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  • TradeWars 2002 Receives Recognition

    It has recently come to my attention that in the February, 2009 issue of the computer magazine PC World, TradeWars 2002 was recognized as the “10th best PC game ever“.  Here is an excerpt from that article:



    What elements push a game beyond mere goodness and into greatness?

    To this author, PC games are best when they deliver a transcendent gaming experience that is possible only with the aid of a personal computer: They don’t simulate board or card games, reproduce real-world sports, or try to approximate movies. They are an art form unto themselves.

    I surveyed dozens of PC game developers, asking them to share their picks for the ten greatest PC titles of all time. In addition to weighing their opinions, I took into account factors such as influence, innovation, design, and replay value.

    To be considered, a game must have achieved most of its prominence on a PC platform. (This explains why Tetris, for example, didn’t make the cut: It was clearly the Nintendo Game Boy’s killer app). I defined a “PC” as any consumer computer that has a keyboard the user can program with arbitrary code–not just a PC of the IBM variety.

    Without further ado, here are our ten greatest PC games of all time, counting down from Number 10, Trade Wars 2002.


    #10: Trade Wars 2002


    Released: 1990. Developer: Martech Software. Publisher: Martech Software.

    For a surprising number of people, Trade Wars 2002 (TW2002) is the greatest PC game they’ve never heard of. This epic text-based space strategy game hails from a somewhat secret world of Bulletin Board System doors–early online games played on dial-up BBSs, which peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. Of the thousands of BBS door games programmed over the years, none has had the staying power of Trade Wars 2002. Long after the BBS era, the turn-based trading game continues to thrive thanks to Trade Wars Game Server, which hosts stand-alone games of TW2002 over the Internet.

    To gauge the influence of Trade Wars, you need look no further than the popular massively multiplayer online game Eve Online, which many observers describe as a modern 3D version of Trade Wars. Another link to latter-day glory: Drew Markham, one of TW2002′s ANSI artists, later directed Id Software’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein.


    I think the first thing that comes to most people’s mind reading this is “are you kidding me?”.  When I first saw it, I had to do some checking, because I was sure it was an elaborate prank by Eleq’ or something.  I could rattle off any number of games that I would have put on this list, and TradeWars would never have crossed my mind.  But I do believe TradeWars belongs in the discussion, for the very reasons the author describes.  In terms of success, audience, any number of metrics, TradeWars is not even in the same ballpark with other games on this list.  But when it comes to influence, it has been my experience that many of today’s successful game developers were inspired by TradeWars.  It’s just the nature of BBSs, being such an early online community, that it was populated by early adopters, and that many of today’s successful computer professionals and game designers were among that crowd. 

    With typical humility, Gary Martin, the game’s original author, passes this off as just one man’s opinion.  But the author didn’t just throw TradeWars in there for chuckles.  He spoke to “dozens of developers”, and obviously many of those developers expressed their appreciation for this game.  That is significant, and Gary deserves credit for what he created, and for inspiring a generation of online game developers.  Credit also goes to the die-hard fans who have kept this game alive for so many years (over 20 years now!).  I have a deep appreciation for the passion of the TradeWars fans, and it is my hope that this game will continue to live for another 20 years.


    John Pritchett

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