The history of BadFellas : a free online mafia game for 8 years

BadFellas is no more. After exactly eight years, the game has ended due to a lack of time of our programmer, "Spinal". Here you can read all about the history of BadFellas.

The Start

BadFellas started in 2004. Back then there were two very large online mafia games, for both you had to pay if you wanted to do anything interesting, such as owning a casino or killing someone. On September 27 of that year, "Last don Drenth" asked me, "Spinal" what he thought about creating our own mafia game, completely free. I felt like giving it a try, but thought it would fail miserably. I had no experience with such a large project, I had only worked with PHP (a programming language) for about one and a half years and had very little experience with MySQL (a database).

On September 28 I started programming and created a basic layout. I came up with the name "BadFellas", which came from the game Grand Theft Auto III and used the same font as the movie The Godfather for the logo. Both were just temporary until we had discussed the matter. Although we changed the font in April of 2005 (fearing possible legal issues, we changed to a mafia-style font called "Onyx"), the name BadFellas stuck. A week after I started, it was possible to register, log in and change your profile. Another week later it was possible to use the airport to travel to eight countries, buy guns in the shop, send money to other players, and opening a bank account. I never expected that two weeks earlier!

At this time, BadFellas was "hosted" on my pc: I meant to program it in silence and make it public once we thought it was ready enough. However, very soon other people started playing. We had no .org or .nl domain back then, we didn't even had our .cjb.net address yet. Playing BadFellas meant going to an IP address and hoping my computer was on. I usually left my computer on when I was at school, but during the night BadFellas was offline and you couldn't play. When more and more people started playing (invited by the other admins), we got an address that was easier to remember: badfellas.cjb.net.

Growth

2005 was an exciting year: in March, about six months after we started, we rented a server and got our domain BadFellas.org. Finally people could play when I wasn't home or asleep. Unfortunately we weren't quite prepared for our own success: in December (shortly after we introduced killing in October) we were taking up so much resources on the server that we were forced to take down BadFellas. This took until February 2006 when one of our players brought us in contact with one of his friends who had a hosting company. We also introduced buying credits, which allowed players to get certain extras in exchange for real money, allowing us to keep the game online. All was fine for a few months, but after some DDoS attacks in May we moved to our own private server in June. Around that time we got the domain BadFellas.nl.
2005 was also the year we introduced the Swiss bank account (August), an idea thought up by one of our users and copied on other mafia games later on, and the newspaper started (October).

In October of 2006 we held a party because of our two-year anniversary. Though most people who attented were from the same city as us and not a lot of "strangers" came by, it was a really nice party.

Big Trouble

We ran into some really big problems in early 2007: it seemed that the person who rented us a server between February and June of 2006 sold our source code to others without our permission. After talking to a lawyer we reached a settlement with him, but this took some time and effort. Our database was also stolen and hacked, and several people had access to moderator and admin accounts. These people found out the biggest mistake we admins ever made in the game: we were players ourselves, and not in a good way. As admins we had access to all data to our competitors: what country they were in, how many bullets they had, etc. We abused this and people were (of course) not happy with this. I seriously received death threats over this. Looking back, we obviously should have never done this. It started out as a joke but got completely out of hand, we didn't expect it up front but it did. I've said it then but I'll say it again: I'm sorry about this. It was unfair and should never have happened. Several people stopped playing BadFellas because of this and that's a shame, it could have been a long-lasting feud between the two major camps at that time. Partially because of this, we had a global reset in October of 2007. All accounts were deleted, all money was gone, and everyone had a fair chance again of becoming the best player in the game.

Out of Time

In 2008, peace returned and we had a good year. Car auctions and witness auctions were introduced, as well as family car jackings. In February of 2008 I started my research project for my Master's degree, which meant working for 40 hours a week. This meant I had a lot less time to work on BadFellas, and it showed. No big new features were added until January 2009, when drive-by's were added, and in March the popular shoutbox was introduced. This introduced a lot of interaction between players.

I finished my project in September of 2009 and started looking for a place to do an internship (for at least three months). I found a place in the USA so between March and September I was abroad and didn't have a lot of time to work on BadFellas, although towards the end of my internship I started updating BadFellas more frequently again. Still, the shoutbox was the last big new feature and that was added one and a half years prior!

In September of 2011, at our seventh anniversary, I announced that the end of BadFellas might come soon. To try to change things for the better, BadFellas was reset again in November and we sent an e-mail to all former players. Several of them returned to play BadFellas once more and things seemed to change for the better. This unfortunately did not last for very long, and in February of 2012 it became clear to me that the end really was in sight unless I could find someone serious to take over the game. I made a promise that BadFellas would stay online at least until our eight anniversary, and as you now know this promise was kept and marked the end of BadFellas.

In early April 2012, the "index pages" (index, registration, contact, etc.) got a fresh new layout and a few days later, the last update to BadFellas was made: a couple of bugfixes. No changes were made since April 9 and knowing the end was in sight, I announced the end of BadFellas in May. Fewer people kept playing and things became more quiet than ever. On September 27, 2012, exactly eight years after BadFellas was founded, the game went online forever.

Let me conclude by saying what a joy it has been the past eight years. I got to know new people on BadFellas and I've learned a lot from programming BadFellas. It was an experience that I didn't expect would go this far and last this long, and it's something that (despite the bad times) I am glad to have been a part of.
Thanks to everyone who suggested new features, reported bugs, translated BadFellas into other languages, invited other people to play, and most importantly: donated money. Without all of you, BadFellas wouldn't have lasted this long.
//Spinal, September 2012

Update - 2016

It is now February of 2016 as I write this addendum. From time to time, I still get questions regarding BadFellas. Is it for sale? Can we get it back online again? But nothing ever comes of it. I've thought about it for sure, but am not 100% sure I want to get it all started again. Having said that, I do miss BadFellas sometimes and from time to time think about starting again. I've also thought about releasing the source code while writing blogs about how it works, but I didn't think there would be much interest and it would cost me a lot of time.

In the end, maybe some things are better left alone. It was fun while it lasted, now let's move and create other awesome stuff!