Source:Huw Williams correspondence
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2012 – present
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18 January 2014:
Interesting to get your email after all these years.
In 1981 or 1982, I was around 13-14 years old and was a budding entrepreneur. I was looking around for a way to make a bit of extra spending money. I found the Eamon adventure games and thought they were kind of fun to play, but there was no real organization to them. (Reading Wikipedia today it says something different but I am giving you my perspective.) So I started collecting them and assigning numbers to them. If I recall, I ended up with over 120 that I would sell via mail order. I printed up a 8.5 x 11 and then an 8.5 x 14 inch sheet that listed everything and I would mail them out. Checks would arrive and I would copy the games on my Apple IIe. The price was a couple of dollars each but I would put together larger bundles that were a better value.
Then I created a subscription offer called AdventureDisk where I would make a monthly disk containing an Eamon game, and some other adventure game content. I probably made around 10-15 issues in all. I was working with a very talented programmer who was probably 14-16 years old at that time. He designed the interface (menu) and helped create some of the content. I can't remember his name, but I wouldn't be surprised if he went on to great things. I never met him in person.
Now it is 30+ years later and I don't think I have any of the old disks.
I don't remember how or where I advertised the games, but A+ Magazine sounds about right.
I do remember that in 1986, I placed a $30 classified ad in the back of Softalk Magazine advertising something I created called the Print Shop Users Club (public domain clip art for Broderbund's Print Shop program). I probably received back around $250 in orders and I thought I was on to something. Eventually I had 30,000+ "members" of the Print Shop Users Club and I sold related products via Mail Order.
Along the way things evolved from public domain clipart for Print Shop into my selling original and licensed clip art for a competitive product called Instant Artist (renamed Print Artist) that was first sold by Autodesk, then Maxis and then by Sierra Online. That put me in contact with Ken Williams in the early Leisure Suit Larry days.
I spent a lot of time in the mail order clip art business. We also started developing our own software products that helped people organize and use their clipart. (I know this is outside of your area of interest). Eventually the company (since renamed GraphicCorp) created clipart using 100+ artists around the world (India, Ukraine, Canada, US) and licensed it to various software publishers (Microsoft, Sierra, Broderbund, Corel, etc.) for use in their products.
My long ride in the clip art business ended in 1999 with my selling GraphicCorp to Corel.
14 May 2022
Fun Facts about Temple of Dread:
This is the only existing version. I estimate it to be around the 30th revision. I wrote the first version when I was still in Junior High, two years before I discovered Eamon.
It originally had an Ultima-style interface (which I much preferred) but years later, when I was selling it to Softdisk, Lee Golden ask me to "Eamonize" it because they had just published Redemption and didn't want to confuse subscribers with another interface. My compromise was to keep the 1-letter commands as abbreviations.
"Tiffany" was named after Tiffany McKenzie, a girl I had a brief crush on in 9th grade. :D
"Griffinville" was named for my best friend since 9th grade, J. Houston Griffin.
"Dr. Sax" was a nod to Jack Kerouac and also a pseudonym I used back then. I even had a cool graphic logo and everything, which I should be able to dig up.
The intro splash screen was originally drawn on taped together pieces of graph paper that covered my bedroom floor. I then painstakingly wrote Applesoft programs to re-draw it using the coordinates from the graph paper. I was a bit disenchanted when SoftDisk chopped it up, but glad they at least used it. (The version I released has the splash screen reinstated.)
The intro splash screen is a recolor I did using a program called "SoftPaint", also by SoftDisk. I —THINK— I may have the original color and black and white versions from my graph paper endeavor. I actually preferred the original colors but the notorious Apple II HIRES screen had some issues that I can't remember.
I actually hated this game by the time I sold it. As I said, this was about the 30th revision and rewriting the interface was annoying. Still, I was only 17 and SoftDisk paid me $500 for it when the Apple II was already considered obsolete, so I couldn't complain. TBH I really enjoy it now and am actually proud of it.
I originally had really neat hand drawn maps, on graph paper in AD&D style. I actually drew the maps first and built the adventure around them. I lost all my physical records a few years ago and I am not sure if I ever scanned these or shared them anywhere.
31 May 2022
Q: How did you first get into Eamon? What prompted or inspired you to write your first adventure?
A: I read about Eamon in a magazine called (I think) Incider/A+. I think it was the last newsstand magazine publishing Apple II material, with half of it devoted to Mac. From what I read it sounded awesome! I also subscribed to the EAG newsletter and used to read through it hungrily every month even though I had yet to play Eamon at all. About a year later my family moved to Denver and I found an Apple II user group that had a large collection of Eamon adventures.
It was kind of awkward at first because I was about 15/16 and everybody else was in their 30s or older, haha, but I left with my first color monitor and a pile of public domain software, including a bunch of Eamons that I selected.
I must say, I was less than impressed at the time. While I generally liked the concept and the storytelling in the adventures, they were slow and crashed all the time. What I didn't know was that the user group had all the original versions before the NEUC and EAG added speed-ups and bug fixes.
I remember being really into DharmaQuest and spending a whole afternoon waiting on the Main Loop (it was at least a minute between commands, even error messages) and then it crashed half way in anyway.
So, yeah, I thought Eamon kind of sucked at first. I decided to write my own anyway (Adventure in Interzone) and just kind of threw some random stuff together (I was reading Naked Lunch at the time, so some characters from there got sprinkled in, along with who knows what else I was into). I quickly noticed that the more I added the slower it ran so I cut it off at 30 rooms or so, threw it in an envelope and sent it to the EAG.
I was extremely shocked when Tom Zuchowski wrote back with a 5 page letter with some testing issues, suggestions and questions about why I used such an outdated dungeon designer. He was very positive even though I sent him a very sub-par adventure and gave me a bunch of floppies for free, including the 7.1 Dungeon Designer, an 80-Column version of Dungeon of Doom and some other goodies.
Well, right then and there I was hooked. I loved Eamon once the bugs and technical hurdles were fixed and I knew I had to completely overhaul Interzone. As I did that I started getting more ideas and adding more to it and it kind of all fell into place. So basically, it's kind of a Frankenstein's' monster of an adventure. :)
I think I worked on it for a year, maybe longer, and incorporated Tom's suggestions (even the humorous "don't offend me" option). Tom was always a great guy to correspond with and always really helpful. I guess you could say he actually got me into Eamon.
Q: What kind of programming had you done prior to writing the adventure?
A: A lot of BASIC programming of all sorts, primarily primitive adventure games and aborted attempts to convert the original D&D game. I wrote a lot of menus for my software collection and probably modified every program I got from my public domain haul. Early on I found I had an interest in making software as user friendly and intuitive as possible — and monkeying around with other people's code. Haha
I was just getting into 6502 machine language too, thanks to a stack of used Nibble magazines I picked up, and having checked out every book on the Apple II from a variety libraries. I didn't have an assembler yet though so my experience was very limited.
Q: What are some other authors/books/games that you particularly enjoy or take inspiration from?
A: An extremely wide variety. I have always loved fantasy/sci-fi/horror. As a kid I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi books. I got into counter-culture and classic literature around 9th grade (I doubt my teachers or classmates had a clue I was reading Hemingway, Proust and Kerouac back then). I tend to enjoy campy stuff like pulp novels, Doc Savage, Conan, The Destroyer (Remo Williams).
I was also a big comic book fan and still buy the reprint volumes of old Marvel and DC, among other stuff. I probably have as many of those on my shelves as I do books.
Obviously there's computer gaming. I have always loved the first three Ultima games (I found the 4th boring and preachy in comparison, and stopped there), Sierra Adventures, Infocom, D&D, Interplay... too much to list. My favorite game of all time is probably Wasteland.
I love classic horror movies, from the early Universal monster movies, to Hammer Films, to 80s gore and slasher flicks. The more ridiculous the better. Also cheesy fantasy and sci-fi. I'll take a Hammer film or an 80s Roger Corman movie over anything coming out of Hollywood today.
Not that I don't enjoy a good action flick, crime drama, comedy, documentary... I could go on forever.
24 June 2021
Q: Do you recall how you first learned about Eamon and what got you into the series?
A: So, I've been an Eamon user for quite some time. My dad had learned about it somehow, and was able to get a few copies of the first 10 adventures, probably around 1983 or so. At some point, he must have found out about the National Eamon User's Club and we received the first edition in the mail with a handwritten address when it was published in 1984. I was only eight years old at the time, but I was hooked. I loved playing the games and loved reading the newsletters as well. Seeing my interest, my dad helped me program a really basic game using the old DDD 5.0, sometime in the late 1980s. It was super crappy, but I had lots of fun going in and messing around with it from time to time. However, I always wanted to design my own game.
I had several aborted attempts over the years, largely because I wanted my first attempt to be a "good" game and I just couldn't think of a story line that worked. Finally, by 1998 I had a basic idea of a game and started laying it out on paper over the next few months into 1999. It then sat on the shelf until I figured out what to do next. Our Apple II+ hadn't been turned on in several years and I was mainly using emulators by then. Finally, while I was in law school in 2003, I found new ways of procrastinating. I started converting the old newsletters to the website and, once that was done, finally decided to start programming the game. I felt that programming it in AppleWin had something of a "ship in a bottle" feel, but I enjoyed working on it.
