For the love of old video games
I grew up in the 80s. My first memory of computers is with Commodore VIC-20s and Apple ][ personal computers. I mean, look how pedantically old school I am by stylizing II as “][“. But I remember the green words floating on the CRT in front of me as the computer booted up. I was hooked. Computers seemed like the amazing world where anything could happen. I was already a fan of films like TRON and WarGames… so there I was, barely out of kindergarten and I was fooling around on these expensive machines. I was in my glory — a digital playground, just for me.
I quickly became enamored with the games you could play on these computers — some were ports of famous arcade games, but a lot of them were something… different. They were adventures! There was a parser input — you could tell the game what you wanted to do… and it would produce so many responses! It was unlike anything I’d played before. In particular, games from Sierra On-Line were just mind blowing. The first time I played King’s Quest, and made Sir Graham walk around the woods and interact with just about anything… I was hooked.
Anytime I had the chance to play these games, I’d hunker down for a few hours to do so — mostly at my cousins house! King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest… I spent a lot of time on these games. When I got my own PC, the first game I bought with my own money from mowing lawns was King’s Quest IV, The Perils of Rosella. I got Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon for my birthday that year. But later in the year, my mind was blown when I played “Hero’s Quest: So You Want To Be A Hero?”. A mix of an RPG and an adventure game? It was like all my gaming dreams came true.
I still love these games with all my heart today. So back in about 2001, when I discovered communities online that also loved these kinds of games, I was ecstatic! I’d always wanted to make a game like that — when I was a teen, I had dreams of working for Sierra OnLine. But when I discovered Adventure Game Studio, my imagination was given wings and I started to make adventures of my own.
In 2002, I was wheeled into the ER and suddenly told my kidneys were dead and I’d need dialysis for the rest of my life. All my previous life plans uncermoniously ended, and I ended up on hemodialysis, three times a week, four hours a treatment. I didn’t work. I had a lot of free time. I went back to school and took a few courses, but feeling sick and tired, I spent most of my free time at home. And I discovered a fan group that called themselves “Tierra” who had remade King’s Quest I and II in “VGA”! Much like Sierra games post 1990 (King’s Quest V was the first), these fan remakes were amazing… and I realized I might be able to be a part of a group who did something like that. On their forums, I met Shawn Mills, a fellow Sierra fan from Australia. Our friendship soon became a partnership and we decided we’d go out and make a game ourselves! James Broom, another forum regular, quickly joined our band and we dreamed up our first game — we called it “Quest for Infamy” in tribute to Quest for Glory from Sierra! (QFG was what Hero’s Quest became when they quickly had to rename the series due to a copyright dispute with a board game name “HeroQuest”) Instead of being a hero, we mused, you’d be… a bad guy! We dreamed up a world and a scenario and tried to make a game. We quickly realized being an evil force wasn’t really what we were looking for. We were looking more at a scoundrel… a Han Solo type. Someone afoul of the law and authority, but with the genuine heart of a hero. But we realized we lacked the skill to make such an involved and complex game. What could we do?
Shawn decided that doing a remake of King’s Quest III would be a good way to practice making a game — we had the outline of a game this way, and we’d figure out how to put it together! Tierra did KQ1 and 2, and had changed their name to AGDI. They were working on a remake of Quest for Glory 2, and we sent emails to them at the time, asking if they were remaking KQIII. We got no response, and figured we’d do it for our own benefit, and for the benefit of the fans! They’d get a remake that hadn’t been done yet, and we’d get to make a game! We started slowly, using our limited skills, but managed to attract new talent to the team to fill in what we didn’t possess; we got artists and animators, and composers to help out! After three years of work…. we finished and released it! It was an amazing feeling of accomplishment… and we established ourselves as a group who could make a full game. During this time, there were many groups that would announce projects, post a few promising screenshots… and promptly disappear. People found out quickly that a remake was more than just a few nice looking screenshots. The list of fan groups that actually completed games was a small, distinguished bunch… and we were one! We followed up our KQIII remake with a remake of another of our favorite series — Space Quest! Years prior, there were teases and ideas for a remake of Space Quest 2. One by someone who called themselves Kippesoepe, was particularly popular with people, though there was never any real proof of progress there. We made ours, and released it New Years Eve, 2011!
It was after that release that we decided to go and pursue our dream — making our own game. And that… is another story.