From the Leisure Suit Larry Collection package:
Leisure Suit Larry 4: The Missing Floppies? The name says it all. Al Lowe swore he’d never write it. Did his dog eat it? Is it locked in New Mexico? Sealed in Cheyenne Mountain? Buried in landfill? There are no answers.
Actually, there are some answers. What is the truth? Why is there no Leisure Suit Larry 4?
Was it because I was trying to catch up to the Space Quest guys?
Was it because it too dirty to ship?
Was it because DOS 4 was such a bomb that the entire computer industry laughed at it, thus forever tainting the numeral 4?
Was it because The Laffer Utilities came out between 3 and 5 and were labeled "Version 4.01?"
Was it because the floppies were stolen by Broderbund and released as Where in the Hell is Carmen San Diego?
Here is the true story (actually, stories!) of why Leisure Suit Larry 5 followed Leisure Suit Larry 3.
If you've finished Larry 3, you know I wrapped things up pretty tight and tied a big bow on it. I knew it was going to be the last of a trilogy and I wanted everything to turn out right. That's why I had Larry "fall out of" the game and into the "back lot" of Sierra in a little homage to Blazing Saddles, one of my favorite comedies of all time. The final screen shows Passionate Patti sunbathing beside Bass Lake while new Sierra employee Larry starts programming a game for Ken Williams. "I think I'll start in Lost Wages, outside a little bar named Lefty's," Larry says.
And that was to be the end of that.
Back then, no game had ever had more than three incarnations and I had no reason to think Larry would either. Ken and I started kicking around ideas for another project.
We decided to invent Internet gaming.
"No, wait," you're saying. "That was Al Gore, not Al Lowe!" Wrong, bit breath! We were so naive, so over-confident (so dumb?) that when Ken came up with the idea of adventure games where multiple-players could interact together via modems, we said, "Sure, Ken. Sounds great!" and actually sat down to do it.
It was going to be Leisure Suit Larry 4, the first multi-player on-line adventure game.
Jeff Stephenson had written much of the system code for the AGI and SCI languages. He was going to create the system. Matthew George would create the low-level communications code. I would be the designer and high-level applications programmer. The three of us grabbed an office and a coffee pot and started coding in January, 1991.
We had a few basic questions:
How will people connect up? The only way we knew was through dial-up modems, so we filled a computer with modems, then bought an expansion chassis and filled it with modems, then plugged in another chassis and kept daisy-chaining them together.
Could we expect 2400-baud modems? We opted to "demand" 1200-baud minimum speed but "recommend" the speedier new technology, which was, at that time, still quite expensive.
How do we handle the huge graphics files necessary? Easy. We planned to sell the game in a box, but require a modem. The game code, graphics, sounds, etc. would be on the floppies (no CD-ROMs either). Only minimum data would pass through the slow comm bottleneck.
How would players decide who was in their game? I came up with the concept of a "waiting room" where newcomers hung out until they found others who wanted to play.
How would I know what you were like? I created what we nicknamed "Facemaker," which let you decorate your avatar with various eyes, noses, mouths, and hair (including bald, of course).
And on and on…
After a month or so, we knew we were in trouble. I decided to write a checkers game as a simple test case to see if we could actually move objects and communicate. It worked. But we were still a long way from making characters walk and communicate and interact.
So I wrote a backgammon game. Then chess. Still we had no system to support all the features needed for an adventure game. But we were having so much fun playing against each other, we decided to push what we had into a real product. Ken envisioned a product so simple that even his grandmother could use it. That became our goal.
My wife, Margaret, came up with the first name Constant Companion, because we figured anyone could log on at any time, day or night, and find someone else to play with. Constant Companion became The Sierra Network. TSN was quite successful in its day, especially considering the small numbers of players who also had modems.
Eventually, when TSN was losing 10 million dollars per year, Ken sold half of it to AT&T for 50 million dollars. I laughingly said Sierra was the only company to make money in on-line gaming: by selling out! Later AT&T would pay another 50 mil for the other half. They then sat on it for about a year before giving up and selling the whole thing to America On-Line for 10 million. AOL announced big plans, but never carried through and the whole thing withered up and died without ever seeing the light of day.
So Larry 4, the multi-player on-line adventure game, never saw the light of day. Then why is the next game Larry 5? Why not call that Larry 4? Find out here.