Al Lowe

iBase Entertainment

Posted by Philip Jong.
First posted on 17 May 2006. Last updated on 06 August 2009.
Have an opinion? Leave a comment!

Al Lowe
Al Lowe is a game designer and the creator of Leisure Suit Larry.

For more information on Lowe, visit Al Lowe's Humor Site!.

The following interview was an edited transcript of an oral interview.
Any game fan who has ever heard of Larry Laffer knows of Al Lowe. Lowe is the game designer extraordinaire who is best known as the creator of Leisure Suit Larry, a series of popular adventure games published by Sierra On-Line from 1987 to 1996. Born in 1946, the self-proclaimed "world's oldest computer games designer" has had a colorful and successful career at Sierra On-Line that spans 16 years. Aside from his signature work on Leisure Suit Larry, he has been the designer, writer, programmer, and music composer for many of other Sierra On-Line titles including King's Quest, Police Quest, Space Quest, The Black Cauldron, Torin’s Passage, and Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist. Today, Lowe is the director and screenwriter at iBase Entertainment. He also maintains an active connection with his fan base through his website and email list. We are privileged to have this exclusive opportunity to speak with the funnyman and gaming icon. In the interview, Lowe speaks of his history with Sierra On-Line, his design philosophy behind Leisure Suit Larry, his present views of adventure games, his brief retirement life, and his current game project—Sam Suede: Undercover Exposure.

Check out our exclusive new photo of Lowe!

Al, thank you very much for the opportunity to interview you.

You're welcome. I'm glad to have the chance to chat with you.

Let me begin the interview by asking you about the early days of your career. Before your career as a game designer started at Sierra On-Line, you were a music teacher. What were the circumstances that led to Ken Williams inviting you to join his company back in 1982? What designing and programming experiences did you have prior to that time?

I had a degree in music education and was a professional musician from age 13. I was always a geek, although I didn't know it then. I was the guy interested in electronics. I was the kid who set up the PA system and fixed the movie projector when the teacher couldn't. I guess you could describe me as a Paleolithic geek.

Why and how did I get into computer games? It was simple. I saw games, I tried games, I enjoyed playing games, I wanted to make games, so that's what I did: I sat down and made some. I made three games and published them myself before I ever met Ken Williams. When Ken saw them, he liked them, probably because they looked a lot like Roberta's games, since she made the games I enjoyed playing and therefore, that was the kind of games I ended up writing. When he and Roberta saw my games, they suggested that, rather than for me wasting my time copying floppy disks and putting them in plastic baggies and printing up sleeves and all that other non-creative stuff that is publishing, I could just dump all that, create more games, and let Sierra handle the dirty work. So I did.

My training was zero. I bought an Apple II in the very early days, about 1978-9. I just messed around with it, using it to further my work as a music teacher. I had no classes in programming because there were no classes in PC programming. Sure, there were classes in Fortran and Cobol, but nobody taught how to write games or entertainment software or software to do your job. So, my class work and my formal training was zilch. But I had a lot of desire. I read a lot of books, studied and practiced a lot. I began with small steps and eventually got to the point where I thought I could create a game.

And that's what I did. While working fulltime, I wrote 3 games in 3 months. Of course, back then, games were small. Because my college degrees were in education, my first game was an educational game for children, written for my son who was then 4 years old. He and I played it together because I was trying to teach him to read. And that's my pre-Sierra background as a programmer.

Let us talk a bit about Leisure Suit Larry. The character Larry had undergone many face lifts, both physically and metaphorically, through the 7 (or rather 6) games in the series. By the way, Al, I am still looking for my missing floppy disks for Leisure Suit Larry 4: The Missing Floppies!

Me too!

Having said this, what were the most significant changes you made to Larry's character as the series matured?

I think the biggest way Larry grew was that he fleshed out not only physically (he got a little fatter as we went along) but also that he grew in depth as a character. As I wrote the first game, I wasn't quite sure of who or what this guy was, although he had more personality than most other games at the time. It took me the second and third games before I really had enough disk space, money, and time devoted to flushing out his character to make him have a real personality. That was by default because most games had zero, so by Larry having a little, he had more than most.

