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Creating Scenic Views in Text: ASCII Art

ASCII, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange, is the standard typing system for all CLI interfaces. (text-only interfaces for those unsure of terminology). Ever since the inception of the first, textual, virtual worlds with "Colossal Cave" or "Adventure" in 1976, ASCII was used to create wondrous interactive worlds on the computer, written in flowing text.

Reading like interactive novels, the early versions of collossal cave paved the way for MUDs or Multi User Domains, which first appeared with MUD1 in 1978. These took the concept one step further, becoming multi-participant interactive novels, where the actions of any one individual would affect the experience for all others.

However, an interactive novel does not suit everyone. Whilst a great many avid readers were -and still are- happy to explore the world of an interactive book, others crave graphical representation. Brought up on flashy computer games, younger generations in general demanded visual representations, that did not have to be read to be understood. ASCII art was perhaps the first of these.

ASCII art is the creation of pictures, or what the human mind can interpret as pictures, from the printable characters of ASCII. Requiring a fixed-width font - where the 'w' character takes up the exact same space as the 'i' character, ASCII art places characters in an invisible grid of extra spaces, and weird symbol conjoins, to fire the imagination.

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A simple ASCII art dagger or sword


A MUD using ASCII art to grab a new user's attention

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