Exterior Locations

One of the fun things about Designing SQ7 was the Wealth of locations available – The Universe has everything, whether it makes sense or not! ;)

Asteroid Halle Berry

One of the things about Space is that there’s always more places to go, more things to see, and we wanted to explore a few we’d never run into before.

One of the early locations we brought Roger to was an Asteroid- Not a huge, developed Asteroid like Vohaul’s layer, but a much more natural, floating in Space, asteroid.
It let us play with Caves, and gave Roger an area he could explore fully, without us needing “invisible walls” keeping the player from going past them.

Halle Berry

There were a few main areas, separated by a small tunnel, as shown below.

AsteroidRoom1


Cave 1

1a

CaveLava1 2

CavernThirdLevel1

CavernSecondLevel2

Throg

We also were able to throw in a few fun creatures, which Roger could harvest to use on his quest.

Throg Body

Snail

Snail

Habitrail City

There was a “Fun” puzzle with Habitrail City where you needed to return to the city multiple times- Each time things would be slightly different.. This gave a cool dynamic, somewhat similar to Day of the Tentacle. Things you did in one visit mattered in the next, and you could create neat puzzles by leaving items for yourself, or dealing with the consequences of what you’ve done.

ShapiroHabitrailSketch001
ShHuman

Melttest

Icetest

Mega

THUMP 04 1

BIG thumper

Hamster
Icedoom
ShapiroBattleFieldSketch001

Soundtrack

Over the years we were working on Space Quest 7, I had the pleasure of working with two amazing musicians, Troels “SQ Historian” Pleimert, and Danny “Dee” Bloks.
I remember when we were getting started, I was very excited to try to work with Troels – Not only was he famous for writing the SQ FAQ, but he had also done the music for SQ Incinerations, which at the time was a dead game.

We worked together for months developing leitmotifs for the various characters, many of which are included below, as well as various location themes, which helped set the feel of the game. I loved his work, and we made a great deal of progress, but ultimately other projects pulled him away.

Soon after, Danny took over, creating another set of tracks – Helping to write for scenes that Troels hadn’t had time to do yet, and thing we were still adding to the game.

Alas, after years, I’m missing quite of few of the tracks from that Era – In particular, there were a set of “Roughie” sound tests which we had done that I’d love to have back.

I the mean time, in the interest of sharing material, and avoiding any more bit-rot on my hard drive, enjoy the following sampling of SQ7 music.

The DeepShip

We wanted to start SQ7 in familiar territory – Someplace the audience had been before, and might feel comfortable.

One of the things that Josh stressed a few times was that that making fan game drives some choices that would be unusual for a commercial release.

One of the biggest things is that we knew that all (or at least a large number) of the players would be familiar with the series.
On a good side, this meant we didn’t need to spend as much time introducing the characters or the concept. We could assume the audience would already be with us.

In retrospect, is that it made us rather susceptible to fanservice, but for good and ill!


Since we knew the audience would get in-jokes, it encouraged us to put more in ;)
I don’t think we went overboard, but that’s also part of why we wanted act 1 to be on the DS. It’s familiar home turf for the audience, and fun for us as gamedevs ;)

First- The Ship itself. We showed this in an early trailer, but I thought it was a great reproduction of the Ship from SQ6.
We preserve the distinctive Jockstrap design, and flesh it out with lots of windows, one of which we climb through.

DS862

DS864

ExterorTest

What we did want to do was to have a puzzle where Roger walked along the outside of the DS86- This was to be a large scrolling room, a favorite technique of mine. I loved Scrolling rooms, both because A) it was a PITA to put them into the engine, so we better use them, B) Because they allowed a lot of detail and have realistic puzzles that demand and C) I loved them in SQ4, in particular.

The Exterior of the DS worked well as a long scroll target.

It was also rewarding to let us explore familiar territory from a new angle. This was a theme we kept revisiting on the Deepship.

Sure, you’ve been here, but have you seen it like This?
DSscroll

Right1

Left1

This is also where we did the initial Shuttle craft artwork.

The Shuttle would show up through-out the first half SQ7, as Roger’s Go-To ship while on-duty.

This set up the arrival of the Mallard later on as a fun back-to-roots fun ship instead of the more official, more Starcon shuttle.

Test5
Test7
Test9
SQ6

We saw the Shuttle, as well as other ships, in the DS86′s bay.
These were mostly here as distractions and space filler, involving a puzzle with the revealed ship’s parts.

