Transcript of Adventure Games Conference (Compuserve, 1990)

Poking around some old disks this week I found some files I’d downloaded from Compuserve in the early 1990’s, including this gem: a moderated online discussion between some of the biggest names in classic adventure games.

  • Steve Meretzky (Hitchhiker’s Guide, Leather Goddesses of Phobos)
  • Ron Gilbert (Indiana Jones, Maniac Mansion)
  • Bob Bates (author of SHERLOCK and ARTHUR)
  • Mike Berlyn (SUSPENDED and the upcoming ALTERED DESTINY)
  • Corey and Lori Cole (HERO’S QUEST, aka QUEST FOR GLORY)
  • Noah Falstein (INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE)
  • Dave Lebling (the ZORK trilogy)
  • Al Lowe (the LEISURE SUIT LARRY games)
  • Roberta Williams (the KING’S QUEST games)
  • Coincidentally, a heavily edited version of this was posted earlier this year on The Digital Antiquarian. It’s worth reading for Jimmy Maher’s excellent introduction and footnotes, not to mention some thoughtful comments from his readers (including Corey Cole, one of the conference participants.)

    The transcript below is the online discussion as it originally took place, unedited by me, though possibly by others before it was archived on Compuserve. It is messier but I like that it reads like a conversation. You can see participants responding to each others’ points and joking around. And at one point Al Lowe appears to be trying to send commands to his modem.

    Note: as the moderator explains early on, participants type “!” to ask for a turn, “…” to indicate they aren’t finished typing yet, and “GA” to yield the floor to someone else.


    (Transcript of the Adventure Game Designers' Conference held on
    August 23, 1990 on Compuserve. The general topic was adventure
    game design.)

    (Noah Falstein) It's time - are we onstage? Is anyone listening?

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) They're all over in Room 2, Noah, and have their ears on!

    (Dave Lebling) There are 8 of them lurking!

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (Horrors!)

    (Lori & Corey Cole) Uh oh, quick, let's all get dignified. And Sirius!

    (Josho/SOL) The roar of the greasepaint...the smell of the game designers...

    (Charles/HOST) Wizzy -- Rof,l!

    (Wizzy/Sys0p)

    (Charles/HOST) (Charles/HOST)

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (Good idea, Chaz...we get 'em soused and they'll spill the
    beans!)

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (Poppin in Leroy Anderson CD.)

    (Ron (lucasfilm))

    (Charles/HOST) OK, perhaps it's time we got started
    Is this thing on?

    (Bob Bates) a hush falls over the room

    (Charles/HOST) Welcome, everyone, to the GAMERS' forum Adventure...
    Game Designers' Conference! The last time we had a...
    conference on adventure game design here it was 1985, and...
    the conversation was about writing parsers in BASIC....
    Things changed a bit since then, and to discuss...
    the current AND future state of the art we have an panel...
    of guests who have between them written some of the best...
    and best-known adventures of all time.

    Our guests tonight are:

    Bob Bates (author of SHERLOCK and ARTHUR)
    Mike Berlyn (SUSPENDED and the upcoming ALTERED DESTINY)
    Corey and Lori Cole (HERO'S QUEST, aka QUEST FOR GLORY)
    Noah Falstein (INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE)
    Dave Lebling (the ZORK trilogy)
    Al Lowe (the LEISURE SUIT LARRY games)
    Roberta Williams (the KING'S QUEST games)

    When I get started typing I really tear!

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (Large round of applesauce.)

    (Charles/HOST) Did that come through?

    (Bob Bates) Not to mention Steve Meretzky

    (Charles/HOST) And yes, special guests tonight are Steve Meretzky
    (Hitchhiker's Guide, Leather Goddesses of Phobos), and Ron Gilbert
    (Indiana Jones, Maniac Mansion)!

    (Charles/HOST) Roberta Williams and Mike Berlyn should be here shortly...

    (Accolade) hello?Hey, here I am! Mike berlyn...

    (Charles/HOST) And Al Lowe....

    (Charles/HOST) As you can see, tonight...
    we have more special guests than we usually have in the ....
    whole audience, so everybody please bear with me (and each other...)
    While we wait for the last few stragglers, let's review...the Rules!

    Before we begin, a few instructions to the designers about...
    how the conference will work....I'll ask a question, then pick...
    a designer to comment on it first. After that designer responds,...
    other designers can join in with their own responses or comments....
    If you want to make comment, type "!" (without the quotes) and I'll...
    recognize you when the person who's currently talking is finished....

    When making comments, remember to type "..." when you want to ...
    continue a line, and "GA" when you're finished.

    (Roberta) Hi there!

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) Welcome, Roberta!

    (Charles/HOST) Welcome Roberta!

    (Roberta) Hello everybody!

    (Charles/HOST) OK, we're still missing Al (I always though Al was missing
    something ), so let's plunge into the first part of this evening,
    the game design questions.

    Before I'd start, I'd like to thank Eeyore, Flying Gerbil, Steve Horton...
    Tsunami, and hercules for submitting questions... and I apologize...
    ...for mangling their questions with my editing.
    But now on to the first question!

    When you design a game, do you decide how hard it's going to be first,
    or does the difficulty level just evolve?

    OK, to start us out, let's hear what the Lucasfilm team has to say...
    Noah and Ron? GA

    (Noah Falstein) Ron, tell them about the infamous wine bottle. GA

    (Ron (lucasfilm)) Noah...GA

    (15-12,Noah Falstein) After you, Alphonse

    (Ron (lucasfilm)) Gee, thanks for bringing that up...
    I know for me that I have a general idea of how hard I...
    want the game to be. Almost every game I have done
    has ended up being a little longer and harder then I would...
    have liked. GA

    (Noah Falstein) I agree

    (Steve Meretzky) !
    (Roberta) !
    (Corey & Lori Cole) !
    (Dave Lebling) !

    (Noah Falstein) I've often put in puzzles that...
    I thought were easy, only to find in...
    playtesting that the public disagreed. But since...
    Indy III I firmly believe that one good way to go is to...
    put in multiple solutions to any puzzles that are show-stoppers...
    and to make the remaining ones pretty easy. I think thats...
    the best for the players. GA

    (Charles/HOST) OK, Steve, GA!

    (Steve Meretzky) Games that are intended for beginners (e.g. Wishbringer)...
    are designed to be really easy...
    and games intended for veterans (e.g. Spellbreaker)...
    are designed to be ball-busters...
    But since, of course, you end up getting both types for any game...
    my own theory is to start out with easy puzzles...
    have some medium-tough puzzles in the mid-game...
    and then wrap it up with the real whoppers...
    Don't ask what that babel fish puzzle was doing right near the beginning. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Ladies and Gentlemen, Al Lowe has entered the
    stadium...Roberta, you're next...go ahead.

    (Roberta) Usually the decision of how difficult the game is going to
    be is made about the time that the design actually begins.
    And that decision is based on WHO the main player of the
    game is going to be. In other words, if it's an adventure
    game for children, then obviously the game will be easier.
    If it's for families, the game will be harder than for
    children, but easier than a game made strictly for adults.
    If it's a game with adults in mind, then the difficulty
    level lies with the designer as he or she weaves the
    various puzzles into the plot of the story. I think even
    then, though, the decision of how difficult it's going to be
    is made around the start of design. GA

    (Charles/HOST) I think Roberta and I went to the same typing school.
    Corey and Lori, you're next! GA

    (Roberta) hahaha!

    (Corey & Lori Cole) We try to keep the puzzles on the "easy" side...
    in the sense of being very fair -- hints are...
    somewhere in the game. But sometimes the best...
    laid plans of designers and developers go out...
    the window when programming push time comes...
    (to mix several metaphors). But we definitely...
    plan difficulty level in advance...
    The Hero's Quest / Quest for Glory series...
    was intended to be somewhat on the easy side...
    as adventure games go, because we were...
    introducing the concept of role-playing...
    to adventurers at the same time. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Dave, GA

    (Dave Lebling) I think it's relatively easy to make a game real hard or real
    easy as far as design; what's tough is the middle ground game...
    they tend to slop over to one extreme or another, sometimes...
    both in different puzzles, and you get a mish-mosh. ...
    Also, I think alternate solutions are a red herring, ...
    because you can't make them radically different in difficulty
    or the easier one will always be found first. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Al, GA

    (Al Lowe) !
    (Noah Falstein) !
    (Mike Berlyn) !

    (Al Lowe) Does anyone else feel we should lighten up on our
    difficulty level so as to attract a
    broader audience and
    broaden our base of players? GA

    (Bob Bates) !
    (Roberta) !

