Brass Lantern
the adventure game web site


David Malmberg Interview, Page 2

by Stephen Granade

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S.G.: How many registrations did you end up receiving for AGT?

D.M.: I never really counted, but I had them in a number of 3-ring binders and the binders were bursting at the seams, so my best guess would be 600 to 800 registrations over about a seven year period. I received registrations from all over the world (before the heyday of the Internet, so it was primarily via word of mouth or via CompuServe). Also, it is important to remember that AGT was shareware, so for every registration, there were probably 10 or more unregistered users.

S.G.: Did Softworks, your company that distributed AGT, exist before AGT?

D.M.: Sort of. I wrote and published a product for the Commodore-64 and VIC-20 titled "TurtleGraphics," which sold approximately 80,000 copies and was translated into French and Spanish. It was actually published by a company called HESware, which I helped found. Turtle Graphics was a LOGO-like language/product designed to teach programming skills to "kids from six to sixty."

S.G.: What parts of AGT are you most and least proud of?

D.M.: I was most proud of two things:

1. The meta-language that I added to Mark's original GAGS. The meta-language greatly increased the power of GAGS and allowed the developer to actually create games which approached the power and sophistication of those from Infocom.

2. The other thing I was very proud of was the quality of the documentation, which consisted of a manual with over 200 pages containing a number of examples and a half dozen full-blown games, including the original Adventure translated into AGT.

I was least proud of the fact that I was never able to use AGT to create a really great original game of my own, although it wasn't for lack of trying.

S.G.: Droves of games were written in AGT; for a while, Softworks held an annual AGT games competition. Why do you think AGT became as popular as it was?

D.M.: AGT was simple to use and was very powerful. You didn't have to be a programming wizard to create a reasonably good game. Also, I believe the annual contest inspired people to try their hand at creating their own games. The annual contest was very popular and ran for seven years.

S.G.: Did you have the chance to play many of the games written using AGT?

D.M.: I played almost all of them (that I was aware of), which was both time-consuming and fun. I was always playing and judging the annual contest entries, so I was pretty busy.

It was also great to see what people had done with AGT. The range of games was truly amazing! For example:

Cosmoserve: An Adventure Game for the BBS-Enslaved. As might be guessed from the title, it was an adventure that took place inside a BBS, or Bulletin Board System, complete with sound effects for logging on, switching the computer on and off, etc. Cosmoserve was a very, very original, innovative and unusual game by Judith Pinter! This was probably my favorite AGT game.

Klaustrophobia, by Carol Hovick, was a text adventure game which started out being a little ramble through a few of life's more annoying moments, somewhat along the lines of Bureaucracy by Infocom.... However, as time goes on, the game keeps growing and growing and eventually becomes a torturous odyssey. For example, during the adventure, the player will:

The game is huge, with 560 rooms, 571 nouns and 175 creatures. Klaustrophobia was my second favorite game.

To demonstrate the full-range of AGT games there was Murder at the Folkestone Inn: A Weekend Adventure with Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis, by Anne Laughlin, which was a lesbian murder mystery that took place in Victorian times.

S.G.: When did you decide to stop distributing AGT as shareware?

D.M.: I stopped distributing AGT in late 1994 or early 1995. After talking it over with Mark, we decided to release AGT as freeware.

S.G.: What led you to that decision?

D.M.: It was a lot of work to take orders and answers support questions (especially from unregistered users) over the phone at all hours of the night. It always amazed me that people in Europe and elsewhere didn't understand that I was in a different time-zone in California.

Also, after seven years, I just simply grew tired of it. I wanted to do something else with my free time.

S.G.: Do you ever think about doing something involving adventure games again?

D.M.: I looked at Inform and TADS several times and even started to write an Inform game once. However, I realized that I would never have the creativity and talent of a Bob Bates, Adam Cadre or Steve Meretzky, so I decided to focus on playing adventure games rather than writing them.

Incidentally, my favorite game of all time (after the original Adventure) is A Mind Forever Voyaging, by Steve Meretzky.

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