Anyone who played games in the 90s should feel all warm and fuzzy inside with the mere mention of Sierra. They created some of the most memorable point & click adventure games to ever grace the world of gaming. Among them were the King’s Quest, Space Quest, and Quest for Glory series, which all had players embarking on, well, quests of various sorts. But the days of point & click adventures came to a close as developers turned to new markets, and even Sierra began a slow decline—eventually shutting its doors in 2008.
Yet, adventure games never died. Dedicated fans kept the genre alive with user-created games, and a handful of companies soldiered on to create the games they love. And now, in the wake of Double Fine’s historic fundraising campaign for a new adventure game, and with other promising titles nearing release, adventure games are ready to make a comeback.
One such company is AGD Interactive. They took it on their shoulders to restore some of the Sierra classics—fixing up the graphics and sound, and improving the interfaces—and the team is also working on a few titles of their own. We had the pleasure of speaking with John Paul Selwood from AGD Interactive about adventure games and what’s to come.
You mention on your website that the team is “devoted to bringing adventure games back into style, and has the ambition to make this dream a reality.” This is interesting. Could you elaborate on this a bit? What makes you feel this way about adventure games?
At the time AGD Interactive was founded, adventure games were at an all time scarcity. Chris Warren and Britney Brimhall were the founders of the company and developed the remakes of the first two King’s Quest games. Their mission statement spoke to me, and I signed on with the company in 2004 as a background artist.
By presenting newer and older audiences with free remakes of Sierra classics, I feel AGD Interactive has successfully fulfilled its role in the adventure game scene.
I feel strongly about adventure games because of all the genres, the most fulfilling experiences have come from successfully completing each of the titles. The character portrayals are always presented as being vulnerable, average, everyday people who go on to do extraordinary things with their use of logic placed in the hands of the player.
Our team’s role seeks to further market a renewed interest in adventure games and bring them back into mainstream gaming. Himalaya Studios, AGD Interactive’s commercial offshoot, is based in Delaware, so perhaps our titles can generate appeal to U.S. consumers to go along with the trend currently developing in Europe.
While there have been some great adventure games recently, the genre fell from leading the gaming market. Why do you think this happened? I think what Double Fine is doing is interesting—it showed that gamers still want adventure games. What are your thoughts about this?
Fast paced shooter games and more mainstream RPG games had completely taken over the gaming scene in the mid-to-late ‘90s. Very few companies were interested in making adventure games for two reasons: conceptualizing a design document requires more time to incorporate puzzle ideas and they believed the mainstream would lack the patience to play these games. After enjoying so many years of being at the top in popularity, I feel these genres have regressed a bit due to their repetitive natures. Now, adventure games are experiencing a boom in European markets, particularly in Germany.
LucasArts adventures stayed in style more strongly due to a continued marketing appeal to their fan-base, whereas Sierra made some bold, extreme stylistic departures from their earlier titles that alienated their fan-base. Tim Schafer’s background at LucasArts further proves that they managed their Intellectual property more effectively and kept their fan-base in the fold. Being one of the best adventure game designers we’ve seen, Schafer’s role will help to further the market.
Just broadly speaking, why did you decide to go back and remake the old Sierra games? With the amount of work this took, you probably could have made a whole new game—what was it about the games you wanted to bring back?
King’s Quest V for Nintendo was the first adventure game I ever played growing up and it was such a unique experience where I felt truly involved with the characters and storyline progression to go with the puzzles. I bought the King’s Quest collection soon after, where the far superior graphics of the PC versions of the fifth and sixth installment captivated and influenced my artistic style in the years to come.
For me, the Sierra-Online games were the pinnacle of what adventure games should be. The puzzle designs required you to be extremely observant to avoid dead ends, and the sense of danger was felt due to the random deaths you could experience. Most of today’s adventure games lack these two perceived design flaws, but I found that they forced me to be more observant, and gave me feelings of tension that are absent from modern titles.
I wanted to introduce new audiences to this style of game-play and bring old fans back to re-experience the joy of these classic titles. While I could have worked on an original title from scratch, the experience was a great stepping stone to other things, as our team had a very concrete base for developing these games.
Remaking the early King’s Quest and Quest for Glory games seems like it was quite a process. I’m curious how this went about—were there any roadblocks along the way? What did the folks at Sierra think when you asked them about the project?
We operated strictly with private online forums and occasionally by email. Each facet of development had it’s own main “sticky” tracker thread posted at the top of the page to keep track of to-do lists.
For artwork, I would have separate threads organized according to their relevant location. For example, “JP: desert scenes” clearly makes navigation easier for locating assets for that area of the game. On more programming/scripting heavy projects like Quest for Glory, separate forum pages dedicated only to programming and design decisions were made to avoid clutter on the art and music front.
There were times where we experienced setbacks. We occasionally had some design disputes, i.e. the layouts of scenes leading to major revisions or storyline choices, etc. Most of these were very minor and should be expected at times from a team of creative people.
The greatest roadblock in any of these projects is time constraints from real life issues, which our team has done a remarkable job of overcoming. We could not have accomplished this without the direction of Chris Warren, who’s skills and dedication helped tie everything together.
Your games have an interesting graphics style, including your upcoming title, Mage’s Initiation. You keep the pixelated style instead of the cartoonish and 3D styles that came later. Why did you choose this route?
Our style is built upon the foundation from the Sierra titles we remade. The resolution has been brought up a notch to improve the level of detail for these scenes. The game has an extensive list of character animations and cut-scenes which would be very difficult to pull off in a larger screen format. The quality is in keeping with the classic approach as higher resolutions require character animations to have more frames to be believable and fluid.
In the future, we hope to upgrade our visuals further as our budget grows. I think the departure from the other styles is a good thing and gives our games a unique look from what we’ve been seeing.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you for the opportunity to be featured in your interview. I enjoy working as a graphic artist and hope to do it as a full time career. I encourage everyone who has a love for adventures to show their support to developers by purchasing promising new titles. Our team at Himalaya Studios hopes to release Mages Initiation in late 2012 and promises a rewarding gaming experience for fans of the genre.