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Editorial The Digital Antiquarian on Quest for Glory 1 and 2

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Sep 11, 2016.

  1. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ Trade Master Patron

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    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.
     
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  2. Deuce Travelergender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman 2012 Newfag Patron

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    I'm very excited for this series, and to read about the Coles. I know a bit about others in the field, but I admit I don't know much about the history here.
     
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  3. Illuvatardgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    This guy's reviews are always :prosper:

    Can't disagree more with most of this.

    I never really liked King's Quest just because it's kinda banlashitboring but incomprehensible puzzles from sierra? :lol: This guy must be at the Myst level of puzzle solving ability.

    And in Leisure Suit Larry in particular every 'dead end' is always hilarious and things can ALWAYS be solved fairly easily if you can put yourself into Larryland logic.

    Also some of the timed shit in QFG is about 10x more difficult to wade through than anything in a typical sierra game.
     
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  4. Roquagender: ⚧ Arcane In My Safe Space

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    Hero's Quest 1 and 2 are pure awesome in my book. I actually had the game long before I had a computer to play it on. Or it seemed like a very long time. But, I remember it taking about 12 millennia between when predator came out in theatres (which I missed) and when it came out on VHS, so my time sense was very skewed when I was younger, because time just flies by now.

    I would go into work with my dad some times and the office for his union had a computer I could use, it was black and white monitor and I could play the game but not save. The game randomly kills you after you play too long without saving with funny dialogue. I forget what it was but it was usually not the same if I am remembering right.

    Skip forward some eyars and I am playing part 2 (Trial by fire) on a pc I bought with my own money motivated in large part by my desire to play the first Hero's Quest. And I am glad this guy mentioned they were called Hero's Quest before QfG because with everyone telling me how wrong and what a liar I am lately I was starting to think I had dementia or something. But moving on - there is a part where you get a wish by a genie. The first two games had a typed in commands only system, and I agonized over what I should wish for and how to word it. I remember this being a big deal to me.

    I enjoyed the rest of the QfG series but not as much as the first 2. Selectable dialogue took something away from them I think. I enjoyed both Quest for Infamy and Heroine's Quest but it was the same. Having your options given to you just takes away some of the je ne sais quoi of the first two games.

    I am eagerly awaiting the new game by the Coles. They may not be Tim Cain, but they know how to make good games worth buying and playing that are always enjoyable and different from what you get from other offerings.
     
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  5. Bumvelcrowgender: ⚧ Bellator Sempervirens Patron

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    DA's blog is always interesting, interspersed with the odd cringeworthy moment and bizarre misreading. I've followed the Sierra history so far and it's been pretty good. My vague memories of the era were that Sierra was the bland corporate mill of gaming - churning out uninspired sequels with slightly better graphics - and producing games like the twee fairytales of King's Quest or the one-joke innuendo of Leisure Suit Larry that were about as far away from my interests as it was possible to get. While the story so far doesn't entirely invalidate that opinion it's still fascinating to learn what was going on behind the scenes.

    What's not so great about the Digital Antiquarian is how he's letting his political agenda infuse his writing. Early on it was a factual history with a neutral narrator, but since he's developed a following he's had the courage to put more of himself into the blog, with the result that anyone who is female, has mental problems, or is somehow 'different' gets an uncritical pass and he seems to be trying to spot examples of discrimination or misogyny where they don't exist. Infocom's Plundered Hearts and his issues with the female protagonist of the Starglider novella spring immediately to mind. With that in mind, his later articles should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    He's also developed a clique of sycophants who fill up his comments section, each one eager to give him the most effusive and uncritical praise whenever his discharges new content. I made the mistake of posting there once and was immediately shut down. Perhaps I've got too used to the Codex way of doing things. :D

    Credit where it's due, though - his history of Infocom was excellent. But if Richard Garriott wants anyone to write his biography he knows exactly where to turn.
     
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  6. Illuvatardgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    The game kills you if you stay outside until it gets dark, because nightguants get you.
     
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  7. Illuvatardgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    He's obviously a poser who never played these games when they came out out, and generally kind of retarded in almost 100% of his complaints and generally very unprofessional and subjective.

    And moderately stocked up on SJW BS but that is almost a given today. LIKE OMG IT WAS MADE BY A WOMBYN. Like wow man, that was totally the big reason I picked that game up dude, to smash the patriarchy!
     
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  8. Bumvelcrowgender: ⚧ Bellator Sempervirens Patron

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    He has definitely become more subjective in his reasoning, but it did start off as a hobby so it's unfair to hold him to professional standards, whatever they are. In the end it's his blog and I'm free to read it or not. I still do read it because the good generally far outweighs the bad. His article on Infocom's Stationfall, for example, captures exactly the mood of the game unlike any other contemporary review. I don't think he's old enough to have played some of these older games when they were released, but he's certainly played many of them over the years.

    You could certainly make a drinking game out of his use of the word 'ludic' though!
     
