"My main goal was to get 100 people to play three times."
I'm standing at a small booth off the beaten path at PAX East 2023, the cacophony of trailers and demos blaring all around me. In front of me is Adam Bohn, the head of Artix Entertainment and creator of the AdventureQuest series of MMORPGs. His energy is infectious, his passion for his creation palpable. This is our first time meeting, so he's giving us the rundown of his history in games, which, considering his original creation AdventureQuest recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, is a storied one.
"I figured, if you only played once, you didn't like it, you quit. If you played twice, maybe you liked it, or maybe you launched the game by accident. If you played three times though? You're in, you're officially an AdventureQuest player!"
The philosophy makes sense; so many games consider every single person who has ever logged into a game a "player," which has a tendency to inflate the actual number of consistent players keeping up with the game. What doesn't make sense, what truly boggles the mind, is how Bohn and his team have updated an AdventureQuest game – be it the original AdventureQuest Worlds, or AdventureQuest 3D – once a week, every week, for over 20 years.
"Through hurricanes, sickness, holidays, no breaks, for 20 years, those core games have been updated every single week," he says. "Our approach is like Saturday Night Live or South Park; whatever's going on in the world, we toss it in. Remember Left Shark at the Super Bowl? One of my proudest achievements is getting Left Shark in-game just 15 minutes after it appeared on-stage…and then 12 hours later, it was renamed for legal reasons."
When we asked how difficult it was to establish that weekly update schedule, Bohn said the size of the updates played a key role. "We started with small updates, but then they kept getting bigger," Bohn said, "and every time we'd raise the bar." Eventually the team had to expand, but Bohn knew exactly where to look: the players themselves. "Most of our team was built from our community of gamers," he recalls, "we had people who would come here to PAX, show off some 3D models or other assets and ask to be a part of the team."
When you've been around this long, you're bound to run into problems with development. In 2020, Bohn and his team hit a pretty significant wall: all of Artix's games were built in Flash, and Flash was going away. "We're sitting in the studio, looking at our piles of game we've made, and we thought 'well, flipping burgers sounds pretty good right now.'" Losing Flash meant a lot of the functions the game employed – a few of them being things "no modern programming language should ever support doing – would have to be converted to Unity, which would take a lot of time, so the team had to think fast.
The team quickly created a launcher that would act as a sort of stopgap and extend the game's life, but this also berthed the next great chapter in the AQ series. Enter AdventureQuest 3D, a new version of the game that not only brought the game to a new 3D look, but also introduced something Bohn had accidentally promised in the early 2000s: mobile support.
"Back in 2003, I made a little mobile prototype on my iPhone 3 [edit note: This was likely misheard, since iPhone 3 came out in 2008]. It wasn't even a game, it was just animations, but the players immediately thought 'wait, it's on phones?! Why aren't you releasing it on phones?!'" Despite the "mobile version" not actually being a functioning app, word spread like wildfire that a phone-based AdventureQuest was on its way…even though it wasn't. "I still hear about it today from some players, saying they've been waiting since 2002 for this port, what's the deal?!"
Aside from the mobile functionality, Bohn calls AdventureQuest 3D "the stupidest, most ambitious thing we'd ever done." Building a 3D MMO – something the team had never done before – was a tall task itself, but then adding crossplay between PC, Mac, and mobile devices, cross-progression so each player's experience can seamlessly transition, and the continued weekly update structure they'd followed before? "Sure, it's going to work, let's do this," Bohn said, "and now we've been doing it for five years."
AdventureQuest 3D may be carrying the franchise into a new dimension (literally), but the classic 2D version isn't being ignored, as AdventureQuest Worlds: Infinity is slated to drop this fall. Infinity will support carryover of all existing characters and items, with all 120+ classes, 5,000+ monsters, and 20,000+ weapons being supported from the jump. This new version will also see a mobile port with cross-platform support a la 3D, as well as new "remastered" storylines and bosses.
And of course, like everything else Artix does, something new will be waiting for you once a week.