Monday, 15 June 2015

Space Quest IV - Interview with the Two Guys from Andromeda

By The TAG team


The galaxy or the constellation? We forgot to ask.

I know I speak for all of the contributors here when I say that we love adventure games. We love to play adventure games, write about adventure games, but most importantly learn about adventure games. These games are an important part of our digital heritage and the work that we do here preserves and promotes the memory of some absolutely fantastic games.

That is why we have been so excited that, just over a month ago, Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe (better known as the “Two Guys from Andromeda”) agreed to a special interview with The Adventure Gamer to coincide with our playthrough of Space Quest IV. These questions wouldn’t come from the admins or writers for TAG, but rather all of our contributors. We quickly pulled together a call for questions and sent them off to Scott and Mark for their answers. Today, we can finally share with you the answers to our burning questions!


Questions about Space Quest IV

Space Quest IV was your last (up until latest) venture with the two of you together.. Given we're presently making our way through it as a blog.. any regrets? Did the infamous time crunch that Corey Cole often tells us was rife at Sierra back then catch up to you Guys or did you really get a chance to nut everything out?

Scott: I think unless you have a super-sized ego you always have some regrets, something you wish you'd done better or things that, as you mention Corey said about the infamous time crunches, you wish you’d had time to do better with content. There’s also the fact though, and I recall this vividly for some reason with Space Quest 1, at some point you just HAVE to let go of the game so production can get to work duplicating and filling boxes to get the game out on store shelves. (Or uploading the game for downloading now, given how you acquire most games in this day and age.) I remember thinking with every game, “Wait, there’s just one more thing I need to tweak!” And they look at you kind of shaking their heads and you feel like you’re giving away your baby and the postpartum depression begins to set in. I’m dead serious about that. It happened with every game. Overall though as far as Space Quest IV, I think we “nutted” out a lot. (Wow, that can have a few meanings.)

Hertz. So Much. Controversy is always nice and all, but did it really make much of a difference creatively? (Were you secretly demanding that you have a rider of pure-yellow M&Ms and such, or was it just a throwaway joke that meant nothing?)


The ill-fated Radio Shock in the floppy version of SQ4.
Lawyers forced it to be changed to “Hertz So Good” in later releases.

Scott: Not that I can think of. We just wanted to make our game without interruption. We wanted to have fun. We didn’t aim to be disrespectful to anyone. We thought all our satire was of a positive nature. We’d be surprised by the occasional whining/cease-and-desist type childish crap from Toy-R-Us for instance. We ventured into way more potentially dangerous areas. Lucas could have given us a world of grief, but they didn’t. I still feel we were respectful. We had no real demands. What I would have enjoyed was maybe at least once, “Hey, good job, guys,” from one of the bosses. How hard is that? Why not say it if it was true? We made them a LOT of money. I think they got way more than their money’s worth from us.

As we have found out, Space Quest IV takes place in several different copies of Space Quest. Given we sadly had to part at 6, we never got to find out how it would have worked - would Space Quest 12 have actually been Vohaul's Revenge II?

Scott: We never knew if there was going to be a next Space Quest. We were surprised we got the first one in boxes and out the door. That goes for SQ1 on through. However, in SQ IV we did leave room for a couple more sequels just in case. There is a gap in the numbering sequence, hence Space Quest 12 for instance. It may be a disappointing answer but we really didn’t have any plans for a Vohaul’s Revenge II. We were just having fun at our own expense and also in general over how ridiculously high sequel counts were getting. By the time I started at Sierra in Support Richard Garriott/Lord British was already up to Ultima 3 and that was in 1983. Essentially, when we did get the call for a new Space Quest we took a fresh look at what we’d done to decide where we’d start from and head for. We did NO overthinking. (We’re not capable of that.)

Questions about the Space Quest series in general

Will you guys give us little production tidbits on (particularly) the SQ series? We love them.


A very challenging photo shoot.

Mark: Production tidbits….. There was the Latex Babes of Estros video capture session. We had what was considered then to be a state- of- the-art video captured animation studio setup in a warehouse across town. Normally when we recorded animation for a character, there would be only a few people on set: the actor, director and camera operator. But, strangely, on the day we were shooting the ladies in their swim attire, a full crew of volunteer ‘help’ was on hand.

