Sunday, April 26, 2015

Game 187: Operation: Overkill (1990)

This appears to be an alien hand holding...something.

Operation: Overkill is a BBS door game--a phrase that I'm writing for the first time in my entire life and still don't fully understand what it is. I mean, I looked it up on Wikipedia and everything. Here's the link. I like to consider myself a pretty smart guy, and I definitely understand the conjunctions and indefinite articles in the first two paragraphs, but I'm fuzzy on everything else. Although I was alive and young for it, I really missed the entire BBS era, much as I am doing with social media in the 2000s. Three decades from now, someone will be reminiscing about Candy Crush, and I'll have no idea what they're talking about and no frame of reference to understand it.

Without commenter HunterZ, who sent me some instructions for making the game work on my computer, I wouldn't be playing it at all. Having jury-rigged some kind of solution to mimic a BBS on my own computer (I think), I've gotten the game running, but I lack confidence that it will stay running, particularly since it's bent on kicking me out after a certain amount of time, and every time I want to play, I have to run a maintenance program that changes some things.

Operation: Overkill was created by Dustin Nulf, a programmer with a moderate game portfolio, usually as the audio programmer or music composer. This game was  his first, and his online resume suggests he might have been in high school when he created it. He kept maintaining it throughout the 1990s; the version I was able to get running is 1.20, with a copyright date of 1996-2001. His c.v. says that he sold 3,000 copies.

The title of the game is somewhat confusing. Almost every web site and database has it as Operation: Overkill II, with no word on the first game in the series. The game's main executable is called "OOII," lending credence to the II part, but its title screens generally just say Operation: Overkill. I say "generally" because the game has a variety of title screens that it chooses at random when you start up, and one of them does say "Part II" on it. None of the others do, nor does the copyright screen.

This alternate opening screen is the only one to indicate that the game is "Part II" of something.
           
The game takes place in 2060, decades after a nuclear war wiped out most of the human population. To avoid contamination of the planet's water supply, humanity somehow converted it to "water crystals," which serve as the world's currency. As if a nuclear holocaust wasn't enough, Earth was soon invaded by the forces of the planet Hydrania, ruled by a merciless commander named "Overkill." Overkill and the Hydrites stole most of the planet's water crystals. The remnants of humanity live in an underground complex, protecting the last of their precious water, sending scavengers to the surface to find food and more crystals. On the surface, they must contend with Hydrite marauders, mutants, bandits, and other assorted monsters. There is a vague main quest to find and kill Overkill, but it isn't well-elaborated.

A bit of the in-game backstory.
           
The game is all text, though with some occasional navigational graphics. It plays a lot like a roguelike, particularly since I assume death is permanent (I haven't died yet). In the base, which serves as a kind of "town level," you can buy and sell weapons, armor, and equipment, get healed, store money, practice combat, train to level-up, and interact with other players.

The main base offers some basic navigational graphics.
            
Characters begin with 18 strength, 21 dexterity, and 21 hit points, and they can enroll in a training program that makes small adjustments to the totals. At each level increase, they can raise one of the three attributes by 4 points.

The brief character creation process.
          
Outside, the wasteland occupies multiple "levels," each with coordinates extending from 0,0 to 24E, 29S. I assume the map is randomly generated for each new game, though I'm not really sure how this worked with multiple players. Not all the squares are used; the entire wasteland is ringed by impassable rock, and the interior has a variety of terrain, including mountains, water, swamps, desert, and radioactive areas. In my explorations of the first "level," I found a couple of missile silos (these just seem to serve as temporary camps where you can rest and meet other characters), an abandoned Air Force base, and a hole that goes down to the other levels; I guess the other levels are meant to be underground, but they have the same terrain as the initial one.

The outdoor navigation screen. The infrared scanner shows that I'm on flat terrain (in the center). Flat terrain surrounds me to the west, east, and north, but south of me are impassable rocks. I've just encountered an enemy.

My map of the first "level."
           
There don't seem to be any fixed encounters in the wilderness areas. Instead, you randomly bumble into enemies like scavengers, cobra-men, bandits, rabid dogs, and giant frogs. At least one non-combat encounter, with a weird gypsy named Aurora, moves randomly around the map. She tells you answers to questions for a sacrifice of your attributes.

An encounter with the only NPC so far.
           
Combat uses an interesting combination of real-time reaction and underlying attributes. Each round, a series of As, Bs, and Cs scroll along the screen in groups of 5, and the game tells you which one you're looking for. When your desired letter group appears, you hit SPACE or ENTER, and if you caught it before all 5 letters went by, you score a hit. At that point, damage is based on your weapon and strength. I think the speed at which the letters scroll by is based on your dexterity.

A bit of the action combat system. I like the descriptors.

