Ingmar: Let’s go back in time now as I’m sure that many of our readers would love to hear some stories about Sierra. How did the two of you end up at the company, and what projects had you worked on prior to the original Hero's Quest?
Corey: I was working in the San Francisco area developing a desktop publishing application for the Atari ST. A friend who did animation work for Sierra, Carolly Hauksdottir, told us that she had been in a meeting, and Ken Williams decided the company should make a role-playing game. Carolly introduced us to Ken. He wasn't too impressed by our gaming background, but he got excited when I told him I knew how to program the Atari ST.
Sierra hired me as a systems programmer, and when they saw that I was doing well, they allowed Lori to present our proposed design for Hero's Quest. They signed a design contract – I think she got $1,000 or $1,500 a month in advances – and started the game about the time I finished the new Atari ST interpreter. The following month, the lead programmer quit the project because he didn't approve of having a Thief character in the game, and I took over as lead programmer.
Ingmar: The Quest for Glory series represents a combination of adventure and RPG elements that remains unique even to this day. How did you come up with the idea to mix these genres?
Corey: Sierra wanted us to make a role-playing game like Ultima, but all of Sierra's tools were designed to make adventure games. We decided to make an RPG that had the feel of a good tabletop D&D game, with emphasis on the characters, story, and puzzles rather than on exploring dungeons and fighting constantly. Basically, we made the type of game we would enjoy playing, and we made it work with the Sierra game engine and tools.
Ingmar: Let’s have a closer look at the actual Quest for Glory games now. What are your feelings about the first game when you look back, and what do you remember from its development?
Corey: Hero's Quest was a team effort. Kenn Nishiuye defined the art style and made it look good despite using 16-color EGA graphics. Mark Seibert and Chris Braymen made us some enduring music, despite the primitive sound cards people had back then.
Quest for Glory I: So You Want to Be a Hero
Bob Fischbach set up the first game scenes and wrote a lot of placeholder messages for looking at trees and rocks and such. Bob is actually responsible for the first puns in the game. We might have made a more serious game, but we decided Bob's jokes were fun and funny, so we continued with them. We also decided that the art limitations made a comedy game work better than a completely serious one.
We didn't like distracting the players by making them type in full commands, so we came up with the shortcut keys – For instance, "CTRL-A" typed in "Ask about" for the player.
We originally wanted to have a different race for each character class and allow the player to choose a female character, but we had to drop these ideas. Bob Heitman patiently explained the limitations of the system. In particular, everything the player can do has to be animated, and if you have six choices of race and gender, that means six times as much animation. That couldn't be done within the art budget or on the available disk space. Some players actually played directly from the 360KB floppy disks back then!
Incidentally, Hero's Quest came close to being cancelled. Ken Williams looked at the game and said, "This is a role-playing game? I don't get it. Will it appeal to either adventure gamers or role-playing gamers?" But our Producer, Guruka Singh Khalsa, stood up for the game and said "I love it!" Then Ken's son, Chris Williams, played some of it and said, "This game is awesome!" Next thing you know, Ken was saying, "This game is awesome; I love it!" Hero's Quest went on to become one of Sierra's fastest-selling games on initial release. Including the VGA version, it sold over 250,000 copies in the first few years.
Ingmar: Same question about part 2: Please share some anecdotes from the creation of Trial by Fire.
Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire
Corey: The title was all too appropriate to the development process. We had just gotten everything figured out after completing our first game, when Sierra changed all the rules. Stories had to be completely defined and storyboarded up front. All art was to be hand-drawn and scanned in, rather than drawn on the computer. All team communication was to follow the chain of command: A programmer with a question for an artist had to ask me, I would ask Ken, and he would get the answer from the artist. Frequently this led to miscommunication and misunderstanding.
The process was designed to improve art standards of the new 256-color VGA games. But we were the guinea pigs – Trial By Fire was Sierra's last 16-color EGA game, but was developed using processes intended for 256-color graphics. It was a stressful process, and the budget climbed dramatically from the first game due to having to do some tasks two or three times. In hindsight, I wish Sierra had delayed the game six months or a year so we could have used VGA graphics and kept it up to date.
That's why we had fun spoofing Sierra in the game. The evil city, Raseir, is an anagram of Sierra. The main villain, Ad Avis, was named after the new Creative Director, Bill Davis. We also used other people and rules as inspirations for design elements.
Pre-game, we did a lot of research into the 1001 Arabian Nights so that we could get some of that flavour into the game.
Ingmar: What comes to mind when you look back at Quest for Glory III: Wages of War and its development?
Quest for Glory III: Wages of War
Corey: We skipped a year between QfG2 and QfG3 because Lori and I switched over to educational games. I designed Castle of Dr. Brain and led the programming teams for all three educational projects. The others were Lori's Mixed-Up Fairy Tales and Gano Haine's and Jane Jensen's EcoQuest. That was their first game at Sierra; they worked as writers before that.
I helped Lori design the main story of Quest for Glory 3, but then Sierra assigned me to port their SCI engine to the Sega Genesis CD. Unfortunately, a shortcut taken by another programmer hid a major problem which eventually forced us to cancel that project. In the meantime, Lori was both directing QfG3 and her point-and-click redesign of QfG1.
I finally got on QfG3 near the end of the project. I wrote some text messages and dialogue, edited Lori's work, and playtested the game. But Lori did 90%+ of the design work.
As for the game setting, that was suggested by one of our co-workers. Having spent a year without a Quest for Glory, we wanted to give players something less intense than we planned for Shadows of Darkness, so the idea of setting a game in Africa sounded perfect. Lori loves creating characters and filling out their stories, so the chance to work with Rakeesh and Uhura again was a great opportunity. I think that QfG3 is one of the best in terms of telling a story.
Ingmar: Quest for Glory 4 is my personal favorite of the series, so I’m particularly interested in hearing your thoughts and memories about Shadows of Darkness.
Corey: After QfG3, I quit my job as a full-time Sierra employee and came back as a game designer on contract. So QfG2 and QfG4 are the games where I had the most design influence, and QfG4 was the first (other than Dr. Brain) where I worked full-time on design with no programming responsibilities.
Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness
We steeped ourselves in old horror movies and books about Vampires and Werewolves. Aubrey Hodges created a memorable soundtrack that really added to the game. Lori came up with a very detailed back story about Katrina and other characters in the game. I took some ideas from some old occult books. For example, the name "Avoozl" came from a spider god in Anton LaVey's "The Satanic Rituals." Other elements came from Dracula and other Gothic fiction.
Dr. Cranium is of course a nod to Castle of Dr. Brain. It made sense to have a mad scientist (think Dr. Frankenstein) in Mordavia, and it gave me a chance to slip in some more puzzles. We were also inspired by parodies such as Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein. Baba Yaga made her return, as we knew she would when we designed QfG1. Mordavia is closer to her natural home.
The frustrating part about QfG4 is that the game ran late, the team became worn out, and Sierra decided to ship it with very inadequate testing. As a result, the first release was almost unplayable. Fortunately, they decided to re-release it the following year in a CD version with full voice acting. I got to produce the voice recording sessions. Working with people like Jeff Bennett and John Rhys-Davies, along with many other immensely talented voice actors and our voice director, Stu Rosen, was amazing. While we got the voices into the game, a programmer worked most of the year fixing the bugs. The CD version isn't completely clean, but it's much more playable than the floppy version.Continued on the next page...