Tradewars Rides Again
I’ve always been forthcoming about my love of Tradewars, the BBS game that finds you buying low, selling high, and saving up enough cash to make a planet of your very own. I played TW proper on a dial-up connection to a local BBS that I can’t even remember, and it was those experiences that stuck with me though the decades and lead me to want to create my own space-sim-trading game.
I guess I didn’t need to, since Elite: Dangerous showed up. So did Starpoint Gemini 2, and in the future, Star Citizen (Trivia! John Pritchett, who helped create the original Tradewars, now works for Cloud Imperium and works on Star Citizen. What a small universe!). There was nothing terribly exciting about TW, with it’s ASCII UI and freakishly colored terminal commands, but it really must have left an impression, because I have set up a server on Azure, downloaded the TW2002 server, and have the game running.
But it’s not the same…at least, it’s not the same mentality. Yes, the game is pretty much the same, and is still being maintained by Pritchett. I think there’s even updates in there that weren’t there the last time I played, but the community that plays it suffers from Modern RPGitis. Now there’s a culture of scripts and automation and custom telnet clients that you can use that’ll map your universe into a handy visual display, and keep your stats (money, cargo, fighters, etc) on a sideboard. Tradewars has become a Big Deal in some ways.
I was reviewing it for some friends the other night, and when I showed them one of these fancy automated telnet clients, one of my friends commented that it kind of took the fun and purpose away from the game itself. I don’t disagree. TW might have been about getting rich (and dying trying) and powerful, but I don’t remember this whole script scene being a thing. Maybe it was, and in the relatively disconnected culture of the BBS days I was just never aware of it.
I’m not going to say that this discovery has tarnished my memories of the old school days of playing TW, but I am glad I got to experience it before the min/maxers got a hold of it.