UK Homegrown Text Adventure Companies
Here is a sample of advertising from some of the many homegrown text adventure companies producing text adventures in the UK during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The advertising was featured in fanzines such as Adventure Probe, Red Herring, and From Beyond.
(Note: This is a work-in-progress and is not an exhaustive list)
(Note the (e) after a format denotes the publisher offered emulated versions of another system's games on this platform. For example emulated Spectrum titles provided on disks suitable for PC gamers.)
Proprietor: Debby Howard - Location: Abbey Wood, London
Formats: Amstrad CPC
Run by Dragonsoft's Debby Howard, who would also later go on to be the adventure columnist for Amstrad Action, Adventure PD provided an extensive Public Domain software and solutions (on disk) service for Amstrad CPC adventurers.
Sadly, most of the Adventure PD's huge collection of Adventure tapes and disks are not archived online; meaning that many titles are currently lost.
Debby was also the co-author of 'Using the Quill: A Beginner's Guide'.
Adventure PD - Sample Advertising
Adventure Probe Software
Proprietor: Barbara Gibb - Location: Liverpool
Formats: Spectrum, C64, Atari ST & Atari ST (e), Amiga & Amiga (e), PC & PC (e)
Barbara Gibb, who took over the editorship of the long-running fanzine Adventure Probe in 1992, set up the Adventure Probe Software label to distribute both games that had lost their original publishers and eventually new software too.
In 1993, Adventure Probe Software took on titles from the defunct The Guild, including Spectrum conversions of Mandy Rodrigues, Simon Avery, and Ken Bond's games.
Under license, they published Jack Lockerby's River Software C64 games, Larry Horsfield's FSF Software back-catalogue and Walter Pooley's adventures. They also distributed Zenobi Licenseware for Atari ST. Later on they also distributed shareware, public domain, and "fixed" adventures.
Adventure Probe continued to publish titles into the second half of the 1990s, and beyond, with authors often choosing to donate any proceeds to the Adventure Probe (fanzine) fund. It can probably be considered the "last man standing" of the original UK homegrown text adventure publishers. The magazine Adventure Probe closed in 2007 after a remarkable 21 year run.
See also: WOW Software
Adventure Probe Software - Sample Advertising
The Adventure Workshop
See the detailed page on The Adventure Workshop for more information.
Atlas Adventure Software
Proprietor: Mandy Rodrigues - Location: Llandudno
Formats: Commodore 64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Spectrum, Atari ST
The original software label linked to the Adventure Probe fanzine, under Mandy Rodrigues' stewardship, which continued operating after the editorship of the magazine passed to Barbara Gibb.
Their notable games included The Black Knight (Mandy Rodrigues), The Case of the Mixed-up Shymer (Sandra Sharkey), The Million Dollar Great Jewel Heist (Dorothy Millard). They also published (at one point) Grue-Knapped!, and Helvera – Mistress of the Park, by Bob Adams.
Adventure Probe, and later Atlas, had a deal to sell the Graphic Adventure Creator+ for C64, under exclusive licence from Incentive. Mandy went on to run the official user group fanzine for Incentive's 3D Construction Kit.
Like Adventure Probe Software, Atlas also distributed Zenobi Licenseware for Atari ST.
As well as games, Atlas published & sold books such as 'A Beginners Guide to Adventures' by Dave Havard, 'Computer Adventures – The Secret Art' by Gil Williamson, and back issues of Pat Winstanley's Adventure Contact fanzine.
Their Amstrad CPC games were later passed on to WoW Software.
Atlas Adventure Software - Sample Advertising
Proprietor: Geoff "The Grue" Rens - Location: Ormskirk
Formats: Amiga, Atari ST, PC
Known to the UK adventure community as The Grue, Infocom superfan Geoff Rens' published his similarly verbose titles The Four Symbols and Trinity on his Borphee Computers label. The Four Symbols also received Spectrum and Amstrad CPC ports through FSF Adventures and the Adventure Workshop.
Borphee Computers - Sample Advertising
Proprietor: Jon Lemmon - Location: Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Although some of his earlier games were written with Your Sinclair adventure columnist & From Beyond fanzine editor Tim Kemp, Jon Lemmon's Compass Software was basically a one-man show. His unique, well-presented games often incorporated special graphical or sound effects, including on occasion, mini-arcade games.
Producing several trilogies and multi-game sagas, notable Compass titles included the Blood of Bogmole, Demon from the Darkside, and Project X: The Micro Man.
Compass Software closed when Jon felt the sales had declined to no longer make the venture worth his time, leaving his final adventure "Night of the Demons" unfinished and unpublished.
The Compass games eventually went on to be distributed by The Adventure Workshop.