People always ask, "Are you Larry?" I'm not, although I am in the games. I'm the narrator. When Larry asks some dumb question and the narrator responds with some smart ass remark, that's me.

Al, about the weight issue: I think all men (including both you and me) eventually suffer from weight problems!

<laughs>

What design elements of Larry had you originally in mind that were subsequently rejected during the games' development? What aspects of Larry would you have wanted to develop further if there had been another sequel?

Physically and graphically, his look changed the most over time. When we started, we had 320-pixel resolution and 16 colors. That is not a lot. In today's world of big monitors and high resolution, that's a window the size of a postage stamp. As the machines' graphics capabilities advanced, we could add more detail to Larry's look.

One reason he had a huge nose was because, in the original game, if he was going to have a nose at all, it had to be huge. It was exactly one pixel, so either it was huge or it was zero! But the most fun was growing his character, finding more and more ways to humiliate this guy. That was the real fun for me, so the aspects I would develop in another sequel are more laughs and more ways of involving you the player in the action.

How had changes in game technology (such as interface, graphic, music, storage) impacted on your design philosophy in Leisure Suit Larry over the years? What were some of the major developmental hurdles in the early years of Leisure Suit Larry?

The biggest hurdle in the first game was figuring out how to handle all the space available because, once I passed the "one floppy disk limit" and became a two floppy game, I had a whole 360 KB of extra memory to fill! Think about that: all of the original Leisure Suit Larry fit in 700 KB of disk space—not 600 megs, but 600 KB! That's 1/1,000th of a CD or 1/5,000th of a DVD. That's about the same storage as one small camera phone photo today. Just think of that: one photo or an entire game—all the code, the text, the backgrounds, the animation—everything!

The most fun was to be able to add more content to every succeeding game, to make the graphics clearer, to improve the interface, to provide more detail, more music, more sound effects, more animation. One of the biggest changes was when we figured out how to add MIDI music to replace the horrible PC tweaker. And then with Larry 7, we replaced MIDI music with real musicians. For me, as a musician, that was a wonderful treat. To be able to actually hire live musicians, set them up in a studio, record the soundtrack, and then play it back directly in the game was a big kick.

The big hurdle in the early days was the difficulty we had developing the tools. Few people realize that all our early games were developed before Photoshop. That's like saying before telephones! Who can imagine doing a game today without photo and graphic tools, sound editors, animation packages? Sierra had to build its own tools. We had toolmakers who built the programs that allowed the creative types to create the backgrounds, the "3-D" graphics, the sounds, the animation, everything. They made the first games that had images that could pass behind other images in real time. They did it all with just 12 planes of depth and 4 planes of significance. Those four enabled us to do many things, like put backgrounds behind doors so when you opened the door another scene appeared behind it.

An example is the dog that randomly appeared in Larry 1. It could wander anywhere, even behind a light pole. We didn't need special graphics that had to be perfectly aligned. The software made the dog a lower plane than the pole and the dog appeared to be behind it. These are things that are taken for granted today.

I purposely designed Leisure Suit Larry 2 to be a series of areas, strung like stones on a necklace, because I could only fit one region on a floppy disk. I wanted you to be able to finish one complete area before moving on to the next, then finish that entire area before you went onto the third level, and so forth. That was designed strictly to make it convenient for people who were still playing from floppy disk back in 1988.

Indeed, it was quite a technological marvel that you were able to create such a rich game environment with such limited storage space in the early years. For the first game of the series, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, how much of it was based on Softporn Adventure that was produced by On-Line Systems which later became Sierra On-Line? More interestingly, what was the decision process within Sierra On-Line that ultimately agreed to develop Leisure Suit Larry, especially given that the company had already distanced itself from its former image of having once produced an R-Rated game title?

