Good Old Games
Donate to Codex
Putting the 'role' back in role-playing games since 2002.
Odds are, something you like very much sucks. Why? Because this is the RPG Codex
News Content Gallery People Games Companies  
Forums About Donate RSS Contact Us!  

The Digital Antiquarian on Quest for Glory 1 and 2

Visit our sponsors! (or click here and disable ads)

The Digital Antiquarian on Quest for Glory 1 and 2

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Sun 11 September 2016, 01:04:40

Tags: Corey Cole; Lori Cole; Quest for Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero; Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire; Sierra Entertainment; The Digital Antiquarian

For the past couple of months, Jimmy Maher has been writing weekly articles about the history of legendary adventure game studio Sierra On-Line for his excellent Digital Antiquarian blog. Yesterday, his chronicle reached the topic of Corey and Lori Ann Cole's Quest for Glory series, bringing it under our purview. More specifically, the article tells the story of Corey's early life & career and how he ended up at Sierra, and describes the development, release and reception of the first two games in the series. Like many other adventuring gaming historians, Jimmy is of the opinion that the Quest for Glory games were some of the best-designed adventures Sierra ever made, something which he attributes to the Coles' greater maturity and experience as game players compared to the studio's other designers. The article explains:

If forced to choose one adjective to describe Hero’s Quest and the series it spawned as a whole, I would have to go with “generous” — not, as the regular readers among you can doubtless attest, an adjective I commonly apply to Sierra games in general. Hero’s Quest‘s generosity extends far beyond its lack of the sudden deaths, incomprehensible puzzles, hidden dead ends, and generalized player abuse that were so typical of Sierra designs. Departing from Sierra’s other series with their King Grahams, Rosellas, Roger Wilcos, and Larry Laffers, the Coles elected not to name or characterize their hero, preferring to let their players imagine and sculpt the character each of them wanted to play. Even within the framework of a given character class, alternate approaches and puzzle — er, problem — solutions abound, while the environment is fleshed-out to a degree unprecedented in a Sierra adventure game. Virtually every reasonable action, not to mention plenty of unreasonable ones, will give some sort of response, some acknowledgement of your cleverness, curiosity, or sense of humor. Almost any way you prefer to approach your role is viable. For instance, while it’s possible to leave behind a trail of monstrous carnage worthy of a Bard’s Tale game, it’s also possible to complete the entire game without taking a single life. The game is so responsive to your will that the few places where it does fall down a bit, such as in not allowing you to choose the sex of your character — resource constraints led the Coles to make the hero male-only — stand out more in contrast to how flexible the rest ofthis particular game is than they do in contrast to most other games of the period.

Indeed, Hero’s Quest is such a design outlier from the other Sierra games of its era that I contacted the Coles with the explicit goal of coming to understand just how it could have come out so differently. Corey took me back all the way the mid-1970s, to one of his formative experiences as a computer programmer and game designer alike, when he wrote a simple player-versus-computer tic-tac-toe game for a time-shared system to which he had access. “Originally,” he says, “it played perfectly, always winning or drawing, and nobody played it for long. After I introduced random play errors by the computer, so that a lucky player could occasionally win, people got hooked on the game.” From this “ah-ha!” moment and a few others like it was born the Coles’ Rule #1 for game design: “The player must always have fun.” “We try to remember that rule,” says Corey, “every time we create a potentially frustrating puzzle.” The trick, as he describes it, is to make “the puzzles and challenges feel difficult, yet give the player a chance to succeed after reasonable effort.” Which leads us to Rule #2: “The player wants to win.” “We aren’t here to antagonize the players,” he says. “We work with them in a cooperative storytelling effort. If the player fails, everybody loses; we want to see everyone win.”

Although their professional credits in the realm of game design were all but nonexistent at the time they came to Sierra, the Coles were nevertheless used to thinking about games far more deeply than was the norm in Oakhurst. They were, for one thing, dedicated players of games, very much in tune with the experience of being a player, whether sitting behind a table or a computer. Ken Williams, by contrast, had no interest in tabletop games, and had sat down and played for himself exactly one computerized adventure game in his life (that game being, characteristically for Ken, the ribald original Softporn). While Roberta Williams had been inspired to create Mystery House by the original Adventure and some of the early Scott Adams games, her experience as a player never extended much beyond those primitive early text adventures; she was soon telling interviewers that she “didn’t have the time” to actually play games. Most of Sierra’s other design staff came to the role through the back door of being working artists, writers, or programmers, not through the obvious front door of loving games as a pursuit unto themselves. Corey states bluntly that “almost nobody there played [emphasis mine] games.” The isolation from the ordinary player’s experience that led to so many bad designs was actually encouraged by Ken Williams; he suggested that his staffers not look too much at what the competition was doing out of some misguided desire to preserve the “originality” of Sierra’s own games.

But the Coles were a little different than the majority of said staffers. Corey points out that they were both over thirty by the time they started at Sierra. They had, he notes, also “traveled a fair amount,” and “both the real-life experience and extensive tabletop-gaming experience gave [us] a more ‘mature’ attitude toward game development, especially that the designer is a partner to the player, not an antagonist to be overcome.” Given the wealth of experience with games and ideas about how games ought to be that they brought with them to Sierra, the Coles probably benefited as much from the laissez-faire approach to game-making engendered by Ken Williams as some of the others designers perhaps suffered from the same lack of direction. Certainly Ken’s personal guidance was only sporadic, and often inconsistent.

The Coles had no affinity for any of Sierra’s extant games; they considered them “unfair and not much fun.” Yet the process of game development at Sierra was so unstructured that they had little sense of really reacting against them either. As I mentioned earlier, Lori didn’t much care for any of the adventure games she had seen, from any company. She wouldn’t change her position until she played Lucasfilm Games’s The Secret of Monkey Island in 1990. After that experience, she became a great fan of the Lucasfilm adventures, enjoying them far more than the works of her fellow designers at Sierra. For now, though, rather than emulating existing computerized adventure or RPG games, the Coles strove to re-create the experience of sitting at a table with a great storytelling game master at its head.
The latter half of the article tells the tale of Quest for Glory 2's troubled development, which is something I personally was unaware of. Apparently, the game suffered from the switch to a cumbersome new "Hollywood-style" production pipeline where the artists and designers had no contact with each other. The last-minute renaming of the franchise from Hero's Quest to Quest for Glory due to a trademark dispute and the fact that it was in direct competition with King's Quest 5, Sierra's first "next-gen" VGA and mouse-based title, did the game no favors either. Despite these handicaps, Quest for Glory 2 still managed to sell a decent number of copies, and the series was allowed to continue. But that's a story for a future article.

There are 33 comments on The Digital Antiquarian on Quest for Glory 1 and 2

Site hosted by Sorcerer's Place Link us!
Codex definition, a book manuscript.
eXTReMe Tracker
rpgcodex.net RSS Feed
This page was created in 0.0594298839569 seconds