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SPACE QUEST 5: Story Structure and Plot Point Flaws

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You got it wrong.

 

The man fault with the game's story is that the Sludge Bandits who were originally the guys who were causing all the interplanetary pollution. Quirk, whose codename was “Dung Heap,” was merely a tool to help them dump their waste. That's the other thing I'm unclear about: why is Quirk dumping all this stuff in the first place? Is it because Genetix bribed him to dump the stuff for them, or was it because the Sludge Bandits the sludge bandits were bribing him for the same reason? In either case, the game doesn't explain why Quirk was dealing with the Sludge Bandits. If Genetix didn't bribe Quirk to dump the stuff, were they bribing him to keep quiet about their miserable failure?

The problem with this story transition is that I was led to believe that the Sludge Bandits polluting the universe in general were the real threat: that was Wankmeister's real mission. Right when the Primordial Soup plot point kicks in, the Sludge Bandits are no longer important or a threat: it's the Soup and those infected by it who are.

Starcon does not know the identity of this entity that dumps toxic waste on planets, so they coined the term "Sludge Bandits" to describe that mysterious entity, which happen to be Quirk. Genetix had a warehouse of useless goop and bribed Quirk to get rid of it. There is no mysterious organization dumping waste on planets, it was Quirk all along. And before you mention it, that brown alien in the intercepted transmission is no bandit, he works for Genetix, try visiting it at the start of the game (the coordinate are always the same.)

 

What happened to all the scientists in the Genetix station? Did they turn into Pukoid pirates, or did they die off? I tried to find out what was going on from reading the records: sections of the ship were ejected (the Primordial Soup canisters?) and a “scuttling” process was occurring.

Or they beamed on their ship and left. Never to be seen again.

 

What I want to know is who were the guys who attacked the Goliath in the first place. The Sludge Bandits, or the other Pukoids? It would make sense if the Sludge Bandits did it just to spite Quirk for lack of payment, but even more disturbing if was caused by other Pukoids who are still lurking out there.

The Goliath was attacked by the mutated colonists. If you contact Starcon before beaming on Klorox 2, Quirk says he's busy with a shuttle rescue mission, and in the logs on Klorox 2 you discover that the mutants headed for their shuttle when they were done infecting the colony.

 

That means that the Sludge Bandits and Pukoids are still a threat to the universe and have more reserves of Primordial Soup canisters to dump, and the game finished before the real threat was resolved!!!!! I mean, I felt like the game only just got started after Quirk and his crew turned into Pukoids: he's just a minor setback, the REAL threat is still out there, in the form of other Pukoids and the Sludge Bandits!

Quirk is dead. There are no bandits. All mutants got aboard the Goliath and were cured. The only remaining threat is Primordial Soup canisters dumped in space or inhabited planets, awaiting to be discovered.

 

-Quirk suddenly becomes a megalomaniac Pukoid who has a really uncontrollable desire to turn everyone in the universe into Pukoids.

Virus and parasites tend to do that to their host.

 

The Virtual Broomcloset site's description of Quirk claims that he is “assumed dead,” which means he may still be alive.

It means he's dead, until someone use magic to resurrect him, like it stupidly happens all the time in comics, cartoons and video games.

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Yeah, I'd imagine being hunted through a devastated home planet surrounded by zombie cyborgs and killer robots without any friends or chance of escape might be considered Roger's darkest moment. If it weren't for Gary Owen's narration, that game would be extremely light on the comedy.

 

If anything, SQ5 was Roger's finer moment. He becomes a captain, gets the girl, makes lot of friends, and one-ups his rival. It's not the usual "Roger gets crapped on" fest that the other games like to play around, and lot of the comedy comes directly from the characters instead of the narrator.

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I agree that SQ4 was way darker. The zombie and the post-apocalyptic atmosphere are just plain nasty. Beneath all the garish colours, slapstick comedy and Star Trek-spoofs, SQ5 may have a somewhat dark plot, but it's underplayed to an extent where I don't think of the game as "dark" at all.

 

I also agree with the sentiment that this is the game where Roger is on top of things throughout. Sure, there are still a lot of jokes made at his expense, but he comes across as more of a buffoonish space hero rather than a dimwitted slacker.

 

SQ5 actually continues to be my favourite game of the series. SQ3 and 4 are both quite short, and there aren't even a lot of puzzles in the latter. I was never fond of it. The game doesn't know whether it wants to be a comedy or a dark, serious adventure and it relies very heavily on the time travelling aspect. The graphics and music are wonderful. It's a beautiful game, but whenever I go below the surface, it just doesn't cut it, in my opinion.

