The Messy Saga Of Replay’s Paul Trowe, As Al Lowe Quits

By John Walker on December 13th, 2013 at 3:00 pm.

It has been announced that Leisure Suit Larry creator Al Lowe has left developers Replay. In what is turning into one of the more peculiar and uncomfortable stories, it seems that Lowe has chosen to leave the company at the same time as news of a sex offence by the company’s president, Paul Trowe, has emerged. Trowe was arrested in October last year for showing “harmful materials to a minor”, and plead no contest in April this year. He was guilty of showing a film of gay sex to a 15 year old girl, in a matter that’s as convoluted as it is sad. And it seems this might just be one small aspect of a very bizarre story.

The story that Lowe had left the company was broken two nights ago by VentureBeat, and the strange twists and turns begin even then. In their original story a bundle of quotes suggested that Lowe’s leaving was amicable. VentureBeat quoted Lowe as saying,

“Replay Games and I had a great, long run, but it’s time for me to go back to doing the things I love, spending time with my family, taking care of my wife, and playing in my big band. I really had a blast during the Leisure Suit Larry Kickstarter and throughout development, especially packing those all boxes! I’m not leaving for any other reason than to just return to retirement. I’m 67 years old. I don’t know how many years I have left, and the ones I do have left I want to spend with my family and friends.”

But extremely strangely, it seems that these quotes didn’t come from Lowe at all, and were supplied by Replay, which could well mean they were supplied by Trowe. Lowe quickly got in touch with VB to correct this, and they say made it clear that the break up was certainly acrimonious. They quote him saying,

“My agreement with Replay Games was for a two-year period, which recently ended. Due to numerous reasons, I have decided not to renew our agreement and to return to retirement.”

Their story then concludes on a quote from Trowe that appears to be at the least, fanciful.

“It’s really a shame to see the father of Leisure Suit Larry go back in to retirement. I’m glad we’re still best friends and will continue to talk and consult with each other. Expect a special announcement from us in January. Al was the most fun person on our team, always quick to crack a joke on company meetings, and was always the ‘go to’ person for anything Larry. He always will be.”

Fanciful, because when Kotaku spoke to Al Lowe, he had quite a different understanding.

“There were many reasons for my departure, including that [2012] incident. As far as I know, Replay Games still has the rights (from Codemasters, owners of the I.P.) to do Leisure Suit Larry games, but they’ll have to do them without me.”

He added on Twitter:


Paul Trowe’s incident is ambiguous in the telling, the only apparent certainty being its conclusion where he did not contest the charge of showing inappropriate materials to a minor. In the Kotaku piece, it seems that convoluted events allegedly revolved around Trowe having had a threesome with his husband and a third man, who, it seems, may have been in a relationship with the 15 year old girl. Or not. According to two different versions of the events, either Trowe sent this girl a video of an older man having sex with her boyfriend, or they met and he showed it to her. And since this girl was 15, this was an offence. The specific details seem confused, and we don’t speculate either way. And frankly we don’t care. All we know for certain is that Trowe did not contest the charge, and received two years’ probation, and agreed to attend sex offender counselling. Trowe said to Kotaku that he didn’t contest because he “wanted to avoid the messy public spectacle of a trial, in part to protect Al Lowe and the Leisure Suit Larry franchise.” (Quoting Kotaku, not Trowe directly.) That is, it must be said, a really quite astonishing claim – not fighting a charge of a sexual offence to a minor to protect the reputation of a colleague seems either an ill-advised act of extreme martyrdom, or possibly unrealistic.

Of course, what remains strange is why this is all kicking off now. Trowe’s plea was in April, and he says he told the team about it then. So why has this all come out only now? At the moment, we don’t know.

What we do know, however, is that Trowe has a reputation for pissing off an enormous number of people. And he’s showing no signs of slowing down, with extraordinary tweets still being fired out in the last 24 hours. From reading his Twitter timeline, it seems Trowe’s wont is to publicly state private matters about individuals. Just last night he targeted games producer Billy Joe Cain in an extraordinary series of deliberately offensive tweets, accusing Cain and Cain’s wife of all manner of things.

UPDATE: Trowe has since deleted these tweets, but we took screengrabs.

