Sierra's adventure games developed through the years from black
and white, no sound, no animation graphics into full motion video.
Among important techniques adventure games used like midi music,
CD-Rom technology, blue screen video and handpainted graphics is
one called "Scrolling Screens": A technique introduced
to make adventures a little more realistic. For their first three
adventure games, the Two Guys could only try to make two screens
fit together as best as they could. It wasn't until 1990 that the
scrolling screen technique became used in its full potential; making
Sierra games a lot more realistic along the way.
pre-scrolling screen age (SQ1, SQ2 and SQ3)
Take a look at these screenshots
from Kerona. As you can see the screens appear to fit neatly at
first, but if you look closely you'll notice some anomalies. Space
Quest 2 is not any different from SQ1 in this case. Except one particular
part of Labion where three screens fit together quite good,
except one minor detail (the tree you see at 1/3 of the screen).
The swamp part
looks interesting too, but has some mistakes I outlined in red.
On a personal note: these screens of the game always give me the
feeling I'm in this HUGE swamp. These screenshots do a fairly good
job destroying that image, don't you agree?
Quest 3 features much better graphics than its prequels. This enabled
Mark Crowe to create a few screens that almost fit perfectly together.
This is noticeble on Ortega
and Phleebhut, for instance.
Still, the screens don't fit perfectly together. They fit in the
foreground, but there are some miss-fits in the background. Monolith
Burger is a pretty tight fit and looks a like a flawless continuous
screen. So it can be said the Two Guys made their first serious
step including Scrolling Screens with Space Quest 3.
to Mark Crowe's effort, the first three Space Quest games excel
at implementing continuous screens. Just compare them with other
adventure games of the time. However, new technologies and faster
computers brought along new exciting possibilities. As technology
developed, the designers at Sierra handpainted the backgrounds of
the game, scanned them into digitalized documents and then put them
into the game. This enabled graphical artists like Marc Crowe to
create a set of screens that would truly fit if you would sew them
scrolling screen age (SQ1VGA, SQ4, SQ5 and SQ6)
1990, screens finally started shifting. Meaning when Roger walks
to the edge of the screen, you will see him continue to walk as
the background screen moves, or "scrolls" behind him.
This creates a more realistic effect that makes the player believe
the world he sees on his computer screen is a real one. It truly
makes the gaming experience more immersive.
Quest 1 VGA is the absolute true king of the scrolling screens!
The game is absolutely packed with scrolling screens and the first
in the Series to use the new technique. What about the
title screen, which is actually composed of three separate screens
sewed together to make one big one? But also the
Arcada hallways, Arcada's
sub deck, the
Keronian underground, Ulence
Flats and Droids'B'Us.
Here's a trivial question: How many moons does Kerona have? The
largest and most impressive scrolling screen is that of the
skeleton remains. It consists of 9 (!) spectacular screens,
containing bones of a long-extinct behemoth known to science as
the Doug-o-saurus. If you prefer SQ1EGA over the remake you must
agree with me that the scrolling screen feature gives this game
a huge boost.
Quest 4 was the next in the Series to use scrolling screens. The
game was released at a time when the Scrolling Screen technique
was on the height of its popularity. Needless to say, the game contains
quite a few interesting screens. Though the game clearly doesn't
match SQ1VGA. The most impressive scene is without a doubt Estros;
a total of 7 screens fit neatly together. The Skate-O-Rama scene
features two sets of screens, namely the
bottom and the top
screens. The Latex Babe's
hideout, the Supercomputer
Landing and the Supercomputer
Entrance are three additional scenes. Pretty cool looking, ey?
However, Space Quest 4 also includes some screens that appear to
fit neatly at first glance, but aren't connected like a true Scrolling
Screen scene should. For instance, the
sewer and the
the time Space Quest 5 had hit the shelves, the hype of the Scrolling
Screen technique wore off and became just another feature game designers
could use to make their game a little bit more interesting. My personal
favorite (of which I own one original design sketch, by the way)
is without a doubt the Main
Rotunda of the StarCon academy. But there are more, like the
Klorox scene, Kizurasgubi,
Genetix and Thrakus.
Quest 6 was of course the latest Space Quest, but quite possibly
features the most interesting Scrolling Screen of them all, namely
the Super Highway.
Then there's also the Orion's
Belt bar. Around the time Space Quest 6 was released, the Scrolling
Screen technique lost it against newly invented 3D techniques and
SVGA animations. The true end of the golden VGA era.