    (Charles/HOST) Oooh, a whole NEW kettle of fish....Noah, GA

    (Corey & Lori Cole) !

    (Noah Falstein) Just wanted to point out that if you provide...
    incentive to replay the game, you can make...
    both beginners happy, who will find the easy alternative, and...
    experienced gamers happy, who will want to find every solution. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Mike, you're up! GA

    (Dave Lebling) !

    (Mike Berlyn) Thnx. I tend to design games that have...

    (Charles/HOST) After Dave, I'm closing the question....
    (we need to get to question #2 before midnight. )

    (Mike Berlyn) various levels of difficulty within themselves...
    And so can appeal to a broad range of players.
    In addition, making games easier isn't...
    what's going to attract more players...
    What will is designing and implementing them better. GA

    (Charles/HOST) OK, Corey & Lori, GA!

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Mike actually said just about what we were going to...
    We made a real effort to graduate the puzzles
    in HERO'S QUEST (QUEST FOR GLORY 1), easier ones in the early phases.
    GA

    (Charles/HOST) Roberta, GA

    (Roberta) In regards to Al's question - perhaps a parserless interface ...
    would help. But I still think that each game should be ...
    thought out in advance as to who the target audience is, and ...
    then go from there on the difficulty level. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Bob Bates, I seem to have missed you in the rush .
    Now's your chance. GA

    (Bob Bates) I agree with Mike that what is needed is not easier puzzles.
    I think that players want tough but fair puzzles...
    Where's the rush that comes from solving an easy puzzle - what will keep...
    them coming back for more? GA

    (Charles/HOST) OK Dave, you're up next...GA

    (Dave Lebling) Not to disagree with both Noah and Bob :), but: What percentage
    of people replay any game? What percentage even finish? One person's easy...
    puzzle is another's never-solved brain buster...
    There need to be range of games and a range of puzzles in each game...
    Even Wishbringer, Infocom's "easiest" game, had huge numbers of...
    people stuck on the "easiest" puzzles! GA

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (That's what keeps Gamers' Forum in biz!)

    (Al Lowe) ATS11=50
    (Al Lowe) ATDT82 453-0535

    (Charles/HOST) Later on, Al will be doing his imitation of a printer! :)
    Next we forge ahead to --- Question 2!

    Imagine ourselves five years down the road, with all the technogical
    developments that that implies (CD-ROMs, faster machines, etc.)
    Describe what, for you, the "ideal" adventure will look like then.
    How would it be different from current adventures?

    This time, let's start out with Roberta Williams. Roberta, GA.

    (Roberta) Actually, I think that "five years down the road" is
    actually just a year or two away. Meaning - that a year or
    two from now, adventure games are going to have a very
    slick, sophisticated, professional look, feel, and sound to
    them, and that that's the way they're going to stay for
    awhile; standardization, if you may. I mean, how can you
    improve realistic images like paintings or photographs? How
    can you improve CD quality voice and music? How can you
    improve real movement caught with a movie camera, or drawn
    by a professional animator? THAT'S the kind of adventure
    game that the public is going to start seeing within a year
    or two. Once the adventure games reach a certain level of
    sophistication in look and feel, standardization will set
    in - which will actually be a boon for all concerned, both
    buyers and developers alike. After that, the improvements
    will primarily be in the "performance" of a particular
    machine, but the look will stay essentially the same for
    awhile. GA

    (Dave Lebling) !

    (Charles/HOST) Dave, you have a comment? GA

    (Steve Meretzky) !
    (Mike Berlyn) !
    (Corey & Lori Cole) !

    (Dave Lebling) Sure! If those wonderful pictures and hifi sound are driven by...
    a clunky parser or a mystical "parserless interface," is this a big...
    improvement? I think not. We can spend $2-5million developing a...
    pretty version of Collossal Cave? Let's improve the story and the...
    interface! That doesn't mean "text adventures," but there's more to...
    stories than pictures. (end-of-flame :)) GA

    (Roberta) Can I respond?

    (Ron (lucasfilm)) Well said Dave...

    (Charles/HOST) Roberta -- after steve mike and corey! :>
    Steve? GA

    (Steve Meretzky) I think that in the future, the scope of games won't be limited
    by hardware...
    but by the size of the marketplace. Unless the market for adventure games...
    expand, it won't be economical to create super-large super-realistic...
    environments, even though the hardware is there to support them. GA

    (Charles/HOST) And to finish off our triad of former Infocommies, Mike. GA

    (Dave Lebling) !

    (Mike Berlyn) Well, I think that technology can...
    create products which drive the market and create...
    end users -- people who need or want to ...
    experience something they could experience only on the computer....
    But as for the future....
    I would like to explore "plot" as a structure...
    something which is currently impossible due...
    to the state of the current technology. Plot cannot be a...
    variable until storage increases and engines...
    get smarter. I can easily see a plot...
    becoming a network of possibilities. GA

    (Ron (lucasfilm)) !

    (Charles/HOST) That's one of the things we....
    (Charles/HOST) have been talking about in the Game Design section this month..
    (Charles/HOST) ...plot as a variable....Corey & Lori, you're next. GA

    (Corey & Lori Cole) We hope the improvements will be in story and...
    design as well as in "flash". Richer stories,...
    more realistic character interactions, etc. ...
    Technology (beyond a certain point we've already...
    reached) really isn't a big deal. Creativity...
    and understanding of the differences between...
    interactive "movies" and *games* is!...
    The move to professional writers and game...
    designers in the industry is helping. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Roberta -- batter up! GA

    (Roberta) I want to comment on the fact that Dave thought that I ...
    didn't think that a good development of plot was important. ...
    Obviously it is - and I will comment on that further in ...
    the session. GA

    (Al Lowe) crashed TAPCIS.

    (Charles/HOST) Al Lowe has returned from the Void.

    (Guruka) Congrats Al
    (Charles/HOST) Dave .... you're next! GA
    (Al Lowe) Boy is my keyboard RED!

    (Dave Lebling) I didn't want to accuse Roberta of not caring about plot, she of
    all people...
    knows about THAT! I just think the emphasis on flash is a symptom of...
    the fact that we KNOW how to do flash. Just give us a bigger machine...
    or a CDROM, and wham! FLASH! What we don't know how to do is plot...
    I don't think today's plot's are more "real" than those of 5 to 8 years...
    ago. Will they be better in five years? I hope so, but I'm not sure! GA

    (Charles/HOST) Ron, it's up to you to wrap this one up! GA

    (Ron (lucasfilm)) Well...no pressure...
    Responding to Mike's comment, I think that plot has nothing to do with...
    technology. They are almost unrelated. It's not CD-ROM or VGA that is going
    to make a difference, it's learning how to tell a story. Anyone who...
    is any good can tell a great story in 160x200, 4 colors on 2 disks. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Under pressure from the masses , I'm going to shift....
    ...up question 8 and ask it now, since it applies so well....

    With the coming of parserless interfaces...
    and digitized sound, it seems as if text may...
    eventually disappear completely from adventures....
    Once, of course, adventures were all-text....
    What was gained and what was lost from this...
    shift? Are adventures still the more "literate"...
    form of computer game?

    Let's start out with Bob Bates. GA.

    (Roberta) !
    (15-10,Corey & Lori Cole) !
    (Al Lowe) !
    (Mike Berlyn) !
    (Dave Lebling) !

    (Bob Bates) Well, of course, 'text' has become a dirty word of sorts in the
    business...
    But I think the problem has always been the barrier the keyboard presents
    as an input device for those who can't type...
    Plus the problems an uncaring game designer...
    can create for the player when he doesn't consider alternate inputs...
    as solutions to puzzles...
    I think that there will always be words coming across the screen...
    from the game. We hope we have solved this with our new interface...
    but it's hard for people to judge that since our first game won't be out for
    another month...
    Obviously you've pushed one of my buttons. I'll be quiet now. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Next, Corey and Lori Cole. GA

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Text will not disappear. Nor should it. We will...
    see text games, parserless games, and non-text games...
    and who cares about "literate" -- *fun* is what matters!
    As for "text on the screen", some of it will be spoken. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Roberta, GA

    (Roberta) Okay.... take a deep breath... buffer coming up...
    As with books, stories can be much more developed,
    involving, and interesting than with movies. As we
    progress, adventure games are really going to become more
    like interactive MOVIES. (I believe, though, that there is
    still room in this world for interactive BOOKS - hopefully
    there is a company out there who will forget about all the
    "video" stuff and just concentrate on good interactive
    stories in text, and, as such, will have more developed
    stories than the graphic adventure games.) Unfortunately,
    the movie industry is a larger and more lucrative business
    than the book industry, and so, for the most part, the
    adventure game business will go along with that same trend.
    Currently, adventure games are the more literate of the
    computer games but that may change as more text will be
    lost in the coming years - probably to be replaced by
    speech, sound effects, and animation. But - I predict that
    some company out there will see a huge opportunity for
    bringing back well-written, high quality interactive BOOKS,
    albeit for a smaller audience, but still well worth the
    effort. GA

    (Charles/HOST) OK, Al, go ahead!

