Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

 

[youtube id=”Xe0avtFGl7g” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

I remember very well the buzz at the gaming table about a certain balding protagonist of a now-classic Sierra adventure game.  He wasn’t your typical adventure game hero: he was a bumbler, a loser, an everyman shooting for the DD stars.  All he wanted was a piece of the action.  Well, a piece, at any rate.  With the release of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards Sierra On-Line in 1987, the 3D animated adventure game series entered a new, more (im)mature era, and a gaming icon was born.  (A little tidbit: 3D in this case meant “Dancing, Drinking, and Dames.”)

 

blogleisurelarryfront
Box art for Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

Poor Larry was a luckless virgin with absolutely no game.  He dressed in badly dated clothing and wore a gold chain, and by the start of the game, had come to the city of Lost Wages for one last shot at sleeping with a woman.  The game began outside a bar with Larry vowing to become an ex-virgin.  For many gamers, Leisure Suit Larry symbolized their own struggle to negotiate the turbulent waters of dealing with the opposite gender, and the game struck a nerve.  If Larry could get lucky, any of us could, darn it!

Leisure Suit Larry creator, Al Lowe
Leisure Suit Larry creator, Al Lowe

The creative force tapped to make Leisure Suit Larry a reality was a programmer at Sierra who had previously guided some of the Disney licenses, such as The Black CauldronDonald Duck’s Playground, and Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood.  Based on that body of work, who knew that Al Lowe would have such a twisted sense of humor?  Al Lowe was an accomplished musician (complete with a degree in music), and had spent 15 years in the public school system teaching music.  He enjoyed playing games, and decided to teach himself programming to make his own, and enter a new career.  He completed a few games (Troll’s Tale and Dragon’s Keepwere two of them) and sold them to the fledgling Sierra On-Line company, and stayed with them for 16 years.

softporn adventures
Box art for Softporn Adventure by On-Line Systems

By his own admission, Al Lowe based much of Leisure Suit Larry on an old text adventure game written by Chuck Benton called Softporn Adventure.  The game revolved around the player finding various inventory items to get into the pants of several women – sound familiar?  Softporn Adventure was released for the Apple II system in 1981, selling 50,000 units for its publisher, On-Line Systems, (which eventually became Sierra On-Line).  Considering Apple had sold around 350,000 Apple II systems by 1981, Softporn Adventure was a decent sized hit.  Given that the Software Piracy Association’s estimated piracy rate was 40%, it was more likely that there were 70,000 copies floating around, which would be closer to 20% total market penetration.  (Al Lowe claims the ratio to be 100,000 Apple II PCs and 25,000 Softporn games sold, but his statement may have been a little bit of poetic license.)   Here’s a little historical tidbit for you: check out the lady on the right in the pic above…that’s Roberta Williams, in the buff.

 

Outside Lefty's bar in Leisure Suit Larry
Outside Lefty’s bar in Leisure Suit Larry

With sales like this, it’s little wonder that Ken Williams (husband of Roberta and one of the founders of Sierra) approached Al Lowe to make a new game with a similar motif.   They discussed updating Softporn Adventure to fit in the new 3-D animated adventure line-up, but as Lowe recalls telling Williams, “There’s no way I can do this as a serious game. It’s so out of it that it should be wearing a leisure suit…But if you let me mock it, I might be able to do a spoof of it.”   And so, six months of programming later, Leisure Suit Larry entered the marketplace, with a very quiet launch to avoid incurring the wrath of Sierra’s major distributors (like the unamused charcoal-gray suits in the Tandy Corporation headquarters, who were responsible for up to 40% of Sierra’s software sales).

 

Hot tub babe in Leisure Suit Larry
Hot tub babe in Leisure Suit Larry

Sales were very soft that first week, with only 4,000 copies sold; no advertising and no fanfare had its expected result.  However, word-of-mouth was as powerful in 1987 as it is today, and sales jumped to an impressive 250,000 copies sold.  The game even managed to garner the Software Publishers Association’s Best Fantasy, Role Playing or Adventure Gamof 1987. It was eventually released on several platforms, including IBM PC (MS-DOS), Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Apple Macintosh, and the TRS-80.

 

Cover art for the VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry
Cover art for the VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry

With the advent of VGA technology, Sierra brought Leisure Suit Larry to a new audience in 1991.  It was relaunched with a completely redone game engine that used an icon-driven interface rather than a text-based parser, which was touted by the game packaging as an opportunity to “point-and-grope.”  The re-release used an updated SCI (Sierra Creative Interpreter) engine, which permitted 256-color VGA graphics.   This was quite the improvement upon the original 1987 game, whose highest graphics quality was 16 colors in a 300×200 screen.

