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SQ1 VGA Questions

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1) Outside of the one-off interview with Scott from years ago, where else has it been mentioned specifically by Scott or Mark that they dislike the VGA version of SQ1?
 

2) I've read on this forum that Josh Mandel had something to do with the writing of SQ1 VGA - Where did you guys get this info from, and what parts of SQ1 VGA did he write?

3) In the poll thread for the game, some have said the artwork was outsourced to Korea. But the art is credited to Douglas Herring who worked for Sierra and he's even shown some samples of his early work on it - So what gives?

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1) Outside of the one-off interview with Scott from years ago, where else has it been mentioned specifically by Scott or Mark that they dislike the VGA version of SQ1?

Scott talked about this on one of our Superfan Hangouts. The SQ1VGA project was created entirely without The Two Guys' input. And when management came to them and asked them if they had any changes they'd like made to the remake, Scott handed them a list of things he didn't like, to which their reply was, "Well, we can't change that this far along in development."

 

So SQ1VGA is a sore point with The Two Guys, or at least Scott.

 

I believe his main gripe was the retro-ish art style. Scott and Mark wanted Space Quest to be futuristic. SQ1VGA went in an opposite direction.

 

2) I've read on this forum that Josh Mandel had something to do with the writing of SQ1 VGA - Where did you guys get this info from, and what parts of SQ1 VGA did he write?

Josh wrote uncredited for a bunch of Sierra games back in those days. And, though I'm not sure he wrote all of the extra text in SQ1VGA (the stuff that wasn't copied from the original EGA version), he's said he wrote the vast majority of it.

 

3) In the poll thread for the game, some have said the artwork was outsourced to Korea. But the art is credited to Douglas Herring who worked for Sierra and he's even shown some samples of his early work on it - So what gives?

Doug Herring was art director. He decided how the game should look, then passed that off to Korean artists who actually did the job. It was a cost-cutting measure more than anything.

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I actually had the honor of speaking to Douglas Herring today concerning the Space Quest I Remake.

 

According to him:

 

"About two-thirds of the backgrounds for SQ1 VGA were indeed painted in Korea. It was a cost move that I did not personally like, but that is the way things were back in the day. I laid them all out, and they trickled out to Korea a few at a time, another reason there were some inconsistencies. They learned from SQ1 to send all of the layouts to a game at once, that way they got the same team of artists and there was more continuity. A few came out quite nice; others, not so much. I painted the nine screen scroller (on Kerona) as one painting. I did a couple of others around that area, but most of the rest were painted by others on my team and a few local contractors as well."

 

So it seems that both Sierra and Korea had a hand in the artwork for the SQI Remake.

 

Talk to you later!

 

JDHJANUS

Josh

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Thank you.

What's interesting is that, while people complain about the '50s look of the game, it isn't really THAT out of touch with what at least Scott wanted:

 

"SM: [sQ5] was interesting. It occurred to me that Mark had been into Star Trek much more than I had, not that that's a bad thing by any means. I didn't really start watching those until the last five or six years (weird, eh?), and I've been digging it. Mark is also a big fan of comic books, as are virtually all the artists I have ever known. The Dynamix development system in those days leant itself well to the comic style, and it did end up with a kind of "Roger Beamish" look, if you will. I was glad that he kept the cartoon look. That was how we'd wanted the games to look from the start and I never wanted that to change."

 

So, at least to Scott, SQ was supposed to have a cartoony sort of look--a look that SQ5, SQ6 and SQ1VGA were blasted for. I've never seen either of the guys criticize the look of the VGA remake, more just that they didn't have as much creative control as they wanted.

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Cartoony =/= 50's retro. There are various styles of artwork that are all cartoony. I really enjoy SQ5's artwork. But it's nothing like SQ1VGA's or SQ6's. There's a tremendous amount of detail in SQ6's backgrounds and I respect that. And while the characters are cel-shaded, at least they're not as bad as and much better animated than KQ7's.

