Catching Up with Scott Murphy
Fans of the Space Quest series need no
introduction to Scott Murphy. As one-half of the Two Guys from Andromeda,
Scott co-designed Space Quests 1 through 4 with Mark Crowe and Space Quest
6 with Josh Mandel. After the cancellation of Space Quest 7, Scott left
Sierra and maintained a relatively low public profile (with the exception
of the occasional vitriolic rant on his website). In celebration of the
Virtual Broomcloset's fifth anniversary, however, I managed to coax him
into sitting down for his first full-length interview in recent years.
So, enough smarm already--let's interview! Also, don't miss the Fun Facts scattered throughout the interview to find
out fun trivia about our Andromedan friend...
Decaffeinated Jedi: First things first--where the heck have you been for the past year or two?
What are you up to these days? Are you involved with the gaming industry?
Scott Murphy: Nah, not anymore. Not in any way, shape or form, other than venting road rage through my racing simulators. Otherwise, my contact with computers has been limited to what I do at work and occasionally downloading my email and deleting all the junk mail. Holy crap, how much Viagra do they think I need?
JM: Now that we've got that out of the way, could you tell us a little about how
you came to Sierra, teamed up with Mark Crowe, and eventually started
walking around with a pig snout and mohawk?
And then there's the fan mail I still get, amazingly. Oh, yeah, and then there's the guilt over how little of it I've gotten around to answering. For those reading to whom I still owe an email reply, know that, at least, I suffer. I feel the pain. I have guilt issues, and I'm one lazy bastard.
What I'm doing now is much less stressful and pretty ordinary. I'm helping my grandfather's business to move into the modern age with these new-fangeled computer thingies. I'm actually involved in the golf industry somewhat. Never saw that coming.
JM: After the Two Guys from Andromeda split up, Mark Crowe went on to fly solo
for SQ5. What was your take on the somewhat different direction in which
Mark took the series in this sequel?
SM: Okay, but note that I may tell this story differently than I did back in "the old days." Brain cell loss and all, you know.
Scott earned a spot
as starting center for the Los Angeles Lakers
in 1985 before blowing out his knee in a preseason
As I recall, Mark and I, from totally different directions through the small company that it was then, ended up working out at Ken William's house. We were working on an adventure game for the Disney movie, The Black Cauldron, which was being released back then, whenever that was.
We were working quite late, me as a programmer and Mark as an artist. Real late. Mark and I soon realized that we had similar senses humor. We'd joke about what we'd REALLY like to make the characters in the game do. In fact, in screwing around once, I put in a message that had one of the characters using a common expression for excrement of the mule sort. Nobody told me that version was being sent down to Disney that weekend. They [that word for excrement] in a major way. They insisted that we print out all the text in the game so they could proof read it.
The point of all this is, I got hooked on seeing MY words on the screen and being taken in by others, and by seeing them actually laugh for the RIGHT reasons. And by being cooped-up together, Mark and I began conceiving of what an adventure game could be - fun and funny. All games then were to prissy or noble. There were no other ordinary or sub-ordinary central characters to speak of in graphic adventures. We thought that needed to be changed and maybe other people, maybe not mentally solid souls necessarily, would probably get some laughs from a sci-fi comedy about an sub-ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances.
Roger Wilco was named after Scott's
great, great grandfather -- Zeb
After we finished Black Cauldron and got some sleep, we decided to approach Ken about us making our game. I already knew from experience that he wasn't interested in space themes. We knew he needed something visual to be able to sell him. We threw together four rooms - the first four in the original version of SQ1. Then, we waited for him to come down the hall and herded him into our office and showed him Roger walking through the automatic doors into the library and going down the elevator, and that was pretty much it. Ken didn't have much to lose at that time anyway so he told us to make a map of the game. It was scary and hellish from there. (We laughed a lot. Good times.)
The first game was successful (it made Ken money) and we did another as a result. Things got out of hand from there.
JM: On numerous occasions through the years, the online community buzzed with
rumors of a Two Guys reunion. Was this ever close to actually happening?
SM: It was interesting. It occurred to me that Mark had been into Star Trek much more than I had, not that that's a bad thing by any means. I didn't really start watching those until the last five or six years (weird, eh?), and I've been digging it. Mark is also a big fan of comic books, as are virtually all the artists I have ever known. The Dynamix development system in those days leant itself well to the comic style, and it did end up with a kind of "Roger Beamish" look, if you will. I was glad that he kept the cartoon look. That was how we'd wanted the games to look from the start and I never wanted that to change.
color is eleven. What's
JM: Fans who purchased the most recent version of the Space Quest Collection
were treated to the promotional movie for Space Quest 7. Many of these
fans, however, are not aware of the story behind the game's eventual
cancellation. Could you give us the full scoop on what happened to Roger's
JM: In our last interview, I attempted to coax a few details out of you
regarding Space Quest 7. Since quite a bit has taken place since that time,
would you be willing to reveal any details on the story or gameplay of the
Space Quest that never was?
SM: The deal with the demo is that it had nothing to do with what Space Quest 7 was supposed to be. It was merely eye candy for management (ugh) and for the Collection.