Once it was finished, I sent it to Tom Zuchowski, thinking that it was going to be Eamon 243, but alas, there were a few unknowns that had been published and it was assigned Eamon 246. I think it was the last game included on his CD-ROM.
Q: Could you describe how you went about building the adventure?
A: Well, first I laid out my story as how I envisioned it, and figured out a loose map of what the story would be. I then mapped out the rooms and put in the appropriate monsters, artifacts, etc. I had a basic idea of what the different effects would be, but as I went, I made notes to what new effects I might want to add, especially for a variety of situations. So, there are a lot of variables set as you go and the adventure will only let you proceed if certain variables are set. As I programmed it in, I tested it regularly, accounting for all of the situations that I thought could happen, and would try to add a logical effect. That took up a decent amount of time, just to make sure things work as expected.
There was a complaint that it was very linear and, well that's a valid complaint. I tried to make it appear to be larger than it is, with a lot of room directions that aren't really valid (you can't go very far down the street, although there is an illusion that you can). It's a smaller dungeon because of that, and Tom Zuchowski suggested I flesh it out a bit, so I added a few extra shops in the town.
Another complaint is that it's a bit "unforgiving" in that you have to have several things done correctly for you to have a successful outcome. My goal was that if you paid attention to everything, you should be able to make it all the way through the first time, and that you shouldn't need to learn by death (See also "Crimes Against Mimesis" by Roger Giner-Sorolla). What I probably should have done is something at the end like "Well, that was an unsatisfactory outcome — want to give it another try?" I've never seen that in Eamon, but I'd rather have a player give it another go than have to slog back to the Main Hall (although I used Fresh Sam extensively when testing, and know that a lot of others do as well.) The "advantage" of a small dungeon with a linear path is that it shouldn't take long to work back through it again. Mapping isn't really needed here.
I will say that using AppleWin and an emulator was very helpful though. GPLE works fine, I can set the emulator to super fast so disk loading speed isn't an issue, etc. CiderPress had just been released, so I was able to access the text files directly and run them through a spell checker on MS Word to catch spelling errors. I could make multiple saves of different versions so that it was easy to "undo" or revert if needed. If I were doing it again today, I would definitely use an emulator.
Q: What things do you remember most about making it, and what parts did you most enjoy or are most proud of? (I especially liked the airship drop-off, and the logic around properly using the alarm bell, scabbard, amulet, and cube.)
A: Thanks for the feedback on the different story elements. The airship drop off was based on the Banedon character from Joe Dever's Lone Wolf series who flew an airship called the Skyraider and would often drop off the hero to start the quest. I actually named him Banedon in the hope that one of those readers might recognize it.
- Inari is a beautiful city in northern Finland and is known as the "capital of Sámi culture"
- Nuorgam is the northernmost city in Finland.
- Tasavalta is the Finnish word for "republic", and the official name of Finland is Suomen Tasavalta.
- Tornio is a city in northern Finland
- Helsingin is the possessive form of Helsinki.
- Pietari is the Finnish name for the city of St. Petersburg, Russia
- The Inariin scabbard is the possessive form of Inari
Spoilers ahead: I thought the idea of a portable army was kind of neat, hence the cube. And I liked the way the variables worked to give various results (forgot the army? Forgot the sword? Forgot to activate the amulet? Forgot to put the sword in the scabbard? Killed Esher and wondered around the city?). Some of the best Eamon adventures are interesting because they have things that *do* things. With a larger adventure and better programming, I could certainly have done more, but I'm not Sam Ruby and this was my first attempt.
But I think my biggest enjoyment was finally getting it down. I had been wanting to design and publish an adventure for years, and I finally did it.
Q: Do you think you might ever write another?
A: For the Eamon system, no. There just aren't very many people using the platform compared to modern IF systems, and I just wouldn't want to put the time, effort, and energy into something that few people would ever see or play. On the other hand, I would definitely consider using something like Inform or Twine to do something as there many more people using those platforms. Perhaps enter something into the IFComp like Wade Clarke did back in 2010.
Q: Could you tell me a little about yourself — your background and interests?
A: Well, I'm an attorney working in the non-traditional path of non-profit fundraising, specializing in complex gifts and gifts through estate planning. I work at a large university and find my job to be very fulfilling as I see the students benefit from the generosity of our donors. I'm married and have two kids, ages 14 and 13, neither of whom have any interest in text adventures at all. In fact, neither has played my game. I have a broad array of interests, including travel, geography, flags, history, spaceflight, and enjoying science fiction and fantasy books and movies.
20 September 2022
Q: Could you tell me a little about your early experiences with Eamon and what got you interested in it?
A: I was looking up different video/computer games based on J.R.R. Tolkien's work and a site dedicated to such a subject listed the Eamon games. I initially downloaded just those before getting the whole collection before going to Eamon Deluxe. The idea of creating a character and then choosing from an array of adventures to try was a great idea.
Q: I actually made text adventures with the Computer Novel Construction Set based on the Oz books. They're credited to Dorothy and Ozma Productions because that's the name of the website I was doing at the time. I was attempting to do Ozma of Oz, but figuring out how to adapt the Nome King's guessing game was very daunting and complicated and there were other bugs. They're available to play online on sites that make old games available to play via java emulators. I also made an ambitious one based on The Hobbit. Don't tell the Tolkien estate.
I did consider a sequel to Realm of Fantasy, but there wasn't really a good story coming to mind. It would've had a totally different world, revealing that the Realm is an ever changing manifestation of creations we've imagined, explaining why the first game had some interesting crossovers. The only companion I thought of was Link from Legend of Zelda and there would be Vermicious Knids from the works of Roald Dahl. If anyone wants to run with this idea for a future Eamon adventure, you have my blessing.
Currently, I run an RPG on Discord based on my original character Isaac "the Incomparable" Penworth, a magician who can do actual magic. It's a short session RPG in which players can depict nearly any character they want as volunteers for the show (their favourite celebrities, superheroes, their own original characters or even themselves) and roll dice and send me the numbers I match up to a chart to determine what act will happen.
I won't say never to writing another software adventure.
Q: What do your recall most about the experience of building Realm of Fantasy in Eamon Deluxe?
A: It was a lot of fun trying to figure out how to make things work, but some things were a bit above my skill. I was very flattered and honored when Frank Kunze offered to do some revisions. Making Miracle Max's shop an actual shop was a good revision. The problem was trying to figure out what to add next. And hey, I put Bowser and the Wicked Witch of the West under one roof before Universal did with their upcoming movies based on Super Mario Bros. and Wicked. I called it if they get added to the Universal parks.
Q: What are some of your favorite pastimes?
A: As one could imagine, I'm a huge fan of literature and movies with a lot of books and DVDs and Blu-Rays in my apartment. Honestly, not a big gamer anymore.
My writing isn't yet at a point where I can quit my day job, but it's a great way to challenge yourself to learn about things or think of things from another perspective, like the current short story I'm working on, "Panpipes," has two plotlines: one is a fantastic event and the aftermath, the other is people affected by a missing persons case. It's going to be published in an upcoming book of original short stories.
I also do non-fiction with a number of blogs and have been researching E.T.A. Hoffmann to hopefully one day put out the definitive book on his famous story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, having already written blogs about it and several adaptations.
I'm getting ready to get back into podcasting with reviving The Royal Podcast of Oz and starting another one titled Let's Get Both Ties. (If you want to know what that's about, abbreviate it.) Going to be streaming my recording sessions on Twitch.
22 February 2020:
The original Clone Master was one of the 14 or so adventures that I had on floppies when I was a kid, and it was a favorite of mine due to the fact that you had to know exactly what to do to beat it (ignore side passages and head all the way south to the Clonatorium first). It took 10-year-old me quite a while to figure that out. Later, I thought of it as a "coming of age" test for a new character, because you needed some decent combat skills and at least a halfway-decent magic weapon to kill the guards faster than they could respawn. (I often used Furioso as another coming-of-age adventure, because you start with no weapons or armor and the best weapon you can find early in the game is a 1d4 axe handle.)
There were two reasons I decided to rewrite it. First, despite my nostalgic fondness for it, the original is a fairly monotonous adventure. Then, when Frank converted it to EDX, he changed things, like trying to give the guards personality. I think Frank didn't quite get the joke, that all the guards should be exactly the same because they're clones. So, when I went to port it to ER, I decided it would be an interesting adventure to set in a steampunk setting (giant lightning collectors, huge cloning machinery, etc.).
The remake was also an experiment to see if I could make at least two different ways to accomplish every plot point. Two places to dynamite the walls. Blow up the main gate with the cannon, or fool the soldiers into opening it by putting on uniforms. Distract the guards outside the lab by releasing the dragon and turning off the power, or just sneak in through secret doors. Use the transformer or the glass grenade to destroy the Clonatorium, etc.
Having multiple paths through the adventure also allows a bit of self-leveling. A weaker character might not be able to take on all the guards, so they can sneak around and avoid some fights. But a hack-and-slasher with a HD of 30 and a magic rocket launcher might enjoy plowing through a group of 20 guards.