 

But as far as SQ1VGA's artwork, it's not the sprites and animations I have issue with, it's that round-edged 50's sci-fi look that's just so completely contrasting to the great work that Mark had put into the visual style of Space Quest. Space Quest's art has always been classic, sleek, and stylish, not overly colourful and bubbly like some ages 1-4 kid's PlaySkool funhouse theme park. At least SQ6 stayed true.

 

Ugh those stupid mantis and chicken space ships....I loved Space Quest's ship designs...all but the ones from that game. They ruined it.

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See, I understood what they were going for in the SQ1VGA remake - it was an homage to EC comics style art - Weird Science (The Comic), Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear.  It was pretty well done, but in the end I don't think it was thematically the best choice for "Space Quest".  I'd play the hell out of another Sci-Fi game like that.

 

Bt

 

weird-science-22-0000.jpg

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So, at least to Scott, SQ was supposed to have a cartoony sort of look--a look that SQ5, SQ6 and SQ1VGA were blasted for. I've never seen either of the guys criticize the look of the VGA remake, more just that they didn't have as much creative control as they wanted.

What MusicallyInspired said. The cartoony comic book look of SQ4 and SQ5 was (supposed to be) futuristic and imaginative. SQ1VGA went in the completely opposite direction.

 

Objectively, I guess the SQ1VGA art isn't bad, per se. It just goes fundamentally against the unspoken art credo of the Two Guys' games.

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Something I always like to bring up when people ask why SQ1VGA is disliked by many is that Ken Allen's soundtrack is excellent. And everyone seems to be in universal agreement about that. I think I prefer it to that of SQ4.

 

Also, let me confess that I actually like the art style, being a fan of 1950's sci-fi. Including the cheesy varieties. But SQ1VGA just doesn't have the feel of a Space Quest game to me. Whenever I play it, I get a completely different vibe from it than I get from most of the other games. It's not really something that's quantifiable or anything, but it's just... different. Again, except for the music.

 

The story about the outsourcing and this being done without Scott and Mark even knowing about it doesn't help matters. I'll admit that this has to do with my own loyalties, but still. Sierra was really cutting corners when doing those cash-grab remakes. I'm generally pretty cynical about the gaming industry, cause even the most well-meaning, authentic indie developer will eventually have to put business first if he's looking for financial success. I don't view Ken Williams and his achievements with the same rose-tinted glasses as many other fans evidently do. But I do think there are limits, and the story of the development of SQ1VGA reminds me of Pete Toleman.

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Let's remember that trying to do it on the cheap was probably necessary given the lower sales of the remakes. The remakes did not sell well enough to warrant their continuation. People wanted new games, not remakes of games that they had already played. Ken once said that he had learned that you can't really hurry the creative people, so taking the remakes out of the hands of the original designers was probably a necessary measure to keep a low return game within budget. Also, the 2 guys would have been commanding higher salaries. I'm sure that Ken also wanted his primary designers working on new games where sales could be expected to be higher. The one paying the bills has to make sound fiscal decisions.

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In addition to what Troels mentioned, Scott doesn't like remakes in general. He feels they are unoriginal.

 

post-3-0-03046900-1428616092.png

 

(This wasn't a sentiment restricted to this DM on Twitter, but I feel it typifies what he keeps saying when asked about SQ1VGA).

scott on remakes.png

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Something I always like to bring up when people ask why SQ1VGA is disliked by many is that Ken Allen's soundtrack is excellent. And everyone seems to be in universal agreement about that. I think I prefer it to that of SQ4.

 

Also, let me confess that I actually like the art style, being a fan of 1950's sci-fi. Including the cheesy varieties. But SQ1VGA just doesn't have the feel of a Space Quest game to me. Whenever I play it, I get a completely different vibe from it than I get from most of the other games. It's not really something that's quantifiable or anything, but it's just... different. Again, except for the music.

