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M.U.L.E. Online

Classic M.U.L.E. for modern computers · By puzzud


A topic by dd1968 created 52 days ago Views: 103 Replies: 2
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Hi. I read your post elsewhere about collusion and the reasons it wasn't included in the game. I would like to put in a vote FOR collusion and hope that you are open to it. I've been playing M.U.L.E. on the Commodore 64 since about 1984 and continue to play with my buddy from back in the day every time we get together. We live in different states now so our M.U.L.E. sessions are less frequent than they were when we were playing in high school. Thanks to you we're able to play again now online! Any time! Amazing! Thank you for bringing our favorite game back to us in a new way. 

So, collusion. Collusion was always a part of our gameplay and we really miss it. I get your free-market argument but I think you have to look at collusion as the wildcard in the mix. It's the unregulated wildcard of the game that "breaks" the otherwise carefully curated market economic aspects of the gameplay. Even when we would play with 3 or 4 human players there was always an element of "Hey, I've got energy if you'll meet my price" side-hussles going on. Even with just two of us playing it is essentially the same thing. "I'll help you with ONE food but you've got to get my back on energy." Not to make too much of it though because we end up colluding once or maybe twice maximum per game but almost every game includes at least one collusion.

Happy to discuss further and I think you are amazing. Lastly, I wanted to share that I live in the Little Rock area and I was a friend of Danielle Bunten Berry in the 1990's. I enjoyed many conversations with her about my favorite game (M.U.L.E.) and all of the other great games she was responsible for creating. I think what you've done with online M.U.L.E. would have delighted Dani and you've really done proud the concept of the game and its creators.


Developer (1 edit)

Thanks for striking up this conversation. You make a compelling argument for the inclusion of the collusion mechanic.

You mentioned you've heard me explain why it's not in MULE Online but I will state it here for anyone who hasn't.


MULE does a great job of expressing supply & demand and price competition. Collusion foils & circumvents it. It's not like collusion is unrealistic; it clearly happens and there are reasons for it. But I've never seen a collusion at an auction, where some people are barred from participating. It's perhaps a moot point because MULE's auction is more symbolic than a realistic simulation--it could be argued that the collusion mechanic / phase represents a private trade. But that's the irony, as it's not private--it almost needs to be ("hey, where did you get all that energy!?").


Colluding against a computer player is one thing, but colluding against an active & willing (to buy or sell) player feels either a bit like cheating or a way to remove a player from the game. When the game takes a plot away from you, it stinks; if the game allowed other players to take away plots from you, it's war. I don't see it as much different than Dani Bunten pushing back against the inclusion of weapons in a MULE sequel.

There are unused messages in the original game which suggested they floated ideas like stealing other players' mules as well as the ability to "go to jail". I guess such actions were considered if they had risks & consequences. But the consequence of playing unfairly against another player is simply that player decides to actually stop playing the game or promises to never play the game again, I don't know how much the insider trading was worth it.

I'm not describing a fantasy scenario--I've seen it happen; I was one of the colluders. I don't think we thought we were doing something offensive outside of the scope of the game. It likely warranted a little more maturity from the player that essentially flipped over the board game. But I do feel there is some responsibility to creating an environment which supports positive behavior. I think MULE does it well by supporting cooperation.


The interface for initiating collusion is clunky and doesn't translate well to online multiplayer. I've thought about ways to better signal that a player was "pressing their button", like highlighting their planeteer's color when their button is down. But even then, the timing has to be just right. I have memories of trying to mess up players trying to collude by joining in when I wasn't invited or trying to verbally throw off other players' coordinating count-off. Although not my recommended way to play, mouse / touch controls would need a dedicated mechanism for initiating collusion.

I've gotten an overwhelming amount of feedback supporting a way to speed up the clock during auctions. I have been on the fence about that too! 'Afraid that it would bypass the opportunity for players to think & try to negotiate trades before time expires. But I've had to reflect a little that giving players the power to decide is probably best, going as far as ensuring it's a situational & unanimous decision among all players. So, I'm leaning towards speeding up the clock when all human players are not moving and are pressing their buttons.

My most recent conversation about including collusion ended with the idea of having it as a non-default option.

If I've rerouted the primary button's action to the "speed up" mechanism, then I'd need a new way to initiate collusion--which is what I really want regardless. I think there might be an opportunity in the fact that there is no horizontal movement during auction. Perhaps each player can cycle a cursor over to another planeteer they wish to trade with specifically and if the other player reciprocates, it initiates a 1 to 1 collusion.

Clearly at least one person involved in making MULE had a convincing argument for collusion. I suppose there are scenarios where the lower ranking players could use their tie breaking to prevent other players from buying from sellers when supply is very limited. In which case, something like collusion would almost be the only way around it.

My goal is to make this versino as close to MULE as possible and I try to have Dani Bunten's ideas for MULE & philosophies on multiplayer gaming in general guide enhancements. I realize omitting collusion seems a bit hypocritical in that regard. Thank you for voicing your opinion. I should bring this feature back one of these days.

Thank you for your praise. If you'd like to share any Dani Bunten anecdotes, I would totally love to hear them!


First, I love the idea of speeding up the clock if all human players press their buttons.  "Waiting out the clock" is a pain point in the game.

It will be interesting to see if others have opinions on the collusion question.  Yours is clearly a comprehensive understanding of the role of collusion, including the positive and negative consequences in the player dynamic. I appreciate greatly your response and kind consideration of my request.

As a developer myself what resonates the most with me in your thinking is making it a game option. That strikes me as the perfect solution. 

I'm not sure where you are but perhaps we can talk sometime and I'll share some of my experiences with Dani. Such an amazing person! If you'd like to DM me we can exchange numbers.