Thursday 12 May 2016

Call for Questions for Mike Woodroffe

Introduction by Joe Pranevich

If you’re like me, you’ve asked yourself more than once, “Who was it that got the brilliant idea to combine a 1980s horror movie personality with adventure and RPG game elements to create the Elvira series?” Or who it was that brought Scott Adams-style adventure gaming to Europe? Or who was the mad genius behind a cornucopia of licensed adventure games based on He-Man, Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, Robin Hood, and even Super Gran, a British TV series about a grandmother that gets super powers?

The answer to all of these questions and many more is Mike Woodroffe, founder, writer, producer, and programmer for Adventure International UK, AdventureSoft, and HorrorSoft. I am pleased to announce that he has agreed to do a community interview with us!

Just as we did with Scott Adams, the Two Guys from Andromeda, Christy Marx, and others, we will be gathering questions for Mr. Woodroffe from you, our devoted readers. But before you ask the questions, you might want to check out this history of Adventure International UK by RetroGamer or this interview with Mr. Woodroffe, from a HorrorSoft fan page.

Although Mike started in on the business side as a game importer, he also worked on a number of adventure games through the 1980s and early 90s. He seems to have had a particular love for licensed properties. To date, we’ve played only two of his games (Elvira and Elvira II), but as a special Missed Classic we will be reviewing Seas of Blood next week! We may even see another of his games in a few weeks...

  • 1985 - Seas of Blood (with Alan Cox)
  • 1985 - Robin of Sherwood: The Touchstones of Rhiannon (with Brian Howarth)
  • 1987 - Masters of the Universe: Super Adventure (with Teoman Irmak, Stefan Ufnowski, & Graham Lilley)
  • 1989 - Heroes of the Lance (with Teoman Irmak, Graham Lilley, Anthony Scott, Alan Bridgeman, Matt Ellis, Brian Howarth, Tom Lucas, & Simon Woodroffe)

  • 1989 - A Personal Nightmare (with Alan Bridgman, Alan Cox, & Keith Wadhamsa)
  • 1990 - Elvira (with Alan Bridgman, Keith Wadhamsa, & Simon Woodroffe)
  • 1991 - Elvira 2 (with Alan Bridgman & Simon Woodroffe)
  • 1992 - Waxworks (with Alan Bridgman & Simon Woodroffe)
But by the mid-90s, Mike had stepped away game design, working instead as a producer, marketer, or general manager. It was in one of these roles that Michael worked on another series of games that I look forward to seeing on this blog, Simon the Sorcerer. Michael’s son, Simon Woodroffe, would take a leading role in these games and come to prominence as a designer in his own right as we get further into the 90s. I hope we’ll be able to interview Simon once we get into the coincidentally-named (?) Simon the Sorcerer games in a few years time.

  • 1993 - Simon the Sorcerer (also programmer)
  • 1995 - Simon the Sorcerer 2 
  • 1997 - The Feeble Files 
  • 2002 - Simon the Sorcerer 3D (managing director)
  • 2005 - Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (managing director)
After the third Simon game, Mike is only credited with “additional design” in the fourth game (2007) and received no credit for the fifth game (2009). This is likely due to the property’s transfer to the now-defunct Silver Style Entertainment.

Do you have a question for Mike Woodroffe? Write it in the comments below. Too shy? Mail them to the administrator email on the left column of the blog. After about a week, we will be collating the questions, sorting them, removing all your swear words, pruning the list down to a reasonable number if necessary, and sending them off to be answered.


  1. I have so many questions, but here are a couple:

    1. When selecting licenses to go after, how did you decide what shows or movies to make games from? Did the idea for the game come first, or the property?

    2. How did you transition into game development in 1985? Do you have any previous game credits that have been lost to time (and Mobygames)?

    3. How did you discover the Scott Adams games and what inspired you to build a company to import them to the UK?

    4. Simon the Sorcerer was your first foray into a continuing series with your own characters (in the vein of what Lucasarts and Sierra had done)-- not counting the two Elvira games-- how did that process emerge creatively?