 

The story about the outsourcing and this being done without Scott and Mark even knowing about it doesn't help matters. I'll admit that this has to do with my own loyalties, but still. Sierra was really cutting corners when doing those cash-grab remakes. I'm generally pretty cynical about the gaming industry, cause even the most well-meaning, authentic indie developer will eventually have to put business first if he's looking for financial success. I don't view Ken Williams and his achievements with the same rose-tinted glasses as many other fans evidently do. But I do think there are limits, and the story of the development of SQ1VGA reminds me of Pete Toleman.

 

May I ask--

What about the vibe feels different? I actually feel that the original 1-3 are different from 4-6 and SQ1VGA in terms of vibe--

SQ1, the original, has some snark, but feels pretty much like straight sci-fi compared to the later games;

SQ2 feels like a parody, but...Less snark.

SQ3 we get a bit of snarkiness, but aimed at Roger...But again, a bit. 

 

In SQ4 we get the beginning of treating Roger like he's a total dumbass, we get the treatment of the player as sort of dumb, too (not to offend, playful of course), we get the very cynical and acidic wit and vibe...SQ5 feels like a return to the more straightforward feel of 1-3 but there's still that acidic undercurrent, and SQ6 takes the cake in it's treatment of Roger and the player. SQ1 VGA feels much more in line (IMO) with 4-6 for me because of this.

 

Plus, SQ1 VGA began the tradition of having the ships look ridiculous - The Arcada looking like a chicken and the Deltaur looking like an insect; the Garbage Scow in 5 looking like a vacuum cleaner; the DeepShip looking like a jock strap.

 

And then you have such classic moments in SQ1VGA like the "Instant Replay" death and the taunting, jaded death message about lawyers; the death message when you die of thirst on Kerona.

 

While the art style might be different, I've never felt the vibe was off...Am curious to hear your POV :)

 

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I looooooooove remakes. Sometimes I think people like Scott may misinterpret remakes as attempts to "improve" the original, like fixing up an old car.

 

This isn't true at all, although I suppose opinions differ. It's a reinterpretation and/or riff, like a performance of a jazz standard. It's like rendering the Mona Lisa in pixel art.

 

Did anybody accuse Coltrane of just rehashing "Someday My Prince Will Come" in a bebop-esque style? Probably. But jazz standards are also one of my favourite types of music too.

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I don't think Scott thinks that people are trying to "improve" the original. I think it's more that it's lazy, and serves very little artistic purpose. Unless you take it and do something genuinely different with a well-known story.

 

Much like song cover, or movie re-makes. Unless you're adding something, why bother? When you're doing something on the cheap and hoping to cash in on name value, that's not so great. :)

 

In the case of SQ1VGA, I'm not sure what artistic merit it really has. But that's always in the eye of the beholder.

 

-------------------------

 

As for "vibe" - that's always difficult to pinpoint. Because if it were, you wouldn't use a term like "vibe". :)

 

However, SQ1's art style is completely out of sync with the rest of the series. With the other games, changes in the style (of the first 4, certainly) seemed to be based more on technological improvements rather than massive swings in the way the game was put together. SQ1VGA is noticeably nothing like the original (which is pretty obvious given the change in resolution), but it's nothing like SQ4 or SQ5 (which, while different, do at least feel like they were made within the same tradition).

 

That, and quite frankly SQ1VGA always felt "cheap". There was always something lacking in charm and detail with the game (in my opinion). I played the original 6 before I played the VGA version of SQ1, and it was very obviously an inferior quality product. Perhaps if I were to seriously go back to it, I would appreciate some of the writing nuances. But honestly - Mark Crowe is a much better artist in the first five than whoever was in charge of SQ1VGA.

 

That's the "vibe" in a nutshell. "Cheap". There's something very flimsy and plastic about it. Which is not a criticism that can be levelled at SQ5 or SQ6, despite their different aesthetics.

