When I was about fourteen my parents bought a PC to replace our ageing BBC Micro. There was an adventure game called Leisure Suit Larry which I had heard a lot about and was quite anxious to play. Once I had figured out how to win it, I set about cloning it, and in two years, with the help of my brother Mark who drew all the graphics, I produced a vaguely similar game about a Roman trying to escape Pompeii. It was released eighteen years ago next month. I’m not very proud of the code, though if I find a way of reading 5¼” disks I may open-source it. I’m not very proud of the story, either: I based the story around Roman farces, and though I thought it was quite funny when I was fifteen, the humour strikes me as juvenile and sexist now.
When I had done with that game, I wrote something better. This was Avalot, released sixteen years ago, where approximately the same cast of characters found themselves in the Middle Ages. I had no computer science training at the time, and was unaware of the concept of a virtual machine, but Avalot took several steps towards being a game program written on a general-purpose engine (the engine was called Avalanche). If I had had the opportunity to produce the planned third game of the series, it would presumably have been entirely abstracted. Avalot featured actual puzzles worthy of the name: I’m rather proud of the one about the onion. And I made some attempt to patch up the problems with the story which had been introduced in the first game, as well; Avalot’s wife had a little more to her personality than simply the nagging character from farce. It wasn’t perfect in the least, but it was light years ahead of the original game. Of course, by that time the standard of professional games had moved on, and Avalot looked dated even when it was released.
Both games were released as shareware, and neither made any appreciable amount of money. I think we all had dinner out once on the takings from the first game, and the second game didn’t even make that. But occasionally I still get fanmail.
Sometimes I wonder whether I should resurrect the Avvy franchise as Z-machine games, and whether that would give me a chance to finally fix the immaturity of the original code and of the original humour. I’m not sure, really.