68k Macintosh and Sierra AGI games

I’ve been a fan of Sierra games since 1988 when I bought a Tandy 1000SX as my first high school computer and picked up the Sierra Value Pack with Thexder, Helicopter Simulator, and Space Quest II at the same time. So when I first started playing around with old Macs in the late 90s (when they were dirt cheap and easy to find), I quickly found out that the Sierra AGI games were not well supported in the Macintosh world.

UPDATE: 2020-08-11, I was finally able to confirm Dr. Zeissier’s find, Larry 1 AGI 2.06 released Feb 4, 1991 works in 16 colors on 7.5.5 in 24 bit memory mode (partially works in 32 bit memory mode). Only the interpreter was updated all other files are from 1987 with the exception of palette file from early 1988 …. so there “may” be other updated versions of the AGI games out there, or this may be a way to figure out what was changed and make a fix. I’ll be updating this entry in section 3 as I experiment with what the 2.x interpreter versions will or will not work on.

1. Reconstructed the timeline for Macintosh AGI releases

When Sierra first started making their Adventure Game Interpreter (AGI) games available for the Macintosh in 1987, they were originally only available as Black and White (1bit) versions. By reading scans of Sierra’s old newsletters and back issues of MacWorld I’ve been able to piece together an approximate timeline for when the various AGI games were made available…. and when they stopped being produced.

Figure 1: MacWorld, October 1987 review of Space Quest 1: The Sarien Encounter
Figure 2: Sierra’s Newsletter Volume 1 No. 2 Fall 1987 Macintosh Price List (this is the best scan I found so far).
Figure 3: Sierra’s Newsletter Volume 1 No. 2 Fall 1987 announcement that Leisure Suit Larry will be released in color for the Macintosh II.
Figure 4: Sierra’s Newsletter Volume 1 No. 2 Fall 1987 offer to trade in your original copy to get the latest patched version
Figure 5: Sierra’s Newsletter Volume 1 No. 3 Spring 1988 Macintosh Price List, note that Donald Duck’s Playground is no longer listed and the Black Cauldron has been pushed in to the future
  • December 1987, Leisure Suit Larry I v1.0 (b&w and 16 color?) was first listed for sale from MacConnection in MacWorld, with a review in the same issue.
  • January 1988, Kings Quest III (b&w) was first listed for sale from MacConnection in MacWorld
  • Spring 1988, Sierra’s Newsletter Volume 1 No. 3 adds Police Quest I: In Pursuit of the Death Angel (b&w) and Mixed up Mother Goose to Sierra’s price list. (figure 5 above)
  • May 1988, Police Quest I (b&w) was first listed for sale from Programs Plus in MacWorld
  • November 1988, Mixed Up Mother Goose (b&w) was first listed for sale from MacConnection in MacWorld
  • End of 1988, Sierra announced in their 1988 Winter (end of 1988) Newsletter, they would be releasing 16 color (4bit) versions of the previously released b&w games in support of the new Macintosh II (figure 6). They also added several games to their price list (figure 7) for future releases, many of which were not: Kings Quest IV, Police Quest II, the Black Cauldron, and Leisure Suit Larry II were all never released.
Macintosh II owners can now enjoy playing Sierra games that were meant to be seen in living color. Sierra has now completed color conversions of all current Sierra 3-D Animated adventure Games on the Macintosh II. Macintosh II owners will now have the opportunity to choose between black-and-white or color when playing Sierra adventure games.

Sierra's plans include support of color on all future 3-D Animated Adventure Games for the Macintosh II. ALl versions will be shipped in one package that will also support the Macintosh 512, Macintosh Plush, and Macintosh SE computers.

