[[caption-width-right:246:[[EarWorm/VideoGames oompo papa oompo papa..]]]]
''M.U.L.E.'' is a classic turn-based multi-player computer game created by Dan (later Danielle) Bunten and published in 1983 by Electronic Arts. Or rather, it's a simulation of basic economics, ''disguised'' as a game: each player controls a settler (chosen from a variety of races) attempting to get rich developing the newly colonized planet of [[SdrawkcabName Irata]]. This is done by choosing plots of lands off a grid, stocking said plots with robotic '''M'''ulti-'''U'''se '''L'''abor '''E'''lements, which can be equipped to mine, farm, or gather energy, and then swapping the results with the other players at auction. Assuming you can do all of this before your allotted time runs out. Players quickly learn about supply and demand, economies of scale, the organization of cartels, and the effect of monopoly control of resources. (But not about casinos -- every time a player ends his turn by gambling, he earns money.)
The game was revolutionary in several ways, most notably in the fact that up to four people could play at once, all from a single computer. Again driving home an economic point, it was quite possible for ''everyone'' to lose; the colony as a whole must reach certain benchmarks to be considered successful. Any players controlled by the computer were actually worthy opponents, and while it was better with human opponents, the game could be enjoyed solo.
And it featured [[EarWorm one of the catchiest theme tunes ever written for a computer game]].
Sadly, while various unofficial updates and clones have filtered out over the years, the game has long been officially out of print. Creator Bunten was working on an updated online version when she died in 1998. (Eleven years later, a free online version, ''[[http://www.planetmule.com/ Planet M.U.L.E.]]'' was released; another company, Comma Eight, is publishing a version for [=iOS=] and Android called ''[[http://www.mulereturns.com/ M.U.L.E. Returns]]''.)
Will Wright, creator of ''TheSims'', has credited the game as a major influence.
!!The game provides examples of:
* AdamSmithHatesYourGuts: Completely averted. Except for the sale of one off-world luxury, the price of materials depends entirely on how much is available, and who is willing to sell. If people don't do enough mining, no more M.U.L.E.s get built. Less food means less time to work. No energy, and your M.U.L.E.s stop producing.
* AnEntrepreneurIsYou: One of the earliest games of the type.
* AuthorExistenceFailure: As noted, Dani Berry died in 1998 with an internet-enabled version of the game in production
* CaptainErsatz: Many. E.T., Pac-Man, and others are in the game as playable characters.
* ChickenWalker: The Flapper species, who are human-sized birds.
* TheComputerIsACheatingBastard: Mostly averted. While it does have very good reflexes, all development actions do take the proper amount of time for the computer to perform, and it can fail to get to the pub in time just like players can.
* DifficultyLevels: Choosing your race at the beginning; you can start with more or less money. Ironically standard "human" is the expert choice. Unfortunately, some of the species' "flavor text" give the erroneous impression that other perks are available.
* EdutainmentGame: To say the least. It's impossible to play the game successfully and NOT come away with a better understanding of the basics of free-market capitalism.
* EuroGame: Uses the key mechanics of one, anyway.
* InventoryManagementPuzzle: The point of the entire game.
* MechanicalLifeForms: The Mechtrons, which are always chosen by AI players.
* MoneyForNothing: Averted with a vengeance.
* PaletteSwap: If any players are the same species, only their color distinguishes them. Not really a problem, since they only meet at auction.
* PixelHunt: Almost literally; if you go Wampus hunting, you're looking for two or three flashing pixels.
* ProfessionalGambler: Technically the characters are professional... uh, M.U.L.E. ranchers? Farmers? Whatever, the point is it's smart to end your turn at the pub (and with as much time left as possible) so you can make more money gambling. You will always profit.
* PunyEarthlings: Playing as a human in the game is the handicapped expert option.
* RubberBandAI: Fairly minor. The player in the lead gets inflicted with mostly bad "random" events, whoever is last only has good things happen. Also, the player in last place goes first when the mule supply is low. And the lowest ranked player involved wins any tie.
* ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney: Players may choose to bid for the sole purpose of driving up the price, while not making the purchase. Players of the Planet MULE remake call this "aucblocking".
* ShoutOut: [[SdrawkcabName Spell the planet's name backwards]]. Players can make a little quick cash by hunting Wampus, which is almost certainly a reference to the even-earlier computer game ''Hunt the Wumpus''. The look of the M.U.L.E.s themselves was probably inspired by the Imperial Walkers in ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack''.
* SpacePirates: One of many random events that can befall an individual player or the entire colony.
* TheDevTeamThinksOfEverything: Considering how early it came out, the AI is actually fairly detailed. They will, if desperate, convert farm plots to solar energy farms. Sometimes at auction they'll stand right under you in price (to make sure you don't get your goods for any cheaper), or walk ''just'' ahead of you (sometimes up to a point, sometimes not) to make sure they get to buy the stuff they need, and if you're mean enough they'll boycott you.
* YouRequireMoreVespeneGas: The whole game revolves around each player jockeying to gather or trade four commodities, three of which the players need to actually keep playing.