  2. Continuing from Joe's question 1: When you are working on a licensed material, do you have some kind of method for getting acquainted with the licensed material and making it into a game? Did you, for instance, watch all of Robin of Sherwood -episodes and on basis of that decide what would be a plausible plot of the game - or did you just forget the show and say something like "Robin Hood, well he could this and that"? More generally, do you have some kind of criteria how faithful to the original the game based on some property should be?

  3. 5. As it came to the decision to make 'Simon 3D', was it a decision across the table? I can only imagine that through development, the overall reception to titles like Grim Fandango or Gabriel Knight 3 must have been a significant worry to the development team.

    6. You're responsible for two whole Elvira games, at least in part. Did you ever meet Ms. Peterson herself? Was the process for those games (Elvira to Waxworks) with the pseudo-realistic imagery an entirely art-based approach, or are there any fun tales of pseudo-realistic dummies being put together for the artists to work with?

    7. Now that you have the benefit of hindsight, are there any titles that you would have performed differently? Any that you had the opportunity to pursue but didn't either have the resources or interest in but now consider as a missed chance?

    8. If you were to have today's technology available to make one of your old games, do you think that (aside from graphical updates) you would take a different tact in making them? (This is an excellent chance to plug anything you might have hidden away planned, Mr. Woodroffe!)

  4. Did Elvira herself participate in any way in creating the games? Why after getting the license for the character she was not the protagonist of the games?

  5. I dig deep and inquire with the penetrating questions everyone is curious about but afraid to ask:

    Why the leap from an obvious (and easy to program, even in BASIC!) multiple-choice interface for the Fighting Fantasy gamebook conversions to the complete text parser interface they ended up going with? Is it just because, what with the Scott Adams conversions and all, that's the engine they happened to have available at the time?

    How far along did they get with the announced & advertised (but ultimately unreleased) Fighting Fantasy gamebook adaptations of Sword of the Samurai, Demons of the Deep, Trial of Champions and Appointment with FEAR? It's been, what, 30 years on and of the four of them, only one (FEAR) has been given a computer conversion in the meantime. Were they abandoned due to staffing constraints (focus on more profitable projects), the expiry of a contract to adapt the gamebooks, or simply a realization that they weren't selling well enough to justify making more of them? Did they have free rein to choose which books they'd like to adapt (because if not... who would prioritize Seas of Blood over City of Thieves?) or were they chained (contractually or through common sense to ride the cross-promotional wave) to whatever the current releases happened to be?

    Would anything from Personal Nightmare on have been possible had Alan Cox not spent his year at Adventuresoft with his AberMUD code up his sleeve? Did he represent an exceptional, unanticipated springboard to the next level or is it more the case that if not him, it would have simply been some other programmer with some different engine pointing the way to the future?

    Given that the name choice of the protagonist of Simon the Sorcerer may not have been completely random and arbitrary, did his namesake take any umbrage at the fact that the character is presented as a bit of a tosser?

    OK, that's all for now.

  6. Might be too late for another question, but

    What was it like working with your son? Were there any extra challenges and/or advantages brought on by the close relationship?

  7. Questions will be closed tomorrow morning, so if you have one and been too shy (or want to add some more), NOW is a very good time to do it.

  8. I'll also be doing a "Bonus" interview with Teoman Irmak, the art designer on most of these AIUK and HorrorSoft titles. If you have any questions for him, let me know, otherwise I'll just write all my own.

  9. I have a question. Actually three, but if he sharply answers no to the first one, then the others are pretty pointless:
    1) Will you ever go back to making horror games again?
    2) In case you do, would it be some sort of sequel to Waxworks like an spiritual successor?
    3) And finally, *IF* you ever do, will it keep to that old nostalgic feeling of Amiga to the point of using AberMUD 5, or you're going to blast into the best technology has to offer to appeal to younger audiences that are also fond of horror content?

    - Lécio P. Jr.

  10. Chelle's Inferno: 'Personal Nightmare' - please remake this long-lost classic horror adventure!!!

  11. Gareth - Thanks for sharing the link of my blog post on of the greatest horror adventure games of all time :)

    1. That's OK Michelle still looking for an original amiga version struggling to find one. I have elvira 1 and 2 and also waxworks I will keep searching haven't played it to date but if it's anything like the others I won't be disappointed. Kind regards

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