    (Al Lowe) With the coming of talkies, it seems as if all those
    wonderful dialogue cards disappeared. You know, the ones
    that made silent movies so literate? It's a visual medium.
    No one asks for silent movies. (Most Americans won't even
    watch a B&W movie!) Yes, text-only games are more
    "literate". So? GA

    (Bob Bates) !

    (Charles/HOST) Hey, *I* watch B&W movies! On to Mike Berlyn...GA

    (Mike Berlyn) As far as the FUTURE of text is concerned...
    my money is on it sticking around...
    But I'm not sure it's at all necessary...
    in these kinds of games...
    The adventure I'm just finishing up has little...
    text that reiterates what is obvious...
    on screen, and so it manages to add...
    to the players' inputs in other ways...
    to create a fuller experience. But I still...
    don't think it's necessary. I've done two...
    completely text-less designes, though none...
    have made it to the market (due to publishers.) GA

    (Charles/HOST) Dave -- you're next. GA

    (Dave Lebling) Roberta and Mike made all the points I wanted to make but...
    I think :( Roberta is too optimistic about "some company"...
    putting out text products. We are moving from "interactive...
    books" to "interactive movies." I'm not optimistic about...
    the COMMERCIAL survival of text except in very small doses. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Bob, you're next in line. GA

    (Ron (lucasfilm)) bye all...got to run.
    (Roberta) 'nite Ron.

    (Bob Bates) Once again, I don't think the problem is the text on the screen...
    I think it's text as input....
    It's hard to design tough puzzles that can be solved by just pointing and
    clicking on things. And if there are no tough puzzles...
    Then you are just watching a movie on a very small screen. GA

    (Charles/HOST) On to a less somewhat less serious
    question....

    We've seen fantasy adventures, science fiction...
    adventures, mystery adventures, humorous adventures...
    Are there any new settings or themes...
    for adventures? Is there any subject or...
    theme that you've always wanted to put in...
    an adventure but never had the chance?

    To start us out on this one, let's hear from the one, the only, ...
    ...the Al Lowe! GA

    (Roberta) !
    (Noah Falstein) ! (why am I not surprised Roberta beat me out?
    (Charles/HOST) Noah -- you need to work on your arcade skills!
    (Dave Lebling) !
    (Mike Berlyn) !
    (Steve Meretzky) !

    (Al Lowe) I've had ideas for a "Wall Street" setting for a game, but
    somehow can't get out of this Larry rut. I'd also like to
    do a very serious game; something without one cheap laugh,
    just to see if I could. (Probably couldn't, though.) A
    serious romance would be good, too. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Roberta? GA

    (Roberta) Inhale....
    There should be as many settings or themes for adventure
    games as there are for fictionalized books or movies. After
    all, an adventure game is really just an interactive story
    with puzzles and exploration woven into it. There are many
    themes that I, personally, would like to do, and hopefully
    will some day. Themes like - an historical, or series of
    historical adventure games; a horror game; an archeaological
    game of some sort; possibly a western...in between "King's
    Quests," of course. GA

    (Charles/HOST) A whole list! Noah, now's your chance. GA

    (Noah Falstein) I've always wanted to do a time travel game with the following...
    features: No save/load - it's built automatically into the storyline...
    as a function of your time travel device. The opportunity to play
    through a sequence with yourself in a later (and then, earlier) time, ...
    and the ability to go back and change your changes, ad infinitum. Of course...
    the reason I'm mentioning all this is that I (and others here) have fried...
    our brains trying to figure out how this could be accomplished. We'd...
    rather see someone else do it right (or die trying?). GA

    (Charles/HOST) Ad infinitem? Won't that take a LOT of memory?

    (Noah Falstein) Recursion... GA

    (Charles/HOST) Dave, your fantasy of a theme is next. GA
    (
    Dave Lebling) Gosh, my fantasy is Noah's fantasy: I've always wanted to do a
    game...
    based on Fritz Leiber's "ChangeWar" stories -- the Snakes and the Spiders...
    battle through time and space for control of the space-time continuum...
    You know, "Tomorrow we go back and nuke ancient Rome!"...
    Funny thing, I've always run up against the same problem he ran up
    against. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Maybe Dave and Noah are the same person at different times.....
    Mike, GA.

    (Noah Falstein) It's our medium that limits us here.
    (oops, sorry, GA)

    (Mike Berlyn) My fantasy is to finish a game ...
    that my wife Muffy and I were working on...
    for the dead Infocom...
    It was a reality-based game that had a main...
    character going through multiple/parallel...
    lives, meeting people he'd met before...
    but who were different this time through...
    In that way, the relationships would be different...
    the plot would be different, and their...
    lives would interact differently. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Steve....what's your secret fantasy? GA

    (Steve Meretzky) In my secret fantasy, I answer the door...
    and Goldie Hawn is standing there wearing...
    Oh, we're talking adventure games now, aren't we?

    (15-12,Noah Falstein) So Steve's the one that writes those Penthouse things...
    (Al Lowe) yuck yuck
    (Charles/HOST) Hehehe!

    (Steve Meretzky) A lot of the genres I was going to mention have already been
    mentioned...
    But one is historical interactive non-fiction...
    I know that Stu Galley has always wanted to do a game in which you play...
    Paul Revere in April of 1775...
    And before I die I'm going to do a Titanic game...
    Also, in my ongoing effort to offend every man, woman, and child in the...
    universe, someday I'd like to write an Interactive Bible...
    which would be an irreverent comedy, of course...
    Also, I'd like to see "short story" adventure games...
    for all those ideas which aren't "big enough:"to be a whole game. GA

    (Charles/HOST) BIBLE QUEST: SO YOU WANT TO BE GOD? I like it, I like it!
    (Corey & Lori Cole) Ah, but someone will sue over the trademark
    (Bob Bates) !
    (Charles/HOST) Bob, comment? GA

    (Bob Bates) The problem of course is marketing...
    The kinds of games WE want to write...
    aren't always the kinds of games that will sell....
    This presents something of a quandry for those of us who like to eat. GA

    (Charles/HOST) This next question was submitted by Tsunami, and I'll let...
    him ask in his own words: "Virtually every game I...
    have played on my computer is at least partially...
    tongue-in-cheek. What I am interested in is...
    games with mature themes or at least a more mature...
    approach to their subjects. Games that, like good...
    movies or plays, really scare a player, really make...
    them feel a tragedy, or even make them angry. What...
    are each of you doing to try and push games to this...
    next level of human interaction?"

    Steve, you get the first shot. GA

    (Noah Falstein) !
    (Bob Bates) !
    (Corey & Lori Cole) !
    (15-1,Al Lowe) !
    (Roberta) !
    (Mike Berlyn) !
    (Noah Falstein) (Ha!)
    (Dave Lebling) !

    (Steve Meretzky) Well, I think I already did that with A Mind Forever Voyaging...
    and it did worse (commercially speaking) than any other game I've ever done...
    and as Bob just said, we have to eat...
    I'd much rather write an AMFV than an LGOP [Leather Goddesses of Phobos],
    but unless i become independently wealthy, or unless some rich benefactor
    wants to underwrite such projects, or unless the marketplace changes a lot...
    I don't think I'll be doing an AMFV-like game in the near future. Sigh. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Noah -- you get the SECOND shot!

    (Noah Falstein) I venture to predict that we ALL intend to push games this way,
    or want
    to but can't afford (or convince a publisher to afford) it. But I'll toot....
    the Lucasfilm horn a bit (Imagine the Star Wars fanfare here)...
    One way we're trying to incorporate real stories into games is to use real...
    storytellers. Next year we have a game coming out by Hal Barwood, who's
    been a successful screenwriter/director/producer for years. His most...
    well known movies probably are the uncredited work he did on Close
    Encounters and Dragonslayer, which he co-wrote and produced. He's also
    programmed his own Apple II game in 6502 assembly in his spare time.
    I've already learned a great deal about pacing, tension, character, and...
    other "basic" techniques that come naturally (or seem to) to him. I...
    highly recommend such collaborations to you all, and I think we've got...
    a game with a new level of "story" on the way. TBA next January or sooner.
    GA

    (Charles/HOST) Corey, GA!

