Wednesday, 4 July 2012

So You Want to Ask a Hero?

Since I created The Adventure Gamer blog, lots of unexpected things have happened. The blog was initially just a way for me to scratch an itch that wouldn’t go away, but since then it’s evolved into so much more! There’s now a growing community with a points system, a game selection process and a regular “get to the know each other” post. I’m already very excited about the direction it’s taking, and who knows where the blog will go in the coming months and years. Why am I pondering all this today? Because today marks another milestone for The Adventure Gamer blog!

I’ve received an email from an important figure in the game development community. Not just any game development community mind you. This individual played a big role in the creation of one of the greatest adventure game series of all time. In fact, when I read through the many What’s Your Story post responses that I have in the backlog, it’s clear that many of you think the series in question is the pinnacle of the genre. That series is Quest for Glory! The email came from game programmer Corey Cole, husband and partner of game designer Lori Ann Cole. Not only were the Cole's the brains behind the Quest for Glory series, they also designed Shannara, an adventure game based on Terry Brook's series of books, for Legend Entertainment.

Corey and Lori Ann Cole in 2008

Corey actually tried to comment on the Manhunter introduction post without success for some reason (if anyone else has had trouble posting comments, please send me an email). I sincerely hope he tries to comment again, as his involvement in the community would be amazing. In the meantime, he has given me permission to repost his comments.

“Manhunter: New York came out in mid-1988.  Since the SCI engine was still under development at that point, it was not stable enough for an outside developer.  Gold Rush came out in 1989, but also used AGI.  Sierra reserved SCI for in-house development.

Back in 1988, Sierra simultaneously developed KQ4, LSL2, SQ3, and PQ2 along with the final stages of SCI development.  My first job at Sierra in 1988 was converting SCI to run on the Atari ST, so we got those versions out shortly after the DOS release.

If I remember the chronology correctly, the LSL2 and SQ3 teams moved over to KQ4 to help get it out on time, but PQ2 continued simultaneous development.  As soon as KQ4 went into production, everyone switched over to LSL2, and got it out about a month later.  So KQ4, LSL2, and PQ2 all made Christmas.  SQ3 was pushed back to Spring 1989 - MobyGames says it shipped in March.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you and CRPG Addict have to say about Hero’s Quest when you get to it.  Of course, given the number of games that shipped in 1989, that might take a while.”

So that puts a few of my chronology questions to rest. He then followed that comment up with another:

“I remember playing Manhunter and Gold Rush, as well as some early King’s Quest games, early in my Sierra career.  That would most likely make it 1988, the year I started there, but it could have been 1989.  A few years later, management had me play “Keeping Up With Jones” and make a recommendation.  I liked it, and the company decided to remake it as “Jones in the Fast Lane”.  I actually liked the original a little better – It was basically a board game with primitive graphics, but had an elegant simplicity of design that reminded me of the original Careers board game.  (They remade Careers and dumbed it down; I don’t care for the current version.  The version I played as a kid was really well balanced.)”

I rather cheekily asked Corey if he would be willing to answer some questions and he answered in the affirmative. I thought the best way to do this would be to put our heads together as a community and come up with a few questions we'd like to ask him. May the suggestions begin! Before we do that though, I should point out that he's already answered one of the obvious ones I had in mind.

“No, we aren’t working on a Kickstarter project yet, but we’ve been watching the trend with interest and might do something a little later on.”


  1. Maybe we need a forum now, don't we?
    I mean, some interesting comments threads sometimes get thrown into limbos because a new post comes out. Or something like a "hot topics" sidebar redirecting to older posts and their comments?

    1. I second this (sidebar showing latest comments, like Chet has). That would probably keep older discussions better alive.

    2. 10 points to daubeur. I want to encourage any suggestions that might improve the blog for you guys.

    3. Well then, As someone who regularly has to scroll up and down your list for various things, I suggest moving your sidebar order to:

      Game list
      What's Your Story
      Top games
      Posts people read
      Other blogs

      This moves things that new people to the blog will want to see up higher, and thus easier to see. I might move bio up above comments, possibly even to just under leaderboard.

      Also, I'd link to your CAP explanations in the sidebar.

      You might also want to add a bit with links to your rules there, specifically the spoiler rules, and how you pick your games.

      Hope this helps.

    4. I've gone with this suggestion as I agree that it would make things clearer for newcomers. I'll add a more permanent section for critical info such as rules shortly.

      10 Points to Canageek!

    5. Hey Mr. T, might I suggest giving Sir Cole points for his answers in this post as well? Would be really interesting to see where he might spend them, as it seems like he continues to read your blog. :p

    6. How's that for timing? I gave him 50 points literally three minutes before you posted this suggestion. See my accompanying comment below.

