Interview with the creator of Venture 2 and Grandpa Pacman, Lafe Travis
Question 1. What inspired you you to do a sequel to Venture? Was it a favorite of yours or did you see untapped potential?

Venture was one of my favorite arcade games. I used to play it at a Bowling Alley with my friends. We were really into Dungeons and Dragons in 1981, so this was probably the first "D&D-type" arcade games to play. We loved it, but none of us could get further than Level 3. But new games came in, and we never saw it again.

I was disappointed that Venture only had three dungeons. Prior to completing Dungeon 3 (and learning the truth), I had wondered what later dungeons would be like. I began coming up with ideas for future dungeons.

In the height of the 80's videogame craze, Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers made many boardgames based on arcade games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Zaxxon, Berzerk... Since nobody had made a Venture boardgame, I decided to go ahead and make one myself. What started out as a boardgame, with cardboard and paper, soon became a Dungeons and Dragons adventure on graph paper, which I could take my friends through. It included all the dungeons of the arcade game, plus additional dungeons, which I had invented myself.

A decade later, with all of that shelved and gathering dust, I acquired a PC, and the ability to make my own video games. I could have gone through the process of learning to program a game in C++, but didn't have the time. I purchased a piece of software called "Game Maker", played around with it for a bit, but soon learned that it had too many limitations.

Then came Klik & Play, a game-designing kit for Windows. It had the power that Game Maker lacked. I set about to design my own video game. But what game would I make? I had several in mind. I did a few experimental games, just to learn Klik & Play's programming language. My early efforts weren't bad, but I wanted to do something that I would enjoy playing. Why not do a
videogame sequel? I thought of Grandpa Pac-Man and Donkey-Lion, but decided to first do Venture. After all, Venture was one of my favorite arcade games!

I brainstormed and put it all down on paper. At first, Venture 2 would only be a tribute to the Atari Swordquest games and have Earth, Fire, Water and Air worlds. But four worlds wasn't enough -- it was only one more dungeon than the first Venture. I added on Desert, Ice, Enchanted, Video and Mystery worlds - a total of nine! I built the game around those nine worlds. Each one would have its own colour-scheme, monsters and treasures. This is the way I wanted the original Venture to be, so I made sure to include all of the best elements from every version of Venture.

Klik & Play also had limitations which had to be worked around. For one, there was no such thing as Global Variables, so I had to store a lot of values in Player 2, 3 and 4 scores and lives-- the only variables which carried over from level to level. Collision detection in Klik & Play isn't very good either, so I had to refine it by creating a smaller circle behind Winky, which would be the actual collision-checking.

Much later in the design process, I decided to add the wizard's castle. It was to have a much more complex series of rooms, but Klik & Play, I discovered, stops working properly if a certain game size is reached. Half a dozen levels (mostly in Exidy's Castle) went on the chopping block.

Venture 2 programming started late August 1995, and was not completed until September 5th, 1997 -- so after two years of hard work, the game is finished!

Question #2. I really enjoy how you create stories to go with your games. What made you
decide to include this and is this something that you plan on including in future games?

Early Atari games had stories, but they weren't part of the game. Instead, to learn the story, you had to look at the pictures and read the background information in the manual. Some Atari 2600 games had cool comic books included, with complex storylines - look at Yar's Revenge. For the most part, arcade-type games simply set up the conflict. It was up to the player to make the resolution happen.

But as the technology increased, designers could put the stories right into the games. I'd say post-crash games (NES and onwards) have stories and endings. Some of the NES ones are really lame though. Some recent computer games have more story than game, with extensive non-interactive cut scenes. Having the player sit back and watch for a long time isn't good either.

With Venture 2, I set up the story with Pinky being kidnapped by Exidy, and Winky being sent on a quest to rescue her. Rather than financial gain, collecting the treasures in Venture 2 would be to pay the ransom to get Pinky back from the Wizard. The treasures were spread over nine dungeons. Once all the treasures are collected, the game reaches a climax at the Wizard's castle. I won't say exactly what happens, I'd sooner have people play it. All I'll say is that Exidy is not to be trusted. Don't worry, it's not a letdown like at the end of Ghosts 'n' Goblins.

