Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Interviewer: Dennis 'deepgames' Plöger
Adventure-Treff: "Thank you for giving us an interview. Please state your name, your age, your hometown and your shoe size for the protocol."
Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw: "Benjamin 'Yahtzee' Richard Croshaw; 21; Rugby in Warwickshire; 12 and a half."
A-T: "What's the story behind your nickname?"
: "It was the name of one of my first adventure game characters, Arthur Yahtzee, from the Arthur Yahtzee trilogy (Friday, Saturday and Yesterday, all available on my site
). Cut a long story short, I needed a name with the initials 'AY' as part of a funny acronym."
A-T: "What are you doing besides creating adventure games and working for your site fullyramblomatic.com?"
: "Well, I'm also writing a series of articles for Adventure Gamers
on common design flaws in adventure games, as part of my scheme to enrich the amateur industry. Aside from that, I'm mainly sitting around in a flat in Australia with no shirt on watching videos."
A-T: "When was the first time you thought about creating an adventure and why did you finally do it?"
Yahtzee: "It was so long ago that I'm not even sure when, but I think my very first dabblings into game design was when I tried to make text adventures in BASIC on my old Commodore 64, when I was a kid. This must have been around ten to fifteen years ago. My programming abilities were negligible, so the outcome turned out more like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books than a traditional text adventure.
As for why I did it, and why I continued to do it, I'm not sure. I've always been an avid gamer, at least until technology came too advanced for me to afford, and making my own was an appealing prospect. I've always been primarily a fiction writer, and adventure games are probably the best way to create an involving plot while maintaining the interactive experience."
A-T: "What were the games that influenced you the most if any?"
Yahtzee: "The very first adventure games I ever played were the Dizzy games on the C64. I found them a lot of fun, but I'm not sure they really influenced me as much as later games. When I upgraded to an Amiga 600, the very first games I played were Gobliiins and Curse of Enchantia. Curse was a pretty big influence, I suppose - it was a game I had difficulty putting down, with beautiful scenery and a great sense of humour, although I understand it's looked down upon by modern standards.
After that, it was the usual suspects, Lucasarts adventures. Zak McKracken was my first of these, and that in turn got me onto Monkey Island, which was like going from marijuana to uncut heroin. After I'd acquired and completed all the old Lucasarts titles, I would often go back and play through them over and over again, just to relive the experience. I don't recall any ending affecting me as much as the one for Monkey Island 2... but bear in mind I was still pretty young at this point, and I had been known to cry at Wing Commander cutscenes."
A-T: "Why did you leave the independet adventure scene a while ago?"
Yahtzee: "Because I thought I'd had enough. I hated the stress that came from working on a project. Once I'd announced to the world that I was making a game, I'd feel obliged to see it through, even if I lost interest in it. You may notice that this happened with Rob Blanc 3. I was sick of the pressure, and I thought that that meant I was sick of adventure games as a whole. As it turned out, this was not the case."
A-T: "...and why have you returned?"
Yahtzee: "It turned out the urge to make adventures was too deeply ingrained to turn my back on completely. The turning point was the day I played Monkey Island 2 through to the end for the umpteenth time, then found myself with the desire to make an adventure. The result was Odysseus Kent. After that went down well, I was unsure if that would be a one-off or if the desire was too strong to suppress for good. I guess 5 Days A Stranger decided the matter."
A-T: "...and why are you returning over and over again?"
Yahtzee: "I managed to get around the whole 'stress that comes from being obligated to a project' problem, the one that caused me to leave in the first place, by developing something of an eccentricity when it comes to game design - when I'm working on a project, I keep it absolute secret until it's finished, or nearly so. I don't create any websites with little progress bars. I don't give lists of features to spray on messageboards worldwide. I just drop a finished game on everyone's heads when they least expect it. That way, if I do grow bored of a project, I can give up on it whenever I like. I have something like four or five abandoned games on my hard drive right now.
Lately, I've been growing a little disillusioned with the slightly oppressive get-this-to-do-this format of adventure games (that's probably why 5 Days and 7 Days were more exercises in plot and characterisation than puzzles), and I've been trying to explore the potential of Adventure Game Studio. I've used it to create a sort of 'Life simulator', in the vein of Princess Maker 2, which is undergoing a beta test right now pending release. I've experimented with making an Anime-style RPG, but that's one of the aforementioned abandoned projects."
A-T: "Do you know about independent adventure projects in other countries?"
Yahtzee: "Not really. I try to keep up with the industry, but I don't take a lot of interest in projects that are 'under construction'. I've seen a lot of developers come up with a great idea, make a website and some concept art, then scrap the whole thing because they couldn't see it through. I generally wait until a game is released before investigating.
As for projects in other countries... there are no borders on the internet. :P"
A-T: "All your adventures got positive critics in the scene. What's your secret?"
Yahtzee: "My secret? Hm. Well, I think the secret is this. Don't come up with a really ambitious twelve-CD monster for your first project, because it'll be doomed very quickly. For your very first release, make something small. Put as much effort into it as you can muster, but don't feel ressured. Then, for every subsequent release, push yourself just a little bit harder to make a better product. By the time you've churned out your sixth or seventh, you'll have apretty solid reputation."
A-T: "What hints can you give other independent developers when it comes to creating a perfect adventure?"
Yahtzee: "When I first came to the AGS community, I saw a surprising amount of people making half-arsed games with the default AGS graphics, clipart and ripped backgrounds. The sort of thing where the player glides through a door in a car park and finds themself on Mars, with no coherent storyline or incentive to continue. Then I made Rob Blanc I, and everyone seemed to think it was a step in the right direction. So, my advice to independent developers is simply this: take pride in what you do. Sure, people are more forgiving of a game's flaws if they know it's an amateur project, but that's no excuse for not trying to wow them."
A-T: "We've heard, that you're working on a commercial adventure by the new german developer bad brain entertainment. How come and how big is your influence in this project?"
Yahtzee: "Ah. Well, moving into professional design has seemed like an obvious course of action for a while now, and when I heard about Bad Brain, I decided to take a chance. Dr. Wolfgang Kierdorf, the CEO, turned out to be a hell of a nice and down-to-earth bloke, and he invited me to send him a sample chapter for a game he was planning. So I threw one together, he liked it, and now we're working on the full script.
My influence is, at the moment, limited to typing up my ideas for the storyline and puzzle structure, and tying them all together into a neat bundle with string."
A-T: "Are you thinking about other projects in the commercial corner?"
Yahtzee: "It would be nice, although I'm not sure I could head a project myself, at least not yet. I've never really worked as part of a team, and the thought of actually having to lead that team gives me the jibblies. Having said that, I've got some ideas for games I think would be great if I could get them done professionally, but right now I'm content to just odd-job for other people's projects."
A-T: "Are you thinking about other independent adventures?"
Yahtzee: "Heh. I could tell you, but then I'd be violating the principle I mentioned in my answer to question 8 ('...and why are you returning over and over again?', the editor)."
A-T: "Before I leave you, one last question: Will there be a Rob Blanc IV?"
Yahtzee: "Well, it's sitting on my hard drive with about one room done, but I haven't touched it in two years, so probably not."
A-T: "Thank you for the interview."
Yahtzee: "No probs."