(re: About Mask of Enternity….) Thank you!
KQ8 is a wild story.
KQ8 was in development at the same time that the company was sold. Basically, Sierra went through changes during the development of the game, and those changes are reflected in the game. During the first half of the game, I was the CEO – during the last half of the game my status shifted to “reasonably nice guy who used to work here”. My way of doing things was different than the new way of doing things.
My #1 issue was always to maintain the “clarity of vision” of the game designer. A Sierra project, like KQ8, has nearly a hundred highly creative people on it. Many of these people were working at Sierra because they wanted their shot to be a game designer. It was not uncommon for everyone on a project to seek opportunities to “put their mark” on the game. This is a delicate issue. I recruited people who could be designers, and I was a huge supporter of creativity. Roberta wanted ideas from the team, but at some point, if you accept too many ideas, the product can become a muddy mess. There were dozens of people on KQ8 who could have been the designer, any of which would have made a great designer. But, unfortunately, if this tendency, on the part of developers, to add their creativity to a product, isn’t carefully controlled, the product starts to veer into “design by committee”. Roberta had her vision for the product, as did almost every person on the project.
When I lost control of Sierra, Roberta’s ability to maintain her control over KQ8 was also eroded. The product that shipped is very different than what would have shipped had the company not been sold.
There was another issue at work on KQ8. Roberta is a perfectionist (I’m guilty of the same sin). Whenever she would play the game, she would turn in lists of hundreds of “bugs”. Perfectionist can be a pseudonym for nit-picker. When a development team gets a long list, the natural tendency can be to look at some bugs as nit-picky. I always supported my designers. I wouldn’t let a game go until the designer was happy (with a couple of exceptions that I regretted later), even when it seemed like we were spending lots of money to fix stuff no one cared about. It was critical to me that the game our customers played represented the game our designer wanted produced. When I left Sierra, Roberta’s ability to get bugs fixed diminished.
Ultimately, the last year of KQ8 development was a tough one for Roberta. For a long time, she refused to let the game ship and there was threatened litigation floating around.
This is not to say that the game that shipped isn’t a good game. Roberta was reasonably happy with it at the end – but, it reflected a much wider product vision, than Robertas alone. People other than Roberta influenced its development, in a greater capacity than in her previous products. There will be some gamers who see the change as positive, and some who wanted a Roberta product more consistent with her prior products.
There is an example I used to use on this point. One of my favorite authors is: Steven King. I also like Peter Straub. Each alone is a bestselling (mega-selling in Kings case) author. They cowrote a book; the Talisman, which bombed. Either alone could have sold plenty of copies, but together, the whole becomes less than the parts. KQ8 had wonderful people on it. This message should not be construed as being derogatory to anyone (other than that I am definitely critical of the management changes that took place.) My belief is that if the new owners had taken a couple of days to ask about “what made Sierra special” in the days after acquiring it (they could have asked me, or better yet, its customers) before dramatically changing things, things would have gone a lot smoother in the transition.