Robert Louis Stevenson published his classic novel Treasure Island in 1882, telling the story of Jim Hawkins, the pirate Long John Silver and their quest for buried gold. Almost 100 years later, the book would serve as the inspiration for the classic adventure game Pirate Adventure (also knowns as Pirate Cove).
The world of text based adventure games was still fairly new in 1978, when Scott and Alexis Adams created the company Adventure International. Colossal Cave Adventure, the genre’s first game, had been released two years previously. Playing Colossal Cave Adventure inspired Adams to create the game Adventureland, but he wanted to write it for his microcomputer (a TRS-80), an idea his friends deemed impossible. In Adams own words, he was, “not daunted by their laughter” and, six months after beginning, the game was released by The Software Exchange of Milford, New Hampshire and Creative Computing Software.
Alexis Adams, Scott’s wife, came up with the idea behind Pirate Adventure. Players began the story in their London flat before being transported to Pirate Island. From Pirate Island, the player had to figure out how to build a ship that would transport them to Treasure Island. This ship building element was something unique at the time. According to Adams it was, “different from any that had ever been written before. Instead of simply searching for treasure in this Adventure, you now had an added ingredient–a mission.” On Treasure Island, the player had to locate the lost treasure.
As with other text based games of the time, action was achieved through simple two word commands like, “Climb Tree” or “Get Book.” There was also a special two word command used later in the game, “Say YoHo”, which became the name of Scott Adams’s regular column in SoftSide Magazine.
The original Pirate Adventure was created for the TRS-80, but eventually found its way to a wide variety of systems including the Apple II, Commodore PET, VIC-20, and ZX Spectrum (among others). Commodore engineer Andy Finkel programed the Commodore version of Pirate Adventure (as well as four others adventures created by Adams). The source code for the game was published in a 1980 issue of BYTE, allowing other creators to make similar games.
Both Adventureland and Pirate Adventure enjoyed success, and Adventure International went on to create a number of other popular adventure titles such as Voodoo Castle, Pyramid of Doom, Savage Island, and Sorcerer of Claymorgue Castle, before moving on to graphic adventures like the Marvel superhero series Questprobe (which featured the Hulk, Spiderman, and members of the Fantastic Four). Sadly, the company went bankrupt in 1985, at the tail end of the video game crash.
Adams left the video game industry for a time, going to work for Insight (a company created by John Mathias, former head of the games department for Commodore International. The company later became AVISTA and later Esterline). Fifteen years after Adventure International went bankrupt, Adams returned to the world of adventure games with Return to Pirate Island 2. It was a happy return for the man proclaimed, “the creator of the personal computer gaming industry.”