Forgotten World BBS Door Games

Even before the internet was in every toaster, users were finding ways to connect with like-minded people and play online games together. From the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, so-called BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) or bulletin board systems flourished. They were connected to them using telephone networks and dial-up modems. One of the shared entertainment in the BBS was online games known as “Door Games”. It is impossible to list them all, but let’s try to look at the legendary games from the corner of our eye.

What is Door Games anyway?

“Door Games” got its name from the fact that they were accessed at the BBC through a kind of “doorway” between the BBS software and a separate, independently running game program.

The multiplayer mode of such “door” games consisted mainly of a turn-based system. Users consistently called at different times of the day to use the minutes of their allotted game time and make their move. Games that were played by multiple players at the same time also existed, but they were rather the exception due to the cost of running a multiline BBS system.

Because BBSs were usually accessed through text-based terminal emulators, most door-to-door games could offer players no graphics other than colorful text characters (unless they used a dedicated graphical client).

While not many people played Door Games by today’s standards—only a few tens of thousands of users worldwide—these early online games form a vital link in the history of the modern gaming industry. The fact is that BBS users in the 1980s and 1990s were those members of the population who were better than others in understanding computers. Many of them went on to create the computer world that we see today (modern computer games, websites, smartphone applications). So this little core was a real computer elite.

Therefore, it is especially interesting to explore this corner of gaming history and recall the classic Door Games BBS. This is by no means a rating and by no means a complete list (at that time, programmers released hundreds of games), but only a small part of a rich period in computer history.

By the way, all the pictures from the games are photos taken by Benj Edwards from a VGA monitor, and they are launched through the Telix terminal program. This will give you a fair idea of ​​what these games looked like in their natural environment, an IBM PC running MS‑DOS.

1 Operation: Overkill II

Release date: 1988

Creator: Dustin Nulph

This game is inspired by the classic Wasteland for PC. You play as a modified soldier wandering through a post-apocalyptic world. You are surrounded by creatures, all thoughts and desires of which are focused on killing you. The wastelands are presented to you both in the form of textual descriptions and in the form of an innovative (for the time) 3×3 map (in the photo above this is the area in the upper left corner called “Infrared Scan”). The battle is conducted in real time and requires some skills from the player. To deal a stronger blow to the enemy, you need to press the spacebar during a certain repeating sequence of letters. OOII (as the game is called for short) remains one of the deepest and most complex CRPGs available on the BBS.

2 Trade Wars 2002

Release date: 1991

Creator: Gary Martin

This resource trading and space combat game has a rich history in the BBS world. Its earliest predecessors appeared back in the early 1980s and were all the ideological heirs of the Star Trek series. The current incarnation of the game, TradeWars 2002, was launched in 1991 and has been constantly improved over the decades, while retaining the original text-based format. Since then, thousands of players have regularly visited the TradeWars universe, current version, which can be installed on a modern operating system and played online without BBS. Such astonishing longevity definitely makes TW2002 one of the most important and well thought out online games of all time.

3. Pit (The Pit)

Release date: 1990

Creator: James R. Berry

At the time of release, this one-on-one combat RPG stood out for its advanced use of ANSI graphics for the status windows and battle arena. In this arena, inspired by gladiatorial combat arenas, the player fights with their character (represented by the Omega symbol) against a computer-controlled opponent. To ease the burden of low-speed modems, the author of this graphically rich game, James R. Berry, came up with a special EGA client program. Through it, users could connect to the game and play with very low latency.

4. Pimp Wars

Release date: 1990

Creator: Paul J. Martino

PimpWars combines resource management, business simulation and a bit of Monopoly in the underground world of prostitution. In other words, it was the perfect game for a 1990s teenage boy – and yes, in most regions it was the main age category of BBS users. Despite the unconventional approach (you play as a pimp who manages a horde of prostitutes), PimpWars boasts surprisingly deep gameplay. You build and develop your own business empire and even buy a local restaurant.

5. Freshwater Fishing Simulator

Release date: 1989

Creator: Eric Hamilton.

This is the least known game in the collection, but it has always been my personal favorite. Freshwater fishing simulator is literally what you see in the title. The game includes everything from choosing a fishing rod and bait to exploring the underwater landscape of the lake. This game, with rare ANSI graphics for Door Games, provided a welcome break from the never-ending fantasy and space games that dominate the BBS platform.

6. Legend of the Red Dragon

Release date: 1989

Author: Seth Robinson

Along with TW2002, Legend of the Red Dragon (commonly abbreviated to “LORD”) remains one of the most famous and popular BBS games. LORD has gained popularity due to its simple game design. This fantasy role-playing game boiled down to three main elements: repetitive combat, leveling up, and gear upgrades. Throw in light sexual content (courtship and potential marriage to Violet), random events that add an element of excitement, a pinch of humor, and you have a real classic of the genre. LORD made it possible to communicate with third-party software modules, which allowed for site-based customization. This has kept the game relevant for decades.

7. Legend of the Red Dragon II: New World

Release date: 1992

Creator: Seth Robinson

In 1992, LORD creator Seth Robinson released an official sequel to his popular game, but changed almost everything about it. If the first LORD is a simplified role-playing game where the player is basically stuck in one location in the forest, LORD II is a pseudo-graphic roguelike with dozens of locations where you control a character in the form of a smiling face (ASCII art). LORD 2 supported multi-player play on different BBS nodes at the same time, which was unique for such games at the time of release.

The game failed to replicate the success of its predecessor. Most likely, the point is the additional complexity of the game. But she’s still amazing.

If suddenly you yourself want to play the above games, you can connect BBS. To enter The Cave BBS, telnet to in a new window) (port 23), create a user account (type “/s” and press Enter to save the verification message), then browse the Door Games list by pressing the dot (.) on the main menu.


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