In particular I liked the little robots you can see to the left – They were designed to be somewhat obstinate to Roger, and have a mute-beeping personality that recalls R2 without directly copying him.

Bayfinal2

The DS86 Hallway! Another Long scrolling room that we used as a prop to get between other areas.

In SQ6, they used tube-based transport, which was funny, but the gag would get a bit old if we copied it – The Hallway also gave us time to talk with Ramdon passerbys, with bits of various conversations, references, and other TGA inspired style humor.

Hallwaytest

Hallwaytest2
HallNew2

Roger’s room was a direct callback to SQ6.
Since you’re back on the same ship, we felt that you should have the same quarters for continuity.
This is one of those things we did because it’s a fan-game, which if it were a new game, we might have strayed from, but it felt really nice to revisit home territory.

RogRoom7

The Maintenance HQ is my favorite room on the Deepship.
In all of Space Quest, we’ve seen Roger in Closets several times, but we’ve never seen a room worthy of his station. A True Janitorial paradise.
We felt like he should have a place that felt like home.. And of course, it should be a complete mess.
MaintHQ

Maintnace7

The Holocabana was another callback to SQ6, although we used it to good effect to lead into Act 2.
We wanted to show the trouble people were in, not just send a video chat.

HoloCobana
Holocobana3

Keilbasa’s ready room was designed as a room to give Roger a dressing-down.
It’s one of the few rooms (along with the Maintenance room) with a Pneumatic tube.

We also animated the Octacreature in the back of the room, letting him try to scare out fair Hero as a click-event.

ReadyroomSk
ReadyRoom3

ReadyRoom5

Part 2

In the later half of the game, we revisit the DeepShip.

We had changed artists at this point, so you may notice a bit of visual variance.

That’s one of the costs of being a volunteer game. We’ll take whomever volunteers ;)

For reasons , the DeepShip explodes!

This leads to us exploring a semi-destroyed DeepShip, with things malfunctioning everywhere!

We filled a lot of these areas with smoke and flashing lights, and generally signs that You shouldn’t be here.

Exploded

This is the room of the Chief Engineer – Notice a certain level of cleanliness in comparison to Roger’s room?
The poster on his wall in the back is also important to one of the puzzles in this area.
Also notice the Chrome in this room, which looks neat through a smoke effect.
Geordisroom 0

This was the Chief engineer’s cooking area, which was a visual callback to the 1950 diner area.

The idea of having a diner on a futuristic space ship is a lot of fun, and a good place for humor.
“The large quantities of smoke billowing from the cooksurface seem wholly familiar to you”, sort of thing.


Kitchendraft

The view from inside one of the ships Roger gets to use. Again, running with the theme that like a Plumber’s house that’s full of leaks, Roger’s areas should be the least clean on the ship.
Test 20render 205


As I mentioned above, much of the DS is destroyed at this part. I thought it’d be fun to revisit the Command room from SQ6, but in the nearly blown-up state.

Final destroyed ds

This was one of the Engineering rooms, near the Chief Engineer’s office.
The room doesn’t need to be in heavy detail, since it’s mostly just used to walk through, and an overlay of smoke and dust is rendered on top of it.

44

Another Hall way!
And there was much rejoicing.. At least at the Davis compound.

This was another scrolling room, as you navigated the destroyed ship.

I like hallways. I think they have a club for that.

59

And finally, some gen-u-ine Colin Davis concept art!
This room was one I wanted to show you to help illustrate My amazing art prowess.
Sure, the rendered room at the bottom is a bit higher-class, but I think my room had CHARM.

Sq7 escape pod bay
61

Evolution of a Room

We had a very collaborative environment in the SQ7 project.
One of the things that helped to keep the team going was to post versions of what they we were working on, so we could get ideas, criticisms, and encouragement.

On any volunteer project, getting this feedback is critical- At times, I probably overdid it.
I know that I may tried to make comments and suggestions on every piece- In retrospect, I probably gave people a sense of demanding a lot out of them, for a free volunteer project.
I tried to always say good things, but I rarely only “That’s enough, ship it!”

I thought it’d be fun to bring you through the development of two of our early scenes, and two of my favorites- The Docking Bay, and the Maintenance Room.

Docking Bay 94

The Docking Bay is crucial both for access to the Starcon Shuttle, as well as harvesting Parts from an open ship.

BaySketch

Testb

Test2

Test

Test12

Test13

Test14

Test15

Bayfinal2

Maintenance HQ

The Maintenance HQ was a very Space Quest room.