Is there some reason why the last 2 Space Quests were handled by 1/2 of the 2 Guys from Andromeda?

Scott: Mark moved north. He’d started a family and they wanted a new place to start and I think he wanted to do something fresh. We both did. He can answer that much better than me. As for me, I was burned out, and the ridiculous hours and days and weeks and months began to take a toll on my personal life. I was with each game Mark and I did from conception through design, programming, writing, debugging and finally handing over the master disk to production for duplication. Once a game started there was never a break, except when they stole everyone but me on SQ IV for KQ V. That’s when I hid back in the cubicles pouting and playing Monkey Islands 1 and 2 on the company dime. Otherwise, I really just needed an extended break. I didn't even know there was a SQ 5 until I saw some people standing in the doorway of one of our producer’s offices and looked to see what was going on. That when I saw the SQ 5 beta. That was a strange feeling.


Beatrice’s story, hinted at in SQ4, was expanded by the Guys individually. 

As for SQ6, I was programming in hell on the nightmarish Police Quest 4. I mean nightmarish because of how the project was being managed. Somewhere like 2/3’s of the way through someone from product development up in Seattle came down to Oakhurst, took me to lunch and asked me if I’d do SQ6. I thought a bit and said yes. I was actually excited again about Space Quest. They said, “Okay, once you're done with your part of PQ4 you can get started on it.”

I was surprised when it came time because the project had been given to Josh Mandel. He already had a team and they were well into the design, both story and art. No one had the courtesy to tell me about it or why. I was relegated to some lame title like advisor or consultant. I wasn’t thrilled. Then Josh Mandel and Sierra management had a major issue - or maybe several. Sierra Oakhurst was starting to sink about then and management, especially in Oakhurst, was sucking pretty hard. It was a rather sad time. Then out of nowhere I get a half finished game tossed at me and told to finish it. Otherwise, even I wouldn't have been involved. There was an upside on that though. I got to direct all the audio. I got to work for three days with the amazing and unfortunately late Gary Owens, our narrator. I really miss that man. What a talented and fun gentleman. They haven’t made many like him.

Mark: After wrapping SQ3 Scott and I moved onto other separate projects where we were needed (as we always did after all SQ projects). I moved onto directing Police Quest 3. My recollection of the time frame might be skewed but it was also on the heels of SQ4’s initial release that I had the pleasure of traveling to beautiful downtown Burbank to work with TV legend Gary Owens on the recording for the SQ4 cd edition- an amazing experience. But I was also definitely burned-out from Space Quest at that point.

Sierra had recently acquired Dynamix who was doing some cool cinematic stuff with their adventure game engine that I really found inspiring (Rise of the Dragon, Heart of China, David Wolf…). When the opportunity presented itself to work there, I couldn’t pass a chance to move my family to the lush, green Northwest. The Oakhurst area had been in severe drought and there was the ever present fear of wildfires. We’d spent many summer vacations traveling through the Northwest and dreamed of living there someday. So we jumped at the opportunity and I was very excited about the idea of working on something new and different. About a month or so in at Dynamix, I was working on an original concept for a super hero game when approached about developing SQ 5 there. The superhero concept wasn’t getting any real traction and a dev team was sitting idle and extremely excited about the prospect to work on an SQ title so I said “sure, ok”. Path of least resistance, I guess. (as if they were giving me an option,lol.) But we had a great team all around and SQ5 was the smoothest project I’d ever worked on from beginning to end.

Can you tell us any more about adventures that Roger might have had, if the Two Guys had continued the series?


