A 2-For-1 Inspiration Day

Posted: December 17th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Interactive Fiction, interviews, production | 9 Comments »

Way back when I was in my early teens, I subscribed to a lot computer magazines and wrote out for a lot of promotional mail. Absolutely stacks of it, really, which I then kept in a huge box. I kept this box to the present day, more or less, and eventually I ended up storing this stack in a better fashion, utilizing plastic bins and file folders and bags.

Somewhere in the mass of mailings, I got a Compuserve catalog. Compuserve, if you never heard of it, was an online service which was available in the late 1970s-1980s, which had an hourly cost, and which provided many types of games, message bases and information. They also had a catalog of stuff you could buy, which came with their mailings and their magazine, which published monthly. I kept everything I had.

In one of the issues, was this ad:

It’s worth noting, by the way, that Colossal Cave adventure was a public domain product put out by Don Woods based on work by Will Crowther – it was never sold as a product by them, and they never saw a dime from such products like this one. So the t-shirts, the maps, the puzzle – none of it gave them any royalties or fees for doing so.

So, as a kid, I was floored not only by this amazing ad, but by that poster on the left that the guy in the gorilla suit is holding. Straining to look at it, I could make out details, and I was just completely blown away at how someone could take that game and end up being able to make a visualization of it like it was a real place. (Of course, some of it is based on a real place, but not all of it.) I just loved that thing, but I was a kid with no money and I guess just bad timing – I never bought one, and of course this product stopped being on sale after a while.

Every once in a while I’d think about this poster, and the artwork. I’d wonder where I could ever get it, who I could talk to. I drew a blank.

Here it is a little closer:

today-compuserve-adventure-wild-1983

Obviously, this photo was never meant to be a scan and wasn’t meant to show you the poster with any sort of clarity. I couldn’t make out a name, but I could see this thing looked great. It was, however, one of those things you have to let go about and so I was happy I still had this ad but I’d long ago realized I was never going to have it.

Fast forward to 2006, when I interviewed Don Woods, who was one of the creators of the original Adventure. Don Woods looks like this:

He smiles a lot more than this picture lets on. Don was a very gracious interviewee; I’d had to cancel my initial visit to see him when I got very sick, and when I healed up and asked to stop by, he happily let me visit and answered my questions for hours.

Somewhere at the end, while I’m packing up, he asks me if I want to see something neat. Well heck, sure! He went into the next room and brought out this:

The poster!

On his own, Don had brought out one of the dreams of my childhood, a poster I had long forgotten about (I hadn’t even recalled it during this interview) and just laid it out in front of me in (somewhat) pristine form (it had a slight stain in the corner).

With this, I found out the artists’ name: Dennis Donovan. And I knew now that it was drawn in 1981. I don’t really have a hope of tracking him down, but in this photo, which I have in high-resolution, I at least can rest easy that I got to see the whole thing, in the flesh, and was able to bring that chapter to a close.

Don Woods was an inspiration for me when I played Adventure in 1981. This poster was an inspiration a couple years later. And I got to meet both, finally, on the same day.


9 Comments on “A 2-For-1 Inspiration Day”

  1. 1 Dennis G. Jerz said at 9:29 pm on December 21st, 2008:

    Beautiful! Note the very literal depiction of the “Window on Pit.”

    The painting is very interesting… I don’t remember a half-naked babe anywhere in the game, but the painting is interesting if only to remind us all how much more powerful our own imaginations are when we’ve lived with a textual world for years.

    If you had to work to build the map as a jigsaw puzzle, then using the map to help navigate the game would seem less like cheating.

  2. 2 Johan Herrenberg said at 11:37 pm on December 21st, 2008:

    Beautiful.

  3. 3 Vince said at 5:15 am on December 22nd, 2008:

    I remember the megawars poster being a little controversial back in its day, it was advertised in one or the other of the magazines and resulted in some politically correct emails to the editor generally revolving around the lack of young ladies going into computer science, vs the attire of the young lady on the left side of the megawars poster. I liked that poster although it seemed to have nothing to do with the game.

  4. 4 Jason Scott said at 7:16 am on December 22nd, 2008:

    For my own bit, Vince, I liked it, but probably because of the artistry than anything else. I even kept a brochure and now have it up, digitized:

    http://digitize.textfiles.com/items/1984-compuserve-megawars/

  5. 5 Jon M said at 9:06 am on December 23rd, 2008:

    We all have those fabled holy grails of our childhood and it is always great when someone finds them. Congratulations on getting to see the real thing up close.

  6. 6 An Adventure Tournament - Taking Inventory said at 6:41 pm on February 9th, 2009:

    […] mentioned in a previous entry, the original adventure game, “Adventure” (or “Colossal Cave” depending on […]

  7. 7 Taking Inventory » Blog Archive » Another Map of Adventure said at 7:55 pm on March 1st, 2010:

    […] out to me by James L. Dean that this weblog entry has another pen and ink drawing like the one I previously mentioned, but for this expanded […]

  8. 8 Beth Rose said at 8:46 pm on July 31st, 2016:

    Hi! I have this poster! I found it in a box. Dennis Donovan, hmmm? I will research that. I loved this game as a kid. :)

  9. 9 Beth Rose said at 9:22 pm on July 31st, 2016:

    Here are some pics. Poor quality because I am in a rush, sorry. To: All Msg 10 of 10
    Hi! I just found the line drawing poster in a box, and google brought me here! My sister and I used to play this as kids.

    Sorry that the images are poor – I am in the middle of some projects, but I’ll upload better ones if anyone is interested.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2Iz2Wzzyoj-ZzJ2bmJTNl82RUk/view?usp=sharing

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2Iz2Wzzyoj-UDNDVXJ0Z3FiUTQ/view?usp=sharing

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2Iz2Wzzyoj-OVNfUmoxRDg0bmc/view?usp=sharing

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2Iz2Wzzyoj-Y3BqZG9hbUZsV00/view?usp=sharing


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