Thursday, 21 July 2016

Interview with Mike Woodroffe

Introduction by Joe Pranevich

Head of Adventure Soft, Horror Soft, and Adventure International UK

A couple of weeks back, we posted a call for questions for an interview with Mike Woodroffe. And while he hasn’t been able to answer all of our questions, he has been kind enough to give us a peek into the thought processes behind one of the most important adventure game companies in Europe, if not globally. Here on The Adventure Gamer, we’ve still only scratched the surface of his catalog, covering Seas of Blood (1984), Robin Of Sherwood (1984), Elvira (1990), and Elvira II (1991). I know of at least ten more adventures that he created or was heavily involved in, several of which are already on the list for us to play in the future. Almost two dozen more were games that he helped shepherd to market in his role as head of several adventure game companies. He has made a terrific impact on our genre and I’m glad that he agreed to take some time to speak with us.

So without any more fanfare, here is our brief interview with Mr. Woodroffe, plus some bonus information from my correspondence with him over the last several weeks.

The company has “Adventure” in the title, so of course we love it.

How did Adventure International UK come about? How did you discover the Scott Adams games and what inspired you to build a company to import them to the UK?
Mike: We discovered Scott Adams games when we started importing US made software before it was available in the UK. We realised we were shipping a lot of air across the ocean so started manufacturing under license in the U.K.
What was your relationship to Brian Howarth? At what point did you decide to move from being a game importer to a game development company?
Mike: Brian was a contract designer and programmer. We moved to developing because we couldn’t get enough new games to satisfy demand.
Your companies had a strong bent toward licensed games. How did you decide what movies or shows to create games from? Did the idea for the game come first or the property?
Mike: IP [Intellectual Property] came first then game design. We looked for IP we liked and then went after the licences.
How did your relationship with Fighting Fantasy come about? Did you have freedom to select the books you were adapting? If so, how did you select them?
Mike: It was a license we went after. We did have freedom to select which books. We went for the subject we thought would sell best.
(Ed Note: After Seas of Blood, Adventure Soft translated two other Fighting Fantasy books into computer games, Rebel Planet (1986) and Temple of Terror (1987). Mike let me know that the series ended at that point due to a lack of sales. The next Fighting Fantasy computer game wouldn’t be released for another twelve years. He selected an “adventure game” style of play over a more direct port of the gamebook because he felt that they could make a better game experience that way.)
I call dibs when we get to 1993.

Simon the Sorcerer was your first foray into a continuing series with your own characters, how did that process emerge creatively?
Mike: Simon Woodroffe came up with the concept and we decided to run with it.
(Ed Note: Mike separately let me know that he felt that the move to 3D for the third Simon game was a mistake. His company still owns the Intellectual Property for Simon and could decide to do something new with it in the future. I hope that we’ll be able to speak with Simon himself once we cover his namesake games, in a few years.)
What does the future hold for Adventure Soft? Do you have any plans to remake any of your old games or develop new ones?
Mike: Wait and see. Maybe.
(Ed Note: We are excited by the possibility!)
Have I mentioned that I like trains?

What have you been up to?
Mike: I am now a surveyor and run a narrow gauge railway as a hobby: Rhiv Valley Light Railway.
Now, for the question that I know everyone wanted to know the answer to: YES! He did get to meet Elvira. It turns out that their relationship is entirely because he and she had the same talent agent. Strange, but true.

With that, I have to thank Mike for his participation in our interview. You can find the Simon series and several other Adventure Soft games still for sale on their online store, as well as GOG and other fine retailers. Great looking 20th Anniversary Editions of Simon 1 & 2 have been produced for Apple and Android phones and tablets (by Mojo Touch) and can be found in the relevant app stores.

And with that, we conclude our special coverage of Elvira 2! Deimar is hard at work on his final review and score and we hope to see that in a few days.


  1. TBD, with only 15 hours left to go, it looks like "It Came From the Desert" will win our poll!

    Does this mean you'll be working on "Antheads: It Came from the Desert II" soon? I'm looking forward to it! Are there other Cinemaware games that we are missing?

    1. Seems like an appropriate time to get started so yes!

      As for other Cinemaware games I can't think any others I've played that are adventurey enough to work here.

      In one of the comments for the first game Kenny suggested King Of Chicago which I've never played so I'll have a quick look at that one while I have the collection installed.

    2. Weird, no votes for Mystery House. Even though it's the first adventure game ever with graphics and Sierra's first game! Maybe people just find giant monsters cooler than historical importance.

    3. You're surprised, but clearly you didn't vote for Mystery House yourself :)

      You can try to resist, but they... can't... be... stopped...