      Great minds think alike!

    7. Oh wow, adventure game mind meld engage!

  2. Oh, OH, OH!

    I would like ask how hard was it to design adventure games around a 3 class system?

    Also I liked to comment that my friends and I spent far to much time trying to figure out how to get into the shed next to the tavern in Quest for Glory. The mystery banging fuelled our impregnation.

    1. Those are both great questions.

      Note that there is no "Cleric" or "Priest" class in Quest for Glory. Lori and I wanted to keep religion out of the games. Our Paladins are paragons of ethics and morality, but are not driven by religious beliefs.

      Despite this, we had some controversy developing the first Hero's Quest game. The original lead programmer (who is religious) refused to work on the project because we had a Thief class, and he felt that it was immoral to treat Thieves as Heroes. I can see that, but hey, it's a game. :-) Because he quit the project, that gave Sierra management the opportunity to make me the lead programmer. Originally they thought of Hero's Quest as "Lori's game" and me as a systems - rather than a game - programmer.

      They also put me on Hero's Quest as a reward, and to make sure Lori and I both stayed at Sierra. I think it was a good move on everyone's part.

      Let's see, while I'm not quite answering the question... :-) Our original proposal called for multiple species including Centaurs. That got shot down in the first week of pre-design when Bob Heitman pointed out that four-legged creatures are very hard to animate (e.g. climbing stairs), plus the amount of animation required would not have worked on floppy disks. Or in the budget, for that matter.

      So, how hard was it to design for three classes? Actually it was far more fun than hard. We designed a game that we would enjoy playing, and that meant having multiple solutions to puzzles. We also modeled the game after D&D and other paper RPG's, so clearly multiple classes were part of the model.

      We just kept asking ourselves, "How would a Magic User get past this obstacle? What would a Thief do?" Answering those questions was as much fun for us as solving them in a D&D game.

      If we had simply provided three solutions to every puzzle, the game would have been super-easy. Each player would quickly find one solution, and would never consider that something else might work. By requiring specific spells or skills for each solution, we (hopefully) encouraged players to play their character role and think as their character would think.

      The shed originally had a minor puzzle planned, but we cut it for disk space and development time considerations. We wanted all of the buildings in town to have content, but that would have used up most of the entire game's resources. So we decided to leave the banging noises and such in as an unsolved mystery. The general idea was to make the town feel "alive", despite most of the people hiding in their houses due to the brigands and the "curse".

    2. Thank you very much for answering my question directly! I though what was going happen was that we (the commenters) would get a how bunch of questions which Trickster would supply for you to answer.

      What I love about first game, whether by design or accident is that any class can solve all the other classes puzzles as long as you've put all the points into the correct locations. I'm pretty sure you can get more points than the total amount that way!

      Also I now feel extremely embarrassed, since you did directly answered, that in my excitement and tiredness that I when I misspelled imagination and used spell check on it, I didn't check what it actually changed to.

    3. Hahaha! That's hysterical Tk! I have to admit I read the line quite a few times trying to figure out what you were implying.

      "The mystery banging fuelled our impregnation."

      The will have to be a caption some time!

    4. I also wondered what the heck was going on in your gaming sessions ;-)

      Regarding the points - I have a vague memory it could be possible to get a score that is over the maximum, but if so I think it was not by design. At least in HQ1 there were "general" puzzles (e.g. getting the spore seed, retrieving the healer's ring etc.), from which you got the same amount of points regardless of the solving method. Then there were "class related" points (e.g. fighter killing a new monster for first time; magic user finding spell scrolls; thief finding something to steal). If you were a thief with magic skills, you did not get any points for finding new spells. And so on.

      On a side note - I wonder how long it takes from Corey to top the CAP leaderboard ;)

    5. In at least some of the games (possibly all of them), I arranged the puzzle scores so that the total could slightly exceed the "maximum". However, the player's total was capped to the maximum. So you can't actually exceed the maximum, but the number of points awarded for the final "win the game" puzzle varied to bring you up to the cap.

      We wanted to make sure that a player who solved all the main puzzles and completed the game could get the maximum score. This also made it easier for us to balance the points for the different classes. We didn't want players to feel frustrated and cheated because they had "missed" a puzzle somewhere earlier in the game.

  3. This is amazing news!

    I haven't had time yet to write my story, but from my nickname you can probably guess which is one of my favorite series..

    I had thought to post a couple of interesting interviews when you reach HQ1, but this seems like an even more appropriate place.

    I always wondered what kind of identity crisis my favorite rat had, which resulted in his name being changed to Fenris in the later games (or was it only in QFG5).. Maybe we will find an answer to this. :)

    1. Lori says the answer is that, "Lori can't spell." As I focused on programming for QG5 (and came on to the project a year after it started), I didn't do my usual editing and text cleanup step on QG5.

