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Wilco's Domain Interviews Mark Crowe
Former Guy from Andromeda and Designer of Space Quests 1-5

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 1996.

Wilco's Domain: How did you and Scott meet, and how did you two come up with the idea for Space Quest I? Which of you first proposed the idea?

       Mark Crowe: I was art directing the Black Cauldron adventure game for Roberta when the idea to do a space adventure struck me. I approached it from an art standpoint and began drawing up some graphics to illustrate some puzzle concepts and the overall look. I knew the only way to get Ken excited about it is if he could actually see a little space dude walking around going through elevators and stuff. This required some programming. As fate would have it, I approached Scott with he idea. It turned out that he--being a fellow Sci-Fi enthusiast--had also been thinking of doing a space adventure. He coded up the first SQ1 Arcada hallway screen and that is what we used to sell the whole idea to Ken on. At that point we did not have a story or characters--just this cool looking screen with a character going up and down in an elevator. We agreed to dub our helmeted hero Roger Wilco.

       We were both tired of adventure games taking themselves so seriously and decided this would be a funny, farcical game that poked fun at our favorite Sci-Fi movies in a mad magazine fasion. I had developed the basic storyline and key puzzles while Scott provided the sardonic humor and dialog. It was a good mix.

WD: When Ken first rejected the proposal for SQ1, then what did you do?

       MC: This was not the case. After our initial (albeit weak) presentation Ken encouraged us to flesh out the concept (storyline) and proceed. We were off and running.

WD: During development of SQ1, who came up with the idea of you being "The Two Guys from Andromeda"?

       MC: The idea of having alter designer egos did not occur until late in development. We were winding down and had to start thinking about things like credits. I thought it would be a hoot to be these two alien dudes and have our picture on the back of the box. It just went with the whole wacky space thing. I think the point back then was to make fun of the other designers of the day who had this rock star mentality and had to have thier mugs all over the product. Scott concurred and I picked up these funky red mohawk bald head things for us to wear. We did not have time to throw together space costumes so Scott came up with the idea to wear touristy hawaiian shirts and go have our picture taken in Yosemite like we were on vacation. The "Two guys" thing we borrowed from a east coast pizza chain "Two Guys from Italy". I thought "Yeah! Scott and me--we're just two guys makin' software!" Thus, the Two Guys were born.

WD: After four successful games in a row, the Two Guys suddenly split up. What's your own personal view of the situation? Were there any big feud over you two, or did you -- to coin a phrase -- go in peace?

       MC: There was no "feud" or anything like that. We were both getting burned out on coming up with wacky adventures for Roger to bumble his way through. It was typical for us to work on other projects immediately after finishing up a Space Quest game. This provided a nice break for both of us. It allowed us to get a heads-up on the latest development system advancements and recharge our creativity.

       SQ4 was particularly draining for both of us and we were both ready to try something new afterwards. It was during this time while directing Police Quest 3 that I was presented an opportunity to work at Dynamix in Eugene, Oregon. My family and I were ready for a change so I jumped at it.

WD: After you moved to Dynamix, suddenly you turned up another Space Quest game, after you Two Guys had told an interviewer, and I quote: "There will be other games in the series, we just won't be doing it." What made you re-consider your, uh, "farewell to brooms"?

       MC: Once at Dynamix I started developing some ideas for a new adventure line based on a super hero character. But shortly after getting started I was asked to create SQ5 at the Dynamix division using a new team. Meanwhile, Scott was off and running on a project of his own so I took on the design of SQ5.

       I know that Josh Mandel was working on an SQ5 design at the time but I was not (and still not) aware the politics surrounding that.

WD: Space Quest 5 was more visually humorous than the previous SQ's (especially SQ4), and the broad parody of popular culture was toned down. Is this typically your brand of humor?

       MC: With each new Space Quest we tried to do something fresh. It's the only way to stay interested in what you're doing. We had just about exhausted all ideas for Sci-Fi parodies that we could squeeze into a story line without getting sued. In SQ4 we even resorted to poking fun at our own games. In SQ5, I wanted to introduce some new characters that would breathe new life into the series. Star Trek: The Next Generation was the biggest untouched target and putting Roger in a team situation seemed the best way to create new characters with stand-alone potential.

       SQ4 was, by design, a darker game. I consider it my masterpiece effort to this day.

WD: Continuing the question above: Ken Williams told me that none of the SQ games since SQ4 have been the same, now that you and Scott weren't working together, and that it changed the game somehow. Do you think that the very risque and dark humor of Scott, thrown together with your own visual and more sort of slapstick-comedy-type-of-humor were an important contrast in the SQ-games? Now that you've seen SQ6 (hopefully), do you consider it too risque, dark, sarcastic, whatever, for your tastes?

       MC: Regrettably, Scott's acidic sarcasm was noticeably absent from SQ5. He was the far left and I the right. Scott would come up with things that would have me on my ass laughing then I would have to say "we can't say that in a game". So I think there was a good set of checks and balances to keep the humor funny without being too risque‚ for younger players. I think one thing that influenced me to tone down the risque humor in SQ5 was being smack dab in politically correct Eugene. I could feel the heat from the scorching eyes of female coworkers who could not see the humor in WD-40's breast blasters opening fire on the pukiods. I think I almost caused a walk out here.;)

       About SQ6 ... The humor was too pun oriented for me. Josh Mandel is a funny, funny guy though. I do prefer visual humor, sightgags though.

WD: Up until SQ5, the Space Quest games generally concerned Wilco, traipsing all over the galaxy, sort of like an aftereffect of his adventures in The Sarien Encounter. What made you give up that idea, and instead introduce a more Star Trek-kind of feel to SQ5? (In other words, who came up with the idea of StarCon?)

       MC: Answered above. [Oops! -ed]

WD: Are you surprised of the enormous popularity the adventures of Roger Wilco has recieved in the course of his travels? Do you think us SQ-fans are "going over the top"; building up Roger far more than he deserves? (Do you sometimes glance at an SQ-fanpage and say: "What's wrong with these people? The guy's just an astro-janitor, for chrissakes!")

       MC: Well, unfortunately, there are not as many rabid SQ fans as you seem to believe. At least not going by my last royalty check :). Seriously though, I think people either LOVE Space Quest or hate it. Our goal (Scott and I) was to create a game that WE would enjoy playing--a subject matter we liked combined with the twisted humor we both so enjoy. We definitely took a "ME! ME! ME!" attitude with these games.;) We knew there had to be at least a couple thousand others out there like us. [Not a bad guess, actually. -ed]

WD: In all of Roger's travels, is there any point in them which you consider your favourite? And which of the five games you participated in -- which of these do you consider your "masterpiece product"?

       MC: Hmmm! As I said earlier, SQ4 is my masterpiece product. [Oops again, I guess. -ed] However, my favorite place to visit within the SQ universe has to be ScumSoft. Maybe not to visit but it was the most fun to create. I patterned it after the cubical hell that Sierra had become there for a brief time. And that's all I got to say about that.

WD: Do you hope of ever doing an SQ game again? And is there hope for the Two Guys from Andromeda?

       MC: Scott and I have actually talked about doing something together again whether it's SQ or something else. But we currently have no plans for the near future. I would like to do a full 3D SQ game at some point.

WD: What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

       MC: Most recently I've been producing and directing the EARTHSIEGE series from Dynamix and am currently developing a downhill ski racing sim. I'm constantly batting around adventure game ideas but have been discouraged by the apparent decline of interest in these types of games.

       Happy Questin' everyone!

Comments, questions, suggestions...

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