Episode 8: Indies, RPGs, Medicine, C64 and Remakes

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We're like a bad penny - We always turn up. It's Episode 8! Did we cut the show down, or has it grown into something we can't control? You'll have to listen to find out! Matt Barton, Bill Loguidice, Christina Loguidice, Chip Hageman, and I - Chris Kennedy - give you the latest in listener bliss.

Click here to download the show.




Segments and approximate times below:

  • Matt Barton on Indie games and their quest to save us from lack of originality in today's games (4:06)
  • Chip Hageman on Commodoreserver.com (21:35)
  • Christina Loguidice on the use of videogames in medicine (36:32)
  • Bill Loguidice's first computer roleplaying experience (45:25)
  • Chris Kennedy and videogame remakes (1:11:16)

As always, we'd really appreciate any feedback you have to offer on the episode. You can leave comments here, email us, or review the show on iTunes. You can also subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Matt's show notes:

Bill's show notes:

  • Example of an early TSR Dungeons & Dragons cover
  • Example of wireframe cover/ad art for Epyx's Temple of Apshai
  • Cover art for SSI's Phantasie and the ad
  • Cover for Penguin's Expedition Amazon
  • Cover for Origin's AutoDuel
  • Cover for SSI's Pool of Radiance

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Matt Barton
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Yeah, we should probably

Yeah, we should probably figure out who is going to host it. I thought Chris did an awesome job, but maybe we should rotate again? I kind of like the idea of keeping it fresh by letting others host it, but not sure how others feel. Maybe we should give Chip a turn?

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Bill Loguidice
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Hosting
Matt Barton wrote:

Yeah, we should probably figure out who is going to host it. I thought Chris did an awesome job, but maybe we should rotate again? I kind of like the idea of keeping it fresh by letting others host it, but not sure how others feel. Maybe we should give Chip a turn?

I had assumed Chris would host for several episodes, then it would be turned over to someone else, etc. Doesn't really make a big difference though either way.

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Nathaniel Tolbert
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Like the remakes piece and the classic games piece
Matt Barton wrote:

Yeah, we should probably figure out who is going to host it. I thought Chris did an awesome job, but maybe we should rotate again? I kind of like the idea of keeping it fresh by letting others host it, but not sure how others feel. Maybe we should give Chip a turn?

I need to get caught up on everything. I finished recording that Amiga vs. Atari piece I mentioned years ago it seems. I just need to edit it and send it on. This was a great show I think. I liked the part done by you Matt, as I remember a lot of those horrible clones. There was the occasional clone that truly did break the mold but for the most part they were, in fact, crap. Keep up the good work everyone! I can't wait for the next show.

-Edit- Just wanted to clarify something from Chris's Piece. The remake of the Secret of Monkey Island 1 and 2 are actually done by LucasArts, not Telltale games. I have purchased both the first remake and the 2nd remake. There don't seem to be any gameplay changes to the first, but the 2nd one seems to be a little different in some areas.

Additional information about a lot of the Sierra remakes that were done internally by Sierra can be found on Ken and Roberta William's website. They were done to take advantage of new technology in graphics and sound. Of course they didn't sell well. The last remake of King's Quest I that used the SCI was released in 1990 just before the SCI1 engine came out. The SCI engine was actually first used on King's Quest IV the perils of Rosella, released in 1988. There are two versions of King's Quest IV, one in agi and sci, with the former being particularly rare. I have a copy of the AGI version of King's Quest IV. The shift between night and day are more distinct than the SCI version. There was also SCI1.1, SCI2, and SCI3 versions of the Sierra Creative Interpreter engine. It's very interesting to see the differences between the various versions of the SCI engine.

Originally AGD interactive was called Tierra entertainment. They changed their name a while later. Another thing that wasn't mentioned about AGD Interactive is that they have a professional company as well called Himalaya Studios and did the great, funny game called Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's mine. Well worth the $20 price tag. AGD Interactive remade KQI in the style of Sierra remakes. They did update KQII considerably, adding a lot to the story and giving it more depth. On Quest for Glory II, they had inside help and added a lot of various things back into the game that were originally removed due to time constraints, such as the saurus repair shop. They also created some incredibly hard fights that take some ingenuity to find. As far as they have stated, it looks like AGD Interactive will not be releasing any more remakes, unless they've changed their minds in the past couple of months.. Infamous Adventures haven't released Space Quest II yet, and I am waiting for this as I love the SQ series. When you say King's Quest 9 do you mean The Silver Lining? I haven't played that series yet, but I will look into it when I have time to do so. When it comes to games I would love to see remade, I would prefer to see them done in the style of the SCI2 engine, which was used for games such as Quest for Glory IV. I would love to see an update to the Colonel's Bequest, Police Quest II, Space Quest III, Conquests of Camelot, and because I really liked them, the Manhunter Series. I would plunk down my hard earned dollars without even reading a review for new Quest for Glory games, especially if Lori and Corey Cole were involved. I also wouldn't mind if Codename: Iceman was remade. I know that game gets a lot of flak but the submarine simulation part is pretty good. Overall an interesting listen. Again, keep up the good work!

-Edit 2- Just visited the Himalaya Studios website. Al Emmo is now 9.99 USD. That is worth every penny if you love the old style Sierra Adventure games. I heartily recommend it. Also check out the Blackwell series, that was created by another team and sold there. That's a great series as well.

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Chris Kennedy
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Awesome

Nathaniel - Thank you for all of the input.

I've bought The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition for PC, iPhone, and iPad, and they totally say "Lucasarts." Haha. I lopped Telltale in on that one because Tales came out at the same time. I guess I had Telltale on the brain. I just finished Tales of Monkey Island, and it was a blast.

Those creative interpreters are quite interesting and also quite buggy. I know that business dominated the software industry (as it always does), and the SCI engine never really got the solid design that it should have. The push to get feature-oriented (higher resolution graphics, better sound support, etc) items out of that engine took precedence over developing a refined, thoroughly debugged interpreter (such as...dare I say SCUMM?).

I mentioned the AGI/SCI bridge with King's Quest IV in my segment. You said you have a copy - a physical copy? That's awesome!

I didn't go into a lot of detail about AGD. My segment was pretty content-heavy. Thanks for adding some of that history here. They have been around for awhile.

I played through Quest for Glory IV once, and the experience was quite the buggy one! I was amazed at how unprofessional and untested that game seemed to be. The wikipedia page details some of the issues, but it doesn't come close to mentioning all of the problems I had. I played it a bit late - probably around 1997 - as I had simply missed a couple of entries in the series due to spending money on other games in the early to mid 90s. While DOS4GW helped out games like DOOM and Syndicate, Sierra seemed to have a "quick! Do 32 bit...somehow!" approach. Granted, I don't think the problems (at least most of them) were a DOS/32-bit issue so much as lack of good scripting.

If Lori and Corey Cole make another...I am there. Thank goodness they got to make QFG5 before the end of the Sierra adventure genre.

Thanks again for your input!

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Nathaniel Tolbert
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Yes, I have the AGI version

Yes, I have the AGI version of KQIV. When I started bidding on it on Ebay the picture showed the SCI version, which is what I wanted. Much to my surprise, when I got it, it was the AGI version instead. So I bought the King's Quest Collection as well. Yes Quest for Glory IV was very very buggy. Apparently from what I understand that game had like two beta testers, and they shoved it out the door before the programmers felt that they were even done with the game. It upset the team so much that several of them left. Also, Lori Cole pretty much worked on Quest for Glory V by herself, as Corey Cole was working on another project elsewhere from what I remember. Sierra is such an interesting company, I mean they really brought things to the computer market that hadn't existed before, They were the first to do graphics on the Apple, and then they followed that up with the first to do color graphics on the apple. They also had a large number of other industry firsts. It is a terrible shame that companies like Sierra and Infocom no longer exist today. The pioneers of the computer games industry are all gone, unable to adapt, it seems to the idea that sequels and rehashes are the only way to go, and make sure the product doesn't require more than 2 brain cells to rub together otherwise the customer won't understand it. *Sigh* I miss the old days. I liked being challenged when I played my games. This is why I support companies like Telltale games. Anything that requires me to think makes it on my list of games to play. I play brain dead games as well, but they usually don't make it on my list of entertaining games. (Although Bulletstorm was a mindless fun game.)

