Interview

Space Quest II Interview (PC)

Mike Bowden: For those of us who aren't familiar with the 1987 original or in fact the excellent Space Quest series, care to give us a brief run down of what we've missed and why we should be berating ourselves?

Shawn: The Space Quest series was one of Sierra Online's most popular adventure game series back in the late 80's and early 90's. They follow the adventures of space janitor Roger Wilco as he battles his way through saving the universe time and again. In Space Quest I, Roger defeats a rather nasty plan to conquer the universe by the evil Sarians, and this really pissed off the evil mastermind behind the entire affair. Sludge Vohaul, that evil mastermind I mentioned, has taken it upon himself to destroy Roger's home planet (with evil Insurance Salesmen) and banish Roger to his slave mines.

In short, Roger Wilco is the every-hero for all us slackers out there. If you have never played the games, I guess you weren't around for the golden age of computers. Because if you were into computers in the late 80's, you would have played Space Quest!

Steve: I don't believe I could add anything to that statement. Shawn summed it up nicely. He does that, from time to time.

Mike Bowden: Why this remake in particular? In fact, why do a remake at all? Has it been due to fan demand or is this something you all have wanted to do for a while and have now found the time?

Shawn: The plan is to bring the older games in the major series up to a standard of the later games. Space Quest 4 and 5 are hand painted VGA with an icon interface. Space Quest 3 is in 16 colour with a parser (type in interface) and Space Quest 2 and 1 are even older. Now Sierra themselves remade SQ1 to match SQ4 and SQ5, so that leaves 2 and 3 as the odd ones out in the series.

So that's part of the reason why we do remakes. Our Kings Quest III remake (available now on our website) was made because we wanted to see if we could do it. If we actually had the drive and ability to recreate a game with updated graphics and sound. And we could and we did, so we decided that the next step was to do an original work. But then we thought, oh bugger it, let's remake Space Quest II instead, it's a great little game.

Steve: Space Quest has a rabid, but niche, fan-base. I'm a big fan of the series, in particular. I love the humor in the game, and I love the sci-fi elements. Space Quest is beautiful, visually, and it gave us a chance to expand the scope of our art-work.

Jamie: Plus, Space Quest 2 is the perfect game for us to make. Not only are we huge fans of the series but we also share the same kind of humor they're famous for! Therefore we're trying to keep as faithful as we can to the original but also adding a few new bits which hopefully fans alike would appreciate. If not, oh well we enjoyed adding them anyway. SQ2 is great fun to make as we're always thinking of new and exciting things to add so you can experience the second chapter in a whole new way. By doing this we've added a few new gags, easter eggs and other humorous extras too! I won't give anything away but fans of the classic old school games should be in for a treat!

Mike Bowden: Will this version feature the same comic that the old game (and in fact, many old adventure games) had in the box? We used to love those.

Shawn: Yes it will appear in the "box". I loved it too. In fact, we've used some portions of the comic in the game. But that's as much as I'm telling you about that!

Mike Bowden: Why remake an adventure game? Although old farts like me welcome the idea, the genre hasn't exactly turned heads in recent years.

Steve: Because we wanted to. If anything else, I'd like to have this game around to play! If there's a few other people that enjoy it, that's icing on the proverbial cake.

Jamie: Although I love any game that features insane, mindless alien blasting, predictable plot-lines and one dimensional protagonists purely for the entertainment factor, I've always loved to unwind and boot up an adventure game because I love the stories, the atmosphere, style and puzzle solving that most adventure games are famous for. And because there are many people like myself and lately remakes have been fairly popular, it wasn't a matter of 'Why not?' but more or less, 'Let's do this, it will be fun!' I would safely say the adventure genre is picking up and I can say that independent developers played a minor role in the rebirth due to the fact that tools like AGS (http://www.bigbluecup.com) are allowing fans like us to develop their own games, whereas big companies simply followed the crowd firmly believing that the adventure genre was dead so it was pretty much up to the fans to take over. And now with commercial games like Sam 'n' Max and Zack & Wiki out there you can see that there are still people looking for an adventure.

Shawn: The genre hasn't turned heads in recent years? I don't know about that. There's been some very successful games over the last few years. As Jamie said there's the "Sam n Max" games, and "Runaway" was both really good and sold quite well.

Remember in the 80's when it was okay for a jock to own a console (Nintendo, Sega Master System etc) but they stayed away from the nerdy home computer? The games we get now, the big ticket items that sell by the bucketload, they're all evolutions of the same sort of games we were playing on the console back then. Computers have become mainstream. So with a heck of a lot more computers out there, and computers more mainstream, a game like "Medal of Honor" is going to sell more than an adventure game. I don't believe that the audience for Adventure games has become smaller, I think it's stayed about the same size. What's changed is that with the influx of people from the consoles, and the PC's ability to play games like console games, the general game market has increased in size. So the numbers of games sold to be a mega-hit in 1990 is a lot smaller figure than what it is today.

Anyway, that's my current theory on the state of adventure games, sorry to get off topic. Happy

Mike Bowden: One area where adventure games have had some relative success is on the DS. Will we see a port in the near future, perhaps?

Shawn: Probably not. We're all volunteers and ports require a lot of effort for very little return. If we were to port, and this is in no way a promise that we will, I think the Mac would be our first option.

Steve: I'd love to have the resources to port the games, but we don't currently. Not enough people, you know?

Jamie: Well if we could, we would. But it's a question of if we should? It all depends. I do have the ScummVM port on my DS and also on my iPhone and they're great fun to play so why not? Only time, and money, will tell.

Mike Bowden: Explain to us how the new interface works - will there be a set series of commands/responses you can choose from or have you gone in another direction?

