Space Quest

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Space Quest is a series of six computer games that follow the adventures of a hapless janitor named Roger Wilco, as he campaigns through the galaxy for truth, justice and really clean floors.

Initially created for Sierra On-Line by Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy (who called themselves the Two Guys from Andromeda), the games parodied both science fiction properties such as Star Wars and Star Trek, as well as pop-culture phenomena from McDonald's to Microsoft. The series featured a silly sense of humor heavily reliant on puns and wacky storylines. Roger Wilco, a perpetual loser, is often depicted as the underdog who repeatedly saves the universe - only to be either ignored or punished for violating minor regulations in the process.


Origin of the Series

Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, who had already worked together on the Sierra game Black Cauldron, wanted to create a funny, science fiction adventure game. They also wanted it to star a janitor.

Scott Murphy comments that "Sierra was in a mindset where everything was medieval and it was all fairly serious. I wanted to do a game that was more fun. We even liked the idea of 'fun death'! I mean, if the player is gonna die or fail, they should at least get a laugh out of it. So we came up with the idea of making death amusing. Let's face it, most adventure games involve a good deal of frustration for the player. But we felt that if we made failure fun, to an extent, you might have players actually going back and looking for new ways to die, just to see what happens!"

Mark Crowe notes, "We wanted to do two things for the player. One, we wanted him to feel as if he were in a movie, where he could just sort of kick back and enjoy the scenery. We also wanted the player to feel as if he really was the character on the screen."

Although skeptical, Ken Williams gave the idea a shot. Scott and Mark created a short demo, which ended up becoming the first four rooms of Space Quest I, at which point Ken gave the project a green-light.

Games

Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter (Original: 1986/ Remake: 1991)

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Roger Wilco escaping the Arcada

The original Space Quest game was released in October of 1986 and quickly became a hit, selling in excess of 100,000 copies (sales are believed to be around 200,000 to date, not including the many compilations it has been included in). The game was programmed using Sierra's AGI engine and featured a pseudo-3D environment, allowing the character to move in front of and behind background objects. The primary means of input in Space Quest I, as in many other AGI games, was through the use of a text parser for entering commands and use of the keypad or arrow keys for moving Roger Wilco around the screen. The Amiga and Mac versions of the game offered basic mouse support for movement as well. The game had a 160x200 resolution displaying 16 colours. Sound cards were not available in 1986, so sound was played through the PC's internal speaker; owners of Tandy 1000, PCjr and Amiga computers would hear a three-voice soundtrack.

Space Quest I was eventually remade using Sierra's newer SCI language, which allowed the game to upgrade from its original EGA graphics to VGA. This version was released on August 20, 1991; in addition to the new VGA graphics, which were drawn in 50's B-movie style, it now featured digitized sounds. The game's interface was also changed, with text-entry being replaced by a standard icon interface which would be used by many SCI games. Curiously, the VGA remake featured the taste and smell icons, which were rarely used during gameplay and were only featured in one Sierra game after Space Quest I, namely Space Quest IV, where they were as rarely used.

Players of the original 1986 version were never told the hero's name, but were instead asked to enter their own. The default name of "Roger Wilco" (used if the player entered no name) became the de facto name of the hero in the later games of the series. Roger is a member of the cleaning crew on board the scientific spaceship Arcada, which holds a powerful experimental device called the 'Star Generator' (a thinly-veiled reference to the Genesis Device from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Roger emerges from an on-duty nap in a broom closet to find the ship has been taken over by the sinister Sariens. He must make his escape, survive a crashlanding on the desert planet Kerona, and ultimately sneak aboard the Sarien starship Deltaur to stop the vicious aliens from using the Star Generator against Roger's home planet of Xenon.

At the end of the game, Roger's efforts are rewarded when he receives the Golden Mop as a token of eternal gratitude from the people of Xenon and becomes an instant celebrity.

A precursor of this game is an interactive fiction game by the name of Planetfall, created by Infocom, whose player-character is a lowly "Ensign Seventh Class" who does the lowest form of labor aboard a spaceship and who appears on the cover with a mop. Just as King's Quest adapted the text-adventure puzzle games set in a medieval world to a visual display, Space Quest did the same for the space puzzle game.

During the gameplay of Space Quest I, the player has to buy a droid in a store called "Droid 'B' Us", obviously a parody on "Toys 'R' Us". In the very first release (Version 1.0X), it was called "Droids 'R' Us", before Toys 'R' Us sued and Sierra changed the name. Sierra also had legal trouble over a "band" that appeared in the 1991 remake; the band was very obviously modeled after ZZ Top, and even played a somewhat recognizable version of their hit song Sharp Dressed Man.

