This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (February 2019)
Adrian Chmielarz is a Lubin-born Polish designer, developer, and producer of computer games, and one of the most famous Polish video gaming figures, as well as one of the most divisive figures in the industry. He created the first Polish adventure game for the PC platform, entitled Tajemnica Statuetki.
Adrian began creating computer games in 1992, and the following year he founded Metropolis Software with his friend Grzegorz Miechowski.
Adrian Chmielarz moved into game development in a roundabout way. In 1985, at the age of 15 Chmielarz attended the first Polcon science fiction convention in Błażejewek, where he first discovered an affinity for computers; he soon went through a Star Wars phase that saw him interact with a computer for the first time. In 1987, Chmielarz earned financial sustainability by traveling 40 miles each day to sell bootleg VHSes copied from a friend at a bazaar in Wrocław, which wasn't deemed illegal at the time. The marketplace where such goods were sold was known as the Wrocław commodity exchange (Wrocławskiej giełdy), which often had access to newer titles earlier. He noted that while an Englishman could buy a game the day of release, the average Pole would often have to wait up to five weeks and become impatient during that time, leading to this natural solution. According to Chmielarz "many people would buy games, if only it would be possible." Nevertheless, while food was rare and hard to come by, "strangely", computers and games were relatively cheap and accessible, if not through the commodity exchange then by traveling over the border to Germany.
By the late 1980s, he had became fascinated by computer games by reading about them in magazines, particularly Knight Lore or Bugsy games on the cover of the fourth issue of Przegląd Techniczny. He began saving for a ZX Spectrum despite never having used one before. His first experience playing games would see him typing in each line of code from gaming magazines into his friend's computer, though each time he turned off the computer the games were wiped as there was no way to save them. Chmielarz was pushed by a desire to buy a computer with his own money, knowing that his parents had been forced into the black market to put food on the table. By 1990, he had bought his own ZX Spectrum computer and had more freedom with his game-playing ability. Beginning computer lessons in second grade high school, he began to bury into game code and explore ways to manipulate it to alter gameplay. By this time his bootleg business had expanded into a brick-and-morter company which sold different types of media including movies and games, while also building computers to feed the local business industry.
Chmielarz had set up a distribution deal with the to-be-founders of what would become Polish distribution company CD Projekt via the commodity exchange, whereby they would drop audiotapes full of pirated games at a local train station. After picking them up, to get an advantage over his competitors at the bazaar, he would add subroutines to alter gameplay such as changing the number of lives or adding invulnerability; this marks the point when he began to make and sell his own games. He bought cartridges, cracked the games, and then applied his own anti-piracy protection measures to prevent other pirates from copying and selling it. Chmielarz spammed the editorial offices of Polish video game magazine Komputer with the results of his experiments. He sent game descriptions to the magazine Bajtek, and won a subscription as a result. One of these early titles was an erotic game called Erotic Fun, a decent experiment that sold well without any long-term profit; he later deemed this a good business lesson about exploiting an opportunity in the gaming market. Some of his other early games include Kosmolot podroznik (Space Shuttle) and Sekretny dziennik adriana mole (The Secret Journal of Adrian Mole), which he designed on the Timex Computer 2048. His obsession led to him playing games all the time, to the point where he would turn on the monitor to dry his face after splashing it with water first thing in the morning. While he had a computer engineering company, the times were getting tougher and only giants with big money could survive on the market.
Large companies started to enter Poland and the market became crowded. Chmielarz decided to leave his profitable business and study at Wrocław University of Technology. After a few years he became bored and left without finishing his degree, and he would later regret wasting his time at college. Instead, "he and a few friends hatched a plan to take photographs from his vacation to France and turn them into a video game". The group realised that they could fill a gap in the untapped Polish software market, in which hundreds of thousands of people had PCs but were unable to become fully immersed in adventure games as they did not understand English. Chmielarz was not worried about the Polish gaming market being a small niche, as he knew the trail had already been set by developer X-Land. Furthermore, he has assessed that while the local market was currently not active it was potentially big, noting the number of people who attended conventions.
He founded a computer engineering company, but decided to leave his profitable business and study at Wrocław University of Technology. After a few years, he became bored and left without finishing his degree. Instead, "he and a few friends hatched a plan to take photographs from his vacation to France and turn them into a video game". The group realised they could service the untapped Polish software market, where many people had PCs but were unable to become immersed in adventure games because they did not understand English. Chmielarz was not worried about the Polish gaming market being a small niche because the market had already been tapped by developer X-Land and realised the Polish video games market had potential, noting the number of people who attended conventions. This project evolved into the murder-mystery point-and-click adventure Tajemnica Statuetki (known in English as Mystery of the Statuette).
His next projects Teenagent and Gorky 17 were published outside of Poland. Due to an internal conflict, he left Metropolis in 1999. Founding People Can Fly in 2002, Chmielarz went on to create the successful Painkiller, and a partnership with Epic Games led to the business acquiring People Can Fly in 2007.
After leaving that studio, he formed the company The Astronauts which released the title The Vanishing of Ethan Carter in 2014. In 2017 The Astronauts released a trailer for their upcoming game "Witchfire" which Chmielarz is involved.
- Marcin, Kosman. Nie tylko Wiedźmin. Historia polskich gier komputerowych. pp. 89–93. Archived from the original on January 7, 2018.
- "Meet Adrian Chmielarz, Video Gaming's Most Divisive Designer and Critic". Vice. 2016-04-19. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- Hall, Charlie (July 16, 2014). "The Astronauts: A Polish team gets small to think bigger". Polygon. Archived from the original on December 9, 2017. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
- "Mały Gigant – Wywlad z autorami gry TAJEMN1CA STATUETKI: Adrlanem Chmlelarzem (A.Ch.) i Grzegorzem Miechowskim (Q.M.) (in Polish). Secret Service. August 1993. pp. 20–1.
- "Opowieści z krypty: Teraz Polska | Polygamia". polygamia.pl (in Polish). Archived from the original on December 29, 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
- "Adrian Chmielarz – człowiek, który uwierzył, że ludzie potrafią latać". forsal.pl. Archived from the original on February 25, 2017. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Mały Gigant – Wywlad z autorami gry TAJEMN1CA STATUETKI: Adrlanem Chmlelarzem (A.Ch.) i Grzegorzem Miechowskim (Q.M.) (in Polish). Secret Service. August 1993. pp. 20–1.