 

Lefty's bar in the 1991 VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry
Lefty’s bar in the 1991 VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry

Another avenue that Al Lowe was able to exercise his creative spirit within Larry’s universe was putting his music roots to good use by composing the theme music for the Land of the Lounge Lizards.  The music was an integral component of Larry’s impending iconic status, using the primitive sound technology of the early PCs to create a jaunty tune that was easily identifiable as Larry’s theme.  The VGA remake also had access to better audio technology, and so the music is much richer.  There’s also much more of it, as Lowe could really only fit so much audio into a single 3.5″ or two 5.25″ floppy diskettes (what the original 1987 game came loaded on).

Musical score for Leisure Suit Larry
Musical score for Leisure Suit Larry

Al Lowe’s creation sold well enough that sequels were a highly anticipated inevitability.  Lounge Lizards was followed by 1988′s Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking For Love (in Several Wrong Places), which was followed by 1989′s Leisure Suit Larry III: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals. Typical of Lowe’s humorous approach to the series, the fourth game released in 1991 was actually entitled Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work.  Lowe followed up that game in 1993 with Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up Or Slip Out!.  Lowe’s final Larry game was 1996′s Leisure Suit Larry: Love For Sail. The dawn of true 3-D adventures was upon the gaming industry, but Sierra did not have the cash reserves to retool their flagship titles to the new standard.  Subsequently, Al Lowe was let go, ending his run as the narrator of the Leisure Suit Larry series, and ending Leisure Suit Larry‘s relevance.  Yes, more games in the series would be released, but they would be empty shells, devoid of the charm that Al Lowe captured for so many years, victims of the rise of the bean-counters in the gaming industry.  (Al Lowe is still on the Internet, and you can find him at his website: allowe.com How this creative man isn’t absolutely deluged with consultation requests from up-and-coming indie software developers amazes me.)

 

Hot tub babe from the 1991 version of Leisure Suit Larry I
Hot tub babe from the 1991 version of Leisure Suit Larry I

If you have managed to avoid playing the original Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, it’s time for that to end.  Yes, the graphics are hopelessly dated in comparison to the real-world graphic opuses that populate the gamerverse these days…but the joy of Leisure Suit Larry isn’t in the eye candy, it’s in the situational comedy coupled with Al Lowe’s scripting.  Pick up a copy – this game is worth any retrogamer’s retrogaming time!

Softporn Adventures

Softporn Adventures

I always wondered if there was a text based game about the pursuit of sex would it be almost like sexting is today. So, how many of you know On-Line Systems, perhaps you know them under their more famous name Sierra On-Line. Before we were introduced to the iconic Leisure Suit Larry, there was Softporn Adventure.

Softporn_Adventures

Designed by Chuck Benton, the game was produced for the Apple II in 1981 and was a text based game where you played as a down on his luck party animal. The gameplay consisted of you trying to collect certain items that would win the affections of various women.

So let’s back up a little. This is a text game and for those not familiar with text based games, they kind of worked like a mix between a Dungeons and Dragons game with real life dungeon master and a, Choose Your Own Adventure book. You would start off with text telling you where you are and enough information to get you started. From there, you would enter commands to get an idea of your surroundings and what to do.

Softporn_Adventures

An example would be typing, “LOOK” to get a description of where you are and, “INVENTORY” to be told what you have on you. So the game starts off like this;

 

I’m in a sleazy bar. Behind the bar sits the bartender. A sign hanging over

him says ‘BEER-$100 WHISKEY-$100’. The Place isn’t furnished too well. A

curtain hangs on one wall. There’s a button on the wall next to it. A fan

whirls slowly overhead moving the stagnant air around.

Here you would type something like, “Order Whiskey” and go from there. It might sound boring to some, but text adventures were just as engrossing as a book and for a gamer even more so.

Softporn_Adventures

Now this game had a lot of controversy for being so racy and it is said it was copied and distrusted to a lot of high schoolers not interested in Math Munchers and more interested in reading forbidden text such as;

>SCREW GIRL

She says, ‘Lay down, Honey- Let me give you a special surprise!’ I lay down

and she says, ‘OK- now close your eyes.’ I close my eyes and she starts to

go to work on me. I’m really enjoying myself when suddenly she ties me to

the bed!! Then she says, ‘So long, turkey!’ and runs out of the room!!

Well- the score is now 1 out of a possible 3…but I’m also tied to the bed

and can’t move.