An interesting point. When I first brought an Apple II, one of the first games I had was Softporn, because everybody I knew had it. It was the talk of computers, the hot thing, even though it was a text-only game. At a time when there were only 100,000 Apple II computers on Earth, Sierra had sold 25,000 copies of Softporn—and everybody I knew had a pirated version! That game had pretty much a 100% market share. Everyone wanted to play it—so much so that when Time magazine produced its first column ever on home computers, it included Softporn and its cover photo in the article. It was a hot title, the Halo of its day. Later, when Sierra obtained the rights to the Disney characters, Disney wasn't excited to have Mickey Mouse share the same catalog as Softporn. But by that time Softporn had died out, so Ken let the Softporn game die and focused on Disney titles.

A few more years passed and we lost the rights to the Disney characters. We were looking for new game ideas and I remembered Softporn's success. What if we "updated" it with our new game engine and added graphics? I replayed the game and realized that, 6 years later, it was really dated. Not only was the technology bad, but everything about it was lame. I told Ken, "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." I added, "But if you let me mock it, I might be able to do a spoof of it." There were almost no comedy games available back then. (That's still true today!) So we decided to try something more adult in nature, with a comedic aspect to it. Frankly, for me, it was a real risk; I had zero experience as a comedy writer. I tried to make it as funny as I could, but I wasn't really sure how funny that would be.

So I took Softporn Adventure and threw out every line of text and every part of the game, except for the puzzles and locations. Since SA had no central character, I invented Larry and made him the butt of the jokes. I added most of the silly stuff in the game because I wasn't confident enough in my sense of humor. I wanted people to really get their money's worth.

Another first for Leisure Suit Larry was beta-testing. It was the first Sierra game to use testers outside the company. I was nervous about how well I could handle typed input, so I created a routine that stored every line a tester entered that was not handled correctly by the game. Then I collected all those mistakes, and wrote a line to cover every one of them.

When the game was ready to ship, Sierra got scared; their big retailer at the time was Radio Shack, which sold 30-40% of all Sierra products sold. Their management was very conservative and not interested in a game with themes like Larry's. So when it shipped, it was a terrible seller. In its first month, it sold 4,000 copies—the worst sales of any game in Sierra history. I thought, "I've blown it. Wasted six months of my life." Of course, every month sales doubled, until a year later, it was finally a big hit. Ironic, isn't it? Today, if a game doesn't sell well the first week, it gets discounted and thrown into the bargain bin.

Sierra really changed direction and outlook from the early days through the Disney years and into the Larry years.

It was not just the game we all liked about Softporn Adventure but also the racy picture of Roberta on the game's front cover!

I don't know how many people know that, but it's true. The cover of the game was a photo of three people in a hot tub and one of them was Roberta Williams.

Of all the Leisure Suit Larry games you created, which games did you receive the most and least feedbacks from fans? What were the most surprising comments you had received?

This may seem odd, but, in a period before email, few people took time to write a letter, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail it. So I didn't receive a lot of feedback. I heard through sales people, retailers, friends, but for the most part, I had very little feedback about any of my games until I built my own website, www.allowe.com. Then, suddenly, it was as if I opened a floodgate. I received tens of thousands of emails telling me how the game had affected people, even to the point of changing their lives. Many fans got into computers because of Larry or the other games I wrote. Many ended up with careers in technology. My site has provided amazing feedback, but while I created the games, I didn't see more than a few dozen letters total.

You had been quite vocal with your opinion on Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, a game which you had not been involved in the development. However, you had been in contact with Eric Hayashi (executive producer for the game) in October 2003 and with Cary Okamin (writer for the game) in April 2004 about this "supposedly" sequel. What were discussed in these exchanges? When did the conversation with Vivendi Universal Games stop?

The easiest answer to this is to visit my website and read the whole long story of Magna Cum Laude at www.allowe.com/Larry/MCL.htm and my off and on relationship with Sierra during its development. While that game was in development, Sierra was in a death spiral, losing employees, changing management, going through multiple owners, and coming apart at the seams.