For players that don't like the action-oriented system (or had laggy modems, I guess), there's an alternative system based on random rolls against your dexterity, but I found that I miss a lot more using the random system. Either way, for all its originality, combat offers few tactics, making it long and boring, and the game promises to offer hundreds and hundreds of them.

Fighting using the "statistical" method gives me nothing to do but watch helplessly.

Each character can carry both a melee weapon and a long-range weapon. The melee weapons range in quality and value from a steel chain up through a "TransAxe," an electric sword, and something called a "Tevix-Bahn." Ranged weapons range from a "Trialism" through a "Z-Tempest." Most of the weapon names are invented by the author, but the neat thing is that you can get a full description of each item in the base, making this one of the few games so far with item descriptions.

This looks like the thing that Worf uses.

If you have a ranged weapon, you have the option to squeeze off a shot at the beginning of combat. If your foe doesn't have a ranged weapon, that's a freebee for you. After that first round, the enemy closes with you and you have to fight with your melee weapon for the remainder of the combat. I don't know if there are any combats with multiple ranged rounds, but I haven't fought any yet. Even opponents with guns generally run into melee range after the first round.

Usually, you can loot items after combat, but occasionally something like this happens.

There are four types of armor, each with a specific number of "hits," and two types of suits: environmental suits (which protect against radiation) and combat suits. There are a large number of miscellaneous items, including ropes (for climbing up and down the levels), medpacks, "summoners" to increase the number of random combats, "Galacticoms" to enable translation, gas masks, and explosives. These things are all sold in the base, but I've found that it's easy enough to save money by waiting for enemies to drop them.

Purchasing equipment.

The annoying thing is that you can only carry 2 weapons and 5 inventory items at a time, making looting items for resale, which would otherwise be very lucrative, almost impossible. Apparently, you can build your own base to store items in--up to 100--but these cost over 100,000 water crystals, and I haven't possessed more than 15,000 at a time yet.

Like any good post-apocalyptic game, radiation and disease are problems. Your radiation level increases slowly as you explore the terrain. If it goes above 50%, you can't get back into the base, and if it goes above 75%, you start to lose attributes. I don't know if there's a way to cure radiation without returning to the medical bay at the base, but I've been doing that frequently. It's fairly expensive, and most of my money has been going to de-radiation. There's also a variety of diseases you can catch in the wasteland, including malaria, yellow fever, rabies, and polio. Fortunately, you can pay to vaccinate yourself against all of them. After a near-fatal bout with "Delyria," which causes you to move in random directions, I spent all my money on vaccinations against everything.

Getting vaccinated. How the post-apocalyptic society managed to develop vaccines for all these diseases is unexplained.

In about 2.5 hours of gameplay, I rose to Level 5. When I hit Level 5, I got a notice that future training sessions would cost 5,000 water crystals, and the experience and money rewards from creatures on Level 1 of the wasteland would be substantially reduced, making this one of the few games of the era to impose level scaling.

An unwelcome message upon reaching Level 5.

I've started to explore Level 2--though I don't know if maybe I should go to the Air Force base first--and have found more difficult monsters but better equipment. As I noted above, I haven't died yet. I don't know if the game gets a lot harder later, but so far I've found it easy to survive as long as I keep medkits with me and use them when I get below 50% health.

Operation: Overkill isn't bad, but neither is it offering anything particularly enjoyable. It's shaping up to be something like Fallthru with a smaller game world. I've had no leads on a main quest, but some of the things I was able to ask "Aurora" about, including launch codes for missile silos, the locations of keys to some kind of cells, and the location of an "Oracle," suggests a broader plot to come.

My character on leaving this session.

Naturally, I'm missing a huge part of gameplay by playing this by myself. Playing it on a BBS allowed players to talk to each other during gameplay, send each other e-mails, trade water crystals, form "squadrons," and kill and loot each other. I'm getting none of that, but then again I don't particularly want to play with other people. I guess I'm setting a standard here that as long as an online game offers a single-player experience, I'll play it if it's still possible.

I jumped into this game because I was having trouble getting back into The Savage Empire after a week's absence form it. These two in-progress titles are all that remain of 1990. Let's see if we can wrap them up this week.

70 comments:

  1. a phrase that I'm writing for the first time in my entire life and still don't fully understand what it is.

    A BBS is simple enough: a bulletin board system a user calls into remotely over phone line with their modem. A BBS door is simply a program that runs through the BBS, parasitically inheriting some of its settings, without being part of it; you might consider Firefox a Windows "door" if you like... this is just before the jargon for these kinds of program relationships (before, anyway, multitasking was really a thing) had solidified. A "BBS door game" then is just a BBS door that is a game.

    There you go, clear as mud!