 

Sure, this is nothing compared to the scenes in games like Mass Effect and Heavy Rain, but for its time, it was enough to get computer geeks like myself a little hot under the collar. Now for those who played the LLL games you will notice the first game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, is pretty much exactly like Softporn Adventure, but in graphical form.

Now the game was not just controversial because of the racy subject matter, but the cover as well. Here is the info on it straight from the Wiki;

The game’s cover features three nude women and a male waiter in a hot tub. The hot tub is actually that of Sierra’s owners, Ken and Roberta Williams. From left to right, the first woman is Diane Siegel, On-Line’s production manager. The second is Susan Davis, On-Line’s bookkeeper and the wife of Bob Davis, the creator of Ulysses and the Golden Fleece. The waiter was Rick Chipman, an actual waiter from a local restaurant, The Broken Bit. The woman on the far right is Roberta Williams. The ad was considered somewhat scandalous at the time because of the degree of nudity displayed.


To me that is the most awesome thing about this, putting real people from your own company on the cover in such a manner. I couldn’t imagine that happening today.

“Hi, you’re an intern for EA right, so yeah, we have this new game called EA Semi Nude Tennis and we need some sexy women for the cover. Sure, we could have hired some models, but you want to make it in the business right? So, go ahead and put this bikini on, don’t ask how I know your size and report to studio A.”

This was one of the first instances of sex in a video game even though you never got to “see” anything. As far as the game itself you can actually play it online, but before that, here is an interview from Chuck Benton himself on Softporn Adventure.

Here you can view a Walkthrough for the game, thanks to Game FAQ’s for this.

Last but not least you can play it here: Softporn Adventure.

Whatever happened to Video Game Pornography

What you are about to read, oh precious reader, is an edited and updated version of an article that appeared a few years back on the now defunct blog. It also is slightly NSFW, but only if you work at some sort of weird ultra-conservative place where nobody has ever been to a demonstration for the past five years.

Let”s get one thing out of the way first. I don”t believe porn, or pornography as people in weird grey-ish clothing tend to call it, is evil. Or inappropriate. Or even inherently sexist. What I actually do believe is that -in all its varied guises- porn is both interesting and a frankly under-explored medium; or is that genre? Also, I quite love the idea behind it, and if you don”t or have anything against mankind, sex, having fun and/or life in general, and thus feel offended, well, that”s not my fault. I”m a bloody misanthrope too, you know (especially on Mondays).

So, what is porn really? Or, to rephrase the question, is every depiction of sex pornographic? Well, no, though admittedly the answer could change depending on the society within which the matter is discussed. 18th and 19th century Europeans for example were so shocked by the perceived obscenity of ancient Greek Alphabet and Roman nude statues, that literally went on and chopped their dicks off (the statues”, not theirs unfortunately), whereas pornographic depictions of sex were pretty standard in the practice of a variety of more humane religions. Personally -obviously influenced by contemporary society, too- and while cunningly avoiding narrow puritan definitions, I do tend to define any attempt at intentionally, sexually stimulating ones audience as pornographic.

Whether I (or anyone else) is actually stimulated is another matter altogether. It”s the creator”s -perceived or actual- intention I care about, in a way not dissimilar to what I would use to classify a horror movie. Or game.

Were I actually discussing cinema, I would definitely not consider any uncensored sex scene as reason enough to classify a film as porn. Baise-moi for example does sport quite a few sexually graphic scenes that are definitely not meant to arouse. The contrary rather. Then, there are films like Novecento where one or two sex scenes are merely added as just another story element or for purely realistic/artistic/whatever reasons. Wouldn”t call that porn either.

Proper porn movies, on the other hand, the garden variety of dirty flicks if you wish, usually fail on everything else besides the sex scenes, and one could even argue that most of them aren”t that good or varied to begin with. It was Clive Barker I believe who actually tried to define quality porn, as something that manages to captivate its audience even after said audience has climaxed and, sad as this sounds, the only porn movie I think managed to achieve such a lofty goal was Deep Throat with its -at times- brilliant humour (mind you, humour and porn do work quite well together it seems).

Thankfully though, quality porn is more than a theoretical construct or merely a wish. It can be found -among other places I”m sure- in literature, and as most should be familiar with Marquis/Citoyen De Sade”s works, indulge me while I go on and briefly focus on Andreas Embirikos. Embirikos, you see, besides being my favorite surrealist poet, a pioneer in Greek psychoanalysis, a photographer of beautiful girls, an excellent writer and, when in the mood, a socialist, was also a great pornographer. And an immensely proud one too. His greatest contribution to porn, Megas Anatolikos (The Great Eastern), was an epic novel spanning one hundred chapters, taking place on the titular cruise ship and eloquently showcasing the glory of almost every imaginable perversion.

