"The BBS scene had two major commodities: pirated software (warez) and information. The newer the warez, the more valuable it was as a commodity. It was actually possible to obtain one- or two-day-old software that had already been stripped of its copy protection; we called breaking through a program's security 'cracking.' A person earned his 'elite' status by becoming the purveyor of the latest pirated software."
Guy Stevens wasn't always a stand-up game industry veteran. He describes the grayer side of game programming in "Back In the Day."
Back In the Day
I remember when I discovered the BBS scene. Watching those characters pop real time up on the screen as the SysOp chatted to me blew me away the first time I saw it. It was that moment that I realized I wanted to work with computers for a living.
I also remember playing great games like Seth Able's Legend of the Red Dragon and Trade Wars, the MMOs of the time. It's amazing that their models are still in use today.. heck, Legend of the Green Dragon (basically LORD done PHP style) still has a huge following.
I became a SysOp of my own BBS when I was 12, using my parents' fax line. I was soon hooked into a network of local BBSs which allowed me to use FrontDoor to receive inter-BBS mail on a daily basis, and this provided a conduit into FidoNet and NANet. For me, this was truly the precursor of the internet. With FidoNet I could communicate with people on BBSs anywhere in the world, and small file attachments could even be sent. Then there were the inter-BBS matches of Barren Realms Elite and Falcon's Eye, where the denizens of one BBS would compete against teams of players from other BBSs. People had a great sense of loyalty to the BBSs they logged onto regularly, and some good friendships developed between the SysOps and their users.
Now, I too am a game developer, and games like Trade Wars 2002 (my personal favourite back then) will always be an influence on me, because these games were 100% about design and gameplay. There were a lot of great BBS games and a lot of poor ones. When all you had was ASCII (or later, extended ANSI) graphics, you really needed a creative knack to make a game that people could get addicted to.