Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Trade Wars is the title, with some slight alteration in spelling and capitalization, of a series of computer games dating back to the early days of personal computing. Based on influences from Star Trek, Star Wars, and early BBS strategy games, Trade Wars was an early example of the appeal of multiplayer gaming. During the height of its popularity in the early 1990s, Trade Wars was the preeminent BBS game, played by tens of thousands of computer enthusiasts around the world.
The first game with the title, "Trade Wars" by Chris Sherrick, was developed in BASIC for the TRS-80, and immediately ported to the IBM PC for the Nochange BBS system in 1984. Though other space trading games appeared earlier, including "DECWAR" 1974 and "MegaWars" 1983, Sherrick states that he was unfamiliar with either game, and conceived his game as a cross between Dave Kaufman's BASIC program "Star Trader" 1974, the board game "Risk", and Gregory Yob's "Hunt the Wumpus" 1972. 
Because Sherrick released his earliest versions with a free license, many variations of the game appeared over the next few years. The most definitive version was the TradeWars 2002 series (Gary Martin & John Pritchett, 1986). TW2002 was ported to WWIV and other major BBS systems, and was a BBS mainstay throughout the early 1990s. In 1998, Gary Martin sold the Trade Wars license to John Pritchett, and his company, EIS, developed a stand-alone game server, TWGS, which has allowed Trade Wars to survive beyond the BBS era. 
Though specifics vary from one version to another, in general the player is a trader in a galaxy with a fixed set of other players (either human or computer). The players seek to gain control of a limited set and amount of resources, usually fuel, ore, food, and technology, and travel through sectors of the galaxy trading them for money or undervalued resources. Players use their wealth to upgrade their spaceship with better weapons and defenses, and fight for control of planets and starbases.
Since the basics of the game structure are numerical, these games are not reliant on high resolution graphics or rapid processing, which makes them ideally suited to low-resource computing platforms.
Today, classic Trade Wars is played primarily on TWGS systems, as well as surviving BBSs, and variations have been ported to the web, cell phones, and the Palm OS. A major on-line game based on Trade Wars 2002 was under development in the early 2000s under the name "TW: Dark Millennium", later renamed "Exarch". When the developer, Realm Interactive, was acquired by their publisher, NCsoft Austin (Richard Garriott/Destination Games), development of "Exarch" was discontinued.
- Trade Wars The official website of Trade Wars.
- History of Trade Wars Variations A detailed history of the game's evolution.
- TWGS is a modern implementation of Trade Wars that allows for up to 100 simultaneous players.
- Official Free Tradewars Servers Webring Links to places where you can play Trade Wars today.
- The Stardock The Stardock, searchable guides, telnet/web links, forums, massive file library.
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