LINKING PASSAGES

Screen text is not fixed ink on a physical page, but data units in a random-access storage allowing them to be recalled in any order. This requires an added burden on the text: not only must information be presented, but it must include directional markers, or links, that let readers know how to get to it. "It is like writing in a third dimension, with layered objects in graphic space" (Bernhardt, 151). In MUDs, users can build onto the text world -- creating buildings, rooms, and objects. Using the [@create] command, creators must not only write the descriptions others will see when entering their room, but also code the [@link] commands that allow users to enter and leave the room with the standard directional functions ([N], [S], etc.) (Furry Builders Guide). Without these links, a room is a page no one can turn to.

In hypertexts, information is not necessarily cumulative, since the author cannot assume the reader came into a certain part of text from a set path. In MUDs, many players can use the [@teleport] command to pop into any room from anywhere. Unlike in a physical book (in which, admittedly, anyone can flip immediately to any page), hypertexts are supposed to accommodate such leaping, which the computer makes easy and natural. As Bernhardt identifies, screen text is "Situationally Embedded: The text does not stand alone, but is bound up within the context of a situation" (Bernhardt, 152). This embedding makes itself clear not just in the operational structure (the OBJECT ORIENTED PROGRAMMING language) of MUDs, but also manifests itself in the content of hypertext. Passages must not only be linked to other pages, but they must explain how they are linked so the reader can judge which path to choose. The most obvious example of this is in the spatial connection of rooms in MUDs:

The western most part of the yard. Compared to the gardens closer to the house, the grounds here seem neglected. A kennel is to the southeast. A striped white & blue awning appears to the south. To the west, over a low fence and through a thin grove of trees, lies a large meadow. A battered tool shed sits to the north and to the east is the main house and grounds. a bubble is sitting in here. Crickets chirp to the twinkling of the stars as the smell of wood smoke and roses permeates the damp night air.

You see Chapel and ArVee here.

Descriptions such as this provide a visual map to facilitate navigation from text passage to text passage in the MUD.