It is believed that the game may have been strongly inspired by Star Wars IV: A New Hope. The janitor's ship being taken over is similar to the scene where Princess Leia's ship is taken over. The desert planet Kerona is similar to Tatooine. The craft that flies through the desert is similar to a Landspeeder.

One of the many Easter eggs of the game is the one that happens by pressing the "Don't touch" button in the escape pod. Roger ends up inside another Sierra adventure game. In the original, it is King's Quest. In the SCI remake, it is Conquests of the Longbow. This Easter Egg, like most in the series, is fatal.

Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge (1987)

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Roger is "saved" after this hovercraft crashes

Released on November 14th, 1987, this game once again used Sierra's AGI.

Roger, with his newfound status of Hero, is transferred to the Xenon Orbital Station 4 and promoted to head (and only) janitor. All is quiet until he is abducted by Sludge Vohaul, who was behind the original Sarien attack of the Arcada. As Roger is being transported to the Labion labour mines as punishment for thwarting Sludge's original plan, the prison ship crash-lands in a nearby jungle upon the planet. Our hero manages to escape his pursuers and the dangers of the Labion jungle and soon reaches Sludge's asteroid base. Once again, it's up to Roger alone to stop Vohaul's evil plan: to eradicate sentient life from Xenon by launching millions of cloned insurance salesmen at the planet.

Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon (1989)

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The robot freighter abducting Roger's capsule.

The game was released on March 24th, 1989, and was developed using an early version of Sierra's SCI engine. SQ3 featured music composed by Supertramp drummer Bob Siebenberg, and was one of the first games to support the new SoundBlaster sound card. PC versions of the game now supported mouse movement and a new, heavily improved text parser. The title of the game is an obvious pun on The Pirates of Penzance.

Roger's escape pod from the end of SQ2 is captured by an automated garbage freighter. He escapes the robot-controlled scow by repairing an old ship, the Aluminum Mallard (a play on the Millennium Falcon). He soon discovers the sinister activities of a game company known as ScumSoft (a parody of Microsoft) run by the "Pirates of Pestulon". Pestulon, a small moon of the planet Ortega, is covered in soft, moss-like vegetation, and dotted with twisted tree-like growths throughout. Elmo Pug, the CEO of ScumSoft, has abducted the Two Guys from Andromeda and is forcing them to design their games. Roger somehow gets inside the supposedly impregnable ScumSoft offices and rescues the two programmers. In the process, Roger must fight the Bill Gates-like Elmo in a game that combines giant Mecha-style combat with Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.

SQ III also featured a mini-game called Astro Chicken.

Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (1991)

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Vohaul holographically communicates with a shocked Roger.

Space Quest IV was released on floppy disks on March 4, 1991, and released on CD-ROM in December 1992 with full speech support and featuring Laugh-In announcer Gary Owens as the voice of the narrator. It featured 256-color hand painted graphics and a fully mouse-driven interface. It was one of the first games to use motion capture animation. The game cost over US$1,000,000 to produce, but sold more than its three predecessors combined.

In this installment, Roger embarks on a wacky time-travel adventure through Space Quest games both past and future. A reborn Sludge Vohaul from Space Quest XII chases Roger through time in an attempt to finally kill him. Roger also visits Space Quest X: Latex Babes of Estros (whose title is a parody of Infocom's game Leather Goddesses of Phobos) and Space Quest I; in the latter, the graphics and music revert to the style of the original game and Roger is threatened by a group of monochromatic bikers who consider Roger's 256 colors pretentious.

Like SQ III, SQ IV featured a mini-game (Ms. Astro Chicken).

An easter egg in this game is accessed by entering the code in the time capsule as the top row of buttons in order from left to right. This transports Roger to the volcanic planet of Ortega in Space Quest III. Unfortunately, this time Roger is not wearing any thermal underwear, so as soon as he steps out of the capsule, he melts.

Space Quest V: The Next Mutation (1993)

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Roger leads his crew of StarCon Space Cadets.

In SQ V, Roger is now a cadet in the StarCon academy. He graduates (or rather, cheats through the final exam) and is appointed captain of the SCS Eureka, a space garbage scow.

Released on February 5, 1993, SQ V is almost entirely a parody of Star Trek. Roger's new ship features a command bridge and several officers to whom he can give orders. This game was the first in the series not designed by "The Two Guys From Andromeda": only Mark Crowe worked on the project, and the game's sense of humor is noticeably different than that in previous games. This installment saw a switch from SCI technology to the gaming engine used at sister company Dynamix.

Although this game was released after the CD-ROM version of Space Quest 4, it was released on floppy disks only, and was never released as a CD-ROM talkie.

