Lifetime Achievement Award: Al Lowe
Kirk: With all the Larry adventures you wrote, and I know you did Freddy Pharkas - Frontier Pharmacist, which I also greatly enjoyed, by the way -
Kirk: - did you ever grow tired of writing for Larry and just want to bust away from it all together and get on something completely different?
Al: Well, I kind of took Roberta's approach--it seemed to work for her--where she would do King's Quest and then she'd do something else.
Al: She tried several different series in between King's Quests. Some of them she was successful at, then pawned them off onto other designers, eventually. We grew the group of designers that way. Ken's thinking was that Josh Mandel would work with me on Freddy Pharkas, and from that experience would be able to take over that line by himself. It didn't work out that way, unfortunately. Freddy was a funny game; it was perceived as being not too successful, and yet it ended up selling over 500,000 copies.
Kirk: Really? I didn't think it had done that well.
Al: Yeah. Part of it was that it took it a long time to catch on. Word of mouth spread.
Kirk: It was like the original Larry, then.
Al: Well, actually, yeah, in fact. Freddy was a floppy disk game originally, but we wrote it very carefully so we could go back and add the voices if it was successful, and if CD drives ever became common on computers. They weren't at the time.
Al: Well, about a year--maybe more--after it was released, its sales were over 150,000 and we said, "Lets make a CD out of this game." The CD version sold well for two years. It turned out to be quite a successful game and probably should've had a sequel, but because it took three years to get those big numbers, Josh had moved on by then and other things had happened, so it fell through the cracks. But we obviously left it wide open for a sequel. We really wanted to do a sequel, and people still e-mail me asking about a sequel.
Kirk: Okay, you mentioned Roberta Williams before and there's a question I absolutely have to ask you.
Kirk: While she was working on Phantasmagoria, did you ever the urge to walk into her office and just whack her over the head with your coffee mug?
Al: [Laughs] It was so great to see her tackle that subject matter...oh, I didn't finish my thought earlier. What I said about Roberta was that she'd do a King's Quest then do something else. I wanted to do a Larry then do, you know, another game in between. Well, when the Freddy thing didn't work out, I tackled Torin's passage which was a game I wanted to do where a child and a parent could sit down and play together and both of them be entertained, although at different levels.
Al: I frankly got the idea when I took my kids to see Mrs. Doubtfire and I noticed something interesting in the theater; there were times in the film when you'd hear kiddie laughter, and there were other times when you'd hear adult snickers. And I thought, "Why aren't there games that work like this on two levels?" So that was my goal with Torin's Passage, to make a game that adults would laugh at and kids would laugh at, although not necessarily at the same time. So here I am working on this children's--you know--family-type game [laughs], and Roberta shows me the script for Phantas, and I went, "Holy cow, Roberta!" [Laughs] And I don't think I used "cow."
Al: "Berta, are you serious about this?" Yeah, she went way off. You should've seen the original design. The cutting room floor was even wilder than what ended up shipping in the game.
Kirk: Yeah, I can imagine. And CompUSA refused to sell that game, didn't they?
Al: Oh, among others. Quite a few different chains refused to sell it. Now, here's something odd; later on, after Phantas 2 came out and was even more weird, Sierra put both games in one box and none of the stores had a problem selling them together. [Laughs] Go figure.
Kirk: [Laughs] Well, overkill, I guess. They just decided it's...I don't know. I don't pretend to understand corporate ways.
Al: Yeah, they probably thought, "Too many CDs. Nobody will ever play it anyway." [Laughs]
Kirk: Too many to count, too many to install.
Al: Boy, there's a game that's just dying for a DVD, Phantasmagoria. It's a shame they don't go back and re-release it on DVD, because with faster machines faster graphics cards, that game would be much more playable now than when it came out.
Kirk: Well, except the story would still get in the way. There were...uh...I'll be honest with you, Al; content aside, I didn't like that game.
Al: No, it wasn't my favorite either. Cartoon sex is so much better!
Continue to Part 7, in which this is no more talk of cartoon sex.