I can't believe this will be my first Tex Murphy game!
Let’s start from the beginning shall we? In 1982, Bruce Carver formed a video game development company called Access Software with his brother Roger and friend Chris Jones. They immediately set about creating titles for 8-bit computers, including Neutral Zone, Beach-Head I & II, Raid Over Moscow and the golf title Leader Board. The first DOS game out of Access was a tenpin bowling game called 10th Frame, which was quickly followed by another golf game called World Class Leader Board. By this stage, the majority of Access games had been fairly simplistic affairs, designed and programmed almost entirely by Roger and Bruce, but 1987’s space combat simulator Echelon attempted something more complicated.
Bruce Carver: The main man behind Access Software
Designed by Bruce, Roger and Brent Erickson, with a story by David Brown and Chris Jones, Echelon combined wire-framed graphics based space combat simulation with a puzzle based mystery to solve. It also showed off Access' groundbreaking PC audio technology called RealSound, a technique that used the PC speaker to “generate high-quality digitized sounds such as speech, music and sound effects without the use of additional hardware.” Unfortunately, Echelon sucked, but it inspired the team to have another shot at a similar game in the future. The team therefore set out to develop another flight game, only this time they would incorporate a film noir detective story that had been formulated while filming a homemade movie in their spare time.
Echelon: Space combat simulation with puzzles to boot
During the development of the game, more and more adventure game elements were added to the mix, and the eventual result was an odd hybrid called Mean Streets. Set in San Francisco in the year 2033, Mean Streets follows a private investigator named Tex Murphy as he tries to solve a case, being the death of Dr. Carl Linsky, the father of a beautiful woman named Sylvia. The game was directed by Bruce Carver and the story was written by Chris Jones (who would go on to star as Tex Murphy himself in future games) and Brian Ferguson (who has no other credits as far as I can tell). I’ve read an interview with Chris Jones where he stated that his biggest influences for the Tex Murphy series were Sam Spade novels, the movie Casablanca, Blade Runner and The Twilight Zone TV series, which explains the mix of film noir and sci-fi.
There are worse places to take inspiration from.
Programming and design were handled by Roger Carver, Access regulars Kevin Homer and Brent Erickson (who would go on to design and write adventure game Noctropolis), and first timer David Curtin. Doug Vandegrift, John Berven, Zeke McCabe and Jon Clark combined the give the game its distinct visuals while Steve Witzel handled the sound. Mean Streets was the first popular PC game to fully support 256 colour VGA graphics, and it was also the first to support EGA, CGA and Hercules graphics modes with real-time quantization and dithering. I don’t know much about this sort of technology, but I believe this means they converted the graphics on the fly for each different mode rather than pre-converting all possible outcomes (which would have taken up twice the disk space). This was considered a big achievement at the time and along with the RealSound technology, shows that Access were really trying to push the technology boundaries.
Chris Jones: Wrote the story. Oh...and he's also Tex Murphy!
That’s enough background information though; it’s time for me to play my first Tex Murphy game. That’s right! I’ve never played any of the games in the series, and I don’t really have any decent explanation as to why. I guess the early ones came out when I was playing whatever games were given to me by my friends for my Amiga (yes, pretty much all pirated, which I’m not proud of) and by the time the later games came out, I was switching between LucasArts adventures and every first person shooter game I could find. Anyway, I’ve got my GOG purchased Tex Murphy collection, so will be playing the game in DOSBox I guess. I’ve played the last few games in SCUMMVM because it makes it so much easier to take quality screenshots on the fly, but my brief attempts to start Mean Streets in SCUMMVM failed. I haven’t even Googled it yet, but if anyone knows if that’s possible, please let me know (Laukku recently informed me that it is possible to take decent shortcut screenshots with DOSBox, so I'll look into that too). The GOG collection comes with a Detective Information Chart, a map, and a manual, so I should be all set!
Oh my!!! Could theyhave been any more blatant in their Blade Runner plagiarism?!
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've recently written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle unassisted (see below for an example). If you get it right I will reward you with 100 CAPs in return (it's going to keep going up until someone beats me)! It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.
N obbx fur tnir orsber gur qnlFur qvfnccrnerq va gur fgenatrfg jnl
N qrzba jnagf gb fgrny ure cbjre
Guvf fghqvb V zhfg fheryl fpbhe
Anzr zl tveysevraq sbe 20 PNCf
Extra Note: Once again, Lars-Erik will gift the next readily available game on the list to the reader that correctly predicts what score I will give this game. So, if you predict the right score (or are closest), you will get 10 CAPs and a copy of Space Quest 1, 2 & 3 from GOG! How awesome is that!? Good luck!