    2. By the way, Fenrus is probably Lori's favorite character. After the first games (but quite a few years back now), we had a pet rat named "Gracie" (I think because she was gray :-)). When we played online poker, Lori used Fenrus as her handle, and a photo of Gracie for her avatar image.

    3. Hi, what a pleasant surprise to get a direct answer. Now that I have a chance to say this, I would like to thank you both for so many great memories and moments I've had with QFG.

      I hope we will be hearing more from you (both here in the blog, and in the adventure game markets.)

  4. I have a hundred questions leftover from my youth, at least. I'll include what seem to be the ten most generally relevant:

    1) Why did the fighter get a prestige class (Paladin), while Thief and Magic User did not? (Does this imply that the fighter was your favorite class?)

    2) How did you decide on the locales for each game - i.e., how was it decided to have QfG3 in quasi-Africa, QfG4 in quasi-Romania, etc.?

    3) What time period is the series supposed to take place in?

    4) Who owns the rights to the intellectual property these days? (That is - what are the chances of a QfG6 actually happening?)

    5) What are the things you always wanted to implement but never were able to? Likewise, was there anything you hated but could never get rid of?

    6) What are your thoughts on the generally negative reviews of QfG5?

    7) What are YOUR favorite adventure games (outside the ones you made)?

    8) What are your thoughts on the fact that so many thousands and thousands of computer gamers still obsess over these games?

    9) Did you ever want to have a female variant of the main character? (Because my sister definitely did)

    10) And, of course, which was the most fun to make?

    1. That's a lot of questions!

      1. We tried to make it so that any character could become a Paladin, although our D&D background tended to make us think of a Paladin as a Fighter variant. This led to some problems in the QG2: Trial By Fire design, as we assumed that Paladins would have a skill that Magic Users didn't usually have. Lori and I don't quite remember what the skill was, sorry. :-)

      2. We wanted to have some interesting and unusual settings after the first game. For HQ, we went with a traditional European fantasy setting. I had spent a year in Berlin as an exchange student, so using a Germanic town seemed natural. We were fascinated by The 1001 Arabian Nights, so that inspired QG2. We wanted to weave stories within stories, and make use of fairy tale traditions such as Djinns and such.

      QG3: Wages of War (or possibly "Seekers of the Lost City", since we had a trademark problem with the original title) was not in our original plans. Ellen Guon worked with us at Sierra and became a friend. One day she said, "I know what QG3 is going to be. The player will go to Rakeesh's homeland in Africa and learn more about his story." We were concerned that our plans for QG4 were too dark, and too much of a difficulty jump from QG2, so we said, "You're right - That's exactly what we're going to do." :-) Call it "unintentional foreshadowing," in that we did too good a job of developing Rakeesh's character in QG2.

      QG4: Shadows of Darkness was another matter. We planned it from the beginning (originally intended as the third game). The idea was that Baba Yaga would escape from Spielburg, the player would meet her in her homeland, and would need her help against a much more evil adversary. The game story was inspired by horror movies such as Dracula and Frankenstein... well, maybe more by Young Frankenstein. We also tied it in to QG2 via Ad Avis, who had been apprenticed to The Dark Master. Lori came up with the backstory for Katrina, we put in Dr. Cranium as a nod to my Castle of Dr. Brain (and a bit of Young Frankenstein), and there we had it.

      Lori and I both grew up reading Greek mythology, so setting the final game in Greece - or, as we decided, the Greek Isles - made sense. We keep intending to vacation there, but haven't made it so far. In any given year, we are either working and have no time, or not working and have no money, so major vacations are a challenge. :-) We still plan to go there when the time is right.

      That's all I have time to answer right now. I'll try to get to the other questions later.

    2. Thank you very much for the reply! It's kind of surreal for me to have you answering questions about the games that made up my formative years of computer playing. But it's probably also a little surreal to have us fans so rabidly interested after 20+ years. Still, your presence here is much appreciated.


    3. 3. Quest for Glory is quasi-medieval, but it's very anachronistic - some Renaissance, a lot of modern anachronisms.

      4. I think Activision/Blizzard has the Quest for Glory rights. Last time I wrote to them, they weren't interested in licensing or selling them, but I also hadn't much to offer.

      A couple of companies have mentioned to us that they were trying to get QG rights from Activision, but we haven't heard any recent follow-up on that. Hopefully if a 3rd party manages to get a Quest for Glory license, they would come to Lori and me to design the games.

