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Wilco's Domain Interviews Scott Murphy
Veteran Space Quest Designer

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: Tell me about how you came aboard Sierra, and about your time here.

       Scott Murphy: It's been fourteen years since then. I can't remember because of the long term loss of short term memory. Actually, it was a beautiful late winter day as I recall. The birds were singing and spring was in the air blah blah blah. Okay, I originally moved up to Yosemite to be able to backpack there whenever I wanted. As it turns out, you also have to make a living. I was working as a cook. A friend and colleague of mine, Doug Oldfield - whose name you will find in the credits of many major Sierra games including a couple of Space Quests - was also working in a restaurant except that his burned down (alledgedly with a little help from the owner). He found a job copying disks for On-Line Systems, as it was then called. Apple ][+ computers were the rage then. He showed me some of the games he duplicated for the company - Softporn, the game that Leisure Suit Larry 1 was a remake of, Mystery House and Wizard and the Princess - and I was immediately hooked. I had to work at the place that made these so I came in and Doug introduced me to the manager of Product Support which is where he was working then. They had a hiring freeze but I just kept coming by and hanging around until they got tired of watching me stand around and finally put me to work giving return merchandise authorizations. I just kept working my way up and around to the games eventually. You could do that kind of thing back then.

WD: How did the idea for The Sarien Encounter pop up?

       SM: Well, Mark Crowe and I knew that we wanted to do something different. Roger Wilco was born shortly after Mark and I finished up another too serious game. We knew people might want something different. We sure did. We then needed a vehicle, as they say in the entertainment industry, to introduce Roger to the world which was a lot smaller then. The Sarien Encounter was what we decided upon. It was made to show what kind of guy Roger is, a path-of-least resistance, subordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances. We were just introducing him to whoever would take a chance and buy the game.

       For those who don't know, at the beginning of SQ1 Roger survives the slaughter of the crew of the ship Arcada by being asleep in his broom closet during his work shift when the Sariens come aboard to steal the Star Generator. Mark Crowe came up with the Star Generator idea. Roger ends up saving the galaxy pretty much by accident, by just trying to save his own butt. He's evolved a little since then. Not a lot, but some.

WD: After Space Quest IV, you left Roger Wilco indefinately, while Mark moved to Dynamix to do SQ5. What is your own view of the situation?

       SM: As I understand it from Mark, they didn't approach him to do SQ5 until he'd been up there a while. He didn't go there with that intent. I don't think he was tickled pink when they talked to him about it. We were both tired of Space Quest. It was all that Mark and I did pretty much. We were burned out. As soon as we finished one they wanted us to get to work on the next one. By SQ4 we started getting a little bitter about the situation which resulted in a little darker game in SQ4. Anyway, I really didn't know Mark was leaving for Dynamix until he'd pretty much made the deal. It didn't take long before Ken wanted another Space Quest. I don't know if it was my lack of interest or what but they approached Mark to do it at Dynamix. They were doing adventures at the time. I didn't know that it was being done until I saw someone down here running a demo of it. They don't tell you a whole lot around here unless they need you for something. Guess that's just a reality of the corporate world.

WD: Mark Crowe says that your breakup was friendly and painless, but I've been told that you have a different view. Is this so?

       SM: I was mystified by it when it happened but I got over it fairly quickly. I really did enjoy working with Mark and we made a pretty damn good team for a good amount of time. We still talk and email each other occasionally and we usually have some pretty good laughs. We never had a big breakup or anything like that. We both just needed a change. Mark decided his was in the northwest. He'd been in California all his life and Oregon seemed like a good scenery change as I understand it. Having been to Oregon since I can certainly see why. Maybe we Two Guys just spent too much time in a room alone together.

WD: When you told an interviewer that, and I quote, "There will be more games in the [Space Quest] series, we just won't be doing it", what made you come back for Space Quest VI, and now Space Quest VII? (Just couldn't let Roger go?)

