Travdan, reporting


My name is Travdan, and I’m the current maintainer of the game Space Merchant Realms. I’m an astrophysicist by training, and I worked on simulating black holes on supercomputers for the past ~10 years (for example: binary black hole mergers). Recently, I took a satellite geodesy job at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

While I’m technically a scientist, I find myself caring more about code design, performance, and automation – I think this is because these goals immediately translate into people being able to do their jobs better and more efficiently, which is very important to me. I’ve had a lot of fun applying these skills to Space Merchant Realms, but I struggle with issues of web design. I would love to be able to work with a front-end engineer who could complement my back-end expertise on a project that we were both passionate about. So while I’m primarily here to promote Space Merchant Realms and support the PBBG community more generally, I’m also hoping to meet some cool new people.

My gaming history

I started playing PBBG’s about 20 years ago when I found a game called Space Merchant. While I was in high school, all my friends played it, and they got all their friends to play it. Logging in was the first thing I did when I got home from school. Getting “podded” (having your ship destroyed by another player and ejecting into an escape pod) was one of the most terrifying experiences, and handing out my first pod was one of the most exhilarating. Like many of us do, I would go to sleep thinking about the game.

Space Merchant went down in the early 2000’s, but was revived under the new name “Space Merchant Realms” by a player named MrSpock in 2003. I played the game off and on after that. When I returned about a year ago after a few years off, I saw that the game had gone unmaintained for a couple years, and even had prominent bugs that were not being fixed. It seemed a tragedy to let the game die, so I volunteered to help. Fortunately, the previous developer had moved the source code to GitHub, so I started making pull requests. Eventually, I was trusted with ownership of the repository and access to the live server. Now it feels like a different world, because 15 years ago I was faxing suggestions to the game’s owner in Germany. Open source tools like GitHub have truly revolutionized how we operate.

I’ve played other PBBG’s throughout the years, such as Grendel’s Cave and Utopia. I’ve had to stay away from tick-based games, however, because I become addicted and they take over my life. This is the same reason that I can’t play MMO’s, even though I’ve played a few over the years (Asheron’s Call, Dark Age of Camelot, and Lord of the Rings Online).

Apart from PBBG’s, I enjoy playing puzzle games (e.g. Braid and Portal) and any sci-fi themed game (Everspace and Stellaris are my recent favorites).

How I found

After a period of uncertainty, Space Merchant Realms is poised for growth with an active developer, a strong admin team, and a solid core of players. However, none of us knew exactly how to find new players. Since our site statistics showed that an obscure link to the game in an ancient reddit post was the most popular referrer, I figured that the best place to start was a reddit post advertising the game.

I found the PBBG subreddit, made my post, and just a few hours later I was contacted by @FoohonPie, who has been incredibly generous with his time as he got me acquainted with the greater PBBG community. Discovering that this haven for PBBG gamers exists has been exhilarating, and I’m super excited to get involved.

Thanks for reading!

If you’ve made it this far, I appreciate you taking time to read this introduction. I look forward to meeting the rest of the community! If anyone ever wants to talk shop, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

And most importantly, thank you all for being here!


Hi @Travdan, welcome!

I checked out SMR recently to nab those screenies and I gotta say, I got a pretty immediate hit of excitement for exploring. I’m a sucker for interesting looking maps. :+1:

Your job sounds amazing! That vid you posted mentioned Einstein rings, something I remember reading in a book called The Cosmic Code as a kid. I always found that stuff fascinating, but tough to get my head around entirely. Very cool stuff though.

I’m looking forward to seeing where SMR goes, and hope we can find it some FE contributors. :slight_smile: Or at least some reviewers who can critique it from a UI perspective.

Glad to have ya aboard!

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