It’s 2016 and I’m addicted to a text-based game whose fuel is foul play. Hackmud’s only setting is a terminal; its only gameplay, writing scripts. It’s a cyberpunk multi-user domain (MUD) in the ‘80s style, an MMORPG, in which you are role-playing a hacker. Hackmud’s simple pretense, as the game unravels, feels tremendous with possibility.


On Steam for $13.37, Hackmud is a hacking simulator that weaponizes scripts in the service of alliances and deception. It’s got some kinks to work out, but once its servers are stable, Hackmud will be a petri dish for crypto-anarchy. Already, a week after its release, a public enemy has emerged in-game.

Before you can clean out other players’ cryptocurrency deposits, a three-hour (for me, a journalist, much longer) single-player tutorial inducts you into the hacking mindset. After proving that you’re not a bot, you’re invited to join a chatroom of NPCs who need cash fast. They lay out some protocols for money-stealing scripts, but it’s your job to go beyond their demands. In Hackmud, that means exploiting and riffing on those basic scripts to clean out players’ coffers or dredge up information from long-abandoned bots.


For example, stealing money from bot anon_anuw21.extern_94a5b3 is as easy as {ez_35:“open”, digit:6}. It’s like learning a new language: at face, an insurmountable challenge, but the satisfaction of a well-received phrase is thrilling.

Deploying the right script, written in proper form, is a daunting challenge. Sometimes, a poorly-executed script backfires on you and your funds disappear. This combination of risk and repetition is why I can’t stop playing.


Role-playing often takes place through a conduit, like an avatar. In Hackmud, your hands are the same ones writing weapons, and other peoples’ hands are the ones defending your scripting attacks. You are the same person sitting in your desk chair and typing as the hacker you bring to the game. Playing in a cafe attracts suspicious glances. It’s a level of immersion that’s complemented by Hackmud’s simple interface.


Unfortunately, Hackmud has been riddled with server issues since its release last week. Its multi-user domain is often down. The development team is active and attentive, addressing player concerns, which is promising in case Hackmud attracts a wider player base. Rare are opportunities for faceless, imageless, anonymous role-play in a setting that pits players against each other, so when it gets back on its feet, I’m confident that it will be a small phenomenon.