[ Barjesse sits down for an interview with Jeff Conroy (or JefCon as Barjesse sometimes calls him). He settles into his seat wearing his psycadelictie-dye Flintstones shorts, holding a bag of animal cookies which he is intermittently munching on. ]
when and how did you first get into ZZT?
I started ZZTing when I was living in Oregon. My roommate and I were up one night, looking for Mystery Science Theater stuff on America Online. (This was back in 93 or 94, if I'm not mistaken...) We got (as a result of our search) a short list of things, the most intreguing of which was something that said it needed "ZZT" to run... Hmm. Hafta check that out...
Things kinda took off from there. One of the first adventures that really caught our attention was Mission: Enigma, a masterpiece that I still hold to be the best ZZT adventure ever made. It certainly started a whole new trend in title pages... :)
how many ZZT games have you created? what are they?
A grand total of... four. Most people are amazed I've made so few, but I like to climb the ranks of quality pretty fast, and by the time I got to Nightmare I was creating with a new philosophy: When I create now, I do not base the adventure on a good idea. I >pack< the adventure with good ideas. I threw out probably around a full dozen screen designs for parts of Nightmare, and for various reasons. Some were not practical to program. Some were too poorly developed. Some were just plain dumb. In the end I took suggestions from many people, in and out of the cyberworld. Take a look at the Board Design Suggestions section of the credits some time. The other three? Syndrome, of course. I have been extremely pleased with the amount of help that Syndrome has given ZZTers since its creation. It's hard to believe it's been out for a couple of years now.
Dave's World and Dave's World 2 were my first two creations, and were made when I was still in the simplistic play-around-with-the-program-and-see-what-it-can-do stage. For first attempts, I think they're not too bad.
do you plan to make any more games?
Yike. I'd love to. To do so, though, would take two things: Lots of free time, a fantastic idea. I don't have the latter right now (although Colin from Lake Tahoe is working with me on tentative ideas for NM2-- No idea how that will turn out), and I definitely don't have the former (as I've just started my first teaching contract). If I got a splendid idea, I might be convinced to make the time, but until that happens...
what things do you consider most important in a ZZT game?
My personal favorite is non-linear play. In Nightmare a player can go any direction they like. If they get frustrated by one problem, they can usually try a different one for a while. Another important ingredient is a good plot. It must be imaginative and interesting. Of course, if all you're really interested in is your download count, you need a good title. The ones that get the most hits are usually the worst, but they get the dl's because they mention Star Trek or Star Wars or the Simpsons or killing Barney or whatever. Any famous entertainment name will guarantee downloads -- and almost guarantee poor quality.
what tips, if any, would you give aspiring ZZT programmers?
Pour your quality into your games. Don't save your good ideas and spread them out -- Concentrate them in one game, then start collecting new good ideas. Dave's World had a few good ideas. Dave's World 2 had a few good ideas. I'm not remembered for either. Nightmare had good ideas in such concentration that there was basically no filler. I'm remembered for Nightmare. Watch your Syndromes. It doesn't take a whole lot in the way of Syndromes to wreck your game. Keep them out. Keeping them out is a good creative exercise, too. Speaking of Syndromes, have someone else check your spelling. Spelling things correctly gives your work a slight professional edge to it.
what are your favorite ZZT games?
Well, I must admit I do like to play my own four now and again, but as to other peoples' games: Mission: Enigma is brilliant, especially in the first three boards (outside, first floor, basement). If you want to see a superb concentration of good ideas, play that one. Warlord's Temple (or is it Wizard's?) is a definite must. As of writing this, it's not on my web page yet... But it should be! Mystery Science Theater 3000 will always have a special place in my heart. Not only was it the first one I played, it was GOOD! Non-linear, good plot, good puzzles (many of which can be recognized as the inspirations for parts of Dave's World), and a billion other things. It's just fun! And it's a classic episode, too! (Meaning the author didn't use Greg's STK color set.) Enigma and MST3000 are available on my page, at http://users.aol.com/barjesse. I definitely recommend getting them.
My other favorites are also on the page. Check out Dogfight!