Sledgy Posted March 13, 2012 Report Share Posted March 13, 2012 I took interview from Josh Mandel via email (about in the end of 2011). About SQ and other stuff. Sorry for my not perfect English. --- I read all text interviews with JM to be sure not to repeat questions. *** Prelude *** First of all, I must to tell you usual opinions about you and SQ6 in Russia and other ex-USSR countries. The most of the local SQ fans very like SQ5 and *very* don't like SQ6. And all of them, who knows about you, think that you are the main reason of failure of SQ6. I was one of these guys. And now I see that things are more difficult than it seems at first. In recent monthes ago I read many things about Josh Mandel that I never knew early. For example, I didn't know that you was author of wonderful fake hintbook in SQ4. That you was writer and producer of SQ1 VGA. And that you was one of the creator of the coolest western adventure Freddy Pharkas. Also I've learned many other things. And now I think you're one of the best guys from Sierra On-Line. Anyway I have questions to you for clarify some moments about SQ6 and other. *** Interview *** What are your favourite SQ original game? >> Ooh, SQ3, by far. I thought that the Two Guys had really hit their stride at this point; they'd gotten familiar enough with the character and the gameplay and the humor that it all seemed to click together perfectly in SQ3. I also thought the art was better than I could ever have imagined 256 colors to look! By the time SQ4 rolled around (and I was there to see some of that), I could already see that the Two Guys were no longer operating in harmony. What are your favourite SQ fangame? (if you had this one) >> My favorite would've been SQ7, if it had been released!! What are your fav. modern adventures? (Syberia, Dreamfall, ...) >> I haven't liked most of the modern adventures I've played. Part of this is because of the lack of feedback. In the parser days, and even with some of the early point-and-click adventures, I got the feeling that the designer was trying to communicate directly to ME, and allowing ME to communicate directly with the DESIGNER. (I know that was a carefully-crafted illusion, but it worked for me.) Nowadays, I get the sense that most adventures are more commercial, and trying to imitate what they feel will sell. I rarely play adventure games any more. # SQ6 Section # Why did you choose dark aura for the locations? (almost as in the first locations of SQ4) >> Interestingly, I had never described the initial locations as dark -- I believe that was an artist's choice, and I went along with it because I thought it was consistent with the elements that I thought *were* important: a cheesy, broken-down city designed to appeal to spacefaring tourists on the cheap. This seemed to me the kind of place Roger Wilco would go. I also thought it was consistent with the early locations of both SQ4 (a deserted, post-apocalyptic city) and SQ3 (a garbage-filled freighter). They were dark places, too, only more brightly-lit. Why did you go away from SQ5 comic soft style? >> That style was something the Dynamix people brought to the series, and it felt out of place to me. I appreciated that they wanted to experiment and give it a more "graphic novel" feel, but I've never felt that graphic novel style lends itself as well to comedy. Also, I hated the encroaching inconsistency of the series' art styles. SQ1, SQ2, and SQ3 all seemed fairly consistent. But then SQ4 felt very different from SQ3, and SQ5 felt very different from SQ4. I wanted to bring the game closer to its roots as a cartoonish comedy and stop trying to be a graphic novel. Why does demo of the game show another plot than in the full version? >> That's something I very much wanted. I pushed for it with FREDDY PHARKAS as well: a demo with a different plot. That's because, as a gamer, I always resented when they released part of a game as the free demo. Then, when you'd buy the actual game, you'd already played a section of it...which I found disappointing and dull. So I wanted demos for Sierra games that showed the art style, showed the humor, showed some of the main locations and characters, but didn't ruin ANY surprises or plot for the actual game! Usually all SQ demos were just piece of the full game. Does it mean that Bjorns had to be in SQ6? >> As long as I didn't insist on a LOT of new animation or artwork in the demo, I was allowed to come up with a new plot -- it just had to use MOSTLY the same characters and animation. The Bjorn were never designed to be a part of the main game (although I thought they might be able to be used as background characters if we wanted). They were designed strictly for the demo. I also thought, if they turned out to be popular in the demo, they would be characters we could explore more in a future chapter. Why did you remove Beatrice? >> I didn't, really...at least, that was not the intention. I had two thoughts about Beatrice. First, the Two Guys had painted themselves into a corner with that "future wife" thing as revealed in SQ4, and I didn't want to touch it. Scott had no idea at all how he wanted to resolve her plot, and I didn't want to have to try to figure out what Scott and Mark were thinking together (since they no longer were even talking to each other at the time). So I thought, "There's plenty of time left before they have to get married; surely there will be other relationships and complications between the end of SQ5 and SQ 12. Relationships are rarely a straight line. It seemed very realistic and probable that some other woman would take an interest in Roger, even if he had no interest in her. That woman was Stellar Santiago, a young cadet with a crush on Rogerl. And so, Stellar is just friend? And why is she so ugly? >> To Roger, yes, Stellar is just a friend, but a great friend who was willing to sacrifice herself for him, so he returned the favor. I did not see any designs of her before I left Sierra; I probably would have opted for somebody a bit less "ridgy" around the forehead. You wrote in other interviews: "one of the inventory items cut was a comic book CD in Nigel's room that was fully readable and had all the hints to the Datacorder puzzle". So there must be comic book inside the game? Have you got this comics? >> Unfortunately, it doesn't exist. I had each page written and described, and then it was up to the artists to finish it. But as far as I know, nobody was ever assigned to it, so it only exists in the form of my descriptions of the pages. I'm not sure if they survived the hurricane damage we had here; a lot of my design documents didn't. What hints would you add to SQ6 rooms? For ex., we can create patch to fix text of the game (unofficially, of course). >> Oh, I was very unhappy to see that there were just about no hints at all for much of the game. There would have been hints all over the place in Stellar's body, for example, and more hints spread throughout. Working hints into the game is something that you do largely after some playtesting and getting a sense of what parts are easy and what parts really need hints. Since I wasn't around for that playtesting, I didn't have the chance to write them. But I had always assumed there would BE a lot of hints, especially inside Stellar, where a lot of the puzzles are based on physiology and biology that people would have no way of knowing unless it was described in the game. There were another versions (ideas) of SQ6? >> Yes. Bruce Balfour and I had generated quite a few concepts for SQ6. I still have some of those, I think. But I shouldn't reveal them, just in case one of them gets used someday! And was plot of SQ6 unfinished or sort of it? For ex., why did Sharpei want Roger's body (she's a woman, he's a man)? And what would she plan to do then? Kill people and steal money or be janitor? :) >> Hah! Sharpei wanted Roger's body because he was young, healthy, and had a certain amount of fame that he had not learned to use to his advantage. She didn't care about the man/woman thing; she was not driven by sexual desires. It was more important to her to continue her *life,* and taking over the body of a strong, healthy hero was a very attractive proposition for her. And because he (up until Stellar came along) didn't really have much in the way of friends or family, it's not like many people would notice the difference in his personality once she took him over. In the SQ6 trailer there're another first location and voices: How do you can comment it? Why did you change these things? And voice of Sharpei was more older (as granny), why did you choose another (more younger, imho) voice? >> The main voice in the trailer, I think, was done by Greg Tomko-Pavia, one of Sierra's star programmers and a theatrically-trained actor. It was never intended to be the final voice. Same thing with Sharpei; her original voice, I think, was Leslie Balfour, who played Laura Bow. These were just stand-in voices. I had left the company before the parts were recast with professional voice actors, so I didn't have a say in who ended up being cast. # SQ1 VGA # You was writer and producer of SQ1 VGA. What does mean 'writer'? You changed all dialogues? And as producer you was the main guy who lashed his whip over the rest of the team members? >> Hah! I did make some changes, but I don't recall making a LOT of changes. In some cases, narration or dialogue had to change to accommodate the way the puzzles and interface worked in the remake. And yes, as Producer, I was the guy pushing to make sure the game came out on schedule and on budget. That's the job I started out doing at Sierra, and I'd done the same thing on Freddy (so sometimes I had to crack the whip on MYSELF during Freddy!). It's the first SQ with VGA, P&C interface and where Roger became blondie. >>I wasn’t there when Roger’s hair color was discussed. The entire SQ1 VGA project was supposed to be Scott’s baby; he was part of the in-house Product Design group that I headed up, and he was seen as a natural fit for the project. But Scott is, to put it bluntly, mercurial; he would get depressed and disappear for days at a time (this happened during SQ4, too, which is how I ended up doing so much work on that). Eventually, it was clear that his heart and mind were just not in the project, so I had to step in and try to help where I could. This was fairly late in the project, and most decisions had already been made by the time I took the project on. How does it to change