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Computers are so stupid that even the smartest game...
    tends to do silly things. So it's easier to write...
    a silly game. Besides, the development process on...
    a humorous game to be more fun. OTOH, Quest for...
    Glory II: Trial By Fire is fundamentally a very...
    serious game in terms of storyline. But we kept...
    lots of silly stuff in to break up the tension...
    I call it the "roller coaster effect", as we...
    want the player to get extremely intense about the...
    game at points, but then have a chance to catch...
    his/her breath with comedy relief and plain fun. GA

    (Charles/HOST) The torch is belatedly passed to Bob Bates. GA!

    (Bob Bates) My games are usually fairly 'mature', but when 90% of what a
    player tries to do in a game is wrong me is, you have to keep him
    interested...while he is *not* solving the puzzle. The easiest way to do
    this is humour. (You don't want him mad at you, after all)...
    But I agree that what we all strive for is to create emotions...
    in the player - like we all had when Floyd died in Planetfall...
    Now THAT's art. GA

    (Wizzy/Sys0p)

    (Charles/HOST) Next up is Al, who has put his tongue in other places besides his
    cheek!

    (Al Lowe) Hey!

    (Charles/HOST) Roberta, take it away! GA

    (Roberta) I agree with your sentiment that most adventure games, at
    least up to now, have been not quite "serious" in their
    approach to the subject matter at hand. I think the reason
    for that, for the most part, is that professional writers
    or storytellers have not had their hands in the design of a
    game; that it's been mostly programmer/writers who have
    been the ones behind them - me included - I'm not a
    professional writer, though I'm trying to improve myself in
    that area. With "The Colonel's Bequest" I did attempt to
    try a new theme, a murder mystery, and to try to make it
    more mature in its subject matter; more "plot" oriented. I
    attempted to put in classic "scare" tactics and suspense. I
    tried to put in different levels of emotions from
    repulsion, to sadness, to hilarity. As to whether I
    accomplished those goals is up to the players experiencing
    the game. At least I tried!
    .... Now look in your scrollback buffer GA

    (Charles/HOST) Mike -- you're the next tongue in line! GA

    (Mike Berlyn) Creating emotions is the goal, here...
    if I understood the question. It isn't whether we write...
    humor or horror -- it's how WELL we do it...
    This poses a serious problem...
    Interactivity is the opposite thing that most...
    well, ALL storytellers, regardless of medium...
    require to create emotion. Emotion is created by...
    manipulation. And it is impossible to manipulate...
    emotions when you don't know where the player...
    has been, and you don't know where the player...
    is going. Unless... well, I'll talk about...
    Loom in a moment...In linear fiction, where you know...
    what the "player" has just experienced...
    you can deliberately and continuosly "set...
    them up" so you can NOT meet their expectations...
    which is the essence of drama/humor/horror...
    etc. So doing this in games requires a whole...
    different approach. And as far as what Noah...
    said re: "Storytellers," I'll ignore the...
    insult, as I'm sure all the other designers here...
    will. Utilizing, by the way, an experienced, linear...
    writer only tends to make games LESS game-ish, less...
    interactive, and MORE linear....
    In a linear game like Loom, you're not providing an interactive...
    story or an adventure game -- all you're doing is...
    making the player *WORK* to "see the movie." GA

    (Charles/HOST) Dave --- next-to-last tongue on the list! GA

    (Dave Lebling) Emotion comes also from identification with the character in
    the story. You can't easily identify in a serious way with a character...
    who looks like a 16x16 pixel sprite. And if he/she is silly looking, he/she...
    isn't much more silly looking than if he's serious looking...
    For example, Larry Laffer vs. Indy in Indy III. So you are...
    at a disadvantage being serious in those sorts of games. Maybe...
    better graphics will improve that eventually. Second, in my...
    experience serious games don't sell, and I think Bob hit...
    the point perfectly -- the player does a lot of silly things...
    even if there is no parser (running into rocks in the graphic
    games), for example, and you can't stay serious. Infocom's...
    more serious games sold poorly, and I think few others have been...
    tried, and most of those have sold poorly too. GA

    (Charles/HOST) BTW, this question is closed after Corey makes his comment.
    Corey .. lick up the last of this for us. GA.

    (Corey & Lori Cole) A really good game (or story) *elicits* emotions,
    it doesn't create them. A good design opens up the player's...
    imagination instead of forcing them along a path --
    a frustrated player is too busy being angry at the...
    computer instead of experiencing the wonder and...
    mystery of his/her character and the game world...
    By having fair puzzles and "open" stories, we...
    allow players to emote and imagine. GA

    (Charles/HOST) OK, now we turn from software to hardware....
    One of the most striking developments over...
    the last few years has been the growing use of MS-DOS...
    machines for game development. This has lead some Amiga...
    and Mac owners to complain that there aren't any...
    good adventures out for their machines, or that the...
    games that are out for those platforms don't make full...
    use of their full graphics and sound capabilities...
    How can this problem be solved?

    To start us off, let's go right back to Corey and Lori! GA

    (Guruka) !
    (Dave Lebling) !
    (Noah Falstein) $ <- not a typo, just my entire comment. (15-1,Al Lowe) ! (Corey & Lori Cole) Well, I just about went broke trying to develop... Atari ST software a few years ago. This was what... made it possible to pull up roots and come to Sierra... to do games. But I think the real value of all... the alternative platforms has been to force IBM and... the clone-makers to play catch-up. Myself, I'm waiting... for ubiquitous CD/ROM's and telecomm. I'd really like... to be doing multi-player games in a few years. In the... meantime, the cold hard reality is that IBM clones are... where the money is. (and money is a good thing ). GA

    (Charles/HOST) Guru....er, Roberta, GA!

    (Roberta) hehe! We at Sierra, probably the most guilty of developing our
    games on MS-DOS machines, are trying to rectify that
    problem. This past year, we have put teams of programmers
    on the more important platforms (besides MS-DOS) to
    implement our game development system in the best way
    possible for those machines. Emphasis is on the unique
    capabilities of each machine, and to truly be of high
    quality on each of them. Our new Amiga games have been
    shipping for several months now and have been favorably
    received - and our Mac games are nearly ready. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Dave? GA

    (Dave Lebling) Get an installed base of 10 million Macs or Amigas and you'll
    see plenty of games for them. Probably even fewer needed, since programmers
    have the hots for those platforms. But in reality, what you need is...
    companies like Sierra that can leverage their development system...
    experience to move to different platforms. As Windows and 386...
    DOS machines become the IBM standard, the differences among the...
    platforms become less significant, and using an object oriented...
    development system you can port relatively easily, just like the...
    old days. Graphics will still be a problem, as the transforms...
    from one machine to another will still be a pain. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Magnetic Scrolls is working on a portable graphics/text
    windowed adventure development system, btw...Al, you're next! GA

    (Mike Berlyn) !

    (Al Lowe) Money talks. When Mac games outsell msDOS games, you'll see
    Mac-designed games ported to PCs. When Amiga games are
    hot, etc. In other words, as long as msDOS sales are 80+%
    of the market, who can afford to do otherwise? GA
    Fast typer, eh?

    (Charles/HOST) And a straight talker, too! Mike, GA

    (Mike Berlyn) I think we all want our games on as many...
    systems as possible, but what we don't...
    want is to have to pay for them being ported....
    or adapted or improved. Here's where the...
    publishers step in to answer this question, since...
    in reality, the publishers are the ones...
    who make these decisions. GA

    (Charles/HOST) OK, next question....

    Adventure designs have recently been criticized...
    on GAMERS for becoming "shorter" or "easier"...
    Do you agree with this criticism, and if so, how do...
    you change a design to make a product "longer" or...
    "harder"? And are harder games commercially viable?

    OK, to start out, Dave Lebling. GA dave.

    (Roberta) !
    (Al Lowe) God, I love this question!
    (Mike Berlyn) !
    (Steve Meretzky) !
    (Corey & Lori Cole) !

    (Dave Lebling) Games are already too easy and not easy enough, and other
    paradoxes. Meaning that the intentional puzzles are getting too easy, and the
    unintentional ones (caused by size limitations, laziness, lousy...
    parsers, bugs, etc.) are still too hard. Harder games are commercially...
    viable but only if the unintentional difficulty is reduced. We...
    aren't real good at that yet. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Roberta, you're next!

