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Space Quest (Escape Factory)

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Roger Wilco and girl

Roger Wilco and girl.

Space Quest was being developed by Escape Factory for the Microsoft Xbox video game console. The game was planned as a departure from the main Space Quest series, rumors it starred a new character named "Wilger". Though a video shows that the game starred Roger Wilco. Concept art also shows a female character who's identity is unknown. Though it would have maintained a comedic theme in space, no plan was made to connect it to the original series.

Space Quest was announced on February 7, 2002. Development proceeded for almost a year and a half before the project was cancelled. According to Space Quest 6 designer Josh Mandel, the SQVII designers were forbidden from using story elements from the original Space Quest games or from even playing the games. This is disputable, since other sources claimed the developers had played the games before. Website FYI.com, also claimed that this "gutted" SQVII would not have been an adventure game at all and would have been released only on game console platforms such as the Xbox rather than the PC. Since then the Vivendi's Product Manager Bruce Goodwill, has confirmed that the title was going to be released only on console platforms.

Sierra went as far as contracting developer Escape Factory to storyboard and begin coding before withdrawing funding. It was cancelled around 2003.[1]

DesignEdit

The world of Space Quest was composed of several hub/spoke layouts; each with their own unique theme. The hub level itself consisted of a "primary objective" while the spoke levels generally consisted of several secondary objectives. The hub/spoke system was ideal for several reasons; it allowed for the reuse of assets, promoted a non-linear, exploratory style of play, and clearly presented a series of goals and objectives to the player.

One of the planets in the game was the planet "Yarg". This planet consisted of two "hubs" and several spoke levels. The presentation is linear and is best viewed from beginning to end, starting with the "main hub".

The game was built on the Unreal technology, the levels for Space Quest were largely designed and constructed by the design team with content creation and visual direction from the artists. It was an interesting use of a technology that many considered to be a "first person shooter" engine. However, because of the proprietary toolset (Unreal Editor), this project followed a production pipeline commonly seen with "first person shooter" developers at the time. Ultimately, funding was cut and the game wasn't shipped. [2]

February 7, 2002Edit

Adventure Gamers released the following news: "Two reliable sources have shared with us that an independent studio is working on a Space Quest game for Sierra, possibly a remake. Recent changes to Sierra's website already seemed to hint at this, but it wasn't until now that we've gotten confirmation that a new Space Quest game is indeed going to happen."

Also, GameSpot came in with the following news on their website that very same day: "Sierra may soon announce a seventh game in its humorous sci-fi adventure series. GameSpot has learned from sources working on the project that Sierra is developing a new game in its classic Space Quest sci-fi adventure game series. Although no further information about the game is available at this point, the publisher may be gearing up to announce the game, as it recently launched a new Space Quest website, which contains descriptions of the previous Space Quest games along with a large Space Quest logo. All of the previous Space Quest games are listed as "temporarily out of stock," which suggests that the new website isn't simply intended to boost sales of the older games, but perhaps to serve as home for a new one. The Space Quest series began in 1987, and the sixth game in the series was released in 1995. Sierra announced in 1998 that it was putting development of the seventh Space Quest game on hold indefinitely, but now there are indications that the project has been revived. A Sierra representative declined comment when asked about the upcoming game. We'll post more information about the game as it becomes available."

The changes to Sierra's website as mentioned in both articles is about a new Space Quest page which is no longer accessible on the internet. The page indicates Sierra might have had plans to sell the games again.

March 13, 2002Edit

Jouke Koning forwarded me this interesting mail:

From: Ken Williams To: Jouke Koning Date: Thursday, February 14, 2002 5:38 PM Subject: RE: Important question

I did have lunch with the new head guy at Sierra and he confirmed that his intention is to "bring back" the old Sierra. He has several of the old games back in development, and is meeting with several of the old designers to explore their possible involvement. I think it's great! My only concern is that I hope that they are able to find something new and exciting to do with the old series, and don't just continue them as they were. I like things that use the old characters, and the worlds that we created, but that somehow move entertainment forward in some way. I can't say exactly which series are in development, because he wouldn't want me to.

- Ken

March 20, 2002Edit

Jess Morrissette, webmaster of the Virtual Broomcloset, received an e-mail from a reliable source at Sierra saying that fans of the Space Quest series "will want to keep an eye open for upcoming announcements later this year." The source was definitely someone who's "in the know". Needless to say, this information was a very encouraging development for Space Quest fans - and straight from Sierra, no less.

April 5, 2002Edit

Jess Morrissette, webmaster of the Virtual Broomcloset, received a forwarded e-mail that was written by Al Lowe: "I had a meeting with Sierra's president about 2 months ago. He said we should meet again soon to complete discussions. I told him any time. (I only live about 10 minutes away)... I've heard nothing. He did tell PCGamer that "a new game was in development". I don't know what that means, as I'm not working on it. Perhaps he found someone "better" for the job (i.e., cheaper?). Actually, I'm having a great time with retirement. You know how fun it is to go on vacation, and how the last day you're all bummed out because you have to go back to school or work? Well, retirement is like summer vacation... without that last day! He did tell me that a totally different group of developers was working on a SQ sequel. It will be interesting to see how that turns out, eh?"