I’ll describe it in more detail in a later post, but It’s one of my favorite rooms in all of SQ7, due both to the plethora of items, and because it’s something that I always felt belonged there.

MaintHQ
Maintnace
Maintnace5

Maintnace7

Interface

Icons

We wanted to give SQ7 a classic Sierra point-and-click interface, much in the style of SQ4.

This meant icons. LOTS of icons.
SQ7interfaceVer1 1
SQ7interfaceVer1 1ClickedOn

We fleshed out a basic version of the top-menu.
The way it worked was to drop down on-top of the window, partially obscuring it.
We had also played with hiding it, but I never liked the effect.



SQ7interfaceVer1 4WithWords

We actually setup SQ7.org to reflect this menu for a while.
While the action icons were cool in the game, they were more confusing out of context.

I still thought it was cool! ;)

SQ7 org

The final version was cleaned up, and rendered more tightly.

SQ7interface

GUI

We set up the Slage engine to allow you re-arrange the interface buttons as you chose.
You can see the basic idea of that at This Flash (Warning, big).



Rearrange

If I were to do it today, I’d do things differently.

I’d do something more akin the Monkey Island 3 cursor, where clicking brought up a radial menu of options. (In their case 2. In ours, maybe more)
I think it scales better to what people can mentally keep track of. In SQ4, I was always worried that if I didn’t use EVERY option on Everything, I’d be missing the funny.


Cursor

Then again, that was part of what made it lovable.
Billtiller02

We went through several revisions of the cursor as well, trying to make it visible, but not too garish.
SQ7cursorVer1 1

SQ7cursorVer1 2
SQ7cursorVer1 3


I think we finally got it, though. More Subtle colors.
MouseVer2 2

Window

Our window went through a few revisions, but was basically the same thing.
We wanted it to look like a StarCon communication panel.

WindowScreenshot
WindowVer2

LevelControlVer1 2

Evolution of Scenes

One of the most fun things of doing this project, was watching the artwork evolve.

Not only did so many of the individual artists evolve their styles (Colin Panetta in particular!), but watching the characters come to life was spectacular.

One scene in the later game found Roger Wilco in a Jail cell, working with a bunch of low-lifes.
Colin Panetta put together a bunch of sketches, based on ideas that the team suggested- Primarily Josh and Matt.
Danny (MyFishBone) also made a bunch of sketches, some of which are included below.

Characters

During the Sierra Reunion, I recall one of the questions was about Space Quest 7- One of the details they joked about was having Giant Platapus. Of course, this meant we needed to do exactly that ;)

Plat
Prisoner1
Prisoner2
PrisonUniform
Prison 4 and 5 were, if I recall, roughly inspired by Cool Hand Luke and JasonX.
Hrmm.. It looks more like George W, though. ;)

Prisoner4and5

LedHead rendered the character, and brought a really creepy vibe to it.
We were going for a sort of robotic friendlyness, almost reminiscent of Sebastian’s toys, in Blade Runner.

Prisioner2RENDERED

In particular, I thought he looked creepy as heck ;)

Prisioner2 droid

Architecture

You can see our basic prison cell below- If you have a keen eye, you might recognize it from the animation above.
We were copying the writing style from the Space Quest comics, and the angular rooms fit in with our design for the prison ships architecture.
We also wanted a very mechanical feel, to offset the more organic look you’ll see in later pictures.

Prison cell


Danny did the first version, but due to time constraints people were always showing up, and dropping out again.
Colin polished it- We added a probulator, mostly because the click-events wound be funny, but also because a regular toilet seemed out of place on an Alien ship. These people don’t do things like we do!
SarienPrisonCell



Ledhead did another amazing conversion to 3d- The lightbeams are my favorite “effect” here, but the roundness around the edges on the bed is also a very nice touch.
SarienPrisonCell


We found we needed two versions of this room- The standard one, but also a side-scrolling version for our Heros to walk on the outside of, exchanging Whedon-esque witty banter.

SarienPrisonCell2

Just a couple of Videos

As part of the SQ7.org project’s history, we created two video trailers for the project, showing off progress.

They were designed to give an impression of where we were, and to help in recruiting more people to the project.

The first one was particularly difficult to put together.
Chris Geibler put together a lot of the Roger footage especially for the trailer.
Scott M put together the flying Mallard, and Troels wrote the music.

This second trailer was put together years later.

The primary reason was because we had been discussing ideas internally about how to show off some more work.
Some people on non-SQ had wondered if we were actually creating anything, or just some sort of weird social art experiment.