    (Roberta) It may be true, to a certain extent, that adventure games
    have become shorter and/or easier than in the past. Four
    to ten years ago adventure games were primarily "text"
    oriented, and, as such, could be more extensive in scope,
    size, and complexity. Since the introduction of graphics,
    animation, and sound (and coming up, speech) - it is much
    more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the same sort
    of "scope" that the earlier adventure games were able to
    accomplish. Mainly, the reason for this is because of
    limitations of memory, disk space, time, and cost. As
    increasingly we adventure game developers have to worry
    about cramming beautiful graphics, realistic animation,
    wonderful sound, and absorbing plots - along with as many
    places to explore as possible, alternate paths or choices,
    and interesting puzzles - there is just so much ROOM to put
    all that in. Something has to give. Even CD technology
    will not totally solve that problem. Though there is a
    very large DISK capacity with CD, there is still a
    relatively small MEMORY capacity. Also, the way the
    adventure game program needs to be arranged on the CD
    creates problems. And, as usual, with the new CD
    capabilities, we adventure game developers are sure to
    create the most beautiful graphics you've ever seen, the
    most beautiful music you've ever heard, etc. etc. - and
    that uses up disk space...even on CD.
    Speaking personally...
    Usually I have a good sense as to which puzzles are going
    to be more difficult and which ones are easier to solve.
    There have been a few times when I miscalculated a puzzle;
    for instance - in "King's Quest II" I thought the "bridle"
    and "snake" puzzle was fairly straight forward, but no, it
    wasn't. And in "The Colonel's Bequest" I didn't think that
    discovering the secret passages in the house would be as
    difficult for some people as it turned out to be. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Heheh, creative use of the upload buffer there. ;) Next,
    Mike Berlyn. GA, Mike.

    (Bob Bates) !

    (Mike Berlyn) Shorter? Yeah, I suppose some of the...
    newer games (whose names will remain untyped)...
    are easier, shorter, etc. But unfortunately, they...
    aren't cheaper to make. I hate to tell you how much
    Altered Destiny is going to cost before it's done...
    and it ships very soon. Accolade & myself have OVER...
    10 man-years into this puppy, and a cast of many...
    in creating it. When I created Oo-Topos or Cyborg...
    or even Suspended, the time, and the money for,.,,
    development were a *fraction* of what this baby will...
    cost. In addition, games like KQ4 and others are...
    larger, give more bang for the buck, and outshine...
    many of the older games. GA

    (Charles/HOST)Steve -- you're next. GA

    (Steve Meretzky) A few years ago, I totally agreed with the statement that
    adv. games were getting too short and easy. Then I did Zork Zero, which
    was massive and ultimately quite hard. A good percentage of the feedback
    distilled down to "too big!" It just took too long to play, and it was too
    hard to keep straight everything you had to do to win the game. Plus, of
    course, it was a major major effort to design and implement and debug such a
    huge game. So, now I've come to the conclusion...
    that a nice, average, 50-100 room, 20-30 hours of playtime, medium-level
    of difficulty game is just about right. GA

    (Noah Falstein) !
    (Dave Lebling) !

    (Charles/HOST) The Coles -- you're next! GA

    (Corey & Lori Cole) There is plenty of room left for "easier" games,
    especially since most "hard" games are hard only because they are...
    full of unfair "outguess the designer" (or programmer or...
    parser) puzzles. Nobody wants to play a game and feel...
    lost and frustrated -- most of us get enough of that...
    in our daily lives!...

    (Al Lowe) Speak for yourself.

    (Corey & Lori Cole) We want smaller, richer games, rather than large,...
    empty ones, and we want to see puzzles that further...
    the story rather than ones that are just thrown...
    in to make the game "hard". GA

    (Charles/HOST) Al, did you have something to say? GA

    (Al Lowe) I've been trying for years to make 'em longer and harder!

    (Wizzy/Sys0p)

    (Al Lowe) Oh, are we talking design again?

    (Guruka) Haw!

    (Al Lowe) I have mixed emotions. I work hard on these things and I
    hate to think that most people never see the last half of
    the games because they gave up in defeat. On the other
    hand, GAMERS want meaty puzzles, and you don't want to
    disappoint your proven audience. I think many games will become
    more and more "easy" if only to attract more people to the
    medium. Of course, hard games will always be needed too,
    to satisfy the hard-core addicts. (Geez, what a copout
    answer!) GA

    (Charles/HOST) Bob Bates, you're next on the list. GA.

    (Bob Bates) You have to give the player his money's worth, and if you can...
    just waltz through a game, then what you have is an exercise in...
    typing (or clicking)....
    The problem is that the definition of who the player *is* is changing...
    In trying to reach a mass market, some companies *are* getting away from...
    our 'puzzle' roots. The quandry here is that this works. The big...
    bucks are in the mass market, and those people don't want tough...
    puzzles. The designers who stay behind and cater to the puzzle market...
    (like me) may well be painting themselves into a niche. GA

    (Charles/HOST) OK, Noah, you're next! GA

    (Noah Falstein) Al and Bob have eloquently given the lead-in I was intending.
    But I'd like to go farther and say that we're ALL painting ourselves into
    a corner if we keep catering to the 500,000 or so people that are regular ...
    players (and more importantly, buyers) of adventure games. It's like...
    the Sabertooth Tiger growing overspecialized. There are over 15 MILLION
    IBM PC owners out there, and most of them have already given up on us...
    because the games are too ... geeky (sorry folks). Without mentioning...
    that game that's LOOMing over this discussion, we've found that by...
    making a very easy game, we've gotten more vehement, angry letters than..
    ever before -- as well as more raves from people that never played...
    or never enjoyed such games before. It seems to be financially worthwhile...
    even now, and if more of us cater to this novice crowd, with better...
    stories instead of harder puzzles, there'll be a snowball effect...
    I think this is worth working towards and I hope some of you will...

    (Roberta) Here, here!

    (Noah Falstein) put part of your effort into this. There's always still some...
    room for the "standard audience" games. Interestingly enough, 60-100 rooms
    and 20-30 hours is precisely the niche we arrived at too! But let's...
    put out at least one more accessible game each year. Thanks folks, GA.

    (Charles/HOST) OK, Dave, let's put this question to bed. GA

    (Roberta) Great answer.
    (Noah Falstein) Thanks roberta. GA.

    (Dave Lebling) Wow. Most of the points I wanted to make have been made,
    and made well but I'd like to add one more. What about those >20 million
    Nintendo owners out there? What kinds of...
    games will hook them, if any? Have they written us off? I don't think...
    our fraction of the IBM market is quite as small as Noah's figures make...
    it look. Many of those IBM machines are not usable for games by ..
    policy, as they are in corporate settings. But all the Nintendos are...
    in home settings. Sure, they don't have keyboards, but if there was...
    a demand for our sort of game ("puzzle game" for want of a better...
    word), there would be a keyboard like interface or attachment, like...
    the silly gun or the power glove. There isn't. Why? Are we too...

    (Mike Berlyn) There is in Japan

    (Dave Lebling) geeky? Are puzzles and even the modicum of text left too much?...
    We will have the opportunity to find out when the new game systems,...
    with keyboards, start appearing in the US. GA

    (Charles/HOST) OK, this is the last question for panel discussion....

    We recently held a poll in GAMERS of our all-time...
    favorite adventure games. Aside from your own work,...
    what is your favorite adventure game and why?

    Noah, start us off! GA

    (Steve Meretzky) !
    (Roberta) !

    (15-12,Noah Falstein) Hmmm. This will sound like an ad, but our audience
    hardly constitutes a mass market. Ron Gilbert's next game, The Secret...
    of Monkey Island, is the funniest, and most enjoyable adventure...
    game I've ever played, including the others our company has done...
    Why? I've laughed out loud on reading and REREADING the best...
    scenes. No-bob says check it out. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Phew! That's a BIG claim!
    (Umm, folks, let's stick to games that are/were on the
    market!)

    (Corey & Lori Cole) !

    (Charles/HOST) Steve -- you're next! GA

    (Steve Meretzky) Based simply on the games I've had the most fun playing, it's
    a tie between Starcross (the first ever adv game in my genre of choice, SF) and
    the vastly ignored and underrated Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of
    It. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Roberta, tell use your faves. GA

    (Bob Bates) !
    (Dave Lebling) !
    (Mike Berlyn) !

