simple fountain pen and ink were what Michael Berlyn (*1949)
used to put his first works, two novels, down on paper. These
certainly did not include the term "interactive,"
but they eventually and through a detour brought him to include
the term in his later work: He used the money he received from
the publisher of the novels to buy himself an Apple II, one
of those machines he had heard, in those days 1979, could do
miracles to aid you in writing.
As Mike found out,
for professional writing these "computers" were
not really apt yet, but were able to do something else greatly:
Let you play games. It was still 1979 when someone showed
him the now legendary "Colossal
Cave" game, which awakened his interested in computer
adventures and Mike used his computer less and less for writing
and more and more for playing.
He realized the
potential the new medium could bring to telling stories, went
on to write text adventures of his own and founded a company
to publish them - Sentient
published a number of titles but unfortunately was not too
successful, which, in 1982, brought Mike's attention to a
job offer from Infocom, a company that was following goals
very similar to his own. Mike applied for the job, was accepted
and made his debut with "Suspended."
and "Cutthroats" (co-authored with Jerry Wolper)
followed, but his final work at Infocom as an employee remains
his contribution to "Fooblitzky," the not very well
received attempt to cross a board- with a computer game. After
that Mike left, unsatisfied with the Infocom policy to not
employ the spouses of authors, which kept his wife "Muffy"
McClung Berlyn from working at Infocom.
He and his wife
then formed a small company, Brainwave Creations, and freelanced
for a number of software houses. Among them was Infocom, but
one of the titles developed for them, "Confetti,"
was not finished and another, "Dr. DuMont's Wild P.A.R.T.I.,"
moved to First Row Software, as Activision cancelled all of
Infocom's outside contracts after their takeover of Infocom
Berlyns also gave courses in Creative Writing at Harvard
University, but following the demise of many east coast
software companies the couple moved to California, as they
wanted to keep active in entertainment software. In California
Mike worked for Accolade and other software companies and
published his fourth novel, "The Eternal Enemy, "
in 1990. The book was written on a Mac - the first he actually
wrote on a computer.
In 1994 he and
Marc Blank got together and they formed Blank, Berlyn and
Co., which was later renamed to Eidetic. The company at first
published crossword puzzles and other word games for the Apple
Newton, and later specialized on PC and Playstation titles.
Mike also came in contact with text adventures again, when
in 1997 Activision asked him and Marc to do the small "Zork:
The Undiscovered Underground" as promotion for the release
of their graphical game "Zork: Grand Inquisitor."
Writing the text game, Mike felt that this was what he still
really wanted to do and decided to leave Eidetic to go on
his own again with a company he called Cascade Mountain Publishing.
In 1998 Cascade
released the first title, "Once
and Future," written five years earlier by interactive
fiction enthusiast Kevin Wilson. In 1999 a revised version
of "Dr. DuMont," which had not been circulated widely,
as First Row Software went out of business shortly after the
original release of the game, followed.
Another title had
been supposed to be in the making, but only months after the
re-release of "Dr. DuMont" it became quiet around
Cascade Mountain and Mike as well. In 2000 the company's website
was finally shut down.
end, Mike left the entertainment software business for five
years, following, in his own words, a "devastating and
demoralizing experience in the business."
Mike and his wife
now live in Florida, where Mike is marketing new PC and Macintosh
products as well as planning a new software company.
to Mike Berlyn for contributing to this biography.