Archive for January, 2012

VFS Term 4 Animation

Taking a break from anything SQ-related to post up some recent schoolwork. I think collecting video reference is my favorite part of animation – as long as nobody gets hurts, that is.

This assignment involved animating ten seconds of a character who walks, reacts, and runs – and polishing it within eight weeks.

January 24 2012 | Daily Life, Stuff I Made | 2 Comments »

Incinerations v1.1, Music, and Other Stuff

It came to my attention that a few sites are linking directly to this front page for my game, so most of my blog posts will be SQInc-related for a while.

Version 1.1 has been uploaded for “Incinerations”. This new version fixes all of the bugs that have thus far been reported, including the infamous rocket bug and a crash during the arcade sequence. There have also been countless spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors fixed (hammering home the point that I should not rely on myself to proofread ever again). Finally, I’ve updated a few graphic glitches, meaning your old save games won’t work with this version anymore.

And there’s a few notes about the site as well. Frederik’s contributions to the soundtrack have now been uploaded to the media page and are available for download. And if you haven’t been there yet, there’s also wallpapers, Akril’s concept art, and Roger’s ringtone available. Also, the forum has been updated and re-archived to accommodate the game’s release (as well as clean up all those three year old posts cluttering the front page). While I’m not updating the points or trophies list just yet, you can discuss these in the forums where an unofficial guide has been posted.

There’s a few more happenings around the community as well. “Vohaul Strikes Back” is now seeking voice actors and you can audition by going to this page. There’s also been a fourth – yes, I’m not kidding – FOURTH Space Quest game released within the month. “Space Quest -1: Decision of the Elders” has just been released, although it’s a short ten-minute AGI game which will be periodically released in episodes. I can’t figure out what’s going on either. Why doesn’t Leisure Suit Larry get this kind of fan-love?

That’s all for now. Will keep you posted.

January 17 2012 | Daily Life, Stuff I Made, Video Games | 8 Comments »

Space Quest Incinerations – Now Available

I’ve been waiting almost twelve years to make this blog entry. From the humbling beginnings back in high school where this existed as a crudely-designed fan-project, to the revival spent making the first couple rooms on my laptop in 2006, to the four years spent animating battle sequences on my couch while juggling work between “Vohaul Strikes Back” and “The Silver Lining” to my move to Vancouver where I spent several months programming and beta-testing my fingers off and swearing never to make a project of this magnitude ever again. At the cost of my sanity, the game is finally here. You can go download it. You can go play it. You can come back and tell me it sucks – I don’t care. It’s finished, and that’s what matters.

I keep expecting some Highlander-type Quickening to happen to me, but so far, it’s a no-go. I’m pretty sure I’m out of shape and have very poor social skills, though. Is that a prize?

Most people would probably use an announcement like this to toss out a generic “special thanks” and describe the game… but I think on my own blog, I’m entitled to just spill my real feelings. This is huge for me. This is a right-up-there-with-#1 moment for me. Disneyland, being a best man at my brother’s wedding, Samosa Night with Nick, New Years 2006, DucktaleZ 3, the train ride to Toronto – I can add ” finished Incinerations” to the list.

And the people to thank – right off the bat: I won’t embarrass him on any other forum post, but Frederik Olsen stuck with me through to the end. He made a great soundtrack, we stayed up late discussing the games, he’s very passionate about his work and committed to see things through.

And Team VSB – Andres Kalle, Patrick C. Johnston – I’ve learned so much from working with them. The game wouldn’t be possible without their input and know-how (actually, it WOULD be possible, but it would be crappier.) I’ve thrown so many requests their way, and they’ve always thrown back quick and easy results. It’s just mind-blowing to me.