    4. Seems like Vivendi is selling Activision. Interesting to see how this develops, and if it has any impact on the IP.

    5. 5. Number one on the things we "always wanted to implement but were never able" would have to be a true multiplayer version of Quest for Glory 5. Eric Lengyel created a prototype for it very early in development, but completing it would have been an Herculean effort. Neither Lori nor I realized just how much it would take, but that became clearer as the game developed. Every puzzle would have had to change, and pretty much all of the game play. Current MMO's cost in the 10's of millions of dollars, and multiple years, to develop. We didn't have that kind of budget or time.

      We had to cut things out of each of the games due to disk space or development costs, but we just accepted that as part of the process. From QG1, we lost the underground goblin maze (and frankly, in hindsight it might have hurt the game more than it helped), some of the town buildings, the alternate character races, and so on.

      Probably the simplest thing we wanted, but couldn't get, was allowing the player to be either male or female. Since there is more animation for the player character than for anything else in the game, all of that animation would have had to be doubled. In the days of floppy disks, that extra animation would have had to be duplicated on every disk, taking up so much room that we would have had to lose game play.

      I can't think of anything we really hated except perhaps bugs left in the game due to too-short development cycles. But we "got our wish" on that in Quest for Glory 5, with an 18-month project that stretched out to 3-1/2 years, and it was not a happy wish. The resulting cost overruns made the game unprofitable, which led to Sierra closing down Yosemite Entertainment and all adventure game development. (They had similar problems on all of their other projects - such as King's Quest: Mask of Eternity - around the same time.)

    6. 6. There were "generally negative" reviews of Quest for Glory 5? At worst, I saw mixed reviews. We were and are very proud of QG5. It is by far the most complex and richest game in the series - story, dialogue, puzzles, combat, pretty much everything. I came on to the project fairly late in development, and focused on programming, so I had relatively little influence on the game design. But I think it is a very good game and a worthy finale to the series. I didn't care for some of the voice-acting - It seemed too "Saturday morning cartoon" for my taste. But the game definitely did what we wanted it to do.

    7. 7) What are YOUR favorite adventure games (outside the ones you made)? Definitely the Monkey Island series, particularly MI1 and MI2. Loom was a great evening's entertainment. But mostly we prefer RPG's, particularly World of Warcraft, SW:tOR, Dungeon Master, and Wizardry.

      8) What are your thoughts on the fact that so many thousands and thousands of computer gamers still obsess over these games?
      Well, we dropped out of the game industry when the game companies pronounced that adventure games are dead. Lori and I had no interest in working on first-person shooters, although we did like the idea of using a 3D engine to make an immersive first-person-perspective dungeon crawl. Ultima Underworld was the best successful example of what we would have liked to do with the medium. But game executives weren't interested.

      So why do people still obsess about adventure games? They want real story, character, and depth to their games. Repeating the same twitch actions over and over doesn't excite many gamers. I'd have said "including me", but I really do enjoy WoW combat. :-)

      9) Did you ever want to have a female variant of the main character? (Because my sister definitely did)

      Yes, see "regrets" in my previous answer to #5.

    8. 10. Every Quest for Glory was fun to make in some ways, and painful in others. Probably the first game was the most exciting - We were forging new ground and knew it. I had more of a role in designing QG2 and QG4, so those were a lot of fun for me. Castle of Dr. Brain, as my first (and only) solo design was absolutely amazing to make. Sierra didn't want to pay me royalties, but wanted me to work evenings and weekends, to make the sequel. I said "I can't do that under those terms," so that's why they gave it to a different designer.

      I had the most fun *playing* QG3, because I was mostly not involved in the design at all, so everything was new and surprising.

    9. You made Castle of Dr. Brain too? That was a fun game, played through it multiple times.

      I have a question:

      Why did you continue to create adventure games, if you were more interested in CRPGs? You say you dropped out of the game industry when Adventure games died. Even Shannara was an adventure game.

    10. Why do certain actors always play the same type of role? They get typecast and those are the only roles they get. We've never really had the chance to work with a company that makes CRPG's.

      As far as Lori and I were concerned, we always made RPG's in Adventure Game clothing. The typical CRPG is a subset of a real RPG; so is an adventure game. We've always tried to create a more complete experience than either.

      We got the opportunity to make Shannara because Bob Bates of Legend Entertainment knew us from the Computer Game Developers Conference. As is typical in the game industry, Bob asked us for ten game ideas, looked through them all, then assigned us to make the game for which Legend had a license. :-) We reread Shannara and read the second book in the series, then came up with a story that could fit between the first and second books. Terry Brooks liked it, so we got the green light.

    11. I guess it comes down to the expectations of the publisher. Thank you for taking the time respond, I appreciate your openness and willingness to connect to fans. I hope you make more games.

