TradeWars and its derivatives and clones have, since the early 1980s been widely recognized as some of the top door games of all time. Few BBSes which featured doors were without a Trade Wars style game of some sort.
TradeWars is set far in the future (dates vary) and the basic premise is that you are the owner and operator of a space ship involved in interstellar trade. The universe consists of a a number of sectors each of which may or may not contain a port. The sectors are connected by 1-6 "warps" which will take you to a different sector. Not all warps are one-way, and the map is not a "regular" map. Most ports will trade in three different commodities which are (in order of cost) Ore, Organics, and Equipment. Each of the trading ports will either buy or sell each commodity resulting in eight different port types. Another class of ports is the "Class 0" port which sells components for your ship (fighters, mines, shields, cargo holds, and possibly more). Money is made by purchasing goods from one port and selling them at a profit at another. Fighters are used to attack other players as well as (along with shields) defend against other players attacks. Mines are used to prevent other players from entering a specific area such as a profitable trade route.
The first TradeWars game was written in by Chris Sherrick for TRS-80 as a cross between Kaufman's Star Trader, the board game Risk, and Hunt the Wumpus. Later, he ported it to the Nochange BBS system on his PC. Later still, he started working with John Morris to port to RBBS-PC, renaming it to TradeWars 2 and TradeWars 2 was later included in the DoorSoft package. As with all RBBS-PC doors at the time, it was written in BASIC and was distributed as source code. The source included the following copyright notice:
Tradewars is copyrighted by Chris Sherrick. You are encouraged to distribute it freely to any and all bulletin boards. You may not distribute Tradewars in modified form without the Authors consent. Tradewars may not be sold commercially (in any way, shape or form)
And the following clarification:
You are also free to modify the source code, but Do NOT ditribute it in this modified manner! If you come up with a some modifications that you think are useful, make a BLED merge file and upload it to my system, and I'll see about putting it in the next release of the game.
Few, if any, TradeWars hackers did this. In 1986, John Morris took over TradeWars while Chris Sherrick went to college, and started releasing TradeWars using the number of sectors as a part of the door name. TradeWars 200 and TradeWars 500 were so released.
One of the first major TradeWars hackers was Lord Darkseid, sysop of Apokolips BBS in central Texas. He translated the BASIC source to a 200 sector version of TradeWars (TW3) into Pascal for WWIV. He did not, however, complete a usable editor (map editor, or user editor). Playtesting and futer bug-squashing was done by "Omega Man" and "Alex & Droogs" aka "Sorcerer" (real name Dylan Tynan) of Klingon Empire! BBS in area code 512 and their version for WWIV went live in September of 1986. They further modified the game by changing the Cabal (computer controlled enemies) to Romulans, allowed fighters to be dropped in sectors 2-7 (protected space in the original) and had Superman himself prevent the dropping of fighters in sector 1. The documentation included thanks to Chris Sherrick, for coding the game itself, and despite the fact that via the usual pirate grapevines it has come to my attention that he is aware of my version, and is not pleased at all. To him, I can only say this: THTHTHTHTHTHTHTHTHTPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!! This version was later fixed up by Prestron Stroud, sysop of File 13 BBS area code 919 and the editor a few more additions were completed by Quixotic Software from The Military Industrial Complex Site II, a 213 area code BBS.
The next major hack was "TradeWars 2001" by Gary Martin. Simularities such as the "kentmad.msg" file (the screen where Clark Kent aka Superman enforces the sector 1 fighter ban) and obvious source code similarities very strongly point to TradeWars 2001 being a hack of the Klingon Empire! source code. This was hotly denied by Gary Martin, who has always asserted that he wrote TradeWars 2001 from scratch inspred by the Cherrick version, and he worked hard to keep TradeWars 2001 source code out of circulation after people picked up on these facts. It should be noted that Gary Martin engaged in a legal effort to secure his right to distribute his game under the Trade Wars name, and that he was successful.
The next hack was by Alan Davenport who was apparently at one time a beta tester of the Sherrick/Morris version of TradeWars. Alan upgraded to 1000 sectors and distributed his version as TradeWars 1000. This resulted in Morris including comments in his TradeWars 2 distributions which were considered slanderous by Alan, and a libel suit was threatened (it is unknown if one was actually filed). Later, in 1990, Alan released Yankee Trader which sported many more features than the Sherrick/Morris version and quickly became the most popular TradeWars style game.
In 1991, Gary Martin released TradeWars 2002 which contain moast of the features found in Yankee Trader and many more that were very popular with most players and made the game deeper and more complex. This release quickly took over the entire TradeWars group of games, and today, when someone refers to "TradeWars" they are almost guaranteed to be referring to TradeWars 2002. As of 2002, with no other TradeWars games actively supported, EIS secured the legal trademark rights to TradeWars, so that TradeWars 2002 is the only legitimate TradeWars game in development today.
TradeWars 2002 remains the name despite major improvements which all recieved an additional version number. The 2002 bit is no longer incremented.
Other notable TradeWars clones and forks include "TW5: Galactic Armageddon" by Andrew Vega, "Outpost Traders" by reg Watts (MegaWatts Computing), "Galactic Warzone" by Scott Baker and "Ultimate Universe" by Garth Bigelow (Tophersoft Engineering)
See the official EIS history page for more details about this game.