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Barrel Roll! Bonus Episode 2 – Space Quest Retrospective (Part 1)

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Part 1 of our Space Quest Retrospective

Welcome to a special bonus installment of our video game podcast, Barrel Roll.

Colin “MrColinP” Panetta, and Jonah “thespambot” Gregory got together to discuss one of their favorite video game series, Space Quest. This is an overview of the entire Space Quest series, and we have broken it up into two parts, for your convenience.

In Part One, we will be talking about how each of us found this series, and then moving on to focus on games one through three. Full show notes can be found after the break.

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1986, October
Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter

Other games released that year: Labyrinth (LucasArts), Metroid, Super Mario Bros, Arkanoid, Kid Icarus, King’s Quest III: To Err is Human, Power Pad (NES accessory), Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness, Sega Master System (console)
System requirements: 8088/8086 CPU, 256KB RAM, CGA, EGA, Hercules, or Tandy/PCjr Graphics, PC speaker or Tandy/PCjr Sound Card
Media: 3.5″ Floppy Disk or 5.25″ Floppy Disk
Price: $49.99
Interface: Text parser, arrow keys for movement

Plot: Bumbling starship janitor Roger Wilco survives a hostile takeover of his ship… by being asleep in the broom closet at the time of the incident. He escapes and uses a combination of wits and dumb luck to stop the space pirates from destroying his home planet.

Fun facts:
-Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe co-designed the game. Crowe did ALL of the graphics (!) and music, while Murphy headed up the three man programming team. The first few rooms on board the ship were created on their own time as a demo to show their boss to sell him on the concept. Crowe and Murphy created the alter ego The Two Guys from Andromeda as a way to parody Roberta Williams and other video game designers who put their names and pictures on their games. Okay, mostly just Roberta Williams.
-Kicking one of your dead crewmates will cause you to lose a point.
-Setting the game to “Slow Mode” during the skimmer arcade sequence is actually a part of the puzzle. It’s nearly impossible to do on the “Normal” speed.
- Sold 100,000, a “huge hit”, earning the coveted SPA Gold Medal from the Software Publishers Association.

1987, November
Space Quest II: Vohaul’s Revenge

Other games released that year: Maniac Mansion, Legend of Zelda, Bomberman, Mega Man, Street Fighter (arcade), Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (Sierra), Dungeon Master, Amiga 500 (console)
System requirements: 8088/8086 CPU, 256KB RAM, CGA, EGA, Hercules, or Tandy/PCjr Graphics, PC speaker or Tandy/PCjr Sound Card
Media: 3.5″ Floppy Disk or 5.25″ Floppy Disk
Price: $49.99
Interface: Text parser, arrow keys for movement

Plot: Roger is captured by villain Sludge Vohaul. He escapes into an alien jungle, and has to figure out a way to stop Vohaul from flooding his home planet with genetically engineered insurance salesmen.

Fun facts:
-Bringing up the “About” page after you’ve died reads “Space Quest was designed by Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe. We hope you’re not looking for someone to blame just because you died.”
-In the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, raising each letter in the computer character’s name HAL up by one gives you IBM. Doing the same with the abort code for the genetically engineered insurance salesmen in Space Quest II, SHSR, gives you TITS.
-Mark Crowe did ALL of the graphics for this game, just like in Space Quest 1, but this time he was doing Leisure Suit Larry 1 simultaneously!

1989, March
Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon

Other games released that year: Hero’s Quest: So You Want to be a Hero (Sierra, later renamed Quest for Glory), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (LucasArts), Super Mario Land (Game Boy), Super Mario Bros 2, Tetris, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES), DuckTales, Mega Man 2, SimCity, Solitaire and Minesweeper (Windows), Game Boy (console), Sega Genesis (console), Power Glove (NES accessory)
System requirements: 8088/8086 CPU, 512KB RAM, CGA, EGA, Hercules, MCGA, Tandy/PCjr, or VGA graphics, Adlib, Game Blaster, IBM Music Feature Card, PC speaker, PS/1 Audio Card, Roland MT-32, Sound Blaster, Tandy DAC, or Tandy/PCjr sound card
Media: 3.5″ Floppy Disk or 5.25″ Floppy Disk
Price: $59.99
Interface: Text parser, mouse or arrow keys for movement

Plot: Roger wakes up from his cryogenic freeze trapped on a garbage freighter. After his escape he learns of the ScumSoft video game company’s kidnapping of the Two Guys from Andromeda and set out to save them, all while being chased by “Arnoid the Annihilator”.

Fun facts:
-I always hear people talk about the sound on this game, it was apparently very state of the art for it’s time. It was one of the earliest games to support the Sound Blaster card and it was also a very early use of audible dialogue in a video game: Roger says “Where am I?” at the beginning of the game. The score was written by the drummer of Supertramp, who I think I’ve heard is the first famous musician to compose the score to a video game.
-If you by the Big Belcher Combo at Monolith Burger, you will throw up.
-Many people consider this to be the best Space Quest game in the series. Including the Software Publishers of America, who named it “Best Adventure Game of the Year”

Websites of Interest:
SpaceQuest.net – Amazing museum of Space Quest history, no longer updated
tmd.alienharmony.com/rw – Many Deaths of Roger Wilco- A directory of every Roger death ever, with screenshots and even audio!
sq7.org/wssquid – Akril’s WSSQUID (“Who Says Space Quest Is Dead?”) Space Quest webcomic with over 250 beautifully rendered strips!
colinpee.blogspot.com/search/label/Space Quest – Colin’s Space Quest sketch series

Sources
-Some info from from Wikipedia,
-But most is copy and pasted from SpaceQuest.net.
-Some is from Colin’s own shaky memory.
-“Other games released that year” dates are from all over. They should mostly be American release dates, but who knows.
-We got a lot of feedback and help from the members of The Janitorial Times forum at SpaceQuest.net. Big thanks to MusicallyInspired, Datadog (who is doing the Space Quest: Incinerations fan game), 4th Guy, Akril (who does the WSSQUID webcomic), Mad_C33 (who was a fountain of knowledge concerning the differences between the different releases of each Space Quest game), olzen, and Vroomfondel (who gave us a quick history lesson about the Vivendi/Activision Blizzard merger). Joystiq.com’s Ludwig K also Twittered to remind us about the SQ6 demo.

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5 Responses to “Barrel Roll! Bonus Episode 2 – Space Quest Retrospective (Part 1)”

  1. May 14th, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Sean says:

    While I enjoyed this episode, I wish you guys had more knowledge about the other Sierra games, as it really helps put Space Quest in perspective, even though Sierra games in general aren’t that great.

    I can’t believe someone else loves Space Quest 2. Most fans seem to see it as the weakest Space Quest, right behind 6 coming up second. I started with pirated copies of 1 and 2 in the early 90s and I always found myself coming to play 2 a lot more often.

    Also as far as Scumsoft being a jab at Lucasarts, it’s hard to say, but multiple times I have seen interviews where Scott Murphy says his favorite games were the LucasArts adventures. I get the feeling with the most recent interview floating around from last year, he didn’t seem to have that much respect for Roberta and Ken Williams. I remember him once saying something like that he liked the design of LucasArts games and not being able to die, but he sees dying as an art form in Space Quest. I wish I had the links to all these interviews off hand, but I bet some google searches could find some nice quotes. (Sorry I’m so lazy.)

    Anyways, Looking forward to the second part!

  2. May 14th, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Jonah "spambot" Gregory says:

    Thanks for the comments! I’m glad you are enjoying the podcast.

    Out of the Quest series’ I’ve played through:
    All of the Space Quests
    Police Quest 1 – 3, never finished 4
    Quest for Glory (various), never got very far
    Kings Quest 1-6, only ever finished 1, 5 and most of 6

    So yeah, I don’t consider myself an expert on their games, just a fan.

    I will have to look up some of those interviews. They sound pretty interesting.

  3. May 15th, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    MrColinP says:

    Hey Sean, thanks for listening! That’s a really funny point you make about other Sierra games. I didn’t play many other than Space Quest because they were all so serious and didn’t have any other redeeming qualities really.

    I love Scott Murphy interviews. You can really tell that he’s the dark humor in the Space Quest recipe.

  4. May 31st, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Kickstart This: Two Guys SpaceVenture | SideQuesting… We Love Video Games! says:

    [...] crew have a particular fondness for the Space Quest series. Heck, I even did a pretty in-depth two part podcast about the games a few years back. Well there is some pretty amazing news for us old [...]

  5. June 8th, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Space Quest Memories - WingDamage.com says:

    [...] as you might have been able to tell from our two part retrospective podcast from 2009 (Part 1, Part 2). I had the privilege of interviewing Scott and Mark this week for SideQuesting.com (and [...]

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