I'm conducting an oral history with Amy Briggs of Plundered Hearts fame. Any questions for her?

Hello! I’m one of the archivists at Amy Briggs’ (Plundered Hearts) alma mater (as well as a huge Infocom fan) and I’m going to be doing an oral history with her next month for the Archives. I thought I’d ask if anyone here has any questions they’re curious to have her answer while I have her ear. Thanks!


Not a question, but I would like her to know that in a recent poll of best of all time interactive fiction, Plundered Hearts was found to be the second most highly regarded Infocom game. Only A Mind Forever Voyaging received more votes.


I was going to mention this too – and tied for 18th overall, which is pretty impressive! My sense is that there has been something of a critical reassessment of Plundered Hearts lately, so it might be interesting to get her thoughts on that.

Other than that, I’m probably most curious about her process – were there ideas she had that didn’t make it in? Specific elements that were tricky to design or implement well? Especially important bits of feedback from testers or other Imps?


Have you played interactive fiction games subsequent to Infocom? What computer games, if any, do you like?

Has your subsequent career in Human Factors Engineering inspired any opinions about what games could be doing differently or how?

Have you done game design or development in any capacity subsequent to Infocom? (So far as I know and so far as I see from quick web-searching, she hasn’t, but she’d know better than the rest of the Internet…)

If so, what?

If not, have you wanted to do any game development? If you could imagine working on games again, do you have any notions about what kind of game you might be interested in pursuing?


I will let her know! I had coffee with her today and was showing her some of the more recent glowing praise of her work.


I can answer a few of these from reading other interviews.

I believe she got started on the early Scott Adams games. Ghost Town being one of them. And I know she hasn’t done any game work since. The 2nd question is very interesting though, I’ll definitely forward that one to her to chew on before the actual oral history. I lightly touched on the last question today with her, but I’ll let her reanswer it in when we record.


Was she really Ron Gilbert’s babysitter? Was he a good kid?


Have your feelings changed about the treatment of “a fate worse than death” in Plundered Hearts?

Have you ever written static fiction?


She was. I showed her the interview with Ron Gilbert where he mentions it in conversation with Tim Schafer. I’ll definitely ask her the second one though. ; )


That’s a great first question and I’ll work that in. She’ll address the second in the interview. We talked about it a little today.


Plundered Hearts was one of my favorite Infocom games back when I first played it. I’m glad it has been getting renewed attention. I remember it having a much stronger story arc than other Infocom games I’d played, and much more strongly characterized personalities (both the PC and NPCs). One of the clever puzzles I remember involved poisoning some food with a sleeping elixir.

If I were interviewing Amy Briggs, I’d want to know what guidance and instrucitions she got from Senior Management at Infocom, and if there were any of her artistic impulses which they discouraged (or overruled) for one reason or another.


I’m sure we’ll touch on that. I’d recommend the Get Lamp interview (it’s on YouTube, the forum won’t let me include links) from about 15 year ago where it’s discussed a little. Steve Meretzky was her mentor of sorts.


If you were given the chance to remake Plundered Hearts again, would it remain a text adventure game or will you try something with graphics – or something else entirely?


I take it you mean this interview?

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That is the one.

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Some questions:

  1. Has she ever taken a look at more modern interactive fiction languages such as Inform 6, TADS or Inform 7? If so, what is her impression of them in comparison to ZIL?

  2. Has she ever considered writing more interactive fiction? If she were to write something today, what might it be? (Perhaps the Anne Rice-esque vampire story that she pitched after Plundered Hearts?)

  3. Looking back, in her opinion, how realistic was Plundered Hearts as a product in 1987? Was it felt that there were already enough target customers (personal computer owners who enjoyed romance novels) to justify a specialized product, or was it hoped that the game would create its own market by drawing romance novel readers to computers?

  4. Although most Infocom packages clearly labeled the genre (e.g. fantasy, science fiction, mystery, tales of adventure), the package for Plundered Hearts does not. She has previously said that she designed the game to be either or both of an adventure story and a romance – which does she feel is the better genre description of the final product? If she had been given an unlimited budget and complete control of the process, how would she have changed the marketing for Plundered Hearts (in terms of advertising, packaging, pricing, etc.)?

  5. Would she have preferred to have developed Plundered Hearts for the Z4 virtual machine, with twice the capacity of the Z3 version? Doing so would have meant abandoning the early PC installed base (Apple, Atari, Commodore), but the games that until recently have been considered to be Infocom’s best (A Mind Forever Voyaging, Trinity) were text-only works that used this format. Was the use of Z4 even felt to be a possibility? Did she ever propose this? Assuming that she had been developing for Z4, what would she have prioritized with the extra room: more action, more romance, more story, richer (i.e. more detailed) object implementation, richer NPC interaction?

  6. Which of Infocom’s works does she most admire from a design and/or technical standpoint? Which of them has she personally enjoyed the most?

  7. Who was the illustrator for Plundered Hearts’ feelies, and how closely was she involved in their production?

  8. The relationship between the protagonist’s father and Lucy (the servant) is only slightly developed. How important did she consider this to be to the story? Was the main motivation to provide a reason for inserting the garter (useful for a puzzle), or was it to produce higher stakes in the climax scene (in which the father can die)?

  9. In the interview with Jason Scott, she says that she is embarrassed by a bug in Plundered Hearts that produces “garbage” which can be reached in the first moves of the game. The only garbage-producing bug currently documented is the response to >DRINK FROM BOTTLE, which would not be encountered until the protagonist is moving about the ship. Is she conflating this with a different bug, the response to >PUT HAND UNDER BED, which does not produce garbage (only an unexpected result) but is available as an opening move?

  10. She says that she used a “parser that was already done” as a starting point, which seems to have been the standard practice (i.e. starting with the source code of the game most similar to your own). Although she guesses that it might have been that from A Mind Forever Voyaging, there is evidence to suggest that her starting point was the source for Leather Goddesses of Phobos (e.g. the presence of KWEEPA and some commented-out logic from that game) – was that the case?


She’ll answer a few of these in natural conversation. Some are a little too specific for this particular oral history, but I can ask off the record. There’s a good story about the cover art that she’ll relate.


I have played most INFOCOM games, but not Plundered Hearts. I guess I will have to give it a go. I have also heard great praise for it on various podcasts.


Hi everyone! Just giving this a quick bump before the interview in a week and a half! Let me know if there are any other questions you’re interested in me asking.


What was it like having your own game go through playtesting after having been a tester yourself?

Do you remember finding out about any bugs it was too late to fix?