EGA to VGA? >>Well, the artists loved it, especially Doug Herring, who headed up the art. The early SQs, because of the limited resolution and color palette, had no real art style. At the higher res, and with the VGA palette, you could now give games definite style. Doug went even farther than that, giving the game not just a style, but an actual visual theme, something you very rarely see in games at all. I would’ve loved to have seen more of this in further VGA conversions, but those conversions turned out to be more expensive than Ken had anticipated, nor did they sell as well as had been anticipated, so the whole remake concept was eventually discarded. Had you troubles with adaption to VGA? And what things were easy to do? >>I don’t remember there being a lot of problems artwise. The bigger issues revolved around changing the puzzles from parser-based to point-and-click. So many opportunities for humor were lost in the process, and that was a shame. Have you thoughts to make Roger with brown hairs as in SQ1-3? >>This was one of the decisions that was made long before I came onto the project, and, at that point, as Producer, I didn’t want to do anything to slow down the process. Changing Roger’s hair at that point would’ve meant a lot of art and animation had to be redone. I don’t remember anyone explaining to me why he was given blonde hair in the first place! Did you plan to create CD-version of SQ1 VGA with voices? Because there's a bit of voice at the start of game. >>I don’t remember any talk of a CD version. I don’t think the sales were projected to be high enough to warrant a CD; at that time, CDs were still considered to be mostly for the A-list games (like new KQs, new SQs, and new LSLs). The costs associated with recording and lipsynching were too high to be used for every game, so we threw in a little voice here and there wherever we could…same as we did with FREDDY PHARKAS (which was also not originally planned to have a CD version). What did you cut from EGA? Maybe some moments that couldn't be in VGA or that you decided to remove. What was appear new in SQ1 VGA (excl. graphics and interface)? >>Other than the text responses to different inputs, not much was cut. A lot of the puzzles had to be rethought somewhat to make them work in a point-and-click environment. That made the game easier in some respects, but also fairer (there were one or two puzzles in EGA that were very hard because the wording had to be just right; obviously those became easier and fairer in the VGA remake). I believe I tried to take some of the funnier text responses in the EGA version that were no longer accessible in VGA (because of the removal of the parser) and found ways to put them into the VGA game in other places, just to keep more of the original humor intact. # SQ7.org # What's up with the project? Has it any chance to demo, screens or maybe full release? >>There was never a real demo, but there was a “teaser” video or two. I thought, and the Producer agreed with me, that we were better off taking a low profile and not putting a lot of effort into demos and screen shots and press releases. It seemed to me that there were two approaches to developing fangames: doing them loudly and publicly (like THE SILVER LINING) or doing them covertly. I thought “covert” was the better way to go because it minimized the chances that the real copyright owner – Activision – would step in and try to take control. If they don’t know about it, they can’t stop it. That’s the way quite a few fangames had managed to be released in the past. I thought that bringing a lot of publicity to the project would make it more likely that Activision would notice the game. Unfortunately, it was fairly well publicized anyway, and Activision DID notice it. Activision took your project or just banned developing of it? (really you could finish the game (from 85% to 100%), nobody in Activision didn't know about it) >>Activision would, I believe, have allowed us to finish the game IF we gave them sole ownership of it. That was not an option for me, and I told the team that when we first started talking about doing the game. I make my living writing computer games, and I cannot afford to work for free for a major publisher. I was delighted to help out on a fangame, but I can’t work for free for Activision. I’m not sure whether or not I was the only person on the SQ7 team who felt this way, but at any rate, I was not willing to donate an entire game to Activision, so there was no choice but to halt the project. If Activision had been willing to pay me even a small amount for my work, I would’ve been happy to let it go, but since they would not even offer a token payment, I couldn’t proceed. I supposed to Colin stupid idea about Russian hacker :) i.e. 85% or whole game is stolen by some hacker from PC of Colin Davis or another teammember, and because of that the game is on the Net (forums, etc) >>I don’t think the 85% was ever put into a playable format, so I don’t know if that would’ve worked. But I like the spirit behind the idea! Why did SQ7 Team not publish screenshots> Where did the game now? >>I’m not sure where the game is now, but I assume Colin has it! Again, we didn’t publish screenshots because we were