It was an interesting mix. I had conversations with several people (may be 6 or 8) over the two years of that game's development about Magna Cum Laude. Most of them said, "Oh, yeah, Al, you really should be involved. Are you interested?" And each time I would say, "I'd love to. I'm very interested. I'm sitting at home with nothing to do. Call me!" And then I'd not hear anything for months until someone else would ask me, "Al, why don't you get involved in this?" And I would say, "Hey, I love to." And again, nothing would happen. The details are too long to go into here, but basically Vivendi wanted to be sure the game changed direction and was not like the old games. That they accomplished. Unfortunately, they didn't find the right direction to go.

I rather admire their decision to involve not Larry Laffer in the new title but rather his nephew. It was a good move that I would have been proud to have thought of. The problem was with the execution of the game. It was very uneven. I think Cary Okamin's writing was good, but the game was so schizophrenic. A lot of it felt like Cary had nothing to do with it, but it had been written by a producer or somebody from down the hall. It did not hold together.

Worse, it didn't satisfy the people who wanted another adventure game, it didn't satisfy the people who wanted an action game, it didn't satisfy the people who wanted a platformer, and those lame mini-games satisfied no one.

In retrospect, how bitter were you about your experience with Vivendi Universal because of that game?

I had very mixed emotions while playing that game. I had to go to the store just like everyone else and buy it for full list price when it came out, they didn't even send me a free copy. When I played it, it was like receiving a ransom video from my son's kidnappers: on one hand, it was nice to know he was still alive, but oh God, look what they've done to him!

That's the way I felt. I was sorry that I wasn't involved, but also lucky because, if I had been involved I think there was no way I could have saved it. Thankfully, my name wasn't anywhere associated with it and that's the way I want to keep it.

It was entirely understandable that you had mixed feelings about that game. On the other hand, Leisure Suit Larry 8: Lust in Space was meant to be the true sequel to Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail! for the franchise. How far had the game development gone when the project was sacked in February 1999? Aside from a 3-D Larry, what other new ideas had you originally planned for this game, particularly in gameplay?

That was an interesting time at Sierra. Management had changed; Ken Williams was no longer involved in the company. Sierra had been taken away from him and he was shunted aside in favor of new managers with backgrounds in accounting or business or even oil. People with no background in gaming were in charge. It was obvious that things were going to be vastly different.

It was also obvious that adventure game sales were plummeting. Larry 7 was one of the last adventure games that sold really well, selling 750,000 copies plus many more in the various Larry collections. After Larry 7, Grim Fandango came out and didn't do very well, as did other titles that should have been successes. Gamers were looking for something new; the business was looking for something new. Put that together with Sierra's new management and I didn't have a lot of faith that a new game would sell. Management wanted to renegotiate my contract and suggested that I "get started on the next game and we'll work something out." My response was "Let's work something out and then I'll get started." We did this little dance of death for months while I sketched out ideas.

I knew the overall shape of the game, what it would be, and where it would take place, but I refused to design the details of the game until I had a signed contract and that contract never came. We did do some preliminary development with 3-D tools because the game would definitely have been in 3-D. 2-D game sales are pretty much dead. I had ideas for gameplay, but after seeing what happened with King's Quest VIII, I knew that killing everything that moves doesn't mix well with adventure games. Who wants to hack-and-slash your way through an entire level so that when you are done you can the play the adventure part of the game. That didn't make the hack-and-slash people happy and it didn't make the adventure gamers happy. I wouldn't have done that.

But my intuition was correct—Sierra's subsequent management decided to drop all adventure games. I was thankful that I didn't spend lots of time working on it!

Aside from Leisure Suit Larry, your other major works included Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist and Torin's Passage. The characters in these games were very different from Larry Laffer. Creatively speaking, how different was the writing experience for these games compared with Leisure Suit Larry? What aspects of these games were you most and least proud of?

I looked at those games as a chance to "cleanse the palate" between courses of Larry. <grin> I enjoy a wide variety of interests, so to do other games between Larry's, we decided to work our way through all the movie genres. I started with a Western game (Freddy), then a family title (Torin), to be followed by a spy game and so forth.

