|Industry||Personal computer games|
|Founder||Bob Bates, Mike Verdu|
|Defunct||January 16, 2004|
|Headquarters||Chantilly, Virginia, United States|
|Owner||Private until acquired in 1998 by GT Interactive (which became Infogrames)|
Legend Entertainment was an American developer and publisher of computer games, best known for their complex and distinctive adventure titles throughout the 1990s. The company was founded by Bob Bates and Mike Verdu, both veterans of the acclaimed interactive fiction studio Infocom that shut down in 1989. Their first games, Timequest and Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All The Girls, both had strong sales which sustained the company. Legend also profited from negotiating licenses to popular book series, allowing them to create notable game adaptations such as Companions of Xanth (based on Demons Don't Dream) and Gateway (based on the eponymous novel). Legend also earned a reputation for comedic adventures, with numerous awards for Eric the Unready in 1993. As the demands of the game industry changed Legend continued to expand their game engine to take advantage of higher graphical fidelity, mouse support, and the increased media storage of the compact disc.
These industry changes led to difficult competition by the mid-1990s, especially in the adventure game genre. Legend secured investment from book publisher Random House and developed additional book adaptations, such as Death Gate and Shannara, as well as original titles such as Mission Critical. The company's expenses for graphics were rising without a similar increase in sales, however, causing Random House to exit the game industry. Legend found game publishers to take over marketing and distribution, so they could focus their efforts exclusively on development. While the studio’s adventure titles suffered in the changing marketplace, working with game publishers allowed Legend to experiment with more action-oriented titles such as Star Control 3 . In their final years, Legend fully pivoted to first-person shooters thanks to a growing relationship with Unreal developer Tim Sweeney and publisher GT Interactive. The studio released the 1999 game adaptation of The Wheel of Time book series, designed using the Unreal Engine as a first-person action game. However, Legend's sales continued to dwindle, followed by the difficult development and commercial failure of Unreal II: The Awakening in 2003. The studio shut down soon after, with staff moving to other companies in the game industry.
Legend Entertainment was founded in 1989 by Bob Bates and Mike Verdu.The duo met in the 1980s working at interactive fiction developer Infocom, the acclaimed adventure game studio. Activision acquired Infocom in 1986, as the PC game market was transforming with greater market competition. Activision closed Infocom in 1989, due to rising costs, falling profits, and technical issues with DOS. Bates decided to seek investment for a new game company, hoping to succeed where Infocom had stumbled. He told investors that "there was still life in the adventure genre, but that it needed more than just text." After securing investment from defence contractor American Systems Corporation, Legend Entertainment opened by the end of the year, choosing the name "Legend" for its connotations in storytelling. For their first titles, they hired other Infocom veterans, notably experienced developer and author Steve Meretzky, and programmer Mark Poesch.
Bates and Meretzky began work on the company's first titles.To avoid potential copyright infringement with their old Infocom engine, Legend hired an outside team to develop their new text-parser, despite feeling that they had the expertise to do it themselves. Legend's debut title was Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All The Girls, which evolved beyond simple text-based adventures with graphics for each of the game's "rooms". Meretzky describes this as a "fusion of the depth and detail of Infocom games with a graphical presentation that would be more in keeping with what audiences circa 1990 demanded", which led to greater sales than their former company. Although the studio was worried that the game's raunchy humor might be too much for the industry at the time, they were relieved to find that their investors were generally supportive. At the same time, Bates was developing Timequest with the goal of capturing what he believed in about the adventure games at Infocom, which Legend released the following year. Publications took note of Legend for continuing the legacy of their work at Infocom, and credited their titles as part of a rebirth for the adventure game genre.
Legend also benefitted from a strong relationship with traditional book publishers, securing licensing deals for their team's favorite authors while costs were still low.One of the first major licenses was Frederik Pohl's science fiction novel Gateway, adapted into a game using Legend's now-established adventure game engine. For their first few titles, it was possible to even turn off graphics and play games as if they were classic text adventures. By the end of 1992, Legend were able to buy back American Systems Corporation's stake in the company, and the company was selling enough games to easily sustain themselves. However, their business would begin to shift with the advent of CD-ROM and the rising production costs for game graphics. The team would continue to expand their game engine, adapting to the popularity of the mouse and the increased media storage of the compact disc.
