Appreciating the physicality of floppies

As I continue imaging and curating a collection of Apple II software I received last year, I have an increased appreciation for the importance of preserving physical floppy disks.

Multiple labels and overwriting are visible in this scan of an old 5.25″ floppy disk.

I have a floppy which contains a copy of a game called “Nosh Kosh.” To preserve the game digitally, Keith Hacke created a “disk image”, which in this case is a .DSK file that can be played in Apple II emulators.

Hopefully these digital disk images will endure online and in archives long after the last magnetic particles have flaked off the original physical floppy.

But the floppy still has important physical artifacts, particularly the labels.

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“Creaks” scene 45: Goat glitch

This screenshot shows the player character on top of a glitched goat in Scene 45 of “Creaks.”

I have long loved playing games by Amanita Design with my kids, particularly “Machinarium.” They create such stellar worlds with interesting characters, without a single word of intelligible dialogue.

So it was like Christmas in January when I read on Twitter that Amanita had released a game called “Creaks” in 2020, and somehow I had missed the news.

I downloaded it and played through it with my son. It’s a wonderful game: eerie and detailed, with fun puzzles. I managed to solve all the puzzles myself except one.

The game has been out for quite a while, so I’m not going to review it, but I did want to share a glitch/bug that I came across while playing Scene 45.

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Jon Radoff’s BBS-related correspondence

Yesterday entrepreneur and tech pioneer Jon Radoff shared on Facebook a letter he found from a former player of his early internet game Legends of Future Past. I asked him if might have similar letters related to his earlier Atari ST BBS door games, Space Empire Elite and Final Frontier.

Today he found some and gave me permission to post them on Break Into Chat.

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Paul Witte and Herb Flower, creators of Thieves’ Guild

Paul Witte and Herb Flower were friends who collaborated from 1988-93 to create the BBS door game Thieves’ Guild and its graphical front-end client for the Atari ST under the “Mythyn Software” banner.

Paul Witte, left, and Herb Flower collaborated to create Thieves’ Guild for the Atari ST.

Flower went on to found the Rewolf Entertainment studio, which produced Gunman Chronicles. Witte and Flower teamed up again in 2001 as “Mythyn Interactive” to develop the MMORPG Linkrealms.

Few folks are likely to remember Thieves’ Guild because it was released for the ST in the 1990s, just as that platform was dying out — and that’s a shame. It’s a fun game with interesting ideas, and its front-end client has pretty much the best pixel art of any BBS game that I’ve come across.

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I completed my 7-year quest to play Thieves’ Guild

These two screenshots show images of the sea shore, and a sea battle, from the Thieves’ Guild front-end client.

The sky is clear, the breeze is strong. A perfect day to make the long sea voyage to Mythyn. You prepare your galley, hire a crew of sailors, and cast off.

But a few hours into your trip, the dreaded words appear: “Thou seest rippling waters…”

Sea serpent? Giant squid? Something’s out there, and it’s headed your way.

So it goes in “Thieves’ Guild,” a unique BBS door game for the Atari ST.

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A different way to play, part 5: TWTerm

This is the fifth installment in my series “A different way to play” about front-end clients for BBS door games.

TWTerm

TWTerm

I was never a very good TradeWars 2002 player. Sure I would trade, hunt for the StarDock, and fight other players — but I was probably just cannon fodder for the serious players. (Check out the textfile Slice’s War Manual, an incredibly detailed guide to TradeWars, for a taste of what the good players were doing.)

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A different way to play, part 4: GTERM

This is the fourth installment in my series “A different way to play” about front-end clients for BBS door games.

GTERM

GTERM was a front-end for Land of Devastation that enabled an SVGA-resolution interface with graphics, music, and sound effects.

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A different way to play, part 3: OOIITERM

This is the third installment in my series “A different way to play” about front-end clients for BBS door games.

OOIITERM

OOIITERM (also called “Overkill Ansiterm”) was a front-end for Operation Overkill II. Its purpose was to render the game’s interface instantly for users who had slow modems. It also offered optional SoundBlaster sound effects.

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A different way to play, part 2: Pit Terminal

This is the second installment in my series “A different way to play” about front-end clients for BBS door games.

Pit Terminal

A session of “The Pit” as seen in PitTerm.

James Berry’s The Pit was an action game in which players could fight each other in gladiatorial combat. In the normal ANSI version of the game, the player character and his opponent are each represented onscreen by the symbol Ω, the Greek letter omega, which some players remember today as “the little horseshoe”. The player moves this symbol around the arena using the arrow keys, engaging in close or long-range combat as desired.

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A different way to play: front-ends

This is the first installment in my series “A different way to play” about front-end clients for BBS door games.

Silent. Simple. Social. I suspect that’s how many people remember BBS door games.

In our memories, we recall quaint multiplayer, turn-based, text games. They lacked sophisticated graphics, music, and sound effects — significant flaws for most people. What made these games special for most of us were the social interactions they fostered, which was their primary advantage and marketable difference over video games of the 1980s and 90s.

It’s those “flaws” that I’d like to dig deep and consider today. How did the limitations of BBS technology shape door games? How did door game authors work around those limitations?

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