This book is about the thinking and design behind the invention of the first action-adventure game: Adventure for the Atari 2600 home video game console. It also covers the educational game Rocky's Boots, which was, in many ways, a sequel to Adventure.
I wrote the manuscript for this book in 1983-84. The idea was to write a design history of the two main game projects I had worked on over the previous five years: Adventure and Rocky's Boots. Adventure was the first action-adventure game and had sold 1 million copies. It also contained the first "Easter egg" in a computer game -- I had outfoxed Atari's management (who was trying to keep all their game designers anonymous) by hiding my signature in a hard-to-find secret room in the game world. The other game, Rocky's Boots, was one of the first educational simulations, and it won Software-of-the-Year awards from several magazines in 1982 and 1983. It was also the flagship product at the launch of the Learning Company, which was to become the dominant publisher of educational software within a few years.
Because both of these games got quite a bit of attention in their day, I thought that people -- especially those who wanted to design computer games themselves -- might be interested in the thought processes behind the final game designs.
At that time -- the early 1980's -- there were no old game designers because video games had only been around for a few years. As far as I knew, no one had ever written anything about the design of computer games. It seemed to me that although we would never be able to get a first-hand report about the invention of painting, or poetry, or song, or story-telling -- those innovators being lost in the mists of time -- that I could at least tell my part of the story about the creation of the new medium of computer games. And I thought I should do it right then, while the details were still fresh in my mind.
So I did. But by the time that I finished my manuscript in late 1984, Atari and the entire video game industry was collapsing. The publisher that was to have published my book, which specialized in computer titles, went out of business. So I was left with an unpublished manuscript, and by the time the world was again interested in video games -- thanks to Nintendo -- I doubted there would be much interest in a book about a ten-year-old video game. For many years, I thought no one was interested in the old Atari video games. But the Internet made it easier to find people a few years ago, and I began to hear from people interested in the old "classic" video games. A number of people requested that I publish my manuscript somehow, so I am now making it available on my website
This site contains additional information (on emulators, maps, links to interviews, etc.) about Adventure and Rocky's Boots. To those of you who sent me Email: thanks for your interest, and here is the manuscript you asked for. I resisted the temptation to edit what I wrote in 1983-84, figuring the original vintage would be preferred. I may clean up the hand-drawn diagrams one of these days, but for now you get it unfiltered.
Looking back, I guess Atari 2600 Adventure was the ancestor of the Legend of Zelda, the Ultima series, and many other adventure and role-playing games. Rocky's Boots was the precursor to the "sim" genre, such as SimCity. If you want to hear how it all got started, read on.
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