Space Quest 6: The Spinal Frontier (1995)

SQ 6 was released in 1995 and ran on the last version of the SCI engine, SCI32. This allowed it to use Super VGA graphics with 256 colors at 640x480 resolution. Unlike other SCI games, it didn't have the interface in a pull down bar at the top of the screen, but instead used a "verb bar" window along the bottom of the screen, similar to LucasArts' SCUMM engine. The graphics style was also more cartoonish than in previous games. Gary Owens served as narrator once again.

This game was the last to be released in the Space Quest series. Having defeated the diabolical pukeoid mutants in Space Quest V, Captain Roger Wilco triumphantly returns to StarCon headquarters - only to be court-martialed due to breaking StarCon regulations while saving the galaxy. He's busted down to Second Class Janitor and assigned to the SCS DeepShip 86 (a parody of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), commanded by Commander Kielbasa.

The game's subtitle comes from the final portion, in which Roger has to undergo miniaturization and enter the body of a shipmate and romantic interest. (This segment also provided the game's original subtitle, Where in Corpsman Santiago is Roger Wilco?, which was not used due to legal threats from the makers of the Carmen Sandiego products.)

Josh Mandel designed the majority of Space Quest 6 but had to leave the project shortly before completion. Sierra asked Scott Murphy to complete the game, and then (reportedly against Murphy's wishes) promoted SQ 6 as if the former "Guy from Andromeda" was solely responsible for it. As an additional result of this change in designers, some puzzles were shoddily implemented due to lack of communication.


'Future' sequels

In Space Quest IV, Roger travels in time, into both the "past" and "future". Portions of the game took place in the time frames of the following "sequels":

  • Space Quest X: Latex Babes from Estros
  • Space Quest XII: Vohaul's Revenge II

These games were never actually created, of course, and only exist within the internal "history" of Space Quest IV. It's possible that the designers chose such distant numbers because they (correctly) speculated that they would never get to write those games, and would not have to worry about inconsistency.

However, many fans hoped that if Sierra had continued production for the series, the tenth and twelfth games would have been released under these titles and incorporated elements of the plot mentioned in SQ IV.

Planned games

Space Quest VII: Return to Roman Numerals

Sierra has tried on several occasions to revive the series for another episode, with a working subtitle of "the Return to Roman Numerals", since the previous game was titled Space Quest 6, not Space Quest VI. Sierra went as far as contracting developer Escape Factory to storyboard and begin coding before withdrawing funding.

Development of Space Quest VII was underway in 1996 when Sierra released The Space Quest Collection, which consisted of Space Quest I through 6. Little was released regarding story line, interface, et cetera, although there was speculation that the game would introduce a multiplayer aspect. Scott Murphy said during development that Space Quest VII would contain some 3D elements, but would NOT require the use of a 3D accelerator card. Due to poor sales of The Space Quest Collection (possibly because the target audience already owned them) and the decreasing popularity of the 2D adventure genre, Space Quest VII was cancelled.

Another attempt at creating a new Space Quest was announced on February 7, 2002. Development proceeded for almost a year and a half before the project was cancelled. Since the designers were reportedly forbidden from using story elements from the original Space Quest games (or indeed, from even playing the games), it may be seen as fortunate that this project was never completed. Various leaks, in fact, claimed that this "gutted" SQVII would not have been an adventure game and/or would have been released only on game console platforms such as the Xbox rather than the PC.

Space Quest

Space Quest was being developed by Escape Factory for the Microsoft Xbox video game console. The game was planned as a departure from the main Space Quest series, starring a new character named "Wilger". Though it would have maintained a comedic theme in space, no plan was made to connect it to the original series. It was cancelled around 2003.

More information can be found at the Space Quest 7 and Escape Factory articles on SpaceQuest.net

Collections

  • The Space Quest Saga (1993): this collection contained games I (VGA remake), II, III and IV (floppy disk version)
  • The Space Quest Collection (1994): released for Sierra's 15th anniversary, this contained games I-V plus a video featuring the Two Guys from Andromeda and a complete history of the game series.
  • Roger Wilco Unclogged (1995): all the above, plus Roger Wilco arcade games and a humorous "Inside Space Quest" video, but without the Two Guys video
  • Space Quest Collection Series (1996): all 6 games, plus a preview of episode VII

Comics

Adventure Comics (a division of Malibu Graphics Publishing Group) released three issues in 1992 of a comic based on Space Quest I under the name The Adventures of Roger Wilco. The first was written by John Shaw and was in full colour. The other two were written by Paul O'Connor and were black and white. The print run was very small and the books are very hard to find now.

Fan-made games

The series has remained popular with Sierra fans, and several fan pages are still active and maintain a community dedicated to the games.

There have been several attempts to create a Space Quest fan game, such as the SQ7.org project, and two fan games using era-specific graphics have been released.

Finished Games:

Unfinished Games:

Source

  • The History of Space Quest, included with the Space Quest Collection Series.

External links

de:Space Quest fi:Space Quest