Not much later, Al Lowe sent an e-mail to me with additional information about his Space Quest comment: "There is a group in Seattle working on a SQ sequel. They are not an internal Sierra team, but an outside development house. I don't remember the name. Sorry."

April 16, 2002Edit

A Space Quest fan e-mailed me an article called "Sierra: Two secret projects based on adventure franchises" which appeared on MCV Online:

"16.04.2002 - 06:00 - (mcv) Sierra's daughter Vivendi seems to try reviving the well-known adventure brand names and is currently working on two secret projects that are based on introduced titles. "It is really amazing how often German PC gamers tell us they want a new Leisure Suit Larry, King's Quest, Space Quest and Police Quest. The adventure genre which we knew back then may not be viable in this form, but you can transport these game themes with other genres like action or strategy," says Sierra's Mike Ryder. Both projects are planned to be released in 2003 or 2004 and will probably be unveiled at the E3 in Los Angeles. One of these two projects may be an action-oriented multi-platform console title and the other a PC strategy game."

July 27, 2002Edit

Adventure Gamers has released yet another article about the rumoured new Space Quest game! The following Space Quest-related part is copied from it:

"Our informant couldn’t say anything about the genre orientation of the game, but did say that it is being created at a new Seattle-based independent developer. Our secret operatives (cough-Google-cough) even uncovered this highly classified clay model (see picture) for a possible character in the game. Naturally, we blocked his eyes to ensure his anonymity. At least, I think those are his eyes. (By the way, his name is Keebo... oops!)"

July 30, 2002Edit

I've e-mailed Sierra's big boss and chief in staff, Mike Ryder, to ask him if he could tell me anything about the rumoured Space Quest game. Mr. Ryder did not have the chance to reply to my mail himself. Instead, I got a reply from Sierra's "Senior Public Relations Manager"... This is what she had to say:

"Mike Ryder forwarded me your note regarding Space Quest, as I head up PR for several titles. Although Sierra has not announced anything at this time regarding a new Space Quest title, I can tell you to be on the lookout for news. We could have something exciting to share in the coming year. :-)"

To some of you this e-mail might sound a little bit familiar, as the webmaster of the Virtual Broomcloset got a similar reply some weeks ago when he asked about a possible new Space Quest game. Oh well, it sure was worth the try.

October 12, 2002Edit

Sierra has updated its Space Quest page again (which is no longer accessible on the internet). The page now features demos for some of the Space Quest games and an "ORDER NOW" link to a page on the Amazon store that offers the Space Quest Collection (Amazon takes care of Sierra's online sales). The collection is out of stock, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it becoming available soon. I'm extremely pleased to see the price has been set for well under $20 US. Although we haven't heard either good or bad news about the possible new Space Quest game lately, I think this is great news indeed. The Space Quest page indicates Sierra is putting time (and thus money) into the Series again!

November 14, 2002Edit

The Adventure Gamers website reports: "Adventure Gamers has learned that the upcoming new Space Quest game - at this point still unannounced and entirely hypothetical (ssssh) - will not be a graphic adventure, but most likely an action game of sorts. Also, it may or may not (...) be in development at Escape Factory."

I surfed over to those Escape Factory guys, and besides a dirty old bucket and broom this is what I found:

"07/10/2002 - EF celebrates 2nd birthday

The team celebrates Escape Factory's second birthday with a small party at a local brewery. In two years we've gone from 2 to 20 employees and from a crazy dream to a still-crazy-dream, but one backed up by slightly more reality. Sadly, we still can't talk yet about what we're working on. But we like it."

November 15, 2002Edit

A Space Quest fan found an art folder on the Escape Factory website. Possibly, this folder contains the first publicly-available Space Quest art pictures. The images are not linked or connected to an "Escape Factory Space Quest page" in any way, though. At first the art folder was available for every one on the internet, but some days later they've blocked access to it. Possibly because they found out that the images were discovered by fans.

January 31, 2003Edit

Daniel Hoeksema is working for a university newspaper called the Western Herald (reaching an audience of around 35,000 people no less). He's currently working on an article about old computer games, and in a recent survey he found the Space Quest Series was by far the most popular old game. He therefore decided to run a small article about the Series and did a lot of research for it, which he agreed to share with me.

James Gertzman, president and co-founder of Escape Factory, replied to Daniel regarding his questions about the rumoured new Space Quest game and stated black and white: "I’ve heard the rumors, but I’m afraid we are not working on a Space Quest game." This is actually the first negative news we've heard regarding a possible new Space Quest game. I can't imagine the president of such a company would lie to a news reporter, so as far as I'm concerned this settles the matter. The rumors regarding Escape Factory must be wrong. This also means the design art which was uncovered not to long ago from the Escape Factory website DOES NOT belong to the rumored Space Quest project.