Roger rides a rocket, from the ill-fated Space Quest 7 trailer.
Scott: There were some back-story elements that I had in mind, some things that were never hinted at in the completed games but that I in fact was considering for the design of the ill-fated Space Quest 7 that I'd have liked to have fleshed out. And we left Space Quest 4 with some unanswered questions about other people in his life, but after my personal burnout period and after Mark changed the big picture story arc with SQ 5 I quit thinking about Space Quest except for when the half finished Space Quest 6 was thrown at me when Josh Mandel and Sierra management started butting heads and Josh left the company for reasons I really can't answer. I had to finish what Josh started and try to guess exactly where he was headed. I was just thinking of how I was going to pull together a half done game with a design I had no part in developing, into something we could ship without ruining the Space Quest franchise completely. Whether or not I liked it and whether or not I would give any thought to another game at that time it was still half my baby and I didn't want anything bad to happen to it and have the franchise go down in flames. The circumstances regarding 5 and 6 were disappointing, mainly 6, and I didn't have time to think of a next one for a few years until Sierra wanted a Space Quest 7, and with the kind of engine they wanted to use, scrolling graphics like a console game and the multiplayer ability they wanted, Space Quest 7 getting cancelled was a total blessing.

I should also mention that we don’t have any rights to Space Quest now nor do we have any idea what’s going to happen with the ‘new Sierra’ or another possible Space Quest so I’m reluctant to offer up any other specifics we discussed or that have crossed my mind. I guess I just don't really want to go there given the current state of Space Quest. That’s probably what the whole answer should have been. I don’t mean to dodge your question but it’s an unusual situation.

Were you inspired by Infocom's "Planetfall" (1983) when developing Space Quest, or was it parallel inspiration? How much inspiration did you take from the works of Douglas Adams?


Roger Wilco’s spiritual (and custodial) cousin from Infocom.

Scott: I never knew about Planetfall until we were working on Space Quest 2. I only saw the box but never played it. I just saw the blurbs and kind of went, “aw, crap.” The last thing I wanted to do then was play it.

I knew about Douglas Adams but had only seen some of his Hitchhiker's Guide episodes that had been shown on PBS a couple years before if I remember correctly. (That was a long time ago.) I did as I do now, appreciate his sense of humor and mourn his passing. I love Hitchhiker's Guide. I can’t say for me he was inspirational for the games though since we were going our our own way, or at least trying our best. Mark can correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t recall us ever talking about Douglas Adams until the last couple of years. We were deep into what we wanted to do and pretty much tuned everything else out except what we wanted to satirize.

Mark: Same here. I distinctly remember that “aw crap!” moment when picking up and reading the Planetfall box. I never played the game either. Guess Twain was right…” there no such thing as a new idea”. Who knew Shania could be so profound? Uh.. ok that was lame, sorry.

Why did Monolith Burger appear in "Jones In the Fast Lane"?


Your friendly neighborhood EGA Monolith Burger.

Scott: That’s a real good question. I've always been totally stumped by that. I had no Idea they were using it until I saw someone in QA playing an early copy of the game.

Mark: Wow… I’m a little embarrassed to say I did not know that (or may have just blocked it from memory). Wait a minute.. ok just played it online and now I remember (shudder). Seriously though, I think this just goes to show how oblivious we were about the expansion potential of some of the crazy stuff we hatched in the SQ universe. Fester Blatz needed (needs?) his own game.

Questions about SpaceVenture

Do you believe that point and click adventures are really back in vogue (given that you're putting all of your eggs in the Spaceventure™ basket available late 2015 buy buy buy)? C'mon. You can tell us. We're rabid fans who wouldn't even care if you said no anyway.

Scott: I’m still an old school parser lover myself but I’m in the tiniest of minorities. But honestly, it’s hard to tell. I’ve not seen any sales figures. I know there are a lot of people loyal to adventure gaming who are really happy, and we hope to expand that community and happiness even more, and to draw even more people in with SpaceVenture. It’s a cool game, and damn beautiful. Mark’s art is awesome and we have some truly great voice talent, so, YEAH!. I get a lot of cool Tweets and Facebook posts of encouragement and excitement so that’s a good sign.

Given that so much has changed about gaming in the 20 years (OMG, I am so old) since Space Quest 6, how are you approaching SpaceVenture differently?

Scott: Yeah, I guess you are. Mainly, it’s the virtual office, something that maybe a few people on the planet even dreamed of when we were doing SQ 6, but it’s for the most part just like it’s been for centuries with creativity, getting some synapses to fire in the right order and find those ideas for words or art, not to mention music and SFX and the unheralded underpinning, programming. That‘s all still pretty straightforward.