I started with Freddy. I was proud of how well I hid Freddy's very linear plot from players. To make it story intensive, the plot advanced throughout the game. I think most people were never really aware they were on a linear path because the town felt wide open since you could roam around and do many things. I was least proud of Freddy's "snail puzzle." I assumed it was common knowledge that you could catch snails with beer. Evidently, I was wrong! I didn't add enough clues to help people through that puzzle. Back then, before the Internet, you couldn't easily find walkthroughs or get online help. Although we sold a lot of hint books because of that puzzle, let me assure you it was unintentional!

As to Torin's Passage, Ken felt that there was an audience for a game like King's Quest that wasn't King's Quest. Because I had the most experience with King's Quest (having programmed two and written music for others), I really wanted to try it. I wrote Torin's Passage for adults to play with a child. I got the idea when I took my kids to see Mrs. Doubtfire (the Robin Williams movie). During that film, I noticed that the audience laughed in two different pitches. Many lines were aimed at adults; you'd hear a deep "Ho, ho, ho" laughter. But then there were other lines geared for kids that produced tittering high laughs. During that film, I thought "Why aren't there games like this? Why isn't there a game I can play with my daughter where the two of us would have fun together, laughing at some of the same things, but also laughing at different places individually while solving puzzles together?" That was my inspiration. I like variety. I enjoy the challenge of not writing the same type of game over and over.

Al, do not forget the phone lines that fans can dial in to get the hints!

That's right! Sierra had those 900 numbers, didn't they? Another source of revenue erased by the Net. Good riddance!

You had worked with many talented people during your career as a game designer. Who were the top 3 people with whom you most enjoyed working? What made these experiences most memorable?

There were a lot more than 3! I'm not sure who the top 3 were. I guess Ken and Roberta Williams would have to be 2 of them. Roberta's work inspired me to create her kind of games. Ken's faith in a music teacher with no programming training and his pushing me to learn assembly language made me realize I actually could code. We had a great working relationship that became a friendship that endures to this day.

I doubt that people are aware that Sierra nearly folded back in 1983-4. They had a disastrous Christmas where they issued lots of products for the Atari 2600 that no one bought. After Christmas, they had millions of returns. The company had trouble making payroll, let alone funding new games. They laid off people until there was only a few programmers left. We actually created The Black Cauldron game in the game room of Ken's house. Mark Crowe (who later worked on Leisure Suit Larry with me), Scott Murphy (who later created the Space Quest series with Mark), and Ken himself sat at a big table writing code. I owed a lot to the Williams.

And then there was Josh Mandel, who has gone on to a certain amount of fame in the game biz. It was wonderful working with him on Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist. Much of the humor in that game was Josh's. We had a wonderful time creating that story. And don't forget Jim Walls, creator of the Police Quest series. Most people probably don‘t know that I was lead programmer on Police Quest I. I worked many long, hard hours with Jim and had a ball doing it.

Bob Heitman was a genius programmer, the man who wrote many of Sierra's tools. And Jeff Stephenson, who created the languages that we used, AGI and SCI. And Mark Siebert who did much of the pioneering work in MIDI music; Mark later became a producer and produced Torin's and Larry 7 with me.

There were many really smart people at Sierra in those days and they all were fun to work with. Maybe that's why the games were fun to play?!

That was a lot more than just 3 people!

I'm sorry. I failed. I just couldn't do it!

Mature or adult oriented humor is often a difficult element to be incorporated successfully into a game. Where did you draw the line when deciding what jokes or satires to be included in Leisure Suit Larry? How worried were you that the media might find the contents excessively raunchy or offensive to unfairly boycott your games?

I think the line that I drew was late night television. I tried to stay current with the U. S. networks in the level of the humor and raunchiness. I was a Saturday Night Live fan and studied the late night talk shows. As that humor got more broad and pointed, so did Larry's humor. Basically, my "line" was always "Can I go home and tell my wife Margaret about this?" If I couldn't, I'd take it out. If she wouldn't like it, other women would be offended as well, so I just didn't put that in. Margaret was my guidance and her influence was important to me because she is a sensitive and modern, liberated woman. If she thought it was funny, it was funny. But if she found it too raunchy, it was too raunchy.