  5. Awesome that Corey wanted to reach out to Trickster and the community that has formed around his blog :)

    I frequently have problems posting to blogger/blogspot from work. Google has woven a terrible tangle of third-party sites into the guts of the posting system, and somewhere a site or cookie tends to get blocked and gum up the whole process.

  6. By the way; Two more adventure games on sale tomorrow, both action-adventure: Outcast (Winning the voting right now) and the famous Psyconaughts. as always.

    1. Those games definitely have a lot more action than the rest of the adventure games on the list. Both good games from what I hear though.

    2. Very much so, but they are still in large part puzzle-based from what I understand. They just added on action, because people like that. I mean, Psyconaughts is by the same guy who runs Double Fine.

    3. Psyconaughts? Like, Psychonauts but naughtier? ;-)
      And that guy would be Tim Schafer (bows deeply)

    4. I really liked Psychonauts, but the platforming got a little stale after a while, and I never finished it. I would estimate I made it through somewhere between 50% and 66% of the game. Part of the problem was the control scheme on the computer wasn't natural.

      And as a partial aside, speaking of action game remakes, I started playing the fan remake of the Streets of Rage games (SoR 5.0) ... it's completely amazing. I understand that SEGA has asked (or demanded) that they stop distributing it, but I found a copy of the download before I ever learned that. It's a real labor of love, and worth checking out.

    5. I never played Psychonaughts, to be honest. Beyond good and evil was good, though not enough puzzles so far. I should boot it up and finish it sometime.

    6. Just to clarify the CAPs situation Canageek, I'm going to restrict the handing out of points to news related to true adventure game releases and sales. I think everyone is happy to hear about action adventure stuff, but since they don't make up part of the playlist...

      I've always looked at Psychonauts with interest, ever since the Australian magazine PC Powerplay gave it 10 out of 10 (they rarely do that). I'm sure I'll play it one day, but not for this blog.

    7. Cool, I'll let you decide that. Sale is over anyway, so no more easy points for me. Once you finish this blog you should start over doing action-adventure games.

    8. I might just do that. There are a bunch I'd love to play!

  7. I remember Careers!

    No questions here. I'm looking forward to this series.

  8. I wish I had a clearer memory of Quest for Glory to ask proper questions. I do remember the general sense of magic and serendipity. It was definitely a charming game.

    Never played the sequels past the second one (and only barely that) so I'm looking forward to using this blog to remedy that :-)

  9. I remember Jones In The Fast Lane being pretty good, especially when I played against my brother!

    Quest for Glory is one of my favourite game series, I must have played the first four games so many times (and have the big box anthology and narrative clue book!).


    Have you seen the Quest for Infamy game? It's (obviously) inspired by your work. They're doing a kickstarter campaign (which is going pretty well).

    Also related to kickstarter, what are your thoughts about Al Lowe's new Larry remake, and do you think Quest for Glory could/should be revisited?

    And finally, a little music from some folks over at OCRemix:

    jmr - Quest for Glory 'Late Snows of Winter':

    1. That's a really nice job on the remix; I enjoyed it. The page lists multiple credits for the original, but I'm pretty sure it was entirely by Mark Seibert (composition and performance).

      I'm aware of the Quest for Infamy campaign, and wish them luck with it. I don't know anything about the team or game except what they posted on KS.

      The LSL remake is being done by Adventure Mob in Israel. Lori and I worked a little with them last Winter on an unannounced project which might or might not ever see the light of day. They're good guys and I hope the project does well. Ditto of course for Al Lowe and Josh Mandel - good people!

  10. I'm still a little stunned that Corey is giving up his time to answer questions here. I can't thank you enough Corey!

    Since there are already quite a few unanswered questions about QfG, I'm going to ask about something different, albeit somewhat related. The School of Heroes!

    I was completely unaware of the school until the last few days, but it's clearly an extension of the QfG universe. As someone who is currently attempting to build a community, I find what you and Lori have done with this to be quite fascinating. I imagine that when you kicked off the project that there were some very ambitious plans for the school, and it certainly looks like you had every intention of producing a game at some point.

    Am I correct that the interactive site has taken on a life of it's own and perhaps gone in a different direction than you originally intended? Did you always intend to develop "a site on being a real-life hero and living a successful and productive life"? Can you (briefly) share with us what working on that has been like and what you hope it might become?

    Thanks again for your time.

    PS: I'm a warrior. ;)

    1. Ha! I, too, was completely unaware of the school until today, so thank you for the head's up. I am taking the test now ... and... I... am... a...


      Resoundingly, actually. Which is interesting: in the QfG games I was always a Thief who added Magic skills. Then I would solve most puzzles (outside the Thieves Guild ones) with magic skills, since it always seemed like a true Thief would want to leave as little evidence and take the easiest path... which magic often provided...

