Posts Tagged ‘Game Design’
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
On Tuesday night, Aug. 21, Lori and I were invited to do a podcast with Chris Pope, social media manager for the Guys from Andromeda Space Venture. We talked for about 75 minutes. You can find link’s to the podcast here.
Much of the discussion was about the making of Quest for Glory and tales about Sierra On-line. We have fun talking about our experiences, and the memories come rushing back. Chris did a great job as host, so we were able to share some of those old memories.
“You don’t have a game until all the pieces are there. It takes a good game design, it takes great storytelling, puzzles, wonderful graphics, and great music. The voice acting adds another layer, and when you have everything working together, that’s when you look back on having worked two or three years of twelve hour days and six- or seven-day weeks… and think, ‘You know? Maybe it was worth it.’” – Corey
That Was Then, This is Now
At the end of the talk (about 47 minutes in), Chris asked us about our current plans and the upcoming School for Heroes game. Lori started it off by saying, “Basically, the stars are aligning.” When we left Sierra in the late 90’s, the industry had shifted entirely over to first-person shooters, and publishers had no interest in making story-oriented games.
Now the tools are better, so games can be made for more reasonable budgets, and Kickstarter makes publisher-free funding possible. As a result, Lori and I started dipping our toes back into the game development water by doing some contract design work. We also had many fans asking us, “When are you going to do your Kickstarter?” and several developers saying, “We want to work with you on a game.” Suddenly the impossible began to seem possible again.
What’s It All About, Alfie?
Our new School for Heroes game is most definitely not Quest for Glory, but it has a few elements in common. We are once again reaching back into our tabletop D&D roots to make a game that combines role-playing with story and strong character interactions.
This time, the emphasis is on the role-playing. The School for Heroes will be a 2D game with two distinct parts – In the school and beneath it in the catacombs. The latter part is an old-fashioned “dungeon crawl” with tactical combat similar to Fallout 2 or Dungeonmaster. Your character will explore the catacombs to solve mysteries, fight monsters, and acquire money and equipment.
Back in school, you will improve your skills and learn how to be a Hero and a better adventurer. You are also competing against other students and trying to survive hostile instructors. Getting to know the other students and weave your way through social interaction is just as important as your schoolwork and “dungeon time”. If you’ve played Persona 2, you’ll have a feel for that part of the game, although we will give you far more choices.
We plan to develop the game in several phases. In the first scenario, you will play a Rogue. For you, the school is more like a reform school, and most of your instructors treat you like a prisoner. You need to find a way to improve your skills, and at the same time, you learn what it means to be a Hero. And it’s a good thing, because you’ll need both sides to survive.
When you come back to the game in the second scenario (as a Wizard), you’ll be in the same setting, but playing an entirely different game. The dialogue, story, and your abilities are all new. In the third scenario, you take on the role of a Warrior, and once again playing a completely different version of the story. We also plan to include the Paladin scenario in the third release, but only players who have completed at least one of the other character stories will be able to unlock and play it.
Of course, there will also be plenty of our trademark humor. After all, even great dramas usually include humor to release the tension occasionally. Our goal is to make games that are at least as fun as Quest for Glory or Castle of Dr. Brain. But we also want to make sure that every game is a new experience. Every time we make a game, we ask, “Would we enjoy playing this?” If the answer is “Uh, maybe,” we do something else.
Enjoy the podcast, and we hope all of you will join us in November on our Kickstarter Adventure!
Monday, August 20th, 2012
Eighteen people walk into a restaurant. They think they know what they are getting themselves into: weeks of too little sleep, grueling physical labor, cruel bullying, back-stabbing, and extreme embarrassment. All they have going for them is their own arrogance, confidence, strength, determination, ambition, and their cooking skills. They honestly believe that they have what it takes to impress Chef Gordon Ramsay.
Most of them are wrong.
Hell’s Kitchen proves the adage, “If you can’t stand the heat – Get out of the kitchen.”
Staring into the Abyss
” If we had known what we were getting into, we would never have done it. Game development is an endless Sisyphean nightmare warren of terrible nightmares.” – Jerry Holkins, Penny Arcade
Aspiring Game Designers are a lot like the contestants on Hell’s Kitchen. They think they know about all the things that go wrong in making games, the sleep deprivation, the clueless marketing departments. They’ve played games that should have been great, but turned into foul-tasting messes. They think that they have the guts and the skill to overcome the game development nightmare and that they can do it better.
