Reply To: The old days

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To be honest, I don’t think thre will ever be another company like the old Sierra (for good or bad). Sierra became what it was more out of circumstance and location then any deliberate formula.

For one, Sierra was small to start. Everything happened in one place from the first inkling of a game design to the final loading of finished product onto a truck. All said, about 200 people that all worked in one place made the games happen from start to finish. That just doesn’t happen any more. Many modern games have 200 developers alone, and behind that, a  vast corporate network that funds, manufactures, distributes and promotes the games -usually in far flung dissparate locations.

There is a certain magic that happens when all the hands that touch a product are crammed into one building. A lot of synergy gets built that way.

Couple that with the fact that we were all tucked up into a mountain valley, isolated from the rest of the world. To paraphrase Josh Mandel, we weren’t just working together, we were living together. After hours, by choice or not, you would run into your co-workers whether it was at the movies, a bar, a restaurant, the supermarket -the town was ungodly small!

To say the least, the Sierra of old managed by circumstance to concentrate and distill the talents and energy of a small number of people into those games.

Today, the closest you will find are the independent dev studios, which are btw, getting gobbled up left and right. But even the independents live and die by the decisions of the big publishers. With dev costs rising, and hits far and few between, its a tough environment to work in, let alone thrive.

Sadly, what I saw as a brave new world 15 years ago when I started, has seriously lagged in its evolution. Technically we have come a long way, but creatively I think we are mired. Fun, creativity and a sense of wonder can only come from devs free to follow their passion. Unfortunately, publishers have very narrow views on what constitutes potential success and you must stay on that path.

The one hope I had was that the internet and wide access to broadband would make it possible for independents to bypass the publisher and maybe bring back some of that garage dev spirit. It doesn’t seem to have worked that way -at least not yet.

At one time, Sierra defined the genre and therefore could afford to explore it’s potential. But even Sierra fell victim to the market and started churning out formulaic sequel after sequel and produced no new IP. What new IP did get developed, was usually killed in development -usually b/c no one in marketing ‘got it’.

but I ramble…..