The 1993 release of Companions of Xanth signalled a shift for the company, moving from traditional text adventures to a point-and-click interface. 's Adventure Game of the Year in 1993 (as a tie with Star Control II ). Later, the same publication would list it among their "150 Best Games of All Time", also ranking it as 9th Funniest Computer Game, 11th Most Memorable Game Hero, and 7th Most Rewarding Ending. With the release of Eric the Unready and Companions of Xanth, Legend earned a reputation for comedic adventures. Around this time, Mark Poesch joined full-time as a director of research and development.Based on the novel Demons Don't Dream by Piers Anthony, the game was Legend's first to take advantage of emerging compact disc technology, and led to a series of games built on the same graphic adventure engine. That same year, Legend released Gateway II and Eric the Unready . Eric the Unready became one of Legend's most critically acclaimed titles, receiving several awards and nominations, particularly Computer Gaming World
In 1994, Legend enabled Glen Dahlgren to release his first solo project as Death Gate , an adaptation of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's fantasy book series The Death Gate Cycle . 's 1994 "Role-Playing Game of the Year" award, praising Meretzky's comedic dialog and imagination. However, the game sold less than 25,000 copies, and became Meretzky's last title with Legend. The studio was facing difficult competition in the genre from Sierra On-Line and LucasArts, who had larger budgets and greater sales. Bates recalls the attitude of the company at the time, that "we were delighted with our early successes, but always disappointed that we never were able to unseat Sierra or LucasArts."That same year, Legend released Superhero League of Hoboken , where writer Steve Meretzky updated his brand of comedy. The game was nominated for Computer Gaming World
By 1995, Legend attracted a major investment from book publisher Random House,who created a new division called Random Soft to enter the multimedia software industry. This investment seemed to secure Legend from the rising competition due to the booming interest in CD ROM based games. Their relationship with Random House also encouraged them to work with more of their authors, leading to the 1995 release of Shannara based on the Terry Brooks book series. The same year, Legend released Mission Critical, which became notable for the role of Michael Dorn, of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame. These games were more graphically complex than any prior release, but sales were not enough to offset their rising development costs. Random House decided to abandon its ventures into interactive fiction, and terminated their partnership with Legend.
Both Legend founders describe this period as a "blessing and a curse", gaining higher graphical fidelity and simplified development on a single compact disc, but slowly watching their costs rise until their games were no longer commercially sustainable.In hindsight, Bates also laments the loss of the text interface, which removed the "magic" of having players see that the game recognized and rewarded surprising inputs. Writer Steve Meretzky also felt the shift towards graphics made the games easier and less literary, not to mention more expensive.
In the late 1990s, Legend began seeking new partners to sustain the company, particularly game publishers.This led to new opportunities for Legend, working with publisher Take-Two Interactive for Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, and working with Accolade for Star Control 3 . The creators of the first two Star Control games had moved onto other projects, so Accolade hired Legend to create the third game because of the team's enthusiasm for the series. As Legend was beginning to explore opportunities outside the adventure game genre, Star Control 3 combined aspects of adventure, action, and strategy games. The 1996 release was considered a modest commercial success, surpassing 100,000 sales in its first two months of distribution. Legend continued to report sales of 100,000–150,000 copies for their adventure games, at a time where the future of the adventure genre was in question. However, 1997 brought the commercial failure of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, an adaptation of Spider Robinson's Callahan book series that was poorly marketed by publisher Take-Two. By 1998, Legend released a game adaptation of John Saul's Blackstone Chronicles , which ultimately became their final adventure game release.
Legend shifted strategies with the rising popularity of the first-person shooter. Game developer Tim Sweeney was developing an engine that would eventually become the Unreal Engine, and Legend designer Glen Dahlgren impressed Sweeney with a vision for The Wheel of Time (based on the book series).This led to a partnership with Epic Games, and allowed Legend to secure investment from publisher GT Interactive, as the publisher had worked with both Legend and Epic. Legend released The Wheel of Time in 1999, a first-person action game that represented a major shift from their reputation for adventure games. The game enjoyed more critical success than commercial success, overshadowed by other major titles in the first-person shooter genre. Founder Bob Bates describes this transition, "on one hand it was hard to watch as adventure games became less popular. But it was exciting to take our expertise in storytelling and puzzle design into a whole new genre."
After a difficult year for parent company GT Interactive,they were bought out by Infogrames Entertainment. Legend co-founder Mike Verdu left the company in 2001, deciding he was not happy in the multi-national corporate environment. Although Bates had similar feelings, he continued with the company. Epic Games was impressed with Legend's work on The Wheel of Time's story and their skill with the Unreal Engine, and agreed to let Legend develop the sequel to Unreal. Epic president Mark Rein announced that Unreal II was expected for release in late 2000. However, the game's development was fraught with challenges, and the 2003 release was met with an underwhelming reception.
