Trade Wars 2002: My First Gaming Addiction

Trade Wars 2002: My First Gaming Addiction

A long, long time ago in a decade we refer to as “the 80s,” I was a fledgling computer geek–a fire sparked and stoked by my parents when they purchased a used Apple IIe. In the midst of my tween years, one of my older cousins came over with a handful of floppy disks and showed me a number of new things. One of the things he introduced me to was the world of dial-up bulletin board systems (BBS), and by the time he left that afternoon, I was hooked!

In short, a BBS was essentially a very crude social-networking platform. You would use your dial-up modem and a terminal program to connect, and once you managed to log-in, you could post messages, share files, and most importantly to my younger self, play games. BBSes came in all shapes and sizes, from small single-line BBSes operated by hobbyists to great big complicated multi-line BBSes hooked into big messaging and file-sharing nodes.

What really became my obsession in the BBS universe were the BBS door games. A BBS door was essentially a way the BBS handed off a user to an external application. The type of BBS doors that got my attention were the door games. The fact that I could play games against other people without them being present was amazing and exciting to me. Games like Solar Realms Elite, Operation Overkill II, Global War, and even Freshwater Fishing Simulator occupied the majority of my time whilst dialed in to the BBS. Regardless of the games’ subject matter, they all operated pretty similarly: each day you received an amount of turns which were used up as you played the game. A particular genre of BBS Door games wound up drawing the majority my attention: space trading and adventuring.

I played the original Trade Wars before moving on to Yankee Trader and then eventually to what I consider the penultimate game of this category: Trade Wars 2002 (TW2002). The game was built upon each player using a spaceship to buy and sell goods to accumulate wealth. That wealth, in turn, was used to buy bigger and badder ships, colonize planets, and eventually to conquer the universe.

At the time, TW2002 was, in my opinion, the pinnacle of online gaming. Keep in mind however, that it reached its peak in popularity at a time when the term “online gaming” didn’t even exist yet. One of my favorite features of TW2002 was its animated ANSI graphics for some of the game play mechanics. Destroying a ship, a planet, or even getting blown up yourself all resulted in some nifty animations which looked pretty awesome to me over my 2400 baud modem in 1980-something. For comparison’s sake, my Frontier FiOS is capable of nearly 9 million characters per second, while that 2400 baud modem’s maximum throughput was right around 236 characters per second. My FiOS is roughly 38,000 times faster than that modem. Considering the limited transmission capabilities of that age’s technology, I am impressed that anything was animated in the game at all.

Little geeky tweenage Brian played TW2002 on a handful of different BBSes. I’d like to be able to gaze back through my rose-tinted glasses and wax poetic about the mastery of the many universes I demonstrated, how I’d built massive empires in different galaxies and ruled them firmly but fairly. But I’m modest enough to admit that I was a very middling player. I was always excited to crack the top 5 or 10 players on any of my BBSes. It’s this admission that really typifies what a great game TW2002 is–it was so entertaining to me that I enjoyed playing it even though I might not have been very good at it.

Sometime around 2000 to 2002, I got nostalgic about BBSing and I wound up spending a few dollars and standing up my own BBS which ran as a telnet server over my Internet connection instead of using a modem and phone line. I named that BBS “Oober BBS,” which I am surprised to see that it still turns up in Google’s search results. I wound up standing up quite a few of my favorite BBS door games, but my entire motivation around that nostalgia was playing some more TW2002. Sadly, back then I didn’t have nearly the digital reach that I have today, and only a few of my friends even had an idea of what a BBS was. As a result, my own BBS experiment didn’t wind up being very successful.

But the other day, I was discussing Trade Wars 2002 over at the Plano-area Makerspace,, and I was excited to find out that a handful of the other members had also been into the BBS scene and played some of the games like TW2002. I mentioned to them that I had licenses to the game and asked about their interest in joining me in my nostalgic gaming kick. Enough people seemed interested that I decided to try and get a virtual machine spun up in Azure and see if I could start up a game of Trade Wars 2002 which everyone could play.

Without further ado, I’m genuinely excited to announce that I’m resurrecting a sliver of the Oober BBS by bringing its Trade Wars Game Server back online. The Trade Wars Game Server can function independently of any BBS software now and is accessible over the Internet.

How do I connect?

First you’ll need some sort of a telnet client to connect to the Trade Wars Game Server. There are a plethora of free Telnet clients, but my favorite one has almost always been PuTTY. As an alternative, there’s at least one Trade Wars game client that I’ve found so far that I like: SWATH. Unfortunately, it’s not free, and to be honest I think it’s a bit expensive at $26.00. However, there are quite a bit of features and functionality built into SWATH that are extremely handy. In fact, it has a scripting language of some sort that I hope to use and create a bot that can scrape some information about the game and help me automatically tweet a thing or two about what’s going on.

Brian's TWGS Info
Discord Chat

Game Info

At the moment, there’s only one game running. That may change in the future, but you can find the initial game’s settings and info as of 3/3/2018 at 9:45 AM below. Everything is currently set to the default values. What sort of tweaks and adjustments would you like to see in future games? Please make sure to leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Registered to    : Brian's Blog
Version          : 3.34b                Host type           : TWGS v2
Age of game      : 141 days             Days since start    : 141 days
Delete if idle   : 30 days

Players in game  : 24    of max 200     Percent good        : 83%
Aliens in game   : 50    of max 0       Percent good        : 36%
Ports in game    : 393   of max 400     Value of ports      : 13052553
Planets in game  : 175   of max 200     Percent w/ Citadels : 26%
Ships in game    : 40    of max 800     Corps in game       : 10
Figs in game     : 563232               Mines in game       : 863

Game type        : Open                 Game time           : 09:52:40 AM
Time per day     : Unlimited            Turns per day       : 250
Planetary Trade %: 60%                  Steal from BUY port : Yes
Initial fighters : 30                   Clear Busts Every   : 7 Days
Initial credits  : 300                  Last Bust Clear     : Yesterday
Initial holds    : 20                   Multiple Photon fire: No
Sectors in game  : 1000                 Display StarDock    : Yes
Start with planet: Yes                  Classic Ferrengi    : Yes
Production Rate  : 5% / Day             Max Regen per Visit : 100%
Tournament Mode  : Off                  Invincible Ferrengal: No

Report Settings

High Score Mode    : On demand          High Score Type   : Values
Rankings Mode      : On demand          Rankings Type     : Values + Titles
Entry Log Blackout : None               Game Log Blackout : None
Port Report Delay  : No Delay


Ship Attack/Move : Third (1/3 s/t)      Planet Move    : None
Other Attack     : None                 Rob/Steal      : Constant (2 s)
Photon Launch    : None                 Photon Blast   : None
Ship IG          : None                 Planetary IG   : None
Dock/Depart      : None                 Land/Takeoff   : None
Drop/Take Mines  : None                 Drop/Take Figs : None
Planet Transport : None                 Ship Transport : None
EtherProbe Move  : None                 GenTorp Launch : None

IO Emulation

Input Bandwidth  : 1 Mps Broadband
Output Bandwidth : 1 Mps Broadband
Latency          : 150 ms