I think the biggest challenges in writing it were the large amount of custom code required, and the long descriptions. ER is better at displaying large blocks of text than Classic Eamon was, but the descriptions still filled up the screen in some cases. I didn't have screen pauses when I first wrote the adventure, so I ended up just splitting the start (where you meet all the characters and armies, etc.) into several rooms, so the player could see a little at a time.
Trivia: I always assumed that the name on the painting was supposed to be Picasso, but I'm not 100% sure. Also, the nameless "inventor" in the remake is based on a real historical person. Did you guess who it is?
More trivia: I've always wondered what "Go no further. Verdinal" means in The Abductor's Quarters. That one has me stumped. Might refer to a person, I guess. There were a lot of inside jokes and '80s pop culture references in early Eamons. (I just played through Grunewalde by Pat Hurst and you wouldn't even guess the solution to that quest unless you watched The Tonight Show back in the Johnny Carson era.)
Regarding future work, I'm about 75% of the way done with Malleus Maleficarum. It has a lot of custom code as well, being more of a puzzle-focused adventure. I'm trying to improve the systems for talking to NPCs (similar to Attack of the Kretons) and also the mechanism for buying things. I've noticed a lot of commerce in recent adventures I've worked on, and it would be nice to not have to write custom code for buying things every time.
10 May 2020:
I'm a bit of a history buff. In the summer of 2019, I learned about the 15th-century book titled Malleus Maleficarum and its impact on witch hunts throughout the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The idea for the adventure sort of popped into my head from that. Rather than going with the overused "damsel in distress" trope, I decided that the damsel should be a fellow adventurer and the person in distress should be her grandmother, because older women were among the people most frequently targeted by witch hunts.
Then I needed a setting and a villain. I looked at a map of Finland to find place names, because the Finnish language is so different from English that it's easy to find names that sound good and are fairly unique among the world's languages. The Cobalt Front is a name that doesn't seem to have been used before (Google it and you'll find front bumpers for a Chevy Cobalt, and not much else). I thought it would make sense for them to have anti-magic equipment of some kind, and cobalt seems like something that such equipment might be made from.
The NPC management was both the fun part and the frustrating part of writing the adventure. It creates an interesting story, but all the permutations make it hard to write the code. What if Maya gets critically hit in the first fight? Can you still complete the adventure without her? What if you get arrested, escape prison, and have no gear and no money, but there are still monsters to fight? That kind of thing. I also enjoyed creating the monsters in the old castle, based on all sorts of plant-based monsters I researched, and the Wand of Defoliation which was a vital artifact in the old D&D game Gateway to the Savage Frontier.
The magic words "IRKM DESMET DAEM" are a nonsense phrase that was written on a dungeon wall in Bard's Tale 1. You never find our what they mean in that game, other than another clue that says "Heed not what is beyond understanding". There's a similar phrase in Bard's Tale 2, "samen nghoint" which is an anagram for "means nothing".
As far as my favorite adventures, I have a place in my heart for several of the early ones like Devil's Dungeon, Magic Kingdom, and Furioso, because they were some of the first ones I had on floppies for the Apple II. But my all-time favorite is The Prince's Tavern because of its weird setting, descriptions ("You see evil. This is bad. It is wearing black robes, carrying a vicious-looking axe, and emits a foul odor whenever it speaks...") and fun special effects. I give Attack of the Kretons high marks for the same reasons. I do feel like there are still a few more favorites out there, waiting to be discovered. I've actually only played about 100 of the 270+ adventures, though I'm gradually working my way through the rest of the catalog.
As far as Grunewalde goes, I mainly added a reference to it because I like the name. When I played the adventure itself, I found the puzzles almost unsolvable because I didn't get some of the references. You have to be a fan of Johnny Carson to understand what's going on there, and Johnny had already retired by the time I was old enough to stay up that late.
On that topic, the tricky thing about some older Eamons is the '70s and '80s pop culture references. Some of those still work (e.g., anything Star Wars) but others probably don't make sense to younger players (e.g., some of the NPCs in Devil's Dungeon). I've started adding a "Trivia" entry to the in-game hints for a few adventures, just to explain the references in case people don't get them.
1 February 2022:
Hello Mr. Williams, got your letter for Clyde. Unfortunately he passed away 8-8-20. He would have been thrilled to get this letter from you. I'm thrilled for him. Thank you.
19 August 2019:
Q: How did you first get into computer gaming/programming, and into the Apple II? Do you recall how you first learned about Eamon?
A: It all started around 1979-80 when a high school friend let me borrow his Apple II+ over the weekend. He brought it over and we played a few games he had. He had Eamon and a few adventures. I was a big D&D and Traveller RPG player in school and this game really hooked me. I spent all weekend playing that game.
Unfortunately we had Commodore PETs in school so I was only able to play it when I visited my friend. But around 1982-83 I convinced my dad to buy an Apple IIe. His company had a purchase deal with Apple so got it at a significant discount. Eventually started making friends with local Apple users and attended computer clubs and was able to pick up more Eamon adventures.
Eventually that led to finding John Nelson's National Eamon User's Club. I subscribed to his newsletter and ordered tons of disks from them. Funny thing is they were based in Des Moines, Iowa and I was born in Ames, Iowa which is only about 45 minutes away. Sadly we never got to meet each other even though I used to spend summers in Ames.
At one point I probably had almost every adventure released. I had a big box full of the 5¼" disks. Sometime around the mid 1990's I gave away my 3 Apple IIgs computers along with thousands of disks of software. At that point I was working at Interplay Productions and had purchased a PC. We were no longer supporting Apple II computers. The last release we did was Out of This World for the Apple IIgs. I did work on Ultima I for the Apple IIgs with Rebecca Heineman. That's the last Apple game I officially worked on.
I probably should mention how I officially started working in the computer game industry. I graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 1991 with a degree in Radio/TV/Film. I briefly worked in Hollywood and wanted to work in the special effects field. After a stint as a Production Intern on MacGyver and some PA work on a few low budget movies, I found out that it wasn't quite as glamorous as I thought! I had several friends that worked at Interplay Productions (I worked at a software store part time and played D&D with them). They were looking for QA people to test various games so got a job there. Stayed there 13 years and worked on a large number of titles including Fallout, Fallout 2, Star Trek 25th Anniversary, Star Trek Judgment Rites, Planescape Torment, Icewind Dale, and Icewind Dale 2. Early 2000's and Interplay was in bad shape. I got an offer at Obsidian Entertainment to work on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. Left after that project to get some much needed time off and eventually returned to work on Neverwinter Nights 2. Been there ever since. As of this writing I'm working on The Outer Worlds.
Q: Could you talk a little about Shever Software? Was it a solo venture? What projects were published through Shever?
A: Shever Software was a solo venture. My first project was a character generator for the original classic Traveller RPG. I had started that years earlier on the Commodore PET. Then rewrote it for the Apple II. I worked on it for years refining it. In the mid 80's I decided to try to sell it so bought a pile of disks, made a brief instruction manual and title card. Borrowed a shrinkwrap machine and hand assembled a few dozen copies. I bought an ad in Space Gamer magazine. I checked my PO box almost every day for months. Not one order ever arrived. So I was out a few hundred bucks in ad and materials costs. My next idea was to rent a booth in the dealer's room of a local board game and RPG convention. I shared it with a guy making miniature landscape tiles. Again, not one sale. The guy I shared the table with didn't make any sales either so both of us were out a few hundred bucks again. Dejected I found a local distributor with a booth at the convention that agreed to buy all the copies I had for a big discount. So at least I recouped part of my investment. No idea if that product ever made it to any other stores, I've never seen any.
So I figured I should come up with another idea. I remember my love of Eamon and I was enjoying programming so though about doing an advanced version. A software utility company called Beagle Bros made an Applesoft compiler. One issue with running Eamon on an original Apple II was it was a bit slow. So thought it would be a great idea to rewrite it to easily support hard drives and use their Beagle Compiler to make it "lightning" fast. It was a lot of work with extending the Main Hall and getting everything to work under the compiler. Eventually I got the "Basic Set" with the enhanced Main Hall and Beginner's Cave. Then converted 4 adventures to work with it — Lair of the Minotaur, Dharmaquest, The Prince's Tavern, & Futurequest.
I didn't advertise this one. As I remember I went directly to the same distributor and asked if they wanted to pick it up. They bought a dozen or so copies of the Basic Set and adventures. They weren't happy it was in ziplock bags. My previous Traveller package was shrinkwrapped and they thought ziplock made it look old and cheap. Years later I found a few copies at a surplus software store back in a dusty corner with stacks of other Apple II games.
After that I gave up on Shever Software. I was focusing on college and after two failures it didn't seem prudent to keep working on projects. Also, it became less important to speed up Eamon. With the Apple IIgs and accelerator cards, you could run it fast already without the significant work required to convert the adventures.
Q: The Expanded Master added some fun new functionality to the Main Hall — when did you create/release it, and what do you remember most about it?
A: I don't remember much about the Expanded Master. I think I reworked the original Eamon Master using the code I added to Lightning Eamon so it would work with the original adventures. After the failure of Lightning Eamon I didn't want all that work to be lost. And I liked the additions to it. Gave you more uses for excess money that old adventure characters tended to let pile up. Not sure how much distribution it got. I can't remember if I sent copies to John Nelson or not. Maybe at that point he was not doing the club any longer. I probably uploaded it to some BBS's so it might be floating around. I'd love to know if it exists somewhere since I don't have a copy of that one.
