THE MAGNETIC PAWN FAILS ITS TASK by Richard Karsmakers
Switching the Green District Line to the Brown Bakerloo Line at
Embankment, and switching that to the Northbound Black Northern
Line at Elephant & Castle, we arrived at Borough Tube Station a
quarter or so before noon.
Nothing the Lost Boys had said about the smell of the Northern
Line had been exaggerated. It smelled like the whole bloody line
had been ablaze but hours ago.
As we left the underground, the even worse stench of London
traffic and the incredibly high midday temperatures seemed to
clasp at our throats in desperate attempts to make us quit our
quest. As if this wasn't enough, the rucksacks also seemed to
weigh heavier and heavier after every single step we took.
"Turn left from Borough Tube Station," I read aloud from the
directions I obtained from Ms. Anita Sinclair, "then after 300
yards to the left. Number 1, Chapel Court."
Poop-easy, isn't it?
So it would seem.
So we thought we could afford a brisk stroll, and we ended up in
some large building with a warden who didn't even have the
faintest idea of where Chapel Court was.
"300 yards to the left." That's exactly where we were, but this
surely wasn't Magnetic Scrolls.
To take the biscuit, the warden told us that Chapel court wasn't
even on the London map he had just retrieved from a drawer.
I was already beginning to show signs of losing my temper, and I
assumed there must have been a misunderstanding between Anita and
So we went approximately back to Borough Station, and went to
the RIGHT after 300 yards.
The sun was still blazing hot, and its rays seemed to pierce
through our aching bodies. Even though most of the perspiration
seemed to be instantaneously turned into gas by the heat, we
still managed to feel extremely sweaty and sticky. The rucksacks
seemed to stick to our Electronic Arts T-shirts, and the shirts
where surely stuck solid to our backs.
"Magnetic Scrolls," we read on a sign - but the street wasn't
named Chapel Court.
Hopefully, we entered that road.
It was more of an alley, and before we knew it we were in the
middle of a regular suburb with regular houses.
No Chapel Court anywhere, nor any Magnetic Scrolls.
Maybe we had overlooked something?
So we went back and scanned the place more carefully.
After about 10 minutes, in which I was surely getting to lose my
temper and feeling extremely pissed, it turned out to be another
right turn just ahead. Chapel Court, it indeed seemed to be
I sighed very deeply.
Stefan kept his mouth shut - a very wise decision, as some
criticism from his side would probably have aroused enormous
sequences of curses from me. I might even have TRULY lost my
temper - something that I had considered impossible before, since
I NEVER lose my temper (normally).
Eventually, we entered a building that was nice and cool, and
where we could read that Magnetic Scrolls was located on the
We started upward, and entered the office at about a quarter
past twelve. It was a large office spread over several
considerable rooms, mainly occupied by a couple of desks on which
some Apple systems and a VAX minicomputer were located. Some of
Anita's colleagues looked at us as if they were amazed at the new
boundaries discovered in the 'how low can a reporter go' field.
On one of the walls of the biggest room, a map of an adventure
game (probably the upcoming one about which they were pretty
secretive) hung on the wall, together with some (excellent)
screenshots of its various locations (that had foto-quality to
say the least). Later, when we tried to take pictures there, we
were forbidden to do that - probably because of that map.
Looking as if we had just played "Dungeon Master" - not the game
but the REAL thing, with some extra sun in it - we let the
backpacks slide to the ground, carefully avoiding them (or us)
being eaten by a menacing bull terrier that roamed the office. We
stretched our backs, and generally acted like 80-year olds that
just got out of bed.
When I wanted to let the animal smell at my hand, someone was
just quick enough to prevent me from getting a mistrust towards
dogs for the rest of my life.
"No," I heard a rather resolute voice warn me, "she bites." The
dog was locked in another room, from which it would continue to
bark threateningly until it was released - just before we left
I suppose they use that dog to keep out people like our dear
adventure freak Math - people who are always desperate and would
like to get their hands on some hints (maybe even complete maps)
of those fabulous Magnetic Scrolls adventures.
