Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Game 13: Police Quest I - Introduction


I know what you're thinking! "Did he fire six shots or only"...hey, hang on a second!

By 1987, Sierra had already covered a wide range of genres with their AGI adventure game engine. The King’s Quest series had fantasy sorted, Space Quest had science fiction covered, and Leisure Suit Larry took care of…um…let’s call it adult comedy. The company was smart enough to realise that they should continue to expand their themes, therefore attracting a new audience without competing with their own product. Ken Williams, the co-owner of Sierra, had a few ideas as to where they might venture next, but it was a chance meeting with retired police officer Jim Walls that would lead to the next series launch. Walls had spent fifteen years in the California Highway Patrol unit, and had been forced to retire after a shooting incident left him traumatized.  Williams had already considered a series based on the experience of police officers, and when he mentioned to Walls that all he really needed was a real officer’s involvement in the game’s development to maintain realism, Walls volunteered his services and a partnership was formed. Walls then went about writing a story that included real life police officer protocol and situations, and would go on to assist in the development of numerous other games both in and out of the Police Quest series.


Jim Walls: Mmmmmmmm...donuts!

To get the job done, Williams recruited the usual suspects to develop the game. Al Lowe (Leisure Suit Larry) and Scott Murphy (Space Quest) would program it, Mark Crowe (Space Quest & Leisure Suit Larry) would handle graphics, and Al’s wife Margaret Lowe (King’s Quest III) would write the music. They were all pretty used to the technology by then, and were able to crank out a game in a matter of months. In this case, the result was released as Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel for the PC, Apple II, Amiga, Atari ST and Apple IIGS in the backend of 1987. The game is based in a fictional town called Lytton, California, and the player takes on the role of Sonny Bonds, a driving patrol officer. It’s most well known for including many puzzles that require proper police procedure to succeed. In fact, it was reported to have been used as a training tool for police officers. There’s a quote out on the net that says “Police Quest has proven to be a practical, effective training tool officers enjoy using. It safely demonstrates to rookies the consequences of failing to observe police procedures and can serve as a valuable refresher course for experienced officers.” This sounds an awful lot like a marketing ploy to me, but I haven’t played much of it yet, so who am I to judge.


The City of Lytton

As usual, I’ll be playing through the original version of the game and not the 1992 VGA remake. Having purchased the Police Quest Collection of GOG not too long back, I was very disappointed to find that it only includes the remake and not the original. This is one of the only times GOG has dropped the ball in my opinion and I hope they rectify it at some point. The other Quest series collections they have include the originals, so I’m not sure what happened this time around. In the meantime, I’ve been able to download a copy of the 1987 version and the documentation that came with the GOG collection seems to be the same that came with the original (please tell me if anyone thinks there’s a difference). Speaking of documentation, there is a heck of a lot of it (a manual, map, reference guide and newspaper), and it contains a lot of police jargon and procedures. It’s actually a bit daunting, so I hope it’s not a matter of learning it all and merely requires referring to once every now and then. I do recall playing Police Quest as a kid, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t able to get very far without the manual, which isn’t at all surprising now that I‘ve got my hands on it. I’m far better equipped to get through it now, and am very much looking forward to getting stuck into it. My gun is locked and loaded and I’m ready to hit the road, once I check my car first of course.


Thank you to Manny for letting me know that the original cover I used was the remake. 10 points!

27 comments:

  1. GOG.com pack comes with the manual for the AGI version and the VGA game. It's lucky they also bundled the Police Quest Collection manual otherwise you'd have no way to get past the copy protection in VGA version. I too am disappointed about the lack of the AGI version.

    Also yay, I can't wait to see how you do.

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  2. I have a distant memory of seeing this being played at a friend's house back when I was 7 or 8... and the person playing got killed over and over because of basic procedure violations. Eventually he gave up and we played Space Quest instead, hahaha.

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  3. PQ1 was the second or third adventure game I played, after playing Larry 1 and the first floppy of King’s Quest 3 (the second and third were damaged). I have very good memories of it and even when I replayed it about 2 years ago I had a good time. I also rememeber being stuck in a scene for about 2 or 3 months. When, after that time, I finally sat again with the game the solution suddenly came to me (it was really easy, but I was 12 years old and my english wasn’t that good). That was the first time I felt that pleasure you can only feel after solving a puzzle in an adventure.

    I see that you have manual, map, reference guide and newspaper. But if you want, you can also download another document that came with the game from replacementsdocs: How to Play Five Card Draw Poker. Even if it isn’t really necesary, one of the nice things of playing old games —at least to me— is looking over all the manuals that came originally with them. I can´t tell you how many times I read the manual and looked at the map of Ultima VI, but couldn’t play the game because my computer was too old for it. That’s not a problem now, and I played and finished it last year.

    One thing: the cover art you have put belongs to the VGA remake and not the original AGI game.

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    1. Thanks Manny for pointing out my error with the cover art!

      I do have the Poker document as well and can only imagine that at some point I'll be taking Sonny undercover. I can't think of any other reason why a cop would be learning how to play poker.

      RPGs definitely have the best manuals. Adventure game manuals are normally short and not very interesting, but I remember spending hours looking over all the spells and background info for games like Baldur's Gate II.

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    2. No problem, Trickster. Thanks for the points and for aknowledging my contribution. It feels good having a little fame, he.

      Regarding the use of the poker document, I'm not going to spoil it for you, so you´ll have to see for yourself.

      And you´re right about the adventure manuals:if I think about them, I don´t remember many good ones, but there were some nice ones. I really liked some of the Space Quest manuals and, specially, the first 4 Quest for Glory ones.

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  4. One of the cool things I like about adventure games and books is that you can explore really weird genres and ideas at fairly low cost. It is amazing how many, say, CRPGs stick to a few safe genres, as it costs a lot to make a CPRG. Adventure games you just need some art, a writer, and possibly a bit of coding (This has gotten less and less over time as better toolkits come out). Therefore why NOT put out a police procedural game?

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  5. I look forward to hearing about some of the police procedures that you'll encounter. I'm figuring there are high-profile things like getting a warrant before entering a house or business, and how to question a suspect. I'm wondering if they're sticklers for things like putting your safety back on before putting your gun away?

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    1. I don't know, but I bet saving often is a good idea! I'm betting that if they have you inspect the car not putting the safety on means shooting yourself in the foot.

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    2. You need to stop at all stoplights as well. Plus there's no safety, you just need to remember to draw the gun first.

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    3. Shooting yourself in the foot would have been funny though.

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    4. Stopping at all lights? In the NY metro area, most times the car just goes right on through, while going, "whoop, whoop!"

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    5. I seem to recall, through a fog of hazy memories, that you can turn your lights/sirens on and run red lights in PQ. Can't recall if there's a consequence for it.

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  6. Regarding the manual, be sure to read the section with police codes, and use them whenever it seems appropriate. If you care about your score, that is.

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    1. Hmmmm...are you suggesting that when I radio in I need to use the code to get maximum points (I've just been typing "radio"). Oh well, it's a bit late for that. I thought I'd just need to refer to them when they came through over the radio rather than use them myself.

      I'm not majorly fussed about getting all the points in Sierra games (I do try to obviously). If I play it again I'll pay more attention to things like that.

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    2. I don't think the codes mattered that much in the AGI-version.

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    3. I tried to use some last night but the parser doesn't even recognise them. Must be a remake thing.

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    4. I'm not sure about the radio. I mainly remember using them when arresting people. Be sure to use every code that seems appropriate, and not just the one that seems most appropriate.

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  7. When I first got around to playing PQ1, I think I was generally okay (after a few attempts) at getting through the station and into the car.

    Driving was a completely different matter though, and I think I had to resort to switching it to slow speed at some points.

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  8. Also, look under the chief's desk when he's away.

    Sierra got double pay from me: once for buying the games, once again for buying the hint books.

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  9. One of the "feelies" (if I could use that term with a graphic adventure game) that came with Police Quest was a map of the town. It advertised nearby attractions like the City of Lost Wages and the theme park Daventry (really just clever promos for the other Sierra Games). It annoyed me that I wasn't allowed to leave town to visit these places.

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    1. Sierra are renowned for plugging their own games in a humorous and clever way. The Space Quest trailer hidden behind a tree in King's Quest III made me laugh out loud, as did the character repair room in Leisure Suit Larry! Somehow they always managed to do it without being intrusive.

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    2. Actually, now that I think of it, I think the Space Quest trailer was in a hole in a rock.

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  10. Guys, there are a few minor spoilers creeping in here (and in the last post). That last one from cavalier973 is probably completely harmless (in that it in all likelihood has no affect on my ability to finish the game or not), but please be careful not to give anything away that might spoil my experience in the game. Any real spoilers should be posted in ROT13 and only if a) you feel I've missed something vital that will come back to haunt me or b) I've requested assistance on something specific.

    I don't think anyone has crossed the line just yet, so I'm putting it out there before anyone drops a bomb. :)

    Now...what's under that desk? Hmmm....

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  12. It was an easter egg rather than a spoiler proper

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  13. Heya Trickster,

    I discovered your blog this morning and have been making my way through the archives today. I thought i'd comment here since Police Quest was the first adventure game i ever played and is responsible for my love of the genre.

    I love the blog and admire you for the task you set yourself. I'll definitely tag along for the ride. Now to see how your adventures with Officer Bonds fared. :)

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    1. Welcome Dave! It's great to have another fellow adventurer onboard, especially as I need you guys to get me through the tough times! ;)

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