I’ve made a few bad purchases in my lifetime. We all have. But I continue to shake my head at one of the best purchases that I’ve made… or at least one of the most valuable ones!
Several years ago… way before blogging.. way before social networking… back when internet was barely breathing… one of my best friends told me about a little shareware game that he had discovered. It ran on DOS. The graphics were horrible by today’s standards. But it was fun. A space exploration, economy building, warfare indulging play-by-email game written by some guy in his basement. It used 11 well known factions from popular science fiction (Star Trek, Star Wars, Batttlestar Gallactica), each one with their own particular strengths, weaknesses, ships… and somehow managed to not get sued for copyright infringement.
It was called VGA Planets.
I sent $20 to the author, Tim Wisseman, and in a couple of weeks I had my very own copy on 3.5″ floppy disk. (remember those?) A couple of years later, a Windows version was released, and I again sent $20 US to Tim. This time, one of the disks wouldn’t work. No problem. When you’re running a one man show, customer service is everything. I sent an email to Tim, and had a new disk mailed immediately.
Over the years, I’ve played countless VGA Planets (or simply “planets” as we now call it) games with people from all over the world. It’s always been a “cult favourite” and never did go mainstream, but that hasn’t diminished it’s playability one bit. Each game tends to last anywhere from 6 months to a year, depending on the commitment of the players. If someone gets bored and drops the game, it can cause a real problem for everyone else, so it’s nice to find a good group of people and stick to that community.
I’m thankful that another great friend of mine runs a VGA-Planets server that hosts the games, and provides a stable community for those of us looking to play. These servers aren’t as numerous as they once were, and it’s important that the ones that do remain are appreciated for the service that they offer. Check out Star-Port, and don’t be afraid to click on a couple of the Google ads that you see. He’s not allowed to ask you for that, but hey.. I can. Hosting these sites isn’t free and the admins rely heavily on advertising revenue and contributions from the players. Yes, I even sent along a few dollars to help.
When I think of all the money that I’ve blown on stupid things… a couple of dollars here… a thousand dollars there… it’s amazing that I’ve gotten so much value from a $20 DOS game… I’ve seen people come and go… a few of my friends no longer play… but for those of us who do, it’s great to relive the memories from a much simpler time.