Most of them are wrong, too.
Back to the Kitchen
Corey and I have been through years of our lives crawling through the pit of Game Development. We know that it involves endless hours of overtime with no holidays or vacations. We have seen people crumble around us from the pressure of impossible deadlines. We have experienced the heartache of seeing our beautiful design butchered by inept artists and incompetent programmers. We know that Game Development is a devastating, ball-busting, soul-stealing, ego-shredding version of Hell’s Kitchen.
So why would we even think of ever stepping foot back into that hellish warren?
Stepping up to the Hot Plate
We are much like those naïve fools who step into the kitchen in search of fame and fortune. We, too, are arrogant, confident, and overly-ambitious. The big difference between us and those wannabes is that we’ve been on the show before. We know just how rough it will be. We know that we are going to go dancing across fiery coals with a rose clenched in our teeth.
We have the confidence and experience to hack our way through corridors of monstrous mistakes, terrifyingly too-tight schedules, and horrendous hours sitting at our desks staring at the screen while we sweat blood.
Into the Fire
Why are we preparing to descend into the abyss? It’s because we know that we can create a fun, challenging game that will meet high standards and expectations of our inner Dungeon Master Ramsay.
So are we ready to again step foot into Hell’s Dungeon? Do we think that we will emerge victorious by cooking up a tasty game that you will savor?
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke
“Magic is loose in the world!” – Waldo, Robert A. Heinlein
A hot topic in gaming these days is that of “Serious Games.” Serious games have a purpose outside the game – to teach, to build teams, or to solve problems. Games of all types can bring people together and teach useful skills. Games are loose in the world, and rapidly becoming indistinguishable from real life.
Can Gaming Save the World?
Nagath recently showed me this talk by Jane McGonigal at the TED Conference:
Jane McGonigal, “Gaming Can Make a Better World”
Ms. McGonigal’s theme is that players spend billions of hours each year playing online role-playing games. She points out that they learn valuable skills while gaming including how to work with others, economics, risk assessment, accepting challenges, and so on. Players feel out of control in their mundane lives, while games reward them and give them a sense of accomplishment and control. But Jane also thinks games could do a lot more. Her group is developing a series of “serious games” that empower the players to learn and make decisions about important issues such as energy conservation, developing businesses in poor countries, and so on.
I like the message, but am a bit wary about it. I know how much time I spend on World of Warcraft, bridge, poker, and other games, and that much of it is “wasted” other than in making me feel good. At the same time, it isn’t really the fault of the games. I’m a PRO-crastinator, an accomplished expert at putting things off. (See my article, Counter-Productivity, for some examples of how to avoid getting things done.) When I try to avoid WoW, I find that I fill those empty hours with other non-productive activities. Jane McGonigal wants to immerse people in games that will cause them to solve problems, but I worry that this will just accelerate the trend towards hiding from real life in games.
Teach Your Children Well
Can we really learn real-world skills by playing games? Orson Scott Card, in his novel Ender’s Game, described such a game. The skill learned in this case was interstellar warfare. Ender, the main character, is tricked into directing an actual battle that he thinks is a simulation. He manages to win it against seemingly impossible odds… but at an incredible cost. The U.S. military has adopted the “battle game” concept with America’s Army and other “serious games” that are designed to recruit young people and then turn them into efficient soldiers.
Many games have been developed to teach less violent lessons, including my Castle of Dr. Brain and Lori’s Mixed-Up Fairy Tales. Students who get to play games in the classroom feel more involved in school and perform better on standardized tests. But so far, educational games have not lived up to their early promise. In the 1960’s, many people believed that computer-based education would allow students to learn at their own pace. Children would learn more, and a smaller number of teachers could handle large classrooms. In the 1970’s, systems like PLATO tried to make it easier to develop educational software. Somehow, these efforts never seemed to make it past the pilot project stage.
Outside of education, there’s another area where we are starting to see game-like systems, and that’s in product marketing. People like getting rewarded for doing things they had already planned to do, and marketers know that such rewards often encourage them to spend more. “Green stamps”, airline mileage points, the McDonald’s Monopoly game, and similar systems encourage people to spend more, and sellers often consider the promotional costs well spent. I spent most of my time at Montreal’s Expo ’67 playing Skee Ball because I kept winning tickets that I eventually spent on a large stuffed poodle. The prizes kept me playing.