I think using your spouse as a measuring stick is always a good idea. Do you agree?

Of course! Successful marriages are built around that. How do you think I've kept her for 38 years? <grin>

Ken and Roberta Williams had once said that "Sierra had the fortune to be born at ‘just the right time.'" Would Leisure Suit Larry have existed at all if you had got into the industry today? How different was the commercial market and gaming culture of yesterdays compared to nowadays that would have influence the popularity of your series?

Wow, that's a heavy question!

I promise that the questions get lighter!

Well, okay. Here goes.

I think the commercial marketplace today is suffering from the same problems that the big Hollywood studios once suffered from. Hollywood was only interested in making big successful movies that pleased everyone and offended no one. There was a fear of doing something different. The business became "follow the leader:" if giant blockbusters sell, let's all do giant blockbusters. If special effects movies sell, let's all do SFX movies, etc. It was self-defeating because as the films got more repetitious they also got more boring. But then there was a backlash and small independent films appeared. They were successful because they were refreshing and different, with interesting, original ideas.

I think that's where the game business is today. The big publishers, rightfully so, must play it safe. If you're going to spend $10-20 million making a game, it's got to sell huge numbers. Therefore, it must be like another game that's a big hit. But if the only way you determine whether to fund a game is compare it to current games, that guarantees you'll never get anything new.

I was so happy to see Will Wright's new game which has similarities to other games and yet is totally different. I think it will be an excellent test. Will has a lot of power these days, but a person coming into the business now would never get to start a new type of game let alone a series like Leisure Suit Larry. You couldn't start many series today because the publishers are so skittish, afraid of doing anything different. While I understand their logic, it is difficult to watch. I'd love to see games that are unique, unlike anything else out there, and that would only have to sell a few hundred thousand copies to be successful. I only know of one: Katamari. It was a cheap game to produce, and while it didn't sell millions, it did make money and so they are going to do a sequel. But if we were starting out today, it would be really tough to do something original.

Let us talk about what you have done since Sierra On-Line. What other game projects had you been approached with since your departure from Sierra On-Line in 1999? What would it take for you (aside from money, of course) to get involved again with making another game, particularly given the current difficult commercial market for adventure games?

Many people approached me to do a fan game for fun, like "Hey, Al, why don't you write a game and I'll do the programming?" but I am not interested in that. Once you have been at the top of the hill, had the best tools, the best artists, and the best programmers at your disposal, it doesn't sound fun to start over with nothing. I lived through the "bearskins and stone knife" period of games. That no longer interests me.

But, that said, I would love to do another game. I doubt it would be an adventure game, though. For some reason, the adventure game market did not continue to grow and evolve as computers became more powerful. Instead, it shrank. It is a difficult world out there for a pure adventure game these days. While Syberia is a good exception to that rule, there are not many others.

So if not an adventure game, what? I'd love to do a game that is a hybrid with aspects of the game genres I love—more action, more platforming, more exploration, but not so much fighting, and in full 3-D, of course. I love to have a chance to bring humor to a new type of game. Who knows? Maybe some day I'll find someone willing to fund it. It would be fun, wouldn't it?

You fans would be disappointed to hear that you might not be interested in doing adventure games anymore!

While I'd be interested in doing another adventure, I'm just not certain that there are enough sales to warrant development of new adventures. That's the problem. Your site's title is an indication of that itself: "Adventure Classic Gaming." By adding the word "Classic" you admit that this is something of a certain era. I agree completely.

I've said before that adventure games were perfect for their time because back when adventure games were most popular you had to be a puzzle solver. In order to play DOS games, to set up config.sys files, to alter autoexec.bat files, to add sound drivers, video drivers, and all that, you had to be a problem solver! I think that's why problem- and puzzle-solving games were popular. And you had to be a typist. In DOS, you had to type everything through the command line. That went away with Windows, so the point-and-click adventures fit that new era. So, there you go. No offense intended.

