Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? Made mastering approximately the countries of the arena exciting and a laugh whilst it turned into first released for the Apple II in 1985. In a new book referred to as Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution, creator David L. Craddock tells the tale of ways a small crew at the game writer Brøderbund introduced Carmen to existence and the way the genesis of the mission become stimulated by means of early textual content-based laptop games like Colossal Cave Adventure.


“One aspect I’d continually desired to do and had even labored on a bit of the past, turned into looking to make adventure games extra approachable,” stated Brøderbund programmer Dane Bigham.


The following is an excerpt from “Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution,” a new e-book by way of David L. Craddock, to be had September 16 from Schiffer Publishing.



Like so many of his friends inside the nascent games enterprise, Bigham has been each captivated and pissed off through Colossal Cave Adventure. Because the sport’s glossary changed into so restrained, gamers needed to rack their brains to provide you with the exact synonym the game was looking for. The trouble, as Bigham noticed it, became that Colossal Cave’s authors were limited by way of the generation of the day.

The Apple II was able to a great deal greater than a mainframe—particularly, a graphical interface that streamlined adventuring. Rather than paging thru a glossary and trying every word till one clicked, Bigham estimated a small adventure game with a stylish menu overlay. “I idea, Maybe I may want to write an adventure recreation for youngsters.”

After some days, he had a few rooms mapped out—virtual containers able to preserve treasures, characters, and other data. “I turned into beginning to do that, and had a touch bit of the physical layout and framework that you see in Carmen, in which you can select commands from a little menu inside the lower right-hand corner, and you acquire outcomes somewhere else [on the screen].”

Rubber Room

While Bigham constructed his menu interface, different builders filled in information. Lauren Elliott and Gene Portwood, Jr., artists at Brøderbund, bounced thoughts off of each other in their workplace, known around Brøderbund as the rubber room. “The artists have been taken into consideration… Loopy is not the right word,” Bigham says. He thinks for a moment and comes again with an appropriate descriptor: “Nutty. Their room became complete of toys: those squeeze toys which you’d squeeze, and the eyeballs could come out, all that fun stuff.”

Before it became a physical space, the rubber room started as an idea. Elliott and Portwood exchanged banter inside the hallway while conversing with colleagues, and then continued discussions of their office. Programmers and artists commenced popping in to ask for his or her entry. Ideas swirled, and proposal struck like bolts of lightning. Portwood tended to be in the middle of innovative storms.

“Gene becomes any such individual, such a funny man,” Bigham says of Portwood, who died of a coronary heart assault in the summer of 2000. “He becomes the man who played practical jokes around the office and had the creative bent to do it. He changed into a funny, crass artist who had worked for Disney, and the kid in a candy shop—a game employer in which he may want to create and take part in all this introduction.”

Portwood and Elliott listened as Bigham laid out his concept: an adventure based on the youngsters’ game of police officers and robbers.
Portwood had the clout to escape with pulling practical jokes. Bypassing university and touchdown a dream activity on Disney’s animation group in 1950, he hit the canvas drawing, illustrating scenes from iconic films which include Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty. Portwood joked that his understanding lay in crickets: He drew masses of renditions of Jiminy Cricket that welcomed visitors to the anthropomorphized conscience’s weekly TV display.

The 1940s and ‘50s had been not worthwhile for the “House of Mouse.” Portwood ended up taking jobs at banks to offer strong income for his family. An artist at coronary heart, Portwood saved a near eye on rising styles of animation—computer video games especially. A risk series of activities caused him befriend Doug and Gary Carlston, who employed him in overdue 1980.

Portwood and Elliott’s rubber room doubled as the staging ground for some of Portwood’s nice gags. One habitual comic story changed into impersonating programmers trying to get software published through Brøderbund. He’d throw collectively prototypes, logo them with hilarious titles, and write letters beneath aliases, together with a conceited programmer who declared that Brøderbund has to experience privileged that he deigned to submit his masterpiece.

