Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Where are they now? - Scott Murphy

Co-designer of Space Quest, Scott Murphy

Last week I did a "Where are they now?" article on Mark Crowe so it would seem only fair that I write up this week's post on his partner in Andromedan crime, Scott Murphy. Just as I did with Mark Crowe, I'll be taking a look at Scott Murphy's past, present and future plans.

Scott Murphy was originally working in Sierra On-Line's hometown of Oakhurst, California not developing games, but cooking meals at a local restaurant. It was only after a friend of his, Doug Oldfield, started working at Sierra was Scott introduced to the wonderful world of adventure games. He was hooked and managed to get some time playing them too when he took his first job at Sierra as customer support. Scott taught himself how to program adventure games and worked his way up into a developer role. While working on the The Black Cauldron (1986), Scott met Mark Crowe and discovered that they had a mutual fondness of sci-fi. They were both keen on developing a sci-fi comedy adventure game and presented a four-room concept to Ken Williams, which he liked resulting in them gaining approval to make Space Quest (1986). Both Scott and Mark were designers of the game but Scott's other major contributions were the dialogue and programming. Mark focused on the graphics.

Space Quest (1986) turned out to be a hit and the "Two Guys from Andromeda" (the alter egos Scott and Mark would give themselves) would work on another three games together: Space Quest II: Chapter II - Vohaul's Revenge (1987), Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon (1989) and finally Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (1991). Scott liked all the Space Quest games for different reasons: the earlier ones for their parser interface, Space Quest III (1989) for it being the first Space Quest game with MIDI music, and Space Quest IV and Space Quest 6 (1995) because of their dialogue being narrated by Gary Owens.

Speaking of Space Quest 6, this was the only Space Quest game that Scott worked on without Mark (who worked on the previous game Space Quest V (1993)). Scott was already working on Police Quest: Open Season (1993) while a colleague named Josh Mandel was the designer of the new Space Quest. Josh Mandel left Sierra before the completion of the game, despite the design being mostly complete, so Scott came in to finish the job. Scott mentioned that Josh was "way under-credited for his work" and he felt partially at fault but hoped Josh and the Space Quest fans would accept his apology.

Although Scott co-designed and programmed the first four Space Quest games and helped design Space Quest 6 he also programmed many other well loved Sierra titles such as Police Quest (1987), Mixed-Up Mother Goose (1991), EcoQuest (1991) and The Dagger of Amon Ra (1992).

Scott started work on Space Quest 7 in 1997 but it never saw the light of day as on 22 February 1999, a day Scott called "Chainsaw Monday", Sierra's iconic Oakhurst facility was closed down and multiple employees were laid off (including Scott - although he was technically laid off a month or two before). Scott took several odd jobs since then because his skills as an adventure game designer were not as marketable during the 2000s as they were in previous decades. He eventually moved to Alabama to support his mother.

In a candid 2006 interview by Adventure Classic Gaming, Scott revealed he was quite bitter about the direction Sierra headed as it became more successful and felt that the developers did not receive enough credit for their hard work. He also didn't like the way adventure games were becoming purely point 'n' click adventure games and not parser-driven ones; he was very disappointed when they had to drop the parser from Space Quest IV. Scott even mentioned his disappointment with Mark Crowe and that it was unlikely he would ever work with him again:

Would I want to work with Mark again? No, I don't think so.

However, a couple of years ago when Scott and Mark reunited and formed the "Guys from Andromeda" with Chris Pope, Scott mentioned it was all water under the bridge and that both him and Mark never had a problem when they were working together.

The Guys from Andromeda are currently working on a new sci-fi comedy game tentatively called SpaceVenture, thanks to raising more than $500,000 through a Kickstarter campaign. The game promises to have voice acting by Gary Owens, Rob Paulsen, Robert Clotworthy, Ellen McLain and John Patrick Lowrie. It will also have a soundtrack composed by another ex-Sierra employee, Ken Allen.

As of 2014, the game still isn't complete yet but the guys believe the game will be finished sometime early next year. I wish Scott (and Mark and Chris and the rest of the SpaceVenture team) all the best and look forward to playing their latest adventure game in the new year!

