Jeff Williams on the Anti-Adventure Prejudice in the Games Industry

Matt Barton's picture

I'm back this week for the second and final segment of my chat with the excellent Jeff Williams. If you don't think Jeff is awesome, it's because you haven't watched these videos. The guy knows exactly what's wrong with the industry and isn't afraid to speak his mind! You also have to admire anyone with the audacity to self-fund such a huge project and the persistence to see it through. And by the way, if you haven't already purchased Darkstar: The Interactive Movie, quit being a lamer and grab it now, if for no other reason than to support this heroic effort to fight the power. We need more guys like Jeff for the betterment of our favorite hobby.

Download the mp4 and save it for posterity!

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Rowdy Rob
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Darkstar order, and Sensible game choice.

Great show. As I said in my Youtube comments, I immediately went and ordered the game after viewing this last episode. I mentioned that I saw him on Matt Chat, and that I'm from one of the last "Darkstar virgin" states he mentioned, and he responded with a very friendly message in return. Unfortunately, I ordered it over a holiday weekend, but I should get the game within the next day or so. I'm looking forward to it!

Perhaps word should get out amongst developers that Matt Chat is good for business!

As for advice on selecting a game to feature from "Sensible Software," the way I see it, there's only a couple of obvious choices.

1) Cannon Fodder. If I'm not mistaken, you've said previously that you quite enjoyed this game. It was popular, very well done, and fondly remembered. I think they sell it on GoG now.

2) Mega Lo Mania. Great game, more "meaty" than Cannon Fodder (as far as stuff to say about it goes), and can be seen as a forerunner to Civ or Settlers or whatever.

Now for some less obvious choices, if you want to throw a curveball at the expectations of your audience:

1) Shoot Em Up Construction Kit. This is one I had a lot of fun with, and was probably the first functional game maker (not counting Pinball Construction Kit) that made semi-worthy games! But I doubt you're familiar with this one, and it would take more than a week to learn its nuances.

2) Wizball. Very off-beat, inventive shooter. A definite classic, and I quite liked a freeware remake I played not to long ago. It'd allow you to go back to the C-64 era, hitting the old-school nostalgia crowd!

3) Now this one is so obvious, but it would be totally unexpected coming from you:

Sensible Soccer!

If I'm not mistaken, it's Sensible Software's biggest hit, and there's a more modern update of it on GoG. Apparently, S. Soccer was THE GAME to play during that era if you were in Europe, and was raved about in all the magazines. No question about it, it was a smash hit, and it's a classic game!

It'd probably dumbfound your fans if you covered this game, though, who seem to be more into cerebral, non-sporty games. But who knows? As an American, I don't know anyone who's played it (and I seriously doubt you have!), but it might set the European "Matt Chatters" abuzz, and possibly get attention to your show from less-connected corners of the web!

Anyhow, it sounds like the "safest" choices are "Cannon Fodder" and "Mega Lo Mania."

P.S. I quite liked "Sensible Golf" too, but I'm not sure it's a classic.

Matt Barton
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Nice choices, Rob. I'm kinda

Nice choices, Rob. I'm kinda torn right now, because fate seems to be intervening and wanting me to cover Betrayal at Krondor! But it does make more sense to stick with a Sensible title.

I did play Sensible Soccer a bit, and I like it because (I think) it appeals equally to the non-sports crowd. It's just a fun game, period. I think I'd have a hard time talking about it for 20 minutes, though. Hm. I'm not at all familiar with Mega Lo Mania (though Jon and I chat about it). Wizball is one of my all-time favorite action games, and of course love Cannon Fodder (who doesn't?)

Shoot'em Construction Kit is an interesting choice for sure. I think I'd eventually like to do a "Construction Kits" episode that looks at several of them, probably also Budge's Pinball, etc., and maybe also construction kits built in to specific games (like the Lode Runner one).

Come to think of it, I wonder what the first game to feature a construction kit was? Lode Runner?

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Bill Loguidice
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Pinball Construction Set
Matt Barton wrote:

Come to think of it, I wonder what the first game to feature a construction kit was? Lode Runner?