    (Roberta) I hate to say that I don't play many adventure games -
    including our own! I really love adventure games, though.
    It was this love of adventure gaming that brought me into
    this business. However, nowadays, I'm so busy, what with
    working on games of my own, helping my husband run the
    company, taking care of kids and house, and doing other
    extra-curricular activities that I literally don't have time
    to play adventure games - and we all know how much time it
    DOES take to play them! Of the adventure games that I've
    played and/or seen, I like the games that Lucasfilm
    produces - I have a lot of respect for them, and I also
    enjoy the Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry series' that my
    company, Sierra, produces.
    Of my own games, I always seem to favor the game I'm
    currently working on (since I'm the most attached to it at
    that given moment - and right now that would be "King's
    Quest V.") But aside from that - I am particularly proud of
    "The Colonel's Bequest" since it was a departure for me,
    and very interesting and complicated to do. I am also
    proud of "Mixed-Up Mother Goose," especially the new
    version coming out. And looking WAY BACK, I still have
    fond memories of "Time Zone" - for any of you who may
    remember that one. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Corey and Lori, you're next!

    (RoboCop) YOu're a fast Typer Roberta

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Of adventure games, I liked the original mainframe Zork...
    and Space Quest 3. But our favorite games are Dungeonmaster...
    and Rogue, the only games we kept going back to replay.
    As for the favorite of all two games we've done ...
    we're particularly proud of what we are doing with...
    Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire.
    We're also proud of the first game, but we think...
    Trial By Fire is gonna be *really great* ...
    O.k., end of commercial, at least as soon as I...
    say "Buy Our Game" . But we're seriously...
    pleased with what we've done with the design. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Bob, you're next....GA

    (Bob Bates) You are standing outside a white house. There is a mailbox here.
    (Bob Bates) GA

    (Wizzy/Sys0p)
    (Charles/HOST) Mike --- GA

    (Mike Berlyn) This is my least favorite question...
    in the world. Well, okay, I could...
    think up some I'd like less...
    But it's a toss up betweennnnnnnnn....
    uhm.................
    A Mind Forever Voyaging...
    Starcross...
    and the too-soon-forgotten...
    masterpiece, Scott Addams'...
    Pirate Adventure. Yoho. GA

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (hahaha)

    (Charles/HOST) Dave, you have the honor of finishing off the panel part of
    the Co! GA

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (hahaha)

    (Dave Lebling) Hitchhiker's Guide and Trinity. Both well thought out with great
    themes. But beyond those, Original Adventure. Just played it a...
    little bit last night, and I still get a thrill from it. We owe...
    a lot to Wil Crowther and Don Woods, and I think that's an appropriate...
    sentiment to close with! GA

    (Steve Meretzky) Hear, hear.
    (Charles/HOST) Amen!
    (Al Lowe) Bravo
    (Wizzy/Sys0p) Agree, Dave!

    [Ed.'s note: Crowther and Woods were the creators of Original Adventure, the
    first Adventure game]

    (Charles/HOST) OK, designers, if your fingers haven't knotted up ....

    (Steve Meretzky) Can we all go to bed now?

    (Charles/HOST)..it's time to -- Meet the Public!

    (Mike Berlyn) yeah

    (Al Lowe) Together?

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (uploading Sanka to Steve and Mike)

    (Bob Bates) together?

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Together!

    (Charles/HOST) Folks in room 2, you may now enter room 15!

    (15-13,Summation Phage) here!!

    (Dave Lebling) Form your modems into a circle! There's injuns out there!

    (Corey & Lori Cole) All for one, and all for one!

    (Fleeting Thought) Here we iz!!

    (Charles/HOST) Type /room 15 to get here.

    (\/arzil) They're HHEHEEEEEEEEEErreeee!

    (Monte Schulz) Hello Steve, Dave, Mike B.

    (Al Lowe) There's too many people in this bed!

    (Bob Bates) Sez you!

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (hehe)

    (Mike Berlyn) Hey, Monte! What's the title of your book and when is it
    available?

    (Charles/HOST) Designers: if you are too tired to go on, you may be excused.....

    (Mr. Adventure) I hope it isn't a waterbed, it might pop

    (Noah Falstein) What's too many for you Al, more thatn 10?

    (Al Lowe) Hey, Wizzy? You got the blender going?

    (Tsunami/WAR SL) Not if you lose the inflatables, Al!

    (Summation Phage) hail mighty adventures!!

    (Bob Bates) And if we're not?

    (Dave Lebling) And Mike, what about your book?

    (Al Lowe) Who's on top tonight?

    (Slasher) Just say it Robo!

    (Monte Schulz) Mike, "Down by the River" and January -- Viking.

    (Charles/HOST) ...we'd like you to stick around for a BRIEF round of questions
    from the masses!

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) Al, naw...I retired it for the evening...too many people will need
    to drive home after this!

    (Roberta) This was fun guys! Catch you all later.

    (Summation Phage) al lowe??? of lsl 1 2 and 3

    (\/arzil) 'Bye Roberta!

    (Bob Bates) You're losing control, Charles

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) Night, Roberta. Thanks for coming!

    (Slasher) bye Roberta!

    (Noah Falstein) I have a one-month- old child, so I'll have to bow out. Sorry
    folks...

    (Charles/HOST) Night Roberta, Thanks for coming!

    (Noah Falstein) It's been fun. Bye everyone.

    (Bob Bates) Good night Roberta.

    (Slasher) bye NOAH!

    (Monte Schulz) What's the publication date for yours?

    (Mike Berlyn) My book's called Eternal Enemy, and it's out!

    (Monte Schulz) Thanks for the notice, by the way.

    (Charles/HOST) A----HEM!

    (Dave Lebling) Bye, Roberta!

    (Fleeting Thought) Bye, Sleepy-Heads!

    (Al Lowe) Does anybody want to see my impression of a printer init ...
    string?

    (Monte Schulz) Mine's out to the reviewers now.

    (Bob Bates) Good night jon boy.

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Noah, don't worry, they only take *more* time as they get
    older!

    (Dave Lebling) Bye, Noah! I've got one coming in month!

    (Mr. Adventure) Does trial by fire let you use previous character

    (Guruka) g'nite Noah.

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Only if it's multi-tasked under Eunuchs, Al.

    (Mike Berlyn) nitey nitey noah

    (Summation Phage) c-ya

    (Monte Schulz) Mike, I'm going to have Viking send my book to you, Steve and
    Dave.

    (Charles/HOST) Folks -- could we have some order here?

    (\/arzil) Monte, WHAT IS this book? Some of us are iggerunt!

    (Mike Berlyn) All right, Monte. And Muff sez Hey!

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Dave: I've always heard game designers have "fertile
    imaginations"!

    (Fleeting Thought)

    (Charles/HOST) Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    (Steve Meretzky) Okay, I'll cross it off my list of books to look for in the
    store!

    (\/arzil) Charles, don't you realize, the folks are *SICK UNTO DEATH* of order!

    (Monte Schulz) Varzil, it's a novel I wrote during the time I spent playing all
    those old adventures!

    (Mr. Adventure) order

    (Monte Schulz) A novel called "Down by the River"

    (Charles/HOST) \/arz -- yes, but we have some folks here who have been waiting
    for HOURS to ask a question!

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Mr. Adventure: Absolutely can use previous character...
    ... or can start a new one. Some small advantages...
    if you import your "So You Want To Be A Hero" chara.

    (Monte Schulz) mainstream fiction with a few deaths thrown in for fun.

    (Dave Lebling) Coles: You mean my 2-year-old is imaginary?

    (Charles/HOST) OK -- formal CO rules are NOW IN EFFECT....

    This question and answer session will be held under formal
    conference rules. In brief these rules are:

    1) The host (that's me) will compile a list of
    people who want to ask questions. When I ask for questions,
    please respond by typing "?". Each questioner
    will be given a turn to ask their questions.
    2) You can one question per round.
    3) When asking your question, type GA (go ahead) after
    you're finished asking it. When you're done with your
    turn, type DONE.

    (Al Lowe) Booooo!

    (Monte Schulz) !

    (15-38,Guruka)

    (Charles/HOST) OK, if you have a question, type ?

    (Tsunami/WAR SL) ?
    (Fleeting Thought) ?
    (Monte Schulz) ?
    (Mr. Adventure) ?
    (hercules) ?

    (Charles/HOST) Tsu, FT, we're gonna go straight to the paying customers on
    this...

    (Fleeting Thought) Cool!

