Scott Adams (Adventure International) – Interview

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Before graphics we had to use our imaginations to work out what the hell was going on. The godfather of the text-based adventure genre kindly offered to answer some questions for us. Here is Scott Adams…

 

How did you first get the opportunity to work within the games industry?

The industry didn’t exist. 🙂  I was one of the first to start it. My first game Adventureland was what I started Adventure International with sales of 50 TRS-80 cassette tapes to a Radio Shack in Chicago run by a fellow named Manual Garcia (if I remember correctly). This was in the fall of 1978.

 

Do you remember the first game you ever worked on?

I did a tic tac toe program in 1969 on an IBM 360 mainframe via a terminal at my high school. It was written in APL/360. I recently donated the source code copy I kept to the Strong Museum in Rochester NY.

 

You’ve been a massive influence on the adventure gaming genre. How does it feel that you helped shape a whole industry and what is the proudest moment of your career?

I have literally gotten thousands of emails from folks who have written to me saying how my games influenced their lives when they were children, many went on to careers in computers and many are well known luminaries of the industry today. Some of my fondest letters are those that speak of a hard childhood where my games were their highlights. One letter shared how a dying mother requested her children to bring the old computer to her bed so they could play my adventure games together again as they did when they were younger. Things like that bring tears to my eyes. I had no idea at the time how influential my work would be.

 

Can you explain your main inspirations and ideas when working on a new game?

In the past I would start with a general concept. Like the wild west or space. Next I would determine the purpose of the adventure. I then would start building an imaginary world in my head. I would then start populating it with items and places and construct puzzles to fit. In some cases like the Marvel series I would immerse myself in the lore of the IP and then build from that. I am currently starting prototyping on another large IP similar to Marvel. It hasn’t not been officially announced but to give you a hint you can seek out the Facebook page of Redwall: the adventure game and look through the posts there.  A not so subtle hint of what is to come is there.

 

What are the main hurdles to overcome when working on a text adventure? I assume the games must take a lot of planning and storylines before you even start programming.

For me it is learning and understanding the world I want my game to be set in. Whether it was created by another author or my own concepts. If it’s my own concepts then I try to use ideas and mental imagery that will resonate with others.

 

Out of all your legendary text adventure games which one are you most proud of and why?

Always hard to pick a favourite! In general, whenever I did a game I always tried to do something unique in it that I hadn’t done before. The Fantastic Four game I did where you controlled both Human Torch and Thing is one of my favorites as the TI-99/4a adventure Return to Pirate Island. It was the first and perhaps only graphic text adventure for the computers of that era that fit into a game cartridge.

 

Have you ever tried or been tempted to create a game away from the adventure genre?

Many times 🙂

I did a 2D Atari 400/800 game called “Safire” that had you act as a firefighter in a burning building. You pulled a hose through with you that might get burnt up if the fire wrapped around behind you also carried fire extinguishers and were able to kick down walls and doors. You searched for sapphires in the game so that is why the play on Scott Adams file and Safire for the name (nice! – Ed). I never released this and I simply wrote it to learn the FORTH computer language. The source is unfortunately long since lost.

I created what may have been the world’s first 16-bit computer game. See sidebar on my website www.msadams.com for more info on it.

I also was the first order for a Sphere Computer when then came out and won the first annual “what do I use my Sphere for” contest with my tank war game. To make that game I first designed my own graphic card for this text computer, hand wired it and then built tank controllers for two players. Each controller consisted of two levers, one for each hand that could move forward and back and a fire button on the top of the lever.  The only video of the game was sent into Sphere and I didn’t keep a copy sadly.

I once turned a satellite tracking radar station on the Eastern Air Force testing range into a Star Trek game at night. They only ran the station during the day and I took a Star Trek game that ran on Teletype to use the radar display screens as the game monitor!

 

There was a thirteen year gap between the release of Return to Pirates Island 2 and your latest game The Inheritance. What did you during this time and were you always itching to get back to making a new game?

When Adventure International went bankrupt I moved to Wisconsin and went to work for a fellow who started up his own consulting company. He used to run the software division of Commodore and we knew each other from there. He sought me out. This company grew, changed names, expanded and was eventually bought out by Esterline the avionics giant. I worked there as a staff engineer until I retired last year. I am now back to working on adventure games for about 32 hours a week. I have two ongoing projects at the moment.

 

The Inheritance looks like another masterpiece. Can you explain to our readers what they can expect from your latest game and where it can be purchased?

Inheritance was originally released in 2013. I am not happy with the condition the game was released in and I have withdrawn it from the market while it undergoes a major rewrite. I took an alpha of the rewrite to a game developers conference in mid-July and got a great response from the alpha testers there. I am now currently incorporating many of the ideas and polishing items that came from those playtests. I will no longer be marketing or doing games under SAGA (Scott Adams Grand Adventures) but will be under a new umbrella called Clopas. See www.clopas.net for more info.

 

What is your favourite video game of all time and why?

That is a very hard one. I think I will go with my gut answer and say Myst. I was fortunate enough to recently meet the creator of Myst and we had a great conversation. It turns out we both respect greatly the other’s work. I think you can find a picture of me with Rand Miller if you search my Facebook page.

 

If you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?

LOL! I am afraid that is something I draw a blank on. I don’t drink and don’t really follow many action arcade games anymore. About the closest thing would be for me to ask Mr. Pac Man what the heck he needed all my quarters for! 😉

 

Adrian

2 Comments on “Scott Adams (Adventure International) – Interview”

  1. Great article and great guy. Definitely helped spark my love of computers as a child. I could not get enough of those adventure games on my Commodore VIC-20 and 64.

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