Quest For Glory Retrospective and Interview

I've always been a huge fan of Sierra's Hero's Quest/Quest For Glory series, so this four-page retrospective feature on Hardcore Gaming 101 brings back some amazing memories of the RPG/adventure franchise. They've even included an interview with original designer Corey Cole that gives us a better understanding of he and his wife's love for early RPGs, the inspirations they drew from them, and how they arrived at some of the design decisions that were made as the series progressed. First, a sampling from the retrospective:
The open worlds are reminiscent of the early King's Quest games, with one main town center and a fairly large, non-linear world to explore. Your specific goals usually aren't apparent when you first begin, but you'll soon learn after talking to the townspeople, or checking out the local Adventurer's Guild for people in need. Most of the main storylines involve conquering a number of trials before moving on to the final segment of the game. There are usually also additional subquests that can improve your stats, give you extra items or money, or even change the ending. The biggest influence on how you play is determined by your character class. As a Fighter, you are more well suited to combat, and can simply choose brute force methods to conquer many of the puzzles. As a Thief, you're a bit slyer, preferring a stealthy approach. As a Magician, you can just use your magic spells, provided you've learned the appropriate one. Starting with the third game, there's also the "hidden" Paladin class, which is much like a Fighter but with extra abilities, and some additional subquests to conquer. You can also choose your character's name, although his official title, per the authorized strategy guide, is Devon Aidendale.

Each problem usually has multiple solutions. If you need gold, as a Fighter, you might simply wander through the land and destroy enemies to take their cash. As a Thief, it might be better to just wait until night and break into some houses, or take on some jobs for the local Thieves Guild. As a Fighter, if you're strong enough, you can break down doors. As a Thief, you can pick the lock. As a Magician, you can just cast an Open spell. The puzzles in Quest for Glory are quite different from other adventure games, because they're usually pretty direct and logical. The most difficult element is hunting down or finding the items you'll need, and you might not even need them, depending on your character's skills. Additionally, while there are still death scenes, they aren't as random and frustrating as other games. They're usually because you died in combat or did something particularly stupid. There are also very few cases where the games can become unwinnable if you forget to grab a certain object (except for one easy-to-miss thing in Quest for Glory II).

It's also possible to create hybrid characters. At the beginning of each game you can allocate a number of skill points to various statistics, including Strength (which determines your attacking power), Vitality (stamina), and Magic, as well as other skills like Climbing, Lock Picking, and Stealth. Normally you can increase these skills in five point increments, but you can also spend fifteen points to give your character a skill they might not normally have. This way, you can create a Fighter that can pick locks, or a Thief with magic skills. Some of the games still have specific paths for each character (for instance, you may not be able to use certain spells unless you're a Magician, even if you've granted Magic skills to another character class), but it does allow you to diversify a bit. Once you've learned a skill, you can increase it simply by performing the action over and over. There aren't technically any experience levels, but you gain Strength, Vitality, and Weapon Use stats by fighting in combat. You can also repeatedly throw stones to build up your Throwing stat, or repeatedly try to climb something to build up your Climbing skill. It's a bit silly that you might need to stop for a few moments and repeat a single action over and over just so you can proceed, but it's much less tedious than the level grinding found in other RPGs.

And then a couple of questions from the interview:
How did you both get started at Sierra? Were you fans of adventure games before you'd gotten hired?

I had enjoyed the original (FORTRAN!) Colossal Cave and Zork years before we went to Sierra. I had not played any Sierra games except for a few minutes each with one of the King's Quest games and Leisure Suit Larry 1. However, Lori and I were (and are) avid paper-and-pencil role-playing gamers. We ran and played in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. We also liked some computer RPG's including Rogue and Wizardry.


Quest for Glory is very atypical of most computer RPGs of the time, in that it was heavily focused on narrative. What were some of your inspirations that carried you away from something like Ultima?

We were influenced more by paper-and-pencil roleplaying than by computer games. The first computer RPG's (such as Temple of Apshai) came with booklets containing the game text. As you entered each room, the game gave you a key number. The booklet gave you a complete description of the room when you looked up the key. That was their way of trying to create a live RPG experience on a computer, and of course was very primitive.

We had a lot more memory to play with, so were able to incorporate the text into the actual game. I think we arrived at exactly the right time in the industry to make the Quest for Glory games. Computers and the SCI game engine had enough power to let us tell stories, but the cost of graphics was still low enough to let us tell them instead of spending the entire game budget on 3D art.

We played a few of the Ultima, Wizardry, The Bard's Tale, and similar games prior to starting Quest for Glory. While we enjoyed them (especially Wizardry), we felt they were missing the narration that was an essential part of "live" roleplaying. Our goal with Quest for Glory was to make the player feel that they were playing a character in a good live RPG.

Great stuff. Thanks, RPG Codex.