ASCII by Jason Scott

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The Worldgroup Underground —

I got a nice letter from someone discussing how the BBS Documentary missed a subject. For the record, it missed it because I didn’t cover contemporary BBS issues, and the shooting for the film was done in 2004, so even if it had done contemporary issues, they would be contemporary issues from a half-decade ago.

The subject being discussed was Worldgroup software. Here’s some excerpts from the letter, stripped of identifying details for obvious reasons.


HI Jason, I saw the BBS Documentary and have used Textfiles as a resource for some of the material I have on my own BBS. There was something not mentioned in the movie, which should have been mentioned about the underground movements to bring WG BBS and its games back online. There are two camps which are divided. One is led by the majorbbs restoration project, which is called the legit ones. They are not gaining, but they are
very valuable to gain resources from. The other is the editors and hackers who understand the code and work with it make their own individual boards, mostly to host majormud, but some are starting to run full BBS systems again. This group has made allot of gains and has an extremely strong following with some boards having over 60 people logged in at one time.

I am one of those in the editing/hacking group who has a full running BBS, as well as a handful of others. I am helping on a daily basis now to help people set boards up and get them off the ground. These boards mostly sponsor majormud, farwest, tradewars as well as a few other games. Some of these boards are full ANSI and very graphical while others are plain stock look. However, each have their own personality based on who
plays on them and with the custom edits within their majormud. These boards are starting to turn into full running Free-BBS systems.

Unfortunately those on both sides of the aisle are split, with the people who want to keep everything stock are void of users or a following but have the software versus those who know how to edit and hack that have a very strong following and very strong user base. The same cannot be said for other BBS systems. Synchronet Wildcat, GAP, as well as many others have fallen by the wayside. To top this off the text game community itself is splitting due to the introduction of using GMUD to now handle software that was intended for use with WG.

In many aspects the WG BBS community has lost a lot due to METRO Entertainment’s failure to produce and live up to its promises to the majormud community. This has causes a quick collapse in so called Legit BBS’s. However, it created a spark which is igniting flames in the hackers’ community because they are moving forward with everything Metro and Worldgroupware has failed to produce and promise.

I can’t speak to the accuracy of this characterization, but I can say that the whole situation does interest me.

Naturally, a question that comes to mind is who the fuck cares? but that’s a question that comes from anyone observing something they don’t particularly care about. Since everyone involved in this is involved, basically, in BBS culture and outcroppings of that culture, it’s easy for someone not involved in said culture to wonder what the big huzzah is about and why any amount of this would have people at each other’s throats, or, as the case may be, emotionally disoriented over the actions of people who are basically the same.

Oh, but we’re so good at this, this quibbling over minor points, and turning them into distinct battles, and “camps”, and “parties”. I’ve seen it in many different places, and events, and so I think it’s just part of the territory, and perhaps it’s a landmine that an open heart and mind might be able to avoid. Or not.

We long passed the line where some people consider themselves keepers or at least big fans of the Legacy of certain pieces of software. The idea, perhaps strange if you’re thinking of these things as mere code, is that there is a mythos or honor or any of a dozen aspects of this software that should be kept alive, improved on, or at least not ruined by the march of time, commercialism, or obsolescence. I know that the default reaction by people when they see something important or influential in previous years presented in sequel or new version format is oh no, and this reaction has been justifiably earned many, many times. This is frequently the case with movies, but I’ve seen it happen with games, parks, logos, cars, and candy. We think of change as an assault, and we think of needless change as an insult. And yet, none of these things are “ours” in the sense of ownership. It’s an interesting situation.

So here we see a case where there are still active, commercial maintainers of software and another set of people who think this software is being wrongly trapped and maintained, like a hostage or an abused child. Matters have been taken into their own hands by some, while others feel they can’t legally or morally interfere, as much as they might not agree with the direction.

The problem is inherent, involved, and, ultimately, intractable. I watch from afar and observe the fireworks, and am glad, at least, that in some realms the BBS fire burns.


Categorised as: computer history

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8 Comments

  1. tcv says:

    Did this fellow leave links what for folks like me who wants to read more on it?

  2. Craig Neidermeijer says:

    >>stripped of identifying details for obvious reasons

    What “obvious reasons?”

  3. willis corto says:

    The whole majorbbs situation is as absurd now as it was in the 90′s. Asking hundreds of dollars for this software in 2008 is beyond retarded. For the uninformed Galacticomm and their ISV/TPD’s have a long history of fucking their customers. They perfected the art of bleeding their loyal followers so well that in the end NOBODY had any money left to buy their products. It wasn’t uncommon for these sysops to invest 2, 10, even 60 or more THOUSAND dollars into building their systems. Anybody who denies this fact is in uninformed or clueless. Don’t take my word for it go to google groups read alt.bbs.majorbbs and comp.bbs.majorbbs. Start back in 94 work your way forward, the truth has been archived and it is undeniable.