    Without commenter HunterZ, who sent me some instructions for making the game work on my computer, I wouldn't be playing it at all. Having jury-rigged some kind of solution to mimic a BBS on my own computer (I think), I've gotten the game running, but I lack confidence that it will stay running, particularly since it's bent on kicking me out after a certain amount of time, and every time I want to play, I have to run a maintenance program that changes some things.

    Hey, if not for HunterZ, I would have been knocking at the door pressing an installation into your virtual hands. Most BBS door games were capable of local play, so the SysOp could have some fun competing against their users under DesqView without tying up their board.

    More on the "tying up the board": that's why the game has a max playtime allotment per day, and needs to be told by the BBS that a new day has come and to restore players' abilities to continue playing. One imagines that these settings could be adjusted, if you cared to, but this is lending you some valuable contextual insight into the world of the BBS gamer circa 1995.

    His c.v. says that he sold 3,000 copies.

    And every copy sold was played by a whole BBS' worth of players, anywhere from 5-100 people... plus of course a certain quantity of gameplay was conducted on unregistered or pirated versions. (Speaking of which, if you are not playing a registered version -- not that it is possible to register anymore -- I imagine that you will find it incapable of being completed. Sorry for the bad news!)

    I assume death is permanent (I haven't died yet)

    I don't recall 100%, but I figure you find yourself revived at the base the next day with substantial penalties to your equipment, experience, etc. That's typically how these things ran, because with playerkilling permadeath, SysOps would have their userbases up in arms and after a week of a new game door being installed, 90% of the users would be dead and locked out of it!

    I assume the map is randomly generated for each new game, though I'm not really sure how this worked with multiple players.

    I believe that the maps, while editable by the SysOp, have a stock install state that would have been standard from BBS to BBS and from player to player within a given BBS.

    There don't seem to be any fixed encounters in the wilderness areas.

    Ah, I see you haven't been grabbed by the radioactive hand in the path north of the base yet?

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    1. for all its originality, combat offers few tactics, making it long and boring, and the game promises to offer hundreds and hundreds of them.

      BBS door games didn't have to be more compelling than offline games, they just had to beat other door games. The thing about them is that they offered free gameplay to people who owned modems and phone lines but couldn't afford to buy games (or: who owned computers beneath the minimum requirements of games in stores at the time.) Some games even offered the cop-out "log in tomorrow to find out whether your attack was successful" approach (how did they get the audacity to try it? with a game design philosophy inherited from the PBM (play by mail) game world, where a (sometimes computerized) third party moderated simultaneous player actions), though usually on an empire-building scale. By contrast, this is very satisfying 8)

      Naturally, I'm missing a huge part of gameplay by playing this by myself. Playing it on a BBS allowed players to talk to each other during gameplay, send each other e-mails, trade water crystals, form "squadrons," and kill and loot each other.

      Multiplayer content in BBS games often added to the play experience without necessarily enriching it: playing solo means you're denied the joy of logging in to find that a player beat you in arm wrestling and took your water crystals, and another duelled you sleeping in the wilderness and looted your ranged weapon after you lost a fight you never even got to play! It's true that players working toward a common goal got a chance to eg. experience fort ownership a lot sooner, but mostly how this played out is the grand feuds resulting after one of your betraying teammates evicted all the sleeping co-owners and changed the door codes. That doesn't make the game more fun, it just means the programmer doesn't have to work as hard filling the game with content as long as the players can keep each other busy waging vendetta against each other.

      (Also a note: generally speaking players weren't talking to each other /during/ gameplay, but leaving notes for each other as most doors, as with most BBSes, were please-form-an-orderly-queue style with only one at a time being served. Again: MS-DOS, multitasking, running two sessions of the same game program using the same map simultaneously... a bad scene.)

      I'm looking forward to further reporting on this obscurity, as it's always been one of my favorites and all but the most famous BBS door games never got acknowledged by history after their moment in technology passed. As your own eyes are being opened to this weird niche, so are the eyes of so many of your readers. Your scholarship here, while perhaps less valuable than your explorations into the PLATO games, are infinitely of more use than Yet Another Guy Talking About His Ultima Playthroughs 8)

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    2. I kept looking for the +1 button for your post :D

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    3. I echo william's sentiment. Thanks for your long posts with all of this explanation and context. This is what I appreciate most about the blog--when my readers fill in the gaps that I'm unable to fill because of lack of experience, expertise, or background.

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    4. Hey, I could have just blogged about this game on my own, but then no one would have read it. Instead I took the slow burn approach: document it on MobyGames, wait for a CRPG Addict to emerge, wait for him to blog it to the masses, then chime in to ice the cake where appropriate.

      BBS door games really were their own thing, but if you do end up looking at any others (LORD looms large in the field, though Usurper offers greater complexity) I think you'll see the idiosyncracies laid bare as conventions of the BBS technology's use.

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  2. Just to clarify to other readers not familiar with BBSs: They usually had one or two telephone lines with one modem each, and one modem could only serve one user at a time.