    2. I came out Wizard, and Lori is of course a Paladin. I believe my son became a... um, er... "disbarred bard". But he's the heroic type of rogue.

      Back around 2001 or 2002, a fan who calls herself Mishell Baker approached Lori with the idea of co-writing a juvenile fantasy novel loosely based on QG1. They finished two drafts of it, but were unable to get an agent, so it went back on the shelf. If they both find time, they may do another revision and try to sell it via Kickstarter, although they are both very busy currently.

      Mishell came up with the idea of "" to promote the book; Lori took it over ran it until 2005, when we had to shut it down due to administrative issues (lack of access to the source). Lori and I revived the site as "" in 2008, and ran it another 3 years. We found we were spending too much time on it, and that it wasn't game-like enough, so we closed it down again late in 2011.

      We have twice now promised an online game to follow up on the school for heroes, and started on it once, but we haven't made much real progress on the game so far. We've been pretty busy with some family issues over the last few years, plus Lori has been working on her "third career" in photography, so we've been very busy. We definitely still want to do some games related to the school, and it might be more practical now that we can hope to fund them with kickstarter... but it's also a big time commitment, and just getting started is a challenge.

      I can't promise anything at the moment, but I definitely want to do it.

    3. So just to be clear - The School for Heroes is currently closed. But I think you can still take the "Hero Test", which is a thinly-veiled Myers-Briggs personality profile. SJ types tend to be Warriors, NT Wizards, I think it's NFJ for Paladins, STP for Rogues (aka "disbarred bards"), and probably ENF for actual Bards. Or something like that.

      There's a great book on Myers-Briggs called "Please Understand Me", I think by Keirsey and Bates (approx. spelling).

      Beyond that, once you take the test and register at the school, I think you can look at "Rank 1" assignments that others have submitted for most of the classes. There is also a discussion forum at The Student Center. And a couple of blogs that I haven't added to recently...

      Check out the "Quest Log" for some of my articles on how to be a real-life hero, along with occasional looks back at game design and related issues. It was supposed to be weekly, but was actually quite sporadic. I might add more articles at some point; I almost did one about Kickstarter a couple months ago, but I didn't think it was strong enough to post.

  11. After all the praises, I feel a bit ashamed to admit that QFG -series was not so big thing for me, but I’ll try to excuse myself by noting that I am not really into CRPGs and I did enjoy the atmosphere of the games. Anyway, here’s my few questions to Coles:

    Quest for Glories are usually described as CRPG and adventure hybrids, but where you attempting to emphasise one element over the other when you began to develop the games? Say, was it meant more to lure CRPG-players to adventure games or the other way around?

    Also, we have had heated discussion in this blog how well the puzzles, stories etc. have been designed, but I’d like to hear from professional developers, how difficult it is actually to design a coherent and interesting story with intruiging and logical puzzles. How do you usually work it out from the first idea to the complete plan of the game? And how do you share the creative effort between the two of you, if you are working as a team? Who should I particularly thank for all the quirky humour in your games, like picking nose as a Thief?

    Finally, what it was like working in Sierra in its heydays?

    1. Well, for the most part, adventure games suck (must reading is Ron Gilbert's article:, so it is obviously very hard to make good, coherent, and logical puzzles.

      Lori and I played paper RPG's and CRPG's. My only adventure game experience prior to designing Hero's Quest was the original Colossal Cave Adventure and the original mainframe version of Zork. Sierra contracted with Lori to create an RPG "like Ultima". The backstory to that is that Sierra had published one of the Ultima games (I think it was Ultima 2), but Lord British had left to start his own company as the result of a dispute over royalty terms and possibly other issues.

      However, by the time we started work on Hero's Quest, I had been at Sierra for several months working on the SCI game engine and Atari ST ports, and I played portions of several Sierra games. I did not feel we could make a "pure" CRPG using Sierra tools, so Lori and I came up with the idea of creating a hybrid adventure/RPG. My description of the process has always been, "We wanted to recreate in a computer game the experience of playing Dungeons and Dragons with a great dungeon master."

      Historically, both CRPG's and Adventures were offshoots of paper D&D. Because of the limitations of early computers, designers focused on one or two aspects of live gaming. The ones that focused on stats and combat made CRPG's; the ones that preferred story and puzzles made adventure games. We felt that the medium had advanced enough to bring the two types of games back together.

      Hero's Quest came very close to being canceled early in development. The prevailing wisdom was that there were adventure gamers who hated CRPG's, and CRPG players who hated adventures, and therefore nobody would like a hybrid. Fortunately, we had a champion in Guruka Singh Khalsa, Sierra's first full-time producer, who convinced Ken Williams that we had a great game idea.