He also accused Cain of trying to extort money from Replay.

That is likely to go further.

In November this year, Trowe outed a transexual woman and former colleague via his Twitter account, having previously said to her, “you’re the worst looking transsexual I have ever seen” on her Facebook wall. I’m not linking to this, since it could only cause further pain for the recipient, but have seen the statements first hand. They come across as purely spiteful, revenge for negative remarks made about Trowe.

Around the same time, Trowe is also alleged to have launched attacks against Space Quest creators Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, as well as Gabriel Knight’s Jane Jensen. He also turned his attentions to Corey Cole, co-creator of the Quest For Glory games. The Coles teamed up with Israeli developers The Adventure Mob, to try to help them with their adventure project, Bolt Riley. (The Kickstarter for the game went on to fail to garner enough attention, and fell far short of its goal, and certainly drew concern with apparently exaggerated claims made regarding the Coles’ involvement.) The Adventure Mob were the team who were originally supposed to work on Replay’s remake of Leisure Suit Larry, and were named in the successful Kickstarter as a part of the team who would deliver the project. However, this was not to be the case. What actually went down between Replay and The Adventure Mob remains contested, with both sides unhappy with the other, but they certainly didn’t part on good terms. So when Cole took to Facebook to plug the Bolt Riley fundraise, Trowe appeared in the comments.

There he was quick to berate The Adventure Mob and specifically Oded Sharon, accuse them of having “no employees”, and in what appears to be his signature move, state something that appears to have come from a private conversation, whether true or not. This time it was to say,

“Why you continue to work with this guy is beyond my comprehension, especially when BOTH of you told me at GDC this year that you thought he was “sleazy”and “shifty”.”

Cole responded emphatically denying making any such comments about Sharon, triggering a slew of attacks from Trowe, accusation after accusation, often based in private conversations or meetings and always without evidence, and crucially, under a post that had nothing to do with him or his projects. And while the he-said/she-said arguments don’t show anyone to be in the right or wrong, it represents a frequent propensity to hang private laundry out in public, and to do it with a good deal of viciousness.

While RPS certainly does not demand so-called “professional” behaviour from game developers, what we have seen is a pattern of angry and often cruel attacks on former colleagues, frequently attempting to bring up private information, or undermine others’ work through insinuation or direct claims of wrongdoing. None of this is a claim on who might have been right or wrong, screwed or screwer, and doesn’t suggest that other parties haven’t behaved poorly, because we simply do not know. But it certainly makes for an unpleasant and sad display.

As Kickstarter backers for the Larry game become increasingly furious about the lack of physical rewards reaching them, and with Josh Mandel having also silently quit the company recently, it’s certainly interesting times at Replay Games. They still have the rights to create Leisure Suit Larry games, for now, licensed from Codemasters. But without Lowe on board, that’s going to be a trickier business.

As for Trowe, he’s certainly leaving a trail of very cross people in his wake.

We’ve reached out to Al Lowe to see if he would like to clarify any of the issues mentioned. All of Trowe’s remarks have been taken from his public social networking accounts, within context.

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87 Comments »

  1. Cerius says:

    It’s sad how Trowe turned out to be. And to think we had Al Lowe and Josh Mandel in the same company again…

  2. frightlever says:

    “So why is Lowe only upping sticks in December?”

    That seems needless. It looks like you’re saying Lowe should have left earlier and is somehow at fault. It may have been a drawn-out process that started back in April but which only became formal in December. Who knows?

    • skalpadda says:

      it seems to be answered in the article itself as well:

      “My agreement with Replay Games was for a two-year period, which recently ended. Due to numerous reasons, I have decided not to renew our agreement and to return to retirement.”

      Sounds as if his contract/work ethic outweighed any desire to immediately up and leave, which is hardly a fault.

      • stahlwerk says:

        That’s how I read it as well. I’d also guess that his work contract would be far less painful to sit out than to sever.

        • kristy622 says:

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        • Darth Gangrel says:

          Now that he quit working at Replay, he can start working at home. Like kristy622 says, working at home with Google must be a much more comfortable job than producing games when you have a boss like Trowe.

    • John Walker says:

      Yes, I phrased that poorly. I was wondering why it’s all kicking off now, rather than anything else, so have changed the text accordingly. Good call.