“We’d begin it up, and a story could appear on the screen. The textual content might seem like being typed in real time. It might slowly get quicker and quicker, and then just zip by way of. Then it’d forestall, and you’d see: Loading snap shots. Loading sounds. Loading smells. Then the game might start, and it would be this picture recreation where you’d get stomped and killed proper away,” Bigham says, dissolving into laughter. “It becomes a lot a laugh to paintings with Gene.”

Once Bigham’s menu-pushed gadget stepped forward to the point where he may want to start brainstorming sports principles to wrap around it, Bigham paid a visit to the rubber room. Portwood and Elliott listened as he laid out his idea: a journey primarily based on the kids’ recreation of cops and robbers. Portwood raised his hand in a so-so gesture. The premise turned into bland. Not willing to let the concept cross, Bigham drove ahead till he hit a wall. “I wrote a whole prototype in a text in which you’re chasing a robber, and their henchmen could be stealing two things at a time, and you needed to preserve tune of different thefts at the equal time. I said, ‘Wow, that is manner too difficult. I, in reality, have to make this less complicated.’”


Bigham pared down the idea. Instead of pursuing two thieves at once, gamers would chase one. Focusing on an unmarried crook at a time could maintain the menu simple and the screen extra organized. Portwood nodded, warming to the belief. Players might song criminals by means of reading clues and determining which menu option to select based totally on solutions to the clues.

No one recalls how long Bigham’s embryonic recreation concept remained centered on police officers chasing crooks. What they do don’t forget is Gary Carlston become the one who advised switching gears to a geography motif. “We moved to Germany for a year once I turned into 8 and traveled all around Europe,” Gary remembers. “Back then, inside the ‘50s, this wasn’t very commonplace. It got us inquisitive about geography. My dad and mom appreciated to journey, and both my brother Doug and I got the trojan horse.”

“Before I wrote the script for the game, I had traveled around the arena for nine months.”
Not anybody seemed as enthusiastic about the shift in direction. “What I bear in mind most is that Dane [Bigham] idea the idea became a canine and that I become taking benefit of our friendship via asking him to an application it,” Gary says. “Dane is captain of the ice hockey group I play on. We’re still pals thirty- years later.”

Convinced that his sport became on the fast track to catastrophe, Bigham resigned himself to continue writing his menu-pushed interface. Meanwhile, the Carlstons searched for a writer to turn the geography concept right into a cohesive narrative. Their search led to David Siefkin. “My spouse was a cooking trainer in Berkeley, and one of her students, Joanne Koltnow, labored for Broderbund on the time and knew that I was interested in computer video games,” Siefkin says. “She organized an assembly for me with [Doug] Carlston.”

Siefkin recalls his initial meeting with Gary. “His concept changed into to create a recreation based totally on the Great Cities collection of Time-Life books. There wasn’t something plenty greater particular than that. Before I had gotten very far, I turned into told that the concept had modified, and that alternatively it might be based upon the World Almanac, and that a duplicate might be bundled with the sport. I became given a replica of the almanac, and I started with that.”


Writing a storyline round people and places befell to be proper up Siefkin’s alley. “Before I wrote the script for the sport, I had traveled around the area for nine months, having to study unique currencies, languages customs, and landmarks. I desired a sport that delivered these items to younger game players, and hoped it’d encourage them to make comparable trips.”

Siefkin did some of his excellent writing in quiet, scenic spots. He gathered his writing elements and headed to Strawberry Canyon, an outside pool at the Berkeley campus. Stretching out in a lawn chair beside a three-lane pool, the notion about how the game might be based. Siefkin turned into nicely-versed in text-adventure tropes. A buddy at Berkeley had introduced him to Colossal Cave Adventure, supporting him get the cling of typing in commands for the textual content parser to research. Siefkin got sucked in; he cherished the principle of solving puzzles to boost via rooms and collect treasure. For Brøderbund’s sport, however, he imagined a miles large scale.