trying to keep a low profile. The problem with that was that people had to keep dropping out of the team for various reasons, and it was very difficult to recruit new artists and programmers and still keep everything hush-hush. It’s very difficult to get people to work for no money! # Other SQs # Do you know something about motion-capture for SQs? For example, for SQ4 and SQ5. Who were the actors for the characters as WD-40, Cliffy, Quirk, Roger, ... Were these actors from Sierra On-Line? >>I’m afraid I don’t. SQ4 was already well in progress when I got there, and since I wasn’t assigned to it, if there was any motion capture going on, I didn’t know about it. It’s possible it was already completed by the time I got to Sierra. With SQ5, I knew almost nothing about its development. The only part I had in SQ5 was some work on the documents. You had another vision of SQ5 and you was gonna to create it before Mark Crowe. What would it be? (plot, style of graphics, characters, ...) As I see you wanted to add Stellar in it? >>Well, Bruce Balfour and I had come up with several concepts for SQ5 before Ken decided to have it done at Dynamix. The proposal that ended up becoming SQ6 was one of them. I don’t recall what the other proposals were. One of them was probably about Sludge! Why was Dynamix logo cut from SQ5? I mean, there'snt info in the beginning about Dynamix (developer of SQ5), only about Sierra (the publisher). >>I don’t know. That would’ve been primarily a marketing decision, I think, and I wasn’t in on the discussion. It’s possible that it was simply to avoid muddying up the “ownership” question. I’m guessing the Dynamix people couldn’t have been happy about it, though. And why did Dynamix take SQ5 to developing? Only because of Mark was there? >>The main reason, as I was told, was that Dynamix had been using their own proprietary software for their adventures (Rise of the Dragon, Heart of China) and Ken wanted to standardize the tools to SCI, so SQ5 was going to be a learning experience for Dynamix: they’d learn to use SCI and become capable of doing adventures that “blended in” with the existing Sierra product line. Maybe the thought was also that Dynamix could end up taking over some of the major series. And I don’t know how Mark felt about doing SQ5; I’d like to think he really wanted to! What tools for creating/editing SQs did you all Sierra developers use? How was this software called? Is it real to get somewhere or it's the company secret? Now we have some soft like SCI Viewer & SCI Studio, but there's problem with compilation to games and editing scripts. >>SCI was, of course, the standard tool. It was a proprietary Sierra engine, and it was constantly being revised and updated and improved. The art tools were commercially-available products, and the ones we used changed constantly as new and more powerful programs were released. I stayed away from the programming end of things, so I can’t really address SCI. Is it normally for SQs to get lawsuits from other companies? I mean, is it one of the main idea (concept) of the series? ;) >>Hah! No, it was never intentional (that I was aware of), but it did certainly become sort of a badge of honor and a running joke around the company. Sierra did not like lawsuits (who can blame them?) and I don’t think anyone ever set out to make trouble. The law was vague on what constituted parody, so there were things we thought we could get away with that, in the end, we couldn’t! Fortunately, there is now legal precedent that would make the sort of parody that SQ did entirely legal. But that doesn’t always stop someone from suing you! How far did SQ go away from his progenitor Planetfall? >>This is something I’ve never discussed with Mark and Scott. I don’t know for sure that either of them ever played Planetfall! I tend to think that, if they had played Planetfall, SQ would’ve been different because they wouldn’t have wanted to copy the idea of a space janitor. But it makes sense that, if you’re trying to think of the worst job you could have in outer space, you might think of a janitor. So I’m guessing they weren’t even aware of Planetfall. Did you hear about: - SQ Incineartions >>This looks terrific! Obviously a HUGE amount of thought put into this. - SQ2 VGA >>I knew about this. I love it! Whadda you think about them? :) >>I’m thrilled to see that there are so many people who still care so much about SQ that they’re putting this much time and effort into keeping the series alive. Do you want to add yourself to some SQ game as the Third Guy from Andromeda? How would it look? >>I’m open to it, but I haven’t given it any thought. I’m happy to help with SQ fangames (or any fangames), as long as it doesn’t end up in the hands of companies that had a hand in the dismantling of Sierra in the first place. Can you tell all versions of ending for SQ6? Yours, Scott's and version that you chose together with him in sum (but it wasn't used in the release). >> I only ever worked on one ending for SQ6. In it, Roger was on horseback riding along the seashore of another planet (I forget which one I specified). Stellar was also on the horse, sitting behind Roger. Then they come upon an enormous statue, mostly buried in the sand and rocks