Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Where are they now? - Mark Crowe

Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy back in the 1980s

You may remember that both Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy just made it on my list of Top 10 PC Game Developers of all time in August last year (although I was quite liberal with the word "developer" since, as you may have noticed, I've included teams) so this isn't the first time that they've been mentioned on this blog. I would however like to take some time to explore Mark Crowe's past, present and future for today's "Where are they now?" article. I'll continue with Scott Murphy next week :).

Mark Crowe started working for Sierra's marketing department as an illustrator back in 1983 before he eventually moved on to creating computer graphics. The first project he worked on where he was able to test his new skills was Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood (1984). This wouldn't be the game (or indeed series) he would become famous for: that game would be Space Quest and would not be released until 1986.

While working on the game called The Black Cauldron, Mark met a programmer named Scott Murphy who shared his interest in science-fiction. Both of them were tired of adventure games taking themselves too seriously and decided that their new game, Space Quest would be a farcical game that poked fun at science-fiction tropes. Mark had already come up with a basic storyline and key puzzles, while Scott was to provide much of the humour and dialogue. All that was left to do was to convince Sierra's CEO, Ken Williams, to give the green light. Ken wasn't too keen on the idea and thought a sci-fi comedy adventure wouldn't sell. Not content to give up so soon, Mark and Scott developed a demo of Space Quest during their spare time and when they showed it to Ken, he loved it so much that he gave them approval to proceed.

Mark and Scott would collaborate on four Space Quest titles together: Space Quest: Chapter I - The Sarien Encounter (1986), 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) - Space Quest IV being the game that Mark considers a masterpiece.

The Space Quest series wasn't the only series that Mark worked on while at Sierra. He also helped provide the graphics for the first Police Quest (1987) and the first Leisure Suit Larry (1987) as well as several other games during the 1980s and early 1990s.

After the completion of Space Quest IV, Mark and Scott went their separate ways with Mark moving to Oregon with his family to work at Sierra's subsidiary, Dynamix. There's always been rumours amongst Space Quest fans as to the reason why they never worked together again after Space Quest IV but both Mark and Scott claim that people were reading too much into it. During a Reddit IAMA held 2 years ago, Scott had this to say:

Mark and I were burned out. Mark was starting a family, had two new babies and wanted to leave the Oakhurst area. The communication on that was poor. It took few years for us to get back in touch and realize where we'd screwed up in that regard. Once we talked it took us 15 minutes to understand and get it behind us...

Shortly after joining Dynamix, Mark was re-hired by Sierra to work on Space Quest V: The Next Mutation (1993) as a designer. Scott was apparently working on his own project so Mark took control of the Space Quest V project. Mark wanted to introduce some new characters that would breathe new life into the series and thought to use the popular TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation for source material since it was largely untouched by the series at that stage.

After completing Space Quest V and a couple of EarthSiege games, Mark followed many ex-Dynamix employees to Pipeworks Software, due to layoffs at Sierra and Dynamix in 1999. Mark worked on several games there as a Studio Design Director and it would take more than a decade before Mark and Scott would finally reunite as a team in April 2012 under the very familiar name "Guys from Andromeda" (they couldn't use "Two Guys from Andromeda" since they have a third guy now called Chris Pope who serves as their marketing and PR guru).

On 13 June 2012, the Guys from Andromeda managed to raise more than $500,000 via Kickstarter in order to develop a spiritual successor to Space Quest known tentatively as SpaceVenture. 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 Mark (and Scott 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!

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Mark Crowe ]
[ Wikipedia: Two Guys from Andromeda ]
[ SpaceVenture Kickstarter Project ]
[ Roger Wilco's Virtual Broomcloset: An Interview with Mark Crowe (1996) ]
[ Space Quest FAQ ]
[ MobyGames: Mark Crowe's Bio ]

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