Sierra's Creative Interpreter
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Sierra's Creative Interpreter (SCI) is the scripting language created by Jeff Stephenson of Sierra On-Line for its adventure games after the older Adventure Game Interpreter (AGI), and the runtime environment for such adventure games.
Although continuously developed between 1988 and 1996, five major versions can be isolated:
First used for King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella in 1988, SCI0 (0.000.xxx) allowed for 320×200 graphics with 16 colors as well as a music-card compatible soundtrack. It also supported parser-based keyboard input which a game could be scripted to use if it wishes to do so (non-adventure games usually didn't).
Games using SCI0 (in order of release):
- King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella
- Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places)
- Police Quest II: The Vengeance
- 1988 Christmas Card
- Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon
- Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 1
- Quest for Glory: So You Want to Be a Hero
- Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals
- The Colonel's Bequest
- Codename: Iceman
- Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail
- Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 2
- Mixed-Up Mother Goose (Version 1.011)
Later versions of SCI0 added bilingual support for international versions; their version string reads "S.OLD.xxx". Games include:
- King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown (1990 remake)
- Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon (international versions)
- Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals (international versions)
- Jones in the Fast Lane (disk version)
The last SCI0 game, Jones in the Fast Lane, already used the graphics engine from SCI1 and thus was available in a 256 color version.
Released in 1990, the most notable improvement in SCI1 (1.000.xxx/T.A00.xxx) was the support of 256 color graphics, still at a resolution of 320×200; EGA 16 color graphics were still available (games were usually sold in separate 16 and 256 color versions). Some people prefer to call the 16-color SCI1 interpreters "SCI01". With the shift to SCI1, Sierra began using a digitized painting process for background artwork, rather than the pixel-by-pixel process of previous engines: the difference is readily apparent if one compares, for example, King's Quest 4 against King's Quest 5.
Most SCI1 games are completely mouse-driven, using an icon-based interface; contrary to popular thought, it is up to the game's script code, not to the interpreter, to implement the user interface. For example, even though Quest for Glory 2 is parser-driven and King's Quest 5 is mouse-driven, they use compatible interpreters, as it is possible to use the interpreter from QFG2 with the EGA version of KQ5.
The version numbering scheme is somewhat confusing for the reason that the third number in the version string (the build number) has only three digits, even though four are needed. For example, the game Space Quest 4 Version 1.052 ships with an interpreter labeled "1.000.753", whereas the game Conquests of the Longbow Version 1.0 ships with an interpreter labeled "1.000.168"; nevertheless, the latter interpreter is newer because the build number is actually 1168, not 168. Also, in some cases the "1.000" is replaced with "T.A00", which however does not indicate a separate development fork.
SCI1 games include:
- 1990 Christmas Card - The Seasoned Professional
- Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire
- Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 3
- King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! (disk version)
- Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (enhanced remake)
- Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (disk version)
- Mixed-Up Mother Goose (CD-ROM version)
Interpreters with build numbers >1000 have slightly modified file formats and improved foreign language support (resulting from a code merge with SCI0's S.OLD fork), but are otherwise like earlier SCI1 versions. Games include:
- Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work
- EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus (disk version 1.0)
- Jones in the Fast Lane (CD-ROM version)
- King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder (CD-ROM & international disk versions)
- Mixed-up Fairy Tales
- Police Quest III: The Kindred
- Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter (enhanced remake)
- Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (international versions)
- Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood
- Castle of Dr. Brain
Apart from considerable internal changes, SCI1.1 (1.001.xxx) added support for animated movie sequences (first used in KQ6) as well as scaling sprites: characters would become smaller as they walk into the distance, giving a pseudo-3D effect. (The interpreters from some early SCI1.1 games bear a "2.000.000" version stamp; this is most likely an inconsistency which should be ignored.)
Separate 16-color packages were no longer available; EGA owners instead would be presented a 640×200 graphics display that simulated 256 colors via dithering.
- 1992 Christmas Card
- EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus (disk version 1.1, CD-ROM version)
- EcoQuest II: Lost Secret of the Rainforest
- Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist
- The Island of Dr. Brain
- King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
- Laura Bow: The Dagger of Amon Ra
- Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! (disk and low-res CD-ROM version)
- Mixed-Up Mother Goose (Version 2.000)
- Pepper's Adventures in Time
- Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel (enhanced remake)
- Quest for Glory I: So You Want to Be a Hero (256 color remake)
- Quest for Glory III: Wages of War
- Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (CD-ROM version)
- Space Quest V: The Next Mutation
Often called SCI32 (along with SCI3), SCI2 (2.xxx.xxx) runs in 32-bit mode by using the DOS/4GW extender or by running it in Windows 3.1's Enhanced Mode. Most notable is the support of high-resolution 640×480 graphics, as well as better movie support. There are two known revisions, 2.000.000, and 2.100.002. Games include:
- Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
- The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery
- King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride
- Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! (hi-res CD-ROM version)
- Mixed-Up Mother Goose Deluxe
- Police Quest: Open Season
- Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness
- Space Quest 6: The Spinal Frontier
- Torin's Passage
The last version, SCI3 (3.000.000) could not only run under DOS or Windows 3.1, but also natively under Windows 95. Games include:
- Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail!
- Lighthouse: The Dark Being
- Phantasmagoria II: A Puzzle of Flesh
Non - SCI
Some Sierra games used SCI resources, such as graphics and sounds, but did not use the SCI script interpreter itself. Games include:
ScummVM is an open source collection of adventure game engines that is able to run all 16-bit SCI games (i.e. SCI0 - SCI1.1). ScummVM does that using the SCI engine, a large part of which has been integrated from the older and now withdrawn FreeSCI project. FreeSCI was able to run the older SCI0 games. ScummVM is a superset of FreeSCI, and is able to run all 16-bit SCI games on a large variety of platforms, including Linux/Unix, Microsoft Windows, Dreamcast, and GP32.
SCI editors can be used to uncover unfinished game elements that had been concealed in the game's resource files by the developer during the game's development. These hidden resources include unfinished artworks, puzzles, scenery, voiceover or music recordings as well as gags inserted by the development team. Examples of game titles from which such hidden resources have been uncovered include King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! (SCI1.1), Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (SCI1.1), (SCI1.1), King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride (SCI2), Shivers and Space Quest 6: The Spinal Frontier (SCI2).
- Beebe, Jess (2008-08-18). "Resource Quest: hidden treasures in Sierra's adventure games". Adventure Classing Gaming. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- "Shivers: looking for hidden items".
- The success of Sierra's Creative Interpreter (SCI)
- FreeSCI homepage at the Wayback Machine (archived October 7, 2007)
- The SCI Programming Community
- SCI Studio: The Complete SCI Game Development System
- The Ultimate AGI & SCI Web Site at the Wayback Machine (archived October 12, 2009)
- Modern installers for the Sierra AGI and SCI games
- Updates to run SCI3 based games on XP/Vista
- ScummVM homepage