We were recently interviewed by Allan Karmine for a Ukrainian gaming magazine, “My Gaming Computer.” He asked some very thoughtful questions as well as telling us something of the state of gaming in the Ukraine. The interview was mainly about our Quest for Glory series. We are always pleased and surprised to be interviewed about our “antique” gaming series – Quest for Glory development ran from mid-1988 until late 1998. (We intended the games to be played forever, but alas, the modern computers just can’t handle them.) This time, though, we turned the tables around and asked Alan some questions about gaming in the Ukraine.
When our games were released in the 90’s, no U.S. games were legally available in the Ukraine, let alone translated into Russian, but that didn’t stop the gamers! Here are some of the things we learned about Ukrainian gaming:
Corey: Was there much difficulty playing games in English?
Allan: Even vice versa! My studies of English were sped up and greatly nourished by Sierra games and mostly Quest for Glory series, since I had it in rounds over and over again, from creating a greenish Hero in forests of Spielburg to disappearance in Borgov castle …. After that, I almost never played a translated game. When first English books appeared in rare foreign bookstores, I started reading them, and now I buy DVDs with English soundtrack… But base was formed many years ago, with QFG being my first serious practice of written English. For which I thank you.
Corey: I don’t think Sierra ever translated any of our games into any Slavic or Cyrillic languages. I know there were trade restrictions on selling modern computers through the “iron curtain” and I think on software as well. It’s amazing that any sort of a fan community was able to develop there under those conditions.
Allan: Well, it all began with the Perestroika in 1985 and unleashed a mighty wave with fall of Union in 1991. American culture (if it’s possible to call a bunch of popular comedies and action movies that way) flowed here unstoppable river. Ukraine, as well as other ex-soviet states, had a base for education and learning a lot of information. Many different communities that study foreign cultures or sub-cultures formed since then and they never stop appearing again. Computer gaming was one of those. Since real life was too dirty, risky or even dangerous, people clung to games as a different way of thinking, and escape from truth they had to face each days.
Corey comment: Something that has always amused me is the idea that fantasy writers “just make up stories” and that there is no need for realism in a fantasy. We’ve always felt the opposite, that to be believable a great fantasy story has to draw from real world archetypes and backgrounds, and that it has to be as real as possible outside of a few fantasy tweaks. Quest for Glory was no exception – We did countless hours of research into geography, history, and mythology before writing one line of dialogue or descriptive text. One thing that really struck us about Mr. Karmine’s comments was that across thousands of miles and a huge language gap, he “got” what we were trying to express. Here are some of his comments on the individual Quest for Glory game settings.
Allan: Before setting up an interview, I’d like to thank you for what you have done for us. That emotional blast, the thrilling storyline that reached deep into soul. Particularly, I am amazed that you replicated Baba Yaga’s hut and even set up burning skulls! Which comes not in every folk-tale of her. Thank you for Shadows of Darkness, wish it were longer and deeper. I have studied every corner of forest, and first time playing spend two in-game month walking around Mordavia so it became real to me.
Trial by Fire was a spiritual revelation to me. I have read some of 1001 Nights by that time so many things were recognizable… But the whole atmosphere of becoming a professional Hero – was something new. I took it serious then, and I take it so now – about learning Honor and accomplishing deeds and practicing with commander Uhura, er, simply Uhura, each day, and throwing fireballs all around the alleys watching over shoulder so that no one would notice. See, not just a storyline, but freedom inside the setting. As well as pretty roleplay system where you actually raise what you trained for hours of real life. And these secret ways were the best. Like, you can have all stats you want, but you can only become real Hero if you are a Paladin and you see more to the world than before, and see how much is yet to be done. Only by becoming a Wizard you step in contact with Faeries (pity that side-walk was short). And, let’s talk of romance of being a Thief and reaching some places unnoticed. I disgust common stealing, people should work for their bread – but I’d wish there were more missions like sneaking up the Khaveen’s place or balancing on a rope under Ad Avis spells. When dexterity and flexibility and open-mindedness and insight and compassion take place – that’s where happens Quest for Glory.
Corey and Lori: And that sums up what the School for Heroes is all about. We are trying to create a real environment on the Web where people (including us) can learn more about heroism and making a difference. Mostly it’s about fun, but there’s also a very important core of Doing What Is Right. We are adding to the fantasy lore of Silmaria and building a world, but we hope that we are also helping to create heroes in our own real world.