Q: Lightning Eamon is something I heard about only recently and unfortunately never got to play, but I love the idea of a fast, compiled version of the game. Could you tell me more about how it worked?
A: Covered this mostly above. Only 4 adventures were converted and the basic set included the Main Hall (with enhancements) and Beginner's Cave. It used the Beagle Bros Beagle Compiler. It supported hard drives as an added bonus!
That's my memories of the project. If you have any other questions or want more details I'm happy to provide them. Though my memories are fuzzy on a lot of that stuff. Been quite a while since I thought about it but so glad to write this down so it doesn't all get lost in time!
20 August 2019:
As for release date, 1987 sounds about right. That's the date of the copyright notice in the package manual. No idea when in 1987 though. The copies I sold to Weekend Warrior went out to local game stores I assume so not sure how widely available it was outside California.
24 December 2021:
I tell anyone who asks that finding Eamon is the reason I'm a game designer.
Q: Does your Clash of the Titans-themed adventure still exist, and did you give it a name?
A: Unfortunately that was many decades, moves, and states ago, and all of my Eamon software vanished at some point. I called the adventure Kraken Slayer, because I'd seen Clash of the Titans and Dragonslayer as a double feature at a drive in 😂.
3 July 2022:
The Eamon adventure I wrote was based on Robert C. O'Brien's book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, which was itself adapted into the animated movie The Secret of NIMH. I was in 6th or 7th grade at the time I wrote that game, IIRC.
I haven't seen my Eamon game since then; OTOH, I hardly ever throw anything out, including floppy disks. So it might still be in storage somewhere.
I don't remember any details about the NIMH game. I'll 95% sure it was the only Eamon adventure I ever made, though. 🤔
15 August 2020:
My junior high school got a single Apple II for the gifted and talented program in the fall of 1978, when I was 8th grade. The first thing we did is play a lot of Star Trek and Breakout. It did not take long before I was digging into the language behind the games and writing some primitive ones of my own in AppleSoft. That Christmas I relentlessly harassed my parents to get me my own, an Apple II+. I continued to write games, cribbing some ideas and help out of a big red book called 100 BASIC Games or something like that. Paul and I were close friends and spent lots of afternoons and evenings in front of my TV with the RF adapter.
There must have been some local Apple club where we got the first two Eamon floppies, I suspect my father drove us to the meetings. I don't think Donald Brown was actually there, but obviously someone had obtained a copy of The Beginners Cave and Minotaur. We played them obsessively.
I think at a later meeting we got the next four and for a while that's all we knew about. That's why Treasure Island was numbered number 7. If I had to guess I'd say we started it the summer between 9th and 10th grades, but it could have been during our sophomore year. Obviously it was also before there were any real tools for developing your own, so that and our other two were crafted completely by hand. I don't remember who did what on that, honestly. I know we dissected the Lemonade Stand game to figure out how to do the music by POKEing the right addresses for the speaker; I have no idea even how we did the map.
Sometime after we delivered Treasure Island to the local club we got the next batch. I would guess it was three or four months after Treasure Island that we each started writing our own adventure. We each had our own vision we wanted to play with, but they were both done on my machine, and probably finished in mid to late 1981. I vaguely remember working on "saving" in Caverns because it was so long. In 1983 I took all 15 or 16 floppies to college and me and my college friends played Eamon pretty obsessively.
After Caverns I coded a lot less, as my high school life got much busier. Through a friend of my father's I got a summer job through college working on the minicomputer system for a local Denver distribution company. I had other interests in college though, and ended up with a BA in Political Science. However, after three years of law school and four years of law practice I went back to that distribution company and got my old job back as the "computer guy" full time. I eventually parlayed that into an actual software engineering career, and I'm currently a Principal Engineer at Comcast Cable, where I lead the team that collects (at the rate of 6 million events per second) and presents analytics data about Comcast IP Video.
Along the way I coded a very popular area on the 90s mud Realms (which is still sort of "up" at telnet realmsmud.org 1501), and developed a mostly complete framework for running text muds on the web: https://gitlab.com/avezel/lampost_mud.
Thanks for your interest and I appreciate you keeping this stuff alive!
16 August 2020:
Honestly I have no idea how Caverns of the Sphinx or Dracula's Chateau got into the larger world. For years I only had basically the first 15 or 16 disks and was totally ignorant of anything beyond those, presumably because I lost touch with the Apple community. My guess would be that we delivered them very early on to the local Apple computer club (or maybe it was just the "computer club", since Apples were pretty much the only realistic option at that time), and someone from the club kept copies that eventually got submitted.
On Realms as a Senior Wizard I created an area with the acknowledged best quest in the game, with some pretty wicked puzzles. I'd love to port it to a modern platform, but I must admit my current job is immensely demanding and I haven't had the energy for outside projects in the last couple of years.
14 March 2020:
I went to his house every summer with my brother to stay for a week and get my teeth cleaned (he was a dentist). We would swim in the pool all day, then go back in the house to play games on his computer. I found the Eamon games, and enjoyed playing them. Back then I was into Dungeons and Dragons, so I really liked that you could play role playing games on the computer. I remember playing games and being able to keep the weapons acquired for new games. I played The Jungles of Vietnam, got an assault riffle, and used it in other games that were fantasy based. I thought that it was really cool that you could shoot a wizard with a machine gun.
So after playing the Eamon games, I found through the program that I could create my own adventures. One evening when my grandfather, Dr. Trent, came home from work I stated, "Did you know you could make your own adventures"? He stated, "Yes, but that is too hard". He was shocked when I showed him that I had already created The Tomb of the Vampire. My game was originally very short. Probably only like 10-15 rooms, but he was inspired. When the week was up, I went home.
Sometime later, he called me and told me that he had expanded my game and submitted it for others to play. He was now hooked, and created A Trip to Fort Scott. I remember reading a review that did not understand why an Ogre Magi was in a dungeon. I don't either now, but I was a kid then so it made sense at the time. I was just going off of memory from playing D & D with my friends. I remembered Holy Avenger Sword, Ogre Magi, Elf Warriors, etc. and put those characters and items into my game.
Thank you for the condolences about my grandfather. Dr. Trent passed away at age 97 years of age in 2017 and was a one of the few Pearl Harbor survivors still alive. Now even fewer are with us.
Your letter stirred up a lot of old memories of my childhood and grandfather. Thank you. I am now a high school teacher (teaching World History, Computer Applications, and Finance). I am married and have a four year old daughter, so I don't have a lot of time to play games anymore.
3 January 2022:
I wrote it [The Dragon of Aldaar] somewhere around 1980 while I was in high school.
4 January 2022:
I'm not sure how it even got there [to the EAG]. As far as I recall, I would only have distributed a few copies to friends, so it probably had a long journey. I'll have to check if my dad still has a copy. I know he still has a couple of Apple IIs — one with a bad "G" key, so he soldered on two wires that you can strike together to make a G.
It was my second major game. My first was a lunar lander game on a 8080 system at school.
The Apple was definitely a good starting point for me. In college, I met other Apple enthusiasts and we built a 6502 emulator on the VAX which we used to understand the code to Tempest and other video games. (Turns out Tempest incremented a zero-page location based on the last two digit of your score if your score was high enough.)
I recall opening up the disk drive to look at how it worked, but I put one of the chips in backwards and it melted. Fortunately my dad is an EE and had the relevant chip around, so it was a quick fix.
8 November 2013:
I received your letter today about Eamon. Hadn't thought about Eamon in a long time. My Apple II+ died and the used IIc that I picked up as a replacement had the world's worst keyboard. So Eamon went by the wayside. I moved on to Macs and then PCs. But I still had a library binder of stuff from the old Eamon days gathering dust on my bookshelf. Right in front was a printed copy of the gazetteer.
Now before you get too excited, let me point out that it was printed on a dot matrix printer. Personal question — are you old enough to have used one? In any event it's not pretty. I should also say that Tom Zuchowski, although a really nice guy, tended to exaggerate a tad. It's a two-page list of stuff in my adventures, just fleshes out some of the background. It also promises more info as more adventures are added. But I didn't add more adventures so there isn't more to the gazetteer.
14 November 2013:
I had another adventure in the works when I lost my II+. It was set in the same area and tentatively titled Molgrest's Tower. It was my tribute to Monty Python, but never saw the light of day since it was never finished.
2 May 2022:
Q: How did you first discover Eamon?
A: I don't remember how I first discovered Eamon. I purchased an Apple II+ back in the day and subscribed to a magazine dedicated to the II+. There may have been a reference to Eamon in the magazine. I also had a modem and perused ftp sites (there's an age-revealing reference!) so I may have found Eamon there.
A: From an Eamon article in a magazine, I found out that John Nelson lived in Des Moines. I was living in Des Moines so I looked him up. We met at his house. He graciously loaded me up with everything Eamon at the time. I played D&D but after Eamon. I also played what passed for RPG's on the II+, Wizardry and Bard's Tale come to mind. My Eamon articles in the newsletter were written to help out Tom Zuchowski who was looking for content to fill the newsletter. Tom made major changes to the base program and we corresponded about the new features. He asked me to test out and review a couple of his new adventures. They were the best ones that I ever played, largely due to the new features he added to the base program.
