One of the most beloved Sierra On-Line classic adventure series, Space Quest, celebrated its 25th-anniversary last year with a still-thriving fan community and the release of quite a few high-quality, impressive fan-made games carrying on the spirit of Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, the Two Guys from Andromeda design team. What no one could have anticipated at that time was the explosion of the crowd-funding model in 2012, and the subsequent announcement that most could only have dreamed of: The Two Guys were re-forming, and preparing to release a brand new adventure game.
And it's not just a hobby or side project—Mark and Scott, long since separated to different parts of the country, have left their previous places of employment and formed Guys from Andromeda LLC, a new studio committed to developing adventure games for a modern audience. Their first project was announced under the code name SpaceVenture, a science-fiction themed comedy adventure the likes of which the Two Guys are famous for. Their Kickstarter campaign is currently seeking $500,000 to begin full-time production on the game, and as the June 12th deadline approaches, the outcome is still perilously in doubt.
As a lifelong Sierra and Space Quest fan, it was quite an experience when I had the chance to catch up with Mark Crowe over lunch (a delicious Jumbo Monolith Burger with Polycheeze) in his hometown of Eugene, Oregon and talk about the past, the present, and what the future holds for SpaceVenture and the Two Guys.
(Oh, and stick around for a mouth-watering nostalgia treat of original never-before-seen (or at least not this close up) Space Quest concept art at interview's end!)
Adventure Gamers: We last talked to you in 2002, when you had finished Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters with Pipeworks. Give us a little update of what you’ve been doing over the last ten years.
Mark Crowe: I’ve been with Pipeworks for the last twelve years as Studio Design Director, since the studio started. After the first Godzilla game, we did two more Godzilla games that did well for us, and then I had a lot of fun doing a Rampage remake, or re-imagining I guess, since I got to exercise my humor muscles and inject some of the Two Guys-style humor into that. Then, I think the biggest thing we did was the closest thing to an adventure game, Night at the Museum 2, which was also a lot of fun. I did some writing on that and laid out the bones of the story. After that, it was non-stop business development projects and prototypes.
Recently, I officially left Pipeworks to do this Kickstarter full-time. I’ve invested heavily into the future of this thing; I’ve staked my livelihood on the future of the Two Guys and SpaceVenture, and everything else we hope to do in the future!
AG: Have you and Scott kept any type of communication over the years?
Mark: Until recently, there had been twelve years, since I started with Pipeworks, where there was no contact.
AG: Given that, I’d like to clear up some history—was there ever a time when there was actual animosity between you and Scott, or was it just a matter of going separate directions?
Mark: It was really just separate directions. Looking back in hindsight, we worked very well together. Everybody has their little quirks, and when you’re cooped up in an office, those become annoyances. I count myself among that; I’m not perfect. But that didn’t play at all into our parting of the ways, and it really wasn’t a parting of the ways, in that sense—I was just ready to try something else and move on. It’s just burnout; we worked very hard on these games, one after the other, and you just get burned out after a while.
When the opportunity presented itself to move to Eugene and try my hand at something different, I jumped on it. At the time I had two very small children and a growing family, and that became my focus in life. But the answer to the animosity question is a resounding no. In fact, we made some humorous reference to the whole subject in the Two Guys Reunion video that we did.
Scott and Mark reunite after twelve years of estrangement. No bad blood here!
AG: What was the first spark that led to this reunion and the decision to reform the Guys from Andromeda and make a new game?
Mark: Speaking for myself—with all the fan games coming out I kept thinking, I should get in touch with Scott and we should talk about doing a game because there’s clearly a demand. But again, I had a full-time job, so those ideas went away.
Then there was the Double Fine Kickstarter, which was obviously a catalyst. Someone had to bring my attention to that because I was not aware; they said “Have you seen this? You should be doing a Space Quest game!” And a lightbulb went on. I realized, wow, there is actually a huge audience of people who are willing to pay, and this whole fan-funding thing is brilliant. We can do the kind of games we want without the publisher, directly for the people who want these games; it’s the perfect solution for us.
I immediately contacted Scott; I sent him an email right out of the blue—I didn’t even have his email address, I had to ask someone for it—and said “Have you seen this? We need to talk. Obviously we have an audience and we need to think about doing a game.” I got a response back immediately, and we got on the phone together and talked, and got caught up on what each other had been doing. I had no idea where Scott was, or what he had been going through over the last twelve years since we last talked, so it was quite an experience getting back together.
We immediately clicked talking about ideas and jumping back into the whole brainstorming creative process. It was great, a great feeling. I expressed to him I hadn’t had this much fun going over game ideas in quite a while. Working for a developer who does what publishers need them to do, work-for-hire, there isn’t that much of a creative outlet. I was just overjoyed!
AG: Sierra’s classic adventures were ahead of their time in the way they promoted the designer, with pictures on the box, advocating almost a celebrity status. Were you and Scott comfortable with this celebrity status?
Mark: To a degree. Other than Roberta Williams, we were the first ones to do that, actually. I think for Sierra, the lightbulb went on during that period because there was such a great response from fans, they were really on to something with promoting the authors, and I think that’s what kicked that off for them. It worked well for all the other authors that followed.
AG: Was the Two Guys motif your idea?
Mark: Yes, absolutely. When we did Space Quest, we never thought we would do another Space Quest game; we weren’t sure how it would sell. The idea of promoting ourselves as Mark and Scott didn’t really appeal to us. We felt... I don’t know, self-conscious about that. We thought, let’s poke fun at ourselves by creating these alter egos, these aliens from Andromeda. That was toward the latter part of development on Space Quest. We were practically done with the project, and they said “We want to put your picture on the back of the box” and we thought, we don’t want our picture there, so let’s come up with these alter egos.
I remember running down to Fresno, 45 miles down the highway, to start going through the Halloween shops—I think it was around October—to grab anything I could find to throw together some alien costumes. I found the Mohawks, the Spock ears, fashioned some noses out of latex. We didn’t even have costumes, we just decided “We’re two aliens on vacation in Yosemite!” We threw on some Hawaiian shirts and totally improvised the whole thing, and it ended up being the iconic image on the back of the Space Quest 1 box.Continued on the next page...
Platform(s): PCAn original sci-fi comedy from the creators of Space Quest.