Frankly, absolutely nothing was considered taboo or perverted enough to be left out and, were the book released in our dark and ultra-conservative era, the censors would be having an editing party. What”s more, the sex scenes were at once poetic, funny, arousing, plot advancing and brilliantly complemented with giant penises rising from the ocean or extensive descriptions of the ship”s library. Oddly, it was quite a publishing success too.
Lula 3d

Let us now move from literature to video games (a humongous leap indeed), where the story so far is rather sad. Pathetic even. To begin with, sex, let alone pure gratuitous porn, is virtually absent in the mainstream and to such a degree that a semi-naked woman is easily considered scandalous, whereas -say- a mutilated corpse goes largely unnoticed. Standard puritanic medium-wide ethics aside, even when sex is present, it usually is presented in a ridiculously sexist/immature way and lazily treated as a reward for gamers. Interactive sex, truly arousing scenes playing on the medium”s strengths and thus proper video game porn is, for the time, nigh-on unthinkable.

Cataloging every attempt at sexy games is of course beyond this article”s scope, but briefly discussing a few of the niches in porn games most definitely is not. First of all, we have the virtual dollhouse games a la 3D SexVilla or the less germanic Virtually Jenna, that besides their grotesque attempt at realistic graphics don”t offer much of a gaming experience either. Pathetic and marginally more fun than undressing your children”s dolls or something is what they are. Then, we have more or less proper games that tend to vaguely stick to a genre or another, while cunningly introducing an erotic theme and a few sex scenes, just like the that eventually spawned the atrocious Lula 3D, or a variety of Tetris-clones and chess games that sort of reward the player with the odd video of a tit being all titty.

Slightly better are the Japanese choose-your-own story offerings, which aren”t totally unlike watching a hentai porn DVD with a marginally less than obvious chapter selection feature. Finally, and after ignoring such bizarre masterpieces as the wonderfully nonsensical Sex Station 7, we do have games (in name only) that are nothing more than glorified adult chatrooms. Oh, yes, and a myriad of games like Leisure Suit Larry that never claimed to be pornographic, never tried to, but were still horribly misunderstood by the sex-starved gaming audience (and this of course does not include our readers; male or female). In a nutshell: video gaming porn is and has always been in dire straits. At best.

Leisure Suit Larry

The only exception that springs to mind is the 2010 release , but the question remains: Could it work? Could there actually be a video game that manages to be arousing? Well, I”d say yes, but only in theory and in the realm of the indie scene, as I just can”t see anything interesting happening in the world of children focused consoles or mainstream PC gaming. Quite obviously an erotic text-adventure/piece of interactive-fiction would be a nice start, and a rather easy one too, especially if one were to follow -as is rather typical for this kind of games- classic literally rules while adding a touch of interactivity. Interestingly, and that could be a positive sign indeed, women have been -up to now- more interested in the sexier side of gaming (have a look at the )… This could probably spare us the sexist bits.

Oh, and on an absolutely unrelated and definitively closing note, let me remind everyone that Woody Allen (I think) was correct: being punctual is a very lonely experience indeed. On the other hand, I”m absolutely positive Mr. Allen was the one to also insightfully notice that sex between two people is a beautiful thing. Between five, it”s fantastic.

Classic Sierra PC Game site will return

Police Quest 1 screenshot
Police Quest 1 screenshot

Since 2009 the folks over at Sarien.net have been hosting classic Sierra PC games such as Space Quest, Police Quest and Kings Quest where fans of the classic series could log in a play without fee or ads. However, when the owners decided to optimize their site for use on the iPad it caught the online presses attention and attracted Activision.

With Activision owning the rights to the Sierra, titles and their wanting the option to see App store versions of the popular games in the future, Sarien.net received a cease-and-desist letter from Activision’s lawyers.

The site was shut down and when replying to the lawyers to let them know they complied the owners asked if there was anyway the site could continue.

“The next day I received a kind reply from Activision’s law firm, and I actually do mean ‘kind,'” Kool writes. “This new letter I received contained a proposal.”

The proposal was to allow Sarien.net to reopen and publish the first game from any of the series he had before in the multiplayer mode they had built for the website, except for Leisure Suit Larry, which is a Codemasters license. In addition, they are to provide links to the digital versions of the game where fans of the series could buy the original if they like.

Score one for classic gaming sites and fans who love them and score one for Activision who will get some good press from this and may add interest to launching app versions of classic Sierra games.