What About Magna Cum Laude?
Hundreds of you have asked my opinion of Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. Although I have yet to finish the game, I have seen quite a bit of it.
Truth be told, I may never finish it.
But here's my initial impression, and I promise to update this page as I progress through the game.
First Impressions Count
I expected worse, especially after reading the many reviews across the Net. MetaCritic.com reports that MCL's reviews across the Net have averaged 64, on a scale of 100.
Differences It is not Larry 8! Even though VU calls it a "Leisure Suit Larry game," Leisure Suit Larry's only role is a cameo as the "help voiceover." It is not an adventure game. There are no real puzzles, no interactive dialog, no narrator, no character development, and nearly no plot. Much of the dialog is uninspired and trite. There's more profanity in the first scene than in all the previous Larry games combined. Women cuss like sailors. The "F" word is repeated so often the writers must have used a macro. The plentiful load screens show cheesy photographs of average-looking college-aged women who don't look sexy, but rather, ill-at-ease!
Similarities The protagonist is a loser named Larry who has trouble scoring with women. The game works hard, usually too hard, to reference earlier Larry games. Like Larry Laffer, it seems to desperately want to fit in. The animation is 3D and wonderfully jiggly. (Actually, "pendulous" would be a better word; most of these breasts are too large to jiggle.) There's some humorous dialog. And it's more than bawdy enough.
But… All this ignores the glaring disaster of those damned mini-games! They're distracting, repetitive, and boring. Who wants to play lame arcade games that wouldn't be fun even on a GameBoy? Not even this game's giant breasts are worth this slog.
MCL is definitely unlike the other Larry games.
Those who seek 3D boobs, profanity, and fart jokes will be pleased.
Those who fondly remember my games will be severely disappointed.
My Involvement in MCL
Off and on over the past two years, I was lead by various Sierra employees to think that the company wanted me involved in the game's development. Nothing ever came of it. I had absolutely no part in the making of Magna Cum Laude.
If you care, you can read the whole, ugly story below as it was posted.
October 20, 2003
There has been a lot of talk online lately about an upcoming article in Computer Games magazine's December issue previewing a new Leisure Suit Larry game from Sierra called Magna Cum Laude. (See below for the issue's cover.)
Since I've started receiving a lot of email about this topic, I thought it would be more efficient for me to explain everything I know here once, instead of trying to provide individual (and probably uneven) responses. So here goes.
What I Know
Sierra has had a game under development for over a year, intended for a release date of late 2004. Magna Cum Laude is a working title.
I learned about the Computer Games article when I was interviewed for a "sidebar" (a small article that runs beside a larger article). Obviously, I won't share any of my comments until their issue hits the streets. Even though the CG article was written by Josh Mandel, a good friend and my co-designer on Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist, I have not read it and do not expect to read it until its publish date, which I have heard is November 11th.
As to the many emails I've received stating, "They can't do this to you" and "It's your character" etc. I'd like to say this: my contract with Sierra was for "work for hire" and all rights to the characters and stories I created remained the property of Sierra. They have the right to do with those characters as they wish.
As of today, October 20, 2003, I have had nothing to do with the game, but, as always, I would still enjoy working on any Larry game, if Sierra feels I have something to contribute.
October 29, 2003
For the thousands of you who have written and expressed support of me becoming involved with the new game, I have news: your efforts are being heard. I have been in contact with Sierra many times over the past week and, while nothing is finalized yet, today Sierra's legal department said I could release the following (grammatically challenged) message:
"Currently, I am in the process of negotiations with Vivendi Universal Games and my involvement with the next installment of the Leisure Suit Larry. Once we have reached an agreement I will be able to comment more on my involvement."
I'll leave it to the message boards to discuss the full meaning and ramifications of this.
Watch this page for the latest information.
November 21, 2003
Three weeks have passed. Not even an email from Sierra. Stay tuned to this page.
December 10, 2003
Perhaps this is why I haven't heard anything from Sierra in over six weeks! Today, gamer's web site Gamespot announced this.
VU Games hands out pink slips
Reacting to weak financials posted last week, the troubled game publisher sends scores of employees packing.
A spokesperson confirmed this afternoon that scores of VU Games employees have been laid off. With no notice, as many as 70 employees from a number of VU Games brands were notified of their termination last week and then politely asked to collect their belongings and vacate the premises.
The company had issued no official statement at press time and conversations with a number of VU Games staffers suggested that even internally, no statement addressing the cuts has yet to be circulated.
Another VU Games source told GameSpot that the staff reductions were across all brands and affected all departments. The firings come in the wake of poor financial numbers posted by Vivendi Universal's game division last week.
By Curt Feldman, GameSpot [POSTED: 12/10/03 04:55 PM
January 12, 2004
Today I received a phone call from VU's Eric Hayashi, Executive Producer of the new Larry game. He said that there had been "considerable turnover" of people involved and they were regrouping. He also said they wanted to restart negotiations with me in order to get me involved, possibly as early as next week. Stay tuned to this page.
March 30, 2004
There's a new "preview" of MCL on 1Up's site.
April 5, 2004
April 10, 2004
This is the complete text of an email exchange this weekend:
----- Original Message -----
From: Cary Okmin
Sent: Saturday, April 10, 2004 2:03 AM
Subject: Writer for LSL: Magna Cum Laude
I write this email with reverence to your contribution to my slightly skewed sexual development. I also write it with a certain degree of humility. My writing partner and I were hired to write the dialogue for LSL:MCL. Needless to say we were thrilled to be involved in a cultural phenomenon. Although our work was completed approximately a year ago, it was not until recently that I learned you were not involved in the project. I am not privy to any of that information, however, I wanted to contact you and, at the very least, thank you for all you contributed (whether credited or not).
It was great fun and a true honor to work in a world you created and inhabited with such passion and skill.
Why, thanks, Cary. I appreciate hearing from you. I hope you had as much fun with Larry as I did.
But I'm surprised to learn that you finished up a year ago and the game won't ship for another six months. I used to write until literally hours before the recording sessions--and then sometimes during! <grin>
It's too bad that we couldn't have talked while you were writing, I would have loved nothing more than to be involved but evidently VU has its reasons for keeping me out.
June 22, 2004
VU To Close Sierra
It was widely reported in the gaming press today that VU has cut 350 employees and will completely close down Sierra's Bellevue office.
August 27, 2004
Sierra is gone.
Today, VU Games turned off the lights and locked the doors to Sierra's Bellevue office.
So long to a wonderful brand.
I feel fortunate and proud that I was a part of it when it actually meant something. To me, Sierra in the 80's was a special place at a special time and by doing something we loved we made people happy and even changed a few lives. How many people get to say that?