    (15-2,RoboCop) ?
    (Charles/HOST) OK, Monte, Go ahead! (Be sure to say who you're talking to)
    GA

    (Monte Schulz) Okay, well last night on ET I heard someone say that because
    we've become ...
    such a visual society, that singers now need to dance, not only sing ...
    Is that true, regarding graphics with adventure gaming? Words ...
    are not enough. People don;t want to read? ...
    We will no longer have text games? We'll appeal to the masses exclusive...
    of those FEW left who like text games? GA

    (Charles/HOST) OK, designers, who wants to answer that one? GA

    (Mike Berlyn) !
    (Steve Meretzky) !

    (Charles/HOST) Mike, GA

    (Bob Bates) !

    (Mike Berlyn) Don't get confused, amigo...
    There's a big difference between dancing...
    and graphics in adventures. You were never...
    reading a book when you were playing a text...
    adventure. So don't worry about nothing. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Steve? GA

    (Steve Meretzky) I agree. I find nowadays when I write an adventure game, I'm
    writing and programming AND dancing. GA

    (Charles/HOST)

    (Corey & Lori Cole) !
    (Dave Lebling) !

    (Charles/HOST) Corey, GA

    (Corey & Lori Cole) I like words. Lori likes words. But words are...
    no longer enough if one also likes to eat. (and we do).
    We also like graphics and music and those other fun...
    things too, so it's not too big a loss. GA

    (Charles/HOST) BTW, Roberta Williams is still available for questioning
    if need be. GA

    (Bob Bates) OK, Where was she on the night of the 15th???

    (15-38,Guruka) Bob <-- hehe (she's messing around in the kitchen). (Charles/HOST) Bob Bates -- I skipped you again,
    accept my humble apologies! And GA

    (Bob Bates) PLEASE stand up immediately...
    Ahem...

    (Charles/HOST)

    (Bob Bates) The days of the text adventure are over. Graphics are here to
    stay, and that's not a bad thing, as long as they SUPPLEMENT the.
    story instead of trying to replace it. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Dave, GA

    (Dave Lebling) Unlike in SF, you don't have to follow a trend until it goes...
    asymptotic. Text won't go away, but it's role will be reduced...
    in "commercial" adventures. Graphics and sound are here to...

    (Al Lowe)

    (Dave Lebling) stay, as Bob said. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Mr Adventure, ask away! GA

    (Monte Schulz) ?

    (Charles/HOST) Monte --- only one ? per person tonight I'm afraid! GA

    (Mr. Adventure) OK. Since text was already mentioned, I have noticed a lot of
    games coming out are now 256 colors. Does this mean that 256 MCGA is
    going to be the standard? Has anyone thought about 256 in 640 X 480
    yet? And how does anyone know who has what. As far as I know there has
    never been a real poll done on what the non "COMMERCIAL" sector has. GA.

    (Bob Bates) !

    (Charles/HOST) Comments?

    (Guruka) !
    (Randy Snow/Carts SL) ?

    (Charles/HOST) Bob! GA

    (Bob Bates) The market research on who has what is abominable...
    As for us, we are releasing our titles with Hi-Res EGA...
    which gives us really good graphics on a relatively popular standard...
    as well as very nice text letters, instead of the big clunky ones. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Guruka -- GA

    (Guruka) We've been doing a bit of research on who has what hardware ...
    and an amazing number of Sierra customers have VGA cards.
    Looks like around 60% right now.

    (15-6,Dave Lebling) !
    (Charles/HOST)

    (Guruka) As for 640x480x256... there's no hardware standard for that ...
    resolution since it's not an "official" VGA mode. So my ...
    answer is no... you won't see games in that res till the ...
    engines are more powerful (gotta shove them pixels around) ...
    and till it's an official mode. All SVGA cards use ...
    somewhat different calls. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Dave, GA.

    (Dave Lebling) The emerging commercial standard is a 386 with VGA and 2-4Meg
    with a 40Meg hard drive. The "home" standard tends to lag the commercial
    one by a few years. So expect all this, with Windows as the interface. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Hercules, it's your turn. GA

    (hercules) I was very much encouraged by Bob's answer regarding the difficulty
    level of...
    adventures. How do you think about the idea of labelling difficulty levels...
    and/or estimated playing time on the box, like Infocom used to do at one time.
    GA

    (Steve Meretzky) !

    (Charles/HOST) Steve, GA

    (15-11,Steve Meretzky) That was a pretty big failure. As was said earlier about
    puzzles, one person's easy is another person's hard. For example...
    I found Suspended to be pretty easy...
    (having a mind nearly as warped as Berlynski's)...
    but many people consider it one of Infocom's hardest. GA

    (Bob Bates) !

    (Charles/HOST) Bob, GA

    (Bob Bates) The other Infocommies here can probably be more accurate...
    but my recollection is that labelling a game "Advanced" scared off people...
    and labelling a game "Beginner" turned off lots of people too...
    So all the latter games ended up being released as "Standard"...
    until they dropped the scheme altogether...
    Still, I think some sort of indication on a very easy game...
    like the ones Noah was talking about, is in order...
    The customer has a right to know in advance what he is purchasing.GA

    (Corey & Lori Cole) !

    (Charles/HOST) Mike, GA

    (15-29,Mike Berlyn) Thanks. I'm not sure that labeling a product...
    as being easy, medium or difficult is...
    a real solution. I know some games...
    which were labeled "Beginner" level were...
    too tough for me. What we, as designers, need...
    to do is write better, fairer, more rounded...
    games that don't stop players from exploring, that...
    don't close off avenues. It isn't easy, but it's...
    sure my *goal* and I like to think that others...
    share this goal. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Corey -- GA

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Loom, after all, was rated as an easy game,
    and people who were stumped on a puzzle
    felt like this meant they were dumb or something. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Good point!

    (Mike Berlyn) Yeah!

    (Charles/HOST) OK, does anyone who's NOT FT, Tsu, Randy, Monte, Mr. Adv, or
    herc have a question? If so, tpye ?

    (Fleeting Thought)

    (Charles/HOST) No?....OK, now on to the freebies! FT, fire away! GA

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (?)

    (Charles/HOST) FT, GA

    (Fleeting Thought) It can be said that one can find better graphics at the Art
    Institute of...
    Chicago than one will ever find in a computer game, better music at the Met,..
    and a better read in a good novel.... my point is, like photography in its...
    early days, seems to me computer gaming's been working hard to replicate...
    the forms and styles and content of the arts that have preceded it. What, in..
    particular, are current designers doing to focus on the nature of the....
    new medium they have available to them that does *more* than work to...
    replicate the conventions of the past? GA

    (Dave Lebling) !
    (Charles/HOST) dave --ga
    (Corey & Lori Cole) !
    (Al Lowe) Could you restate the question
    (Mike Berlyn) Oh, AL! You scamp!
    (Bob Bates) !
    (Al Lowe)

    (Dave Lebling) That's easy. You get all those things plus the illusion that
    you are controlling the reality you see, not passively experiencing it. If
    we decide to blindly duplicate other media without concentrating...
    on the interactivity and control that make ours special, your...
    objection is valid. If we work on improving control and the...
    illusion that what we interact with is as rich as reality, ...
    then we do something that none of those other media can touch. GA

    (Fleeting Thought) Dave, pardon me for...
    jumping in here, but I have to take exception to the notion that observing...

    (Charles/HOST)

    (Fleeting Thought) and analyzing a painting, listening to a symphony, or reading
    James Joyce is *passive*. Any good art, music or literature ...
    student would tell y'all otherwise. GA

    (Bob Bates) !!!

    (Dave Lebling) It isn't interactive in the sense that we don't control it.

    (Charles/HOST) Corey & Lori -- GA

    (Bob Bates) Good so far

    (Corey & Lori Cole) We have never really used the computer as a medium...
    in its own right. There are things that can be...
    done on a computer that can't be done with other...
    mediums. Unfortunately, the trend seems to be...
    away from the computer and towards scanned images...
    and traditional film and film animation techniques...
    If this trend continues, it may be a long time...
    before we truly discover what can be done...
    uniquely with the computer medium. One small...
    example -- the much-chastised "Saved Game"....
    a wonderful time- and mind-travel technique...
    than can be a rich tool instead of an...
    unfortunate necessity. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Bob -- GA

    (Bob Bates) I find myself agreeing with Dave (an alarming phenomenon)...
    You can't ask the painter in Chicago to paint you a different scene...
    You can't ask the singer at the MET to sing you a different song...
    (Well I guess you COULD, but they frown on requests)...
    The essence of the computer game is that the player controls the
    action...

