Heart of Africa

January 1890. The Africa of your imagination is about to become real.

Book passage to any port
You have the thinnest of leads, the diary of a madman who disappeared hunting for the hidden tomb of a legendary pharoah. You also have no time to waste. There are over 30 cities and settlements to visit, and you're not the only one on the trail.

Search for clues and equipment
What the natives know will help, if you can get them to talk. The tools and goods inside their huts will help, too - shovels, canteens, canoe paddles, whips, ropes, machetes, guns, maps, gifts and more. Just be careful. Not everyone will be happy to see you.

Geographically and historically accurate
Imagine a huge map of Africa stuffed into your computer. The Nile. The Congo. The Niger. Mt. Kilimanjaro. The Sahara. Lake Victoria. The whole thing. And if you get lost, just press the button. "The Nile River," the screen will say. What it won't say is, "about 2 miles above the falls."

Automatic maps and records
As you explore, your computer draws maps and keeps a journal, recording the most important clues for later review. It also keeps a record of your last two, uh... misfortunes. "Lost incredibly valuable talisman while running from very angry rhino," it might say or "Oops, better luck next time."

Game DesignDan and Bill Bunten
ProgrammingDan Bunten, Alan Watson and Mark Botner
GraphicsAlan Watson
Splash and Final ScreensRoger Harvel
Text SupportBill Bunten and Mark Arnold
MusicDave Warhol
ProducerJoe Ybarra

Dani Bunten on Heart of Africa:

"Heart of Africa" was the only true sequel I ever did and it was done to please EA (and get the $5K bonus they offered). It ended up as a C64 game only but on that platform it sold almost as well as "7Cities". It was published in '85 by EA and it was my last solo only game. I was never a fan of the adventure game genre which always seemed too much like guessing games where the player's job was to read the mind of the designer. However, this was my only published attempt at that genre. (A detective game that I also worked on got canceled at the prototype phase).
      I like a couple of things I invented for this product in particular. The player had a journal into which the game automatically entered events such as "Giant Python attacked and I lost my compass but got away with only minor scratches. These took the place of difficult to render graphic events and were almost as satisfying to the player. I also like the idea of messing with the player's interface to reflect ways in which their character was being effected. Two of the best were if you stayed in the desert too long you began to go sun blind which resulted in increasingly more pixels of the screen taking on the yellow terrain background color (and hence obscuring any features there) until the whole screen was yellow. Your only hope at that point was to stumble into a village or town where the natives would cure you. The other was that if you went too long without water you would become delirious and we would "mess with" your joystick inputs such that they would wander away from the direction you were pushing. However, if you held to a consistent direction long enough (and resisted your instinct to compensate for the wander) you would make better progress. It was really fun to watch play-testers as they stumbled into these effects and not only figured out what they meant but how to deal with them by bringing some vague "real-world" intuition into the game. One other thing I thought was a cool feature from this game was the way I "saved" beginners from their frustration of not making any progress. The essence of the game was exploring Africa to find locations that weren't visible per se but using clues and landmarks could be found. If I noticed that a player was struggling too long trying to find one, I would "move" it to where they were. This only happened the first game played and only early in the quest because adventures after all are about meeting a challenge but I thought it was an elegant solution to keep people feeling like they were doing OK which is really important in the early stages of play.
      What this game suffered most from was that the attempt to make a replayable adventure game made for a shallow product (which seems true in every other case designers have tried it as well). I guess that if elements are such that they can be randomly shifted then they are substantive enough to make for a compelling game. So, even though I don't like linear games, they seem necessary to have the depth a good story needs.