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I think much of SQ5's perceived "lightness" also has to do with the art style. But let's not go down that road now, 'cos there lies madness.

 

Story-wise, I agree with Datadog that SQ4 is considered the "dark" chapter of the series. But much of that has to do with shock value, I think. Right off the bat, you're in a post-apocalyptic setting with zombies and things trying to kill you at every turn. The actual plot, however, is just as ridiculous and silly as the genetically engineered life insurance salesmen in SQ2.

 

If we want to talk about serious plots, then SQ1 - in all its loving, plagiariz-- I mean, tribute-giving glory - has the darkest plot of all: Your sun is dying. Everyone is going to die. Everyone who could save the day is dead. It's up to you, and no one expects you to succeed, least of all yourself.

 

But SQ2, SQ3 and SQ4 took a much more comedic turn with their plot lines - probably because The Two Guys were finally starting to build an actual character around the protagonist. By that I mean that if it wasn't for all the snidey sarcasm in the SQ1 narrator dialogue, maybe Roger was just narcoleptic and happened to fall asleep while everyone else were getting slaughtered. SQ2 defined him as a bumbling idiot right off the bat with the "the broom floats away, never to be used again - that makes the third one this week" line.

 

By SQ5, however, rules changed. Roger's world suddenly got serious, and he got even dumber. SQ6 carried on this tradition by having a pretty serious plot revolving around a protagonist who in no way was up to the challenge, but somehow scraped along anyway. I might add that the two fan games, Incinerations and Vohaul Strikes Back, carry on in this tradition.

 

I'm not saying one approach is preferable over the other. But I'll look forward to the day when someone makes a Space Quest game that brings back the "silliness in an acid wrapper" feel of SQ2/SQ3/SQ4.

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Also, even I tend to forget that SQ3 and SQ4 are two of the most prized examples of meta-humor in gaming. Not even Monkey Island 2 was this self-aware. The plots of these games were really secondary to the fact that The Two Guys were really out for one thing, and one thing only: as the first Collection's manual said, "enthusiastically bite the hand that fed them."

 

SQ3 and SQ4 therefore stand as my favorite games, mainly because they're as rebellious a duo of games as they come. Colloquially speaking, they just did not give a fuck. When people talk about Space Quest as a series that satirized the rest of the computer game industry, most people think of the many references to other science fiction classics. Datadog even had a mile-long list of references to other games Incinerations parodied or drew influence from. None of the other games, however, stabbed so deeply into the heart of gaming itself as SQ3 and SQ4. That's probably what resonated with me the most, subconsciously, and that's probably what I really miss the most.

 

I'm not going to bring up my own acutely self-referential game at this point, but I guess I just did.

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I don't consider SQ1 dark at all. True, the idea of the premise of SQ1 is indeed dark....on its own. But the way it's presented in the game is very light-hearted. There's an overdose of violence in Space Quest (all of them) with the horrific deaths Roger faces. I don't really consider the introduction that dark. However, SQ4's entire plot is extremely dark and presented as such right from the introduction. Sure there's lots of comedic relief in between at points and other time periods aren't as dark, but it still ends off in SQ12 which is again dark in tone. It's all in the presentation.

 

Also, I think you're reading into it and taking it too seriously if you think the Two Guys took the size of a floppy disk into any consideration at all. It's just supposed to be funny as it represents a floppy disk. That's all.

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I feel like reiterating my point that SQ4 relies on shock value. SQ5 is a bit like the movie Airplane! - a serious plot in a really, really dumb setting. SQ6 somehow feels even more like an odd man out, probably because it goes the SQ5 route without having the same kind of cohesive plot. (Let's face it - SQ6 seems to go everywhere and nowhere until you escape the DeepShip halfway through the game. And even then you're not really sure what the hell you're doing.)

 

I love the point that SQ4 is a satire of Sierra's excessiveness, though. It's perfectly illustrated in the box for King's Quest 38 in the Galaxy Galleria bargain bin - how many floppies does it come on, again? ;)

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I think SQ6 would have been a lot more interesting if more of the game's story revolved around being inside the human body - more like the movie "Innerspace" actually. Get Roger inside Stellar sooner and see what other sub-plots can be cooked up from that.

 

Somehow, I imagine at some point, it would turn into a "Weekend at Bernie's" situation where Roger would be using the motor control section of the brain to drive an unconscious human around to interact with the outside world. Being able to control things like sneezing and adrenaline levels would make for some very interesting puzzles.