Daniel also sent an e-mail to Sierra's official press contact and received the reply: "Sierra does not comment on titles that have not been announced." This is basically the same reply I got several times in the past from Sierra. The most recent reply I got from Sierra (dating back to January 17): "I don't have any information to share with you at this time. I'm sorry - I wish I did." These two statements might add extra weight to Mr. Gertzman's statement, but to me Sierra still isn't denying that they aren't working on a Space Quest game. And that's saying something.

Disappointing as this all might sound to you, Space Quest fan Nicodemus Caine has uncovered an interesting advert in a gaming magazine only days ago. It is taken from "New Age Gaming" (January edition) and is located somewhere in the back (on page 59 if you care to know). The original is in colour and the banner reads: "2003 doesn't have to be all doom and gloom". You can click on the image for a close up. It seems to feature a list of titles which, Nicodemus presumes, will be due for release somewhere this year. Between all the usual uninteresting upcoming Sierra and Blizzard (also a division of Vivendi) shoot'em up titles (I mean RPG titles) are the two magical words "Space Quest". It is believed the company responsible for the ad, Comztek, is the only South African distributor for Vivendi Universal.

February 4, 2003Edit

The Espace Factory website was updated on January 27th, 2003, which I obviously missed! The website reports: "The not-yet-announced project was cancelled after just over a year of development for a variety of reasons. The team is obviously disappointed, but we understand the decision. We have terminated the relationship with our publisher amicably, and have once again begun the process of talking to other publishers about new projects, this time with a bigger and more experienced team."

My sources have confirmed this "not-yet-announced project" was indeed the rumored Space Quest game. Whether Sierra has chosen a new developer for the game is unkown. Let's hope they did. Looking back at the January 31rst update: This means the images found on the Escape Factory website DID belong to the secret Space Quest project after all. James Gertzman statement was obviously not complete. They WERE working on a Space Quest game...

April 12, 2003Edit

I think we all agree Escape Factory was working for Sierra on a Space Quest game. It's been about two months since Sierra told Escape Factory to stop making that new Space Quest game we were all dying to see. Recently I e-mailed James Gwertzman (founder of Escape Factory) who replied on April 1rst 2003 with a simple statement: "I'm afraid we can not talk about the project at all."

I had long ago concluded mailing Sierra or Escape Factory about the project is completely useless. Though this time I had high hopes that they might tell me something now that the project is cancelled. But no dice. I should have known because when I called Escape Factory myself on February 4 2003, I talked with an employee who told me they are under strict contract that forbids them to say anything. It's all up the publisher (supposed to be Sierra) to inform the public, announce anything and/or release information/material of the game. This contract that guy was talking about seems to run parallel with Sierra's policy to not comment on unreleased games. On the same day, Josh Mandel stepped forward stating:

"Given this news, I believe I'll step forward and tell you what little I know about the project. This information comes from a Sierra connection.

  1. While it used the Space Quest name, it was not an adventure game.
  2. While it used the Space Quest name, it would've borne little, if any, resemblance to the SQ we know and love.

Why? Because the team at Escape Factory was specifically told by Sierra NOT to even PLAY or LOOK AT the existing Space Quest games before working on the new game. Now, Escape Factory has some former Sierra employees, so it's likely that they brought some knowledge of the series to the table. How much prior information they were free to incorporate into the project, I don't know. However, it's clear that Sierra did NOT WANT the project to resemble the existing SQ games, let alone closely follow the canon."

Mind you, this statement was precisely the complete opposite from what my sources told me: "All the developers involved have played the previous Space Quest games before they started designing. They are working very hard on the story at the moment." It's not a matter of who you believe though, I'm just trying to point out the misinformation and secrecy surrounding the project.

For some it was hard to believe the game might not have been an adventure game at all, but an action/strategy kind of thing. Recently, I've learned the game wasn't going to be a PC game at all, but a PlayStation 2 or Xbox game. This information comes from the FYE website who have stores all over America selling computer games, DVDs, CDs, and stuff. Sadly, just recently their Space Quest page has been removed from their catalogue, but it was listed there. Of course a would-be futile attempt to get more information about all this was bluntly cut off. In a reply to an e-mail I sent to FYE: "In reference to your email on the Space Quest game, I did some research on the title. This is being provided to us from our content provider only. Our games buyer has no information on it yet in our store system. I would say this is most likely tentative at best currently as no other information appears to be available. Please check back with the site as the content will be updated as it becomes available to us. Hope this helps." And it sure doesn't.

Space Quest fan Danny Bloks received an e-mail from Bruce Goodwill, Vivendi's Product Manager, who told him: "Sierra is looking at bringing out a Space Quest in Q4 2003 but this will be on the Console platform and not for PC unfortunately! I will forward you more information on the title as I receive it." This confirms the Space Quest game was not going to be released for the PC.

That's the third time a seventh installment gets cancelled. And as far as I'm concerned, that's one, two, three strikes, you're out at the Space Quest ball game!

External linksEdit

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