- Published: Saturday, 24 April 2021 09:44
Today's BBS landscape, in terms of numbers, is far smaller than it was in the '80s and '90s. The ranks of BBSes might be smaller but the challenge of differentiating one BBS from the other is alive and well. SysOp's need to be on their toes while positioning their BBS as the 'ONE' to call or connect to for the best experience, whether the draw is message networks, ANSI artwork, or online Door Games.
From my experience during the age of the BBS, text-based door games were always the largest draw for regular users with message networks at a close second. This is at a time when there were no other alternatives for being online and those who were online... well, they were mostly the geeks among us; present company included. BBS users of all ages were connecting daily for the excitement of interacting with others without ever having to leave the comfort of their keyboards.
The challenges of today's BBSes are not that much different from those 3 decades ago; the big difference is the size of the BBS user pool. Many BBSes are competing for the same users and that is the crux of this post; how are BBSes competing.
There isn't a whole lot you can do to customize a new BBS using old technology, but this is a subjective argument that depends on a SysOp's ability to code or create bitchin ANSI artwork. So how do we compete?
- Create custom ANSI menu screens that lend themselves to the theme of the BBS
- Keep it fresh - Stale content is the killer of 'ANYTHING' online
- Customize the experience of online games if possible
There are many DOS, text-based, online games that are available and still work famously. Such titles include TradeWars 2002, Barren Realms Elite, Legend of the Red Dragon, and the list goes on. Many of these games offer the ability to customize the in-game play by changing the names of static or NPC characters, locations, weapons, armor, and other items. Some games offer separate utilities or game editors to make these modifications to the game defaults which may include the ability to make gameplay easy or difficult. The point of this rambling is to invest some time and customize your games to give them an edgier feel.
Let's look at 'Legend of the Red Dragon'. While this game has been around for a few decades, it is still a VERY popular game among BBS users and you would be hard-pressed to find a single active BBS that isn't running at least one instance of the game. With the v4.07 release of this game is a configuration utility that gives the ability to modify in-game options, and many other defaults. For SysOp who've taken it to the next level... kudos! For those who simply ran the install and added a menu item to the BBS... take a chance... live on the edge... differentiate from other BBSes.
The Rust Belt BBS is not 100% primetime available... It is still a work in progress, but one of the things I'm working on right now is to customize the gameplay. One of the problems that I have is my creative block. I can't create meaningful ANSI drawings and I can't come up with clever names for the worlds in which the games take place. But there is a fix for that and I will share it with you now. It is Fantasy Name Generators. This website has helped me make easy work of coming up with some hilariously clever names for things and people. If you're not familiar, check it out!
Another way to increase engagement with BBS gameplay is to web-enable your BBS score files. In a world where our every waking moment is invaluable, giving quick access to your game score files through a website will prevent your users from having to log in to their BBS account, only to find out they were killed overnight while sleeping in their hotel room bed. OK... This was a dramatic example but you get my drift?
I know that not everyone is a web designer/developer/geek but building a parent website to your BBS is easier than you think. Although not covered in this piece, maybe in a future article, we can go more in-depth about how web-enable the game score files. Take a look at some of these BBS parent websites as an example of what's possible.