I believe we got it right in Vintage Games with PCS in 1982 (pre-EA version, which was 1983). Lode Runner wasn't until 1983. Of course one could argue that a game like Eamon (1980) on the Apple II well pre-dated both those games and it allowed you to create your own text-based semi-RPG/text adventure hybrids, but I wouldn't really call that a construction kit, more of an extension of programming. There's a big difference to me between something like that and something that has what is the equivalent of a modern GUI interface seen in the likes of PCS.

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Bill Loguidice
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Early games with construction components
Bill Loguidice wrote:
Matt Barton wrote:

Come to think of it, I wonder what the first game to feature a construction kit was? Lode Runner?

I believe we got it right in Vintage Games with PCS in 1982 (pre-EA version, which was 1983). Lode Runner wasn't until 1983. Of course one could argue that a game like Eamon (1980) on the Apple II well pre-dated both those games and it allowed you to create your own text-based semi-RPG/text adventure hybrids, but I wouldn't really call that a construction kit, more of an extension of programming. There's a big difference to me between something like that and something that has what is the equivalent of a modern GUI interface seen in the likes of PCS.

It's not earlier, but taking possession today of a boxed copy of "Mr. Robot and His Robot Factory" for the Apple II (Atari 8-bit was the original) from 1983 reminded me that that game had a level editor/construction set as well. So, Pinball Construction Set at 1982 (Budgeco release) was still earlier than both that title and "Lode Runner".

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clok1966
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cannon fodder
Matt Barton wrote:

Hm. I'm not at all familiar with Mega Lo Mania (though Jon and I chat about it).

One of the first of a slew of "god games" after populous became a hit. Though I must admit it follows PowerMongers build style and pop's cartoon look (it came out after both). I played the crap out of it and it was fun, used teritories (i think it was the first to do that) in a single game... instead of them each being a single game (level) and made you multi task in several at once.

As for the first construction kit game, wasnt that Pinball construction kit?

Rowdy Rob
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Maybe (Darkstar)
clok1966 wrote:

As for the first construction kit game, wasnt that Pinball construction kit?

According to Wikipedia, Pinball Construction Set was released the same year as Lode Runner (1983). Hard to say which came out first.

P.S. Just received "Darkstar" in the mail today. I haven't opened the box yet, but I was surprised that the box looks just like a movie DVD box! It'd look right at home on the shelves of Blockbuster.

Bill Loguidice
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It really was 1982
Rowdy Rob wrote:
clok1966 wrote:

As for the first construction kit game, wasnt that Pinball construction kit?

According to Wikipedia, Pinball Construction Set was released the same year as Lode Runner (1983). Hard to say which came out first.

Wikipedia is wrong. Per our Gamasutra article (a bonus chapter from our book, Vintage Games), the Budgeco release of PCS was 1982. The EA album release was 1983. I have the Budgeco release, as well as the EA release.

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clok1966
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I'm a dummy, didnt match up

I'm a dummy, didnt match up PCS in Bills first post with Pinball Construction Set.... DOH right there in front of my eyes and I thought i was so slick :)

As for all the anti adventure in the industry... its pretty simple, they dont sell WELL... RPG sales numbers have steadly went down. The major developers/distro's are out to make money. Does that mean they are bad or have no place? NO not at all.. but you wont see it from the big time guys. Think of it like gambeling... hi lo is alot easier to win then roulette... a FPS has a much better chance of striking it rich (in the current games market) than an adventure... they are hedging there bet. Of course sombody will take a chance and hit a home run again .... but who?

side note: Im watching StarHunter ( star of Dark star old TV show) on netflix... not bad... not good, but ok :) I do like the spaceship design.

Matt Barton
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Is Bill Budge still around?

Is Bill Budge still around? It'd be great to interview him if so.

Regarding Darkstar, yes, the production value is great. I'm even tempted to get the collectors' edition or director's box (I forget exactly what Jeff calls it). If this had come out in the 90s Jeff would be a superstar. The CGI is at least as good as Babylon 5, and I've seen more than one request that Jeff make a Babylon 5 game next. Can you imagine?

It's still great, of course, but I think Jeff's right about the industry being super-jaded against adventure games in general, and FMV in particular is a tough sell. I do hope Jeff will make another game, though, since he's no doubt learned a helluva lot to make his next project go a lot more smoothly.

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