    So, if one user plays a game for an hour, it was a sizable chunk of the prime time Meanwhile, other users tried repeatedly to dial into the BBS for their share of OOII. It would commonly take whole night and also keep their (parents) telephone line busy, preventing any incoming calls... :)

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    1. It would take a crazy long time to win OOII under such a system, I would think.

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    2. Your fanbase is now large enough that I'm sure you could talk someone into setting up and hosting these type of games for you, and get other people to join in playing. We'd never know if the person who stabbed us when we were online was another fan or Chet, under an alias, getting revenge on us for making him play terrible games.

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    3. Canageek, this year-behind stuff is starting to get embarrassing. Just skip ahead to the present, will you? I promise there's not that much of interest in between.

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    4. I've taken to skimming the comments more. However, it feels WRONG to read the entries out of order. I'll try and read faster.

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    5. I'm a year behind too...is it Canadian politeness that makes us read in order.

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  3. Excited to see how this one turns out. As a kid, only one BBS hosted this game, and it was always a fight to get through and actually get to play. I never made it very far, so hoping that Chet has better luck playing locally.

    I also have great middle school memories of playing The Pit, the only other door game that maintained a decent playerbase in my rural area. It was always disheartening to log on and find that you'd lost battles offline, dropping you lower in the rankings.

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    1. The Pit was cool, I played that a lot. Just an arena combat RPG, but fairly well done. Eventually they came out with an optional graphical client that would turn all the ANSI art into pixel graphics.

      So, the BBS would drop into the door game, and the user would drop out of their terminal program into the graphical client specific to that game, and then the two programs would negotiate that they could talk some higher-level protocol between them. It's kind of amazing that it all worked.

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    2. The special graphics engine was called "RIP Graphics" and I know some of my friends were really into RIP boards, but I always had a soft spot for plain old ANSI...

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    3. RIP was a more generic vector graphics thing that some BBSs supported, but The Pit had The Pit Terminal, which was a client built specially for this one specific door game...

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    4. Several games had their own terminal, including OOII.

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    5. The Pit was the best arena combat game I've ever played, to be honest. I've tried other, later offline games in the hopes of replicating that experience and it was never as good.

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  4. I noticed that you fought a "Quazsit". That looks like a borrowing from D+D.

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  5. The map of the first level strongly resembles the ghost whale in Bubble Bobble that tried to eat you when the time started to run out. Maybe it's just me.

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    1. I was thinking Baron Von Bubba too!

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    2. Looks like a Beluga to me!

      https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/b4/c1/f8/b4c1f80888ee1bf9d01f92a9a835c6cf.jpg

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  6. Never played OO, but I have fond memories of playing Legend of the Red Dragon (which I see is on the playlist) on a couple BBSes in the early 1990s. Player vs. player combat was a significant element in that game, but not a strictly necessary one IIRC.

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  7. This is reminding me of an old BBS game I played as an undergrad - Hack&Slash. So much wasted time. It was one where you got 1-3 half-hour "turns" per day, and dying simply ended your turn early. My friends and I discovered that you could get extra time by posting messages to the discussion boards, so the boards were uselessly filled up with one letter posts. It's technically an RPG but I don't see it on your list - I think it was for an amiga BBS. You could play it single player but it would be a lot more frustrating. The basic idea was that you picked a character class from a list of about 16 or so, chose basic stats, and started at level 1. The only goal was to hit level 100, which gave you a chance to unlock better classes and reset you to level 1. Persistence could eventually unlock classes like Titan and God which were as OP as they sound - I had a friend get from level 1 to 100 as a God in 90 minutes of play. Much of rapid leveling in the game was accomplished by arena dueling other players - if you could outwit the crappy AI running them you could jump up several levels in one fight. It was good times back in the early 90s.

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    1. "It was one where you got 1-3 half-hour "turns" per day"

      Sounds like kind of predecessor of Mafia Wars and it's kin?

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    2. Legend of the Red Dragon was like that too, you started at lvl 1, had to get to lvl 15 then kill the dragon, then you would restart at lvl 1, but your hero would get a boost, so each time it got a little easier. You also got turns per day.

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    3. Legend of the Red Dragon is a 1989 game. Perhaps someone will figure out how to get the addict to play it locally before he get into his second pass on 1989.

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    4. I have played LOGD offline by installing an Apache webserver. The installation process was actually very straightforward, but I guess it was a good idea to do that on an offline PC, just in case.

      The plain version of this game is very ...plain..., but you can install really a lot of mods to tinker with the game. I'm not sure if playing a vanilla version of it really does the game justice.

      I'm not sure if the same accounts for LORD since it's a fair bit older, but I suppose it's quite close.

