Game Interpreters Part III: SCI Adventure Games

Posted by Alex Lee on 3 January 2011 | 68 Comments

Tags: Apple IIGS, SCI Sierra Adventure Games, 'Sierra Creative Interpreter', SCUMMVM, Interpreter

This latest blog in a series devoted to game interpreters and their potential for the IIGS is all about SCI, also known as the 'Sierra Creative Interpreter'. The good news, while not specifically for the Apple II, is that SCUMMVM now supports SCI0 to SCI1.1 interpreter games.


Sierra Presents


I've waited 21 years to play these games without a DOS prompt. Everything's going to get all wibbly wobbly as I take you back to the late '80s yet again to explain.

Back in the September 1988 issue of A+, I read about the latest CES trade show, which at the time was one of the biggest events devoted to new computer and video games. It was an exciting article, detailing a lot of upcoming releases for the IIGS. Given that I was currently relishing the then current crop of AGI based Sierra adventure games on the IIGS, of prime interest were that Sierra's latest adventure games, using their new SCI interpreter, were listed as a future release for the IIGS. As much as I loved the AGI based games, their graphics were a little archaic, even for the IIGS, so the next round of sequels for Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry and Police Quest, with enhanced resolution, sounded an awesome prospect.


Space Quest III


Our family placed an order for Space Quest III for the IIGS in 1989 directly with Sierra, so as soon as it was released it would be shipped immediately. Months passed and they eventually sent it...for MS-DOS.

News was now getting out that Sierra had technically assessed the IIGS and found it too slow to port the SCI interpreter for it. I was less than happy. Rather than rush out and buy an MS-DOS machine (unthinkable) or an Amiga 1200 (as Sierra still released games for Commodore's flagship, and I briefly considered it) I continued using the IIGS as my primary computer until December 1994, without having played these new Sierra games.


Leisure Suit Larry II


Until now. Leisure Suit Larry II: Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places, is pretty bad - a very silly story, barely any music, not particularly satisfying puzzles and average graphics, but LSL3 looks more promising. Space Quest III, was well worth the wait - great story, funny, great graphics and music. The SCI remake of the original King's Quest was satisfying and currently playing The Colonel's Bequest, is quite a different adventure and all the more enjoyable for it.


Leisure Suit Larry II


Playing the games through SCUMMVM is a joy - there's no need to use an emulator or muck around with a DOS prompt (although if you're on a Mac, Boxer circumvents this for DOSBox beautifully). The games load instantly, require much less CPU being an interpreter than an emulator, and there are many graphics display options.

Of course none of this isn't much good for the IIGS, except perhaps indirectly; a LOT of reverse engineering went into this new version of SCUMMVM, research that started way back in the '90s with the earlier FreeSCI interpreter and without any help from the original developers, unlike the SCUMM games. Maybe it could be of help to anyone who'd dare attempt getting a SCI interpreter up and running for the IIGS.


Leisure Suit Larry II


Also, I'd like to not leave you, faithful readers, empty handed once again other than filling your head with all the fanciful stuff stuck in mine.

If SCI or SCUMM games were ever to be done for the IIGS, the music would have to be in a format already native to the IIGS and so, using MIDISurgeon (available only from the last issue of GS+ magazine) I have converted a slew of these SCI games' MIDI based soundtracks, thanks to Quest Studios, to the IIGS native MIDISynth format.

Although I'm not the biggest fan of MIDISynth music (I think the resonance sounds too 'tinny' and its too taxing on the CPU) I'm sure you'll agree that after hearing this converted music in SynthLab or another player, you start to appreciate how the IIGS just missed out on the multimedia gaming craze of the '90s. It's a shame we never got to hear how Sierra might have intended for their music to sound on the IIGS for their newer games, because they did a fantastic job realising all music and sound effects for their previous IIGS productions.

Additionally, all the original MIDI files are included, so if you'd like to design your own set of instruments and make your own patches using MIDISurgeon to set the perfect tone for the music, feel welcome...and welcome to share with the rest of the IIGS community! The converted music as it stands has no manual tweaking, mainly because I haven't a clue on how to do it. The music would benefit greatly with someone with a bit more knowledge of MIDI. You can play each sequence from the Finder after copying the MegaBox desk accessory to your system folder (included in below disk image).


 Sierra Music + Others for the IIGS (7.6meg)


One last thing: Versions of Sweet 16 lower than v2.3 seem to choke on MIDISynth file playback and crash the virtual IIGS. Try using Sweet 16 v2.3 or higher, KEGS, GSPort or even Bernie ][ the Rescue instead.