To today’s average gamer the name “Al Lowe” might not come with a lot of recognition. However, if you ask a fan of point-and-click adventures from the heyday of Sierra Online, Mr. Lowe is one of the most important designers in the history of gaming. The self-proclaimed “world’s oldest game designer” is the man that created gaming’s most lovable loser, Larry Laffer. The “Leisure Suit Larry” games may have a bit of a racy reputation, but these classic titles are also some of the most beloved titles of all time.
While the series may have taken a bit of a turn after it left Sierra’s hands, vintage “Leisure Suit Larry” has been resurrected from the dead. Replay Games have pulled Al out of retirement and given him a chance to update his original games, and bring them to a whole new audience, on a host of different platforms. In the next few weeks Larry Laffer will be return in “Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded,” a Kickstarter-funded, HD remake of the original game for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android platforms. To celebrate this momentous occasion we asked Al some burning questions about the franchise, the series’ updates, and “Freddy Pharkas,” and more. In return, the always-entertaining Mr. Lowe gave us answers about sex ed, “Monkey Island,” and his account of what happened in “Leisure Suit Larry 4.”
Multiplayer: How does it feel to be working on Larry Laffer again after all these years?
Al Lowe: Who can call this work? This is truly a labor of love!
Multiplayer: Since you’re revisiting these classic games for the first time since they were originally released, has there been any part of them that you were especially looking forward to updating? Perhaps something that’s been broken for all these years, or something that got cut from the original project?
Lowe: There were design choices that I’ve wanted to change for a quarter-century – and now we have! That’s been very gratifying. But the best part is the luxury of “fleshing out” the game. (Oops; I shouldn’t say “fleshing out” – but it’s hard to stop! Oops: I shouldn’t say “hard to stop!”) Anyway, it was a real kick to brainstorm with a great comedy writer like Josh Mandel to come up with new puzzles, characters, and comic situations and then see them implemented so well by N-Fusion Interactive!
Multiplayer: How was it decided to make the original games implicit instead of explicit, leaving the more salacious content to the player’s imagination?
Lowe: At the time the original game was released, it was cutting edge. There was little humor in games, games weren’t set in the present, and no game had a loser as protagonist, let alone a 39-year-old man trying to lose his virginity. With those three things to worry about, who needs to be explicit!?
Multiplayer: How do you feel about how the franchise has changed over the years?
Lowe: The “Larry” series had eight successful, popular and profitable games over a 10-year period. Then it slipped into a dark spell. The best I can say about that is: it’s over. “Leisure Suit Larry” is back where he belongs, with those who created him and made him what little man he is today!
Multiplayer: Larry is often credited as being one of the first titles that gamers of a certain age are especially nostalgic for. Did you think your creation that many years ago would be influential this many years later?
Lowe: Yes, I did. My secret plan was to embarrass the franchise with two sucky games so that everyone would realize just how tough it was to make funny games about sex that had no profanity or overt sex! Seriously? If I had any insight, would I have signed away the intellectual property rights because “it’s easy to come up with fresh characters and new stories!”
Multiplayer: Are there any ideas for the franchise that never came to fruition? Any platforms you would have liked to see the series on that never happened?
Lowe: I’ve always wondered what would have happened had “Leisure Suit Larry” been available on consoles. It’s the kind of game that begs for a big screen in a living room, rather than a small screen on a desk.
Multiplayer: Injecting humor into games seems to be one of the hardest things for game developers to do. Why do you think that is, and who do you think has done a good job of it over the years?
Lowe: Humor is hard. And game humor is even harder. You never know in what order people will see things, so you have to carefully plan your set-ups and punch lines. Personally, I always looked forward to the “Monkey Island” games, the “Space Quest” games, “Sam & Max” and more.
Multiplayer: Where did the original inspiration from Larry come from?
Lowe: One of Sierra’s traveling salesmen loved to come back from road trips and brag to those of us trapped behind monitors for months on end about his female conquests. For a long time, Larry’s last name matched his; it was only when he left Sierra shortly before “LSL1: Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards” shipped that I came up with one more piece of alliteration in the name Laffer.
Multiplayer: As part of this relaunch, Larry will be appearing on mobile devices for the first time. Why do you think Larry works on a mobile platform?
Lowe: Games like “Leisure Suit Larry” work well on mobile platforms because they don’t de-mand twitch responses. You have all the time you need to decide what to do next. And you should really play this game in a relaxed, “explore everything, click every way everywhere” mode. We’ve buried a lot of gags, smart ass remarks, and sarcasm in every screen – it’s your job to find it all!
Multiplayer: Which is your favorite of the Larry games?
Lowe: Until “Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded,” it would have been “Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail!” But even that pales next to “Reloaded.” I’m very proud of the job we’ve done and I think gamers will love it.
Multiplayer: You made quite the career change back in the 1980s. Do you ever miss teaching?
Lowe: But I didn’t move too far away from teaching, you know: many guys have emailed me to say that they received their total education on STDs from the hooker and the convenience store in “LSL1: Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards!” That’s a true story, and in addition, I’ve gotten thousands of emails thanking us for making “Leisure Suit Larry” because it taught them to speak English (we didn’t localize any of the early Larry games).
Multiplayer: Do you think this will be your last gaming project, after which you’ll return to retirement, or can we hope from more from the world’s oldest game designer?
Lowe: My hope is that “Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded” is so successful that we get to do it again with another Larry. And again. And again. And…
Multiplayer: Are there still hopes for “Leisure Suit Larry 8”?
Lowe: There sure are. Just watch what happens when we “Reload” all the games.
Multiplayer: How about a chance for a revival of “Freddy Pharkas”?
Lowe: A great question. If we could get the rights to the I.P., I’d love to see “Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist Reloaded”!
Multiplayer: Will the full story of Larry’s adventures in “Leisure Suit Larry 4” ever be told?
Lowe: Yes, of course. Here it is: