GOGathon: The Dawn of Sierra’s SCI Era

The story so far: after pioneering the graphic adventure game genre with the first three King’s Quest games (with the third one also being the first good graphic adventure game), Sierra decided it was time to branch out a little – releasing adventure games in a range of different genres, including both obvious videogame fare like science fiction to less well-trod territory like police procedural dramas and bawdy sex comedies.

All this was accomplished using the AGI system, which – as I explained at the end of the last article – was developed for the original King’s Quest I and, whilst technically advanced for 1984, clearly wasn’t passing muster by the late 1980s; 1988 would see the debut of a triptych of new games produced using their exciting new SCI engine, and for much of the next decade – until they switched to 3D engines, effectively – Sierra’s adventures would be produced using various updates of SCI, which both allowed for superior graphics and sound card support and included scripting tools useful for adventure game design processes.

But did a superior toolkit yield superior games? Let’s see…

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GOGathon: Sierra Spreads Out

In my previous dive into the classic Sierra adventure games, I covered the first three King’s Quest games, over the course of which Sierra developed and refined their adventure design processes and principles. Come 1986, the time was ripe to apply these principles to genres beyond the fairy-tale fantasy of King’s Quest.

For this next exploration of the Sierra catalogue, I’m going to look at the first Space Quest game, which emerged in 1986 alongside King’s Quest III as Sierra’s first jaunt into another genre. I’m also going to cover their adventure game releases of 1987, a year in which they put out three games in extremely different genres – not one of them a King’s Quest release – and represented perhaps the apogee of what you could call their “AGI era” – the time period when they produced adventure games using the Adventure Game Interpreter system developed for the first King’s Quest.

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For Whom the Goose Honks

Untitled Goose Game is a release on PC and Switch (the Nintendo Switch version is the one reviewed here) which generated a ton of buzz from early trailer footage, which combined an endearing animation style with a delightfully simple premise: “It’s a lovely morning in the village, and you are a horrible goose.”

As a goose your activities are limited to waddling about at various levels of speed and sneakiness, gracefully swimming on water, waving your wings about and going “honk”. With these limited capabilities, you are set loose in a charming English village divided into a number of zones – the allotments where a gardener toils away growing vegetables, the village market square, a pair of neighbouring back gardens, the local pub and the skillfully-executed model village – each of which has an associated task list. Complete more tasks, access more of the map, make more mischief; it’s that simple.

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Taking a Note, Taking a Dive

The general public has a short memory. Many are under the impression that a substantial number of professional wrestling fans still believe the artform to represent genuine competition, rather than being an entertainment medium consisting of matches with predetermined outcomes. This isn’t the case – aside from small children who might believe in Roman Reigns the way they believe in Father Christmas, fans generally accept that the matches are worked, and derive a whole secondary level of enjoyment from analysing and debating the storytelling decisions behind match outcomes and the backstage gossip that might have fed into them.

Even among wrestling fans, there’s something of a myth that kayfabe – the pretence that it’s a real contest – was rigorously maintained until the early 1990s, when Vince McMahon famously said that WWF was in the “sport entertainment” business and promotions like ECW or WCW ran angles based largely on breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging kayfabe (usually as an attempt to persuade the viewer that things had gone “off-script” and were therefore real). In fact, major breaches of kayfabe and exposes of the business go way back, with one of the most famous such examples being Marcus Griffin’s 1937 book Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce.

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Red Dwarf: Back to Mediocrity

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

LOOK THERE’S A HELL OF A LOT OF SPOILERS IN THIS ARTICLE BUT I AM TOO ANGRY TO CARE.

The end of Red Dwarf began with a promising first episode. I won’t pretend it was up to the usual standards of the series in its prime – it wasn’t – but it made a good effort. The events of seasons seven and eight were happily ignored, the crew were alone on a giant ship in the middle of deep space, they were interacting in a fairly funny manner during an encounter with a dimension-hopping squid that chose to take a nap in their ocean-sized water tank. True, there was a noticeable lack of Holly, and an overlong and overmaudlin scene to let us know that Kochanski had died again, but considering the depths the series had reached with its 7th and 8th seasons I can forgive all of this.

Things began to go south with the sudden and unexplained manifestation of a hologram of the ship’s hot Russian science officer after the four main characters are exposed to exploded squid juices. Suddenly, I was reminded of Back to Reality, an episode in which the crew apparently get back to Earth but are in fact hallucinating after an encounter with a mysterious squid. Given that this three-part epilogue to the show is called Back to Earth, and given that it begins with an encounter with a mysterious squid, I feel that I was justified at this point at feeling a certain amount of concern, a mild worry that everything subsequently onscreen would prove to be utterly inconsequential. The ability of the science officer to construct a deus ex machina portal to Earth using a mining laser and squid bits only increased my concern, as did the sudden leeching of jokes from the second half of the episode in favour of cleavage shots.

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