at the edge of the ocean. As the camera pulls back, we see that it's a statue...of LEISURE SUIT LARRY! Roger sinks to his knees in the sand. "They blew it up! Darn them all to heck!" This is a parody of the end of PLANET OF THE APES (at the end of that movie, it's the Statue of Liberty). Scott really didn't like it because he had a strong dislike of anything associated with Al Lowe or Leisure Suit Larry. (I think he's gotten over this, and he and Al are friends now.) He didn't want to use Space Quest to "promote" Larry in any way. So he never liked this ending, even though I thought it was perfectly Sierra and pretty funny. But I understood that he didn't want to use Larry in any way that would promote him. We talked about alternate endings, but never came up with one by the time I left the company. I don't know who came up with the ending that was used. I would never have used it. For one thing, it was very dialogue-heavy. There was no action, no joke, no surprise. One of my guiding principles in game design is that you must NEVER be boring. This goes double for openings and endings! They should be big and important and dramatic and memorable. Another old "show biz" saying in America is -- or used to be -- "Always leave 'em laughing." I have also found that it's sometimes advisable to end musically (as I did with Freddy Pharkas and Callahan's). The existing ending to SQ6 is NONE of those: it's not funny, important, big, OR musical! It's slow and there's nothing much of interest visually going on. It's one of the things about the finished product that saddened me. I was fine with Scott not using my ending, but it appeared that they never came up with something better. # New questions # (the question from SQ fan-girl) Why did you create new character (Stellar) for obvious love line, but without this love line? >> I figured that, with many games to go before Roger and Beatrice had to resolve their relationship and get married, there was plenty of time to introduce new love lines. The story in SQ6 was supposed to be about friendship and loyalty first (I know, I know, it was wacky to think that a Space Quest story could actually have a THEME!). I wanted to introduce and establish the character of Stellar and establish her basic adoration of Roger before worrying the romance. Not every relationship starts off being about romance. I thought it would be more interesting if Beatrice became jealous of Stellar (and her obviously close relationship with Roger), even though Roger had no interest in Stellar. That would've happened in the next game -- in my mind, at least! You rather heard about LSL1 HD Remake. Do you think there'll be HD Remake of SQ or another Sierra game? >> I'm sure there'll be more HD remakes. I hope they involve the original designers, though. Al and Roberta (and probably Jim Walls) are more or less retired and don't have a lot of enthusiasm for design any more, but Jane and Mark Crowe and I, and probably other ex-Sierra designers, are raring to go. What would you fix now in SQ6 or maybe another SQ series? >> 3. There are quite a few things I'd change about SQ6 if I had the chance...some of which were my fault in the first place (such as the puzzle about freezing the Endodroid, which was too convoluted). I would've made sure the Comic Book was in the game. I would've filled Stellar's body with the jokes and hints it needed to achieve what I wanted, which was to give the individual body organs the sense that they were like planets to be explored. And I would've come up with a more dynamic and dramatic ending than the one they used (which was a complete surprise to me when I saw it in the finished game). What was inspiration for the character Sharpei? And some guys said that Sharpei Main Theme is remake of some villain theme from some KQ chapter, is it true? >> 4. Sharpei was not inspired by any particular character or celebrity; rather, she was an attempt to do something a little different. We kept having enemies like Vohaul and Quirk who seemed motivated primarily by POWER. I wanted an enemy motivated by YOUTH. So much of popular culture revolves around the idea of staying young and keeping young as long as possible, and I thought a villain whose primary motivation was LITERALLY to stay young would be more interesting than just another "I'm going to take over the Universe!" villain. Understand that we were talking about the SIXTH game in a series here; it begins to get tiresome if you keep doing the same game over and over. As you think, what new SQ must be to be a modern game for most current players? >> 5. I think a more modern SQ will need to have more up-to-date parodies (you can't keep making Star Wars and Star Trek jokes forever -- there's been a lot of notable and/or great science fiction since then). It also needs a dark aspect -- all games seem to require them these days. I would love to do a FPS based on Roger and SPACE QUEST; I have never seen first-person used successfully for comedy, and I'd like to be the first! ---------------- That's all :) Russian SQ community Sledgy http://spacequest-time.ru This post has been promoted to an article Frans 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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