Interview with a Game Designer - Adam Bohn
Artix Entertainment in Land O’Lakes, Florida is a video game company started by Adam Bohn in 2002. The company centers on massively multiplayer online (MMO) games that are playable on an web browser. They are free-to-play, and no downloads are required to play. He grew up playing video games and turned his hobby into a dream and his passion. Since starting Artix, the company has made ten games, some of which include “AdventureQuest Worlds,” “DragonFable,” and “MechQuest.” “AdventureQuest Worlds” currently has over 35 million accounts!
Other things that Bohn and his team do outside of the company include convention appearances, panels, and television appearances! I met Bohn at MetroCon in Tampa in July when I saw him taking pictures next to an announcement sign. I approached him and introduced myself, telling him that I go to school for game design (hey, that might work out well for me in the future). I admitted that I heard of AdventureQuest, but never played it, and recognized him from “American Ninja Warrior” (ANW) on NBC. He looked at me in disbelief then excitement, saying that I’m the first person to say that I knew him from the competition, then asked how I thought he did. I told him that even though he fell in the first obstacle, he did a lot better than I would have done. Bohn laughed and said that he really liked that answer. Jokingly, I asked if I would get a prize or something special from that, and he smiled and said “sure.”
When I got to the panel about an hour later, I took a seat in the front row. Bohn introduced everyone in the team and he showed us videos of his projects. Then he talked about his run on ANW, letting us watch his submission video in full and his run on the course. Another contestant, Drew Drechsel (who I’m hoping to get an interview with as well) was in attendance and did a walking handstand from the panel table, out the door and, back to his seat behind me! During the Q&A, I asked about how the team practiced for ANW and if they trained with Drechsel. Drechsel answered the question for me, explaining that they went up to a parkour gym in Gainesville, where his lived, and trained there. After I got a piece of candy for asking something, I got called up to the front of the room… I was introduced by Bohn, which included my confession of not knowing much about the company and never playing an Artix game. He asked the audience to ask ME a question about the company or the game, and I’d get an action figure of Artix the Paladin. I didn’t realize until later that the question I was asked was from Monty Python, but I still got the figure even though I did not even answer the question.
Before MetroCon, as I said, Bohn competed on “American Ninja Warior” on NBC. He ran the course in Artix’s suit of armor (designed just like it, even with the cape!) and ended up losing his footing on the Quintuple Steps. (I have high hopes to see him compete again next year!) He and his team also appeared on a news story on Florida’s Fox 13 station (video included). I got to talk to him the other day about his work!
HL: When did you know that you wanted to make video games and start Artix Entertainment?
AB: I have wanted to make games ever since I first played a video game. I was in 5th grade when my father asked me "If you love games so much, why don't you try to make one?"
I failed at least a thousand times.
After college I became a web developer. It was because I learned flash, databases and web programming that I made my first game, AdventureQuest. My goal was not to make a company or to make money. I just wanted 100 people to play so I could say I made a real game.
But after I released it.... Over 100 million players came to play it.
HL: What advice do you have for game design students?
AB: If you are just doing what your teachers tell you to... you are not doing enough. You need to be building things and experimenting with things in your spare time.
HL: All students should and/or need to get an internship while they're in school. What advice for snagging the best internship opportunity?
AB: I would find out all of the companies that are local and send an introduction letter and a sample of your work -- ask for an internship. Volunteering in creative projects is a great way to make connections.
HL: Does it get tedious to code the actionscript for your games?
AB: Yes. Every aspect of game making becomes tedious. It is a terrible rule that if something is boring... it is what you will end up doing 90% of the time.
HL: Out of all of the games Artix has made, do you have a favorite?
AB: No. That is like asking a father which of his children he loves most.
But the most exciting feature to me is "live events". There is a thrill when entertaining 30,000 people love at the same time.
HL: When I met you at MetroCon, I told you that I recognized you from “American Ninja Warrior.” How far were you hoping to go during your run on the course? Were you relieved when you said "the armor floats?"
AB: My goal was to win the course. I trained hard for it. It was very disappointing that I fell on the first obstacle.
HL: Your intern at MetroCon, (who the audience decided to give the nickname) Hiccup, had a suit of armor along with Dage, Cysero, and yourself. Do all of your interns get hooked up with a suit of armor, and do they get to keep it?
AB: Haha, he was using one of mine. My home is stocked with armor and weapons for video, conventions, and randomness.
HL: What were the inspirations for your games?
AB: The movies “Army of Darkness” and “Evil Dead II” were the most inspirational to me. The dark humor infected me.
HL: Where do most of your AdventureQuest players come from?
AB: Most players find us through internet ads and word of mouth.
HL: A close friend begged me to ask this question… Team Edward or Team Jacob?
AB: I slay the undead. But in this case I will extend my skill set to both undead and lycan slaying.
Artix Entertainment on Fox 13
Meeting and talking to Adam Bohn was such an amazing honor, one I will always truly cherish. He is exactly where I want to be in the gaming industry: following his dreams, making games that people will play for many years, and still are, and making his own video game company with his own designs! One other aspect I love is that every single game is free to play and all you need is a computer. It is truly, as Fox 13 put it, “the future of gaming.”
You can find and follow Bohn on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Artix Entertainment will also be in attendance at DragonCon in Atlanta at the end of the month! I was invited to go visit Artix HQ sometime after the con. I’m so excited for the opportunity!!