Warren Robinett

Warren Robinett

Head designer and writer, filing clerk, janitor
Warren Robinett was educated at Rice and Berkeley, and his subsequent 40-year career path resembled the trajectory of a small steel ball being catapulted from bumper to bumper in a pinball machine. He designed video games at Atari, designed educational games at (and co- founded) the Learning Company, was an early VR researcher at NASA Ames Research Center and the University of North Carolina, and was a computer-architecture researcher at Hewlett- Packard Labs. He is currently finishing up two books about his 1979 Atari game Adventure— Making the Dragon (the political story) and The Annotated Adventure (the technical story).


Adventure (Atari 2600)

Talks & sessions

Adventure for the Atari 2600, the First Action-Adventure Game

Warren Robinett began his career as an Atari videogame designer, where he designed Adventure for the Atari 2600, the first action-adventure videogame. The talk is about the implementation of Adventure. Because memory was extremely expensive in the late 70's, the program for Adventure had to fit into a 4K-byte ROM chip.  Therefore the program was very short. Nevertheless, the game had 30 rooms, and 18 objects of 12 different types -- the square Man (the player's avatar), the Chalice (the Grail-like goal of the game), 3 castles with matching keys to open them, 3 dragons and a sword to kill them, a bat that flew in and stole your stuff, a magnet that attracted things, several mazes and a bridge that let you cross its walls.  How was all this content jammed into 4K?  A good data structure was the heart of the game: the room-list and object-list.  There was also a very effective "Behavioristic" scheme for giving "desires" and "fears" to the creatures in the game—which caused them to flee from or pursue certain other objects. Within this highly-compressed game code can be seen the skeleton of the modern action-adventure game.