Retro Gaming – Scott Adams Interviewed

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We love retro gaming just as much as you here at Infinite Frontiers. As such, we thought you’d enjoy this interview from our archives when we managed to get the chance to talk to 8-bit gaming legend Scott Adams circa 2003/2004. Scott Adams has been responsible for some of the best text adventures to have been released during the 8-bit era, making a name for himself and his company Adventure International, culminating in the release of the Marvel Comics licenced Questprobe series.

Scott Adams circa 2004Simon: Scott, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Scott: I am 50 year old married Christian programmer living with my family on 60 acres in a secluded corner of Wisconsin.

Simon: What does the “M” stand for in your name?

Scott: I like to tell folks it stands for ME!

Simon: How did you first get started in writing adventures?

Scott: I was into personal computers before they even existed. My first was a homebrew system. My first “appliance computer” was a TRS-80 model I with Basic. I had never used Basic before and wanted to write a game that took advantage of the string capability of the language. I had played the large Crowther and Woods Adventure game and thought I might be able to do something along that vein on my little TRS-80.

Simon: Which of your classic adventures was your favorite and why?

Scott: OH gosh, never ask a parent to pick their favorite child! They are all my favorites! Of course the one I am writing now is my most favorite 🙂

Adventureland box art smallSimon: Did you ever think that people would still be playing games like “Adventureland” over 20 years after they were released?

Scott: Honestly no I did not. Nor did I expect the lovely emails decades later from folks who told me how much my games had meant for them when they were younger. And also how my games actually influenced so many careers and lives.

Simon: Your adventures have been extremely varied in style and subject matter. Is there anything in your life that has influenced these?

Scott: I am a voracious reader and have also spent some times in exotic locales like the Caribbean and Ascension Island for example. I have always enjoyed Science Fiction and like being exposed to new ideas. My temperament type is an INTJ for those who keep track of such things… http://keirsey.com/personality/ntij.html

Simon: Were you a big comic fan before you started work on the Questprobe series?

Scott: Yes I always loved comic books. While I was working on the Questprobe series Marvel was nice enough to give me a subscription to EVERY title they published. I read them all!

Questprobe 1Simon: Any favourites out of the Marvel characters?

Scott: My first favorite was always Spiderman. I started reading Marvel comics in the early 1960s.

Simon: You did the licenced Hulk and Spider-Man adventures. Have you seen either of the movies, and if so, what did you think?

Scott: I saw the Spiderman movie that was released recently and thoroughly enjoyed. Unlike many comic book movies this one tended to stay true the origins and early plot lines of the original material.

Simon: Some of your older 8-bit titles were re-released with graphics. Do you think that this enhanced the games, or detracted from the stories in any way?

Scott: It can depend on the graphics and the game. In general there is always a nice gee whiz feel to seeing the pictures. Yes how many of us buy adult novels with graphics?

Simon: After the Questprobe series, you weren’t heard of for some time. What did you do during your “break” from the games industry?

Scott: My company went out of business during the computer dive of the mid 80s. I went back to my roots as a system analyst and worked for a number of consulting firms.

Simon: Were you surprised at the response you had to the release of “Return To Pirate Island 2” back in 2000, which was your first adventure for 15 years?

Scott: Yes I was. I honestly only did it because I had been pestered by so many fans to write something. I expected it to basically die out very quickly.

Simon: Do you think you might consider releasing sequels to any of your other adventures?

Scott: I am currently starting a new series of Bible based adventures. This is enough of a task that I doubt I will do any other sequels. But I am always open.

Simon: Do you think that adventures have lost their charm when the genre moved over to “point and click” games?

Scott: There are so many adventure style sites that it shows the genre still has a good following. Novels were not replaced by TV.

Scott AdamsSimon: What projects are you currently working on?

Scott: Whoops look like I answered that before I got to the question. My next game will be aimed at the family market and hopefully will be fun for young and old alike. It will not be “preachy” but will at a minimum suggest you have a bible while you play.

Simon: Do you think that it will be easier for Christians to play than for those following other faiths or those without any religious beliefs?

Scott: I am hoping the game will be just as enjoyable no matter what your faith may be.

Simon: How would you encourage someone who has never played a “pure” text adventure to take the plunge and try one?

Scott: I have no idea. Folks taste are all different. Like anything else, you try and see if you like it or not.

Simon: When you’re not writing adventures, what do you do in your spare time?

Scott: I play computer games. I have been Everquest on and off for a number of years. I play on The Tribunal server and my main character there is Maev. I play 5 characters at once in a hydra. I like the challenge.

I am also a game beta tester for Microsoft which is quite interesting.

I horseback and bicycle ride. I also just discovered a new game called geo-caching that I am starting to get involved in… http://www.geocaching.com Anyone with a gps can play this fascination exploration game.

Simon: You’ve said that you’re a games fan. What type of games are you into, and what’s your current favourite?

Scott: Ah looks like I did again. Anyway my favorite are MOGs Massively Online Games. I have played all the major ones such as Dark Age of Camelot, Anarchy Online etc. Currently I am playing two MOGs, Eve and Everquest.

Simon: Have you ever considered making your SAGA engine available for other authors to use on a licence basis?

Scott: As a semester project I had my SAGA engine documented by a college class. After seeing what they came up with I am afraid my system is rather complex and not easily understood. I recommend folks use TADS or INFORM.

Simon: Finally, do you have any advice you’d want to pass on to would-be adventure writers?

Scott: Remember to make the game fair to the player. Try not to have puzzles that can not be solved until you already know the solution. Leave clues and hints for the clever player to follow. Remember the game is supposed to be fun and not to drive people to frustration.

Happy Adventuring
Scott Adams
www.msadams.com

Thanks to Scott for granting us this interview, and for supplying the images and photos used here.

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About Simon Plumbe 144 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian.Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe