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Al Lowe is 'fleshing out' the Leisure Suit Larry remake

Gamasutra talks to original Leisure Suit Larry creator Al Lowe about Replay Games' crowdfunded remake: How does one revisit a classic and please fans old and new? Is there a place for Larry in today's world?
Leisure Suit Larry In The Land of the Lounge Lizards, the 1987 PC game that launched Sierra's classic series about a lovable loser trying to meet women, is getting a PC, Mac and mobile remake thanks to Replay Games, and a successful kickstarter, which just finished beating its $500,000 goal. What's more, original creator Al Lowe is on board to supervise and direct the project, rejoining the games industry in a hands-on capacity for the first time since he announced his retirement in 1998 (if you don't count the brief stint for 2006's unfinished Sam Suede: Undercover Exposure.) He says Replay president Paul Trowe is about the biggest longtime fan of Sierra adventures there could be; as a passionate young teen he became a beta tester for the company, and ever since its sale and progressive dissolution in the late 90s, Trowe has aspired to own the old licenses. Many of Trowe's Replay staff are also former Sierra employees, says Lowe. "It took him years of negotiations and effort, but he got the rights," Lowe explains to Gamasutra. When Trowe went to Lowe to gauge his interest in the Leisure Suit Larry 1 remake, "I said heck yes!" "I thought I'd love to bring the games up to date and do a version that will run on mobiles and tablets, and corrupt a new generation of gamers," he laughs. But the process of updating a late-80s keyboard adventure for modern platforms -- and to do so with funding from many longtime, diehard fans who doubtless have strong memories -- is a more complex proposition than the simple "remake" concept might appear to entail. "We plan to revise the UI, to make the point-and-click part of the game be very seamless... you'll be able to move around in the world much more easily," Lowe says. And new graphics mean Larry's world -- from the seamy Lefty's bar to its highrise casino hotel and every sketchy love nest in between -- can be both drawn and written in more detail than back in the day. "The more details we have in the environment, the more chance there is to put in funny lines and entertain you," says Lowe, a passionate humorist who released a jokes app on iOS back in 2009. "If a scene is relatively finely detailed, that means there's a lot more things to look at and do," he adds. Yet old-school favorites -- and crowdfunding in particular -- come with an incredible mandate of expectation. It's important to update and streamline games on new platforms, and potentially even to add new jokes and new content, but that also risks alienating hardcore purists and longtime fans. "We had 2500 comments on our kickstarter page, and 14,000 people have voted with their money, so we are listening to their comments," says Lowe. "They're our publishers now." "We really want to please people," he adds. "And you can't please everyone, so what we plan to do is keep many of the same puzzles and twists and things that you know from the past." "But we plan to... I hate to say the phrase, 'flesh it out,' but!" laughs Lowe. "We do plan to expand not only the interactivity, but we're going to add another woman that you meet and encounter. There'll be more puzzles, more locations, and for the first time, we'll be able to add the voiceover that made Larry 6 and 7 so much fun to play. A more complicated question deals with the modern audience for a game like Larry. Its irreverent story about a timid, slightly sleazy loungemeister looking for easy relations was pleasantly rebellious in the 1980s' Wild West of slightly madcap individual programmers and designers. But the modern games landscape has become increasingly sensitive to demonstrating inclusivity and progressivism in its journey to mature in the eyes of wider culture. What about people who will take issue with Leisure Suit Larry's ladykiller ways? "I think those people will be quite happy playing another game," suggests Lowe. "And I think people would be very unhappy if we changed to a politically-correct storyline... we have no plans to do that." And while Larry was controversial in its own way back in its own day, "the only censorship that I faced was self-censorship," Lowe says. "The one thing that we were insistent on was [making it] clear it was not a children's game." Now, as the 25th anniversary of Leisure Suit Larry approaches, Lowe and the Replay team currently plan to make the first engine and its data stream to do the first remake -- and then, if it turns out there's more, the tech will be in place. "We kind of invented episodic content, although we put it in separate boxes," says Lowe.

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