Q: Could you tell me what you recall most about each of your adventures, and what parts you most enjoyed or are most proud of?
A: Grunewalde — a generic adventure using the original base program just to see whether I could do it and to practice doing it. I threw in a sub theme about The Tonight Show because the II+ magazine to which I subscribed had a "music" program. I wanted to see if I could get it to work from within Eamon. I found the notes for the Tonight Show theme and set it up so that Johnny could appear with appropriate intro music, something new for Eamon.
Buccaneer! — I wanted to do a 2-disk adventure and provide the player with an array of choices about how to proceed. I know that some people weren't happy about the fact that you could lose money on this adventure, but that was intended. Eamon adventures generally loaded up the player with money so IMO money meant nothing in Eamon. I wanted money to mean something in this adventure.
Dark Brotherhood — all about embedded artifacts. My favorite was the plank puzzle. First, you had to find it. Second, you had to see beyond its use as a weapon. Finally, you had to realize that it must be dropped to use it as a bridge to the rest of the adventure.
Q: What are some of your pastimes these days? Do you still program?
A: I like to play MMORPGs. World of Warcraft was fun for awhile until they made some changes in a new release that just killed the game on my Mac. I found Guild Wars 2 which I enjoyed right up to the point where they dropped their support for the Mac entirely. I am now playing Dungeons & Dragons Online, not as good as either of the previous two, but there aren't many game developers who support the Mac. I may have to buy a Windows PC one of these days (Agh! I hate Windows PC's). My last programming was in VBA in Microsoft Office at work before I retired in 2015.
27 April 2020:
I don't remember much about it. I began with computers in 1981 and in 1987 went from teaching music in public schools to being the Technology Coordinator for a school district in Kansas. I did a little programming in the early years and recall having fun putting together The Plain of Srevi, adventure. The word Srevi is my name in reverse. I'm still in computers at 67 years of age. I'm retiring in June, and look forward to doing more with computers and my motorcycle. I'm a worship leader for a Methodist church and have spent more than 10 hours a week producing a worship video for online worship each week, since the quarantine began.
21 May 2020:
I became interested in computers while I was in high school (mid-1970's). A math teacher of mine had an early programmable calculator (it wasn't a hand-held, but a desktop) and I programmed a simple moon-landing program, and also a program to tell a blackjack player the best play given his/her hand, and the dealer's up card.
I also attended a workshop for aspiring engineers during my junior year of high school. It was at the University of Iowa, and one night we found our way into the computer lab, and a graduate student showed us how to call up and play games on the mainframe. I believe I did not attend another session at the workshop and spent all my waking time at the lab.
In 1977 I stumbled in to a store called Video Midwest in Des Moines. A guy named James "Red" Varnum was working there; they sold primarily video tape machines (they had Betamax as well as VHS machines) and Advent projection big-screen TV's, but in a corner of the store they had an Apple II computer. I spent several afternoons in the store toying with the computer and its BASIC programming language. I eventually bought one. An Apple II came standard with 4k of memory, but I spent extra and got 16k because there was a Star Trek game (similar to the one I played at U of Iowa) that would only work with the extra memory. Note that in 1977 an Apple II with 16k of memory cost $5,000 (in 1977 money!) The initial Apple II could only store/load programs from audio cassette tapes.
At the time many computer enthusiasts like me got computer programs from magazines…we had to type them in. There was very little software that was commercially available, and what was out there was generally garbage. There were a few other people with Apple II computers (and eventually Radio Shack TRS-80 computers and Commodore PETs) and we shared BASIC programs and ideas on a loose basis.
I brought several of my programs to Video Midwest, and eventually they hired me as a salesperson for computers. My brush with greatness came while I was working at Video Midwest; in 1978 there was a severe shortage of Apple II's (we had a large waiting list) and I was on the phone with Apple in Cupertino, waiting on hold, when behold, a person came on the line and said, "This is Steve Jobs." He assured me that our order was on the way.
Sometime during 1978-79 Apple released the floppy drive, which was a paradigm shift. You could store 138k on a floppy, and it could be accessed dynamically. It got rid of the cassette tape storage (which was an incredible nightmare) and shareware erupted for the Apple II.
At some point in 1979 Video Midwest fired most of its staff and tried to make me manager. I quit in protest, and ended up taking a job with a company in Ames, IA (home of Iowa State University) following Red Varnum there. The company sold Apple II's but was really focused on the Commodore PET computer. While there, I wrote a program for the PET to help a company that sold hog confinement buildings do estimates for hog farmers (exciting stuff.) Around 1978-79 Computer Emporium opened in Des Moines. They started an Apple II club, and we met on a regular basis to share programs and ideas. I met Donald Brown and John Nelson (John was a programmer for the state of Iowa) at Computer Emporium.
The company in Ames let me go (shortly before folding) and Computer Emporium hired me almost immediately (1979-80?) I believe Donald Brown was not an employee but just a "groupie" of the store. He was an actuarial student at Drake University in Des Moines and was by far the best programmer I had ever met. He could program in both BASIC and 6502 assembler and was an incredibly smart and witty person. I believe he hailed from Colorado but he came to Drake for actuarial science.
Sometime during 1980 Donald came in to the Computer Emporium with his new game, Eamon. All of us were floored. It was text-based (very few graphical games back then, and certainly none in the FRP genre) and was similar to the Colossal Cave adventure, but you had a (somewhat) unique character that could progress from adventure to adventure, carry weapons/artifacts with you, and grow/develop. When Donald first introduced Eamon, it had the Beginner's Cave and the Lair of the Minotaur.
Donald had a "developer's disk" that let you create a map and game, but the developer had to add some unique code to enable some capabilities in the adventure. I had had conversations in the past with Red Varnum about an adventure that happened in the adventurer's mind, rather than in a physical world. I created "Cave of the Mind" with that idea in mind, and I gave him co-credit for the adventure (even though I no longer worked for him.) I really consider that adventure pretty clumsy, but it was my first creative venture. I was very surprised at the excitement within the Apple user's group when I brought it in (even from Donald himself).
Computer Emporium of the time was a hotbed of Apple II development. Dick Skeie owned the company, and was somewhat of a "hippie." I believe he now serves as a holistic healer of some kind.
A couple of my major memories from my time at Computer Emporium were when Ronald Reagan was shot (we saw it live on TV) and when we received (via snail-mail) a cassette tape with a program for the Apple II called VisiCalc. It was the first spreadsheet program. I remember looking at it and thinking, "What is anyone going to use this for?" It's a good thing that I am not an advisor for what to invest in.
One "dud" that we saw was a microcomputer by Texas Instruments. It was horrible. The keyboard was buttons rather than keys; TI claimed that surveys said that people wanted their personal computer to be like a calculator. This was a classic example of people not knowing what they really wanted, and TI believed them. I have always credited Steve Jobs with having a feel for what people will want, but maybe they don't understand it yet.
31 July 2020:
I really do not remember a lot about my Eamon games. I pretty much left "gaming" in mid-1980' because I went into corporate computing.
I do remember one of my adventures was inspired by a Rockford Files episode (James Garner) where he was fighting people who ended up being his own government. (Donald Brown was completely perplexed by this adventure.) But generally I don't remember much about the adventures I created, other than the one with Red Varnum.
CE software was the creation of John Kirk, an accountant to rich people in Central Iowa and an entrepreneur. Richard (Dick) Skeie sold Computer Emporium/CE Software to him. Skeie was kind of a hippy and I think is now a holistic healer. Donald Brown stayed on and invented QuicKeys (?) for the early Mac, basically a macro program. I last saw Donald in early 2000 at a forum in Des Moines for technology.
Mission Escape was inspired by a game on (I believe) a Commodore PET. Remember, back then most computer programs were spread around in magazines and everyone had to type them in.
The only way I made it work was that a compiler for Applesoft BASIC came out in the early 80's. it converted the interpreted BASIC into machine code that ran much faster. It was a very fun game and I thought I added many fun variations (I especially liked the robots that purposely got close to you so they could get shot and explode.). I also had the final exit (if the player could get there) be the number for the starship Enterprise (we actually had a player get there, and awarded a prize).
Sorry I cannot be more specific on my Eamon adventures, but I just pretty much left that stuff behind in my life.
11 May 2020:
Q: How did you first learn about Eamon and what were your early experiences with the game like?
A: My parents got me an Apple IIe computer and I copied some public domain discs from my school, one of which contained Eamon. I was in the 5th grade. I recall staying up late trying to play through the various adventures! I would eventually begin writing my own (unfortunately those early efforts are lost to time) and learning BASIC.
A: After Frank released his Eamon port (Eamon Deluxe), the nostalgia hit me. His platform was a lot of fun and I wanted to contribute as well as re-live my fun experiences with Eamon. I found adventure authoring to be tremendous fun! I also wanted to see how far I could push the constraints of the environment to expand on the simplistic adventures of the past.
Q: Do you think you'll author any more adventures?
A: Yes! It is always a matter of time (I have many projects ongoing including some advanced Web MIDI software for my music studio) but my next effort will likely be for Keith Dechant's Eamon Remastered platform. I've got some ideas brewing... I'd like to do something set in Middle Earth but who knows...
Q: What is the status of Eamon Revolutions / EamonWeb?
A: Probably retired. Keith's Eamon Remastered system is effectively same thing and is much further developed so I don't feel like putting any more effort into it makes a lot of sense given limited time. The code is all open-source for anyone interested in continuing the development or using it to build their own system.
3 January 2021:
I love Eamon and my time spent playing around with it, so feel free to ask your questions.
In Spring 1977, I bought one of the first TRS-80s. I played several premade games on cassettes by Reverend Blank, input programs from books, and learned BASIC (thank you Dartmouth). I programmed some programs for my Dungeons & Dragons games to generate random numbers, encounters and resolve combat. I wrote about that in an early Dragon magazine article.
When I opened a game store (Gamer's Guild), I rented an Apple II to do bookwork and to display early computer games. I loved Sir Tech's Wizardry and Lord British's Ultima. Even Avalon Hill Game Company released a few "wargame" titles. Unfortunately, not a lot of people owned computers.
A friend had talked with Donald Brown about taking over the Eamon library and making some money for everyone. My friend ask me to make a couple adventures to evaluate the system. Flying Circus was fun, based on the popularity of Monty Python and Blood Feud was my effort to allow characters to gain levels.
I played "Sloth" MUD which was a great way to play text based games online.
Fortunately, the different folks working on transitioning Eamon to MS PC have given me access to their efforts and I love revisiting those 8-bit days. Gaming moving from Apple to MS was the end of the early days.
I've come a long way from my TRS-80 and Apple GS+ to my Nvidia 2080 RTX with a meg SSD 8-)
Thanks for allowing me to revisit some very pleasant memories. Good luck with your Eamon Wiki!
9 January 2021:
The Pozzis and Spanners theme was based off a comic book I composed based on the characters that visited my game store. The names are based off firefighting equipment terms. PSI pressure & spanners 8-)
I always enjoy the challenge of making games (I have a friend who always tells people, that I could be parachuted into a primitive society in a remote location and if you returned in a week I would have the people playing some form of new game) and Eamon was such a simple, versatile and complete game making tool.
The games were made probably in 1984. Flying Circus was first.
I think it was obvious to everyone that independent producers could make money off this new "computer thing", the question was how? And, computer gaming was growing and evolving at such a quick rate. Isn't it interesting, in retrospect, that an Apple computer, known for its graphics capability, was used for a text adventure game? BTW, I found an old Eamon binder of mine with the BASIC programming program printed on a dot matrix printer 8-)
My friend wanted something easy to generate cash and Eamon required more effort than he was willing to put into it, so that was when John Nelson got involved and rescued Eamon for the future.
I enjoyed Wizardry and the early Ultimas, but there was the imagination in text adventures. In fact if you search the old AOL files in gaming (if they still exist) you will find my RHR (Radio Horse Racing) program which was an all-text game with legendary horses and jockeys. That project came out of my Eamon experience. It always comes down to not enough money and not enough time. For me 1985 is the year when I returned to my careers in higher education, you got to pay the rent and put food on the table 8-)
I will always regret selling my Apple IIgs to fund a new MS PC.
It has been a while since I played Eamon, so nothing too specific, but I enjoyed about half the Eamon adventures I played. Of course John Nelson's stuff was fun.
Gamer's Guild was a legendary place for gamers. It existed for 7 years or till my money and my health ran out. We sold all kinds of miniatures and role playing games and lots of dice. Added computer games from Avalon Hill and Epix as well as Ultimas and the Wizardys. Also had game playing areas with games going on every night of the week and on weekends. It was like a daily gaming convention. Unfortunately, running a game store in a medium size town is not profitable.
I have spent most of my life promoting gaming in all shapes and forms. I actually get to have professional game designer on my resume. It was easy to enjoy my time in role playing, but I am equally proud of my work with Eamon. It was just a great opportunity to be creative. I am amazed that D&D is still going strong nearly 50 years later, but it is equally exciting to see folks like you keeping the Eamon tradition alive!
If I missed something, please remind me and if you have any new questions feel free to ask them.
BTW, there was going to be a third adventure to make it a trilogy but I have yet to find any notes on it.
I have kept an eye on Eamon off and on over the years, mainly as a historical curiosity, and saw my name pop up in the Mar 2013 issue of the Eamon Deluxe newsletter. I was literally speechless, my jaw was hanging open. I am Michael Penner, the author of the two Atari ST Eamon Adventures you just dug up! I wrote those adventures, along with EAMON3_0, The Oasis in the Desert (if I remember correctly, OASIS.ARC) and Proving Grounds (of Something, I'm pretty sure, PROVGRND.ARC). As historical background, I was first exposed to Eamon in 7th grade computer lab on a Bell + Howell Apple II, years went by and then when M. Detlefsen ported to the ST I finally got a chance to really play with the system (and cut my teeth as a programmer). I was a big fan of Gamma World back then, did some table top gaming with friends during sophomore year in high school, then wrote Subaquan Laboratory as a first pass (junior year) at getting to know Eamon inside and out. It was a very faithful reproduction of a pen & paper GW module sub-adventure. By the way, I did notice some changes that have been made to that game (in ED), the intro has definitely been altered, and I do like the change to the electrified floor, surprised I didn't think of that. Not sure when these changes happened, its been 25+ years after all.
After Subaquan I really put the screws to the system when I wrote Crypt Crashers (at this point I kind of wish I had put more thought into this adventure's name as well as some of the "friend NPCs" in the different adventures). I did get ahold of these two games last month and replayed them... and was surprised at how well they held up (at least in my mind)... especially CC&TOH which was like playing a brand new game, honestly I didn't even remember writing. In fact, the only memory I had before all of your archeology was of writing Subaquan and a vague recollection of Oasis. When I was playing CC&TOH I was shocked especially by the atmospherics but when I read my comments in game I remembered spending months custom coding in GFA Basic. I don't envy whoever is doing the port to Eamon Deluxe! I also found a few embarrassing bugs, apparently my QA was somewhat lacking as a teenager.
Also after having read the ED issue I will also mention: CC&TOH is not a port of an existing pen & paper adventure, it is 100% original content (although in reading the room descriptions I was definitely channeling Temple of Apshai in places). I can confirm that I was the only author of original ST content (at least published content), much to my disappointment at the time, otherwise I would have downloaded and played anything I found for sure.
I am racking my brain trying to think of the "enhancements" put into Eamon 3.0, apparently I outgrew the system after CC&TOH but for the life of me I can't remember what changes I made. I think it must have been mainly changes to stored files?? I do know pretty certainly OASIS.ARC and PROVGRND.ARC are incompatible with Eamon 2.0 so if they ever turn up there may be challenges porting them. What I do remember of OASIS.ARC is that it is also a full length Gamma World based module, but 100% original content. The only feedback I ever got on any of these adventures back when I wrote them was from a woman whose son had downloaded OASIS.ARC from GEnie, played it and went absolutely nuts for it. She wrote me a letter telling me how much he loved it, and I have to assume since it was the last one I wrote (summer after senior year) it would be well worth finding. As for PROVGRND.ARC I have only the vaguest recollection of working on something involving a haunted manor but otherwise am drawing a complete blank. I don't even know whether this adventure is "full length" — I suspect it might be a Beginner Cave type thing. And the haunted manor concept may have just been something I was playing around with but never turned into a module! Finally I will mention the only place any of my Eamon-related work was uploaded to was GEnie so it is very interesting how these things turned up after being literally lost for — what? — 20+ years? Amazing.
Thanks for the kind words about the adventures that have turned up, I am glad people are able to see them again after so long. As to the lost files EAMON3_0.ARC, OASIS.ARC and PROVGRND.ARC, unfortunately I do not have any of these files at this point. They are long, long gone from my possession. I really hope they do turn up and I will be keeping an eye on this website and http://eamon-guild.blogspot.com/ in hopes of seeing them again.
12 April 2020:
Q: How did you first learn about Eamon, and what were your early experiences with the game like? I gather you were an Atari aficionado?
A: My father bought an Apple II and had a subscription to a magazine called Creative Computing back in the early 1980s. As a kid I would ravenously tear through each magazine when it arrived, paying close attention to game-related articles, and at one point I came across Robert Plamondon's Eamon article. I was fascinated by the idea of this gaming system, where a character could go out on individual custom-built adventures. Even back then I realized it was unprecedented, games were largely one-offs that were built from scratch.
Sadly, by the time I was aware of Eamon the Apple II had been sold, replaced by an Atari 800, so I had no way to try the game out, and it went on the backburner for years. Then, I entered Junior High School, wound up in a computer lab and was watching a text-based game being played on a black Apple II. I realized quickly that it was The Beginner's Cave, and I got to play with it for a while. Then we moved to a new city, and access to the Apple II was lost; it got backburnered yet again. We eventually got an Atari ST when I was in high school; I enjoyed playing games but also used it for school papers, etc. This was the era of the BBS and GEnie. I was on GEnie during my junior year and discovered Michael Detlefsen's port of Eamon. This was probably 5+ years since the computer lab, and I had a Eureka! moment when I realized I would finally get to play through ported games like The Zyphur Riverventure and Quest for the Holy Grail, both of which I loved. Then I bought GFA Basic and got to work.
