Probably what’s on
the mind of every fan of The Fool’s
Errand: how on Earth did you come up with
such a unique and compelling title? What
was the motive/inspiration behind the
Fool’s Errand began as a homemade
book, years before I owned a computer.
The catalyst was the treasure hunt book
Its author, Kit Williams, inspired me
with his unique way of hiding his puzzles
within his artwork. Instead of creating
a very difficult solution, however, my
goal was to make the experience pleasant
and solvable in a single afternoon.
In 1981, I sent away to U.S.
Games for a Rider
Tarot deck and I was intrigued, for
it was the first tarot deck I’d
seen that had individual illustrations
on each of the 78 cards. I arranged and
rearranged the cards until a plausible
plot twinkled in my mind’s eye.
That Christmas I wrote a 21 page story
and created an 81-piece map spanning another
14 pages (6 random pieces per page). The
object was to read the story which yielded
the prose clues to assemble the map correctly
and then to use text clues from the story
to enter into that map.
In this incarnation, there were only
13 treasures and the answer spelled Merry
Christmas. Of the dozens of people
who received it as a gift, only 3 solved
it. My goal of pleasant solvability remained
The Sun’s Map illustrated
by David Wood
How long did it take you
to finish The Fool’s Errand, from
conception to release?
2 years and $50,000 of credit
I bought a fat Mac
512K in late 1984, and by Spring
1985, I was noodling with Microsoft
Basic. By 1986 I’d created
30-ish individual data-driven programs
whose sum total was The Fool’s
Errand. Only one problem. I
had to convert this multitude of
interpretative files into one single
compiled application if I wanted
to sell it.
By mid-1987, I had converted the
whole kit and caboodle into ZBasic.
The labor seemed more Sisyphean
than Herculean, e.g. trying to fix
the “Print Story” feature
which ultimately crashed and burned
and died upon the release of the
Mac SE — standards weren’t.
*After the game was a success, I confessed
to a friend how I’d financed it
and how ridiculous I felt having risked
so much on an unknown entity in an unknown
field. He, on the other hand, thought
it was a great idea and credit carded
$80,000 to open his successful Galerie
Morpheus in Beverly Hills.
I think people would be
interested to know a bit more about the
making of the Fool’s Errand - specifically,
the approach you used to make the “metapuzzle”
and make everything (puzzles, each story
segment etc.) fit very well together.
The metapuzzle aspect was happy circumstance.
The 1981 book provided the structure of
the story and map relationship. The 1987
game added the idea of earning those elements.
Creating the game was a delight for me
on many levels. Foremost I am a storyteller
and film animator. To the latter, I swing
toward the abstract, surreal, and avant-garde
(and saying things in groups of three).
||The cut-and-paste silhouettes
set the mood I desired and then I
digitized ruffled cloth to create
the sky background effects.
|I used incremental patterns
in dynamic concentric rectangles to
create backgrounds on the fly and
for free, storage-wise.
As to computers, I had no idea I would
be any good at programming, for I mistakenly
thought it had something to do with math.
For me, it was akin to playing with lincoln
logs, tinker toys, and erector sets. I
was astonished when anything I did actually
worked. Until the very last moment the
compiled game was completed, I maintained
a morbid pessimism, that with all the
many bits and pieces, the thing would
ultimately crash. Either I’d break
the spine of the language or the computer
or myself. Happily, I was deluded.
Beyond the story and map, I employed
no master plan or blueprint for the puzzles.
I worked in an intuitive manner, allowing
myself to ponder this and that, tinker
around, try things, see what I can discover.
That’s how I approached the computer
puzzles. I created whatever I felt was
appropriate as I went along, checking
off each story segment/map piece as I
I’m a big fan of collage, montage,
and assemblage, so I endeavored to imbue
the game with endless variety, that is,
as much variety as I could pack onto a
In fact, one of my
favorite puzzles never made it into
the game because it had a bitmap
overhead of 57K.
Here’s the 1986 prototype,
still in interpretative MS Basic.
The Fool only has three silver
coins and he must purchase three
expensive items for which the others
are willing to pay far more.
What to do?
What’s your single
most favorite puzzle/segment in TFE? Which
puzzle/segment are you most disappointed
|Earning the four keys
of Thoth to solve the puzzle of the
High Priestess is by far my favorite,
both for its abstract visuals and
equally abstract solutions.
||Tied for second would
be the roving Death button, the elusive
3 Ships button, and the Humbug button
I’ve no disappointments whatsoever
with the original Macintosh game, but
the MS-DOS conversion felt to me like
a “bizarro world” counterpart.
Keep in mind, I spent nearly two years
perfecting a look and feel that took best
advantage of the Mac’s high resolution
black & white. To then see the game
close up in gaudy IBM colors and chunky
oblong pixels gave me the willies. But
viewed from 15 feet away, it looks okay.