No offense taken! Thank you for plugging our site in your answer! In 1999, you launched Al Lowe's Humor Site. PC Magazine, in 2004, named it as among the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without." What was your motivation or inspiration for creating such a site? Along with the site, you had also maintained a free daily email subscription called CyberJoke 3000™. How did you come up with this name and your seemingly endless source of materials?

Is that actually a question?! <grin>

When I started the site, I had no idea what I was going to do with it. All I knew was I had always collected jokes and humor from the very first time I got online. My first online experience was in 1978 on a 110 baud (not 110Kb!) acoustic coupler modem, the kind where you stick the telephone receiver into two rubber cups. Even then, people always traded jokes with me, which I collected and saved in a continually growing file. These jokes were always around when I was writing games, so I often added a comedy club to disseminate them.

When I retired, I started a joke mailing list. It needed a name and since CyberSniff 2000 got a lot of laughs in Larry 7, I called my joke list "CyberJoke 3000™." Over six years and 3,000+ jokes later, it's bigger and stronger than ever and is now self-supporting. By that I mean, its members send me enough jokes to keep it going every day. I've always enjoyed sharing jokes; now I get to do it every day, online.

My web site was different. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it. I just knew I wanted to share the humor I loved. Little did I know! There's the old saying about "as ye sow, so shall ye reap." That's what happened. I sowed a few humor seeds and have received hundreds of times more than I gave. In hoping to share a laugh with people, I've received many more in return!

Both the web site and the joke list are totally free so if anyone wants to join, I'll give them double their money back if they're not satisfied!

It is great to hear such success in the response to your site and mailing list. As you may know, Al, your fans are both loyal and very obsessive. For your fans, what is a typical day like if we step into the shoes of Al Lowe?

You will be wearing socks, right?

Notwithstanding any hygiene issue, of course!

Well, okay then. I enjoy sharing time with my family and friends. I'm involved in many activities, but music is still important to me. I have a 16-piece big band that rehearses every Thursday night and performs (but only if no one tries to tell us what to play! <grin>). I'm active in several hobbies. I do volunteer work. I maintain websites for different non-profit organizations. I play a lot of golf, badly. I read, mostly non-fiction. I watch lots of movies; I'm proud of seeing every film on the American Film Institute's top 100 movies list. I have a good time. I cannot understand how anyone could think retirement would be boring.

iBase Entertainment, a development studio which you co-founded in 2005, just announced the development of Sam Suede: Undercover Exposure at this year's E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). Without giving too much away, what is this game about? What is "Ecstasy Island Mystery Week"?

The short and thorough answer is to visit www.iBaseEntertainment.com where we post everything about the game.

But in a nut shell, the game is the story of an average guy who signs up for a week's vacation at a fantasy camp for mystery and detective story lovers called Mystery Week on Ecstasy Island, a lush tropical resort. While there, a real murder takes place and Sam is called upon to help solve the crime. During the course of the game's many plot twists and turns, he turns from a wannabe into a real detective.

As the director and screenwriter, you described Sam Suede: Undercover Exposure as an "action comedy" but not an adventure video game. What kinds of gameplay (such as puzzles) and character interaction can gamers expect from this game?

It's not an adventure game in the classic sense of the word, like King's Quest or Leisure Suit Larry were, although anyone who played Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail! will recognize the way we handle character conversation with dialog topics and trees. Picture the common action game, but with humor instead of violence. There will be plenty of puzzles even without inventory manipulation.

For what platforms is Sam Suede: Undercover Exposure being developed? How far along is the development at present?

It's planned for "next generation" consoles and PC, but will also be available on current general consoles. We anticipate another year of development, so we're saying "sometime in 2007."

That is just great! One last question, Al. What can we look forward to from you over the next 5 years?

Gosh, my perfect answer would be: a new game in a new genre that would still make people laugh.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you, Al. All your fans and I are eager to hear more about you and Sam Suede: Undercover Exposure in the near future.

Thank you. It's been a pleasure for me, too. In closing, I'd like to encourage your readers to drop by www.allowe.com and subscribe to CyberJoke 3000™ before I give up on that "double your money back" guarantee!

• (2) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink