Saturday 28 April 2012

Game 17: Gold Rush! - Introduction

I kind of expected to see Charlie Chaplin pop up

You can just picture how the meeting might have gone between Sierra big boss Ken Williams and the MacNeill brothers.

Williams: “We’ve got science fiction covered with Space Quest. We’ve got fantasy covered with King’s Quest. We’ve entertainment covered with Leisure Suit Larry. We’ve got law and order covered with Police Quest. So what can you two fine gentlemen bring to the table?”

MacNeill brothers: “A western!”

Williams: “Done! Where do I sign?”

The MacNeill Brothers - I'm not sure what's older. Their clothes or that computer!

Sierra were clearly still looking to expand their reach and they’d so far been able to do so by applying their AGI adventure game engine to different genres, creating profitable series with next to no risk. When the MacNeill brothers brought him the idea of Gold Rush!, I can’t imagine he had to think for very long before giving the green light. Both MacNeill’s had already proved themselves on various games (mostly in the King’s Quest series), so as long as they had a decent story in mind, it must have seemed like easy money. But for some reason Gold Rush! has always remained one of the lesser known Sierra games. I can only assume that the setting of the game just didn’t connect with very many gamers, particularly those outside of America. It’s generally regarded as a pretty good game from what I can tell, but it never really took off the way the classic Sierra series did.

Did these guys really think their game was "3D Animated"?

Set in 1848, the player takes on the role of Brooklyn newspaperman Jerrod Wilson. The aim of the game seems to be to get from Brooklyn to Sacramento to find Jerrod’s long lost brother, but I’ve chosen not to read anything further in case I come across spoilers. I do know that it’s notable for having multiple paths available, and that it generally tried to push the AGI technology as far as it could go. I look forward to seeing how that plays out and what the MacNeill brothers managed to achieve with what was already a rapidly dating engine. I’ll be playing the game in DOSBox and have found a PDF version of the manual and printed it out. Thankfully, despite the game apparently being historically accurate, the manual isn’t filled with Police Quest style instructions. Finally, thanks to Chumazik and Fenrus for pointing out that playing Gold Rush! using the faster speeds stops the game’s timer from running, meaning certain events never occur. I’ll have to play at normal speed.

It's time for some adventuring fun!


  1. As a note, you could make it run faster by turning up the CPU cycles in DOSBOX: I'm sure I've given you instructions on this before.

    Also I'm not sure about the American only audience; Remember that the A Fistful of Dollars/For A Few Dollars More/The Good, The Bad and the Ugly trilogy was originally filmed and released in Spain, then dubbed into English.

    1. I'm quite happy playing the game at normal speed to be honest. I think it only bothers me when I've already played a game previously. When you already know what to do, it's easy to get impatient.

      As for my "American" audience comment, I wasn't so much talking about the western genre as I was about the plot itself. After all, the aim of the game is to get from Brooklyn to California. That's not so universally exciting as travelling into space or saving a princess in a fantasy world.

  2. I didn't even hear of it until long after it was released, although perhaps I ignored it because it didn't have "Quest" in the title. The setting certainly wouldn't have interested a young me, I was never much of a fan of cowboys (although I do like Clint Eastwood's various films).

  3. Gold Rush! is definitely one of my favorites from the older Sierra games - the rich historical detail combined to the atmosphere of a grand adventure really boosted the imagination of a 12 years old kid. In fact, we coincidentally traveled to San Francisco shortly after I already had become a huge fan of the game and the historical era, and I managed to persuade my parents to visit Coloma (where the first gold was found). It was just amazing to actually be in the same locations that I had already visited in the game.

    Unfortunately, after replaying the game many times afterwards, I have to admit that as a game there are obvious flaws in it. Despite them, I think the game is really enjoyable even today - it just could have been so much more. I am looking forward in hearing your assessment of the game!

  4. A warning that will hopefully save you from unexpected frustration: completely random and unpreventable deaths are possible in this game (way too much realism here), so remember to save often.

  5. This one looks quite fun. I got it running in Windows, now to set it up for Linux. I will have to make some different choices than you do, just for the fun of it.

  6. I'm not trying to derail your Gold Rush! post here, just wanted to let you know if you didn't already that Déjà Vu, Uninvited, Shadowgate and Déjà Vu II are being remade, so you get to play them all over again when you catch up. Lucky, lucky you!

  7. huh, and i always thought Sierra's foray into the western was with Freddy Pharkas.