Jesse Schell of Schell Games and Carnegie-Mellon University recently game a talk at DICE (Design Outside the Box) suggesting that such point systems could be taken a lot farther – “points for everything!” Jesse says that marketers could take advantage of our love for prizes by turning every consumer activity into a point-winning game.
Jesse’s video was actually pretty disturbing, and reminded me of the classic novel by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants. In that story, huge corporations run the world. Their advertising is so effective that people believe their most important role is to buy things. It’s a good thing that was just science fiction; we would never fall for… mmm, Starbucks.
Gee, thanks, Jesse. Use our love for games to get us to buy products we don’t need and are bad for us.
The problem with making games that really help people instead of exploiting them is that game development costs time and money, and helpful games have no obvious revenue source. Jesse’s talk hints at some less commercial ways we could use game-like point systems, such as promoting use of public transportation. The government could fund a game like this with gasoline taxes, which would also reduce driving and pollution.
Pointing Towards the Future
We know awards, recognition, and achievements can change our behavior. But will that accomplish anything more valuable than increasing product sales? I think it can, but we will need to find incentives for creating helpful games. Maybe that could start with a meta-game in which the developers are awarded – or award themselves – points instead of dollars for designing “better life” games. Unfortunately, game developers need to eat, and starving is a powerful negative point system.
Games are loose in the world, and it’s up to all of us to decide how serious we want our fun to be. We can let the new games be ruled by greed – That worked so well for Enron and Lehman Brothers, after all. Or we can try to create, play, and live gaming lives that improve our lives and the world around us.
Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
The Daily Babbler
by Rona Gabbler
Welcome, Dear Reader! We have something completely different for you today. Far from the golden palaces, magical mansions, and lofty wizard towers of Silmarian society, this time The Daily Babbler takes you to another world!
Nestled in the rolling foot hills at the base of towering snow-crested mountaintops in the land of California, we visited the famous Flying Aardvark Ranch. Here we caught up with the renowned Corey S Cole, Earth chronicler of Gloriana – and especially Silmarian – adventures. It has been over ten years since the Coles related the tale of the Hero’s rise to the throne of Silmaria. Ten years, while their creative talents languished in relative obscurity. But now the talk of the town is about the upcoming launch of Corey and Lori’s mysterious new game project. Here, in this exclusive interview with your intrepid reporter, we reveal some of the secrets.
Rona Gabbler: Mr. Cole, It’s such a thrill for me to finally meet you after all these years. You look just like your photo on the back of the “Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire” box. Except that you’ve shaved off the beard. And lost all your flowing long hair. Oh, and weren’t you wearing glasses back then? At any rate, our readers are just dying to learn the truth to the rumors that you and Lori are creating a brand new game.
Corey Cole: Well, it isn’t exactly new. In fact, we started on it almost two years ago …
RG: You’ve been working on this game for Two years! That must be amazing! I’ll bet you have the most incredible 3D graphics and fight sequences ever! Flying mounts soaring around floating islands in the sky, barely avoiding the attacking roflcopters… Will the players need special 3D glasses to play?
CC: Actually, it isn’t that type of game at all. There’s excitement and adventure, but…
RG: I’ll bet there is! Exploring the dark underbelly of the Silmarian sewers, trying to find the sunken temple where the magical lyre of the Minoan monarchs lies guarded by monstrous Minotaurs and giant, poisonous, man-eating snakes! Ooh, you’re following the lyre’s notes and you have to duplicate those notes in order to open the locked doors…
CC: No snakes or musical notes. This isn’t “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Loom.” This is interactive storytelling. The player is a critical part of the story and will shape how it comes out.
RG: Oh, you mean the player will get to say something really clever like, “All your base is belong to me,” and you’ll set Silmaria in space! It’ll be every story ever told all rolled into one – You’ll get to create your own creatures at the cell level and adapt them to fit their environment, then they’ll have kids and start societies and go out to space and…
CC: You’re thinking of Spore. Will Wright already did that game. No, we’re focusing on one story so we can make it the best we can. And it’s in Silmaria.
RG: I knew it! Silmaria where the sun is always shining and exciting things happen every day! Silmaria, with its soft, sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Silmaria, where the pirates ravage… Oh, that’s it! You’re making a game about pirates!
CC: That was Secret of Monkey Island. Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer. Ok, Lori and I do like pirate adventures…
RG: Yarrr! Shiver me timbers, matey! Scupper me with a marlin spike….
CC: No! Not a pirate game this time! Maybe later. This game is…
RG: Oooh, I’ll be it’s in the palace! You’ll be a skilled swordsman and get to run through the hallways and jump up and down to avoid traps. If you get through it all, the Hero will declare you the new Prince of Silmaria!
CC: That would be Prince of Persia, and we’re trying to do something very different here. You’ll make friends and solve puzzles; not so much of the swashbuckling. But you will…
RG: Ah! Political suspense! You will rise to meet every challenge. People will look up to you in awe. You’ll promise to save the country from a collapsing economy, and people will flock to your cause!
CC: Um, no, this isn’t about Barack Obama’s election.
RG: Barack who?
CC: Right. Where was I? Oh, going back to school.
RG: You don’t have to do that! You’re already a Hero!
CC: Not me, your character. You get to play one of the students at…
RG: Hogwarts Academy! Ooh, I love J.K. Rowling’s work. She’s just as talented at writing as you are at making games! I can see it now, “Harry Potter and the Sands of Silmaria”!
CC: Um, no, this is about the School for Heroes.
RG: The School for Heroes? I thought that closed down after that little incident with the Meeps and the Thieves’ Guild. They just about ran the Famous Adventurer out of town on a rail.
CC: Oh, well, he got better. The school is open again and better than ever. Well, except maybe for the Rogues. But you get to play a young Wizard…
RG: See? See?! I told you it was going to be Harry Potter! I knew it! When Harry dropped out of Hogswarts, he…
CC: It’s nothing like Harry Potter! All right, so it is about a Wizard at a school with a mysterious past. But other than that…
RG: Mysterious past? Kind of like Katrina and the Dark Master and biting people? Scary! I can see it – You play a Vampire’s child, trying not to reveal that you are bloodthirsty monster. Fortunately, the only thing that gives you away is the pointy canine teeth, your overpowering reaction to the sight of blood, and the fact that you sparkle in the sunlight…
CC: No! It’s NOT about Vampires. But you do have a secret …
RG: A Secret! What is it? We love secrets! Our readers are dying to know what it is that we need to not reveal to anyone else, cross our hearts and hope to cry. Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone about this. We’re all very good at keeping them. Why, I write about secrets all the time!”
CC: MUST… NOT…. KILL…. GNOME….
RG: Unfortunately, our interview came to an end as Corey apparently had some sort of an asthma attack and had to be restrained, poor dear. But we can now confirm that the rumors are true. The Coles are creating a very exciting new game set here in our own sunny Silmaria. We look forward to hearing more about this great event.
There you have it. Another brilliant interview with your Gnome for news. Toodles!
– Rona Gabbler
Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
This Sunday is Easter, a time of symbols and traditions. It’s Springtime, and Easter represents hope, new life, fertility, and rebirth. Kids get a few days off school, and families get together to feast and celebrate the joy of life.
As far as children are concerned, the most important traditions of Easter involve chocolate, candy, and a bright pink or yellow Easter Bunny. People decorate colorful hard-boiled eggs which are then hidden about the house and yard by the Easter Bunny (cunningly impersonated by game-loving parents). On Easter Day, the kids scurry around trying to find and collect the eggs. A few eggs were usually hidden too cleverly. The real surprise came from finding these hidden eggs the following Easter. So these days most wise parents substitute hollow plastic eggs with a few jelly beans or chocolate coins inside. Easter is obviously sponsored by the dental industry.
Game Developers like to hide Easter Eggs, too, but they do it in their games. An Easter Egg is a hidden character, place, or event in a game that seems a little odd, hopefully in a humorous way. They can be references to pop culture, history, other games, etc. Sometimes they open additional game play (“secret levels”), but more often they are just there as a reward for observant players.
While Easter Eggs can be distracting, they actually have an important role in improving the quality of a game. I like to describe the “intensity graph” of a game as looking like a roller coaster. The action and intensity build to a peak, then drop down to a more relaxed level before starting to build again. The “low points” of intensity provide contrast for the high points. Without them, a game becomes stressful and less fun. Also, the highs seem higher when there are lows against which to contrast them. An all-action game or movie will not feel as intense as one that gives players/viewers a chance to relax a little between the action scenes. Easter Eggs provide that lull in the action.
Egging on the Clowns
Quest for Glory featured many Easter Eggs, including “mirages” in the desert such as the Persian Golfer (a reference to the Persian Gulf War), the Awful Waffle Walker, and a submarine that showed up in the lake near Spielburg. We also had cameo appearances by such luminaries as the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and “Sanford and Son.”
During the development of Trial by Fire, Brian Hughes mentioned that our menu system reminded him of the menus in productivity software such as VisiCalc (one of the early spreadsheet programs). These programs often contained disabled menu items intended for future enhancements, and he suggested that we could have a menu item that did absolutely nothing. Thus was born the “Silly Clowns” menu, originally a feature that had no game effect whatsoever.
We may have lost some of the purity of the idea, but probably made it more fun, when we decided that we could actually do something with a “Silly Clowns” mode. In the production version of Trial By Fire, Harpo Marx only makes his cameo appearance in the alleys of Shapeir when Silly Clowns is active. Some of the death messages have sillier versions too. Since these are totally useless changes, they keep the spirit of the useless menu option.
Brian was also responsible for the “Saurus Repair Shop” Easter Egg in Trial by Fire. This scene had to be cut from the original release because we ran out of disk space. However, AGDI contacted Brian and recreated it for their recent VGA version of the game. Saurus maintenance – not for the faint of heart.
One of the Sierra artists, Jerry Moore, was famous for slipping a Star Trek reference into every game on which he worked. For example, there is a miniature Starship Enterprise on the shelf of the magic shop in Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire. Jerry also added the Maltese Falcon statuette to the treasure room at the end of Quest for Glory I: So You Want to Be a Hero.
At the time, this was purely an Easter Egg, but Lori decided it would make an interesting plot point for the rest of the series. We put a “black bird” in each game and added a Thief story thread inspired by the movie, “The Maltese Falcon”. It started as an Easter Egg and became a MacGuffin (a plot point object).
Easter Eggs of Azeroth
World of Warcraft is full of Easter Eggs. “Critters” in WoW are small level 1-3 animals that are just there for atmosphere. While wandering through the Grizzly Peaks, I came across an odd group of critters. They were in a group consisting of a deer named “Mother of Bambina”, a small fawn named Bambina, a rabbit named Thudder, and a skunk named Flower. The names are variations on characters from Disney animated films, and the reference could have stopped there, but…
Suddenly I heard a gunshot and saw Mother of Bambina fall. Off to the side appeared a dwarven hunter; I could imagine his gun still smoking. Bambina called out, “NOOOOOO! Mother, we will avenge you!” Then he ran to the hunter and stomped him flat in a single attack, after which the rest of the party wandered off. It’s amazing what a level 1 critter can do to a level 75 hunter, given enough incentive and adrenaline.
There are dozens, hundreds – maybe thousands – of other pop culture references in World of Warcraft including an entire quest chain with character and object names from The Legend of Zelda video game series.
World of Warcraft also has the traditional type of “Easter Egg”. Every year at Easter time (but running late this year), WoW features the Noble Garden festival, which includes having Easter Eggs hidden throughout Azeroth. Inside each egg is a small prize – a few coins, or sometimes a lovely Spring dress. The latter are rare and much sought-after by role-playing ladies and completists. Lori spent most of our first WoW Easter searching for eggs and slaying bandits with her Paladin in Westfall.
Speaking of eggs in Westfall, Alliance players can tame a chicken in Westfall by repeatedly doing a Chicken Dance around it. If they are willing to make themselves look completely ridiculous, they can earn the small reward of a special pet.