    In the end it did was breed people like Tragic, Trauma, Worlgroup Hack Unit, 2Users, HotHotSun, Dr Code, |RD|, DRAiN, Yohan, ODB, Ozzman, Gwart, Edge, Nomad, NikByte, Virogen, Tronik, NFM, Galacticomm Busters, tNO, The Major Hacker, SPI, DaDude, tas, and scores of unnamed others who have liberated gcomm software for the past 15 years. No other BBS software in the history of BBS’s had as many people and groups actively liberating it. The majorbbs restoration people do nothing more than squander the software to insure its demise. They continually dig up the grave, pound more nails into the coffin and move it to another unmarked grave. That’s why people continue to track modules down and crack them.

    I know of a group of people who have nearly cracked 100% of the modules available today for MajorBBS. They are moving on to Worldgroup modules and will liberate them in short order. Fuck the majorBS restoration group they’ve harassed individuals until they left the scene but they wont stop us all… after all, we’re all alike.

    NWGEEGD9J 4 life.

  4. Ken Webber says:

    Galacticomm and the other ISVs were good at appealing to the market they were in. You were never part of that market, apparently (neither was I), so I can understand your sentiment that $60,000 was expensive. The MajorBBS and WorldGroup were never positioned as a hobbiest software package (though, some hobbiests ran these systems, but at nowhere near the cost you mention). Despite what you think about “nobody” having any money left, of four MajorBBS systems I was involved with, one was a hobby board (free) and cost the sysop approximately $600 to set up (not including hardware) and he was 100% legit. Of the remaining three, only one sysop wound up not making money, the other two made a living on the revenue from their BBS’s (again, fully legit) and one continues to operate today as a full-fledged ISP.

    No other BBS software had the technology required to operate at the level, commercially, that the MajorBBS did. You have to consider the “expense” of it in this light.

    It’s also in this light that you have to consider that Gamport and other ISVs are still in business, supporting their add-in software commercially. It’s expensive, and people bitch, but if it were really priced out of the market, they wouldn’t still be in business.

    People always like to use “unreasonably” high prices to legitimize illegal activity. Newsflash – high gas prices have caused a spike in the number of people stealing gas as well, that doesn’t make it any more legal. But whatever helps you sleep at night, I guess.

  5. Pete Linkon says:

    Ha.. It seems that Gameport is doing everything it can to get out of the WorldGroup business.

    GreaterMUD is killing off the few MajorMUD systems that are left.

    Unlike the previous posters I was only a user and never a sysop so I had no idea how bad Galacticomm gouged their customers. I did use a BBS who went ISP but the SLIP and PPP connections were so unstable the owners dumped them for real equipment. I will never miss the worldsock crap they put me through.

    I do appreciate the people who put these releases out regardless of their legality. Through their MajorBBS for XP and VMWARE images they’ve enabled people like me to enjoy these games again. I’d like to say thanks as far as the other shit I agree with Jason who gives a fuck? Just enjoy it!

  6. Vitoc says:

    Just to clarify, GreaterMUD, or GMUD for short, is a module that runs on Telnet Game Server, or TGS for short. TGS is a very lightweight, stable, and efficient telnet server that is pluggable, so new modules can be created for it; either entirely new games or ports of other existing games.

    GreaterMUD isn’t so much intended to kill off MajorMUD realms as it is to provide a better and much cheaper alternative with a brighter future for the remaining MajorMUD faithful who have sat around for years hopelessly waiting for any meaningful updates from Metropolis.

  7. fitshake says:

    Well I have seen GreaterMUD, it’s like a rewrite of the MajorMUD engine that runs on XP. You export the entire realm (content) from MMUD and import it into GreaterMUD. We are talking full MegaMUD client compatibility even import your own content from NMR! For all intents and purposes to the user it is MajorMUD!

    GreaterMUD also eliminates the need to purchase Worldgroup. Worldgroup was abandoned years before MajorMUD and is the source of many problems that allow malicious users to cheat, crash, and otherwise destroy everybody else’s MajorMUD experience. Not to mention it will cost you 2K+ to setup a legal Worldgroup/MajorMUD system and GreaterMUD will only cost you $50!!!!!

    Face it WCC was the last to give a shit about MajorMUD. Metro released mod 9 in November 30th 2001, mod 10 is never coming. GreaterMUD is the continuation of MajorMUD. It brings the content into the 21st century.

  8. Stiffy says:

    MajorMUD will forever be a staple in the lives of the faithful. Long live colored text.

    Anyway, great mud available at realmud.com, come check it out! I’ll hook you up with dough and quests :)