I admit a princess being kidnapped by an evil wizard is a cliche' storyline, but I think the ransom part is a new twist on things. I wanted also to update Winky's background, and offer a bit of his history. I considered changing the Winky graphic to a little man, like on the arcade
game artwork, but I thought it would be best if I kept the same round little guy that people identified with in the first game.

I've thought of what a Venture 3 would be like; probably a first-person 3-D game like Heretic and Quake, with monsters coming at you. You'd see the hallways and rooms through Winky's own eyes. I doubt it will ever happen, unless someone else makes it. Another idea for a Venture 3 game would be a role-playing style like Final Fantasy or Zelda games. Certainly more background information could be given about the village that Winky and Pinky live in.

Question #3-Since you are such a self proclaimed Yosemite Sam fan, did you hide him or any other people in your games? Any little secret rooms or levels?

Good thing you asked! Yosemite Sam is one of the pirates in the Pirate Room on Waterworld. I couldn't resist putting him into the game. Once you've grabbed the Pirate Chest of Gold, he'll appear in the doorway and try to stop you from escaping from the room.

Question #4-What made you choose freeware as opposed to shareware? Was it a copyright issue or are you the generous sort?

I would have loved to get rich from this game. It was basically a copyright issue. I didn't know how to contact Exidy for their permission to use the Venture and Winky names. I credited them by putting their logo on the Venture 2 title screen, and by naming the evil greedy wizard "Exidy". A lot of the music and graphics used in the game wasn't original either.

I didn't want to get myself into hot water, so I made the game Freeware. By doing so, I could put into the game whatever I wanted.

Question #5-You have talked about your next game possibly being either Donkey Lion or Mr. Do's Zoo. Can you give any previews of what these games will be like?

Donkey Lion will be a cross between Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Jungle Hunt, Pitfall, Congo Bongo, Fantasy and Kangaroo. The level order will be randomly chosen, unlike the boring predictability of Donkey Kong. It will have the selection of levels like Jumpman, except the graphics won't be on as small of a scale. After a set number of levels have been surpassed, you'll have a "boss" level to try and get the little girl from the Lion. The graphics will have a tropical, lush jungle setting. Enemies will be rolling coconuts (in place of barrels), living pineapples (in place of fireballs) and snakes (in place of foxfires). The weapon you use against them will be a hunting knife (instead of a hammer). Between each screen, you'll see a record of your progress, with the phrase "How High Can You Try?" (Stolen from Crazy Kong, Stolen from Donkey Kong). I'm really excited about Donkey Lion.

Mr. Do!'s Zoo will be the fifth Mr. Do! game in the highly successful series, unless someone beats me to it. Other Mr. Do! games I had thought about creating were: Mr. Do!'s Candy Store, Mr. Do!'s Haunted House, and Mr. Do!'s Circus - but I've settled on Mr. Do!'s Zoo, because it sounds rhymy and catchy.

It would be a cross of Mr. Do!, Zookeeper, Blueprint, Ladybug, and Fantasy. The plot would revolve around Mr. Do! having to get all of the animals back in their cages. I'd like there to be elements of keys, gates, fences, cages, and a refreshment stand. The Alpha Monster would make an appearance, giving Mr. Do! chances to spell EXTRA. He would use his ball s a weapon again. It would likely be a maze game, but not a chase game like Pac-Man. But I need to brainstorm more ideas. I haven't come up with the actual gameplay yet. The name sounds cool, so I ought to make
a game out of it.

Well, hope you enjoyed the interview. Here is the address if you want to check these great games out yourself.   It is well worth the time and there is even a very good walkthrough for the Venture 2 game.