        SM: I guess it was one of those never-say-never situations. After getting a rest and working on some others things, I was approached to do SQ6. At that time I was programming on Police Quest 4 and it ran long, real long. In the meantime, for whatever reason, they had Josh Mandel start working on a design for SQ6. (BTW, Josh has a game out now called Callahan's Bar, from Interplay. Check it out.) He'd been working on it for a couple of months before anyone told me of the change. I was then relegated to "Creative Consultant." As it turned out through twists of fate, I did end up being a designer and writer on it. There is now enough time here at Sierra between sequels for one to get rested up as well as psyched-up for them. Besides, they are a lot of fun to work on and I always have great people to work with. That's very rewarding. So on we go to SQ7.

WD: Which of the Space Quest games do you consider your crowning achievement? (Please, don't answer "the King's Quest series" and then slam the door in my face.)

       SM: Would I do that? What you must think of me.

       That's a tough call. I like the early parser games because I could put in more interesting text to respond to some of the more bizarre player input. I liked SQ3. Although it wasn't the longest game ever made it did have some fun stuff in it and I'll bet more players got to the end of that game than just about any other. Also, it was our first game with midi audio. That was back when people were buying things like the MT-32 and LAPC cards which gave incredibly great sound. Much, much better than what you hear through a Sound Blaster 16. We got to work with Bob Siebenberg, the drummer from Supertramp. Mark and I wanted to have a game that wouldn't be shoved back on the shelf to collect dust. We wanted players to see all that we had in store for them and to just have fun with less frustration and a nice sense of accomplishment.

WD: Rumors have been circulating about a possible collaboration-reunion between you and Mark. Is there anything about the subject you'd care to share?

       SM: I know it would probably be fun. However, there are no plans for it. I'd consider it. I'm not sure what Mark would think about it. Never say never. I've learned that lesson.

WD: Space Quest VII is, according to the rumors, going to be a hybrid of adventure and RPG. Exactly what does this mean?

       SM: Sierra wants more playability so that games can become multiplayer as well as on-line game candidates. Were trying to achieve that while still staying true to Space Quest which includes the adventure aspect. We don't want to do something that will disappoint or alienate our loyal fan base. You folks are important and we want to make sure you feel we've kept that in mind. Unfortunately, the word "adventure" has been treated like a four letter word around here of late. I think though that management is opening their minds a bit while trying to understand what it is that you all want. That's in our favor. If we can do that then we all win - the company and the players. Otherwise we all lose and I'm the night manager at Burger King. It's going to be a fine balance. Wish us luck.

WD: Rumors also have it, that SQ7 will include a multiplayer option. How do you plan to pull this off?

       SM: That's going to be tough. We have some ideas but can't disclose them at this point in the process.

WD: What can you tell me about SQ7, story-wise? Most importantly, what is Roger's new assignment, which Bea mentioned in the end of SQ6?

       SM: Actually, that was Stellar who said that.

[I blame it all on cheap supermarket cola. -ed]

       SM: The story is a work in progress. There's not much I can tell you this month other than we will see more, shall we say, dimensions of Roger.

WD: What will the technical side of SQ7 involve? Rumors would have it, we can expect it to utilize 3D. (Which will no doubt make my poor 486 explode.)

       SM: There will be some 3D. That's the direction things are moving but we won't rely on that too much. As you might know by now, Sierra's minimum system configuration requires a 90mhz pemntium already and it's not going to get any slower. We already did some cpu straining in SQ6. Having said this, we will do our best to minimize the need for a megahertz monster to play SQ7. We can already do things more spectacular than the average hardware out there can handle. We do try to stay within the range of what the market can bear.

WD: More rumors: Beatrice Wankmeister will play an important role, and will even be under the players control at a point in the game. I thought you, Josh, Mark, and everybody else, where trying to shove the whole Bea idea, mainly because of its nauseating predictability? What made you change your mind?

       SM: Like you said, it's a rumor.

WD: Will we see more of Stellar Santiago in SQ7? Can we expect some sort of romantic feud? (Some moral stuff, for the first time since the mail fraud scheme was introduced?)

       SM: Do you mean like a cat fight or something, Troels? What an interesting mind you must have.

       I still have Stellar in my mind and would like to have her reappear in SQ7. She's a good character. Her presence at the end of SQ6 has to be followed up anyway. Besides, the woman who did her voice, Carol Bach Y Rita was really fun to work with. Very talented.

WD: Thank you for taking the time to do this with me. I greatly appreciate it.

       SM: Thank you. You're more than welcome. Bye, kids.

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