Scott is the baron
of a small fiefdom in Eastern Europe. He spends
his summers there in a modestly-furnished castle.
It never stood a chance. With the unrealistic expectations of the dumb-asses running the Sierra division in Oakhurst and Bellevue at the time, it was doomed from the start. I know that they'd pretty much jerked my heart out of the process. The only good thing about that time was the people I got to work for a while who would have made up the SQ7 team, and they were some great people. Just don't tell the bastards I said that. Nobody reads this crap anyway. Right?
SM: The scoop on Space Quest 7 is actually mostly empty, Jess. Honestly, there's almost nothing to tell. Because it had to be a multi-player game as well as 3-D we toyed with the idea of Roger being accidentally cloned at the start of the - many times, and all with differing personalities. That way multiple players could play as different Rogers all trying to reach the same goal; to snuff all the other Rogers. God, I hate even talking about this. It sucked. We were set up to fail. It felt like it, and it was real hard to come up with what felt like a true Space Quest. I'm SO glad it never came to fruition - at least under those circumstances.
JM: How do you think SQ7 would have differed if Sierra had not pressured the
design team in the direction of a multiplayer adventure?
SM: We actually would have been able to come up with a real design and been able to make a real game, one that would have been a real Space Quest. Had we just been able to use the design system that was available at the time, the one they used for Quest for Glory for instance, we might have stood a chance.
JM: Describe a typical day spent working on the Space Quest series. How had the
working environment changed at Sierra by the time you left?
SM: We were watching the clock and cringing whenever we heard management had a new idea or announcement. It's sad what we had become. We had some real, veteran professionals who weren't afraid to work and who'd proven it countless times. People just wanted to be shown a little appreciation or recognition. The only time we heard from them was when they wanted to bitch about something or issue a new fresh-from-the-cheeks dictum.
JM: Do game designers ever play their own games, or is that considered a faux
SM: If you're like me, you sometimes have to when people ask you questions about them decades later. Generally, when you've spent as much time with a project as we did, you don't want to get anywhere near it for a few years. Besides, you already know all the tricks. You're never tempted to try something again and see if it will work differently this time. (Well, almost never.)
JM: Over the course of the past few years, numerous sources have heralded the
death of the adventure gaming genre. Do you believe this is an accurate
assessment of the genre's future?
JM: Being at Sierra for as long as you were, I'm sure you witnessed some pretty
strange stuff. Do you recall any particularly crazy proposed projects that
never made it past the planning stages?
SM: They're certainly dead now. They could live in the future but you'd need some major miracles to occur. The corporations with the ability to try them again are too bloated to try breaking new (old) ground. Maybe if we wait long enough some new exec will come along and think adventure games were his/her idea and, as a result of their requisite turgid egos, actually make one or two of them again.
Scott was named
Hunkiest Heartthrob in the 1993 "All-PC-Gaming"
issue of Tiger
At this time, they don't have a chance except maybe on a grass-roots, cult, Internet-based level. The cost of making a good adventure is too prohibitive for the corps because the unit sales of these games is clearly less than those of those of the shooters . And you really don't have to have any real story. Toss together a presidential election-thin premise about why you need to kill several hundred beings a couple of dozen ways and you've got yourself a winner. These games are tech-led. The adventure was story-led. You have a LOT MORE tech wiz-kids coming to companies than you do promising story and game writers. The new young coders are generally too young to have personal lives and will work a shitload of hours before they realize that they are nearly fried, and theirs some new young coder right behind them.
The adventure was the best blend of story and technology, of the human and the computer. The screen and speakers can evoke many more emotions than just rage. Perhaps there's someone out there right now with the means and the realization of the truly hollow state of computer entertainment now. You can hope.
JM: Freelance Space Quest Historian Troels Pleimert keeps insisting that I ask
this question (you know how he gets without his medication). If you could
be any kind of hamburger, what kind of hamburger would you be?
SM: There are some. Unfortunately, they are all overwhelmed by a sight I saw that has caused me to never be the same. One all-nighter out at Ken's house, I witnessed Al Lowe, uh, holding himself while waiting for me to come out of the bathroom. To this day, I have no idea why he chose to "share" with me in such a manner. I never asked because I never wanted to even enter such a discussion. Like I say, there were others but I can't think of them right now because I'm suffering a Post Traumatic Syndrome episode as a result.
"Mop thy crust" is an anagram for Scott
Maybe more later. Must flush mind. Must rest.
JM: Tell the truth: do you ever get the urge to slip on that Andromedan pig
snout and mohawk just one last time?
SM: What, he can't write and ask himself?
Have you ever seen
Cher and Scott Murphy in the same place at the
same time? Just something to think
Fine, here goes; Partially digested and chunk-splattered on his shoes.
SM: There will NEVER BE A "LAST" TIME! NEVER, NEVER, NEVER!
JM: Thanks for your time, Scott!
SM: Yeah, whatever.
JM: Any parting words for the legions of Space
Quest fans out there?
SM: Hey, anybody wanna buy a used snout?
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