Replay Trying To Bring Back Space Quest, King’s Quest

By John Walker on April 10th, 2012 at 3:44 pm.

All this could once more be yours.

Could Roberta and Ken Williams be about to come out of retirement? Speaking to Al Lowe and Paul Trowe for an interview due later today, RPS learned that the company remaking the Leisure Suit Larry games is also in talks with other Sierra adventure alumni about bringing back their classic series. Replay Games‘ Trowe revealed that they’re currently in negotiations with both Sierra On-line co-founders Ken and Roberta Williams, as well as Space Quest creators, Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, with an interest to see King’s Quest and Space Quest brought back. With the added obstacle of Activision to manoeuvre around too.

Roberta and Ken Williams retired around 1999, having made quite some fortune from the sale of Sierra, neither taking any role in the games industry since. Of course, Roberta is most famous for being behind the fairytale King’s Quest series, and the polar-different horror adventure, Phantasmagoria, and it’s the former series Trowe would love to see back. When we asked Trowe if either Williams was interested in coming out of retirement, he replied,

“I can’t speak for Roberta, but I can tell you that we’re currently talking to her and Ken.”

Meanwhile, things seem even further along with hopes to remake or add to the Space Quest catalogue. While creators Murphy and Crowe fell out in the 90s, Replay approached both about returning to the games. Crowe has ruled himself out, stating that his working for Pipeworks would make it a conflict of interests, but Scott Murphy has already expressed an interest. (In fact, he emailed Trowe during our interview, congratulating them on their Kickstarter.) And the last Space Quest game was developed by Murphy and Josh Mandel, with Mandel already working at Replay. The remaining issue, as with King’s Quest, would be licensing the games from owners Activision.

Trowe explained that Activision had been a touch unrealistic when he first approached them. Activision told us that they wanted $500,000 up front,” he explained. “And greater than 50% revenue share for those properties. I told them ‘good luck on getting that’, because I don’t think anybody’s going to pay that fee. I can tell you that they changed their tune about six months after that.”

But since then Space Quest has been licensed elsewhere, and Replay are currently in negotiations over getting the rights for themselves. “I want to say it’s looking good,” said Trowe, “but right now I’d give us 50/50.”

(I’m mostly upset that Crowe’s not interested, removing the possibility of a Lowe, Trowe and Crowe all working on a game.)

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57 Comments »

  1. tlarn says:

    Alexander pondered on the return of King’s Quest, and decided he’d need to keep an eye on this for developments.

  2. fiddlesticks says:

    Roberta Williams didn’t completely retire, according to Gamezebo she apparently worked on the Facebook game “Odd Manor”:
    http://www.gamezebo.com/news/2011/08/14/legendary-kings-quest-designer-roberta-williams-working-facebooks-odd-manor

  3. Yachmenev says:

    It seems odd that they would do Kings Quest now, considering that Telltale games are already working on their KQ game. I get a slight feeling that they are just saying what the fans wants to hear now, to raise attention to their kickstarter.

    Mr Walker: Speaking about Sierra and seeking attention. Do you have any articles about Jane Jensens kickstarter coming up? I would love to see you do an interview or something with her, about her upcoming games. Gray Matter was just that good. :)

    • Cerius says:

      They are actually in talks with Telltale according to their kickstarter.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I don’t understand why you’d bring those back. They’re 90% classic fairytales recycled in big lumps, plus the most unimaginative and bland protagonists you could imagine wandering through the whole mess. It’s like re-licensing an adaptation of Aesop’s Fables. (Also, they were very poor games.)

  4. Phantoon says:

    The future is a strange, sexy, sexy place. But mostly strange. And sexy. Really sexy. And strange.

  5. MrWolf says:

    Not to be the Debby Downer on this recent fad of resurrecting old classic franchises, but does the gaming market really need more reboots? Aren’t many of us constantly griping about the lack of innovation in gaming?

    I’d far prefer to see a bold, new IP or even something as (seemingly) groundbreaking and Guild Wars 2.

    Maybe I’m getting grouchy in my old age, but I’d rather spend my gaming dollars on “fresh, innovative, and new” than “another nostalgic reboot.”

    • Phantoon says:

      Science is built on the backs of great men.

      Also video games.

    • abraxas says:

      I can absolutely see where you’re coming from and can’t say that I disagree with you at all. However, and this might be my old age, I would throw all of my imaginary funbucks (since I lack any real money, unfortunately) at whoever was going to offer me a good Space Quest sequel/reboot/remake/spiritual successor.

      • skorpeyon says:

        This is my position on it. Innovation in games is needed, but with many classics being all but unplayable nowadays the reason people want remakes is to enjoy them again.

