Sierra's graphical adventures defined the form in the 1980s, thanks to a band of distinctive creators experimenting with their own particular favorite pop culture influences to create parser-based (and later point-and-click) games with strong creative visions. There was Al Lowe and his luckless loser Larry, of Leisure Suit fame; Roberta Williams, creator of the King’s Quest series, among others, who seemed to strive for stories of family triumph using familiar concepts, like classic fantasy and fairy tales, as touchstones.
And then there were the Two Guys from Andromeda.
Writer/designer Scott Murphy and artist Mark Crowe, co-creators of the Space Quest series, were an inseparable duo. Like its contemporaries, 1986's Space Quest starred a "little guy" who seemed to luck into heroism by happenstance. In this case, our hero was Roger Wilco, a lowly janitor aboard a space cruiser whose naivety led him to save the galaxy -- again and again, nearly thanklessly.
The two guys can be seen toward the end of Space Quest III, a particularly self-reflexive installment wherein the main villain is a ruthless software developer engaged in piracy. Roger rescues a pair of wily alien programmers with distinctive porcine snouts from imprisonment in green Jell-O. In real life, Crowe and Murphy don't have pig snouts or mohawks, but otherwise the aliens serve as decent stand-ins.
1991's Space Quest IV was the last game the Two Guys would make together. Soon after, the duo had a falling out, ending their partnership forever. Or so they thought.
Thanks to Kickstarter, the Two Guys are back working together on a new space adventure for the first time in 20 years, reconciling their differences after years of estrangement -- and loving every minute of being back together.
Their working relationship struggled under the stresses of Sierra's high-pressure latter days in the 1990s, when adventure games required bigger and bigger budgets and saw lower and lower sales. For Sierra, the increasing challenges faced by the genre on which it had built its fortune culminated in a "Chainsaw Monday" where nearly 150 employees unceremoniously lost their jobs.
"It was heartbreaking, seeing all of the people that we worked with, who worked on the projects but didn't get the kind of notoriety that Mark and I did, who lost their jobs because of how radically the industry changed, and how Sierra changed," Scott Murphy tells us. "We have really strong emotions about how all that worked out."
That strong emotion led Murphy to give a somewhat-infamous interview back in 2006 to website Adventure Classic Gaming, where he spoke about the sense of loss he felt at the end of his career in adventure gaming, and what felt like some bitterness toward Sierra management, particularly co-founder and CEO Ken Williams.
"The more successful each game became, the worse they treated us and the less they wanted to pay us,” Murphy said in 2006, describing “broken promises and the just plain fucking over I got from the people I'd worked so incredibly hard for.”
Murphy also seemed to feel betrayed by his once-partner Crowe, who left him after Space Quest IV to join Dynamix, another company within the Sierra organization, in search of more stability and, presumably, better money.
In that infamous interview, Murphy said Crowe "was not a very good partner in the long run," expressing Crowe's departure to Dynamix felt like a surprise that helped prove his former colleague "had loyalty only to himself."
"Would I want to work with Mark again? No, I don't think so," he said at the time.
At Dynamix, Crowe developed Space Quest V -- in which Roger cheats on an exam to get his own spaceship and meets a stand-in for Captain Kirk. Murphy remained at Sierra to develop Space Quest VI with Josh Mandel, a game that sees Roger at lower rank and in worse straits than ever. Fans seemed to notice something missing from both games, which were never as well-regarded as those the Two Guys From Andromeda developed together.
Crowe continued to work in the industry at Dynamix and later at Pipeworks (the studio notable for creating the Xbox and Xbox 360’s boot ROMs); Murphy has mostly stayed away from games, although with a more overt social media presence than his partner he's received a steady trickle of touching fan letters that meant those years on Space Quest would never leave his mind.
“There was a strong core of people that never gave up,” reflects Murphy.
That interview Murphy gave to Adventure Classic Gaming "was very therapeutic for me," he admits. "But I just recently went back and looked at it, and I shuddered when I saw some of the things that I said. I can't say those weren't feelings that I had... but I feel really bad."