Procomm Plus Terminal *beeeeeeee-tshshhhhhhh-khkhkhkkhkhkh* Connected at 9600 bps to Pyro VBBS
I can only wonder how many times the above (or whatever the equivalent was…my memory is fuzzy, at best) information flashed on my family’s Casper 14-inch monitor in the early 1990s (of course, back then, it would have just been “90s”, when we were young & ignorant of such vile truths as Y2K). ANSI art was the height of graphics technology. Our Hayes 9600 baud modem allowed us to look down at those peasants that would dare connect with a lowly 2400 baud no-name brand (probably some upstart company like USRobotics or something…). Indeed, those were the days. Downloads over the zmodem protocol (much better than that xmodem fluf that had been around for so long) brought me my 300kB ARJ archive faster than I could get up, go to the bathroom, make a sandwich, grab a can of pop from the fridge, come back and…find it half-way through. Could things get better? Signs point to “no”.
With Pyro VBBS, I had 100 minutes a day (my brother was friends with the sysop, so I got a bit of a boost from the regular 60 minutes those peasants would get…) to enjoy message boards, this new “electronic mail” (just like real mail, only you have to print it out if you want to take it with you!), and pulling the sysop (a friendly fellow who went by the name of Rabid Mongoose) away from his episodes of Darkwing Duck with continuous ASCII beeps. I pitied him, but you see, it was crucial that I saw just how long it took him to get up and see why one of the users was paging the sysop.
But the real draw was, and always will be, door games. They are called doors because, more or less, the BBS software hands control over to the application until it exits – so it is as though you passing through a door to another…room? Yeah, I didn’t come up with the name, so don’t blame me.
Pyro VBBS introduced me to several different kinds of poison, and without a doubt, the most frequent ones I had up were Tradewars 2002, Solar Realms Elite, & Land of Devastation – ANSI gaming at its finest! If I could count the number of hours I spent playing those games…um…I could count very, very high.
The draw of these & other door games was a combination of classic gameplay elements, their quaint yet creative text-based interfaces, and their colorful text elements, such as the random encounters, quips, & quotes of the game’s characters & plotlines.
Tradewars 2002 was a space-trading simulation, and the version on Pyro VBBS likely predated the multi-node versions that came later, so it was strictly one-player. And we were thankful. With 1000 sectors to explore, the player could trade ports, attack alien ships (including the dreaded Ferrengi, if you had enough fighters), upgrade to a more powerful ship or one with more cargo holds, and even build your own planets. There were “Good guys” and “Bad guys”. I only learned later that the “Bad guys” could do cool things like stealing from trading ports. One of them actually kept sending me money to increase the police bounty on his head…I never figured out why…
Solar Realms Elite is a staple of the BBS world, and the original author even has a site dedicated to it. It is a rather elaborate economy/warfare-based empire simulation game, where the player manages the military, population, & resources of a nation, with the other players doing the same. While battling off pirates (rogue states?), you can also engage the other players either through trade, cooperation, or even all-out battle. Very enjoyable and fun.
Land of Devastation was definitely a time-eater. With a large world to explore and an intricate plotline, the game pitted the player as an adventurer in a post-nuclear holocast scenario. You would fight monsters in the wastelands, while finding, purchasing, and/or selling equipment you’d find. There were many different factions (nearly all of them hostile), and the game even feature NPCs that could interact with you. The game had a clever “discussion” system that would allow you to glean information & additional topics from a character you were interacting with, which may change their disposition from hostile to friendly, or even giving you additional items if you asked for them! This description doesn’t do the gae justice, but it’s also close to 1AM, so I’m going to wrap it up here.
I became so hooked to these and other games that I have actually downloaded the original executables for most of these games and play them from time to time locally on my PC (as there are few BBSes that are accessible these days, except through telnet). Playing them locally also means I can enjoy them at my own pace and play sysop from time to time as well.
So, there you have. A manifesto of an ANSI game addict. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!