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Troels Pleimert

Space Quest Historian Podcast - The Official Thread

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On the episodic games debate, I'd like to say this:

 

I enjoy the episodic game format, when it's done well, but the reality is that it's more demanding than normal game development, not less, and that's why so many have tried and failed. Episodic games have to be done on a pretty tight schedule, reliably, and consistently, often with two or more staggered teams all working together to make that possible. From a production standpoint, it's a major challenge.

 

When companies decide to release an episodic game because they simply don't have the time or resources to finish the game they're working on, it's usually a disaster. No one wants to buy the first episode of a game unless they're confident they know when the second episode is coming out. Even Broken Age, I'd guess, suffered much lower sales than many expected, probably for this very reason. People might be willing to "subscribe" to bi-monthly episodes, but they don't just want to buy half a game.

If SpaceVenture went episodic, we'd never see the second episode. That's just the reality of the situation. They'd be better off releasing a "complete" game that's very short than a part 1 for which there will be no part 2. Full Throttle infamously ran over budget and had to cut out a huge chunk of the game, but imagine if they chose to go episodic instead. They'd be remembered for broken promises instead of a timeless classic that happens to be pretty short.

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Thanks for your comment, Frogacuda. Is this a comment that you would like me to read on the next episode?

 

Of course I strongly disagree with your sentiment that "we'd never see a second episode" if SpaceVenture went episodic; that's just ridiculous. The game was Kickstarted on the promise of a full experience -- whether that experience may be cut up into pieces is another thing. Broken Age backers were given episode 2 for free; I'm not sure about Broken Sword 5 backers, but I'm pretty damn sure they weren't expected to pay full price for the second instalment.

 

Should SpaceVenture be broken into episode, I can pretty much guarantee you that there WOULD be more than one episode -- just alone for the fact that so much work has already been done on the ENTIRE game, not just the 1/3 that Pope keeps talking about.

 

Aside from that, I do completely agree with what I'm reading between the lines of your post, which is that if you ARE going to do an episodic game, set a schedule for when the following episodes are coming out.

 

Having to cut out huge chunks of a game in order to push out a product, however, would not be in anyone's best interest. I wasn't familiar with Full Throttle being gutted, but I remember Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within suffering such a fate -- and it did make the transition between the second-to-last and last chapter very jarring and rushed. Cutting content is not an option. Or, at least, an episodic release, in my mind, would at least be PREFERABLE to having to cut content.

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I recently discovered this podcast. It's really spectacular! I can hardly believe how well-produced it is for an "amateur" affair, and even more importantly the content is so deep and interesting. Blew my mind to hear the Supertramp drummer's interview when I didn't even know he'd done the SQ3 music! From the easter egg stuff to the music trivia, this is a really top-notch thing. (Roger's voice only on Roland for SQ3... wow... Plus it sounds so much better!)

 

The podcast is bizarrely funny too. Even found myself enjoying the fan fiction sections  :blink:

 

Keep digging deep and bringing us awesome SQ trivia and music! (And I guess Space Venture stuff is cool too... ;))

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Really enjoyed this week's podcast, as usual. I wanted to comment on the "hero" topic... Two things, the second more important than the first:

 

First, it seems like people have a preconceived idea of what Space Quest is and who Roger Wilco is, and try very hard to shoehorn the factual events of the games into those pre-conceived molds.

 

Both Troels and the guest commentator claim that Roger is selfishly motivated and a "path-of-least-resistance kind of guy." I'd say this is wrong. In SQ1, there's nothing anti-heroic about Roger going to blow up the Deltaur. "A desire to save his planet" and "a desire for glory" are both offered as anti-heroic by the commentator in the podcast... Really? That is typical Hollywood heroism. Having a personal interest in saving the world (e.g., saving your home) does not make you any less brave and heroic when you could have simply run away. 

 

"A desire for glory" is interesting as an "antiheroic" motivation, considering the most self-consciously hero-based Sierra game, Quest for Glory, is literally about a hero being motivated by a desire for glory, at least if the title is to be believed. Are the QfG games about an antihero then? Going to Shapier in QfG 2 or Tarna in QfG 3 are as "antiheroic" as going to the Deltaur: you're going out of your way to save people who aren't yourself, either just to save friends or for glory, right? It's definitely not self-preservation.

 

Now, Roger Wilco IS an anti-hero, of course. But that's just because he's got traditionally non-heroic qualities -- he's awkward, a bumbler, sorta stupid, etc. However, there's no reason to take it to the extreme that everything he does is unheroic. He's very obviously brave and resourceful as well as awkward and stupid.

 

 

Second, the real purpose for this post is that I wanted to voice something I've always felt: Scott Murphy doesn't really have any idea what he's doing. Now, Scott Murphy is probably a big part of the reason the SQ series is so fun, but that aside. People often point to Scott Murphy quotes to bring insight to a discussion, but I'm not sure why -- Scott has yet to show that he has any sort of clear conception of what Space Quest is, or even that he had a clear idea at the time he was making the games. I've heard him describe Roger as a "path-of-least-resistance kind of guy" before, but think about it: Roger chooses to go to the Deltaur instead of running away in his pod. That's the HARDEST path. In SQ3, he chooses to save the Two Guys when he himself is 100% perfectly safe (although I enjoy the meta interpretation about saving his inventors). SQ5 is pretty obviously heroic, but that's not a Scott Murphy game. In SQ6, Roger goes out of his way to save Stellar, and this time there's no Beatrice time-paradox problem threatening his own existence. So that wasn't the path of least resistance -- you're saving a damsel in distress just because you care.