Compass Software- Sample Advertising
Delbert the Hamster Software
Proprietor: Scott Denyer - Location: Flitwick, Bedfordshire
Delbert the Hamster Software was set up by student Scott Denyer, who had had previous success with the Arnold the Adventurer games for Zenobi. This new label published both Scott's own games and some he wrote as collaborations with others.
Notable games included Desmond & Gertrude, Microfair Madness, and Brian & the Dishonest Politician. DTHS also republished the Zodiac Software catalogue of titles as well as adventures from William Young's Global Games.
Scott closed DTHS in 1992, to concentrate on his A-levels, passing his existing games on to Zenobi Software. His final game, Grabbed by the Ghoulies! was republished by FSF Software.
Delbert the Hamster Software - Sample Advertising
Dream World Adventures
Proprietor: Martin Freemantle - Location: Gravesend. Kent
Formats: Spectrum, Amiga (e)
Coming relatively late to the Spectrum scene, Martin still managed to release a large number of interesting text adventures; both those he'd written himself and also those by other authors such as Sharon Harwood and Damien Steele.
Notable releases included Martin's own Dragon Slayer trilogy and Sharon Harwood's The Chameleon Key.
Dream World Adventures - Sample Advertising
From Beyond Spectrum PD
Proprietor: Tim Kemp - Location: Norwich, Norfolk
Because of the already low price of homegrown Spectrum text adventures on tape there was never really a Public Domain or Shareware adventure scene for the Speccy.
From Beyond PD was an attempt to establish a PD library. Although initially created by Gordon Inglis, of GI Games, during its limited life the library was mainly managed by Tim Kemp of the From Beyond fanzine.
At 99p per game, plus 17p for postage, the price wasn't far enough below the cost of general homegrown adventures, so the idea never really took off.
From Beyond PD - Sample Advertising
Proprietor: Larry Horsfield - Location: Charlton, London
Formats: Spectrum, Amstrad, Amiga (e)
FSF owner Larry Horsfield was a well-known name on the Acorn text adventure scene, thanks to his involvement with the Elk Adventure Club.
Larry's early ZX Spectrum releases were reworkings of the club's Quilled Electron games, greatly expanded using Gilsoft's PAWs. He specialised in large, spawling, multi-part text adventures.
Notable games included the Axe of Kolt saga and the 'Mike Erlin' Magnetic Moon series.
In later years, Larry also published work (and ports of adventures) by other authors such as Tony Collins, Scott Denyer, The Grue, Kez Gray, Peter Council, and Bob Adams.
Upon the closure of FSF, many of Larry's games went on to be republished by Adventure Probe Software.
FSF Adventures - Sample Advertising
Proprietor: Gordon Inglis - Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Gordon Inglis was a record shop owner and entrepreneur from Edinburgh. He'd been a reseller of videogames through his main Sandven Ltd business, and had also run a second hand software swap-shop, as well as a ZX Spectrum Public Domain service (see From Beyond PD).
Through his new venture GI Games, he acquired the rights to republish games from the likes of St. Bride's, Delta 4, 8th Day, and indie author Walter Pooley.
After licensing out these rights to others (such as the Northern Underground and Venturesoft) for a brief amount of time, he eventually came to an arrangement for Zenobi Software to take on the titles on a permanent basis, and GI Games closed up shop.
GI Games - Sample Advertising
Proprietor: William Young - Location: Carluke, Lanarkshire
Global Games was run by William Young, who had previously produced the excellent Spectrum Adventurer tapezine and ran the Spectrum Adventure Exchange Club. Many of the games featured in the initial Global Games stable were originally released as freebies on his tapezine or as commercial releases through the SAEC.
Global Games - Sample Advertising
The Guild Adventure Software
Proprietor: Anthony "Tony" Collins (1991 – 1993) - Location: Birmingham
Formats: Spectrum, Amstrad CPC/PCW, Commodore 64, Amiga
Adventure author Anthony “Tony” Collins had self-published games such as Nythyel, Theseus, Teacher Trouble, and Miami Mice for Spectrum & Amstrad in the mid-1980s. He'd also later released games on his 50/50 Club Software label.
After working with Mark Eltringham’s Recreation Re-Creation Software, Tony returned to the scene and launched a new software label in October 1991, initially concentrating on converting games from other 8-bit formats to the Spectrum & Commodore 64 machines.
Tony, often writing as Pegasus Software, produced lots of quick, no-thrills conversions of Amstrad titles to the Spectrum & Commodore 64. He commissioned Philip Reynolds to produced conversions to Amstrad format for him; Philip later went on to set up his own company, the Adventure Workshop.
When Recreation Re-Creation went out of business Tony took on a lot of their Amstrad titles, with The Guild initially publishing the disk versions and P.K. Graphics selling the tape editions. Most of the Guild's Amstrad games were passed on to The Adventure Workshop in 1992, when Tony began focussing on the C64 and looking to the future for potential 16-bit conversions.