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  8. "Door" as a concept is pretty simple if you have ever used a BBS-system but you could think of it is a door to another room in the house where BBS-system front page with the welcoming message is the hallway.


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  9. The way these door games world work is that the BBS software would write a file with the information about the current user and connection, and then quit and launch the game. But, there were several competing formats for this file, and you couldn't run a given door game on your BBS unless that game understood the door file format produced by your BBS software.

    One of the first marginally useful programs I wrote, it must have been in the 8th grade, was a converter from one particular door file format to another. Not too impressive, now, but I was so pleased with myself at the time...

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  10. How do you keep notes on games that you play? For example, I have docs on each of the Ultima games that I have played that have every NPC, what they said, and where they were when they said it. I also track each and every "quest" that I am given by a NPC and similar at the top of the doc.

    This means that when my schedule causes me to fall out of a game for a while, I can usually figure out where I was. But I have the advantage of not having 186 other games in my head.

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    1. I just use Notepad if it's a fairly easy game and only requires a few notes. If I have to track every NPC dialogue or other data in a more structured way, I use Excel.

      Since I use Excel for mapping anyway, it generally works out well. I have a bunch of sheets with maps preceded by several sheets with quest notes, dialogue notes, spell lists, and so forth.

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  11. BBS RPG games always remind me of 'The Shadow of Yserbius' on Sierra's ImagiNation Network. I never was into BBS's, I probably was too young to really understand what they were and how to use them. Sierra's INN was my first online experience and a damn good one at the time.

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    1. I was OBSESSED with The Shadow of Yserbius. It came at just the right time in my life, when I was extremely involved with CRPGs and building PCs during the dawn of the online age. I missed it so much years later that I bought the standalone game and attempted to play it offline, with what hints I remembered ... but it wasn't the same.

      Even so, I remember so vividly the experience of being swept up in a far superior party and being power leveled while exploring the very deep corners of the volcano on a quest so far above my understanding of the plot, etc.... it felt larger than life.

      My feeling at the time was that the other players were largely enormously friendly and helpful, and although I was curious about the guilds, I never could find a path to a membership invite, no matter who I met.

      I will be very interested when Yserbius comes up on this blog. The last I dabbled in it was in the mid-2000s, when someone adapted the "dial-up" INN to an internet (possibly Java?) interface, and I was once more able to "play" with other people. A major problem quickly became apparent, though: I could never find any other people to journey forth with, so either the INN adaptation programming was off or, more likely, playing that game again only appealed to a very very limited subset of people who were simply not online at the same times.

      Does anyone know if that particular project for Yserbius is still up and running? It must be ten years old or so now, if not older.

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    2. Turns out my memory was off by two years, it was 2007 ... and I have no idea if this is still working or not, and haven't had time to investigate, but here is the basic link: http://www.manvswebapp.com/dev/innrevival-installer

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  12. While the game itself seems fairly pedestrian, I'm fascinated by the discussion of BBS games. I hit high school right around the time the Internet started being a "thing", so while I was aware of BBS's I never had a chance to actually use one.

    Thanks Chet for reviewing this RPG sub-genre and everyone else for the commentary.

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    1. It really did generate a lot of good discussion. I don't understand a lot of it, but I'm glad so many people are reliving fond memories.

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  13. Reading the review reminded me of BatMUD that I played when I was studying and quick googling revealed ithe game still being alive (www.bat.org) and actually celebrating venerable 25th Anniversary making it kind of 1990s game.

    Although it has single-player material in form of quests, it lacks any kind of coherent plot or goal (that I know of) other than leveling up the character until rebirthing and therefore not probbly in scope of blog.

    Still, worth mentioning.

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  14. I'll add to the nostalgic posts about the good old BBS days. I remember dialing in to any local BBS I could find to play TradeWars 2002. It was similar to the other games people described. You had a limited number of turns set by the sysop (to allow other players to dial in). You could trade between star systems for cash, upgrade your ship, and fight other players or Ferengi. Building up your own personal heavily defended corner of the galaxy was always fun. My friends and I would create corporations to team up together. It was always a nail biter when you logged in hoping someone hadn't destroyed you while you were away or attacked your planets. Also similar to Operation Overkill, the world was randomly generated (but shared between all players) with a few fixed star systems.

    Rather than today's games of the person with the most free time being able to play the most and hence be the most powerful, the turn limit leveled the playing field. You didn't want to miss a day and lose your turns (although I remember they could carry over for a few days if the sysop set it to), but you also weren't forced to slave in front of the screen for hours just to keep a rival player from taking you out.

    Good times!

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    1. Trade Wars! Another BBS classic! I had compeltely forgotten that one - thanks for mentioning it.

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  15. I got into BBSes in the early 1990s out of a desire to find ways to acquire games to play on my PC. I ended up with a ton of shareware games as a result.

