Update: Here's a short video of Weapon M in action.
Perhaps you've never heard of TradeWars 2002. And if you have, you might be surprised to hear that people are still playing it after more than 25 years. As a matter of fact, not only are people still playing it, but it's still being developed. It's free to play, and it has a ton of cool features we could only dream about back in the BBS days. Whether or not you've played TradeWars before, you should play it now. It's time for a TradeWars renaissance!
But there's a big problem. Not only is the game a lot more sophisticated than it used to be, but so are the players and the software they play with. We used to play with an ordinary Telnet client and record our travels in a notebook. You still can, but you probably won't get very far. TradeWars helpers have been around since the early 90s, but around ten years ago, people started using clients that could run complex scripts and record everything you see in a database. Those clients were so powerful that using one almost became a necessity.
The problem is that although there are several TradeWars clients out there, there are only two that are relatively complete and up to date. Both of them are Windows programs, and neither works perfectly on WINE. One of them comes with a steep learning curve and a crude scripting language that encourages terrible programming habits. The other is a lot more user-friendly, but it costs money and has a reputation for being slow. I think this is the biggest obstacle facing anyone who might like to slide into the captain's chair of a Merchant Cruiser. I want to remove this obstacle by introducing a client that's cross-platform, user-friendly, and free.
Weapon M is also designed to be an educational tool. TradeWars was what first got me interested in programming, and I want to help it inspire more people. Novice programmers normally can't jump right into game programming, but with Weapon M, you can. Weapon M runs scripts written in Java -- an in-demand, real-world language often used in education. Instead of writing some boring program to calculate compound interest, you can blow up somebody's planet!
Weapon M is already a functional program. In fact, most of the hard stuff is done. I wrote a rather unconventional lexer generator called JPlex, then used JPlex to write the data capture and terminal emulation. I wrote an extremely fast, pure Java terminal component that blows away any free Java terminal out there. I incorporated a database and a script loader. The only thing left to create is the map, and I've done some mockups of that:
What I'm facing now is a huge amount of very tedious work. I need to add more rules to the data parser, store more information in the database, and expand the API to make everything accessible to scripts.
This is where you come in. I've been working on Weapon M for about nine months in my spare time. If I continue to work on it that way, it won't be finished for another year or more... if ever. But if I can raise just $1000, I can start working on it as a part-time job and finish the core features in about eight weeks.
I've identified three basic development milestones, each of which should take 2-3 weeks:
- Complete data capture for TradeWars Game Server version 2. The standard for completeness is capturing everything captured by the two leading helpers.
- Complete script API. The standard for completeness is access to all data, as well as the ability to register listeners for game events and write to the network and the terminal.
- Develop the map, and give scripts the ability to (at least) open and center it.
At its most basic funding level, Weapon M will be a data-capturing terminal that provides a map and a blank slate for writing your own scripts. But I hope to make it much more than that. For each $250 raised beyond the basic funding goal, I can complete one stretch goal in about two weeks. The first stretch goal will be a demo script pack (including auto-login and auto-haggle scripts) and a scripting tutorial. After that, stretch goals will be completed in an order voted upon by contributors. Stretch goals I have in mind, in no particular order:
- A comprehensive TradeWars tutorial.
- Complete data capture for TWGS version 1.
- Script packs - I'm wary of over- or under-committing on this goal more than any other. I think 3-4 scripts per pack is realistic. Priorities include ZTM, PPT, SSM, SST, PT, probe explorer, and colonizer.
- Extracting the terminal component and releasing it under the BSD license, along with a standard Telnet/VT-series emulation.
Since the goal is to create something free, the rewards primarily involve early access so you can get a head start on writing your scripts of mass destruction.
With your help, I can open the next chapter in the long history of TradeWars. Thanks for your support, and I'll see you in FedSpace!
TradeWars 2002 and TradeWars Game Server are trademarks of Epic Interactive Strategy.
- (14 days)