Current Sierra programs to support the Macintosh II in color include the King's Quest series, the Space Quest series, Police Quest, Mixed-Up Mother Goose, and Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. Macintosh II owners can upgrade their black and white copies of Sierra On-Line 3-D Animated Adventures to color by calling Sierra On-Line's Customer Support Division at (209) 683-6858
Figure 6: Sierra’s 1988 Winter (end of 1988) Newsletter Volume 1 Number 4 announcing the creation of AGI Color Games for the Macintosh II (page 7)
Kings Quest IV, Space Quest III, Police Quest II, The Black Cauldron, Leisure Suite Larry II, and 3-D Helicopter Simulator
Figure 7: Sierra’s 1988 Winter (end of 1988) Newsletter Volume 1 Number 4‘s price list for the Macintosh lists the currently available games, and those coming soon. Note: Kings Quest IV, Police Quest II, the Black Cauldron, and Leisure Suit Larry II were never released .
  • Feburary 1989, Space Quest II (b&w and 16 color) was first listed for sale from Programs Plus in MacWorld. MacWorld also had a brief description showing the 16 color version in the same issue (figure 8).
  • March 1989, the Police Quest I color re-release was reviewed in Macworld, along with a review of Space Quest II.
  • April 1989, the new 16 color versions of the original b&w only games are finally advertised for sale by MacConnection in MacWorld. (figure 9)
  • September 1989, GoldRush! (b&w and 16 color) was first listed for sale from MacConnection in MacWorld
  • Fall 1989, Sierra’s Fall Newsletter Volume 2 Number 2 adds Goldrush! and Manhunter I : New York (b&w and 16 color) to it’s price list, the Black Cauldron (never released) was removed from their price list.
  • October 1989, Manhunter I and Silpheed (not an AGI game) were first listed for sale from Programs Plus in MacWorld.
Figure 9: MacWorld, April 1989 lists the color re-releases
Figure 10: Sierra’s 1990 Spring Newsletter Volume 3 Number 1 offer to trade in your original copy to get the latest patched version. The first number is the version, the second is the interpreter.

That’s it, Manhunter II seems to be the last AGI sierra game ever released for the Macintosh. King’s Quest IV, Police Quest II, Leisure Suit Larry II were never released.

Figure 11: Sierra’s Fall 1990 Newsletter’s price list, the last time all of Sierra’s AGI games are listed as available for the Macintosh. Only Space Quest III was eventually released using the SCI interpreter. Kings Quest IV, Police Quest II and Leisure Suit Larry were never released.
Figure 12: Sierra’s Summer 1992 Newsletter Volume 5 Number 2 price list for Macintosh. This appears to be the last time any Macintosh AGI games are listed for sale by Sierra.

2. 32-Bit QuickDraw killed AGI?

Figure 13: Example of the 16 color issue with Macintosh AGI games.

All of the Sierra AGI games that support 16 colors suffer from the same problem, when you try to play them in color on anything other that an early Macintosh II system, you see a screen similar to figure 13 above, making the game unplayable in color.

Based on the response to the issue with 32-Bit QuickDraw (New Mac Users Encounter a Mysterious Phenomenon, page 29), in Sierra’s Summer 1990 Newsletter Volume 3 Number 2, it appears that Sierra’s AGI games were incompatible with changes made when Apple moved from the 24 bit version of Color Quick used by early Macintosh II systems to the 32 bit version built in to ROM starting in the IIci, and all future color Macintosh systems.

What’s not clear to me, with the final sale of some games 2 years later in 1992 (figure 12) , did Sierra fix the problem, or did they try to sell off games they knew wouldn’t work on newer color Macintosh Systems? See section 3, it appears the problem was fixed, at least for Larry 1, now just need to see if it was fixed for anything else.

I remember seeing the figure 13 issue so I know Sierra was aware of it.  It had to do with copying bitmaps, which would obviously change between 24 and 32 bit.  It was 30 years ago and I don’t remember if a fix was rolled out for AGI.

John Hartin, one of Sierra’s Mac programers, I tracked him down through Linkedin

So far I haven’t found a color version that works on anything other than a Macintosh II system... but someone else appears to have Space Quest II 1.51 running in color on a Quadra 700, the copy appears to be from the Macintosh Garden, and the Quandra appears to use 32-Bit QuickDraw? I’ve tried this same version on my LC475 and experienced the issue shown in figure 13, so I’m not sure why this works on the Quadra 700 but not on other systems? Update 2020-08-11, it could be that the AGI interpreter was updated, but the game version stayed the same. That appears to be the case for the “fixed” Larry 1 release. See section 3.