That same someone (I never did get his name) directed us a
couple of rooms further, where Anita Sinclair was patiently
waiting for us to be a nuisance to her by pulling off our
interview. She was a charming woman with long brown hair, wearing
a 'Magnetic Scrolls' T-shirt that I eyed with a certain greed. It
was 12:20 on my watch as we sat down, still sighing and trying to
relax a bit so that all that perspiration would dry up on our
Gosh - did we feel worn, tired, filthy, and exhausted!
But we started the interview quickly, because Anita had an
important meeting that she would actually have to be at in ten
minutes - lucky for us, she would not be too punctual on this one
and grant us quite some more time.
Please tell us your place and date of birth - you needn't say
the date if you don't want to.
Anita: I don't mind. It's the 20th of November 1962, in
How did you end up in the computer industry?
Anita: Nobody else would have me (laughs). I just found
computers interesting, and here I am. I didn't follow any courses
- it's all self tought.
What are your other interests besides computers?
Anita: Dogs, music, books...eh...more music.
What do you dislike most about the software industry?
Anita: The customers....no..that's a joke. The journalists. No
(laughs). The hype, I suppose; games that don't live up to the
expectations. Licenses. I hate licenses. Licensees should be
shot, because all the money goes into the license and not in the
What do you consider to be the best game ever launched on the
Anita: "The Pawn" (laughs). On the ST? Er..."Dungeon Master".
And the lousiest game?
Anita: I don't see lousy games.
What have you done on various computers upto now?
Anita: Well, what have we done. We have done five games, which
are "The Pawn", "Guild of Thieves", "Jinxter", "Corruption" and
"Fish", and we're now working on a sixth product, which is very
new and very different. But that won't be out until next year. It
will have graphics and it will be absurd - even more absurd than
Where did you get the plot of "Fish"?
Anita: Do you like "Fish"? (we both nod) Great game, isn't it?
It was done by three guys, Phil, Pete and John, and it's very
strange; Pete is a taxman, Phil is a journalist and John is a
musician. And it's a strange combination. They designed the game
and it's completely weird. And we had two guys of us working with
them, who are also slightly weird. So we had five guys working on
it and it's a great product. My favourites are the "Guild of
Thieves" and "Fish".
Do you know a nice joke?
Anita: I need a glass of milk for my joke. But...er...no. I am
What car do you drive?
Anita: An Audi Quattro.
What tools do you/does Magnetic Scrolls use to program, draw,
Anita: It's all in-house. Well, we use some IBM software, but we
develop our adventures in our own language. Our old pictures (the
ones of all adventures upto now, ED.) were done under
"Neochrome"; the new pictures (of the secretive sixth product,
ED.) are done using tools we developed ourselves again.
What's your favourite book?
Anita: Marquez' "A hundred years of Solitudes".
What's your favourite film?
Anita: "The Revenge of Baron Munchhausen".
What's your favourite food?
Anita: Beer (laughs). No. Eggs'n'bacon.
And what about your favourite drink?
Anita: Sake (the Japanese stuff, ED.).
Your favourite band, then?
Anita: I have none. But I like classical music. My favourite
composer is Schostekovitch.
Who's the most interesting person in the software industry, do
Anita: Hmmm....just thinking. It's rather difficult. There used
to be some fascinating people that were constantly astounding but
they have all disappeared. Er...most interesting, you said? (We
nod, after which there is quite a long pause) I suppose the most
interesting person is the chap who does all the Llama stuff, Jeff
Minter. Yeah. He's interesting.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
Anita: Music, and taking the dog for long walks. I now program
little, but I am involved in PR and the creative side of the new
game - not the design of the game itself but the design of the
look of the game, the way it works.
What's your dog called, by the way?
Anita: Murdoch. As in 'Rupert Murdoch'. I named her after him,
actually (yes, the dog's a 'she', ED.).
What program are you currently working on?
Anita: I can't give a name, as that would give the plot away.
