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Wilco's Domain Interviews Josh Mandel
Third Guy from Andromeda and Co-Designer of Space Quest 6

This interview originally appeared at the now-defunct Wilco's Domain and appears here courtesy of the Domain's former webmaster and Freelance Space Quest Historian, Troels Pleimert. The original interview was conducted in 1997.

Wilco's Domain: What was your first involvement with the Two Guys from Andromeda and Space Quest?

       Josh Mandel: I had come to Sierra as an Assistant Producer to Guruka Singh Khalsa, who was the Producer of *all* Sierra games at that time (this was in April of 1990). Mark and Scott were working on SQ4, the Coles were working on QfG2, and Roberta was working on KQ5 with Andy Hoyos. It was spectacular to be among such creative people, people who were defining the genre of the graphic adventure. The SQ games had been my favorites, and it was very exciting to be around the SQ4 production.

       The very first time I was asked to make something up for an SQ game was the day Mark Crowe came up to me with the question: what's a funny name that would be instantly recognizable as Jewish? Mark and Scott were fooling around with names for the "Carmen Sandiego" parody box in the software store in the Galaxy Galleria. I eventually suggested Hymie Lipschitz, which I suspect appealed less to Mark and more to Scott's desire to push the boundaries of taste, which is one of my own tendencies as well. I was also the logical one to ask because I was probably the only Jew in Oakhurst at that time. I posed as Hymie for the box cover (it's me under the fake glasses, teeth, eyebrows, etc.) and shortly thereafter I volunteered to write the text for the boxes. Having more than enough to do, and being the kind of designers who don't mind collaborating (other designers might not've been able to relinquish that kind of control), they gave me a lot of freedom to take the titles and have fun with 'em. That gave me the gumption to ask what other parts of the game they might want some writing for. I ended up writing the SQ Hintbook (the one in the game, not the real one) as well as most of the Monochrome Boys dialog and the "Look/Take"-kinda messages on Xenon, Estros, and throughout the Galleria. Mark and Scott would fill in all the important stuff, the stuff that moved the game along or had to do with puzzles or plot.

       And that's the short answer.

WD: What was your first thought when they asked you to do Space Quest 6? Who actually asked you to, or did you suggest it yourself?

       JM: Laura Bow II was in production and the Product Design Department was turning out proposals by the handful. We knew Sierra wanted another SQ; but Mark had left for Dynamix and was interested in doing other kinds of games. Scott was also majorly burnt out after SQ4, which had been an unbelievably ambitious project far more complicated than the previous SQs.

       Bruce Balfour and I both submitted proposals for SQ games, one of which was the Corpsman Santiago proposal. Roberta reviewed all the proposals and liked the Santiago one, but Ken was skeptical -- feeling that Roger Wilco definitely represented Outer Space and needed to be bopping around the planets.

       After Dynamix started producing adventure games (like RISE OF THE DRAGON and HEART OF CHINA), Ken wanted Dynamix to become familiar with SCI. Mark was ready to tackle another SQ, so Dynamix got the project, I did FREDDY PHARKAS with Al, and Bruce started on OUTPOST.

       Awhile after SQ5, the company wanted yet another SQ. I thought this would be an ideal chance to do a game with Scott, since we had similar senses of humor and liked working together. But he never really embraced the game, and I'm not sure why.

WD: Why exactly *did* you leave SQ6 in the middle of development? Why not just wait until it was finished?

       JM: There were a lot of reasons, but none of them had to do with the Space Quest 6 project, so you wouldn't be interested. <g> A tidbit: the head of Marketing at Sierra at the time was upset with me for opening SQ6 with the jockship-shaped Deepship gag. I thought it was pretty funny despite its crudeness. (That whole gag was a take-off of the beginning of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, in which an ape throws a bone into the air, and it suddenly becomes a spaceship...and the idea to make it look a jock strap came from the Klingon ship from Star Trek, which is vaguely jocklike itself.) Anyway, the Marketing guy argued that Sierra had gotten "hate mail" over the jock strap puzzle in SQ2.

       Scott laughed and said, "Don't worry, we got ONE LETTER from an outraged Mom who didn't think her 12-year-old son should be looking at a jock strap...and that was the extent of the hate mail." So we ignored Marketing's request to eliminate it. Fast-forward: I've been gone from Sierra for two months and I pick up a magazine and see the first advertisement for SQ6. And what's the picture? THE DEEPSHIP JOCK STRAP! Front and center! Over and over! Somewhere along the way, I guess Marketing stopped worrying about hate mail, huh?

WD: If you were given the chance to work on a new SQ game, would you take it?

       JM: I'd work on a new SQ game or a new FREDDY PHARKAS or anything else, if the situation felt right. But after CALLAHAN'S CROSSTIME SALOON, I think it would be difficult to write for the SQ world. I like to shake things up constantly, do things in games that I haven't seen tried before. But in the world of SQ, I don't think people WANT things shaken up. They want, at heart, "more of the same." I can do "more of the same," but I think it's more fun to invent new stuff.

WD: What if, say, Legend was offered to do the new SQ? Then what?

       JM: Do you know something about this that I don't know? [lol! -ed]

WD: Will there be any of the legendary Josh Mandel-sci fi comedy from Legend in the future?

       JM: If there is, you'll be one of the ones that hears about it.

WD: What's your next project after Callahan?

       JM: I want to see what happens with Callahan's before thinking about another project. The subjects I'd like to tackle and the characters I'd like to write about are not necessarily subjects this industry considers mass-marketable. I picked up a copy of the leading computer game magazine this month, and the pages are overflowing with blood and death. I like a good splatter movie as much as the next guy, but man, give me a break. It's self-perpetuating. It makes it harder and harder to sell publishers on doing something other than games with state-of-the-art spectacular violence.

WD: And finally--if this is 3, what's this? :D

       JM: I give up! If that is 3, what IS this? :D

What we have here is what you might consider an "inside joke". You had to be there.

Comments, questions, suggestions...

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