RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Oct 21st 2010 at 04:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under 7th Guest, Trilobyte, Graeme Devine, Horror

Old Man Stauf built a house, and filled it with his toys
Six guests were invited one night, their screams the only noise
Blood inside the library, blood right up the hall
Dripping down the attic stairs, hey guests, try not to fall
Nobody came out that night, not one was ever seen
But Old Man Stauf is waiting there, crazy, sick, AND MEAN!

7th guest

The great PC puzzle game/interactive haunted house The 7th Guest, like it's distant cousin Myst, is considered largely responsible for the then expensive CD-Rom technology taking off with consumers at large.  Considered an instant classic upon release over 17 years ago and selling over 2 million copies, it still holds a nostalgic sway over those of us who were there at the dawn of 'multimedia'.  Consisting of brain teasers and devious puzzles, where even learning the rules of the game are a part of the challenge, gameplay in The 7th Guest has aged much better than it's PC counterparts.  And while the pre-rendered 3D environments and early FMV work are comically dated now, the incredible musical score and attention to mood and menace help keep the game worth playing even in the days of HD and Blu-Ray. 

I have quite a history with this game, a game with quite a development history all it's own, and both are horror stories befitting the games' own darker themes.  First up is mine:

As a gamer growing up, I was very fortunate in that my dad was an early adopter in the PC market.  Once we had our fancy CD-Rom installed, we had to have something to play, and the magazines sure talked up the showpiece The 7th Guest.  Even to this day, I think the only games my dad ever bought for himself were really just to check out hardware.  Worked for me!  So, my friend Ben and I were soon up night after night, trying to conquer each devilish puzzle, entranced by the graphics and video, and the haunting music echoing in my living room.  By the end of the summer, we were stuck on the infamous 'microscope' puzzle of Reversi/Othello.  We thought the worst part of the game was pitting two 15 year-olds against a computer AI on Reversi with the difficulty set a notch above "divide by zero and then display the mathematical properties of a black hole on a pocket calculator while counting to infinity twice."  We thought the game's most evil moment had to be past us.

We were wrong.

One room left, the mansion's attic.  Where a summer's worth of head-splitting mind-bogglers solved would finally culminate, one puzzle that had to be easier than that stupid Reversi game.  Almost finished.

The door wouldn't open.  Okay...maybe we missed something.  Another puzzle?  Nope.  We tried everything.  We went back and played every puzzle, even restarted and re-saved.  No attic access.

We were stumped, frustrated, and driven to extremes.  That's right, we called the 1-800 tip line in the instructions.  Ben and I, the guys who didn't even use the in-game hint system.  We had too.

After a detailed (and expensive) conversation explaining where we were stuck, I heard a knowing sigh from the voice on the receiver.  We had a defective game.  A copy from a print run with a known glitch that keep the game locked from the finale.  Seriously.  We'd have to mail in the second disc and a copy of our proof of purchase, and they'd mail us a working disc.  In four to six weeks.  Seriously.

Worse, dad couldn't find the original box.  We had no proof of purchase, and so we were completely out of luck.  Say what you will about how online patching allows developers to kick games out the door unfinished, back then it would have kept two teenagers from building an assault robot in metal shop and destroying Virgin Interactive and most of the UK.  Just kidding: my school didn't have a metal shop.  I just played too much Battletech.

Years later, I bought another copy and tried to install it on our newer computer, only to be hit with DOS driver errors that kept it from booting.  I wouldn't play the game again for over a decade, and I've still never gone through it again, only seeing the ending on youtube.

The game is/was truly evil.

But my hate/love experience with The 7th Guest must pale in comparison to co-creator Graeme Devine's.

Mr. Devine is truly one of my gaming developer heroes.  The guy went from porting Pole Position for Atari when he was 16(!) to helping develop Quake III Arena, Doom 3, Age of Empires 3, and Halo Wars.  The guy was lead designer/programmer/producer for more than 40 titles on NES, Genesis, Gameboy, PC, Amiga Commodore 64, Atari ST and standalone arcade games.  If I could take anyone in gaming culture out to a steakhouse, Graeme would be at the top of the list.

He and Rob Landeros formed Trilobyte and created The 7th Guest, and became immediately successful.  However, the co-founders each had different views on where to take the sequel.  The story goes that Graeme walked over to the FMV filming for 11th Hour and

"There the actress stood, dressed in black tights, with a spiked black collar girdling her neck and no clothing on her upper body.  In her right hand she held a silver metallic chain attached to a German shepherd. Devine walked onto the set, and as Rob Landeros remembers, "You could clearly tell he was concerned about the content." 

Landeros was interested in immediately pushing the content for more adult oriented material.  "I told Rob, 'This is just not a comfortable direction,'" explains Devine, who says he "thought about what I was going to tell my wife we were making at Trilobyte."

The divide between the two creators ended up bringing about the fall of the company, as detailed in Geoff Keighley's "Behind the Games" feature:


And what began as a promising game company on the bring of new technology dissolved from creative differences, financial mismanagement, and hubris.  Not every scary game has an even scarier backstory.

So this Halloween, fire up the emulator and give Trilobyte's success a whirl. 
Just remember to get a patched version, or you'll face a real horror story. Wink

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