Tag Archives: bbs

Who needs SVG when you’ve got ANSI?

Presidential election years are great times to work at a news organization. As a designer at a newspaper, I love to explore the cool election maps developed by folks at places like the New York Times or the Guardian.

FiveThirtyEight's Election Forecast map

My favorite is probably the 2016 Election Forecast from FiveThirtyEight.com, which is full of cool visualizations, and great analysis.

The explosion of great apps like this is made possible by modern libraries like D3.js, and formats like SVG. But what if you took away all the visual horsepower?

What would a retro BBS version of such an app look like, with all the inherent limitations of an ancient terminal: few colors (16, with caveats), low resolution (80×24), etc ?

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ANSI mermaid swims in parallax

I made it into an artpack!

It’s no exaggeration to say that as a kid I always admired the guys in the artscene. I saw their work from afar, and they inspired me to dabble in ANSI myself. I didn’t produce anything memorable, and I certainly never tried anything ambitious, like a character portrait.

So I never imagined I’d have anything make it into an artpack. But 20 years later, somehow it has happened!

ANSI mermaid animation

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Talking BBSes on the Electric Dreams podcast

Earlier this year, a new BBS-related podcast debuted: Electric Dreams.

Host Mike Whalen emailed me to invite me onto the show, and of course I said yes. He interviewed me in March, and I understand he also interviewed other folks like Ken Gagne. The podcast series debuted later that month, and it sounded great!

Unfortunately, it only lasted a few episodes. New opportunities took away Mike’s free time, and that was that. Real life has a habit of getting in the way of BBS projects. I know that all too well in my own life.

My episode never saw the light of day. … Until now!

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ANSI tile map

A screenshot from my ANSI tile map experiment. The map requires a 132x60 terminal window.

A screenshot from my ANSI tile map experiment. The map requires a 132×60 terminal window.

Earlier this year I described how we used Synchronet’s Javascript support plus its Frame and Sprite libraries to produce some pretty cool ANSI animation effects, including a sprite walking in front of a parallax-scrolling background.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with how to make maps.

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Parallax-scrolling effect … in ANSI

This animated GIF shows an animated ANSI sprite walking in front of a parallax-scrolling forest background.

This animated GIF shows an animated ANSI sprite walking in front of a parallax-scrolling forest background.

Every so often I’ve been experimenting with Synchronet BBS’s Javascript capabilities, as I try to figure out how to make a BBS door game with my daughter.

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Hatari, Lantronix, and CosmosEx: My quixotic quest to play “Thieves Guild”

Allow me introduce you to the “Thieves Guild Emulator,” a graphical front-end client for the Atari ST BBS game “Thieves Guild.”

(Update: I have replaced the original video I posted with a new version that includes the game’s sound effects, as well as some gory combat)

It took me a long time to reach the point where I could make that video. In this blog post, I’m going to explain that journey. I’ll also tell you a bit about the game itself. In fact, maybe that’s where I should begin.

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Introducing my new game, “Doubles”

Remember how I mentioned in a previous post that I was writing two new BBS doors? One was called “Jewel Mountain,” an experimental project I’m making for my daughter; the other was “Sports Stats,” which would let users see standings and scores for baseball and basketball.

Well, a third project came up and leapfrogged those two. I’m calling it “Doubles,” and if you have a Synchronet BBS, you can download and install it right now from my GitHub.

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Trade Wars vs. Legend of the Red Dragon: Which was the most popular?

tw2002-lord

When I was on the Bobby Blackwolf Show in February, we discussed TradeWars 2002 and Legend of the Red Dragon. Early in our back and forth on LoRD, I said: “It became… you know, depending on who you talk to, probably the number one or number two game out of BBSes.” Blackwolf followed up by saying: “TradeWars is usually number one, LoRD is number two.”

I don’t think anyone would dispute that TradeWars 2002 and Legend of the Red Dragon were the two most popular BBS games. But which was the most popular? Is it even possible to know?

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Jewels, bats, and balls

A mockup showing how the NBA standings might look in Sports Stats.

A mockup showing how the NBA standings might look in Sports Stats.

Last year I was studying BBS doors. This year I’ve started writing some!

I have two percolating right now:

  • “Jewel Mountain,” a game I’m making with my daughter. Progress has been slow because we still haven’t worked out exactly what the game mechanic should be.
  • “Sports Stats,” an informational door that will give live standings and scores. We are St. Louis Cardinals and San Antonio Spurs fans at my house, and my daughter always checks results from the previous night in the morning newspaper. So I figured why not bring that to our little BBS?

I would not have embarked on these projects if not for the fact that Synchronet BBS supports Javascript, which I use a lot at work. The main learning curve is dealing with the console: outputting ANSI colors and characters. I’m also learning about frames and sprites and things.

I have made good progress on Sports Stats, and I hope it might become a door I can release for other sysops who might want it.

Jewel Mountain will likely remain just our private little experiment. But if somehow we manage to make something playable, then we’ll release it too.

My daughter dreams of people sending in registrations like the BBS days of yore, but I had to bring her back down to earth and tell her it’s highly unlikely.

I’ve also been more of a sysop lately, customizing the BBS. I have been created more ANSIs for different occasions: Valentine’s Day, etc. I made one of Kirk and Spock looking at the Guardian of Forever to use with the login matrix mod from Digital Distortion. Of course I make liberal use of Photoshop, then ANSIrez to convert an image to ANSI, and PabloDraw to clean and refine the ANSI.

I also have a number of BiC projects underway:

  • Interviews
  • Adding game articles to the wiki, plus game downloads
  • A series on custom front-end terminals
  • The release of old issues of “Door World Magazine” reformatted for the web.

And more. But there a lot of pots on the stove. I need to get cooking!