Ten years of Break Into Chat!

Ten years ago, editors on Wikipedia began deleting articles about BBS door games. In response, I forked all the door game articles onto a brand-new website. I called it “Break Into Chat”.

My original goal was to preserve and expand the articles. They needed better sourcing, better writing, more screenshots. I researched and added references. But even in their heyday, BBS door games were never covered in depth.

There were so few detailed interviews or stories about BBS door games or the people who created them. I realized it was a gap I could help fill by tracking down the games’ creators and interviewing them, sharing my own memories, and collecting others’ thoughts.

So for 10 years, I’ve been writing and interviewing and exploring.

I hope BiC has brought you some joy over the years — and if it has, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Do you enjoy my retrocomputing stories on Break Into Chat? Please join my email list and stay in touch. 📬

A few highlights from our first 10 years

I was so thrilled when my posts about BBSing on the humble Atari ST in the mostly PC world of the 1990s brought me in touch with Timothy Miller (ANSIterm), and Eric March (FANSI), two of my ST software heroes.

But my biggest software hero was Amit Patel, the creator of my favorite BBS door game: Solar Realms Elite. He was one of Google’s first engineers and he promoted the motto “Don’t be evil.” When I decided to interview BBS door game authors, Amit was No. 1 on my list.

At first, I tried to focus on BBS game creators who hadn’t been interviewed in-depth before. Folks like Joel Bergen (Global War), Austin Seraphin (Barneysplat!), Kevin MacFarland (Assassin), and Hollie Satterfield (Space Dynasty).

By far the most most surprising interview was Shooter Jennings. I was astonished that a singer, songwriter, producer, and son of a country music legend, would be one of the few people writing new BBS door games. He has released three since 2015. I interviewed him ahead of the release of the first: From Here to Eternity.

Playing Shooter’s most recent game, 1NS0MN1A, was a lifeline for me in the months after my daughter Jadzia died. One of my goals for next year is to write up some strategy guides for 1NS0MN1A and Freedom Train, both of which I won.

When I created BiC, I envisioned it as mostly a place for historical research. But over the years, I’ve become a creator and tinkerer myself. I’ve gotten better at ANSI art. I’ve also experimented with ways to make oldstyle BBSes do cool new things, like parallax ANSImation. For example, I had a blast figuring out how to animate the Millennium Falcon dodging asteroids.

Break Into Chat has led me down plenty of rabbit holes. My favorite was a seven-year quest to find a way to play (and finish) the Atari ST BBS game Thieves’ Guild using its graphical front-end client.

Paul Witte and Herb Flower, the creators of Thieves Guild, sent me floppy disks from which I unearthed Witte’s source code, as well as Flower’s previously unreleased puzzle/platform game, Dark Fortress.

In recent years I’ve been ensnared in another rabbit hole: researching the obscure software of Israeli cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen. This work has remained mostly unpublished as I continue pursuing various threads. But this weekend I will begin sharing some of the Kirschen software I have resurrected with help from others.

Share your thoughts!