The ISA-Bus

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The Dopewars story

I’m planning a bigger update on Download Central within the next few days, involving various versions of the Dopewars concept. There are still some logistics to solve, so far I’ve done some research, and found some interesting things, especially a page on the BBS Documentary which dates back to 2001 and has some information not found elsewhere.

The origin of the concept is John E. Dell’s Drug Wars, written for a high school project in 1984. It is an economic simulation. You have some money borrowed from a loan shark. Within one month, you try to pay it back and make as much money as possible by selling drugs. There are several locations with different markets where you try to buy low and sell high, always in danger of being hunted by the police. You can buy a gun, but don’t start out with one.

Drug Wars screenshot

Within little more than a year, Drug Wars was remade by some programmers who called themselves the Happy Hacker Foundation as Dope Wars (Dope Wars was released in November 1985, but no copy of Drug Wars with the original time stamp seems to have survived). There is not much difference between the two games. Dope Wars mainly features a nicer interface, while still in character graphics, it uses more color. For some reasons, it was this name that stuck, possibly because dope sounded more harmless than drug.

Dope Wars screenshot

In 1991/92, Phil Erwin wrote Drug Lord. It had a nice animated title screen, more drugs, more colors, different kinds of guns, and instead of the boroughs of New York you jet to various American cities. Drug Lord is a bit mysterious, it was shareware, but the registration information has been lost over time. A registered version (dated 1993) did exist, MobyGames has some screenshots.

Drug Lord screenshot

About the same time, there was a new game named Dopewars. It did not have a title screen, only via the help function you could get to a notice DOPEWARS by Caliban Tiresias Darklock the Hellespontine Copyright (C) 1993 Trinity Logical Cybersystems. It was released with C source both as a standalone program and as a BBS DOOR. It looked quite different from the previous games, had some real-time elements, and played music from AC/DC, Metallica, ZZ Top and others through the PC speaker.

Dopewars screenshot

It seems that the market was saturated now. For the next few years, I could find no new implementations. There seems to be no Windows 3.1 version, though the game would have been well fit for that platform. But developers only got interested in it again when the decade was coming to an end. The beginning of the Dopewars renaissance was Matthew Lee’s DopeWars for Palm 1999.

DopeWars for Palm title screen DopeWars for Palm screenshot

2000 saw at least three new Dopewars implementations. There was Jennifer Glover’s DWars for PocketPC (Windows CE). It could be played on standard Windows as well.

DWars title screen DWars screenshot

The other two were standard Windows programs, written in Visual Basic, with confusingly similar names. There is DopeWars 2000 (one word, VB5) by Anthony Booth, which features a nice map of New York:

DopeWars 2000 screenshot (Anthony Booth)

The other one is Dope Wars 2000 (two words, VB6) by Patrick Deal. The website ( is gone, and there seems to be absolutely no info left on the web. It has numerous sound effects, background images, and a configurable window layout.

Dope Wars 2000 screenshot (Patrick Deal)

There are, of course, a lot more. For a while, the multiplayer adware Dope Wars by Beermat Software was quite popular. They went out of business in 2005. Another multiplayer implementation is Ben Webb’s dopewars. This one is open source and will probably stay around for a while. But for the time up to 2000, the account above should be fairly complete.


2 responses to “The Dopewars story

  1. Hazey June 12, 2012 at 17:42

    i cant beleive that im the only one to comment, doing a java program for school, baced of this game. very interesting. well writen.

  2. DrugLord December 15, 2013 at 00:53

    loved this game and tryed to program one myself long time ago in GWBasic !
    hehe, never finished it, its a lot of work to make it work well with gwbasic

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