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We definitely disagree on this completely. For instance, you start out by saying "unless you take [a remake] and do something genuinely different with a well-known story, it serves very little artistic purpose." Later, you say the remake changes the art style like it's some sort of crime. You say "unless you're adding something, why bother?" Then you say, "SQ1 VGA's art style is completely out of sync with the rest of the series." Which is it? Is it too different or not different enough?

 

The answer seems to be that you just don't like what SQ1 VGA added, because you think it's cheap and corporate -- "lazy" rather than a real artistic product. I definitely don't agree. I think SQ1 VGA is beautiful and has many important contributions -- maybe they're not what Scott Murphy wants, though.

 

Really, I think it's hard to find examples of remakes that don't bring anything to the table -- otherwise, as you say, what's the point? In the specific case of the SQ1 VGA remake, I think the contributions are obvious: beautiful art; an interesting and internally consistent art style (not consistent with "the rest" of the SQ games, but I don't really care about that); great new writing that is leagues better, IMHO FYI, than the original; and an interesting re-interpretation of the gameplay for a new set of input devices. 

 

Can you really think of any remakes that contributed nothing at all? It'd be hard and would require some snobbery to determine what is a "worthwhile" contribution. As tends to be the case, I think that people look at the profit motive as somehow destroying artistic merit, which is something I will never agree with.

 

I also find song covers and movie remakes to be inherently very interesting -- arguably moreso than the original works, which is exactly how I feel about Greensleeves and Someday My Prince Will Come. The originals are pretty boring, really, but the variety of reinterpretations is what I enjoy: I love Bill Evans doing Disney songs, Johnny Cash covers tend to be better than the originals, etc.

 

To return to the jazz analogy, do you think standards are somehow inferior jazz? Is it low art to recreate a Disney tune in a bebop styling, adding your own improvisation in proper jazz style? What's even more relevant is that these songs became standards specifically to sell records! The reason they riffed on popular tunes was to become famous and line their pockets (and the pockets of their record labels). Nonetheless, they're my favourite jazz recordings.

 

Anyway, a unique "cheapness" is definitely not something I feel when I play SQ1 VGA. Ironically, it is something I feel when I play the AGI games (cranked out in months on the same recycled engine) or when I play a game like SQ4 (which is unpolished, very clearly written on the fly, and 100% created primarily to cash in on new technology, like KQ5).

 

But I've never tried to pretend like Space Quest was high art, and for that reason, cheap remakes are often just as good as the originals.

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when I play a game like SQ4 (which is unpolished, very clearly written on the fly, and 100% created primarily to cash in on new technology, like KQ5).

...I don't know how you can say SQ4 is unpolished. Sure there are a few bugs but it's probably (between it and SQ3) the best of SQ.

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Yeah, I love SQ4. And my favourite part of the game is the mall scene, which is probably objectively the worst-made section in any SQ game. :P

 

There's no motivation or any indication of what to do, and then all of a sudden a deus ex machina in the form of a Sequel Police vehicle shows up when you step on a random pixel in the arcade, which you have no reason to step on unless you read a walkthrough or are wandering around, aimless and desperate to progress. Of course, they will only appear after you've finished a prerequisite laundry list of other arbitrary tasks you didn't know were prerequisites, such as the identity fraud thing. Why did you need that money from the ATM, anyway? You don't know you need the money until you get to Vohaul's fortress, so you have to steal the money before the game will let you leave, then NOT spend the money until later, when you come back...?

 

Check out this vintage hint thread

 

SQ4 Shopping Mall:  If you have gotten everything you can from the

stores and you want to leave, go back to the arcade and play the video
game again (I think you have to win), when you finish, walk to the back
right corner of the room and the sequel police will show up in a time
pod which you can later steal.  You may want to write down the time
coordinates they had used to get to the mall, then you can go back if
you need to.

 

You don't have to win.  You don't even have to play.  Just walk past
the sushi bar.