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Matt Barton
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The big problem
Nathaniel Tolbert wrote:

It is a terrible shame that companies like Sierra and Infocom no longer exist today. The pioneers of the computer games industry are all gone, unable to adapt, it seems to the idea that sequels and rehashes are the only way to go, and make sure the product doesn't require more than 2 brain cells to rub together otherwise the customer won't understand it. *Sigh* I miss the old days. I liked being challenged when I played my games. This is why I support companies like Telltale games. Anything that requires me to think makes it on my list of games to play. I play brain dead games as well, but they usually don't make it on my list of entertaining games. (Although Bulletstorm was a mindless fun game.)

Great post, Nathan!

I doubt that if Sierra and Infocom (as we knew them) were still around, though, they'd be making games WE would want to play. I'm sure we'd just be seeing Zork the FPS or Leisure Suit Larry the social game. Hell, Sierra was trying hard even back then to "do movies," getting away from gameplay and investing heavily in Hollywood-esque stuff. Don't get me wrong, I loved GK II and III and probably would have been in love with Phantasmagoria if I'd had it back then. And need I bring up the me-too crap at the end?

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Nathaniel Tolbert
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The serious issue with Sierra

The serious issue with Sierra was in the end they invested in far too many different fields and spread their teams too thin. The real downfall of Sierra truly came after they sold Sierra to a company called Cendant in 1997. Ken Williams pretty much retired as CEO and the fit hit the shan to coin the term. As in early 1998 it came to light that some people at Cendant had been cooking the books and the company hadn't made a profit, but was actually in the hole by 217 million dollars! They were sold off at the end of 1998 to a company called Havas, who pretty much gutted the company in early 1999, laying off 250 people and closing several pivotal studios. By the end of 1999 Sierra no longer made games at all and just published them. This all started when Ken Williams sold Sierra to Cendant in 1997. Sierra was still strong, although sales weren't as high as they had been in the past, they were still functioning. After the disaster of the sale, the company fell apart.
I don't know much about the story of Infocom, but I'm sure it's just as tragic. One bad decision and great companies die in a horrible manner. Look at the latest attempts on Larry, or the failed attempt of a follow up for Space Quest. I understand that adventure games don't make as much money these days as they used to, but they are the genre that really helped establish Computers as a viable platform for creating games. I know it's a silly waste of time, but can you not think of what the most recent Larry games would be like if Al Lowe was still making them? What about another Space Quest game by Scott Murphy? We'll never know because now that Activision has the rights there more than likely will never be another true sequel to the classics.
Telltale games acquiring the rights to release a new official King's Quest game is marvelous, but I truly wish that Roberta Williams would give input as well as Jane Jensen, as the two of them made King's Quest VI which was an incredible game. If only, if only. I can continue to use those words over and over again but it doesn't change the fact that they are fully and truly gone. The same thing can be said for the computer platforms of the past. The Amigas, the Atari's, The BBC micros, the list goes on and on. We have homogenized and minimized till we have a standardized platform with a standardized system to work on, stifling true innovation and creativity. The 80's and early 90's are chocked full of this sort of thing, but tell me, is a video card that isn't even taxed by what's available truly innovative? Great, a soundcard that is 12,1 surround sound. Where do I buy the speakers for that? I don't know, now I'm just complaining, and I will end it here. Will Telltale make a great sequel to King's Quest? If Sam and Max are any indication, we are in for an incredible game.

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Bill Loguidice
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Nathaniel Tolbert wrote:

The same thing can be said for the computer platforms of the past. The Amigas, the Atari's, The BBC micros, the list goes on and on. We have homogenized and minimized till we have a standardized platform with a standardized system to work on, stifling true innovation and creativity.

I don't think there's a right or wrong answer. Standardization can very much be a good thing, though you do lose some of the "personality" and individual quirks of past computers. With that said, standardization brings more people into the fray, which can only spur innovation. I'd rather lose some of the personality/tech quirks for the benefit of my file being able to be read by everyone out there and for prices to be reasonable on the software I want (as just two examples), and for that matter for the software that I want to actually be available. For many of us, our last counter-culture activity when it came to computers was around the Amiga. I know most of us LOVED the experience, but I also think that many of us reached a point where we got frustrated for not being a part of what was going on with the PC DOS/Windows side of things, where all the main action was taking place.