“When I performed Adventure, I questioned why the fable international of the treasure hunt within the cavern couldn’t be transposed into the real international, with real clues and real places, which to me was an awful lot extra thrilling. I also imagined that players might use trial and blunders to tune the villain and that they might study the sector from their revel in.”

 Carmen Sandiego

“I wanted an uncommon call, and took it from the singer Carmen Miranda and from Carmen, the adorable St. Bernard dog of my vintage roommates in San Francisco.”
His script described the player’s function and objectives. The player, a detective, could begin in a single location at the globe and be given a piece of trivialities. Multiple-desire solutions might be displayed on a menu, and selecting the ideal answer would screen where gamers had to pass subsequent, and another clue. “The first draft version had a number of villains, with one chosen at random, and a treasure hidden in an obscure location someplace around the sector, with clues based on real-international matters, along with language or foreign money, that would be determined within the almanac.”

After deciphering half a dozen clues or so, gamers could understand the criminal and recover the treasure. From there, some other case offering a villain and treasure would begin. Brøderbund approved Siefkin’s early script, which he clarified become more an outline of ideas: contain real-world clues based totally on information from the World Almanac to ship players searching around the world.

Reading over the script, Brøderbund undertaking manager Katherine Bird skimmed the fast bios of the villains Siefkin had invented. One call particularly stuck her eye: Carmen Sandiego. “In my draft, she was only one among numerous villains,” Siefkin explains. “I wanted an unusual call, and took it from the singer Carmen Miranda and from Carmen, the lovely St. Bernard canine of my vintage roommates in San Francisco.” From there, he defined, “The design team added her to lifestyles. I invented the call, however, the design team virtually created the persona of Carmen.”


Bird latched on to the call Carmen Sandiego for the same motives Siefkin had: it becomes amazing and mysterious—the correct qualifiers for a villain that might enchantment to boys and women. “We wanted a man or woman that ladies ought to relate to and didn’t give lots notion to her being a crook,” says Gary Carlston. “We came up with an again tale approximately her maiden call being something Swedish to deflect situation about her being an awful position version for Hispanic women.”

Carmen Sandiego appropriate every other purpose. The recreation would be called Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? a name that succinctly communicated the player’s final goal: track down Carmen and arrest her.


But gamers couldn’t convey Carmen to justice right away. She was the proverbial carrot on a stick, the very last boss that gamers most effective come across when they have cleared a course thru her lackeys. Piecing collectively a structure that might function as each an ongoing narrative and a game shape, Bird and the development group created organizations. The first changed into V.I.L.E., or Villains’ International League of Evil, a cast of thieves. There changed into Katherine Drib, whose closing call turned into an anagram of producer Katherine Bird. Carmen herself changed into modeled after Marsha Bell, Brøderbund’s supervisor of advertising services from 1984 via ‘89. “Most of the characters were, in truth, specific employees of the corporation,” Doug Carlston says. “People loved dressing up and arising with names and so on. They tried to get as wild and outside-the-box as they may.” Other names have been coined as puns—Anita Bath was a play on I want a tub, while Ken U. Paradigm worked out to Can you spare a dime.

Standing in competition to V.I.L.E. Become ACME Detective Agency, the acronym a jogging funny story in comedy that stands for A Company that Makes Everything. Entering their name registered gamers as an ACME gumshoe, the lowest rank at the detective totem pole. Every recreation consultation charged players with monitoring down a V.I.L.E. Operative, and cracking a set quantity of cases earned gamers a promotion to the next rank up. “One aspect I idea turned into unique about Carmen became you logged into the sport, and it kept track of your progress,” says Bigham. “It simply stored track of your [cases] and known as you through a call. I idea that was sort of particular.”

Earning higher ranks brings players one step closer to apprehending Carmen, who always manages to slip through ACME’s palms. “To paraphrase Pancho and Lefty, ‘All the Federales say, we ought to have had her any day. We simplest let her slip away, out of kindness, I think,’” Gary Carlston quips. He pauses. “And a choice to promote masses of software.”