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All SQ5 needs is voice acting. That's it. Doesn't need a whole remake.

 

Personally, I find SQ6's plot incredibly poor. It was not engaging at all. While SQ5, while some people dislike, is still very riveting and funny. SQ6's story is so far removed from Space Quest and so strange it's fascinating. Yet it's still incredibly funny. I also abhor the whole "innard space" thing. It's Space Quest not Biology Quest! Couldn't stand that that was the focal point of the entire game.

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All SQ5 needs is voice acting. That's it. Doesn't need a whole remake.

 

Personally, I find SQ6's plot incredibly poor. It was not engaging at all. While SQ5, while some people dislike, is still very riveting and funny. SQ6's story is so far removed from Space Quest and so strange it's fascinating. Yet it's still incredibly funny. I also abhor the whole "innard space" thing. It's Space Quest not Biology Quest! Couldn't stand that that was the focal point of the entire game.

I agree about SQ5. Maybe we could mount a fan-made voice pack for it. SQ5 runs SCI, and we know Dynamix was planning a voice pack during development (says so in the SQ5 hint book), so the SQ5 software should be geared for it. All we need is someone to reverse engineer it and someone who knows SCI. Piece of cake, right? ;)

 

I think SQ6 had a lot going for it, actually. I thought it was refreshing that it tried something new (Josh's original plan was to have Roger bopping around organs like planets, instead of the much more limited journey that ended up in the final game). Sure, SQ6 sometimes feels like an incomplete game (and it was). But considering the agonizing development it had, I'm surprised it turned out as good as it did.

 

On a grand scale, though, I still think it was a different beast than the early games where the focal point wasn't on plot but on meta-poking the adventure game genre in the ribs. SQ5 is guilty of this, too, though.

 

I'm not going to say "the last great Space Quest game was SQ4," but I'll go so far as saying SQ4 was the last of the original Space Quests. After that, things sort of went their own ways. Not that that's a bad thing. But it's almost like "the expanded universe" began with SQ5, if you know what I mean.

 

Thanks for liking that one point of mine that SQ4 is a satire of Sierra's excess.

No, thank you. I never thought of that before, but it makes perfect sense.

 

The only shock value in SQ4 I'm aware of are the CLOCKWORK ORANGE mutants, and perhaps the SQ12 setting. (If there are other shock value elements I've missed, let me know!)

Well, apart from visceral shock value like the zombies, I also meant the general mood of the game. Everything and everyone are out to kill you and you always have very little time to get out of harm's way. Okay, I suppose that's stretching the definition of "shock" a bit. ;)

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I'm not going to say "the last great Space Quest game was SQ4," but I'll go so far as saying SQ4 was the last of the original Space Quests. After that, things sort of went their own ways. Not that that's a bad thing. But it's almost like "the expanded universe" began with SQ5, if you know what I mean.

Not surprising as SQ4 was the last one the Two Guys did together as a team. And he had little part in SQ6. I personally believe Scott Murphy to be the original heart and soul of Space Quest. It was his idea initially anyway, wasn't it?

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Unfortunately, without the game source and the tools to work with SCI1.1 games, a fan project to add a voice pack to SQ5 would have to involve remaking the whole game in another engine. Of course the existing graphics could be ripped, but that would open the project up to a C & D. I am sure that most here are aware that a talkie version of SQ5 was considered, but was given no budget after the floppy release.

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Unfortunately, without the game source and the tools to work with SCI1.1 games, a fan project to add a voice pack to SQ5 would have to involve remaking the whole game in another engine. Of course the existing graphics could be ripped, but that would open the project up to a C & D.

Well, there is that ...

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It is possible with a little (and when I say little I mean a decent fair amount) of reverse engineering and strategic thinking over the current reverse engineered code we have with SCI Studio VGA and ScummVM combined to modify the current SQ5 by compiling new scripts which add compatibility and utilize extra digital audio sound resources for speech. Unfortunately, there is nobody left in the community with this expertise and knowledge interested in such ventures. Brian has moved on ages ago and everyone who's attempted to fill his shoes has moved on as well.

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It is possible with a little (and when I say little I mean a decent fair amount) of reverse engineering...

Say what you actually mean; it'll require indeed a HELL of a lot of reverse engineering... The SCI language is particularly difficult to decompile due to the fact it is heavily encrypted and compressed. I have some programming experience with multiple languages, and I simply don't have the patience to sit down and brute-force the code.

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To a layman like me with no real programming experience, it just seemed like such a magical easy step, now that SCI is supported by ScummVM (meaning somebody went through the damn thing and somehow made it work). I didn't know those people have since moved on. Shucks.

