BBS Door History / Scott Baker Interview

GB: In your opinion, what do you think made Land of Devastation, in particular, stand out from the countless other door games available at the time? What made the game unique and secure its place in BBS door history?

Scott: My vision for LOD from the start included a graphical terminal program. I had visions of an online Wasteland clone. I really wanted to have it go full screen, but I never made it there. I think the best I got to was a 5x5 graphic tile grid, but still that stood out a lot from other games that were using text. I have no idea how many people played it in graphical mode as compared to ASCII or ANSI mode, so I've never been sure. The other things that I think made my games stand out was my rapid development cycle. I was never happy leaving things stand still. I was always trying to incorporate new weapons or new devices. Sometimes I do think this created a barrier to entry for my games due to there being so much complexity hitting you right at the start.

While on the subject of graphics, I would like to thank all of those who contributed graphics to the game. They were a big part of what made the game unique, and there was some real artistry involved with some of the monster pictures in particular.



GB: Considering that your games were released as shareware with the option to buy a registration code, was your plan always to make your BBS development a for-profit venture? Can you give us some idea of how many registrations were sold during the most popular BBS years and what sort of impact the revenue had on your life?

Scott: I was interested in profit from the start. As a kid with no job, I had no other source of income to fund my computer purchases. Parents helped a bit, especially with the first couple of computers, but by the time I was 16 I was running a BBS with a couple of nodes and a couple of phone lines. I needed money to make that work. The income also helped fund my college education significantly. I don't have statistics handy, but somewhere I have a stack of registration forms that is about 3 feet tall. I'd guesstimate somewhere in the neighborhood of $40k for the two games.


GB: Why did you eventually cease development of LOD, and eventually, NETLOD? Is there any possibility that you'll pick up NETLOD again sometime in the future?

Scott: The Internet pretty much wiped out the BBS world. It wasn't competitive to write single-player-at-a-time games when there were multi-player-at-a-time games available. NETLOD was my attempt to move into the Internet world with true multiplayer play. I just never could quite get it to the stage I was happy with it, so I abandoned it. During college I wrote a lot of Internet software (usenet tools, image viewers, etc) and those things were much easier to develop and brought in sufficient income to fund my Masters and PhD.

I have tried to write a new Galactic Warzone recently, then I played 'EVE Online' and realized there's really no point in competing against something like that.

If I was to ever pick up NETLOD again, I might consider doing it for a handheld device (iPhone, Android, etc). I think it's possible there could be some interest in that environment.



GB: To conclude, is there anything you would like people to know about the work you've done outside of BBS door development, or any projects you are actively working on at the moment?

Scott: A few other bbs-related projects that I haven't mentioned: I also wrote a BBS development system called 'DoorDriver' which allowed other people to write BBS games by providing the async libraries and other support. I had a door for reading Fidonet mail called 'Echodoor' that was mildly popular, and a I wrote a transfer protocol called SZMODEM (aka Scottzmodem or superzmodem; I'm bad on deciding on names).

I do have the occasional project these days. I like working with old hardware like Russian Nixie Tubes. My personal website, www.smbaker.com, has a list of some of my more recent projects. There might even be pointers to LOD or GW binaries somewhere there.



GB: Thanks for your time, Scott! Don't forget to check out the GameBanshee BBS!