“I did not think I had a gem or a success on my arms. Not in any respect.”
Capturing Carmen and her band of thieves took a backseat to compulsive gameplay. Players begin each recreation session in a country in which against the law befell, and receive a strict, to-the-minute deadline—say, Wednesday, June third, at 5:00 p.M. Their goal is to gather clues by using choosing options in Bigham’s menu interface, which permits them to interview witnesses at main landmarks. For instance, a witness would possibly keep in mind the suspect converting his or her forex to pesos. When players since they have amassed sufficient clues, they pull up the travel menu and jet off to u . S . Indicated by using the clues. Witnesses both express confusion to their inquiries, indicating they guessed incorrect, or perk up and offer new intel.

As players follow breadcrumb trails and boost in rank at ACME, cases end up harder. Time limits grow tight, and clues befuddle. “I bear in mind there being discussion approximately the categorization of the clue: what changed into easier, what became tougher, and how to circulate humans thru that,” says Bigham.

“The one major trade I requested for become that its focus on the large stuff, like in which Australia is, earlier than moving into the currency of Lesotho,” adds Gary Carlston.

As lots a recreation as an academic software, Carmen introduces elements of suspense and praise to participant moves. Actions like interviewing witnesses, touring, and drowsing drain hours from the allocated time given to finish a case. Witnesses gradually reveal details approximately the suspect, along with gender, hair color, and wonderful functions like tattoos and the auto they drove. Players need to enter that information into their crime laptop so that it will cast off fake leads and achieve a warrant for a particular criminal. Arresting the incorrect individual, or failing to achieve a warrant, botches the investigation. As gamers near the space, suspects grow determined and aggressive. Traps, like flowerpots falling from window sills and knives hurled from off-display, a sign that players are nearing a war of words. When they smoke the suspect out of hiding, an animation of a chase series ensues. Back at HQ, gamers receive a letter of commendation and an update on what number of cases they want to remedy earlier than they get hold of an advertising.


While instances are in reality Trojan horses for academic minutiae, Carmen’s quantity-one intention turned into to entertain. “We had been always very clear that we weren’t trying to sell games to people to lead them to smarter,” says Doug Carlston. “We desired to sell the games we idea they might enjoy gambling. One of the things we loved doing changed into learning, and we tried to provide that in a context that became similar to the way we found out. I grew up learning via video games. That’s basically how I suppose people improve their bodily and intellectual abilities. Since I’d performed that all my existence, it changed into a natural factor for us to strive.”

Seattle Summer

Dane Bigham had a love-hate relationship with Carmen. “I did not think I had a gem or successful on my palms. Not in any respect.”

Although he had taken it upon himself to jot down the spine of a journey-sport interface suitable for children, Bigham quick soured on Carmen. He’d been stimulated to application pc video games due to motion-packed hits like Choplifter. Carmen’s shift from a police officers-and-robbers hunt to what amounted to a minutiae quiz fell on the alternative stop of the spectrum. “I virtually wasn’t going to quit. I was looking for permission.”

Near the quit of Carmen’s development, every other Lode Runner conversion came up at the docket. To Bigham, porting Doug Smith’s game over to the Mac become a hazard to work on a recreation assured to be a hit, and a go back to the kinds of games he enjoyed. Before he may want to pounce, any other Brøderbund programmer scooped up the project. Bigham back to Carmen, dejected. Another opportunity got here up right away. Dan Gorlin, a creator of Choplifter, had based his personal studio, Dan Gorlin Productions, down the road from Brøderbund. Impressed by using Bigham’s coding skills and paintings ethic, Gorlin prolonged him a proposal.

Excited, Bigham pulled Gary apart. The reaction took him aback. “I stated to Gary, ‘Dan desires me to work with him, and I think that’d be virtually cool. How approximately any individual else finishes Carmen?’ Gary looked at me, pointed at my head, and stated: ‘Dane, Carmen is in there. I need you to complete it.’”