 

I'd help out, but like I said, I can barely wrap my head around Adventure Game Studio.

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Let's face it: Space Quest as a series doesn't hold up to critical analysis. If you're going in and trying to pick apart which game is "darker" or which one is more original, you're missing the point of these games. Honestly, the longer I look back on my time playing Space Quest, the more parts stand out to me as being poorly written/designed/etc. Out of the entire series, Space Quest 5 is the one which makes the most sense plot-wise and gameplay wise. Roger doesn't seem like a complete moron, and the antagonist is someone a little more interesting than "Darth Vader spoof".

 

For the sake of argument however, I'd say that Space Quest 6 is the "darkest" of the series, and Space Quest 5 is a close second. None of the others ever struck me as being too dark or serious.

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it'll require indeed a HELL of a lot of reverse engineering... The SCI language is particularly difficult to decompile due to the fact it is heavily encrypted and compressed. I have some programming experience with multiple languages, and I simply don't have the patience to sit down and brute-force the code.

Except that a lot of SCI has already been RE'ed. Much of it was originally done by the Free SCI group. Brian managed to make considerable progress for SCI Studio. The ScummVM team has much of it sorted out and documented. The SCI Resource Viewer is able to extract any resource, regardless of version or compression. Several have managed to do a lot of modification of scripts from existing SCI games, such as NRS, Endroz and others. I am not sure of another engine that has been more thoroughly dissected without having its source released. This is not to make light of the amount of work still required, but it is not quite as much as you are thinking. Without this huge amount of the work by others, you would be absolutely right.

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What Collector said.

 

As for SQ5, yeah it's the most cohesive of the entire series. Absolutely. If you gauge your opinion on how good a game is by that then SQ5 totally wins out. However, I still prefer the earlier games. Maybe story-wise they're all over the road, but gameplay-wise I really really enjoyed them. But I did enjoy the plot of SQ4 more than SQ5 at the same time, but I'm such a sucker for time travel. Scott Murphy did say he had a distinct "seat of your pants" design philosophy, designing the game as he went, which could be the defining factor. For SQ5, Mark Crowe (who did it alone) said in an interview that he already had an idea for a story worked out which he then created.

 

Also, you're right that Roger wasn't such a doofus idiot in SQ5. His speech was well-thought out (well...you know what I mean) and eloquent and he seemed to have enough intelligence to handle himself professionally (for the most part, when Beatice wasn't around). But he was still wonderfully and hilariously dim-witted and blonde. But that's a different kind of stupid. SQ6 also portrayed him this way. I will say that I really didn't prefer Roger's voice actor in SQ4, though. That's the only drawback I can think of the game personally. He sounded like a complete numbskull. With the stupid nasally voice and all that. "Hey! How come their bikes can go through the force fields?" Just listen to that line again and you'll know what I mean.

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He sounded like a complete numbskull. With the stupid nasally voice and all that. "Hey! How come their bikes can go through the force fields?" Just listen to that line again and you'll know what I mean.

I personally like the way he recites this line: "The Ulence Flats bar... My, this place brings back some memories... NAAAAHHT!!!"

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The voice acting in Space Quest 4 ranges from good to completely and utterly stilted, almost as if the actors were told to ham it up, but not on which lines to do so. That said, it suffers from a problem than many older adventure games have, and that is the incredibly unnatural pacing of the dialog. Thanks to the speed at which lines are played, there's an uncomfortable pause between just about every segment of a conversation. That, to me, is far more jarring than some of the awkward deliveries. Space Quest 6 is no exception, though it's been improved upon slightly.

 

Note that I say that older titles suffer from this only because I couldn't tell you what the last "modern" adventure game I've played was, or whether they suffer from the same problem.

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KQ5 and SQ4 were mainly voiced by Sierra employees. In SQ4, music director Mark Seibert played one of the Sequel Policemen ("some people just won't follow instructions"). Jane Jensen, Gabriel Knight designer, played Mae-Bot in the Galaxy Galleria ("that'll be 60 buckazoids, sicko"). Lead programmer William Shockley was the ketchup ("did you know there's more sugar in me than an ice cream? It's a fact"). And yes, Josh Mandel's in there, too, as "the gruff, unpersonable manager of Monolith Burgers" ("this is so easy, a human could probably do it").

 

They probably weren't told to ham it up; they just did what comes naturally. ;)

 

The SQ4 Roger voice has no excuse, though. He was a professional actor they hired.

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