Over the years, the game was hosted primarily by the user "Dentin" on several different machines and switched locations several times. It is currently (April 2008) hosted on a co-located server in Texas. The code base for the game is named 'DentinMud', after the creator 'Dentin'. The current version is listed as "DentinMud v2.05" using the in-game 'version' command.
The character system is multi-class level-based. The classes are the standard magic user, cleric, thief, and warrior, and may be leveled at any time assuming fame and experience requirements are met. At and above level 30, 'fame' points are required to gain levels in addition to experience. Fame points are only given by killing various difficult creatures in the game; the rationale given by Dentin is that this tends to increase exploration at high levels.
The skill and spell system is broken up loosely into groups with dependencies, with a large number of isolated standalone spells and skills. The thief and warrior classes have much smaller skill trees than spellcasters.
There is in-game support for clans and clan property. Players in most cases can create clans and modify clan areas without administrative support. Clans also time out and self-destruct if not maintained. Clan dues must be paid in gold, the in-game currency, though purchase of dues with US currency is available from Dentin.
Player killing is only allowed on an 'opt-in' basis, and opposing players must both opt-in to the desired PK type to fight. Permanent PK is regulated by a karma based system that is widely considered by the players to be only marginally functional. To prevent unwanted karma effects from building up, permanent PK players will often fight in arenas or while flagged as temporary PK.
The game supports server-side spam filters and aliases, as well as alias/tty stop using Control-C; the ability to halt an alias and clear the command queue is unusual and very useful for players using simple clients or screen readers. The spam filters are used primarily by blind players to reduce the load on screen readers.
The communication system allows for player-created channels which support access lists, password protection, and player ownership. Unused channels tend to self-delete due to inactivity, but there are several channels owned by Dentin and other gods which have been granted permanence.
The channel system also provides communication to the builders port and the sister mud, Banished Lands. There is also a communications port (port 3011) that shows only communication, which is useful for displaying communication that may have been missed by the player if they are heavily spammed, although the recent addition of the 'replay' command almost accomplishes the same thing.
The game is partially supported by donations from the players. A number of things are available for purchase, most commonly name changes, clan dues, and weightless containers for carrying equipment. Weaponry or other useful items that would confer an in-game advantage are not available for sale, though the argument has been made that weightless containers provide the owners a definite advantage. This is partly because it increases the amount of equipment the player can have online and partly because the items can be transferred via auction or private sale in-game. Th removal of the 'permanent' PK flag can be purchased as well.
Historically, areas were completed on the builders port and and transferred to the main port, and builders with multiple completed areas were considered for transfer to the main port as well. This allowed well established builders to maintain their existing areas and make direct updates to the live copy.
More recently, this policy appears to have been halted. No new builders port applications have been accepted, and several builders port creators have not been transferred to maintain their areas. When asked, Dentin's response has been along the lines of "we should not add more areas until the areas we already have are more usable." Recent attempts to generate area-placement maps and to clean up in-game roadways appear to be part of this effort.
New areas must pass a series of automated checks prior to being officially opened, which helps maintain game balance and reduces the effort required to verify that an area is acceptable. The automated checks also serve as a guideline for new builders and can post warnings about unexpected scenarios that have historically been problematic. After the automated checks are satisfied, areas are typically checked by a higher level immortal to make sure it meets the quality requirements of the mud. Occasionally substandard areas make it through this process and are temporarily closed for rework when the deficiencies become apparent.
The automated checks serve to restrict items that are deemed unacceptably powerful. The original item checking code caused the first major political schism which served to break up the original Alaska building team near the beginning of 1996; while now mostly accepted as a useful tool, some builders still consider it an unacceptable constraint on their creativity or declare that it produces obviously bad results.
Administrative staff are the highest level gods, and are the only ones who are allowed to deal with player issues. Originally, there were a large number of administrative staff, usually picked from the list of active builders. Dentin has publicly (on in-game boards) deemed this to be a mistake and has been very restrictive about creating new administrators. As a result of this policy, the admin staff size has been shrinking due to attrition for several years, without as yet any apparent ill effect.
To justify the small number of administrators, Dentin claims to be giving the players the tools they need to deal with most problems themselves, thereby removing the need for administrative intervention. There are those who disagree with this policy, and differences of opinion on this subject recently led to the deletion of a long-time administrator known as Heart.
There is a strong policy of separation between gods and players. Building staff are in generally heavily discouraged from getting involved in any player dispute, and are not given administrative commands (such as 'disconnect', 'boot', and 'siteban') that are common on other muds. In general, only administrative staff are allowed to get involved in or resolve player disputes.
In late 1995 the code base forked due to creative differences and the mud Banished Lands was created by then Alter Aeon god Wyvren. Banished Lands is still in operation, and is hosted on the same server as Alter Aeon. Further, Banished Lands also uses v2.05 as its code base, indicating that there is co-operation between the two games despite creative differences in world implementation.
By the middle of 1996, conflict had arisen between several of the original builders and Dentin, resulting the deletion of several gods. By 1997 the only original gods remaining active were Dentin, Wyvren and Heart. Heart was deleted in 2007 due to conflict with Dentin concerning the future direction of the game.
In 1997 the game moved to dentin.ccb.usu.edu, and in 1998 it began being hosted commercially. As of 2008, it is hosted at xirr.com, also aliased as dentinmud.org.
Alter Aeon has been open to the public since as early as 1995, as evidenced by newsgroup archives from that time period.