Unreal II would be Legend's final game, by which point Infogrames had rebranded to Atari.Legend pitched a few ideas to their parent company, conversing with Atari's offices in both New York and France. However, none of Legend's ideas fit with the company's corporate strategy. After shipping the Unreal II: eXpanded MultiPlayer expansion, Atari shut down Legend Entertainment on January 16, 2004. Many of the former Legend staff went on to have successful careers elsewhere in the industry. Bob Bates became Chief Creative Officer for Zynga, Mike Verdu became an executive producer at Electronic Arts, Glen Dahlgren became one of the lead designers on Star Trek Online , and Mark Poelsch became a developer at AOL and Accenture.
|Title||Year||Genre||Publisher||Awards and nominations|
|Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All The Girls||1990||Interactive fiction||Legend Entertainment||CES Software Showcase Award|
|Computer Gaming World – Adventure Game of the Year (Runner-up)|
|Timequest||1991||Interactive fiction||Legend Entertainment||Game Player's – PC Excellence Award|
|QuestBusters – Best Illustrated Text Adventure|
|Games Magazine – Top 100 Games of the Year Award|
|Spellcasting 201: The Sorcerer's Appliance||1992||Interactive fiction||Legend Entertainment||Games Magazine – Top 100 Games of the Year Award|
|Gateway||1992||Interactive fiction||Legend Entertainment||Games Magazine – Top 100 Games of the Year Award|
|Spellcasting 301: Spring Break||1992||Interactive fiction||Legend Entertainment|
|Eric the Unready||1993||Interactive fiction||Legend Entertainment||Computer Gaming World – Adventure Game of the Year|
|Compute Choice Award – Fantasy Adventure Game of the Year Finalist|
|Computer Game Review – Golden Triad Award|
|Games Magazine – Top 100 Games of the Year Award|
|Strategy Plus – Adventure Game of the Year Finalist|
|Game Bytes – Adventure Game of the Year Finalist|
|Computer Gaming World – 9th Funniest Computer Game of All Time|
|Computer Gaming World – 11th Most Memorable Game Hero of All Time|
|Computer Gaming World – 7th Most Rewarding Ending of All Time|
|Gateway II: Homeworld||1993||Interactive fiction||Legend Entertainment|
|Companions of Xanth||1993||Graphic adventure||Legend Entertainment|
|Death Gate||1994||Graphic adventure||Legend Entertainment||Strategy Plus – Animated Adventure Game of the Year Award Finalist|
|Computer Game Review – Golden Triad Award|
|Interactive Gaming – Editor's Choice Award|
|Computer Gaming World Premier – Best Adventure Game Finalist|
|Games Magazine – Top 100 Electronic Games of the Year Award|
|Superhero League of Hoboken||1994||Graphic adventure||Legend Entertainment||Strategy Plus – Multi-character RPG of the Year Award Finalist|
|Computer Game Review – Golden Triad Award|
|Games Magazine – Top 100 Games of the Year Award|
|Computer Gaming World – Role-Playing Game of the Year Finalist|
|Shannara||1995||Graphic adventure||Legend Entertainment|
|Mission Critical||1995||Graphic adventure||Legend Entertainment||Computer Game Review – Golden Triad Award|
|Byte Magazine – Game of the Year Award|
|Strategy Plus – Adventure Game of the Year Finalist|
|Computer Game Review – Adventure Game of the Year|
|Computer Game Review – Best Graphics of the Year Award|
|Computer Game Review – Best Introduction of the Year Award|
|Computer Gaming World – Computer Gaming Choice Award|
|Star Control 3||1996||Action-adventure||Accolade||Game Developers Conference – Best Story, Script or Writing Finalist|
|Callahan's Crosstime Saloon||1997||Graphic adventure||Take-Two Interactive|
|John Saul's Blackstone Chronicles||1998||Graphic adventure||Mindscape||Computer Gaming World – Best Adventure Game Finalist|
|Unreal Mission Pack: Return to Na Pali||1999||First-person shooter||GT Interactive|
|The Wheel of Time||1999||First-person shooter||GT Interactive||Gamespy – 10th Most Underrated Game of All Time|
|Unreal II: The Awakening||2003||First-person shooter||Infogrames|
|Unreal II: eXpanded MultiPlayer||2003||First-person shooter||Infogrames|
|Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines||2003||First-person shooter||Infogrames|
Infocom was a software company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that produced numerous works of interactive fiction. They also produced one notable business application, a relational database called Cornerstone.