    • JackShandy says:

      Polishing and iterating on an old game design is as worthy an endeavour as thinking up a new one.

      That said, I do get the feeling these new adventure games are going to be straight-up retreads, instead of trying to improve the formula in any real way.

    • Hodge says:

      Yeah, I’ve begun to feel the same thing. It’s interesting especially as Kickstarter has been touted by some as the alternative to those BIG FACELESS PUBLISHERS and their AVERSION TO NEW IDEAS and yet all these Kickstarters are for sequels.

      I think the problem (with both models) is that if you do have a smashing new idea, the only way to get that across to people is by having either a demo or a really good trailer, and to get that far you basically need to be funded already (or working on a project modest enough in ambition to not need the money in the first place). Hence the reliance on old IP – a Larry remake might be a fairly dull prospect, but people at least know exactly what it is they’re paying for. It’s the same deal with Call Of Duty and friends – if the sequels bring in the money then that’s what will get made.

      ‘Tis depressing, though.

      • Strange_guy says:

        The Double Fine Adventure, Faster Than Light and The Banner Saga are all new IPs, though I do agree. Too many of them are remakes, reboots or sequels.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      “I’d far prefer to see … something as (seemingly) groundbreaking as (sequel).”

      Hmm.

    • HothMonster says:

      One could bring back old dead IP and innovate and advance the genre at the same time you know.

    • fooga44 says:

      New ideas are ignored and new IP’s are expensive if you want AAA quality graphics, the fact that you mention Guild wars 2 as “new” discredits your comment. Guild wars is a big budget game and it’s just a retread of MMO’s. Guild wars 1 was nothing to write home about, just another MMO using the “MMO” as a form of online drm for what was mostly a small party based singleplayer /w the option of playing with bots or a limited number of other people in an instance.

    • Chmilz says:

      If it pries forgotten classics out of the hands of evil publishers who’ll either never make use of the ip, or “streamline” it into a generic FPS, I’m all for it.

    • Fumarole says:

      Aren’t many of us constantly griping about the lack of innovation in gaming?

      I’d say that the recent Kickstarter successes of bring back old games shows there are many more griping about the lack of publishers willing to back genres many of us know and love from the roots of our gaming lives. First loves, and all that.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Being outside the mainstream doesn’t mean being progressive–you could also be reactionary, trying to revive a forgotten past. There’s a lot of that sentiment in indie projects generally (in just in games, but in indie film and music as well). That doesn’t necessarily mean stasis–you want to create something new, because there is no life without change, but you want to create new things in the past, essentially building an alternative present.

      Consider this write-up of Dwarf Fortress from a few years ago.

      Dwarf Fortress is a game from an alternate universe. Clearly, no one in his right mind would have created it in our own. I deduce this from its main characteristics, and I think can very clearly describe the alternative universe it came from–let us call it “Earth B.”

      In Earth B, there never was a revolution in computer graphics, all games are ASCII; and VGA was never invented.

      In Earth B, Moore’s Law has progressed just as it has in our own, so that most computers now have multi-gigahertz processors.

      In Earth B, computer games have existed since the inception of the computer revolution, as on our own world; but lacking the need to spend the vast bulk of their processing power pushing pixels to display pretty images on the screen, game developers have instead harnessed their power to produce incredibly detailed and sophisticated simulations that are presented to the players thereof entirely in ASCII.

      In Earth B, Crawford’s 1980s claim that “process intensity” rather than “data intensity” was the future of games has been brought to fruition, and Dwarf Fortress is an example–this little 5 megabyte application spends tens of minutes of processing time building the world you play in, rejecting multiple worlds as not being sufficiently balanced to play effectively — and consuming virtually all of the cycles of your modern, high-end device as it does so, as you can readily see by how slowly other open applications respond while it’s world-building — even though all it’s doing is processing, not throwing polygons onto the screen.

      (“Earth B” isn’t the only alternative future, or even the dominant one among Indie games. Consider Cave Story “the best SNES game never made”.)

      It’s worth emphasizing that people are looking for sequels, or at least spiritual sequels if the IP cannot be obtained, not reboots. Compare the reception of DX:HR to that of Syndicate’s reboot. It is not that people want to return to the 80s or 90s, and it definitely isn’t that that stories themselves are so great that we want to return to them again. It’s that many video games in 80s and 90s were at least as interesting for what they could have been, what they were trying to be in spite of the limitations of their era. They were incomplete. They were arrows pointing towards different futures that we could have chosen, and that we could still choose today.

      All that said, I’m not sure what place old Sierra games have in this. I don’t know that “alternate present” in which scripted graphical adventures are a bigger deal than they are now really has anything to recommend it. Some genres, like those involving complex simulations, became the industry was interested in serving a more general, casual audience. There’s no technical reason they couldn’t have gone on to bigger things–and so we see DF, Minecraft, SimCity 5, 0x10c advancing the genre. My impression, though, is that adventure games fell by the way side not because gamers were sick of exploration and stories, but because the industry has basically taken the genre as far as it could. New technology lets you add nicer graphics, but ultimately adventure games come down to guessing a solution that the writer of the game pre-encoded into a story–and it’s extremely hard to make adventure game problems that are both non-obvious and non-arbitrary.

    • D3xter says:

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but myself I never played Larry 1-3 and 5, did play Larry 6 + 7 though… I can see myself going back and maybe playing 5, although I have no idea where it’s still being sold anymore… But the first three were somewhat before my time with the PC and fell off my radar, they seem rather “rustic” today and I can’t see myself sitting down to play through them. Remakes and Rereleases on Steam/GoG etc. if properly done would change that and give me a reason to Play/Replay just as the Monkey Island: SEs, same for Space Quest and King’s Quest…, and I’m sure they might manage to grab new fans in the process.

      I also don’t know why everyone is suddenly complaining about “kickstarting” Sequels/Reboots, seeing as there’s only two games that would fall under that so far: Leisure Suit Larry and Wasteland 2 (which is the return of a genre not explored since 2003, RPGs)…

      All the others I’ve seen e.g.: Double Fine Adventure, Shadowrun, Banner Saga, Jane Jensen Adventure, Starlight Inception, Faster Than Light, Code Hero etc. all seem to be new things… so I’m rather confused in regards to that…

  6. RedViv says:

    PHANTASMAGORIAAA!!!

    Ahem. Intriguing. We’ve lost too many designers of old to Facebook and others already.

  7. Merus says:

    Honestly I’d like to see something a little fresher from the Space Quest series. It was always a little more willing to flirt with actiony elements, so a staid point-and-clicker would be a damn shame when these days we can actually build the environments adventure games always had to fake.

    On the other hand, scifi has never been so rich with excellent targets for parody. Space Quest had to work with Star Trek, Star Wars, Heinlein and pulp scifi. A reboot would have access to the explosion in scifi over the last twenty years, and frankly a good sendup of Firefly would be very shiny indeed in my book.

  8. Hodge says:

    I said in response to the Kickstarter that I thought a Murphy/Mandel helmed Space Quest would a better bet than the Larry remake, so full points from me on that front.

    If they don’t get the rights they could still do a Space Quest game under a new title, a la Fallout. If anything, it would be nicely self-referential to have Space Quest itself enter the room removed for legal reasons.

    On the whole, though, they seem to be going about all this in Exactly The Right Way. I hope they don’t break the Internet.

  9. db1331 says:

    Quest for Glory! I’ve never put any money into a kickstarter, but if there’s one franchise that could make me do it, it’s QFG.

  10. Zeewolf says:

    Honestly, the only Sierra franchise that’s _really_ worth bringing back is Quest for Glory. Well, that and Gabriel Knight, but Gabe “belongs” to Jane Jensen and I wouldn’t want anyone else messing about with it..

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      For what it’s worth, on Jane Jensen’s Pinkerton Road Kickstarter, there’s already some talk about them potentially regaining the rights to Gabriel Knight at some point anyway, so that’s not entirely out of the question either.

    • malkav11 says:

      This is pretty much my feeling also. I mean, could someone make a fun King’s Quest or Space Quest? Sure. I’ll be interested to see what Telltale does, for example. But they are just not compelling enough to Kickstart.

  11. MadTinkerer says:

    QUEST FOR GLORY 6 PLEASE.

    Edit: Zeewolf and db1331 beat me to it. :)

  12. mjomble says:

    Anyone hungry for more Space Quest should check out this earlier article: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/01/19/space-quest-roger-wilco-not-over-and-out/

  13. metalangel says:

    You do SQ4 an injustice showing the EGA version like that.

    • LionsPhil says:

      If they wanted EGA, they should have shown Space Quest ][.

      USE PLUNGER ON WALL

    • Hodge says:

      Annoyingly, even that 16-colour EGA version looks much nicer than the 32-color Amiga version I played as a young’n. Their Amiga ports were most bafflingly awful.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Sierra made some truly baffling technical decisions. Like those double-width pixels all over the shop, even though EGA could handle square(ish) ones—KQ4 EGA even finally uses them (being SCI0). LucasArts did a much better job at pushing up the technical art quality for each platform vs. some lowest common denominator. Compare the ST vs PC screenshots of Maniac Mansion, for example.