And I know I give “The Silver Lining” crew a lot of flack for having driven me completely up the wall at times, but Cez Bittar and Rich Flores – they helped make this game possible. They pushed me further than I’d ever pushed myself and once I built up speed, I just kept adding things to SQInc that was never in the plans. Would I work with them again? I would hesitate, but yes. Richard’s a talented and hard-driving animation director, and Cez flat-out knows how to run a team with that golden tongue of his – I swear I quit TSL about five times, and he still kept pulling me back in somehow. I don’t think anyone besides Frede stayed with SQInc’s team for more than 2-3 months, so I respect anyone who can manage a 40-person+ team of volunteers like that.

And of course, respect to the original developers and then some. Scott Murphy. Mark Crowe. Josh Mandel. Ken and Roberta Williams. Al Lowe. Daryl Gates. Corey and Lori Ann Cole. Not household names these days, but these people are my childhood. The Sierra family created something unique and wonderful with their games that holds the same kind of sway over their fans that Disney, the Looney Tunes and the Muppets hold over the world. “King’s Quest 6” alone is as big to me as “The Lion King.” I think a big part of me just needed to share back the love they gave us in their own games.

The most embarrassing part about completing this game is just the whole “adventure” and “fan-game” aspect of it. I feel like I’m living in an environment where there’s only two types of games: shooters and Skyrim. And even trying to explain my game to my family at Christmas just met with a lot of confused reactions. A lot of people I talk to either don’t understand what an “adventure game” is, and they understand even less the concept of “letting people play it for free”. So support from my peers has been a very mixed bag when making this.

But to see this game finally finished, it feels like I’m reaching some undefined closure in my life. I’d be lying if I didn’t say the original SQInc’s failure didn’t hit me hard. People kept telling me to give up back then saying it was impossible, and they were right at the time. Nobody gets anything huge done at 17. That might have been what was driving me all these years. The Ducktalez cartoons, the Monkey Island games, The Silver Lining, Vohaul Strikes Back… sometimes, a little piece of your past just won’t rest until you’ve proven it wrong. It’s one thing to make a game for the fans, but it’s another to make a game for more than just the fans. This is for my inspirations, this is for my family, this is for my friends, this is for my friends’ friends, this is for everyone who believed and everyone who didn’t, and this is for myself.

Sorry for the long post, but I think I’m coming to the end now. This last stretch has been such a long one. The game was playable last December – and it still took a full year to get it ready for everyone. And how crazy is it to see “Vohaul Strikes Back” and the “Space Quest 2 Remake” all coming out at the same time? This is a very emotion-heavy time for me. I wish I could be putting as much effort into my schoolwork as I am into this blog post right now. But at least I feel like I can move on for a change. That I can put this behind me and start a new chapter in my life.

So. Looks like “Incinerations” is done. You better go play it.

Hmmm… what do I do now? Ducktalez 7? VSB Spin-off? Back to TSL for a bit?

Or better idea: go finish school and get a real job like a normal person.

This is just the beginning.

January 11 2012 | Awesomeness, Daily Life, Stuff I Made, Video Games | 20 Comments »

The Space Quest Series

It strikes me as odd that in the six years spent working on two Space Quest fan-games, I haven’t really talked about the SQ series on my blog, let alone played the games in years. I just sort of woke up one day and said “hey – I think I’ll make some Space Quest games.” And what kind of lunatic does that? And what is this Space Quest thing anyway?

In the late 80’s, Sierra Online was enjoying some success with their new King’s Quest series – so naturally, they wanted to capitalize on the “Quest” brand. Two of their programmers (Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe) walk up to the boss and say “Hey, we want to make a space game!” And the boss is all “okay!” because back then it was easy to pitch game ideas. So Scott and Mark (AKA The Two Guys from Andromeda) made a game about a janitor (Roger Wilco) in space who saves the galaxy and stuff.

Because of the Two Guys’ twisted sense of humor, the game was a lot more violent and sadistic than King’s Quest – but in a dark, comical kind of way. Fans loved all the outrageous ways Roger could get killed, from exploding in vacuums to giving birth to alien chest babies. The fans also enjoyed the game’s sarcastic narrator, who would often insult you for making dumb choices. The games later developed into a sci-fi parody series, spoofing Star Trek most frequently.