The Guild also ran a Public Domain library of C64, Amiga and Spectrum adventures. He republished some of the Interactive Technology games.
The Guild suddenly closed up shop in the autumn of 1993 with the titles in its catalogue being scattered to other homegrown publishing labels. Some were taken on by Adventure Probe. An agreement was made with Jason Mackenzie of Binary Zone PD to sell the C64 titles under license. Other games ended up being republished by The Adventure Workshop.
The Guild - Sample Advertising
Proprietor: Martyn Westwood - Location: Sheffield, Yorkshire
Formats: Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari ST
"Out Infocom-ing Infocom" proclaims one of the Interactive Technology advertisements which showed that they certainly didn't lack in confidence.
Notable games included Dead End, and A Dark Sky Over Paradise.
Interactive Technology - Sample Advertising
The Northern Underground
Proprietor: Leslie "Les" Floyd - Location: Carlisle
A short-lived venture from the young and enthusiastic Les Floyd, following on from his previous outing as 'Armageddon and Cream'.
Northern Underground republished Elven Adventurers titles like Conman the Barbaric, Dreamare, and The Haunting. It also released new adventures like Kane Conway's Parole.
For a short while, Northern Underground published several games under license from Zenobi, such as a John Wilson Balrog games compilation and GI Games titles such as the Delta 4 games.
Northern Underground - Sample Advertising
P.K. Computer Graphics
Proprietor: Peter Knowles (?) - Location: Barnsley, Yorkshire
Formats: Amstrad CPC (tape only)
Another very short-lived software house, taking on the tape versions of many of the Amstrad games in the Recreation Re-creation Software catalogue when that company disappeared. Disk versions of these games were published by The Guild, who also eventually sold the tape editions too when P.K. stopped trading.
P.K. Computer Graphics - Sample Advertising
Recreation Re-Creation Software
Proprietor: Mark Eltringham - Location: Norwich, Norfolk
Formats: Amstrad CPC
Published new titles and ports of games for other platforms, as well as older titles (such as the Charles Sharp adventures). When the company disappeared many of the games were split between P.K. Computer Graphics (selling the tape versions) and The Guild (selling the disk versions).
Recreation Re-Creation Software - Sample Advertising
Proprietor: Jack Lockerby - Location: Canterbury, Kent
Formats: Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari ST
River Software supremo Jack Lockerby (sometimes writing with his son-in-law Roger Betts) was arguably the most prolific UK text adventure writer; producing almost forty games, a large number of which were published across multiple platforms.
Jack was an expert with the Quill, GAC, STAC, and the PAWs. His Spectrum and Atari ST games were later republished by Zenobi Software, which became the home for the many new Speccy games he produced from that point onwards. Jack himself continued to sell his C64 titles through River, until they were finally taken on by Adventure Probe Software.
Jack's early games were created with the Quill for the Spectrum and C64. All those initial titles for the Spectrum were later reprogrammed using the PAW. Many of the original Quilled editions (for ZX) are currently missing from the archives. You can read a full profile on Jack and his games here.
River Software - Sample Advertising
Proprietor: Tom Frost - Location: Montrose, Scotland
Formats: Spectrum, Amstrad CPC
See the full profile on Tom Frost/Tartan Software for more details.
Tartan Software - Sample Advertising
Proprietor: Joan (& Maurice) Pancott (1990 – 1997) - Location: Weymouth, Dorset
Barbara Gibb (1997 - ) - Location: Liverpool
Formats: Amstrad CPC & PCW
After running her 'Witch of Wessex' adventure helpline for many years, Joan Pancott decided to fill the gap in the Amstrad CPC & PCW market by setting up her own homegrown software company in 1990.
Publishing new titles and conversions, from authors such as Michael and Jane Trewhella, Bob Adams, Simon Avery and Steve Clay, as well as republished older Amstrad games, WOW software won multiple UK Adventurers' Convention awards for best independent software house.
After the death of Joan Pancott in 1997, Barbara Gibb of Adventure Probe took over the running of WoW, at the request of Joan's family.
WoW Software - Sample Advertising
WoW Software (Adventure Probe) - Sample Advertising
A collection of advertising from other smaller publishers or individual authors...
Fictitious Frobshire (Neil Shipman) - publisher of Grue-Knapped! on the PC & ST
Fictitious Frobshire - Sample Advertising
Fridd Software (Frank Fridd) - publisher of Colditz Escape
Fridd Software - Sample Advertising
Ken Bond - author of The Spiro Legacy
Ken Bond - Sample Advertising
Lynsoft (Geoff Lynas) - author of The Survivor
Lynsoft - Sample Advertising
The ST Adventurer's PD Library & Merryvale (Amiga) PD (John Barnsley)
John Barnsley PD Software- Sample Advertising
Various Advertising... including Syntax, Silent Corner, Walter Pooley, Amster Productions...
Misc. Sample Advertising