Nathaniel Tolbert wrote:

Will Telltale make a great sequel to King's Quest? If Sam and Max are any indication, we are in for an incredible game.

I know this is something of heresy here - and this is coming from someone who's admittedly only a lifetime casual fan of adventure games - but while I welcomed Telltale's ressurection of the adventure game genre in a high profile manner and played (and own) several of their games, I'm 100% at the point where I want MORE innovation from them (in other words, I'm losing interest in their games). Telltale is superb at things like pacing and story, but engine-wise they're doing NOTHING that wasn't being done back in the late 80's in adventure games. New games are great, but they're really all just the same game, reskinned. How about implementing full 3D environments? How about enabling more control? How about doing something totally unexpected?

Or am I totally wrong on this one and Telltale should be doing exactly what they've been doing indefinitely?

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Nathaniel Tolbert
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Heresy? Why?
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I know this is something of heresy here - and this is coming from someone who's admittedly only a lifetime casual fan of adventure games - but while I welcomed Telltale's ressurection of the adventure game genre in a high profile manner and played (and own) several of their games, I'm 100% at the point where I want MORE innovation from them (in other words, I'm losing interest in their games). Telltale is superb at things like pacing and story, but engine-wise they're doing NOTHING that wasn't being done back in the late 80's in adventure games. New games are great, but they're really all just the same game, reskinned. How about implementing full 3D environments? How about enabling more control? How about doing something totally unexpected?

Or am I totally wrong on this one and Telltale should be doing exactly what they've been doing indefinitely?

I don't understand why this would be heresy? Telltale games makes excellent games and I have purchased all of the adventure games they have made so far. I love the Sam and Max Series, Bone is a hoot, Back to the Future isn't the best, but it's still great. The Monkey Island game is just a dream come true. I can't wait for Puzzle Agent 2, Jurassic Park, and the new King's Quest Games. But you are right about needing more. The question is how much farther can they push the adventure formula? If they evolve too much some people might think that they aren't adventure games any more and lose interest. Where I agree with you on the fact that they need to do more, I don't know what could be added at this point (not being a programmer.) that would make me enjoy them even more. I personally like the pseudo 3D where everything is rendered as a 3D object but it's in a basic 2D environment, but that is personal preference.

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Bill Loguidice
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Some possibilities
Nathaniel Tolbert wrote:

I don't understand why this would be heresy? Telltale games makes excellent games and I have purchased all of the adventure games they have made so far. I love the Sam and Max Series, Bone is a hoot, Back to the Future isn't the best, but it's still great. The Monkey Island game is just a dream come true. I can't wait for Puzzle Agent 2, Jurassic Park, and the new King's Quest Games. But you are right about needing more. The question is how much farther can they push the adventure formula? If they evolve too much some people might think that they aren't adventure games any more and lose interest. Where I agree with you on the fact that they need to do more, I don't know what could be added at this point (not being a programmer.) that would make me enjoy them even more. I personally like the pseudo 3D where everything is rendered as a 3D object but it's in a basic 2D environment, but that is personal preference.

I think something like Starship Titanic or even Facade kind of point to one possible technological direction to go, and that's with richer character interactions. As it is now, all you can do is pick from a menu tree of responses, that have canned responses back. While implementing a natural language system like Starship Titanic (essentially a text adventure subsystem) is too much to ask in this day and age - particularly since many of these games are played on system's without keyboards - I'd like to see richer interactions, perhaps tied to things like real-time facial expressions (which could even have a slight action element to it - real time emotion management). So that's one area I'd like to see revamped.

The other area is getting away from canned movement. I'd like movement to be more free-form. Sure, you can still restrict things, but there shouldn't be pre-determined paths where you can and can't move. Again, it's something relatively minor, but these are all things that can freshen and improve the experience from game-to-game. With the story and serialization nailed, they should be able to start focusing again on tech and fresh ideas. I just don't think they're doing that. They clearly have an engine they're happy with that works on everything out there, so it's probably not in their interest to improve the state of the art for the genre...

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