      In other words, Lori and I created a game that we would enjoy playing, and that meant having interesting characters, stat and skill development, as well as puzzles and a story. It took a lot more work, but it was worth it.

    2. As for roles, Lori took charge of the story, characters, and dialogue. I designed most of the puzzles and wrote most of the really silly responses to actions. Actually, the whole programming team - particularly Bob Fischbach - contributed a lot of those random responses. I think Bob was the first to start adding bad puns, and then I did a bunch more. We always wanted the game to feel humorous, but might not have gone quite so far over the top without Bob's influence.

      I wrote dialogue for a few characters, but I'd have to say Lori did 90% or more of the dialogue. Puzzles are harder to ascribe, as we came up with many of them in brainstorming sessions. I think I did more, but Lori might argue. :-)

      I describe our process for developing puzzles like this - First come up with the setting and backstory. Then think of some characters who might live in that setting, and what problems they might face. Design the game so that the player learns about these problems and just happens to be in a position to help solve them.

      I also sometimes think of puzzles as connections in a network of pipes - We arrange it so that the player can find or construct the missing piece to complete the circuit. It's very important to make the player be and feel essential to the story. That can be as simple as delivering a message to the right person at the right time, or as complex as rescuing a prisoner from a bad situation. (Think "Schindler's List" as one extended example... or helping the harem girl in Quest for Glory 2 as a much simpler one.)

      Being a hero is about doing important actions that make the world better, so that's where we tried to put the main puzzles. Sometimes those involved combat, which is where we came closer to the CRPG model.

    3. Working at Sierra was like riding a roller coaster. When it was good, it was really good. When it was bad, it was unbelievably stressful. The best parts are working with other creative people to solve problems, coming up with the perfect story or puzzle element, and seeing the game finally come together and go out the door.

      Along the way, there are a lot of rough parts - massive unpaid overtime (we were at mandatory 72 hours a week by the end of Quest for Glory 5), low salaries (and worrying about how to pay the bills), authoritarian managers who don't understand the game - or the work environment - but insist on changes, trying to deal with substandard code or art, finding mysterious bugs that only occur after hours of play, getting a stack of hundreds of bug reports just when you thought the game was finished, etc. It's easy to throw a prototype together, and really hard work to make a finished game.

      Making a game is like having a baby - The process is uncomfortable and especially painful towards the end, but the result can be really special (in either a good or a bad way).

  12. New adventure game Kickstarter roundup:
    Detective Grimoire: Mystery Adventure Game for iOS/Android: $25,000 goal, 28 days to go, 2 days into it, so projections won't be accurate. Looks pretty cool.

    Cypress Inheritance sounds like it might be a modern action-adventure, but I'll leave that to Trickster to decide. $100,000 goal, Stuipid iOS games.

  13. I'm loving every insightful comment that comes in Corey and I'm sure I speak for everyone here when I sincerely thank you for putting in the time. It's exactly this sort of care for the player (and fan) that undoubtedly made your games so successful and cherished in the first place. :)

    It does however make me wish you and Lori had more time to get a new game off the ground. You've got my cash if you ever decide to go the Kickstarter path.

    1. Funnily, the one thing I wrote I missed about about old games in my "what's your story" was the availability of the development teams and the quasi absence of PR bullshit between them and the players, the fact that you could sometimes just call Ubisoft and have a little chat.
      So even if I'm not a QFG fan, I really appreciate Corey's involvement!

  14. I also thank Corey for the multiple replies (and any more to come!). I feel exceptionally strongly about the QFG series, as do many gamers. I will try to summarize my feelings by sharing a small slice of nostalgia.

    In the early 90s I was a pre-teen who spent his weekends at his dad's house, playing computer games in an overheated/overchilled attic, depending on the season. My father is a computer scientist/mathematician who got into computers back in the earliest UNIVAC-era days. So he really enjoyed building computers with me, and we had a "stable" of three or four computers running at any given time.

    With that in mind, one of the forgotten challenges of computer games of yore (happily unmentioned here or CRPGAddict or any other blog!) is that they often required a LOT of monkeying and tinkering with system files like config.sys and autoexec.bat, and dealing with resources issues like extended/expanded memory, etc. Many, many games - including Sierra and LucasArts adventure classics - were very prickly about running, and needed a lot of massaging before they would smoothly run in a DOS environment. I remember, particularly, that The Secret of Monkey Island took us hours to get running correctly. Nothing was more frustrating that getting a game to run halfway - picture but no sound, intro screen and immediate crash, inability to save, et al.