 

The only games that effectively cast Roger as an accidental or lazy hero are SQ2 and SQ4 -- because Roger is directly, personally threatened. Both games are about "not dying," rather than about going out of your way to save something or someone without being directly threatened. Every plot development in SQ2 and 4 is about Roger being chased and backed into a corner like a rat. He literally flees from one place to another, and the only way to not die is to shut down Vohaul himself (this applies to both 2 and 4).

 

So my point here is less about whether Roger is a hero or an anti-hero, and more about how amazing it is that Scott Murphy doesn't get his own games.

 

I say Scott Murphy is the anti-hero! He's unwittingly given us an extremely fun series, despite himself!

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Hey, thanks a lot for the input, suejak! Of course, I'm of the completely opposite position, but I promise to read your letter out in full in the next episode. :)

 

For those of you not in the know of what's going on, suejak was responding to the latest episode which asked the question, "Is Roger Wilco a hero?"

 

Check it out here: http://spacequesthistorian.com/2014/08/24/episode-16-roger-as-a-hero/ (where you can actually watch guest commentator Daniel Stacey (a.k.a. Cadbury Wookie) give his opinions).

 

Or just listen right here:

http://traffic.libsyn.com/techjives/2014-08-20-SQ-HISTORIAN_Episode16-RogerAsAHero.mp3

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Thanks for your comment, Frogacuda. Is this a comment that you would like me to read on the next episode?

 

Of course I strongly disagree with your sentiment that "we'd never see a second episode" if SpaceVenture went episodic; that's just ridiculous. The game was Kickstarted on the promise of a full experience -- whether that experience may be cut up into pieces is another thing. Broken Age backers were given episode 2 for free; I'm not sure about Broken Sword 5 backers, but I'm pretty damn sure they weren't expected to pay full price for the second instalment.

 

 

Call it ridiculous, but it's happened countless times in the past. I bought Sin Episodes, Insecticide, Bone, Penny Arcade (which sort of finished in a radically different form, but still...).

 

Broken Age split their release up at great expense to the company, and luckily they can afford to do that, but it shouldn't be regarded as a guarantee. When companies split a game up to bankroll the remainder they often end up disappointed. Not only that, but I'd argue it undermines a game's ability to sell well; Broken Age should really have done much better considering its high profile and positive reviews, but it didn't because people don't want to buy half a game. They'll never make up the sales later, either since by the time it's whole, people will no longer care in the same way.

 

 

Should SpaceVenture be broken into episode, I can pretty much guarantee you that there WOULD be more than one episode -- just alone for the fact that so much work has already been done on the ENTIRE game, not just the 1/3 that Pope keeps talking about.

If you can guarantee (i.e. have the money and scheduling accounted for) that the whole game can be made, then there's no reason to split it up in the first place. Just make the whole thing. The problem is that companies split these releases up because they need money to finish the game, which is NOT a guarantee, and then they fuck themselves over in the process.

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I have to say I agree with Frogacuda in that if SpaceVenture would be split, there would be a big propability that the second part of the story would be left unfinished, especially if the split would be done in order to get more developement funds. I just don't see half of SpaceVenture to have that kind of pull. As far I can tell i.e. Broken Sword 5's sales numbers picked up signifigantly after the second half of the game was published, as that was the point where people felt it was a safe purchase. Telltale can do well on episodic publishing, as people already know they are very likely to push out all the episodes because of their long history, but for new devs it might not be that simple. I suspect that Double Fine suffered from the episodic decision as well and that the sales after the completion of the game might be substentially bigger.

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I've had similar thoughts about the viability of an episodic SpaceVenture. Are there really enough people out there who haven't already pledged to the SpaceVenture Kickstarter -- backers are essentially receiving "free" copies of the game -- who would be interested enough in the project to purchase half a game, thereby funding the second half?

I imagine it would require the first half of the game to get amazing reviews and attract a huge audience. Of course, splitting the game is likely to impact its quality (since, presumably, it wasn't designed from the ground up with a clear Part 1/Part 2 delineation in mind), which could generate negative reviews, damage sales, and decrease the likelihood of Part 2 getting the funding it needs.

 

Of course, this is all uninformed speculation on my part about something we have no real reason to believe is actually going to happen. I've never gone wrong before placing my faith in Mark and Scott.

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If there are a substantial amount of new people left to buy this thing (and there may well be), you'll chase away a good deal of them by releasing the game incomplete. People are distrustful of games getting split up like this (and for good reason) so it's going to hurt sales. And again if those sales are needed to fund the rest of the game, then it's more broken promises. It really just doesn't feel like the right decision for this particular game.

In other cases where these companies are better funded, more trusted by consumers, etc it may be less problematic, but even then it's hard to guage the impact it has on sales.

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