Jamie: The interface is the typical Sierra GUI with the ability to walk, touch/interact, talk, examine and using specific items to pass through different kinds of obstacles and puzzles to reach your goal. Yet being a SQ game, we've added the taste and smell icons which the majority of the time does nothing but give a humorous response to the surface you just licked or smelt. So for newcomers and experienced players, it's a very simple interface to get used to and we've got extra bits in the game to help you proceed through particular parts.

Steve: Yeah, like Jamie said, it's much like the point and click interface Sierra designed in it's original games. It's pretty easy to use - though I loved the parser interface of older games, most people today don't like to type. Something tells me they'd get mad if the game didn't recognize "OMG","WTF" or "U" for "YOU".

Mike Bowden: How difficult is it to "remake something"? I mean the challenge artistically is to try and keep the feel of the original but obviously using the latest tech. Do you think the team has achieved that?

Jamie: Remaking something is difficult like making any game but what makes it easier is that the game is already done in a sense that you know exactly what to do. An original game from scratch would take a lot longer obviously as you're working on an original story, thinking of new ideas and what would be good and overall it just takes longer. Plus, planning and organization becomes a major hassle especially if it's all online and you have to rely on people you've probably never even met in person. What's great about remaking a game is that the pathway is already laid out, we just got to update it and if we must, improve it. With a games like Space Quest II and King's Quest III we didn't need to alter the story or the structure much as it was already perfect which meant we had to concentrate mostly on the actual transition from EGA to VGA by taking what we already had but making it... well better! (we use VGA as a term rather than a specification) So the difficultly curb of remaking a game is somewhere in the middle but of course as we're all online and volunteering there is another factor that comes into play which is faithfulness and being reliable. We've had plenty of people in the past who were assigned a task and never did it, pretty much fading into obscurity which makes the whole process a lot more difficult and longer. This is why we typically never give out a release date... not even a seasonal estimate as something always comes up which we've never usually prepared for, but we're fairly confident we will be releasing this bad boy this year.

Shawn: I think we achieve our goal, which is making the remake to fit within the other games of the series seamlessly.

Steve: It's a long and difficult process - even though the game has been "made" once, we're starting from the ground up. We have to program the whole game, every little detail, as well as create all the art and animation. That takes lots of time - and talent, which I'm happy to say, we've garnered a lot of this time. The level of artwork and animation on this has been raised by the work of Fizzii on backgrounds and Rich Eter as our lead animator. Really, without these people, these games would not be so excellent, and I really have to give praise to them, their work, and the time they dedicate to these games. They're busy people, yet they find time to make these games with us. I'm blown away by the commitment of the fans that work on these games.

Mike Bowden: Staying with development, what implementation is the team most proud of and why?

Shawn: The thing I'm most proud of in SQ2 is the redesign of the asteroid. We changed the endless corridors and broom closets into a fully fledged self contained asteroid city. It's really awesome! Blackthorne designed every room and our head artist fixed and redrew and coloured the mockups brilliantly. In fact, I am just totally in love with the asteroid section of the game.

Jamie: Yeah, I got to say I'm very proud of the redesign of the asteroid. Yet I'm going to be typical and say I'm proud of everything, the background art, music, animation, everything! The look and sound of Labion is very impressive in my opinion and we're still always finding new and great ways to make Labion more affective to the player. It's all the little things that matter after all.

Steve: I'm very proud of the music in this game - we've got a really immersive and interactive score. Our musicians are top notch, and it's great to hear amazing music in these games. It really gives a sense of mood to the game.

Mike Bowden: What has been the biggest hindrance so far, seen from a developers point of view. How has the team worked around this?

Shawn: The biggest hindrance so far? That's easy. Motivation. Because we're all volunteers, no-one at IA gets paid for this work, it's hard to push people into doing work. So we have stoppages where no work is done for a short period of time. People's lives get in the way. At the moment one of our team has just packed up his life and moved from Texas to Los Angeles. Another guy is living in South America and is moving to Canada shortly. Our lead musician on SQ2 got married a couple of years ago and they've had a kid. So the main problem we have is motivation. It's not that people are lazy, as I've pointed out it's more that real life happens and work slows down.

We are a pretty close nit team though, a lot of our members talk regularly and we try to motivate ourselves and each other. If things are really slow we usually release another build of the game with a new area opened up for people to see their work.

Jamie: With me, it's been education getting in the way. University takes up all your time and maintaining a social life comes into play as well. This has kept me away from doing my work and has become quite an annoyance for the team after I promise I'll do something but never get around to doing so. Which is why I'm doing my small bit for IA by replying to emails and keeping the sites and forums running okay until Summer rolls in and I can get back to work without thinking about that 5000 work essay I have to write.<

Shawn: I should have mentioned social life too. Some of us like to see our partners once in a while. You know, keep the romance alive. haha

Steve: For me, It's been my health. I'm currently on kidney dialysis, which takes up a lot of my life and leaves me feeling very sick and tired quite often. But working on these games bolsters my spirits. I'd like to think that the work I do makes a significant amount of people happy, so it's worth my time.

Mike Bowden: Any word as to when we'll see the game at retail? Or will it be download only? A demo perhaps? We're talking this year, right? So many questions!!

Shawn: Never. The game is free and will always be so. It'll be available to download on our website. There could be a demo, don't quote me on that though. And yes, most likely this year.

Steve: Yep. We do our work for free - so you'll be able to download the game on our website. And, yeah, the game'll be out this year. We're closing in on the final details.

Mike Bowden: We at Strategy Informer wish the Infamous Adventures team every success with their forthcoming title: Space Quest II: Volhaul's Revenge.

Steve: Thanks - I'm glad people are still interested in these games, and I'm glad that I can produce something that can entertain people.

Jamie: Thanks! Hope y'all like it!.




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