Creator of Softporn Adventure, the precursor to Leisure Suit Larry.
In 1981, a programmer named Chuck Benton was interested in doing database programming on the Apple ][, but he wasn't sure if the tiny machine was up to it. As a "test case" he knocked out a little text-only adventure game. It worked pretty well. People who played the game liked it. So he called up the then largest publisher of Apple games to see if they were interested. They were. . Al Lowe, What is Softporn?
Chuck Benton's webpage at the company he founded, TSI, describes it this way:
Technology Systems was founded in the early days of micro computing. In 1981, Chuck Benton, TSI's founder, purchased an Apple computer to teach himself programming, and thus automate many of the mundane aspects of his job managing the field engineering office of a small flight simulator manufacturer. To make the task interesting, he decided to write an adventure game that parodied the dilemmas of the young single male. Thus was born what became 'Leisure Suit Larry,' arguably the first commercially successful, adult-oriented software ever. This was quickly followed by contract development of over a dozen titles (all much tamer), including 'Frogger,' BC's 'Quest for Tires,' and Disney's 'Donald Duck's Playground.'
Softporn adventure appears to be the only adventure game Mr. Benton created commercially.
Mr. Benton gave a keynote talk at a convention in 2003, where at the time
he was the Chief Technology Officer of Technology Systems, Inc. He submitted
the following biography:
"The early years...In 1981, Chuck Benton, TSI's founder, purchased an Apple computer to teach himself programming, and thus automate many of the mundane aspects of his job managing the field engineering office of a small flight simulator manufacturer. To make the task interesting, he decided to write an adventure game that parodied the dilemmas of the young single male. Thus was born what became 'Leisure Suit Larry,' arguably the first commercially successful, adult-oriented software ever. This was quickly followed by contract development of over a dozen titles (all much tamer), including 'Frogger,' BC's 'Quest for Tires,' and Disney's 'Donald Duck's Playground.'....
"Chuck has helped pioneer many of the technologies that are commonplace today. He helped launch the PC industry, broke new ground in the development of network protocols, and has fueled technical innovations that have produced broad and far reaching impacts in national capability."
Al Lowe, creator of the Leisure Suit Larry series of graphical adventure games,
makes it clear that the first Leisure Suit Larry was written using the original
puzzles in Softporn. He (Lowe) has also mentioned that Leisure Suit Larry was
written somewhat directly in response to the success of Infocom's Leather Goddesses
A quick rush out the door at 9am, and I was on my way to Brunswick, Maine,
to interview Chuck Benton, creator of the infamous adult text adventure game,
"Softporn Adventure". I got there at 11:55, just a few hairs short of the
His company (which he founded) had recently moved to new digs in Brunswick,
inside a renovated factory, and he had a great corner office overlooking a
loud, thundery dam (which I took a picture of, both from my car and from
his window). Lighting wise, his office couldn't have been better; I ended
up using no artifical light (although you can see I set one up in case
it was needed) and the shot, while a standard "guy in office" shot, was
clear and clean. An excellent setup.
We interviewed for about an hour and 20 minutes. Here's a paraphrase of
some of what we covered.
Chuck Benton is the author of a text adventure called "Softporn Adventure".
He created it originally while being employed elsewhere, and teaching
himself database and other programming techniques on an Apple II. After
he made a first revision, the positive reaction from friends convinced
him he should try making an "official" version. At the time, it was first
called "Super Stud Adventure" but got renamed quickly to "Softporn Adventure".
He sold this program under his own label, Blue Sky Software, but then
decided to see about selling it through a publisher. He went with On-line
Systems (later Sierra Online) and they accepted it. He recrafted it for
them, working in Massachusetts (where he's from) and then flying out to
do additional work.
The distinctive cover of the program has three nude women and a waiter
in a hot tub. They are all Sierra employees, and the woman on the right
is in fact Roberta Williams, creator of many other Sierra Online properties
such as King's Quest, Phantasmigoria and the Hi-Res series of adventures.
The original plan was to use hired models, but the ladies insisted, and
in doing so became part of history.
After a while, the royalty checks outstripped his salary and Chuck quit
to go to developing software full time. All in all, sales of Softporn
were up past the 50,000 mark, a true blockbuster for the time. Work was
done on both a female version of the game and a graphic version, but
these stalled and Chuck found he had a knack for doing quick development
of ports of pre-existing games. This resulted in ports of games such as
Frogger, and a game called B.C.'s Quest for Tires. (Chuck indicates that
while it was originally supposed to be a port of the Colecovision version
of Quest for Tires, they stalled out and he ended up having to compose
the latter part of the game himself.)
Chuck eventually moved into business for himself, founding his company
TSI and working there to this day, doing many interesting projects and
developments for corporations and the military. He has never forgotten
his roots and in fact boxes of his first works are on the wall when you
walk into the office, including a framed copy of a Time magazine issue
which features the cover of Softporn on it. He also has copies of all
his games in his office, which he had in pristine condition until one
day his son decided to see what was inside them.
Our interview mostly centered around Softporn, working at Sierra in the
early days, his thoughts on Leisure Suit Larry, which was initially
a graphic reworking of Softporn, and the nature of text adventures.
After the interview, Chuck pulled out a very special artifact; a folder
with both original Softporn development disks, a baggie/xerox packaging
of the original Blue Sky version of the program ("I made 1000 and sold
100", he said, indicating he has 900 in storage somewhere) and coolest
of all, actual printouts of the original BASIC source code of the
Softporn Adventure program! I took a ton of photos.
An excellent interview, an excellent time, and I was home by 5pm.