While others chase the Tolkien-ripoff dream, one MMOG company cast its eyes to different seas. Three Rings went a different route, producing a game steeped in sea lore that caters to the puzzling crowd. They followed Puzzle Pirates with Bang! Howdy, another unique spin on a genre. Bang! Howdy put the traditional Three Rings humor in a world of cowboys and steampunk robots dueling on turn-based strategy ground usually occupied by complicated (and serious) Japanese titles. Their next project is Whirled, "a web-based social world for chat, games and player-created content," though, hopefully, without the flying penises of previous efforts. At the center of it all is Three Rings' CEO and Designer, Daniel James, known for his unique vision and piratical apparel.
He says his background is "mostly start[ing] companies. I started MUDding on Essex MUD - the one written by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle - in 1982. It used to run on the university DEC 10 between 1:00 and 7:00 a.m. On the weekdays, I would get up around 5:00 a.m., before school [to play]. On the weekends, I'd stay up all night. I made Wizard and wrote my own MUDs with friends on the school BBC Micro network."
His first company was related to these late-night hobbies. "My first company was the commercial text MUD Yehuda Simmons and I started in 1990, Avalon. It ran out of the back room of my mum's house." Avalon used "eight phone lines and 2400-baud modems that would periodically melt and fail, necessitating me shuffling the dead ones to the back of the line. The game ran on an Acorn Archimedes, an old RISC computer, with a 286 as the multiplexer. We had some terminals, and my friends would come over and play until 6:00 a.m., when they had to leave, lest my poor mum awake to discover them bleary-eyed in the dawn light."
1992 brought what he calls "Hostplay." He describes it as "an Avalon PC-Baang [with] 14 phone lines and 14 terminals, before going on ye olde internet in 1994. We had a 64KB leased line, which cost over