        That said, for some reason Sierra composed—and shipped—all their music for four channels, for the PCjr that nobody owned. You can finally hear it that way on PC via ScummVM (I’m not sure if it got used for the ST or Amiga ports).

  14. Lemming says:

    So when are we getting Chris Barrie back on Simon the Sorcerer?

  15. utharda says:

    Didn’t you see the part where all of these are being ressurected as FPS.

  16. LionsPhil says:

    And the last Space Quest game was developed by Murphy and Josh Mandel, with Mandel already working at Replay.

    Yes, but that ignores that it was terrible.

    And Space Quest V wasn’t exactly great either, which also lacked Crowe. The series is dead, Jim John.

    IIRC King’s Quest died a fairly ignoble death in its final installments too, ditching the King Graham lineage.

    • Cerius says:

      How can a person be THIS wrong?

      King’s Quest VI is a contender for the best King’s Quest (with, by far, the best plot) and Space Quest VI was amazing.

    • Hodge says:

      Space Quest V was all Crowe. For some reason that particular sequel was farmed out to the Dynamix team, where Crowe had recently relocated. Murphy had nothing to do with it.

      The sixth one was done by Josh Mandel, who quit near the end of its development after falling out with the higher ups at Sierra. Murphy was then brought back in to get it out the door. AFAIK neither Murphy nor Mandel were happy with how it turned out. I still haven’t played it, and everytime I see screenshots of it I’m put off because the art style and interface both look terrible.

      They all worked on SQIV though and that was alright.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Hmm, have I got them backwards, then? I thought the one of them which hated GUIs and preferred the flexibility of the text parser left after IV, and never returned. (There were, of course, other, more concrete reasons—like Sierra’s chainsaw layoffs.)

        If so, that just seems to support that it takes a back-and-forth between both of them to hit the highs* of Space Quest IV. :/

        (I’m glad that someone else agrees that VI’s high-res look is ugly.)

        *The actual plot was garbage, mind. It was just funny enough to mostly get away with it.

        • Hodge says:

          For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure Murphy did pretty much all the writing, with Crowe just doing the art side of things (which is why I’m not too fussed about Crowe not being involved).

          But yeah, for whatever reason the series went downhill badly once they stopped working together.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Aye, the series peaked at III and IV was the last good one. V onward just felt like reheated leftovers, or a near-brand-name knockoff.

  17. Deadly Habit says:

    I’d rather have Quest for Glory back

  18. PegasusOrgans says:

    Wait there’s been innovation in the graphic adventure genre in the last 15 years? Wait, there’s been ANY innovation in gaming, besides longer cut scenes, in gaming the last 15 years? Wow, I was UNABLE to notice any.

  19. Grey_Ghost says:

    Mark Crowe seemed like the better part of the duo to me. SQ5 rocked so very hard, while SQ6 was fairly craptastic. I’d rather not see another Space Quest made by the SQ6 designers.

    I’ve played them all, and SQ5 was the highlight of the series for me. If Crowe’s not involved, I’m not interested.

  20. sophof says:

    What I’m missing in all these stories is that these old games were not very player friendly. I guess we were used to it back then, but dying because you stepped of a ledge is not really going to cut it any more. Neither is not being able to finish the game because you didn’t do ‘something’ right at the start. These games need a serious overhaul besides graphics…

    • geenadavisrules says:

      Umm thats why their going to REMAKE THEM! To match graphics today and fix the bugs to make them more enjoyable and playable….. DUH!

  21. geenadavisrules says:

    Most of you are stupid STUPID people!! Are you kidding me??? A chance to bring back leisure suit larry, and kings quest, remade to modern day graphics and technology with same game play?? HELL YES!!!! It’s hard for anyone to find working versions of those games anymore, and there are NO games out there like these ones ANYWHERE! I miss them, their all stupid retarded third person shooters and mmo’s which have turned me off to gaming, they need to bring back old classics for us that miss them, how cool would it be to log into your wii and purchase kq series or leisure suit larry series for your wii ware and have it the acces to play it on your gaming console??? They did another leisure suit larry on the playstation made it modern day and ideas to go with console and it was awesome! Just think what they could do and implement for the wii remaking all the series and omg a new kings quest for the Wii…. Could you imagine??? OMG I would be in heaven, please please please DO THIS! Ignore all of the ignorant people on here that have no idea what their talking about, let them go play on their xbox 360′s and rot in their mmo’s for all I care!

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