Now here is the reviews for both games as well as a link to Lafe's website:

Classic Games, New Approach
While searching through the newsgroups, I came upon a person talking about how they created a new game called Grandpa Pacman. Well, being the gamer I am and especially one that likes classic games, I decided to check it out. Upon my surprise, there was not only Grandpa Pacman, but a sequel to one of those great arcade games that you never expect to see a sequel to; Venture. Aptly named, Venture 2, it peaked my curiosity. So I downloaded both Venture 2 and Grandpa Pacman and here are my reviews. Remember that both are free and available at http: By the way, he is also planning on doing two other games named, Donkey Lion and Mr. Do's Zoo, both of which I cannot wait to try. You can be sure that I will have news on these as soon as they come out. After the reviews, I have an interview with Lafe, the creator of both games.

Venture 2
First off, you will notice that this is a very polished game. Lafe really put some effort into it and it shows. For starters, you get a story about Winky and his love. Everything seems happy, but looks are always deceiving in classic games. Soon she is stolen away and he must perform tasks to free her. While the story is quite enjoyable, like all beginnings, it will get old fast and thankfully you can easily pass over it. A nice little touch that isn't always utilized.

The next thing you will realize that while Venture 2 plays alot like the original and the main character looks the same, there are many advancements in this game. For starters the graphics are much nicer than the original. The creatures are multicolored and are far more advanced than the original. Same for the sound, with speech for poor Winky. But how about the rooms? Well, each level is themed and there are many varied rooms. Same with the foes as there are tons of different ones. There are also surprises that pop up and unfortunately usually end up killing you.

A few of the rooms that I really thought were great were the Minotaur room, which scared me the first time as the beast came charging at me. Honestly, I was on the edge of my seat. A great room! Another great room is the Poltergeist room with the haunted furniture flying around. It showed a great deal of creativity. Lafe really put some thought into this game and it just isn't another clone.

But like anything, there are good and bad points. Now onto some of the bad points. First, the game goes from pretty easy on the first level to extremely hard on the second level. There are a few rooms, especially the Hell room that are downright nasty. I lost alot of guys trying to get past level two. It got to a point of frustration and I almost gave up, but perseverance prevailed and I made it to level three, my second gripe. I had no clue what to do on any of the levels. Where there is usually some treasure to steal or something fairly obvious, this level is very vague. I had to go to his web site for an idea on what I am supposed to be doing. I must add a compliment here as he does give alot of information on the web site about the different rooms and it is quite helpful. A programmer that really cares.

On a positive note, he does allow for unlimited continues, but only at the start of the next level. If you finish three of the four rooms and run out of men, you will start over with all the rooms undone. This can be frustrating, but he says he plans on fixing this in an updated version.

Overall, it is a very enjoyable game and the price is right! While it can be frustrating at times, it does provide a challenge and can be beaten. Just don't expect to finish it one night as you won't even come close. A good job and I look forward to the updated version.

Grandpa Pacman
Sure there are tons of Pacman rip-offs and another one shouldn't be much news, right? Well, this isn't just another Pacman rip-off or is it? Sure it plays like Pacman and follows all the same rules, but leave it to Lafe to add his own touches to the game.

First off, there are special bonuses that can alter the game including a gun to shoot the ghosts, super energizer and more. Next you have neat little bonus items that move around like in Ms Pacman, with all of them themed to the game. Since Grandpa Pacman is old you pick up things like dentures (didn't know Pacmen had teeth?) and canes. But the best part of the game and the main reason I keep playing it is to see all the intermissions. He has 12 different ones and the handful I have seen are great! They are filled with humor and will keep you playing the game just to see them.

The controls are a bit buggy. Grandpa doesn't handle the best and he says it is due to age. Guess an old pacman would be slower. While this is novel for a bit, it quickly wears thin and you wish there were some more precise controls. Small gripe for a very enjoyable game that is free.

While it is just another Pacman clone, it does have enough extras added to make it stand out and keep you playing it. So go download it and give it a try. Grandpa is waiting for you and you cannot keep the elderly waiting too long.

Here is a link to Lafe's website: http://yosemite-sam.net/


 

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