 

Ohhh ok. The sushi bar. (?)

 

Of course, it all makes sense in hindsight or when you know the bigger picture or when you read a hintbook, but I think the designers didn't care or didn't think from the perspective of the player.

 

That stuff combined with the bugs and programming (shootout scene that unnecessarily relies on processor cycles, producing a game-ending bug within a year or two) are what I mean by "unpolished". 

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May I ask--

What about the vibe feels different? I actually feel that the original 1-3 are different from 4-6 and SQ1VGA in terms of vibe--

SQ1, the original, has some snark, but feels pretty much like straight sci-fi compared to the later games;

SQ2 feels like a parody, but...Less snark.

SQ3 we get a bit of snarkiness, but aimed at Roger...But again, a bit. 

 

In SQ4 we get the beginning of treating Roger like he's a total dumbass, we get the treatment of the player as sort of dumb, too (not to offend, playful of course), we get the very cynical and acidic wit and vibe...SQ5 feels like a return to the more straightforward feel of 1-3 but there's still that acidic undercurrent, and SQ6 takes the cake in it's treatment of Roger and the player. SQ1 VGA feels much more in line (IMO) with 4-6 for me because of this.

 

Plus, SQ1 VGA began the tradition of having the ships look ridiculous - The Arcada looking like a chicken and the Deltaur looking like an insect; the Garbage Scow in 5 looking like a vacuum cleaner; the DeepShip looking like a jock strap.

 

And then you have such classic moments in SQ1VGA like the "Instant Replay" death and the taunting, jaded death message about lawyers; the death message when you die of thirst on Kerona.

 

While the art style might be different, I've never felt the vibe was off...Am curious to hear your POV :)

Good question!  :)

 

I think Gareth said it pretty well. To me, the remake eschews all kinds of subtlety. With all fear of sounding a tad pretentious, it's just a loud, busy game. A spaceship entering hyperspace looks like Space Quest IV's time rip tunnel on LSD. Yes - merely travelling in space apparently looks more spectacular than travelling through time or entering a black hole. Roger screams like the Wicked Witch when he's melted by acid, and BOOM - we've got an instant replay lined up for you too! Which I don't really think of as a classic Space Quest moment, btw. It's a one-off that's unique to this game, isn't it? The backgrounds look like Ray Harryhausen on a sugar rush.

 

I could go on, and I do realise that none of the stuff I highlight above is inherently bad. But it makes it extremely different. I'm not sure I agree 100% with Gareth that the remake has no artistic value. It does have a very interesting style, which adds a unique twist to the game, but we do know that adding artistic value to SQ1 was not Sierra's main motivation for remaking it.

 

Applying the jazz standard terminology, the loud, busy SQ1VGA is not just another interpretation of Some Day My Prince Will Come or Greensleeves. It's Weather Report's take on Rockin' in Rhythm. And, like I said I do enjoy SQ1VGA's art style, I actually like that version, but I can also totally understand why an oldschool jazz purist probably won't. Much like I can relate to the more negative points of view here.

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We definitely disagree on this completely. For instance, you start out by saying "unless you take a remake and do something genuinely different with a well-known story, it serves very little artistic purpose." Later, you say the remake changes the art style like it's some sort of crime. You say "unless you're adding something, why bother?" Then you say, "SQ1 VGA's art style is completely out of sync with the rest of the series." Which is it? Is it too different or not different enough?

Fair point.

 

The answer seems to be that you just don't like what SQ1 VGA added, because you think it's cheap and corporate -- "lazy" rather than a real artistic product. I definitely don't agree. I think SQ1 VGA is beautiful and has many important contributions -- maybe they're not what Scott Murphy wants, though.

Fair point.

 

So, perhaps I'll rephrase. I don't like what SQ1VGA did with it. And no, I don't find covers of jazz standard inherently bad. (I don't like jazz, though, so that's a bad analogy.)