Anyhow, here’s my reviews of the six games themselves:

Space Quest 1: The Sarien Encounter (1986)
So Roger wakes up in the broomcloset to discover the ship’s been over-run by aliens who’ve stolen the experimental Star Generator. Stuff happens, there’s a desert planet, a robot spider, the Blue Brothers make a cameo, and Roger saves the day by blowing something up. Pretty simple plot. This was the only SQ game to get an official VGA remake five years later. It has very few puzzles, and a very thin plot, so in my opinion, it’s not the funniest or best of the games. Still, for its time, it was pretty awesome.
My Ranking: This one comes in at no. 6 for me. Bottom of the list. Not a bad game – just not their strongest work. But then again, things were just getting started.

Space Quest 2: Vohaul’s Revenge (1987)
This time, Roger gets captured, sent to a jungle planet and has to defeat a mad scientist named Vohaul. It was built in the same game engine as SQ1, so it wasn’t too different in gameplay. Most of the puzzles involved mazes or getting past wild animals, but it was definitely a step up from the sparse puzzles in the original. Sludge Vohaul as a villain became a surprise hit with the fans – what with his evil plot to infest the galaxy with cloned insurance salesmen. I’m not sure how that evil plot would’ve worked, but Vohaul was very serious about his intentions.
My Ranking: 5 on the list. Better puzzles than the first game, but even with the VGA remake, the game is really just Roger wandering through the jungle for a while getting killed by every thing.

Space Quest 3: The Pirates of Pestulon (1989)
Okay, I think THIS is the game where the Two Guys completely lost their minds – mostly because here is where they wrote THEMSELVES into the game. And not just as brief cameos, no – they are the goal of the game. Roger Wilco is on a quest to rescue his creators from being turned into Jell-o at the hands of an evil software company. Along the way, he goes for burgers, fights the Terminator, has a lava planet adventure, and even has a giant Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot fight. This is also the game where he gets his own ship, the Aluminum Mallard – which also became a hit with the fans in spite of Roger never flying the ship in any other game (besides “Vohaul Strikes Back,” that is.) The graphics were better, the humor was ridiculous, and the puzzles were more active – but I think the best thing about this game: is the music. Because this game’s soundtrack is composed by Supertramp’s drummer. If you don’t know who Supertramp is, just time-travel back to the 70’s and check them out. It’s okay. I’ll wait.
My Ranking: No. 2 out of the six games. The music is always great to listen to, and the adventure is so ridiculous that it’s practically beyond awesome.

Space Quest 4: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (1992)
Ah, now here’s a milestone in the series. VGA, all mouse support, and the first game on a CD with voices. And to top it off, who else narrates but the legend Gary Owens himself. Who’s Gary Owens? Just time-travel back to the 60’s and check out “Laugh-In.” It’s okay. I’ll wait. This was just another ridiculous fourth-wall-breaking adventure where Roger finds himself trapped in “Space Quest 12” and uses a time pod to travel between various sequels to defeat Vohaul once again. It was that crazy time-travel gimmick that really sold the game because I think this game has the fewest puzzles and is mostly just you running away from the Sequel Police in very buggy arcade sequences.
My Ranking: 3, good premise, great music, Gary Owens rules. And then there’s practically no puzzles – it’s just you wandering around trying to sort out the plot for yourself. My least favorite aspect about the game is the time-travel conundrum caused during the finale of the story in which Roger sees his future. It’s a good cliffhanger, but it’s never followed up on in any game, and has made writing fan-fiction an otherwise total nightmare.

Space Quest 5: The Next Mutation (1993)
At some point, the Two Guys broke up. So Mark Crowe helmed this game on his own, turning Space Quest into an all-out Star Trek parody. Surprisingly, it’s actually my favorite of the bunch. Unlike the past four games, this one’s very heavy on plot, dialogue and characters. There’s a love interest (Beatrice), lots of sidekicks, plenty of villains, and there’s plenty of character development. I compare this one to “Quest for Glory 4,” as it’s one of those games where you earn respect from the side-characters as you complete various missions. And there’s so many puzzles to solve and planets to visit – it’s sadly a very under-rated game of the series. It’s like playing a movie.
My Ranking: 1, of course. The game’s chock-loaded with creativity, excitement, and humor. And to feel yourself bonding with the characters was a very rare trait in adventures, so this one’s got my vote.