  3. LionsPhil says:

    Well, this sucks for Lowe to be involved in. He’s always seemed a pretty nice guy.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      He really does. I don’t think the Larry games always perfectly reflected his satirical intentions, but I’ve always had a positive impression of Al Lowe since I found his website ages ago.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Yeah, even if it’s purely tangential… Anyway, I wish for Mr. Lowe to enjoy his well deserved retirement, and that he has fun doing good things in good company.

      Also, the Larry IP can’t seem to catch a break, can it?

      • paddymaxson says:

        Without trying to sound too much like a militant feminist (I’m a man and everything):

        I don’t think Leisure Suit Larry has any place in a modern world where videogames aren’t just for 14 year old boys and furrytoothed programmers. It’s the western equivalent of Japanese dating sims except nobody is even pretending to be in love

        Yes they have their charm in places and a lot of the charm and humour isn’t entirely chauvanist crap, but a lot of it is chauvanist crap, it’s creepy and weird and the character is detestable for being such a creep.

        I’m sure Al Lowe himself is a decent guy who doesn’t mean harm to any women, but goddamn if he didn’t create a monster.

        • taristo says:

          “Without trying to sound too much like a militant feminist”
          If you feel the need to start a post with that I think you already failed to accomplish your goal.

          Anyway, this isn’t really about any “gender related issues” or deeper philosophical questions if certain kind of games are “bad” for society, but about Paul Trowe being a dick to almost everyone he interacted with, from his partners (like Josh Mandel and Al Lowe), to past business partners and colleagues (Adventure Mob, the Coles, Two Guys from Andromeda: http://www.spacequest.net/index.php/topic/656-paul-trowe-criticism-on-kickstarter-update/ ), to his customers and backers and people that published things like Let’s Plays regarding the game that he threatened with legal action to even people that did work for him for free only for him to get rid of them and throw something like this in their faces the moment they disagreed with him: http://i.imgur.com/mjMSh1X.png

          It’s not really a matter of opinion or interpretation like whether game creators should be forced to include more diversity™ or make their games more politically correct and accessible™ or be careful when including controversial themes or if there should be less “sexy” characters, it is clear cut and rather simple due to overabundance of evidence.

          Leisure Suit Larry (the original series that ended in 1996, not Magna Cum Laude/Box Office Bust) was a great comedy Adventure game series and still remains such today, and Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded was great too. Likely not too much due to the fact that Paul Trowe worked on it but despite of him, because of all the people that have decided to leave his company now.
          They were also never meant for “14 year old boys”, which the age questions at the beginning kind of attest to.

        • LionsPhil says:

          It’s the western equivalent of Japanese dating sims except nobody is even pretending to be in love.

          So you haven’t played them before going off on one, then.

          The ones Al was most involved with, and especially the first three, are all about this pathetic, useless, but fundamentally heart-in-the-right-place leisure-suit-clad loser trying to find actual for-life romance. The original trilogy ends with him finally succeeding and settling down. The games are “sexy” in the same way Carry On films are—bawdy humour, allusion, and innuendo. The closest they have to an “H-scene” is one censored sign bouncing away at the start of the first one, where Larry decides that it’s not actually just sex he’s after.

          Now, some of the latter games, sure, hate away. Just don’t tar Al with that brush.

  4. Stardreamer says:

    Reading all of that made me feel grubby. Mind you, that’s pretty much how playing the game made me feel too.

  5. Yachmenev says:

    I’m a backer, and I’m thankful for that it only was for the lowest pledge level that got you the game.

    Al Lowe seem to be a good man, so it’s unfortunate that Paul Trowe turned out like this. The whole story surrounding the video is not something I want to pass judgement on. It seems like poor judgement, but I prefer to not be part of an internet mob surrounding that.

    But when he continues to act like an ass against colleagues and fellow developer, over and over again, then I’m going to judge him as an idiot and stay very far away from the products he makes. That’s just him destroying his own reputation, without understanding the problem.

    I guess Al Lowe is not keen on making any more games now, but if he did something new with Josh Mandel, without Trowe. I would support that. And that it would be without the old Sierra licenses wouldn’t matter. What we want is a certain type of games, but it doesn’t have to be with certain characters.