Interactive fiction, often abbreviated IF, is software simulating environments in which players use text commands to control characters and influence the environment. Works in this form can be understood as literary narratives, either in the form of interactive narratives or interactive narrations. These works can also be understood as a form of video game, either in the form of an adventure game or role-playing game. In common usage, the term refers to text adventures, a type of adventure game where the entire interface can be "text-only", however, graphical text adventures still fall under the text adventure category if the main way to interact with the game is by typing text. Some users of the term distinguish between interactive fiction, known as "Puzzle-free", that focuses on narrative, and "text adventures" that focus on puzzles.
Zork is an interactive fiction computer game. It was originally developed by four members of the MIT Dynamic Modelling Group—Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling–between 1977 and 1979 for the DEC PDP-10 mainframe computer. The four founded the company Infocom in 1979 and released Zork as a commercial game for personal computers, split due to memory limits of personal computers compared to the mainframe system. The three titles released commercially were Zork: The Great Underground Empire – Part I in 1980, Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz in 1981, and Zork III: The Dungeon Master in 1982. The game has since been ported to numerous systems.
Steven Eric Meretzky is an American video game developer. He is best known for creating Infocom games in the early 1980s, including collaborating with author Douglas Adams on the interactive fiction version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, one of the first games to be certified "platinum" by the Software Publishers Association. Later, he created the Spellcasting trilogy, the flagship adventure series of Legend Entertainment. He has been involved in almost every aspect of game development, from design to production to quality assurance and box design.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an interactive fiction video game based on the comedic science fiction series of the same name. It was designed by series creator Douglas Adams and Infocom's Steve Meretzky, and it was first released in 1984 for the Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore 64, CP/M, MS-DOS, Amiga, Atari 8-bit family, and Atari ST. It is Infocom's fourteenth game.
A Mind Forever Voyaging (AMFV) is a 1985 interactive fiction game designed and implemented by Steve Meretzky and published by Infocom. It is Infocom's seventeenth game. The game was intended as a polemical critique of Ronald Reagan's politics.
Accolade, Inc. was an American video game developer and publisher based in San Jose, California. The company was founded as Accolade in November 1984 by Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead, who had previously co-founded Activision in October 1979. The company became known for numerous sports franchises, including HardBall!, Jack Nicklaus, and Test Drive.
Leather Goddesses of Phobos is an interactive fiction computer game written by Steve Meretzky and published by Infocom in 1986. Like many other Infocom titles, it was released for Amiga, Apple II, Macintosh, Atari 8-bit family, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and MS-DOS. This game was Infocom's first "sex farce" and featured selectable "naughtiness" levels ranging from "tame" to "lewd." It was one of five top-selling Infocom titles to be re-released in Solid Gold versions including in-game hints. It was Infocom's twenty-first game.
Planetfall is a science fiction themed interactive fiction video game written by Steve Meretzky, and the eighth title published by Infocom in 1983. The original release included versions for Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, TRS-80, and IBM PC compatibles. The Atari ST and Commodore 64 versions were released in 1985. A version for CP/M was also released. Although Planetfall was Meretzky's first title, it proved one of his most popular works and a best-seller for Infocom; it was one of five top-selling titles to be re-released in Solid Gold versions including in-game hints. Planetfall uses the Z-machine originally developed for the Zork franchise and was added as a bonus to the "Zork Anthology".
Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans is a canceled graphic adventure game developed by Blizzard Entertainment and Animation Magic from 1996 until 1998. Set in the Warcraft universe after the events of Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, it followed the orc character Thrall in his quest to reunite his race, then living on reservations and in slavery following its defeat by the human Alliance. Assuming the role of Thrall, the player would have used a point-and-click interface to explore the world, solve puzzles and interact with characters from the wider Warcraft series.
Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur is an illustrated interactive fiction video game written by Bob Bates and published by Infocom in 1989. It was released for the Apple II, Amiga, Macintosh, and IBM PC compatibles. Atypically for an Infocom product, it shows illustrations of locations, characters and objects within the game. It is Infocom's thirty-fourth game and is the second of two Infocom games developed by Challenge using Infocom's development tools.