Mark: With years of game development experience now under our belts I think we’re a bit more organized and thorough in our design documenting process. Being able to collaboratively write and share design documents online is light years from how it was done back in the 80s and 90s before this new-fangled interweb.

SpaceVenture has been the first "Two Guys" game made in an even longer time (24 years!). What is it like working together on a project after such a long absence?

Scott: It’s great! One of the amazing things is once Mark and I talked for like two minutes for the first time in over a decade it was like, well, I have some gray hair and Mark has less hair, but otherwise it really was like no time had passed and I could feel the creative bond. The gears meshed just as seamlessly as ever. That was a great feeling. I just wish we weren't forced to use the virtual office as much. My mom has had some severe health problems which have kept me out of my beloved northwest and has limited our face to face time. When we get to be in the same room though we can sit for minutes or hours and not say much or have a single idea worthy of a fart, and then one of us will say, “Hey, what if…” and then it’s like a chain reaction, dropping a thousand superballs into a concrete room, and we’ve pulled something out of the air, or some other place, and that’s a very exciting feeling!

Is there a possibility that you guys might team up with the Coles for a comedy Space Fantasy Adventure RPG?

Scott: Corey and Lori are very good at what they do and are a self contained unit. Of those facts there’s no doubt, but if we could come up with a fun hybrid genre… without PUNS… (You know who you are! Your names are right up there.) We’ve learned through the years to Never Say Never! ;)

General Questions

Space. You Guys sure love Space. Ever consider making a game set in a medieval or modern setting? What is the appeal behind 'space'? Or janitors? You guys sure seem to have a solid line on the 'space janitor' market, to be fair.

Scott: Thanks. Space is because we both love science fiction. We were working on “The Black Cauldron” and had also on “King’s Quest”. Working on Black Cauldron is when we thought of the idea for a space game. No one else was doing them. I was sick of noble characters like knights and princes, etc. The janitor has very little expected of him so there’s lot of of fodder there for humor.

Is there one thing in one of your previous games that you look back on now and just wish that you had done differently? A puzzle or a plot point? An idea that did not make it past the drawing board that you wish had?

Scott: There are a bunch. There was no adventure game school or Adventure Game Design for Dumbasses books. We stranded people so they couldn’t get back to something they missed doing, like crashing on Kerona and letting Roger get into the cave without the reflective glass just as one example. The Root Maze in SQ2. Lack of good clues. Look on any playthrough and you’ll hear us eviscerated by the player narrating the game. 1 or 2 unfair deaths maybe. All the rest were fair.


We all hated the Root Maze.

What were their biggest regrets or most ambitious gaming projects left unfulfilled when Sierra was bought over?

Scott: I couldn’t tell you. I’d been laid off by then but I’ll bet it’s possible the answer is none. By that time Sierra had lost its edge and was only doing games that had already been proven on the market by other companies. I knew there was not much else good that was going to happen when Myst came out and in a meeting one of the VP’s said, “We need to come up with a Myst Killer.” Sierra was the best when it was leading. When they went into a fall-back position and started just following that was the beginning of the end.

The Most Important Final Questions

So. Clearly, we've bought it anyway if we're reading this blog. But tell us. Why should we hound our family, friends, pets and non-sentient lifeforms of all other natures to buy Spaceventure?

Scott: It’s going to be frickin’ beautiful, funny, smooth play, very well voiced, kickass music and SFX, attacks on all the senses that are legal. Oh and your dog and non-sentient beings will love Rooter, as will adults and children. How many games have dog and non-sentient being appeal?

Who would win in a fight: Roger Wilco or Ace Hardaway?


Roger’s competition. 

Scott: Ace, but only if Roger wasn’t too lazy to run. Ace would get cleft Roger in twain with his pipe wrench. Also Ace has backup in his electro-mechanical dog Rooter. Oh yeah, and Rooter has a flame throwing ass. Roger wouldn't stand a chance if he didn’t beat feet.