  6. Nick says:

    Could do with cutting out the specualtive questions in this article, pretty bad form.

    • Stephen Premil says:

      google Paul Trowe together with the words: abuse, sabotage, incident

      you will find a lot more than just speculation

      • Nick says:

        Nowhere did I suggest removing the quotes by the man himself, just the leading speculative questions, its pure tabloid shite.

        • Snargelfargen says:

          No way is this tabloid style. Think, how would the Daily Mail cover this?

          “SHOCKING UNDERAGE THREESOME: SEX GAME DEVELOPER DEPARTS IN CLOUD OF SHAME!”

          “TROWE TARNISHES TRANSVESTITE TWITTER! DEMENTED DEVELOPER DISHES DIRT ON INDUSTRY INSIDERS!”

  7. fylth says:

    I wonder how long before this unpleasant individual comes to pay the comments section a visit, most likely fabricating private conversations to use as ammo to berate Mr Walker

  8. The Random One says:

    Sex, lies and videogames.

    • WrongTarget says:

      Hah! Brilliant. We’re getting to that point too it seems.

  9. Emeraude says:

    Given my Jane Austen rewrite seems to have been censored, I have a feeling it has been misunderstood.

    • John Walker says:

      Purely context. Rather than matching the joke that I was being accused of such things, it appeared to be simply a sandwich joke.

      • Emeraude says:

        I was just thinking that, the same way the original Austen quote isn’t the universal truth it is presented to be, the rewrite wasn’t. The tonal similarity worked I thought.

        Well, as long as you understand I wasn’t actually literally thinking that.

  10. daphne says:

    Ah, the life and tribulations of a small, small man. Always fun to gaze at.

  11. Iscannon says:

    I thought this was a games site. John’s articles are becoming more and more of a chore to read with all this hearsay and opinion. I don’t want to read all this malicious bitching from the devs. It doesn’t help anyone.

    • Koozer says:

      …don’t then?

    • John Walker says:

      A game site with opinions?! Call the authorities!

      But good call, we’ve pretty much stopped posting about games at this point. I can’t remember the last time we even mentioned one.

      • The Random One says:

        Not A Game Website (feat. Cara Ellison)

        • li says:

          Yep, much better.
          I was tired of reading news about video games anyway, so I’m happy about the change. What will you focus on next?
          I’d love to get cooking recipes and advices from my beloved RPS hivemind, but I let you choose anything you like..

      • Gap Gen says:

        A what? Is that what all those cartoon pictures I see on here are?

      • Heliocentric says:

        I am one of your loudest critics when I think you have gotten lost in finger pointing, but other than the ‘why did he wait do long to quit?’ (answer: contract) you have performed admirably here. Thank you for posting, even if you linked kotaku :p

        • Hahaha says:

          Source another site for articles but write them up in your own style…….. blogging about games 101

          • darkChozo says:

            It’s not just reblogging the Kotaku article, though. That article is almost entirely about the 15 year old girl thing, while this is more comprehensive.

      • Iscannon says:

        Yup, as expected you’ve brushed any criticism away with a flippant and sarcastic remark. This isn’t a PC news article, it’s a useless gossip piece.

        • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

          So… why are you still here?

          • Iscannon says:

            I’m not sure why you’re jumping in with that obviously very helpful reply, but it should be obvious. I like news about PC games, not gossip articles with some company news tacked on the side. Are you saying I should shut up and leave because I don’t agree with one of the writers?

          • SuicideKing says:

            No, s/he’s just saying that if you don’t like this “gossip” article, don’t read it, it hasn’t affected you in any way (maybe wasted a minute before you would have realised that it’s not for you), nor is it offensive, damaging to society, reinforcing negative stereotypes, etc.

            Read the other 10-odd articles that go up daily on RPS about PC games.

        • SuicideKing says:

          TO THE GALLOWS!

      • ramirezfm says:

        Yes, you need to get that we are not interested in your opinions! This is a game site dammit! Give us a game title, box picture and some number so we know whether the game is good or bad!

        • li says:

          John’s explanation about this story: 3/10.

          • li says:

            Well, maybe not, I didn’t mean it was bad, on the contrary, it was excellent, so let’s say 13/10.

