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Tele-Arena Lives On

February 24th, 2011 by Multimedia Mike

Readers know I have a peculiar interest in taking apart video games and that I would rather study a game’s inner workings than actually play it. I take an interest on others’ efforts in this same area. It’s still in my backlog to take a closer look at Clone2727’s body of work. But I wanted to highlight my friend’s work on re-implementing a game called Tele-Arena.



Back In The Day
As some of you are likely aware, there was a dark age of online communication that predated the era of widespread internet access. This was known as “The BBS Age”. People dialed into these BBSes using modems that operated at abysmal transfer speeds and would communicate with other users, upload and download files, and play an occasional game.

BBS software evolved and perhaps the ultimate (and final) evolution was Galacticomm’s MajorBBS (MBBS). There were assorted games that plugged into the MBBS, all rendered in glorious color ANSI graphics. One of the most famous of these games was Tele-Arena (TA). TA was a multiplayer fantasy-themed text adventure game. Perhaps you could think of it as World of Warcraft, only rendered as interactive fiction instead of a rich 3D landscape. (Disclaimer: I might not be qualified to make that comparison since I have never experienced WoW firsthand, though I did play TA on and off about 17 years ago).

TA was often compared to multi-user dungeons — or MUDs — that were played by telneting into internet servers hosting games. Such comparisons were usually unfavorable as people who had experience with both TA and MUDs were sniffy elitists with internet access who thought they were sooooo much better than those filthy, BBS-dialing serfs.

Sorry, didn’t mean to open old wounds.

Modern Retelling of A Classic Tale
Anyway, my friend Ron Kinney is perhaps the world’s biggest fan of TA. So much so that he has re-implemented the engine in Java under the project name Ether. He’s in a similar situation as the ScummVM project in that, while the independent, open source engine is fair game for redistribution, it would be questionable to redistribute the original data files. That’s why he created an AreaBuilder application that generates independent game data files.

Ironically, you can also telnet into a server on which Ron hosts an instance of Tele-Arena (ironic in the sense that the internet/BBS conflict gets a little blurry).

I hope that one day Ron will regale us with the strangest tales from the classic TA days. My personal favorite was “Wrath of a Sysop.”

Posted in Game Hacking | 13 Comments »

13 Responses

  1. Michael Mol Says:

    Neat! Though my favorite BBS game of yore was InFiNiTy CoMpLeX. I rewrote some of my favorites aspects of IC in a Perl script when I was home sick and bored one weekend.

    As far as TA–watch out for that damned Cave Bear that shows up in the first arena; you’re not ready for him until you get well past level 1. And don’t attack the pink bunny south of town. And don’t type ‘reroll’ arbitrarily…

    I recall my mother wrote a script for rolling up characters in TA. ‘reroll’ until she had all-18s for stats.

    Some will say that LoRD or L5R were the great games of the BBS era. They weren’t. TA, IC, Kyrandria and TradeWars 2002 were. :)

  2. Multimedia Mike Says:

    Personally, I seem to recall spending a disproportionate amount of time playing an insipid ANSI-based action game called BladeMaster.

  3. Ron Kinney Says:

    Oh man, BladeMaster! That game brings back memories. In fact, I recall playing BladeMaster before ever even touching Tele-Arena.

  4. Jonathan Wilson Says:

    MajorBBS had its own MUD, MajorMUD.

    I distinctly remember someone in the family (my brother most likely) playing it back in the day, along with another MajorBBS game set in an insane asylum.

  5. Multimedia Mike Says:

    At Jonathan: Then the question becomes: What’s so special about a MUD and how is it different (and presumably so much better) from TA?

  6. Joshua Says:

    You mentioned Ron has a website you can also telnet into which hosts Tele-Arena. What is that website? Did I just miss it above?

  7. Multimedia Mike Says:

    @Joshua: It’s linked a few times in the post but perhaps a bit non-obvious: http://tdod.org/ether/.

  8. Steve Says:

    I played TA for many moons, and scripted every character type to fight along side each other. Ahhh.. that was fun.

  9. Jocomo Says:

    I think the guy that actually owns the rights to Tele-Arena hangs out at http://www.themajorbbs.com/bbs/index.php

    Been talking to some old BBS friends and start looking around, found that site and it appears some people are working on it but do plan to open source it later. But it also looks like they’ve been woring on it for a while and there’s no end in sight.

  10. Mike Says:

    So, I’ve been looking this (and other) tele-arena blogs/forums and really really want a standalone version of Tele-arena!! I’ve downloaded the Ether engine & AreaBuilder. Now, if I understand this correctly, I need to purchase Tele-Arena “somewhere” and then I can use the data files to in AreaBuilder to create the world data files.

    Is this correct? And, if so, where can I purchase Tele-Arena? Is it the one listed on elwynor.com under Mud Games for worldgroup (version 5.7) for $150.00?

    Thanks for your input :)

    — TA Junky

  11. Mike Says:

    oops, ok … it looks like I need Tele-Arena version 5.6d for its data files. At any rate I could use some assistance in clarifying what, exactly, I need to do :)

    thanks …

  12. Neal Says:

    Running Tele-Arena on my BBS. Very active game. Telnet to darkside.dtdns.net

  13. Dan Says:

    This website is so awesome, played somewhat and havent seen anyone else on yet :O