Mark: My money’s on Ace. He’s a deuce +. Roger is of less than impressive stature. Oh yeah and there’s the BFW (Big Friggen Wrench)



Thank you to everyone that submitted questions and an especially large “Thank you!” to Scott and Mark for working with us on this interview. Thanks also to Chris Pope and Joe Pranevich for making this interview possible. It’s been very educational!

You can help support the Two Guys by buying their game when it comes out, but also by checking in with their game updates on Kickstarter, visiting their website, or following them on Twitter.

13 comments:

  1. Great stuff!

    Sounds like it was just as well that SQ7 wasn't released as a side-scrolling shoot'em-up or whatever...

    How about doing a similar interview with the Coles? Shouldn't be too hard to arrange, with Corey already being a frequent commenter on the blig...?

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    1. Double-post...
      Also, blig = blog

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    2. Trickster did an interview with the Coles back in 2012: http://advgamer.blogspot.com/2012/07/so-you-want-to-ask-hero.html Had we have thought about it, we might have done another with them to advertise their second Kickstarter, but we did not. Good idea though. They have been a great friend of the blog and we really want to see them succeed.

      But in general, would you like to see more interviews? There were not a lot of interviews in the Trickster era, but if this is something the readers would like to see more of, let us know. I had a vague thought of trying to get in touch with Scott Adams to talk about the Questprobe games, but every game ever made has someone behind it that cares about it. It might be interesting to see if we can get in touch with some more of those people.

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    3. Might be worth getting an interview with the Coles a while after they've released Hero-U, and after we've played through another QFG or two.

      There are plenty of people making adventure games these days, so there should be a lot of people worth talking to if the readers are interested.

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    5. Thanks for the link. Didn't know the Coles had already been interviewed on the blog.

      Having grown up with these games, I find these types of interviews really interesting. Especially when they give you an insight into how they were made, how they match up to what the creators intended and so on. So I would definitely be interested in reading more interviews.

      Side-note: Not sure why I keep double-posting... Maybe I shouldn't do it on my phone...

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  3. Fantastic interview guys. Really enjoyable and informative.

    A big thanks to The Two Guys.

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  4. Yeah, thanks for the answers, guys.

    Still, weird that no one told you about Monolith Burger setting up a franchise in Jonesland. I'd have asked for royalties.

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  5. A Jane Jensen / Robert Holmes interview would be cool. It would be interesting to contrast Jane's experiences at Sierra, her projects such as Grey Matter, and her newest Moebius and the GK remake.

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    1. I was actually thinking outside of the Sierra sphere. Provided we can get to it before a re release with audio commentary through the game as they have for (three games now?) it'd make a little sense to try and get some feedback from the Lucasarts crew during, say, Indy 4 or Day of the Tentacle? The majority of them still have public faces due to Double Fine/Telltale, right?

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    2. I think these are all good ideas. Truth is that many designer/developers at Sierra and elsewhere do not have the visibility that "The Coles" or "The Two Guys From Andromeda" have. As a casual fan, I was aware of them (plus Roberta Williams and Al Lowe), but I have no idea who worked on other Sierra titles, let alone who worked on non-Sierra games. Since getting involved in this blog, I am learning more but it is still early days for me.

      In my view, we should try at least to get more interviews with more creators, artists, and musicians. Perhaps not for every game, but I would love to help preserve in some small way the stories behind the stories. This "Two Guys" interview, for all that it's not Pulitzer-level journalism, nevertheless includes some information that as far as I know has never appeared in print before. If we at TAG can help more of these kinds of stories to come out, then I think it's a victory for lovers of adventure games.

      What is the next game that could have an interview? I have no idea. Perhaps Al Lowe for LSL5. It will be easier when the creators have current projects they'd like to plug (especially ones like SpaceVenture that we also want to plug!) as those in the background may not be contactable or may not want to reminisce with a bunch of crazies reading a blog about 20-30-year old games...

      Corey: Your insider view would be an amazing asset, to help us know where the good stories are, the un-sung heroes at Sierra or elsewhere that made the games great that we would not ever think of talking to.

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  6. Great interview! I really enjoyed reading this, and am looking forward to SpaceVenture.

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