Monday, September 14, 2009

Carcrash Parker and the Sierra Nostalgia

In addition to short pieces geared toward the Japanese gaijin community and the usual crap for this blog, this month I pulled out the dusty script for Carcrash Parker, determined anew to finish it. May God help me.

Last summer, feeling the frustration inherent in our respective day jobs and lacking any productive creative outlet, Mike and I set out to create a point-and-click adventure game. I still don't remember how we came up with the idea, or why it seemed so good at the time (though perhaps Mike can lend a hand recalling); but we figured that if I could write it, he could program it, and we'd figure out the pesky graphical details along the way. I came up with the concept one cloudy day at George's Mills, we designed the world map and game layout together, and behold: Carcrash Parker and the Haven of Larpers was born.

I wrote the script draft last fall, mostly in the evenings while I was painting for Dad at the Hillsborough house, and finished the ending lines on Christmas Eve while my parents worked on their yearly last-minute gift-wrapping in the other room. Mike, meanwhile, started making the engine, and we'd meet on weekends to discuss progress and make long lists of references we wanted to include. My coming to Japan threw a wrench in the gears of the project, because with all the chaos of getting set up, working on an epic adventure game was the last thing on my mind. It feels good to come back to this after so long; I've distanced myself from the writing of the first draft and can approach it more critically, yet the ideas are still fresh in my mind.

Carcrash Parker is hard to talk about because most people I know don't understand larping, let alone what the fuck an adventure game is; and talking about the project invariably leads to an explanation of one or both concepts. Since Mike and I only make fun of the former and are both passionate fans of the latter, I'll give a quick rundown:

Mike grew up playing the old Sierra games, and he introduced them to me somewhere around the time I saw my first rated-R movie (which, for the record, was Total Recall). We used to play a lot of the old text-based games (including the primitive yet eponymous Adventure) on the PC or the Commodore 64 where the player typed out all commands and solved puzzles using inventory items. These, however, were small potatoes compared to the Sierra games, which blew me away the first time we played them. These games, like a host of other graphical adventures of the time, allowed you to move your character onscreen and either type out commands or use a point-and-click interface to explore and interact with the game world. I'd never seen anything like the Sierra games before: the epic storylines, the full voice acting, the humor, the ridiculous puns, and that magic of being transported from Mike's darkened computer room into a world of malicious wizards, dark labyrinths, and suspenseful murder mysteries. (I'll stop here, since I spend enough time talking nostalgic in this blog as it is.)

Simply put, what we want to make is a point-and-click interface computer game in the spirit of Sierra where a player wanders a 2-D world finding items, solving puzzles, and interacting with other characters. No fighting engine, no character stats, no endless farming of items, and no customizable teams of party members. Adventure games have a limited appeal to a new gaming generation, but in them lies a vast storytelling potential that has not been fully explored. I was attracted to telling a story of 20-something, post-college frustration through an adventure game because of its non-linear structure. The player can piece together a complex, multi-layered plot by looking at various objects, having conversations with the right people, and exploring the world map at their own pace. The plot, backstory, and characters can all be spread through a gigantic narrative jigsaw puzzle. Like a good Faulkner novel, the player can finish without absorbing the whole story, or they can look deeper and see the bigger picture. Perhaps no game I know of accomplishes this feat more impressively than Laura Bow 2: The Dagger of Amon Ra, though King's Quest VI and the Quest for Glory series certainly come close.

So after all that pretentious-sounding build-up, that's where we stand. I'll try and keep this blog somewhat abreast of the game's progress, but until then, here's a few other adventure game links I recommend checking out:

AGD Interactive Games Page: A nonprofit company who's made some pretty kick-ass SVGA remakes of the first two King's Quest games, plus the second Quest for Glory game, free for download. As this is the easiest way to discover the old Sierra series, I highly recommend giving these games a try.
Peasant's Quest: Remember when the Homestar Runner website was the shit? I still enjoy their King's Quest 1 parody immensely. If nothing else, it's the only adventure game I've ever heard of to include a meatball sub inventory item.
Al Lowe's Humor Site!: Al Lowe created the Leisure Suit Larry series, which (before they degenerated into 3-dimensional abominations of taste and gameplay) were a hilarious batch of games with an, *ahem*, more pertinent goal than the average adventure.


Danicus said...

well, im glad i could be of service as the partial inspiration for the game. :-p

Mike said...

The great thing about adventure games like these, besides the storytelling aspect, is how approachable they are. You don't even need to like video games to get drawn into a classic point-and-click adventure--the interface is so simple and the game is so plot-driven. Anyone will be able to enjoy this game, if and when it finally gets completed. It's also going to be packed with inside jokes, references, and general silliness.

Ian said...

Well-spoken, though I don't like the sound of that word "if"...

Anonymous said...

I would like to say that Homestar Runner is STILL the shit, and if you haven't continued to watch it, that is your loss.

Mike said...

I also wanted to add that besides AGD Interactive, there is another group of Sierra nostalgics who have remade King's Quest III and is working on Space Quest II. Infamous-Adventures can be found at -- check 'em out.