 Emulator. Here are some links for further M.U.L.E. reading:

M.U.L.E. Strategy Wiki

The Gamer’s Quarter interviews M.U.L.E. developers

Salon article on Bunten’s career

Dani’s game design homepage

12 thoughts on “M.U.L.E. Turns 25

  1. Pingback: Raph's Website » Happy Birthday, M.U.L.E.

  2. I recently had M.U.L.E. up and running on my Atari 800, and with the S-Video plugs you can easily find for em these days, the picture quality was great on a modern LCD tv. Half the players had never played before, and everyone loved it.

    The Dreamcast is a good idea… mine’s always plugged in, should set up an 8bit computer emu disc.

  3. I loved M.U.L.E. back in the day, but about 5 years ago my nostalgia got the best of me and I actually booted it up on an emulator with my friend. We were all excited about playing it again… then the very first turn one of us clicked a couple pixels off target and suddenly lost our whole turn & investment as “the MULE ran away”. The brought the whole dark side of gaming-in-the-eighties rushing back — remember when it was cool that the computer was so “clever”? And it was considered fun when the computer insulted you and did arbitrary things? Well it turns out that for me the concept of having fun on the computer had moved considerably onward from that and we decided henceforth to leave our good eighties gaming memories…as memories!

  4. A few years ago, Shrapnel Games published a MULE-like called SpaceHORSE. (Yeah, really original.) It was, for all intents and purposes, MULE with a few changes here and there and a single player option if you wanted.

    And it was terrible.

    But I’d give my left foot to have Dani Bunten/Berry alive and designing in today’s environment. Sure, she could end up a kook like Chris Crawford, but I think it’s more likely that something truly amazing has been lost.

  5. Yeah, I was optimistic about SpaceHoRSE, but it turned out to be a disappointment.

    As for games being clever, they’re still clever, except that the cleverness has been institutionalized and is now included as a bullet-point on the back of the box.

  6. I loved this game.I used to sit and play with a friends and family on the commodore 64 for hours when i was 12-14. I to recently downloaded the emulator to check it out again. Its just how i remember it. Remember when the crystite (i think thats right) would land on your property. You would get so excited. Or when every one would go after the same plot and some one would end up with a worthless plot. Oh , then the tense buying and selling wars, where you could try and stick everyone else with a really high price. Definitely one of the more memorable 8 bit games for me. Someone really needs to make a new game with this type of gameplay.

  7. That you are ABLE to go back and play MULE emulated, 25 years later, is perfect demonstration that companies need to adhere to your point of stopping (right now!) with all the copy-protection schemes.

  8. Damn! I was born may 23 also! I almost stumbled away without much thought but then i was like: “hey! that’s MY birthday too!” – Ironically M.U.L.E is 3 years older than me ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. reading through your back posts, I’ve seen several references to MULE and it took me back to sitting at my neighbors C64 playing MULE back in the day. (no idea if it was a purchased or Pirated copy, btw. I know we bought Hacker later, and think we had the box for MULE, wish I had it now!)

    Anyway, found this while researching…

    Haven’t tried it yet, but here’s hoping…

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