    (Mike Berlyn) Hey, guys, I be history. Thanks for the fun!
    (Mike Berlyn) See you all!

    (Bob Bates) The point is to make beautiful music and art that helps enhance the
    player's sense of involvement in the game. GA
    (Bob Bates) [Drove out another one!]

    (Steve Meretzky) bye mike!
    (Charles/HOST) 'Night Mike, thanks for coming!
    (Corey & Lori Cole) bye mike, 'twas a blast.

    (Charles/HOST) OK, Randy has one last question without ANY metaphysical content
    whatsoever...Randy? GA

    (Steve Meretzky) I guess if the left coast users can start signing
    off, I can too.

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Oh no, I chased off Mike *and* Steve?

    (Al Lowe)

    (Steve Meretzky) Some dweebs in VA have booked my on an ungodly early flight
    tomorrow morning.

    (Charles/HOST) Steve -- heheh!

    (Steve Meretzky) So long and thanks for all the questions.

    (Bob Bates) booked your what on an ungodly flight?

    (Corey & Lori Cole) See you another time, Steve.

    (Al Lowe) "Anybody got any teensie-weensie jumper cables?"

    (Randy Snow/Carts SL) I am just wondering, if anyone has any plans to
    develop strictly for, or to take advantage of the Windows environment?

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (hahaha) Night, Steve!
    (Monte Schulz) Okay, have a safe trip.

    (Charles/HOST) Did everyone see Randy's Windows question?

    (Dave Lebling) !
    (Charles/HOST) Dave -- GA

    (Bob Bates) no

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (Yup!)

    (Dave Lebling) Randy, Windows is on the leading edge of the commercial adoption
    wave. The newest Windows is the first one that's really usable to write...
    serious software. There are about 1 Million copies of Windows out...
    there. No one is going to put big bucks into it YET. But in a...
    few years, yes, because porting will be easier, and there is a...
    GUI already built, and virtual memory, etc. etc. But not now. GA

    (Charles/HOST) Anyone else?

    (Randy Snow/Carts SL) Thanx for the answer.

    (Emilio Estevez) ?

    (Randy Snow/Carts SL) Slasher what are you doing?

    (Charles/HOST) Emilio -- you have a question?

    (Slasher) yes, sorry about the name!

    (Charles/HOST) Slash -- is it a quick one?

    (Slasher) yes!

    (Al Lowe) I'd like a quick one!
    (Al Lower) Isn't it always?

    (Charles/HOST) GA, Slash!

    (Slasher) okay! If I wanted to get into game designing how would I do this?
    I mean does it take years of practicing? GA

    (Al Lowe) !
    (Charles/HOST) Hehehe, that's NOT a quick one! Al, GA

    (Al Lowe) First, get independently weathly....
    Then, have everybody leave you alone for a year....
    Then, you're a game designer!
    No, seriously...
    I know Sierra is always looking for good designs, but the ...
    problem is, there are very few people who really understand ...
    the adventure game biz and can do the detailed studies it ...
    takes to get a game to completion. I'm sure most companies ...
    would tell you the same; they want new faces, new designers, ...
    but they have a hell of a time finding anyone who is good ...
    enough AND willing to persever till the bitter end. And it ...
    is bitter, eh, Corie? GA

    (Slasher) Who would I get in touch with? GA

    (Corey & Lori Cole) At times, indeed!

    (Bob Bates) If this is the end, then it is bitter.

    (Corey & Lori Cole) At other times, it's wonderful.
    (When it's bad, etc. etc.)

    (Al Lowe) Guruka would be a good start. Contact him, via CIS.

    (Dave Lebling) I think this is the end for me - this coast is getting righter and
    righter...

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Personally, I prefer the sweet end to the bitter.

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (Amen to that, Dave!)

    (Dave Lebling) Bye, all.

    (Monte Schulz) Not you, too, Dave?

    (15-17,Bob Bates) In your heart, you know you're right.

    (Charles/HOST) Yes, I think we'd better shut this down.

    (Slasher) but, I really enjoy working with computers. Does that help to get
    the job?

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) Night, Dave...thanks for coming!

    (Fleeting Thought) Take care-est, Dave!

    (Charles/HOST) Night Dave!

    (Bob Bates) Good night, sweet prince.

    (Al Lowe) Hey, Look! Here's comes Passionate Patti!

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (Again?)

    (15-6,Dave Lebling) Your score is 500/500. Rank: Galactic Emperor.

    (Al Lowe) Wait! What are you doing?
    (Al Lowe) Get off my lap!
    (Al Lowe) Oooooooooooooooooohhhh!

    (Charles/HOST) Well folks, I'd like to thank all the guest for coming, and the
    Sysops and Sls for shaping order out of chaos....and Eeyore,
    who's down the twisty little passages in 2 keeping a transcript!

    (Al Lowe) Gotta go now, guys!

    (Mr. Adventure) Al are you Passionate now

    (Slasher) bye al!

    (Al Lowe) bye

    (15-4,Flying Gerbil) Adios, slash

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) Night, Al!

    (Bob Bates) How did you know?

    (hercules) Thanks Charles. You are a great host. Good CON.

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Play games, practice your writing skills, and get to know
    your game publishers, Slasher

    (Fleeting Thought) Charles... excellent job! And all the adventure
    designers did *yeoman* service here tonight!

    (Flying Gerbil) Yo-ho, people!

    (Charles/HOST) I now declare the formal Co over!

    (Randy Snow/Carts SL) So it's over already? Gosh, it didn't last any time at
    all.

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) Better question, Charles, is who gets the pleasure of editing it
    all?

    (Tsunami/WAR SL) Great job Charles!

    (Bob Bates) Good job, Charles, I really enjoyed it

    (Corey & Lori Cole) Good-night! Al.

    (Monte Schulz) So Wizzy, what do you think?

    (Flying Gerbil) Uh-hu, I am back.

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) Night, C&L!

    (Charles/HOST) Bob -- what's the name of Steve's new game?

    (Bob Bates) Good night Coles.

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) Monte, the last time I thought I got in all sorts of trouble...
    My motto is now to speak first and think later!

    (Flying Gerbil) By, L&C

    (hercules) Would anyone like this nickle I have left after spending all my money
    on this con?

    (Bob Bates) Charles, SPELLCASTING 101: Sorcerers Get all the Girls

    (Slasher) herc-what year?

    (Fleeting Thought) Herc... any buffaloes on the back?

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) SAve it, Herc! You know you'll need it tomorrow!

    (Tsunami/WAR SL) Wizzy, Why think at all? That's *my* motto.

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) Bob, what's the proposed release date?

    (Bob Bates) Wizzy, October 15

    (hercules) Bob, what about your game?

    (Bob Bates) I'm pretty slow... I just discovered the chat mode on procomm
    My game hasn't been announced yet, dang it.

    (Randy Snow/Carts SL) Bye FT.

    (Monte Schulz) But Bob, it's only for PCs right?

    (15-7,hercules) Bob, can you say anything about it?

    (Wizzy/Sys0p) (How about he says: "I wrote it!")

    (Bob Bates) Monte, Actually, by the time it comes out, we'll probably have the
    conversions done

    (Flying Gerbil) Open invite to all gamers! Party at my place in one hour!

    (Bob Bates) Herc, Not really. But the funny thing is, that when all the writers
    were...

    (Monte Schulz) I ask because Steve askd me to test but I have only a Mac. Darn
    it.

    (Bob Bates) talking about what they wanted to work on, about half of the stuff
    will be...
    (Bob Bates) covered in my game.

    (hercules) Gee whiz. Not even an unconfirmed release date? Sounds excellent so
    far!

    (Bob Bates) Herc Springtime is all we're saying

    (Monte Schulz) Bob, so you think all-text is dead, huh?

    (Bob Bates) As far as I know, the last all-text game to be commercially released
    was Sherlock

    (15-21,Eeyore) Howdy Everyone!!!

    (Bob Bates) Welcome back Eeyore, where did you go?

    (Charles/HOST) Bob -- Eeyore was in room 2 making a transcript.

    (Eeyore) Hi Bob!!! Thanks for staying until the bitter end!!! This was great...
    almost an Infocom reunion!!! :-)

    (Bob Bates) I know - I missed Brian and Stu, though

    (Monte Schulz) And Marc Blank!

    (Bob Bates) Yes, it is tomorrow here, and Steve arrives in about 6 hours. I
    guess I should get to bed.

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