    In the mid to late 90s (just before the internet killed the scene) my brother and I decided to run our own BBS on a second phone line. In doing so, we ended up becoming members of a local community of enthusiasts, many of whom we ended up hanging out with in person.

    The thing to understand about BBSes is that they were the progenitors of digital social networking, as they connected you with a local community via forums, email, and games. Even many Facebook style games derive from some of the models originated by BBS door games.

    The big differences from modern digital social networking are that many BBSes could serve only one user at a time (allowing them only 1-2 hours per day of access as a result), everything was text (our ANSI character art) based due to technical limitations, and the user base was generally limited to the local calling area (although some BBSes linked forums and email to form networks, some of which were quite large).

    Given the daily time limit, most door games limited how much you could accomplish per day. Most games were a slow grind that accounted to a race against other players to be the winner, at which point the sysop would often have to reset the game.

    I used to run OOII on my BBS, but I think I was the only one who really had enough interest to play it. Other RPG-ish games like Legend of the Red Dragon and Usurper were much more popular.

    Out of nostalgia, I set up a telnet BBS a week or so ago (using my old BBS' ANSI art!) and have been slowly amassing door games on it (Arrowbridge 1 & 2, Barren Realms Elite, Legend of the Red Dragon, MECHWARS, and Usurper so far, with plans for at least a half dozen more probably). If anyone is interested, I can post connection info. It looks like there are also a ton of other telnet BBSes running out there still.

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  16. Nostalgia city reading this entry and these comments. I played Operation Overkill (bit surprised this was the one that made the cut, as it wasn't that widely known compared to other BBS door games), Trade Wars, Usurper, LotRD, The Pit, and loads of others. Of especial interest to my 12-year-old self were PimpWars and Fantasy Land. I almost gave my poor mother a heart attack racking up a couple hundred dollars in charges to The Sierra Network playing Shadows of Yserbius. Thankfully, technically 12-year-olds weren't allowed to authorize those charges, so getting grounded was the net damage from that.

    I met a girl in Germany on The Sierra Network and we were pen-pals for a few years! In my recollection, the proto-internet world of BBSes and TSN was adorable. Plus porn. Lots and lots and lots of porn. Oh, and every sysop cheated the hell out of the door games he or she played.

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    1. Mr. Addict may kill me, but I was actually thinking about doing the same: set up a telnet BBS on an Amazon host and see if we can't make some of these old "door game" RPGs work for him. He doesn't have to have them installed locally necessarily to play them, though that may preclude him doing so on flights and similar.

      This might be a way for the Addict to look at some of these "multi-player" RPGs of the late 80s and early 90s, if for only one off posts. Obviously he could not get the full experience of multiple players, but it could be fun.

      Are the door game RPGs on his master list?

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    2. Would be overkill to set up a BBS on Amazon hosting, as they use so little bandwidth that I could run over 250 simultaneous 28.8kbps telnet connections on my average Comcast cable modem connection!

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    3. Sysop cheating was so prolific I remember it actually became an advertised feature: Register your game for the deluxe edition and access to the Sysop-Only Menu.

      I've been musing on (when Shadows of Yserbius and Fates of Twinion show up) maybe seeing if I could drum up interest in finding that INN Revival thing and getting a party together from the folks here. Then again I'm not really the type to spearhead such a thing.

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    4. How difficult would it be to set up a BBS using Amazon hosting? It's a tempting thought.

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    5. @Raifield: No idea, but it wasn't too hard to set one up in a Windows XP VM in VirtualBox. I can lock that down pretty good, and the bandwidth usage of a system from the dialup age is infinitesimal these days.

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  17. Nobody is mentioning the BBS game I spent the most time with: Food Fight. It was very silly. Pretty sure I also played LoRD a bunch.

    Also, registering protest at this outrageous slander of Fallthru. Comparing it to a lousy BBS game. Grumble mumble.

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  18. This sh!t looks so archaic that I read through this post twice and still don't get what Chet was experiencing. It looks like the father of modern Free-To-Play (Pay-To-Win) MMORPGs.

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    1. BBS door games are the grandparents of Facebook games, with AOL games being the generation in between.

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  19. Chet, out of curiosity: Given your colour spectrum, were you able to tell that the Alien-seeming hand is bloody? (with more blood dripping from that poor man's tri-force it seems to be holding)

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    1. I can tell that it's a darker color, but I didn't realize it was blood. I probably would have figured it out if I'd studied it more closely.