I built The Sub-Aquan Laboratory between Junior/Senior year, Crypt Crashers and the Tomb of Horrors between Senior/1st year college, and another Gamma World-themed Eamon called The Oasis in the Desert between 1st/2nd year college. All three were uploaded to GEnie, but sadly the last of these appears to be lost.
Q: What prompted you to work on converting Eamon to a modern framework?
A: By the time my work on the Atari ST Eamon completed I was in 2nd year college, on path for a Computer Science major. I was learning new computer languages, among them C. My last thought of Eamon in the early days was "Wow, C is far more powerful than BASIC, I wonder what Eamon would look like in this language?" I never got to find out back then. 25+ years passed, and Eamon faded into the back of my mind. I forgot all about my involvement with it, although I didn't forget about Eamon itself. Then I was at work on lunch break in 2014 and I happened to Google Eamon and came across the EAG website. I found a PDF called Eamon_DeluXe_NewsletterV3n01_03-2013.pdf where Thomas Ferguson reviewed The Sub-Aquan Laboratory and Crypt Crashers. I started reading the reviews, looked at the author's name and said "Huh... Mike Penner, what a weird coincidence we have the same name!" Then it hit me like a thunderbolt, I was completely stunned! Obviously, this is the exact moment I hopped back on the Eamon bandwagon (and made a mental note to port The Temple of Ngurct and A Runcible Cargo early on as a Thank You for my initial and secondary introductions to Eamon).
As far as building a new system I suddenly remembered my last thought - what would a C-based Eamon look like? I sort of fell into it, building one program at a time - EamonDD, then EamonMH, then EamonRT - but never quite knowing if I would continue once each was done. Eamon AC took about a year to build but I was not happy with the general architecture. Each game would need a fresh copy of EamonRT, so it was effectively no different than BASIC Eamon. I decided the prototype was not viable long term, BUT most importantly I took all knowledge gained of the EDX MAINPGM.BAS with me to the next iteration - Eamon CS.
It was at this point (Jul 2015) that a colleague suggested I might want to try a port to C# - which is used heavily in the business world. I realized the immense benefit of using C# and .NET Core for Eamon, with its rich and powerful libraries, simplified syntax, and long-term platform viability. I loved the idea of being able to build Eamons of limitless complexity in a modern programming environment like Visual Studio using C# and paradigms like LINQ, which seems perfectly suited for use in text-based games. Conveniently this platform is at the forefront of Microsoft's Business development strategy. Anytime .NET Core is ported to a new computer architecture, Eamon CS will follow right behind it with little or no port required. Hopefully, long term, there won't be any need for stuff like emulators.
Finally, in porting to C#, I was hoping to be able to produce games by deriving from a common foundational engine, unlike Eamon AC, but similar to the way modern IF platforms like TADS or Inform work. This has come to fruition and the system operates exactly as originally desired.
Q: What have been some of the challenges of adapting and updating Eamon? And what parts are the most fun?
A: The biggest general challenge is to maintain focus across a very long period of time (years...) There was never any design specification so the system developed organically, and I was always open to refactoring parts of it that proved deficient. There have been dozens of overhauls - some of them taking months. The ContainerType upgrade went on through all of 2019. This kind of work is taxing, especially when you're taking something that on the outside appears to work but architecturally needs an overhaul. That's time that can't be spent pushing the outer boundaries of the system (new content, ports to new systems, etc). Other examples of challenges were the conversion to a plugin architecture (required for Android), the conversion of the data validation logic to use C#'s reflection, endless bug fixes, etc. Also challenging is the documentation - both player and game designer - which continues to lag behind the code.
The most fun parts? Probably when a new game is debuted - either a ported game or especially a new one. Also, any time some new technological or documentation hurdle is cleared. The best part of all is hearing that others are looking at the system and enjoying playing it. Its good that the retro-gaming scene is alive and well.
Q: What are the main things you plan to add to the system in the future?
A: This is a good question. There is a list of things that I'll be trying to work on - but over a long period. I originally built the system so I could develop some adventures in C#, and that's still the hope. Both original content as well as ports of well-regarded older Eamons. I will be working on the documentation on an ongoing basis - both game designer and player. I think I will probably try to start the Dungeon Designer's Guide with a "making-of" section for Wayfarer's Inn. I need to get the Player's Manual settled before attempting to tackle an iOS port. Because once that's done, I'll look into submitting both mobile apps to their respective play stores (taking this step depends on how much residual work is required to maintain them, and if this makes sense as a hobby). I'll also be assisting anyone who wants to build or port a game of their own. Lastly, I have been thinking about taking a deep dive into older Eamon systems and games to see if there is any innovative functionality that could be integrated (full credit given, of course). I have some ideas for new enhancements, Commands, and whatnot, but I suspect some of these are not really new and maybe have been introduced before. It makes sense to look around and see what's been done already. This list is not definitive and may change as new ideas emerge; it's just a general roadmap for the system over the next few years.
22 February 2012:
I bought my first Apple ][ in 1977 and explored its graphics capabilities in detail. In fact, I wrote (in 6502 assembly language) a simulator for the Tektronix graphics terminal. I burned that code into a ROM and installed it in the Apple ][ open slot. The program was called TekSim and I used it in a graphics lab with 10 Apple ][s to teach a course in computer graphics. The Apples were in turn connected to the University's Amdahl main-frame via dedicated 1200 baud lines.
Unfortunately, I have no recollection of the Eamon figure or game. I'm probably the R.L. Phillips in the REM statement but I can't verify that. I hope what I could remember is of some interest.
Best, Dick Phillips
15 July 2019
Q1: Could you share a little about your background and how you first got into playing Eamon?
A1: My father was an aerospace engineer throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and was, for a brief time, the world's Greatest Living Expert on inertial guidance systems for intercontinental ballistic missiles. His work required extensive computation, so he would bring decks of punched cards to the computer priesthood and wait for the results, sometimes for days. When he first saw a home computer, he was over the moon. He could use it whenever he wanted. He could run it all night. So we had a home computer in the house right from their first year — 1977 (the same year that Star Wars came out, you'll notice; a very future-aware year). First a Tandy TRS-80 (80 ounces of Total Reeking Shit; the cassette tape drives were hopeless) then an Apple ][ later that same year. My mother was (and still is, at 89) seriously nerdy. She bought a Polaroid SX-70 camera when it first came out in 1972, and one of the first modern microwave ovens in approximately the same year. We were all, including my two older brothers, hard-core science fiction fans. Ours was very nerdy family.
The computer was set up in the living room of our double-wide mobile home in Crescent City, California, just south of the Oregon border, on the Pacific Coast. I was 17; my older brothers Robert (18) and Peter (20) were already attending Oregon State University in Corvallis (home of the fighting Beavers, which had a damn good basketball team at the time, due to the legendary Coach Ralph Miller). The Northwest Coast's entire economy had recently collapsed. The OPEC Oil Embargo of 1973 killed "road trip" tourism; the Dungeness crab life-cycle hit a natural low-point, exacerbated by overharvesting; salmon, reduced by dams, were overfished almost to extinction; the timber industry had logged out nearly everything, and what little was left, got protected by those damn hippies (who turned out to be right). The 1970s were the decade of "stagflation" — economic stagnation with high inflation. It hit rural communities hard. The biggest employer in our county was welfare (which still existed, then). It was clear to everyone I went to high school with that our parents' generation's life strategy — get a job with a big company and stay there for 30 years — wasn't going to work. To my brothers and myself, it was clear that computers were going to be big, big, big. Many of my hippier classmates found a different, but highly profitable path: growing weed (ganja, Mary Jane, Cannabis sativa L., reefer) in the logged-over hills.
That Apple ][ was my ticket out. I practiced Microsoft BASIC like Lew Alcindor — renamed Kareem Abdul Jabbar just six years previously — practiced his skyhook. Yet, if you look at the code in my games, it's crap. It's the worst kind of "spaghetti code." In my defense, the whole notion of "structured programming" was still hotly debated into the early 1980s, with no less a luminary than Knuth (a man so singular that he needs only one name) siding with the GOTO-lovers. So, I figured, f*** those "structured programming" weenies. (Like the hippies, they turned out to be right.)
Q2: When exactly did you write Senator's Chambers and Temple of Ngurct, and how long did they take to create? What do you remember most about the experience?
A2: The name "Ngurct" was the option that my brothers, friends, and parents found to be the least pronounceable, so I chose it. ("Temple of Sally" just didn't sound ominous enough.) Wikipedia notes Ngurct's latest date of modification as being 15 February 1993, but this article by my brother Robert was published in January 1983, and it lists both The Temple of Ngurct and The Senator's Chambers as finished works. Robert is much too lazy to write about something unless he worked on it very recently, so my money is on both adventures having been written in the summer of 1982, just after I graduated from Oregon State with my BS in Geology. Ngurct might have been started over the previous Christmas and/or Spring Breaks, however.
What I remember most is lists of entities on pads of yellow quadrille paper, which my father, the engineer, bought by the ream. Creatures, rooms, test strings, choices, everything had to have a unique ID number, and it was a pain in the ass to suddenly think, "Hey, it would be cool if I could just..." and then have to renumber everything. If I recall correctly, the items had to be numbered sequentially because they were array elements (but it was a long time ago, so I am probably wrong about that).