It's got a parser. It's got text. It's got graphics. It's
massive. It's going to be about 3 megabytes, crammed on two or
maybe three ST disks. It's a big product. It's a very appealing
product, and it's quite easy to play. It's slightly totally
What's your opinion about software piracy?
Anita: Hmm....I don't think that we can abolish piracy. I think
it exists, and I feel in some way it's probably a good thing,
because we all listen to the radio, and you will buy what you
like - we also borrow books. Piracy is just a worse version of
that. I think people who rip off our games and who play them and
enjoy them, have a good chance of buying one of our future
products. What I absolutely detest is people who simply keep
games. People who simply have thousands of games - they don't
play them, they've got them, so that they can say to someone "hey
look at me - I have a million games." Those people I'd like to
see hanging by their earlobes. Because they have no right to my
product. People who rip it off and play it and like it might buy
one of our future products. I don't like that, but I can't stop
it. And we obviously try to stop people from doing that, because
we have to earn our living. But I think that people who collect
games should be shot.
What do you think of people who have solved your adventures in
three days (like Math Claessens)?
Anita: In three days? Has he done "Corruption"? Well, if he can
solve our games in three games he's lucky. Most people don't ever
solve some of our games, judging by the letters we get.
Infocom went broke recently. Do you now employ some of those
Anita: (Laughs rather secretively) We're talking with them.
How do you design your adventures?
Anita: We have three development systems. We've got the VAX,
which runs UNIX, and all the machine-dependent stuff gets
developed on that. So when we've finished writing a game, we then
upload it to the VAX, which does all the cross-compiling for us
for the different machines. We then have Mac II's and Xenix
machines, which run AU/X and XENT, and we have sub-development
systems on that. All our tools are written in C.
What's your worst habit?
Anita: I sort of bite my nails, but I can also be a truly
irritating person. I can never give up, and that really annoys
people. I gave up smoking but I drink a lot of coffee.
What's it like to be female in a world generally dominated by
Anita: I don't notice. I mean, there's no sexuality involved.
There is obviously interest in me because I'm female, but I don't
notice it very much. I think it could be an advantage instead of
a disadvantage. But it's not something I use: I don't go out of
my way to flirt with people or to try and use my femininity above
my skills. Magnetic Scrolls, it could be run be a man. It would
have the same presence because the products are so good. You
know, if we would have substandard products I would have to take
my clothes off occasionally. "Buy my product, hey!"
What's your connection to Clive Sinclair (the notorious inventor
of Sinclair Computers and various other gadgets, who is
Anita: None from a family point of viewapart from the fact that
we have the same surnames. He's just a good a friend of mine and
I've known him for quite a few years.
What about you playing poker together?
Anita: (Laughs) Yeah, once every two months. We're doing it for
five or six years now. He doesn't organise them, and nor do I;
it's this chap that organises it. It's more a social call than
Don't you grow tired of doing adventures and wouldn't you like
to do something different for a change?
Anita: Yes. We'd like to do different things. We are doing
different things. But we needed to establish ourselves first. I
love adventures. I love playing them. But I'd like to do a really
nice role-playing game. I'd like to do a really nice graphics-
only adventure. There are lots of things I'd like to explore. And
we'll do so for the next couple of years; you'll see some very
interesting products coming out of here. Games like "Populous"
for instance. That's an amazing game; we'd like to do something
like that. It's extraordinary.
What about that interdimensional agent down there? (Stefan
points to a goldfish in a bowl, in a corner of Anita's office)
Anita: Well I had two of them; one of them died last week.
"Fish" is in fact dedicated to its pre-decessor, Slayer.
We finished the interview off with talking a bit about Douglas
Adams (absurd writer, ED.), who happens to live next door to
Anita. She found him an amazing man, and told us about this
special bed that he had made for himself because he is about 6
foot 6. She also found him another major source of inspiration.
After that, we showed off some of our Volume 4 ST NEWS issues
and the people responsible for the of the best adventures ever
appeared to be impressed. They copied one of the issues while I
carefully studied the map I mentioned earlier.
There are times that I wish I had a photographic memory, and
that was one of those times.
But I haven't.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.