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  20. Well, since nobody mentioned it yet, if you're interested in this time period (BBSs), I recommend checking out Jason Scott's The BBS Documentary. Very in-depth interviews and such over three DVDs. I ran a BBS and hosted many door games at the time (including the classics like LORD, TW2002, etc.), so this definitely hits home. If I had time, I'd love to do what CRPG Addict's doing, but for door games (there'd be a whole dozen people who'd visit my blog!)...

    http://www.bbsdocumentary.com/

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  21. This is probably a better place than anywhere to ask this... I'm trying to remember a CRPG BBS door game from this period (perhaps up to the mid-90s). It was a top-down RPG similar to Ultima where you explored a devastated landscape (but was NOT Land of Devastation). I specifically remember at one point meeting a very out of context Captain Kirk and Spock trying to fix their ship. The rest of the world was more fantasy than sci-fi. I remember playing it in one of EGA/VGA/SVGA (fossil mode was it?). Anyone have a clue what I'm talking about? Much appreciated! (If my memory is correct, this would be a wonderful addition to this blog since I also played it single player).

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    1. @Anonymous: No idea. Fossil mode is something on the server side, so it's more likely that you were using a special client or something.

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    2. NAPLES or Ripscript or something, maybe? (those are both graphical standards that turn ASCII text into pictures)

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    3. Could have had that as well, though I remember seeing the landscape and icons in an SVGA (or similar) format using a client as HunterZ said.

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    4. Mister BlastmanMay 2, 2015 at 7:57 PM

      There were definitely SVGA/EGA clients that hooked in through programs like Telemate for door games. I remember playing at least one through such a thing. What happened was the client held all the graphics and the BBS would send a packet telling my PC to use this or that or whatever. So all the server did was run the actual "logic" of the game and kept track of everything and reported to the client what to do and display.

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    5. The only world-exploration based door game I can recall encountering was LORD II (and that vast expansion of scope actually made the game dramatically less appealing to me at the time, go figure). But I don't think it had graphics or was about a "devastated land". I guess it could have had Trek characters, either by default or as an addin module? I dunno.

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  22. If anyone wants to check out my telnet BBS, send a direct message to @HunterZ0 on Twitter with your poster name from here. I've got a half dozen doors installed so far (Arrowbridge 1&2, Barren Realms Elite, The Clans, Falcon's Eye, Legend of the Red Dragon, MECHWARS, Usurper, plus some stuff that comes standard with Synchronet), with plans for another half dozen (including Dungeon Master, Exitilus, Lord 2, OOII, The Pit, TradeWars 2002), and I'll take requests (although it will probably take time, as I'm only getting a door added every couple days so far).

    I've got it set up so you can connect via an HTML5 websocket client embedded in a web page, or you can download SyncTerm to connect directly via telnet for a slightly smoother and more customizable experience.

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    1. That's a really cool offer. Thanks for all your help with this.

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    2. No problem. I've got Exitilus and OOII up now, plus New York 2008 by request of the author of The Clans, who I contacted on Twitter for help getting his game to work (he was tickled and logged onto my telnet BBS to check it out).

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    3. I'm very interested in this; OOII was available online - at something like operationoverkill.com - up until a few years ago, and I miss it.

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Sorry computer was acting funky. Back in the day, this was a very popular BBS Door in my area. I played it a ton but never got very far. I still run it on my Telnet BBS to this day. I've got around 300+ doors right now. If you use SyncTerm, Operation Overkill will have Soundblaster-like sound effects which is pretty cool.

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  24. Hello folks.. I am an oldschool OOII addict. I am always on the lookout for a new BBs to telnet into to kill the games "bad guy" OverKill himself. Leader of the hydrate invasion. :) I have no problem in sharing my knowledge of the game so more folks can enjoy playing. That said, I feel the need to point out a few corrections in your overview of the game. (Its the nerd in me coming out)

    Firstly.. Dustin didn't sell copies of his game. He gave it away to anyone that wanted to put it on their BBS. He did sell a registration code that took the 10 player limit off the game. Registered game owners also got an editing program that let them create their own mapsets and monsters. That 3000 number of registered games was probably only half of the amount of BBses that carried the game.

    While its true you can only carry two weapons at a time. Your inventory slots are not limited to 5. As your character gains in stats you can carry more. (up to 10) Strength adds to what you can carry, dex to your to hit ratios, and of course your HP's let you fight harder monsters as you progress. Selling those extra weapons and armor you loot is your biggest money maker in the game. Of course that means a naked run back to where you stashed your best set of weapons and armor :)

    You misread the trainer in the complex when he mentioned that 5000 charge. Its not to train, its to camp inside the main complex. A player can't be killed by another player inside the main complex, so for that safety they are charged by the gate guard. The price is bigger for higher level players. The drawback to camping in the main complex ,other than the monetary hit, is that if the hydrates attack the main camp and get past the gate guards... they can kidnap you and put you in the hydrate prison. They will release you in a few days.. (real time) and there are ways to break out of prison or be rescued.