The VSB people released a teaser-trailer with only a few bits of information in it, if I recall.
I figured it’d be fun to take the opportunity to respond to them, release more info, and reference the “Adult Swim” bumpers while doing it.

I created this trailer in an evening, which is why it’s not nearly as nice as the one above. It used existing screenshots we had sent to Vivendi, and music Danny had created for us.

I rescued each of these videos, and threw them on Youtube.

Something to keep in mind- When we first launched SQ7 and made these videos, Youtube wasn’t a thing yet.

The Many Logos of SQ7

When projects get started, everyone is fresh and full of energy.

They want to make a big contribution that’s felt right away

One of the ways people often jump into that is by submitting a new Logo for project.
Maybe it just meant our existing logo was pretty bad ;)

Self Made

Sq7logo
This was the first logo that I ever tried to make for the project, back when we were getting started in 2001. We needed something quick and dirty to go up on our nascent mailing list.

Wordlogo
This comes from about the same period. I don’t think we ever used this one.

Outsourced

SQ7 org Tribute by Akril15
Akril made this one a few years ago.

After the project started growing a bit, I decided we needed something at a least a Little better. Since I wasn’t a good artist, and I didn’t want to waste the time of the real artists on the project, I did a paid contest at a site a lot like 99designs. As you can see in some of the designs, they’re back from 2004.


Post 4 1073689786

Post 4 1073698560

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I really liked these three. In retrospect, they might be more fun than the one I used.

They have sort of a retro-future look, like the Venture Bros.

At the time, I was worried they looked TOO hokey, even for SQ.

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Sq7 1

Sq7 2

SQ7 01

Sq7 3

Sq7

Sq7two

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This was the one we ended up using. I still like it.
It’s clever, because the top-right bracket becomes the 7, as well as being a structural element.

Still one of my favorite logos.

In project

LOGO

LedHead, one of our later 3d artists, made this one. I really like the in-your-faceness of it, but I think the logo itself is too direct, too straightforward.

DeeLogo
I believe Danny Bloks made this logo, as part of a Flyer we made to try to attract some additional help at a bunch of local schools.

Weblogo
Pstonie made this logo, as part of redesign he did of SQ7.org. He made the awesome Space Quest logo with the Space Background, I may have awkwardly pasted on the 7.

It’s a bit derivative of Sierra’s designs, but they were so great that it makes sense to emulate them, where legally possible

Logo
We used this logo as part of the website, when we were doing an in-game driven UI. This followed the trend of trying to get away from using the name “Space Quest” as much as we could.

TopLogo

This one one of my early favorites, and the one we used in our promotional trailer.

RogerWi1

Art Style

3 Rogers, an early test of visual style

When we were first starting out with Space Quest 7, we looked at quite a few art styles, trying to find the right fit, both for what we knew how to do, and for Space Quest.

In 2001, 3D games still left much to be desired, and I wanted to avoid Space Quest regressing in visual quality. I’d seen too many games make the move to 3d because it was the cool thing to do, rather than because it made the game look any better; I wanted to avoid this mistake with SQ7. We made the decision to go with rendered 3d images to allow us to generate the required angles, but to pre-render them, to ensure we could deliver higher-quality than computers allowed at the time

Once we had made the decision to use 3d, the next question was, how do we make it look “Right”? Toon rendering was still somewhat immature, and there were a lot of dials to try to tweak when it comes to contrast, and the overall feel. For instance, should we try to make images realistically, or with a more cartoonish bent?

I have to say that Scott Mazukiewiez, the first real artist to work with us, was more patient with me than I deserved, and we did quite a few tests working out the right feel for the project.

The original Aluminum Mallard from SQ3
Scott’s original rendering of the Mallard
The “High Contrast”, more cartoony Mallard
Toon Roger, inside the Mallard
An early 3d Roger Wilco
The Roger on the right was the way I preferred it- Pixelated, with nearly flat coloring. It felt like home.

We did the tests both inside and outside of the Mallard, since it was one of the earliest models we had finished.

The Mallard
The Mallard from Below. I love those Jets
The toon Mallard
The toon Mallard, with 2d texturing. This is one of my favorite SQ7 images. I’d love to do a whole SQ comic in this style

Eventually we agreed on a compromise, between the overly cartoon toon-renderings, and the more realistic style. We’d use a purposefully curvy and cartoonish modeling, with a more traditional renderer.