 

I don't find re-makes or covers inherently bad. But the ones that get me interested are the ones that do something different, interesting and accomplished. I really get the feeling that SQ1VGA was ground out in a very plastic way. I can see what they were trying to do with the 50s aesthetic, but I think it's poorly executed. Whereas Johnny Cash's covers album, for example, was a really great example of genre changing and doing something really interesting with classic material.

 

I should also probably clarify - I was outlining what I believed to be Scott's objections to re-makes. I don't necessarily 100% subscribe to that opinion.

 

Anyway, a unique "cheapness" is definitely not something I feel when I play SQ1 VGA. Ironically, it is something I feel when I play the AGI games (cranked out in months on the same recycled engine) or when I play a game like SQ4 (which is unpolished, very clearly written on the fly, and 100% created primarily to cash in on new technology, like KQ5).

Then we have completely different interpretations of SQ1 and SQ4. Which is fair enough.

 

But I've never tried to pretend like Space Quest was high art, and for that reason, cheap remakes are often just as good as the originals.

Cheap dig. I don't think SQ is high art. I'm trying to explain why I don't like SQ1VGA, and the artistic analogy is the best way of doing that. Nobody sane believes SQ1 is perfection. By the same token, churning out a VGA version to make a little money on the side really shows in the way it's constructed. I don't deny people tried their best within the confines of what they were given to do something with it. But ultimately, it just doesn't have any of the charm of the original. It's neither got the rough edges of the original games, not the depth of polish one would need to have a real "HD" remake. It's just... well... the "vibe" is off.

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Not me. Having played SQ1 EGA first I felt it was iconic. I didn't initially know anything about Scott's opinion or where the art came from, yet SQ1VGA was something akin to George Lucas trying to edit Star Wars, it just didn't work.

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I do wonder if people's opinions about the "vibe" would be different if none of the "art was outsourced to Korea" and "Scott doesn't like it" stuff was known.

Well, admittedly, the above has made me more critical of SQ1VGA. As a fan, I care about this kind of trivia, so how could it not? Something that has not been mentioned is that KQ1 got a remake that is way closer in spirit to the original. Which is interesting, because King's Quest, as Ken's darling, was always used as the guinea pig for technical innovations. Interestingly, this one time, this status arguably allowed KQ1 to get a faithful, authorised-by-the-designer remake. I think that's rather telling as well.

 

That said, SQ1VGA was always the odd man out, style wise. And I definitely fell for it more so than the original back when I first discovered Space Quest. It had more immediacy to it, so it got easier across to me. Now that I'm older, it feels a little overblown.

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Pretty much the same as pcj. Didn't know about Korea or Scott's feelings before and still disliked the style. I actually thought the Two Guys were responsible for it because of the Instant Replays. The only thing I really liked was the soundtrack.

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a game like SQ4 (which is unpolished, very clearly written on the fly, and 100% created primarily to cash in on new technology, like KQ5).

pSPS5fd.png

 

I do wonder if people's opinions about the "vibe" would be different if none of the "art was outsourced to Korea" and "Scott doesn't like it" stuff was known.

I don't think it has helped. I think there was always something off about SQ1VGA, but I'll readily confess I don't actually hate it. I've played it a ton. I think it has many great points. In terms of recreating a parser game for a point-and-click interface, I think it succeeds admirably. I even actually like the art style -- the giant skeleton in the desert; the seediness of Ulence Flats ...

 

But, beyond its visual appeal (which I guess is debatable) and its absolutely phenomenal soundtrack (which is not debatable at all), is it Space Quest-ey? As in, is it in keeping with the vision of The Two Guys for what they intended Space Quest to be? Definitely not.

 

Did it not bear the Space Quest name, and was it not a remake of an older game, I think SQ1VGA would enjoy much more respect and admiration than it does today. But that would mean the first three games never happened and that would be a weird world to live in.

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