    Bases really help in stockpiling your weapons, med packs, and rations. Also for moving about in the wasteland. They also afford some serious protection from other players. They can be attacked and breached.. but you can beef up their defenses as well. They also provide a few extra goodies. Like having a radiation chamber thats free to use. A teleporter to move quickly between bases in range of each other on different levels. Access to posting messages to team members or the other players at large. etc.

    Lastly, There are a couple of items you NEED to keep on you at all times. A hemp rope, for moving up and down levels. A galiticom, for understanding the monsters. A trikorder, for examining the area around you. (that one you will have to fight for). One monster on each level (randomly set at games inception) will talk to you, giving you coordinates to either the hydrate prison, or to the current location of the Oracle. The Oracle will help you greatly, but it moves around.. so you will need to hustle to the location a snitch monster tells you of... and run a search pattern in that area. The trikorder helps alot with this.

    Obviously I am holding back alot on stuff here. the game is more complicated that it seems at times. Especially with the people factor involved. If you have questions feel free to ask me anytime. Or you could simply drop by www.operationoverkill.com and ask in the games forums. The games author still plays and is active in answering anybody. Also Dustin made the game freeware, and posted a free Registration code so any BBS can have a registered game. I noted that several posters here have OOII on their telnet BBSes.. If you would post your addys there you would get some of us addicts coming your way :) I'm always on the lookout for a new place to play. Especially if they have the game up with a mapset I haven't played on recently. (the game comes with 30ish mapsets)

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    1. I appreciate the corrections and additional information.

      I'm curious if you have a lot of experience with other RPGs and how you would stack up the OO2 experience with them. To me, OO2, while original and interesting, doesn't supply as good an experience as non-BBS RPGs of the same period. I can only imagine that the BBS part of the game lent some additional allure that I'm not getting to experience. Would you say that's the case?

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    2. I have played many RPG's over the years. In alot of ways OOII doesn't stack up well with non-BBS RPGs mostly due to its limited maps and very little graphics that enhance gameplay. But then again OOII is an old game in itself. Its not like EQ or WoW or UO or any of the current games around these days. When OOII first hit the BBS scene Doors games were pretty much it for interactive multiplayer games. It was one of the hardest to learn, and to advance in due to its format. Over the years its been dumbed down a bit. The action combat's default settings are slower with a larger hit line for one thing. The game used to start with 3 letters instead of the current 5. As your dex improved the hit line gradually got bigger. Long range was different than close combat, makeing that first shot harder to accomplish. The default mapset wasn't the easiest mapset in the game either. (nowdays 90% of the BBses that carry the game use the default (Vidland) terrain). That adds to ease of play as well. The default setting for finding the Oracle per day is higher also. Add in that nowdays you don't have to map a new terrain. The mapsets are downloadable so you can see how to get from A to B without fumbling. Only 1 BBs I know of now is running an original mapset. That mapset is not available except from the folks that have mapped it. (I knew of another BBs that had a origional mapset that dissapeared before I got a chance to map it fuly. It just poofed )

      So.. you had a game that was hard.. it weeded out the folks that just poked at it. You had to invest effort to map and struggle to get from level to level. The most interesting difficultys were in the other players interaction. If you killed X player.. was that going to start a war? Were you going to get your bases discovered and breeched, robbed, blown up before you could do the same to your enemys? who was going to partner with whom in the struggles etc. The game had a tourniment feature where you could battle BBS to BBS. OOII hooked me from day one. I quit playing tradewars.. BRE.. and a couple of other door games and have been playing it for over 20 years now. I play some of the bigger mmorpg's now and then, but I still keep my hand in on OOII on occasion.

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  25. Edit:~~
    ooops up to 12 slots, not 10.. (not counting armor, weapons and suit, 16 in total items you can carry)

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  26. Nice little read here. If the op or anybody else is interested, last week I found a bbs already up and running that has dedicated itself to collecting/running as many door games as possible (aka, self proclaimed museum style bbs). The sysop seems nice and I've seen a fair amount of traffic the past couple days I've been on (60+ callers per day).

    Stop on by and experience a BBS like the old days, or at the very least examine an integral (and fun!) part of our elecrtonic communication history. You never know, you might get hooked again. :)

    http://www.convolution.us/
    telnet://convolution.us

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  27. I absolutely LOVED this game. There were two main appeals:
    1) the post-apocalyptic setting. There's a lot to this one, but the collection of mutants, the radiation storms, the giant rad worms that you could use thumpers to distract or silencers to avoid, the alien invaders to fight...it was all wonderful.
    2) the skill-based combat. No other RPG that I've ever played (except obvious riffs on this game, like Land of Devastation) has had the timing-based combat where, if you were better at it, your character was better at it. Every other game uses random combat, but in this, actual reflexes helped to determine success or failure most of the time. I've been toying with the idea of a tabletop RPG version of this game for years, and this is the hardest part to reproduce. In a way, it makes it the most precious aspect.

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