The Maintenance bay in the DS86

“Look Jerry.”

One of the things I’ve always loved about adventure games is that they force you to think.
Novels are fun because you can imagine, movies are fun because you can experience, but I always loved Adventure games because they forced me to think my way out of a problem.

I first played Space Quest on a monochrome monitor, sitting by my father at the Apple //C, and trying to figure out how to escape a self-destructing ship. It was frustrating, and the text parser, when combined with my 11 year old vocabulary made it even harder- But that was the fun of it. The frustration and difficulty of thinking how to escape the ship made it all the more rewarding when we finally found all the steps which let Roger survive.

Playing adventure games felt like an accomplishment- You weren’t just getting to the next level; You were out thinking the puzzles, and figuring out a way to go forward.  It was addicting, and being able to see more of the story made it even better.

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Reilly, rewarded us for good behavior. She had a little box of prizes that we could choose from- Getting an A on a quiz might earn you a pencil topper, or perfect attendance for a month might earn you a snap bracelet. Each of her students could earn points for their work, and exchange them for something fun. I could see past the gilded trinkets, however, to the true prize in her magic box.

15 minutes of computer time, while everyone else was in class.

I coveted the computer time mercilessly.  My favorite memory of her class was saving up my points and convincing her to let me buy two glorious hours of game-time at once. While the rest of the class was learning about cross multiplication, I was able to cross the chasms of Kerona, fighting the deadly Spider Droids.

A few years later, when I found Space Quest ]I[ in a bargain bin at KB Toys, I was amazed- “They made more of these?!”. I had never finished the original game- We had a pirated copy of the game, and it crashed near the end every time.. But finding another Space Quest game.. A new Space Quest game, meant that I could continue the adventures of Roger Wilco, and better still, have more of the dastardly puzzles to solve.

10 years later, long since having played and finished each of the Space Quest games, I started searching the internet for mentions of it, on a lark. I had real Troel’s FAQ a few years prior, and I was amazed to discover that there were entire websites set up about Space Quest, with people who had enjoyed the games just as much as I had.

I read that there was a Space Quest 7 under development, although it was still very early, and the team was still working on other projects. I was hooked. I checked the website every few days looking for any news or leaks about the new game. I even emailed Leslie one weekend, asking about some feature and if it might be in the game.

She was kind enough to reply, and I excitedly forwarded the result to Jess, owner of the premier Space Quest website of the day- About an hour later, I emailed Jess again, my better judgement taking over as I realized that Leslie probably hadn’t intended her comments to be public.

A few months later, Leslie posted the following open letter.

To the Friends and Fans of Space Quest:
As you all know, the path to Space Quest 7 has been long and bumpy, and we were never sure what we would find at the end of the road. The decision has been made, after much soul-searching and agonizing, to put Space Quest 7 on hold indefinitely.
The joy for the team has been in the journey. We’ve made many friends out there, and it has been quite heartening to know that Roger Wilco has so many fans. I look forward to continuing the friendships I’ve developed over the last year. But Sierra is in the process of many changes, and we had to take a hard look at whether a Space Quest 7 project made sense. Unfortunately for those of us who love Roger and his stupid antics, other projects just have more to offer both to the company and to our customers in general at this time.
Please don’t worry about the team. We will all move to other projects at Sierra On-Line. Many of us will go over to the Babylon 5 space combat game, which will be coming out in Holiday 1998. Others will go over to the B5 adventure game, which will also come out in 1999. Both of these products will reflect Sierra’s commitment to excellence in space games, and I hope you’ll consider playing them if you have the opportunity.
I am sending this email to those of you who have sent me mail lately. Please pass the information on to any Space Quest fans I inadvertently omitted.
Finally, don’t be sad for Roger. Just think of him as weary from making us laugh for all these years, ready for a break from his adventures. He and la Wankmeister want to settle down, raise a family. And perhaps as we look up in the sky, a distant star will remind us that somewhere, in a distant galaxy, Roger Wilco is probably getting pantsed.
Thanks again for all your support,
The Space Quest Team
-Leslie Balfour
-Scott Murphy
I was frustrated, hurt and disappointed. There was a campaign to try to save SQ7, and it was even mentioned in InterAction magazine, but ultimately, the new owners of Sierra weren’t interested anymore. The game was dead.
I stopped following Space Quest online for a few years.. There was nothing more to follow, really. The series, as fun as it had been, was over.  As much as I enjoyed the game, there was no more news. Space Quest was no more.
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