Bigham back to his table. As he labored, his resentment in the direction of the venture grew. Brøderbund had hoped to deliver the sport in 1984 and had promised an advantage for finishing early. January 1985 rolled around, and Carmen nevertheless wasn’t performed. Bigham’s bonus check slipped via his palms.

He finished Carmen that summer time. Another task provide got here via, and he seized it. “After I finished Carmen, I took a short go away of absence from Brøderbund to go paintings for Doug Smith for the summer up in Seattle. That became via some distance the nice summer time of my existence.”


Original photograph: Jason Scott/CC BY 2.Zero
Following his whirlwind summer time in Seattle, Bigham back to Brøderbund feeling refreshed. His colleagues greeted him with sudden information. “Bill Holt, our evangelist who went to user agencies and was essentially the innovative aspect of sales, would come lower back from those journeys and say, ‘People without a doubt like Carmen. They’re certainly taken to it.’ And I might say, ‘Yeah, we’ll see.’”

In an ironic twist, teachers, now not purchasers walking into stores searching out hot new movement video games, were responsible for giving Where within the World is Carmen Sandiego? A lift. “We didn’t want to call it ‘instructional,’” Bigham explains. “We desired to call it ‘exploration.’ Educational meant truly boring software; it’s ironic that it was given tagged as an educational game. That turned into not our goal, without a doubt.”

Doug Carlston corroborated Bigham’s recollection of Brøderbund’s advertising and marketing method for the game. “Carmen Sandiego changed into usually intended as a game. It was the college structures that decided it become academic, not us.”

Had instructors no longer taken a hobby in Carmen and ordered copies to be used in their school rooms, Carmen might have disappeared without a trace. “It abruptly started out to take off eighteen months after it becomes launched,” Gary Carlston remembers. “Word of mouth in the instructional community did it, I think.”

Before long, Carmen became a vital product in schools. The sport’s fulfillment got here as a surprise to Dane Bigham. “Probably the primary indication for me turned into getting a $10,000 test. Something like that. Like, right here, have ten grand. Not part of your profits; just a further take a look at.”

Doug and Gary Carlston made certain that everyone who’d had a hand in developing the sport shared in its success. David Siefkin, who had joined the Foreign Service after completing his script, changed into as glad to be related to the game as he becomes by way of his cut of royalties. “Once I become within the South of France, close to the Spanish border, turned the tv, and there was Carmen, speaking in Spanish, on Spanish television. That becomes a pleasing feeling. The best satisfaction I were given from working on Carmen changed into knowing that it got younger humans interested in the sector outside the USA.”


In retrospect, it’s no longer unexpected that Where within the World is Carmen Sandiego? Have become a touchstone of gaming and laptop way of life, devising a reward loop that entices players to keep going at simply the right moments—getting a effective reception upon thinking a witness about crimes, obtaining warrants, ultimate in on suspects, rationing out promotions from ACME that —made Carmen this sort of pleasure to play. Thumbing through a duplicate of the World Almanac to look up the capital of Peru, or the foreign money utilized in Algeria, or the habitat of the indigo macaw, didn’t feel like homework. It made players sense like ace detectives hot on the heels of the world’s most infamous criminals. “Certainly it wasn’t irrelevant,” says Doug Carlston in regards to the e book’s impact on Carmen’s popularity. “You ought to play the sport without the almanac, however people did just like the exploration and research.”

“It did what I wanted it to do,” says Gary Carlston of the Almanac’s inclusion, “which became to get the kids to thumb through the almanac to resolve the clues. The irony is that the almanac is a terribly organized reference e-book, but it’s complete of amusing stuff.”

Dane Bigham’s feelings closer to Carmen have, understandably, softened over time. “I became very proud to have created that gameplay. That gameplay alone was something I labored on cautiously. I did a model of it that became just too difficult, in order that development turned into something I worked on very cautiously: the reality that you may accomplish the first cases with out it getting too tough, and then work your way up steadily rather than getting hit over the pinnacle proper away.”

Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution through David L. Craddock is to be had September sixteen. Top image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.