At the moment, your best bet to play a Sierra AGI game in color on a Macintosh is either a real Macintosh II (pre IIci), the mini vMac Macintosh II build, or to play the Apple II versions, on a compatible 68k Macintosh, using an Apple IIe emulator card, or Apple II emulation software.

In the future perhaps someone with more time then I have might patch this issue, or create a Macintosh 68k version of Sarien or ScummVM.

3. Fixed? The Macintosh 2.x AGI interpreters

Figure 14: Larry 1, AGI 2.06 on Basilisk II

Dr. Zeissier posted he has found that Larry 1 running on AGI 2.06 works on his LC under 6.08 in 16 colours. I’ve done some of my own testing and confirm that it partially works under Basilisk under system 7.5.5, but crashes if you use the status menu. I tested on my LC 475 and found that I had the same crash as Basilisk under 32 bit mode, but was able to use the status menu when I switched my LC to 24bit mode. So I can confirm Larry AGI 2.06 works in 16 colours on my LC 475, running System 7.5.5 in 24 bit mode.

As more 2.x interpreters versions are found (date stamp 1991), I’ll test them here. I also plan to see if I can determine what was edited between AGI 2.06 for Larry and AGI 1.55 for Larry to see if a patch can be made…

4. Summary table AGI releases for the Macintosh

Game (AGI Interpreter)B/WColor (Mac II)1Version (AGI)
3-D Adventure Demo Disk??? (figure 2)
Black Cauldron, TheNoNoNot released
Donald Duck’s Playground??? (figure 2)
Goldrush!YesYes2.01 (1.78)
Kings Quest IYes (fall 87)Yes (spring 89)2.0C (1.50)
Kings Quest IIYes (fall 87)Yes2.0R (1.50)
Kings Quest IIIYes (fall 87)Yes2.0 (?), 2.14 (1.52)
Kings Quest IVNoNoNot released
Leisure Suit Larry IYesYes1.0 (?), 1.05 (1.55), ? (2.06)
Leisure Suit Larry IINoNoNot released
Manhunter – New YorkYes (fall 89)Yes (fall 89)1.22 (1.79)
Manhunter – San FranciscoYes (spring 90)Yes (spring 90)
Mixed-up Mother GooseYes (fall 88)Yes1.57
Police Quest IYes (spring 88)Yes (spring 89)
Police Quest IINoNoNot released
Space Quest IYes (Fall 87)Yes (spring 89)1.5D (?), 2.2 (1.64)
Space Quest IIYes (spring 89)Yes (spring 89)2.0F (1.73)
  1. There appears to be 2.x release of AGI that fixes the palette problem, currently the only confirmed copy is Leisure Suit Larry with AGI Version 2.06, coded by Mark Lanbehn of Fairfield Software.

The version numbers (and AGI interpreter version) in this table is based on the upgrade tables shown in Figure 4 and Figure 10, any mentions of versions in product reviews, and versions in my own collection.  I’m still going through my collection using the Macintosh II emulator so I can actually load the games…. many crash on load on my LC 475.

6 thoughts on “68k Macintosh and Sierra AGI games

  1. Great work, Steve. It appears that various games were slated for different platforms at one time or another, but ultimately never panned out. I saw in one order form that QFG4 was intended to have a Mac version, but I have never found any evidence outside of that order form. These examples you show here seem to be a similar situation.

    I’d love to see something similar to see how many SCI games (of the various different versions of that engine) were ported to the Mac. SCI0 had very few Mac conversions, but Sierra did much better in the early half of the 90s.

  2. I’m a lifelong fan of Sierra games, after being introduced to the King’s Quest series when I was a child. It’s interesting to learn some of the history behind this storied company. Thank you for putting this post together.

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