          • Everblue says:

            I don’t know, I thought the graphics were good!

            Does it have replayability though?

      • Jackablade says:

        I think I’m kind of with IsCannon on this one. Certainly the story is one worthy of covering, but I think going so far into the nitty gritty – bringing in twitter quotations of all this unprofessional airing of dirty laundry and the like, isn’t really something that feels necessary. While it’s all posted up on Twitter for the world to see, it does still feel a bit like you’re dragging out people’s private interactions on to the website for judgement when they’re not really the business of anyone beyond those involved.

    • AdventureL0ver says:

      I dont understand why this is not being seen as news. Someone who brought back a successful IP, released the first KS adventure game to the masses is misquoting highly reputable people in the Adventure Gaming community, alienating former colleagues & volunteers and has now even driven Al Lowe & Josh Mandel away.

      It’s funny to actually see how many people have left this Replay Games company. If you go through the credits of the game and look up all those people – none of them are working for Replay Games anymore. Rather peculiar run of circumstances..

      • derbefrier says:

        Ehh its news in the same way that anything tmz reports is news. Its a gossip piece plain and simple and people love their gossip, and drama.

        • AdventureL0ver says:

          But gossip might be false information. This is all based on facts.
          I think it’s good to know what someone is trying to do to a community of retro adventure game lovers.

          • snakesvsplanes says:

            Agreed– in the age of crowd-funding, when people are putting their faith in developers to produce the best products they can, in the most professional manner, this kind of behavior simply does not reflect well on a community which deserves a much better image. It’s only fair that he is called out for his OWN actions, so that it’s clear that Al, Josh and the rest of the team have had nothing to do with any of the mismanaging that went on there.

        • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

          This is news in the same way that Richard Garriott leaving Origin Systems was news or Will Wright leaving Maxis was news or Zeschuk and Muzyka leaving BioWare was news, except in this case we got more behind-the-scenes details as to the why of it all that we generally didn’t in those other cases. As such, I’d actually say this is more news in a way that those others weren’t, which were usually little more than press releases for the most part.

      • tarasis says:

        Seems like news to me and I’m glad RPS covered it otherwise I wouldn’t have known about Lowe leaving, or Mandel.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      RPS isn’t a games site? Oh, thank God. It’ll simplify Phasma’s Database of Opinions vastly if I can just say “all gaming sites suck” instead of always having to add an asterisk and “except RPS.”

  12. Keymonk says:

    Lowe, Crowe and Trowe? Heh.

  13. Tim James says:

    Please challenge yourself to use fewer adverbs in your writing.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yes, rectify this swiftly and decisively or I shall gladly take my custom elsewhere.

  14. mrmalodor says:

    Shameful display.

  15. tomimt says:

    I think a lot of Trowe’s spite stemmed from that he talked a lot about creating “Sierra 2.0″ during the KS of Larry. After that was done, I think he took it way, way too personally when the other Sierra designers weren’t interested about his ideas of reviving “Sierra spirit”, but were more keen to work on their own. In the end, it seems, Crowe, Murphy, Coles and Jensen steering as far as possible from Trowe was for the best, despite they all have had their issues with their projects.

    • AdventureL0ver says:

      Paul was lucky to find good people that were passionate and willing to work on this project. Once they got a whiff of his (business) ethics everyone left as soon as they could.

  16. Tuor says:

    Based on this article (as well as the Kotaku one), I’m left with the feeling that this Trowe guy has been consumed by his own bitterness. I don’t know what kind of guy he was originally, but it seems like events have made him into a pretty petty and spiteful guy, *even if* his claims are true.

    What positive thing can he think to be accomplishing by doing what he’s doing? How can his accusations make things better for anyone, including himself? Instead, it seems like he wants to spread misery and unpleasantness so that he doesn’t have to experience them alone.

    I’m guessing that Lowe got sucked into this on the premise of re-igniting the Leisure Suit Larry franchise, but has (probably rightfully) concluded that it isn’t going to work out the way he anticipated, which caused him to not to re-up when the duration of his agreement came to an end. Can’t say I blame him. The whole thing has become pretty crass, and if there is anything to be learned here, it’s the reminder that one person can sour almost anything. Kinda depressing, really.