The main thing was that I did not want the player to have to "learn by dying," because I hated playing "learn by dying" games, myself. The player should be able to make it through the game on her first try, unless she did something that was obviously stupid.
The second thing as that I wanted the characters to have character. Having a character arc was too much to ask of the medium (and arguably still is: "War never changes"). I cheated by using names and dialogue to convey character in a way that leveraged cultural stereotypes. That is not is politically correct today, but in 1982, political correctness was not yet a thing. In 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment was going down in flames. Ronald Reagan was President. I was 22. Gimme a break.
Q3: What inspired you to write the adventures? I noticed enemies like bugbears and kobolds; was Dungeons & Dragons a source of inspiration?
A3: Wow, writing up these responses is taking forever. Let's see how much I can speed up: "Yes, my brothers and I were hard-core D&D nerds, attending games weekly throughout college. I lost my virginity to a girl I met playing D&D there. One cannot get a whole lot nerdier than that." Writing that was fast! Almost as fast as my first sexual experience.
Q4: What was it like collaborating with your brother on Ngurct? Did you each work on different pieces of the adventure?
A4: If I recall correctly, I wrote the adventure, and Robert tweaked the code. Actually, I don't recall it that way at all, but Robert got his version of the story into print in January of 1983. What documentation of my memories do I have? Bupkis, nada, zilch. Sneaky bastard! Stole a march on me by 36 years! Why I oughta... be a little bit more careful!
Q5: Were there any Eamon stories or other Apple projects you started that never got finished or released? (I noticed in Robert's article that he listed an unknown Eamon adventure called Nobbin's Hell Hole — an intriguing title!)
A5: No. (A paragon of brevity! I amuse myself! Metaphorically, that's what Nobbin the Onanist did, too. It would be inappropriate to say that Nobbin was not released. His was simply not a shared release [obviously]. I just made up this entire parenthetical comment. I don't remember anything about Nobbin or his eponymous hole. All Eamonists are liars. You can see why I left high school a virgin.)
Q6: What are your main interests these days?
A6: Improving your world with every hit™ of smooth, delicious, potent cannabis from the Thai Cannabis Corporation. Turns out, the hippies were right about weed, too. Those hippies: their track record is impressive. It's almost enough to make me consider acquiring an entire wardrobe in tie-dye. Almost.
Q7: What question should I have asked, but didn't? What impact did writing these Eamon adventures have on your later life?
A7: Hard to separate cause an effect. I wrote the adventures to practice coding in a way that was shareable and inherently fun. I had an interest in computer games since at least the first time I played Computer Space at a pool hall, probably around 1974. In my 1988 Computer Science degree, I focused on artificial intelligence specifically for writing computer opponents in games... an emphasis for which there was absolutely zero market demand at the time (oops). The main thing I learned from Eamon in 1983 was the power of platforms, which has been a through-line in my career. Don could have written one game. Instead, he wrote a platform for writing games — a platform on which other authors could innovate and add value.
Sadly, Don didn't profit from it. Or, at least, I never paid him anything.
Oh, crap... Eamon wasn't donationware, was it? Jesus H. Christ, the late fees alone would bankrupt me.
10 September 2012:
Your email asking about Super Eamon is quite a blast from the past.
Yes, I designed and developed Super Eamon. I'll be glad to answer any questions you have, although I no longer have an Apple II, and have not kept most of my records from way back when.
Super Eamon and then The Haunted House were projects I played with between college graduation and becoming a full-time consultant. I thought it would be fun to combine the Eamon system, which was already pushing the limits of the Apple II hardware and Applesoft Basic, with some 6502 machine code and graphic elements.
I also retrofitted some regular Eamon adventures with a map capability, but beyond that I didn't get involved in software products.
I'd be interested in hearing what you've compiled about Eamon's history. In those dark, pre-Internet days, it was a lot harder to learn the background on things like Eamon adventures.
30 December 2021:
These memories are 30-40 years old so there may be some discrepancies, especially with dates.
My background: I had been a computer tech in the Air Force and just gotten out in late 1979. I got a job with a manufacturer as a medical CAT scanner field service engineer. I settled in NC and bought my Apple II Plus in 1980. It was a hot rig with 48K (later 128K) of RAM and two floppy disk drives. I worked from my home and spent a lot of time with no duties except to be available for service calls. Computers being what they were in 1980, I got called out regularly but I still had a lot of free time to play with my Apple II.
Eamon: I was a heavy consumer of Apple games and loved text-based stuff like Adventure and Zork. If I remember correctly there was short article about Eamon and the National Eamon User's Club in an Apple magazine back around 1980-ish. I bought a few Eamons from one of the public-domain Apple software sellers. (No Internet! At the time PD software cost $1-$4 per disk to buy.) I really enjoyed them so I joined the NEUC. I was a regular contributor of many bug fixes.
The NEUC went well for several years but then the frequency of the issues started going downhill. By 1986(?) it was basically dead. I had spoken with John Nelson many times and I contacted him about taking over the NEUC. It turned out that he had used NEUC funds to buy a small copier and a maintenance contract for it. The copier wasn't a bad idea since copies were pretty expensive back then. However, the monthly maintenance contract bill ate into the NEUC funds until John eventually had no money to actually produce the newsletter.
John saw the NEUC as unrecoverable so he agreed to let me take over. He sent me a little money and his subscription list. I sent letters to everyone informing them of the situation and inviting them to join the EAG for $7. Of course there were a lot of unhappy NEUC members who had seen something like three issues for their last two years of $15 dues. But a pretty good percentage of them took a chance on me and the EAG was off and running!
4 January 2022:
I suspect that a lot of John Nelson's energy was looking elsewhere by the time the NEUC was dying, in his pursuit of a more complex Eamon system. Have you tried playing his Knight Quest game? He had burdened it with races, alignments and other stuff that is really pretty useless in a game as short and restricted as Eamon. It was so complex that a simple LOOK command took 20 seconds to respond! I don't know when he got a PC but eventually he got busy porting his improved Eamon to that environment, but that may have been several years later.
Gosh, what did I enjoy the most? Making up the newsletter was great fun. I really enjoyed debugging new Eamon submissions. Correspondence with authors was great fun, especially the international ones. At one time or another the EAG must have had a total of over a dozen foreign members from literally all over the world. I would request that they pay for their memberships with cash as it was fun to look at all the different foreign money.
I'm not sure how long Matt's website had been running when I learned about it. He certainly did a great job! I don't really remember but I think I finally told him that he should handle new releases, or maybe he just started doing it on his own since the EAG was moribund. I did tell everyone who inquired about my EAG CD about Matt's site. Most went on to order the CD anyway, but I was just happy to give them access to Eamon whether they ordered it or not. I mean, I made about a quarter on each CD I sold and never sold all that many.
15 January 2022:
Gosh, I haven't spoken with John Nelson for many years, surely more than 10 or 15. John still seemed to feel that there was a solid market for a web-based online text game, a feeling that I did not share.
Designing and writing Eamon games is probably the most fun I have ever had with a computer. I don't know which part was the most fun, it was all just great. As I recall (it's been 35 years!) Thror's Ring was pretty much a straight-up Eamon. I did reread the Moria section of the book and borrowed some of the text color.
My following Eamons had extensive mods to the base code. Dolni Keep was more ambitious with the goal of making the companions active contributors to the success of the mission. I seem to recall that each companion had to accomplish an essential task at some point and the adventure was impossible without them. That was a lot of work but it was worth it. Several have commented on how much they liked that aspect. Well, it wasn't easy and you have to keep a tight rein on developments so the code doesn't break.
My object for Journey to Jotunheim was to create an adventure in which the code understood and could respond coherently to every single noun in the text. The encounters interacted in complex ways and required a massive amount of play-testing as I actively tried to break the game with unexpected moves. As I recall the encounter with Odin was particularly hard to get right. My inspiration was the novella The Last Trump by L. Sprague de Camp. I believe that I credited the story and recommended it. I also extensively researched Norse mythology while writing the plot. All of the contests in Jotunheim are derived from actual Norse myths.
I don't really remember what my goal was for Walled City apart from wanting to make a really complex, advanced-level Eamon. (Of course Sam Ruby eventually claimed that category with his multi-disk plays. He was in high school when he wrote them and is a lawyer today.) My inspiration was Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny. I borrowed heavily from the book and gave it full credit and a hearty recommendation, as it is one of my favorite Zelazny works.
The 7.0 Demo Adventure was intended as a show-and-tell to demonstrate the many advanced features of version 7, especially how to use the machine-code searches, and how to use them. It is a massive upgrade from Nelson's version 6, too bad it came too late to see more use.
I consider Hammer's Slammers to be a failure. I was over-ambitious. The goal was to simulate something like 400 rooms. I wasn't planning on multiple disks but I never got that far before I lost interest in developing it further. The setup was you were the only survivor of an ambushed convoy of tanks and gun trucks. My special feature was the extended map. My inspiration was David Drake's fabulous Hammer's Slammers series of military SF. The concepts there are just phenomenal.
- Based in Los Alamos, New Mexico