    So I'm up in the attic, playing various games from, say, 1992. Let's say the following boxes are spread across the table: King's Quest VI ... Space Quest IV ... Quest for Glory III: Wages of War ... Links 386 Pro (my dad's contribution) ... Star Control II ... Wizardry VII ... and, probably, Wing Commander II.

    A lot of those games are very linear; a few give the appearance of choice (Wing Commander II, I'm looking at you) which is really just a win/lose tree and doesn't give you very much choice at all. Even the other adventure games there are straightforward. You move forward in the plot with your inventory, and can't usually go back, and are not free to explore most of the map, etc. Additionally, in almost all those games the character is set from the start - they don't improve in any significant way.

    Quest for Glory III was different. First, from that opening Sierra mountain to the theme with the pumping drums and exotic instrumentation... high excitement! Second, as always, you import your old character (mine was "Slice" the thief/magic user) or start anew... read some interesting plot... and are thrown into the game world to do as you please. And, unlike Star Control II where you are fiercely limited by fuel scarcity, you can go anywhere from the get-go.

    The city was filled to the brim with interesting characters, from the fish seller to the rope seller to the jewelry seller to the hilarious Sanford and Son-like used junk merchants... And that was just the south-most area! The large "map" of the city was always bustling with people who seemed to be going about their daily business and really lent a lot of realism to the world.

    Meanwhile, the savanna was also open to exploration, although highly dangerous and filled with some intense encounters. And after you watched your little dot travel with dotted red lines (a la Indiana Jones) from West to East until you reach a village, where there are more choices to make, more things to do, more games to play... and this is just the very, very beginning!

    Suffice to say, I was transfixed. There were just no other games like it. You really got to roleplay your character to a tremendous degree, and the world always seemed rich and truly alive without your input. Things were happening off-screen. People were in real peril and needed your help. You could commit small kindnesses... and small cruelties. It was an open world. The description of the game as "playing D&D with a really good DM" is about right.

  15. Considering the influx of adventure game Kickstarters, how you do you see this going? Do you think adventure games are really coming back to the headlines, or is it a fling?

    Apparently there's as many adventure games being produced each year as it ever was, but where almost all gamers can name new action games, simulations, rpgs and RTS's, to me it seems like many/most gamers can't name a new(ish) adventure game other than the Kickstarter ones.

  16. This is a new and very good adventure game that i can fully recommend: (no kickstarter!)

    It starts like a fairy tale but soon gets really dark and mysterious... Check it out!

  17. I think adventure gaming is back to stay, but that it will morph. We will see more emphasis on good story-telling and interactive fiction, less emphasis on arbitrary puzzles as bottlenecks to game play. Designers who just imitate the old games will not do well - They do not understand that many of the less-fun features of the old adventures came from technological limitations rather than design intention. Well, the designers intentionally designed around the limitations. :-)

    For example, why is Leisure Suit Larry 2 so linear, where the player can explore one small area, then move on never to return? Floppy disks! Al Lowe designed the game so that each area would fit on one disk. It's no fun to constantly shuffle between three or four floppies while trying to stay immersed in the game.

    The desert and alley scenes in Quest for Glory 2: Trial by Fire use a series of "overlays" so that the artists and programmers could work together to build a much larger number of scenes than would normally fit on a disk (or in the game's development budget). Lori and I wanted to have more interaction in the alleys, but just displaying them took up almost all the available memory, so we had to turn them into mostly a simple maze.

    Still, I think there is a real hunger for games that tell a story and make the player feel important. There are way too many violent first-person shooters out there. Some people don't like that much violence. Others just get bored with the same-old-same-old. Individual adventure games have much more uniqueness.

    Thanks to Kickstarter and Tim Schafer, developers can go directly to the fans. Crowd-funding is much more efficient than traditional venture capital or publisher funding - The developer keeps the lion's share of the funding to put into the game in the form of salaries and contractor payments.

    Electronic Arts or Activision is only interested in million-selling games, while a crowd-funded game can be profitable at 10,000 units or less. I expect we will see a lot more niche-market games, not just adventures.

  18. While I wouldn't want to assume that Corey intends to hand around The Adventure Gamer beyond answering questions in this post, it just wouldn't seem right for me not to give him a stack of Companion Assist Points for the massive effort he has put in. Who knows...he might have a particular game that he wants to cash them in for in future.

    So, while his contribution is priceless, I don't wish to negate the longterm efforts of the likes of Ilmari and Lars-Erik. I'm giving Corey 50 points, which just so happens to be the largest amount you can possibly earn for one action in Hero's Quest (for using the reflect spell on Baba Yaga.)

  19. Way late to the party, but wow, what a read! Thanks, Corey, if you're still out there somewhere!