[ Wikipedia: Scott Murphy ]
[ Wikipedia: Two Guys from Andromeda ]
[ SpaceVenture Kickstarter Project ]
[ Adventure Classic Gaming Interview with Scott Murphy (2006) ]
[ The Official Space Quest FAQ ]
[ MobyGames: Scott Murphy's Bio ]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reversion - The Escape Review

Gotta love the Dad jokes

  • Developer: 3f Interactive
  • Publisher: 3f Interactive
  • Release Date: 21 March 2012
  • Time played: 1.4 hours

I managed to score a free copy of the sequel to Reversion - The Escape (thanks again Mix-Master) called Reversion - The Meeting so I thought I'd better give the first episode a go before I venture onto the next. Thankfully, Reversion - The Escape is a free-to-play game so it turns out I didn't need to pay anything for the first two episodes of the Reversion series.

However, is Reversion - The Escape any good? I'm a big fan of adventure games but does this one tick all the right boxes?

Plot (3/5)
You play the role of a man who wakes up in a dilapidated hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina with nothing more than the clothes on your back and a torn up photo with a scientist on it. You soon discover that you're suffering from amnesia and you have no recollection of why you're at the hospital or even who you are. You also find out that the city has been taken over by a military junta and it's these guys that are preventing you from escaping the hospital, which happens to be the goal of the game.

Unfortunately, the game ends once you leave the hospital so the game ends up being too short for anything to really develop. What I mentioned in the last paragraph is pretty much all you're going to be able to glean from the brief time you play Reversion - The Escape. The game/episode acts more as a teaser or demo than anything else, although I do like the fact it's set in a city not normally used as a setting for a computer game. Also, I'm a big sucker for the amnesiachero trope.

Also the character dialogue seems to be a bit clumsy at times to the point where some responses don't make any sense. I'm not sure if this is just because they had bad dialogue writers or something was lost in translation from what I assume was originally in Spanish.

Gameplay (4/5)
The game thankfully has your typical point 'n' click adventure interface where the mouse rules supreme! The puzzles are generally logical and straight-forward to complete too; there's even a hints system if you get stuck, although I never needed to use it. The only criticism I have with the game is that like oldschool adventure games there are a lot of red herrings or items on the screen that look potentially useful but turns out to be nothing more than eye candy.

Sound (2/5)
The English voice acting is quite poor with the emphasis being stressed on the wrong words and a mixture of actors that are too hammy in their delivery alongside actors who sound a bit like Harry from House of the Dead 2:

I'm not sure if it sounds as good in Spanish (if there is a Spanish version) but I'm hoping it does.

Music (2/5)
Music tends to be the same theme over and over again yet with different variations. Too bad the variations all seem to be rather dull.

Graphics (4/5)
Graphics are generally pretty good. The game adopts a clean, crisp comic-book style that's visually appealing.

Replay (1/5)
It only took me a bit over an hour to finish this game - although if you want to be generous, you could say that technically this isn't the whole game, it's just the first episode. So on one hand you feel that the experience is way too short yet on the other, you rationalise it by saying you can't expect much from the first chapter. It originally took me 1.4 hours to complete the game which is pretty short but playing it a second time revealed that it's possible to pull it off in 10 minutes. This is extremely short and since it's (thankfully) free-to-play, it leads me to believe that this is almost a form of shareware - i.e. release the first episode for free and if you like what you see, pay extra for the rest of the episodes.

Don't ask me what's going on here

Polish (4/5)
The only bugs I encountered were the occasional visual bug where the protagonist is able to climb onto things that he shouldn't be able to and ends up double in size.

Score – 6/10

Reversion - The Escape isn't a bad little point 'n' click adventure game but it's just as well it's free since you can finish the "game" in 10 minutes. It makes more sense to imagine this as a form of demo or type of shareware in order to entice you into purchasing more of the Reversion series (its second episode costs money). It would've been nice if they spent more effort in improving the voice acting and the soundtrack too.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam.

If you like this game, you might like...

[ LINK: Official Reversion website ]

Monday, August 25, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #145 - The Ur-Quan Masters - Pkunk - Pkunks Not Dead

Composed by: Eric Berge
Remixed by: András Barják

This is a remix of the music which plays whenever you meet a race of hippie bird-like creatures known as the Pkunks. I always liked these guys despite their goofy theme tune and the remix title may be alluding to an ability the Pkunk ships, known as Furies, have in the game: the ability to resurrect.

András Barják has still maintained the goofy, carefree nature of the original track yet made it cooler at the same time thanks to an awesome drum track and some epic bass guitar, especially when the slap bass starts at about 0:56.

Special thanks to The Precursors for remixing the classic Star Control II tracks and making them available for download.