Robert "Bob" Bates is an American computer games designer. One of the early designers of interactive fiction games, he was co-founder of Challenge, Inc., which created games in the 1980s for the pioneering company Infocom. After Infocom's dissolution in 1989, Bates co-founded Legend Entertainment to continue publishing games in the Infocom tradition, but with added graphics. He has designed, written, or produced scores of games, including Unreal II (2003), Spider-Man 3 (2007), and Eric the Unready (1993), listed as Adventure Game of the Year by Computer Gaming World magazine and also included on the 1996 list of "150 best games of all time". In 1998 he wrote the award-winning game Quandaries for the U.S. Department of Justice. He has twice been the chairperson of the International Game Developers Association, which honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. Bates has written extensively about game design and development in works such as the 2001 book Game Design: The Art and Business of Creating Games, which is commonly used as a game design textbook in college courses. From 2011–2014, Bates was Chief Creative Officer for External Studios at Zynga. He continues to work as an independent consultant with various publishers in the games industry.
Boffo Games was video game developer founded in 1994 by Steve Meretzky, Mike Dornbrook, and Leo DaCosta. The logo was designed by Gayle Syska, formerly of Infocom. Boffo produced two games, Hodj 'n' Podj and The Space Bar, before closing its doors in 1997. Hodj 'n' Podj was originally designed for Media Vision but it divested all of its multimedia interests following a securities-fraud scandal and the title was purchased by Virgin Interactive. The Space Bar was originally to be published by Rocket Science Games (RSG) but SegaSoft bought out RSG and became the game's publisher.
The Space Bar is a 1997 graphic adventure game developed by Boffo Games and published by Rocket Science Games and SegaSoft. A comic science fiction story, it follows detective Alias Node as he searches for a shapeshifting killer inside The Thirsty Tentacle, a fantastical bar on the planet Armpit VI. The player assumes the role of Alias and uses his Empathy Telepathy power to live out the memories of eight of the bar's patrons, including an immobile plant, an insect with compound eyes and a blind alien who navigates by sound. Gameplay is nonlinear and under a time limit: the player may solve puzzles and gather clues in any order, but must win before the killer escapes the bar.
Implementer was originally the self-given name of the creators of the Infocom text adventure series Zork. Implementor, often shortened to Imp, became the title given to game designers and programmers at Infocom. Implementers were inserted as minor characters in several Infocom games. The game Beyond Zork also includes a group of characters called Implementors, minor deities who are integral to the plot. The term carried over into MUDs, particularly DikuMUDs, where it usually refers to a game's owner or owners, similarly to the term "God".
Star Control 3 is a 1996 action-adventure game developed by Legend Entertainment. It is the third installment in the Star Control trilogy. The story takes place after Star Control II, beginning with the mysterious collapse of hyperspace. This leads the player to investigate a new quadrant of space, joined by allied aliens from the previous games.
Hodj 'n' Podj is a 1995 computer board game and minigame compilation developed by Boffo Games and published by Media Vision and Virgin Interactive. It was designed by Steve Meretzky, previously known for adventure games such as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Hodj 'n' Podj features 19 minigames based on peg solitaire, Pac-Man, Battleship and other games. These may be played separately or within an overarching fairy tale story, which follows the suitors Hodj and Podj in their attempts to rescue two princesses.
The text adventure game Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All The Girls is the first installment of the Spellcasting series created by Steve Meretzky during his time at Legend Entertainment. All three games in the series tell the story of young Ernie Eaglebeak, a student at the prestigious Sorcerer University, as he progresses through his studies, learning the arcanes of magic, taking part in student life, and meeting beautiful women.
The text adventure game Spellcasting 301: Spring Break is the third and last installment of the Spellcasting series created by Steve Meretzky during his time at Legend Entertainment. All three games in the series tell the story of young Ernie Eaglebeak, a student at the prestigious Sorcerer University, progressing through his studies, learning the arcanes of magic, taking part in student life, occasionally saving the world as he knows it, and having his way with any beautiful women he can get his hands on.
Callahan's Crosstime Saloon is a 1997 graphic adventure game developed by Legend Entertainment and published by Take-Two Interactive. Based on the Callahan's Place book series by author Spider Robinson, the game follows Jake Stonebender, narrator of the books, through six discrete comic science fiction adventures. Taking the role of Jake, the player solves puzzles, converses with characters from the Callahan's Place series and visits locations such as the Amazon rainforest, Transylvania and outer space.