TribeNet started as a Play-by-Mail game in the mid 80s, finding a player base in the Diplomacy and Wargaming clubs in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, Australia. It has been running as a PBEM since 1997. The most recent version started in 2013.
Originally, in 1985, there was Jeff Perkins’ first continent called “Pi”. This was a straight PBM game. It was something of a Beta test. A few years later the game had expanded so much that he set up another continent. At one stage 45-50 players were playing, and, as turns were hand processed, it took him 60 hours to complete a full turn. Jeff would also do a regular hand compiled newsletter with messages from players, then prepare reports for posting, which would include inserting individual messages from one player to another.
Turns were printed using a printer ribbon that guaranteed illegibility, thus players back then had to read their reports carefully before submitting their next orders. At this stage he had two young sons, and anyone with kids and a job can appreciate the passion and energy that Jeff put into the game.
As the first continent started to fill, he began a second continent and all new starts went there until there were only three Clans left on the original. I [the GM] was the first player placed on that second continent (075). A standard start-up position was Hunt2, Herd2 and a few other skills thrown in, plus a random 6 – I was lucky to land For6, others, with something like Art6 at start-up, were less impressed. On the whole of the continent you could count the deciduous hexes and jungle hexes on one hand, and while there were a few conifer hills the fact that you started with Hunt2, Herd2 meant that you spent about 2 years just ensuring your food supply. I well remember some of the colourful clan names and chiefs. One of my favourites was George Smirnow who was Clan 003 and went by the name of the Three Stoooges. In fact it was George who introduced me to the game in 1991 when I observed him poring over some hex paper at a Victorian Dilpomacy Club gathering.
In around 1994 we, the players, received a note in the post (instead of our turn report) saying “Tribe Vibes can no longer be run”. One of the main reasons for this appears to be that Jeff could not handle the burgeoning research projects (to say nothing of the 40-60 phone calls per week – remember this was pre-email). Out of this “Dark period” emerged the first of the acolyte GM’s, Max: “I took over (and spawned Maxland) in mid-1994. This was some time in the game year 908”. I am not sure exactly when Max handed over the reigns to Andrew (citing the need for a “job” – an excuse generally regarded as rather lame). I suspect his tenure was around two or so years. So Andrew started up in around 1996. I started TribeNet in early 1997 and this was the first pure email version of the game. A couple of years later Andrew began Anneland, and then after this, Jeff Fallon began Groland – making 4 games and 5 continents in all. I have subsequently added Cyberia, Tresmania and the Pelagoria Islands to my world, and many grey hairs to my head – at least I would have had they not all fallen out!