So, you decided to have a revival of that old BBS game VSysop, eh? But after a few days you've grown entirely weary of the monotonous (w)ork (w)ork (w)ork keystrokes.

Well, have no fear... vsysopbot is here.


Late December 2003 my friends and I didn't know what we were getting into. Mat had discovered an online BBS, bbs.tarix.net, running an old game called VSysop. It was my first time playing ever. They had played before on Lower Lights, a BBS that thrived in the early 90's. The lure of the old game and its nostalgia was strong, and the next thing we knew we were knee deep in playing. It started as only a few people, but many joined over time.

I'd only been playing a few weeks when the repetitive nature of the game started to sink in... press 'w' ten times to work, 'v' to virus scan, 'm' to check mail, and repeat. And repeat. Sure, there is the occasional BBS building, buying new modems, new computers, etc, but the bulk of this game is work work work, much like real life.

VSysopBot is Born

After a couple of months of this we were still playing, but I was growing weary. The game requires that you log on every single day to play your turn, and if you miss it you fall behind.

I knew I was going on a trip (yay Orlando with Amanda, Mat, Mark!), and that I wasn't going to be able to play my turns... and thus VSysopBot was born.

What started out as a simple robot to play for me while I was gone ended up being much more - it was the breath of life that kept me interested in the game. The robot worked so well that I started using it to play even when I was there - it's constructed so that I can intervene at any time and handle the high level coaching, and then I'd put it back on auto pilot and watch it for a while until it needed me again.

The robot at this stage didn't do much: work, virus scan, check mail, and upgrade the computer. But it succeeded in gaining me my V100 computer while I was away, so I was happy.

The Attacks

Soon after coming home from Orlando the hacking started. All my friends and I ganged up on the leaders of the game, people we didn't know: Cam, Kotor, and Squishy. It was understood that whoever was in the #1 spot had the crosshairs on them, and they'd be hacked. Here was the leaderboard on 3/17/04.

Cortex (CAM)................................1.23 Score: 1,291,393
Blinken Lichten (SQUISHY)...................1.22 Score: 1,217,742
KoToR (KOTOR)...............................1.32 Score: 1,129,550
Acme (NEUROMANCER)..........................1.19 Score: 778,389 <---------YOU
Asylum Systems, Inc. (M2KE).................1.26 Score: 645,471
Lower Lights (MATMAN).......................1.27 Score: 520,716
Internal Violations (MACROS)................1.29 Score: 422,743
Udders 'r Us (M0C0W).........................1.3 Score: 362,188
Shaards Domain (SHAARD).....................1.13 Score: 327,427
Ministry of Chaos (ATAVIST)..................1.8 Score: 324,841

Of course I knew that once Cam, Squishy, and Kotor were out of the way, I'd be the next target. So I started building my defenses, and hard. That's all I did.. for about two weeks.

Multiple Accounts

Did I mention I was cheating? This whole time I was running two accounts, hell, it was easy and painless with the robot. Double account cheating works something like this: use one account to pass actions, money, or modems to another account. Essentially you focus your resources on a single account. It allowed me to make larger strides in a day than others.

Many up to this point had dabbled with the double accounts, but mostly they were bullied into dropping the second account. I even had dropped my original second account when pressured to do so as well. But Chef was under the radar - nobody knew he was mine, he played at a different time of day and always played the majority of his turn for himself, and only transferred a few actions here and there to help out.

About a week later I was #2 in the rankings, and I knew my time was coming soon. I had pretty good defenses, but I'd also seen the power of focused hacking at work - Cam, Squishy and Kotor had fallen with ease. I resigned to my fate in the hopes the game would soon end, we'd been playing almost four months at this point.

That's when I noticed more multiple accounts starting up. Well, I had no proof at the time, but after watching the call logs and the scores I had a pretty good idea. But I wasn't about to sit still when I had a robot to do all the work for me.

The Rise of the Machines

So far VsysopBot was fine for running an account that was already established, but there was no way it could bring a new account up from the start. I decided to take this on as a new programming task and again my interest was revived.

The early stages of the game require building up modems, software, caller id, learning from the hacker, computers, etc. I grew the necessary parts of the bot so it could handle the task.

Of course this new code had to be tested, so I started a few new accounts. For my new robot accounts a robot theme was in order, so Maximillian, Bishop, Tom Servo, Hal, and Ed 209 were introduced into the game. After a weeks worth of trial and error I felt I had worked out the kinks, so I added two more as the final test: Muffet and Lor.

Muffet and Lor were my first totally robot driven accounts. They worked themselves up from ground zero all the way to a fully functioning V11 computer all on their own.

My near crush and then Survival

On 4/27/04 all the attacks on my main account had finally broken through my defenses, and I was hurt. I'd fallen from the #1 spot, my computer and modems had been hacked quite nicely. I figured another day's worth of attacks would totally crush me, and then it would all be over. I could finally end this Vsysop phase of my life and move on.

As it happened though, luck was on my side... and just barely. My initial test robots (Max, Bishop, et al) had just gained the ability to join the network. With some scrambling and transfers I was able to get them built up the rest of the way so they could aid my main account with some action transfers. The extra actions helped me to rebuild my defenses, and barely. The attacks continued, but barely scratched me for a couple of days. Even with the extra help I was done for if there was a focused attack.

A pause in the hacks, a single day, was all it took, and I regained my foothold. And even though waves of attacks followed, ultimately I was able to not only regain my defenses but also start out my offense on the people above me in the rankings, and soon I was #1 again.


So as part of my confessional for my blatant cheating I present to you and the public at large, should anyone ever fall pray to this stupid game again, a piece of code that may ease the vsysop pain, and if nothing else it may contain a few secrets and insights into the game as well... who knows.

vsysopbot.zip is C++, written using Microsoft VS.NET 2003. I'm sure a port to Unix wouldn't take much effort. This worked with the version running on bbs.tarix.net, and would likely need mods for other variants of VSysop.