At the beginning of April 2016 Peter Verdi's Magnetic Scrolls Chronicles website went offline. So far all my attempts to contact Peter failed. His site carried some invaluable interviews with former Magnetic Scrolls people. To preserve the work I temporarily uploaded a dump of his site taken in summer of 2015. All you can see below is 100% Peter's work! Hopefully his site will reappear soon! Peter, if you read this, can you contact me?

Remember how it's like to ride on a cloud? How it feels to be squashed by a bus, or how to get that damned gold disc from Micky? Well, here's your chance to relive all these situations.

Have a chat with the devil in THE PAWN, ransack an entire island in THE GUILD OF THIEVES, restore luck itself to a whole country in JINXTER, uncover a conspiracy in CORRUPTION, become an inter-dimensional secret agent in FISH!, an ancient god in MYTH, walk in the footsteps of Alice in WONDERLAND and inherit a haunted mansion in THE LEGACY.
Become a part of the fantasy of Magnetic Scrolls - you certainly won't regret it . . .


   News Archive
   The Games
    - The Pawn
    - The Guild Of Thieves
    - Jinxter
    - Corruption
    - Fish!
    - Myth
    - Wonderland
    - The Magnetic Scrolls
       Collection Vol. One
    - The Legacy - Realm
       Of Terror
   Magnetic Interpreter
   The Message Board
   About The Website
The History Of Magnetic Scrolls
written by Stephen Granade (used with kind permission)


While Adventure International, Topologika, and Level 9 all published text adventures for the early 8-bit machines, Magnetic Scrolls came along later and wrote text-and-graphics adventures for 16-bit computers like the Atari ST, Amiga, and Sinclair QL. They also lasted longer than the other companies -- their final game was published in 1992.

The story begins with Ken Gordon, Hugh Steers, and Rob Steggles, who were classmates and friends. Ken and Hugh enjoyed playing with computers, while Rob was more into Dungeons and Dragons. They all played games like Zork and the Scott Adams adventures, however.

Ken eventually met up with Anita Sinclair through some Apple user groups. Anita was a fan of Infocom's adventures, and was interested in creating some of her own. Anita and Ken formed Magnetic Scrolls early in 1983 and bankrolled the company using Anita's savings.

The Magnetic Scrolls Logo

Anita Sinclair - co-founder and official face of Magnetic Scrolls (source: Power Play magazine)

Ken and Anita decided to write an adventure game for the Spectrum QL, a new 16-bit machine based on the Motorola 68000 processor. They hired Hugh Steers for his programming skills and asked Rob Steggles to help them create a scenario. The four of them brainstormed, coming up with a number of strange and odd ideas. Eventually Rob took all of the ideas and wrote a story around them. The game was called The Pawn because of the way the main character was manipulated by events beyond his control.

The QL version of The Pawn sold well enough that Magnetic Scrolls next did a version for the Atari ST. The ST, like the Spectrum QL, was based on the 68000 processor, but the ST had graphics capabilities which the QL lacked. After they finished their ST port, Ken and Anita took it to a publisher named Rainbird and applied for a contract. Rainbird liked the game, but wanted to add graphics. Magnetic Scrolls was understandably reluctant, but Rainbird showed Ken and Anita the work of Geoff Quilley. Intrigued, they had Geoff create two pictures for the game. They liked the result enough that they went ahead and added pictures to the Atari ST version of The Pawn, which Rainbird published in 1985, to much success.

A side note: the pictures in The Pawn and later Magnetic Scrolls games were more like illustrations than exact pictures of a room or scene. Geoff and other artists were given descriptions of scenes to illustrate, but room descriptions were apt to change between the time an artist was given them and the time the game shipped. Magnetic Scrolls decided that having graphics which weren't literal pictures of scenes was an interesting approach.

Following the successful launch of the ST version of The Pawn, Magnetic Scrolls began porting it to as many different computers as they could. As was to become their practice, they wrote all the programs they required, including a debugger, rather than use any commercial products. In the meantime, they asked Rob to write another scenario for them, a traditional fantasy. Rob quickly turned out the plot and puzzles to The Guild of Thieves. It was eventually published in 1987, with pictures by Geoff Quilley, and did very well, winning the CGW Game of the Year award.

Magnetic Scrolls had mixed success with their next two games, Jinxter and Corruption. Corruption, written by Rob Steggles and programmed by Hugh Steers, was a realistic thriller set in London. Its plot revolved around insider trading and the stock market. It garnered another Game of the Year award for Magnetic Scrolls. Jinxter, which had come out the year before, sold as well as Corruption but had been much more expensive to produce, as it had involved a large team of writers and programmers.

Magnetic Scrolls released two other games, Fish! and Myth, in the late 1980's, but attention was focused on an ambitious project named Wonderland. The game was based on the works of Lewis Carroll, and for it Ken, Anita, Hugh, and a team of programmers began writing a new interpreter called Magnetic Windows for the Amiga, Atari ST, and Microsoft Windows. Rather than use any off-the-shelf products or routines they did what they had always done before: write their own system.


The famous picture that rocked the Interactive-Fiction-World back in 1985 - the Palace Gardens from "The Pawn" by Geoff Quilley (Amiga)

Anita Sinclair and game designer David Bishop are presenting the "Wonderland" artwork at the Consumer Trade Show in 1990 (source: Power Play magazine)


It was a costly decision. Magnetic Scrolls did finish Wonderland, and Virgin Mastertronic published it in 1990, but it was the last original game to come from Magnetic Scrolls. In 1991 Virgin published a re-release of all of Magnetic Scrolls' Game of the Year winners, The Guild of Thieves, Corruption, and Fish!, in a collection entitled The Magnetic Scrolls Collection Volume 1.

The re-releases were all updated to take advantage of the Magnetic Windows interpreter. Before Magnetic Scrolls could finish converting their remaining games to the Magnetic Windows interpreter, the company went bankrupt in 1992 and was bought by Microprose, which did very little with the rights it had bought.

Like the Level 9 games, the Magnetic Scrolls games are no longer sold and cannot be legally downloaded. There is some indication that Magnetic Scrolls may one day reappear, however, as Ken Gordon has registered the domain, though he has done nothing with it so far. Until then, Magnetic Scrolls will be just a memory to those who loved their games.

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