At the Carnival was a bit
of a letdown for TFE fans, as it doesn’t
have the compelling “meta-story”
element of The Fool’s Errand and
3 in Three. Was it meant to be just a
collection of puzzles, or is there some
illustration by Brad
In 1989, At
the Carnival was the first
in a series of puzzle disks for
The Puzzle Gallery, yes,
a themed collection of puzzles.
I had a blast crafting this game,
for its silly MAD Magazine slapstick
humor, for the opportunity to learn
how to program in Pascal instead
of Basic, and for the chance to
experiment with color and sound.
It permitted me to refine the interface
of the ten traditional puzzles from
Fool; for example, by adding an undo
move to the concatenation puzzles, they were remarkably easier to solve.
Oh, and it helped finance 3
in Three. I will make no apologies for Hazard Park.
When I die, I want to be propped
up in their Laff-in-the-Dark next to Elmer McGurdy.
At the Carnival was touted
as the first in “Puzzle Gallery”
line, but no more games were made. What
Miles Computing went bankrupt.
You said you used
to build monsters for amusement
parks. Anything you can share with
us, e.g. which monster are you most
My specialty was rotting skeletons
with grim grinning skulls. I built
monsters from 1971-1974 to pay my
way through USC film school at
Compounce in Connecticut as
a Senior in high school, then Riverside
Park and Elitch
Gardens (both bought by Six
Park, and the now extinct Queen’s
Pike in Long Beach, CA.
The photo — Brad Parker (artist
renown of Labyrinth of Crete),
the chewed-off head from Jaws, and
The Fool and his earrings —
has little to do with amusement
parks. We all love Halloween, that’s
How come 3
in Three was never released for the
In 1991, the fanciful look and
feel of Three was developed
as a practical solution to limited
floppy disk space.
CD-ROMs were on the horizon but
not widespread and color
PICTs could fill up a 800K floppy
in short order.
Necessity being the mother of
invention, I had to create my own
data-driven Mac graphics language
to display all the story, art, animation,
puzzles, and sound I envisioned.
I still find it amazing that the
final application was only 286K
and the data file, 616K.
The publisher, Cinemaware, had a formidable
in-house programming team who’d
created a proprietary conversion language
(BOLT) especially to solve this problem
of porting their graphics-heavy games
to other platforms. They were planning
a 3 in Three IBM conversion.
Then they went bankrupt.
Inline Design picked up the game and
they were instrumental in it winning MacUser’s
Best Game of the Year. Naturally, they
wanted to do an IBM conversion, too, but
with a third party developer without heavy
graphics credentials. I had to decline.
And then they went bankrupt, too, so
it was a moot point.
Could you please explain
a bit the history of FunHouse, and how
you came to design three CD-I games for
illustration by Brian
I’d designed Disney’s
Cartoon Arcade for Disney
Home Video and Ideal Toys. Their
system used a VCR to display video
and a linked console to overlay
computer games. Basically, watch
a cartoon of Donald Duck trying
to fix a flat tire and then play
a game to help him fix it. There
were 10 pairs of cartoons and games
with a bonus cartoon if you aced
all the games.
approached me to do Hanna
Barbera’s Cartoon Carnival
in CD-I, essentially the same concept,
except that it would be the first
CD-I disc to use their Full Motion
Video capability to show cartoon
rewards for completing computer
I started work on Cartoon Carnival
as a team of one, programming the
concept in Hypercard in a tiny office
on the second floor near the men’s
During that time, I also Hypercarded
Apprentice and Labyrinth
of Crete which were green-lighted
as well. I’d garnered a $4,000,000
budget with no staff whatsoever
to create the projects,
That’s how *FunHouse*
came to be, first as 8 people and
then as 30 artists, animators, and
programmers. Our specialty was hand-drawn
animation and we were the first
stop when international visitors
toured the facility.
What is (are) your favorite
recent computer game(s) (if you’re
My first and last game console was an
Truth be told, I’d rather create
computer games than play computer games.
When I do play games, they are board games
for social occasions — Risk, Acquire,
Pictionary, Boggle, Racko, Parcheesi,
Stratego, Scrabble, Upwords, the usual
Aside from your games,
what games would you rank among the best
puzzle games ever made? (Mac, PC, or any
You’re asking a person who hasn’t
even played The Seventh Guest or Myst.
If you were given an unlimited
budget and time to make a game today,
what kind of game would it be?
I’m not sure I’d want an
unlimited budget or unlimited time. I
prefer working within limitations and
I’d rather not work more than a
year on anything. If I can reach my core
audience and self-publish one game a year,
I’d be in Fool’s Paradise.
What’s your most
favorite mythical character (aside from
The Fool, of course ;)) ?
The Gods, the Goddesses, the fantastic
creatures of Greek mythology.
Want to say something to
Charles de Montesquieu pens “An
author is a fool. Not content to merely
bore those around him, he insists on boring
future generations as well.”
Bertrand Russell adds “The problem
is that fools and fanatics are always
so certain of themselves, leaving wiser
people so full of doubts.”
And Alan Key concludes “The best
way to predict the future is to invent
Thank you, one and all.