A PBEM game by Tim Wisseman. Despite actually being pretty lousy code (IMO), with pathetic security and done on BASIC, it has become pretty popular. This most likely is because the game, despite its faults, actually quite captivating and interesting.

The purpose in game is to conquer the universe. Players colonize planets, build ships and fight other races. The economics are ridiculously simple, and pretty much the only way to win is to go at war. The politics are as complicated as players make them; game offers nothing but message system and crude alliance mechanism to aid in this (although PHOST improved it considerably). Races are suprisingly balanced, at least enough so that every race finds a player. This is important, because by default each player in game must have different race. The races are clearly distinguished from each other, each having some special skills, making you sometimes think VGAP is a wizards & warriors RPG with characters scaled into nations. Actually, the races are one thing that makes VGAP interesting.

Despite the concept sounding pretty familiar, at least I, myself, have not seen much competition to it, not any that has succeeded, really, anyways. Stars! is one, and it seems to have its users, but in the end Stars! makes you think more of Excel in space than game. As for others, they either are too far away from VGAP to be considered competition or just never took off.

As said earlier, the technical implementation of VGA Planets is pretty pathetic. The several faults have been mended by replacing almost everything in it with 3rd party software. Despite Tim Wisseman from times to times not having been too friendly with external additions, another reason for popularity of VGAP might be its modifications. Not only the behaviour of host may be changed with plug-ins, the host and client themselves may be replaced with external software.

The HOST replacement is called PHOST ("Portable Host"), a free (but not open source, likely in attempt of Security Through Obscurite, justly so) project. IMO, PHOST is pretty much superior to VGA Planets in both features and security, but AFAIK it replaces only the HOST version 3 (DOS/Win16) version, not VGAP 4 version (Win32 version). Still, it is THE choice for hosting.

The client replacements are many, but personally VPA ("VGA Planets Assistant") is the coolest. It replaces the default client(s) completely, its UI is much better thought out and it has several features lacking from the main client (ie. logging, cancelling of commands (yes, original client didn't allow you to cancel "sent" commands that in fact were not sent yet, but cached locally), better ship builder and some calculation aid). It is free, but for registered function requires the registered version of original client (=> user pays to Tim Wisseman for software he doesn't use).

List of races in VGA Planets (original names; the names are so many it's sometimes best to refer to races by their number):