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  9. Illuvatardgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    Well, if you want people to actually read then some kind of attempt at objectivity is necessary. If I didn't know most of the things he talks about pretty well I would probably just believe him, which is most unfortunate.

    I just like it because it brngs up occasional games I never heard of and reminds me of others I had completely forgotten. As far as the content goes I am over it at this point.
     
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  10. Bumvelcrowgender: ⚧ Bellator Sempervirens Patron

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    I think you're overstating the extent to which he's letting his agenda skew his judgement - it's not nearly as blatant as you're making out. By and large his opinion on the games is pretty solid, and obviously everyone is going to have their own favoured genre or style. You certainly wouldn't use DA as a book of history, but then you'd never use a single source for historical research. Everyone has their own subconscious biases.
     
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  11. Illuvatardgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    I'm not talking about the SJW crap but he makes tons of sweeping arbitrary judgements that don't really have any support or make any sense and uses hyperbole liberally. He decides something is good or bad because...reasons, then he rails against totally innocuous nonissues or gives some ludicrous fapjob on grounds that make no sense.

    In this round he basically panned THE ENTIRE SIERRA CATALOG for really ridiculous reasons, even though it is unbelievably full of classic games that stand up very well today. Then he goes on about how great quest for glory is...because it's accessible really. What a joke.

    He does that kind of shit all the time, which makes it impossible for me to take him remotely seriously.
     
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  12. RK47gender: ⚧ Degenerates happily Patron

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    What a great website, I must've read a lot of his article at work on my mobile till the batteries went to 6%.
     
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  13. Grampy_Bonegender: ⚧ Learned

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    Love these, one of the best-written sites on the web.
     
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  14. Make America Great Again Mozggender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Top quality link tron

    The only P&C/text parser adventure games I ever really enjoyed. There were a few others like DotT that were impressive enough as a total package at the time of their release to get me to labor through them to the end, but QfG pulled me along the whole way through (well, I never actually played 5...)
     
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  15. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ Trade Master Patron

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    Some discussion in the comments. On the endgame:

    On Ken Williams:

    Very true, that bit about failing to cultivate a culture.
     
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  16. Make America Great Again Irenaeusgender: ⚧ Self-Ejected Patron Dumbfuck Repressed Homosexual The Real Fanboy

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    :incloosive:
     
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  17. SerratedBizgender: ⚧ Magister

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    It only kills you if you go to sleep in the forest, something that is referenced a few times in dialogues with NPCs (something along the lines of "don't stay outside after dark, because we close the gates and if you don't find shelter the gaunts will get you!", which is as unambiguous as you can be regarding the matter).

    So no, that's not how it works, and there are sections of the game which are only completed by being out in the forest at night.
     
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  18. Illuvatardgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    In bizarro world.

    Too bad he doesn't know the slightest thing about games, that probably would have helped.
     
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  19. Illuvatardgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    Ah, stick your pedantism up your ass dude. I know how it works already I just was lazy in typing it up. That make you feel like a big man? Go fuck yourself.
     
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  20. Illuvatardgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    This applies to a lot of people in this thread too.
     
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  21. SerratedBizgender: ⚧ Magister

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    It does, thank you. Keep typing stupid shit up so I can continue.
     
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  22. Make America Great Again Mozggender: ⚧ Arcane

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    I remember thinking the three stooges bit in the bandit lair was pretty shit. If they'd just let you power through the fight with combat (maybe making it easier for each adventure-game-trap you used on the pursuer guys) it wouldn't be bad enough to leave a memory of it. The other bad adventure game action sequences weren't bad enough to make me remember the details anymore despite having done a QfG 1-4 in the last decade.

    QfG2 does have a lot of dead time where there's nothing to do but go grind in the desert pointlessly and there's obnoxious unskippable "cutscene" stuff with the cat people. Making the desert mostly empty was really inferior to QfG1's style of letting you explore map screens to find new stuff and run into new monsters that would give you a reason to care about RPG shit, all of which fed back into one another.
     
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  23. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ Trade Master Patron

    Infinitron
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    The worst dead time was at the end in Rasier, where you weren't even allowed to go into the desert and had to pass the time by wandering the streets.
     
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  24. Illuvatardgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    Neither of those are a huge deal, but the bandit fort was waaay more arbitrary and 'unfair' than the things the guy complained about in other games. It was fairly annoying after a while.

    I find it hard to believe he actually played this game all the way through based on his comments. Either that or he is REALLY crap at adventure games.

    There's a few pixel hunt puzzles in older sierra games but they hardly deserve the criticism he had for them.
     
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  25. Illuvatardgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    I played through LSL and SQ series with no cluebook and hardly ever got stuck very long. You did die a lot from certain actions but they were humorous deaths. And you also die like that in qfg series a lot as well. It was part of the charm.

    Now old infocom games...I don't think I ever finished one without a cluebook.
     
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