There are of course Easter Eggs in many other games besides World of Warcraft and Quest for Glory. We just don’t play very many of them these days. Feel free to comment on this article with some of your favorite Easter Eggs from other games. Here are a few from older games:
Some Sierra games were best known for the many ways the character could die. LucasArt’s Ron Gilbert thought that character death was bad storytelling, so the player character could not die in The Secret of Monkey Island. Except when he falls off a cliff, and a Sierra-style death message pops up: “Oh, no! You’ve really screwed up this time! Guess you’ll have to start over! Hope you saved the game!” A few seconds later, the box disappears and Guybrush bounces back up onto the ledge. He looks towards the camera and explains, “Rubber tree.”
In Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, the main villains are Trebor and Werdna. Try reading those names backwards, knowing that the game authors were Robert Woodhead and Andrew Greenberg.
During development of King’s Quest IV, someone substituted a picture of Roberta Williams topless in a hot tub on the death message screen. The original image came from the cover of Leisure Suit Larry, but was touched up to “add a couple details”. That image lasted almost until the final version, but Roberta made them take it out shortly before the game shipped. Alas.
Diablo is famous for the “Secret Cow Level”. Fan rumors suggested that the original game had such a level, so Blizzard actually added one in Diablo II. You have to play through the entire game, then take a couple of special actions in town, to unlock a game level populated entirely by very aggressive cattle.
Have an Egg-Ceptional Easter!
This Easter, hide some fun for your young (or not-so-young) friends and share some Easter Gaming Goodness. And maybe you can help us find some of those lost eggs from earlier Easters.
So, What Easter Eggs have you found in computer games? We look forward to reading about your favorite game – and real life – Easter egg experiences in the comments.
Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
“Why so SERIOUS?” – The Joker, The Dark Knight
Humor is a very serious business. I say that because I’m not very good at it, yet somehow managed to make a living at it for several years. Quest for Glory is known as a “humorous adventure game” series and we worked hard at keeping it that way. As frustrating as adventure games can be, we decided that it was better to have people laugh with us than scream at us.
Humor isn’t just for “funny” games and stories. Quest for Glory has a serious plot – the inexperienced Hero overcoming all odds to save the world. But along the way, there are many humorous moments and occasional outright silliness. Those moments lighten the mood, making the next dramatic bit all the more powerful.
So, how do you make a pun fun? We’ll show you how it’s done.
The idea of a running gag is to have a short joke that keeps showing up in different contexts. Ideally, it gets a little crazier each time and ends in a “payoff” punch line. Warner Brothers cartoons were famous for this. Airplane had a character say, “I guess I picked a bad time to give up smoking.” Not at all funny by itself, but by the time they got to “… a bad time to stop sniffing glue,” “… a bad time to start guiding space shuttles,” and so on, the accumulated ridiculousness became hilarious.
We didn’t have too many running jokes in Quest for Glory, but there was a walking one – the Awful Waffle Walker of Tarna. Marc Hudgins, a QG3 animator (and later lead artist on QG4), animated a walking waffle just for fun. He showed it to us and we ended up integrating it into the game. You kill it, you eat it.
The one-upmanship of Erasmus and Fenris might count as a running gag – Erasmus would start to tell a joke, Fenris would top it, Erasmus would try to recover, and Fenris would end with a zinger. It was enough to make anyone gag.
Quest for Glory got a lot of mileage out of anachronistic references to other sources. We used the Marx Brothers in QG2, Young Frankenstein in QG4, and dozens of other pop culture references. At one point Erasmus tells the Hero, “I can say no more,” and Fenris responds, “Please say no more.” That’s from the Beatles movie, “Hard Day’s Night.”
How abstruse were the in-jokes? I think we can safely say that nobody got all of them. Looking back at the Hero Magazine included with QG4, we had an article called, The Hero as an Artform by Fish Crawdad, “Ze Greatest Hero in Ze World” That’s a reference to Chris Crawford, who used to (jokingly, we think) call himself, “ze greatest game designer in ze world.” Chris, in turn, used “ze” to make fun of the fake French accents beloved by self-appointed “auteurs” in the film industry. Or how about the “Elderbury Pie” you bring Baba Yaga in QG4? Did you know that “Erna’s Elderberry House” is the fanciest restaurant in Oakhurst? I didn’t think so.
Other references in that magazine (and QG4) include “October Derleth” (August Derleth), “H.P. Craftlove” (H.P. Lovecraft), the mad monk Amon Tillado (“The Cask of Amontillado”, by Edgar Allen Poe), “Carl Atlas” (Charles Atlas, the body builder, who used to advertise on the back cover of comic books), and “Mister Mannerly” (Miss Manners, the newspaper advice columnist).
Monty Python was a favorite source – for example, the Dead Parrot Inn is only funny if you’ve seen their dead parrot sketch. Vorpal bunnies were feared monsters in QG4. To get to Erasmus’s house in QG1, you first had to get by a gargoyle who asks you “Questions Three.”
There were even references to other Sierra games. Every Quest for Glory features a moose head somewhere. This was a long-standing Sierra tradition used in King’s Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, and other games. In Mordavia, the moose has fangs.
Certain Sounds are Silly
An aardvark and an emu check into a hotel in Azusa. Whatever happens to them, we know it’s going to be funny. Quest for Glory 1 featured the Antwerp, one of the strangest monsters in gamedom. Basically they just bounced up and down, but it they landed on you, it was crushing. If you hit one with a dagger, it split into multiple baby Antwerps.
It could have been worse. We could have set the entire game in Cucamonga.
Rhyme and Pun-ishment
“Doctor, my funny bone hurts.” “Well, it’s clear… You need an a-pun-dectomy!”
It’s been said that the pun is the lowest form of humor. They say that as though it’s a bad thing. But we need high humor and low. Most puns (excepting certain shaggy dog stories and Feghoots) have the virtue of being over very quickly. A pun can be fun if you tell it and run.
A pun is really just a specialized form of word play. Other forms can be excessive alliteration, using alternate meanings of words, having a character use language you wouldn’t expect, and many others.
The Gnomes in Quest for Glory are known for their sense of humor – and particularly their puns. In the first game, you eventually learn that dark wizard of the brigands is actually Yorick, a gnome jester who makes you cross a crazy room in order to talk to him.
In Shapeir, when you first go into the magic shop, you are greeted with, “Welcome to my little shop of wonders. Wonder what shop this is? It’s magic of course. I am Keapon Laffin, proprietor. You must be Nobil Caws. Proud to know you Mister Caws.” He spoke in riddles and rhyme all of the time. He was obviously a pun-dit of pun-demonium.
In Shadows of Darkness, you meet the Gnome comedian, Punny Bones. This unfunny Gnome can’t tell a joke from a straight line since the time he told the joke so bad that it made Baba Yaga curse. You get to help poor Punny regain his punchlines by bringing him a Good Humor Bar in QG4. Yes, we raised the bar for humor there.
And a Gnome named Anne runs the “Gnome Anne’s Land” Inn in Silmaria in QG5. Her food is world renowned – The lobsters there are so fresh, you have to slap their faces. And salad dressing? Her tomatoes wear tuxedos and her lettuce wears lace.
Some of the most effective puns are accidental. Just remember – When no pun intended, then no pun ish meant.
The Funny Pictures
We love comics because a good illustration can often make something funnier than mere words. Frank and Ernest is a personal favorite. The characters and settings are so wacky, the words just seem funnier. Besides, Bob Thaves comes up with a lot of fun puns.
The original EGA Hero’s Quest used a very cartoony style – How realistic can you get in 320×200, 16-color graphics anyway? That set the tone for the game. The entire “bouncing Antwerp” bit came from a Jeff Crowe illustration. Similarly, the cartoony appearance of Erasmus and Fenris in the first game goes right along with their bantering dialogue.
The detailed room backgrounds were filled with knick-knacks and in-jokes. At Keapon’s magic shop, you will see stuffed antwerps, the Starship Enterprise, and x-ray goggles. The goggles were ‘a veil-able’ when you needed them.
And then there were the opening cartoons… The first game opens with the Hero chasing after a small Saurus, then running away from a much larger Saurus. In the second game, your flying carpet almost gets hit by the Starship Enterprise.
Seek Serious Silliness
Did you know that April is National Humor Month in the U.S.? That gives us license to carry a pun. That’s an awesome responsibility! Have you told a bloke a joke today? Made a llama laugh or a gorilla giggle? If not you – then zoo?
With the Glory days behind us, it’s once again time for us all to light the lantern of laughter and kindle the candle of kookiness. We must seek out new lines and new pun-tifications. We’ll boldly joke where Gnome Anne has punned before.
Punny Bones, Fenrus, and Erasmus’s images were from QG4, created originally by Tim Loucks.