It can be argued that The 7th Guest was responsible for the popularization of the CD-ROM format, as it predates the other pioneering CD-ROM superseller, MYST. The atmospheric horror/puzzle hybrid was a smash hit at a time when CD-ROM drives were not ubiquitous across the PC gaming world. With over 2 million copies of the game sold, CD-ROM manufacturers noted that their sales quadrupled in the aftermath of this game’s release.
The game begins with the background story of how Henry Stauf went from a tramp to a rich toymaker. From there, the player finds himself trapped in an ominous-looking mansion with six other “guests” trying to piece together what has happened to them. Their host, the enigmatic and wicked Henry Stauf, challenges them to a game with the winner achieving his or her heart’s desire. But you are not an invited guest, and the game you must win is for possession of your very soul. Scenes of what has already transpired are shown to you as you solve each of the puzzles, culminating in a final confrontation with Stauf himself, all done in a first-person perspective.
This was a game like no other before it. First, it was BIG. At a time when game companies were packing 1.44 MB of code on multiple 3.5” diskettes, The 7th Guest clocked in over an astounding 770 MB on two CDs. The reason for that massive size was the full-motion video used to propel the player through the mystery, as well as the prologue and epilogue of each puzzle. With superior production quality and professional actors, the game’s cut-scenes were enjoyable to watch.
An interesting feature of The 7th Guest was how the music, composed by George “The Fatman” Sanger, interacted with the story. Each character had its own rendition of “The Game” – the main theme music of the game, which played when that character was on the screen. If two or more characters were on the screen at once, the musical variations were woven together. This led to a heightened mood and better storytelling, and was just one more example of the game’s professional production.
The 7th Guest is legendary for the hype that surrounded its development. From the first demo shown to the gamer masses during the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago in 1992, the anticipation building to its eventual release in 1993 seemed to indicate either that The 7th Guest would be an amazing game or a bitter disappointment. Judging by the sales this title achieved, “disappointment” was not a word used to describe The 7th Guest.
The game’s creators, Rob Landeros (a graphic artist) and Graeme Devine (a programmer for Virgin MasterTronics) followed the success of The 7th Guest with a sequel, The 11th Hour. Although their company, Trilobyte, was initially flush with cash from the success of The 7th Guest, increasing tensions from divergent visions of the company’s future and spiraling production costs exhausted their funds, and eventually their partnership sundered. However, in 2004, another gaming company, Lunny Interactive, announced the reunion of both Devine and Landeros and the imminent development of the long-awaited third game in the series, The Collector. Six years later, the game is merely another vaporware legend, which is really unfortunate, as the gaming world could always use a little more Stauf to play with!