Space Quest 6: The Spinal Frontier (1995)
Ooohhh, where to start with this one? This was not a fan-favorite at all. Even the plot is so vague, I can’t begin to explain it. Roger just wanders from one area to another, solving filler puzzles until about the last half of the game when his best friend gets kidnapped and he goes to rescue her (and at some point ends up miniaturized inside her body.) This game pissed off a lot of fans by throwing out Beatrice and bringing in a new love interest (Stellar Santiago) – thus starting a love triangle that once again ruined fan-fiction for the next fifteen years. But on the plus, it made nice use of the Super-VGA graphics with lots of 3D animation thrown in. And it is arguably the funniest game in the series – and the only one to establish the narrator (Gary Owens, again) as an actual character whom Roger hears in his head and talks to.
My Ranking: 4, just because I didn’t care for the filler puzzles or lack of plot. Mind you, I didn’t mind Stellar as a character. I just didn’t see her as a love interest. And I think a lot of fans hated her design (really weird forehead ridges, hence why I redesigned her as a normal-looking person for “Incinerations”).

Anyway, that’s that. Them’s the six games. I should really replay them at some point, but I think I’ve had enough Space Quest for one life-time.

Enjoy “Incinerations” tomorrow.

January 10 2012 | Video Games | 4 Comments »

Video Games Played in 2011

I should have done half this list somewhere back in the summer since I played a lot of games this year. As a result, I’ve shortened it to exclude older titles like “Prince of Persia,” “Marvel Ultimate Alliance” and “Arkham Asylum” just because I don’t have any new or funny observations on those games (not to say “Arkham Asylum” isn’t awesome, of course – but it seems weird to blog about when everyone else is playing Arkham City.)

Dante’s Inferno
Cool game. Tapers off near the end, but still awesome. Nothing quite tops the boss battle list like fighting a naked 50-foot Cleopatra who shoots unborn babies out of her nipples. I’m serious; because of this game, THAT is a thing.

Final Fantasy XIII
Argh! Nothing looks like anything in this game! Is that a building or a giant mutant popsicle? Did I just add a giant killer robot to my team, or four pickle barrels mounted on chicken legs? Am I fighting a pack of wolves, or a bunch of paper clips glued onto porcupines?

I could also riff on the incredibly confusing and disjointed story, but… I’m actually entertained by how pointless the whole thing is. At 60 hours play-time, it’s still more fun than FF12. I actually prefer the game’s bad story to it’s “good” graphics. I think the best thing about the game is its soundtrack – they have sort of a “Katamari Damacy” meets “A Charlie Brown Christmas” thing going on.

This was an interesting game. You switch between two people who can cross the rift between life and death, and you use your powers to capture creatures of folklore and use them to solve a supernatural murder mystery. It’s like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” meets “Pokemon.”

Back to the Future: The Game
Episode 1: As I mentioned before, it’s VERY faithful to the spirit of the movies. You go back to the 30’s, meet a Teenage Doc, gangster hijinks ensues, and it ends with a cliffhanger. Pretty solid opener, actually.
Episode 2: Episode 2’s about as good as the first one. The puzzles are few and easy, but the story is still interesting. You’re still in the 30’s though. I think I would have liked to see each episode in a new time period.
Episode 3: Because of what you’ve done in the 30’s, Hill Valley in the 80’s becomes a police state run by an evil version of Doc. AWESOME PREMISE. The bad side – just when you think you’re half-finished the episode, the credits run. I’m taking off marks for that.
Episode 4: This one goes between the 80’s and 30’s. It feels more fleshed out, and the fan-service stops here, allowing them to take BTTF in a new original direction, but again – it ends too soon.
Episode 5: I won’t ruin anything here, but I have to repeat – I love the story in this game, even if the climax comes and goes too quickly. I think this could have been better told in three episodes rather than five because the puzzles are spread too thin and the credits keep running in the wrong spots. And yet in spite of this, it still has an amazing ending. I’m very conflicted about the BTTF season as whole, but I’m leaning towards a thumbs-up with this one. All-in-all, it’s still fun!

Eternal Sonata
I’m forcing myself to shorten this rant because my last couple drafts were longer than this whole post combined.

The game is painfully stupid. Pretty graphics, yes. Pretty music, yes. Even an awesome fighting system, yes. But watching the hours upon hours of insanely long cut-scenes full of characters who can’t string together a single intelligent phrase is about as engaging as watching something starve to death.

And I’m not kidding when I say these cut-scenes are long. One of the first things you see in the game is a twenty-minute cut-scene where the narrator describes a landscape you’re looking at, followed shortly by a ten minute slide-show presentation on Frederic Chopin. It gets worse from there. Remember Aeris’ death from “Final Fantasy 7” (is that still a spoiler?) Imagine a similar scene where Aeris keeps talking for fifteen minutes and you’re begging for her to die already. That happens in this game.

The nice thing is, this is the first game I’ve ever seen where you can actually skip every cut-scene and not miss anything important.

Jurassic Park: The Game
This isn’t really an adventure game. It’s a “click everything until you win” game. It’s an interactive movie, where you only play to watch. All the action sequences are automated, and the outcome is determined on whether you mash the right amount of buttons in time. The game is an acquired taste, and you should play at your own discretion.

But given how BTTF performed earlier this year, I’m really surprised to see this much detail put into a Telltale game. The story is great, the settings are huge, and the action sequences are INCREDIBLE. At 4 episodes, JP still feels more fleshed out than BTTF, and it’s better than the last two JP movies. The button-mashing sequences really help the “action-thriller” style of the game. I can’t remember the last time any game had me on the edge of my seat like this.

REPLAY: Afterlife
I tried playing this one again after I gave up on it years ago. I re-discovered the reason I gave up on it: most of the game is spent with me yelling at my computer screen telling my buildings to evolve. No matter how much crap I do to get my buildings to turn into super-buildings, they just sit there doing nothing. And then I have to go around re-balancing all my Fate Structures and listening to my helpers complain about road problems. It’s a game about building Heaven and Hell, but no matter what I do – I always end up with Hell.

Space Quest 2: The VGA Remake
This seemed like an ideal place to bring this game up since it happens to be a full-length fan-made remake of the original Space Quest sequel – which came out just one week after “Vohaul Strikes Back!” (And with my own Space Quest game potentially being the next update, you have to admit, this is either crazy or downright brilliant.)

The folks at Infamous Adventures have done a great job re-designing the old pixely adventure from 1987 to give it a fresh flavorful look that comes right out of… 1993. I know to non-adventure gamers, it may sound weird for a team to spend all that work designing a game to LOOK almost 20 years old, but that’s just how the adventure community rolls.

Anyhow, the graphics are nice, the music is brilliant, the voice acting’s top-notch, and the writing is on par with the original series. It’s a well-made remake. Check it out.

And if you find a mysterious staircase in it, just WALK AWAY.

Vohaul Strikes Back
Hey, what’s this amazing game doing here? Didn’t I blog about it a dozen times already? I surely don’t need to blog about it again because all the cool people have already played and enjoyed it (and have downloaded it here because that’s what cool people do.)

Space Quest Incinerations
This game must be awesome because I think I’ve clocked more hours on it last year than any other game. And what an incredible adventure it is! An open-world sandbox spanning half the galaxy, thousands of mini-quests including driving sims and fettucini cook-offs, online multiplayer missions, customizable characters and more! Or making I’m just blowing smoke out of my ass. You walk around, talk to people and pick up everything that isn’t nailed down. How does next week for release sound?

January 06 2012 | Video Games | 2 Comments »