Steve Fawkner began distributing his own games in the 1980s at games conventions such as Arcanacon and Fanasticon. In 1983 he packaged up the text adventure “Quest for the Holy Grail” in little sandwich bags and gave them away at a Melbourne games conference. The note inside the sandwich bag said “Please copy this, give it to your friends. If you like the game, send $5.00”. Of the twelve copies he gave away Fawkner recalls receiving cash in the mail from thirty-five satisfied customer. But with the popularity of copying and trading cassette games amongst micro-computer users he had no idea what the conversion rates were on his early free to play experiments.
The young Fawkner was a keen chess player, role player, war-gamer and gamer. As a student of computer science making his own computer games seems a natural thing to do. From 1983 Fawkner recalls making about a game a year which he would give away each year at the various local game conventions. Over the years his games got more polished and his game “Warlords” had real commercial quality. His friend Andrew Buttery from the shop Mind Games, a hub for Melbourne’s games community, suggested that he look for a publisher and gave him a copy of Strategic Studies Group’s (SSG) “Run5” magazine explaining that SSG made and published game’s in Australia. Fawkner sent SSG a copy of “Warlords”. He heard nothing for ages but then received a call from SSG’s Ian Trout. Trout explained how they had dismissed the game, as its dragons and wizards had not really appealed to SSG’s military mindset, but Trout’s 10 year old son’s had discovered it and loved it.
SSG offered Fawkner a very supportive contract and worked with him refining the game for another six months. SSG’s Roger Keating wrote additional AI and movement for the game and mentored Fawkner on designing game AI. Keating and Fawkner collaborated on the game code working between their respective bases in Sydney and Melbourne by talking on the phone and posting three and half inch floppies of code to each other.
When “Warlords” came out in 1990 it immediately sold in the tens of thousands, creating a strong IP for Fawkner and SSG.
Fawkner founded his own company Infinite Interactive in 1992 but continued to work with SGG till 2002. Fawkner credits Roger Keating, Gregor Whiley and Ian Trout of SSG as teaching him everything he needed to know about the games industry.
Fawkner designed four more games and a number of expansion packs in the “Warlords” series. The world of the Etheria that features in all the “Warlords” games (except the first) is also the location of his highly successful “Puzzle Quest” games. Etheria’s peoples and lore originate from Fawkner’s early Dungeon mastering in the role playing games “Dungeons and Dragons”.
References: Interview Steve Fawkner 7 August 2013