  17. barney says:

    Somehow I find the notion that you don’t care about or want to speculate on this completely disingenuous.

  18. DeFrank says:

    This is just good readin’ right here.

  19. Hahaha says:

    “you’re the worst looking transsexual I have ever seen”

    Who cares? can we not call people ugly now have we actually got to the stage where we have to constantly praise and boost egos? god forbid we hurt the feelings of little fred/sarah oh wait it’s a fully grown human

    • snakesvsplanes says:

      You simply don’t realize the context. I witnessed the thing. Sure, if you’re having a petty, personal fight with a friend, occasionally, horrible insults like that might slip out– fine. But to publicly (on Twitter) call someone out who hadn’t HERSELF formally come out as a transsexual, and to throw in the fact that he found her unattractive– for absolutely no reason? (Seriously– she had posted something which was entirely unrelated to him, or to his games, and he just did it for shits and giggles.)

      Is THAT professional behavior?

    • djbriandamage says:

      The woman he insulted (I’m not naming her since RPS didn’t either) had volunteered countless hours of her time for free as a moderator and supporter of the project. She said something Trowe didn’t like and he banned her from the community. When she complained about it he lashed out against her. This was essentially her thanks for her free work and the adventure game community rallied around her, culminating in the story above.

      • WrenBoy says:

        Wow. The guy must be sick in the head.

      • ffordesoon says:

        Jesus. I mean, it’s horrible to do that to anyone for any reason, but doing it to a fan who trusted you with private information about her life just because is a special kind of shitty.

        I’m a mod on the Wasteland 2 boards. If Brian Fargo told me I was fat via Twitter and then gave out my real name and address, that would hurt way more than some anonymous (or Anonymous) mook doing it.

        • snakesvsplanes says:

          Yup– the gal in question is a truly amazing human being who has been NOTHING but an adamant supporter of the adventure game movement. She simply called out Trowe when he lashed out meaninglessly against the Two Guys From Andromeda (which he did right on their own Kickstarter), and he immediately responded by banning her from the forums (on which she had volunteered tons of her time), to the point where she couldn’t even view them anymore. Not to mention, he banned her on every social media platform, which begs the question– why, a month after supposedly cutting her out of his life, did he decide to randomly attack her?

          Spite. That’s why. That’s what Trowe operates on. He has a massive chip on his shoulder against– well, everyone. And the second anyone stops kissing his ass and tries to talk some sense into him, he decides that they are just trolls. And hence, the verbal diarrhea of private information and things said in confidence.

  20. ffordesoon says:

    Poor Al Lowe. Dude can’t catch a break.

    EDIT: Also, that quote where Trowe is like, “We’re still best friends and will talk to each other every day because we’re such good friends,” coming right after the apparently fabricated Lowe quote, is pretty darn unsettling.

    I keep picturing him walking into the office alone, and someone asks him where Al is, and he’s like, “Al’s right here. We’re best friends.”

    Brrrrr.

  21. Corey Cole says:

    Thanks for the careful research, John. Everything in the article in which I was involved is very accurately reported. Lori’s memory of the conversation with Paul Trowe in reference to Oded Sharon was that *Paul* used those derogatory terms about Oded, and we did not correct him. As a result, Paul could easily have assumed we agreed with him, although in fact, we do not.

    One thing I used to say was, “Never make the mistake of assuming that anyone in the game industry is a professional.” I would sometimes add, “… including me.” All of us make mistakes. Most of us do the best we can with what we have and who we are. I’ve said stupid things before, but try not to make too much of a habit of it.

    • Ich Will says:

      It’s probably worth remembering that behind all the horrible acts is a person who needs help. Yes, a lot of what he has done is unpleasant but I imagine there is a deep depression* driving this behaviour. With some good therapy and the support of what friends he has left, I expect he will be able to put all this behind him one day and remove that rather large fried potato from his shoulder.

      * Depression is a disease, not a choice.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Very few are willing to admit to saying something dumb however. Gotta keep on digging that hole….

  22. Saul says:

    My first exposure to this was Trowe’s bile spouting on Corey’s Facebook. Thanks for filling in the blanks, John. And don’t listen to the haters – some of us love your work!