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(re: How to start in the game development world) How did you and your employees start out?

Hmm… is it possible that Ken has never told the story on this site?! But then again, I guess everyone knows it. Here’s the story as it’s told in the article “A miracle from the kitchen” by Roberta Williams in one of Sierra’s 1988 catalogues. For further reading about the early days of Sierra, check out the book “Hackers” by Steven Levy.

“A miracle from the kitchen.”

Sierra didn’t start in a garage like other software vendors. We weren’t born out of a marketing plan or staffed and funded by a major corporation. My husband and I started Sierra on a rickety table, in the kitchen of our small family home. Our first software product began as an evening project. Ken (my husband) and I worked on it together. It was kind of like when we hung the pictures in the den or assembled the family photo albums – I supplied the creative design and Ken did the technical work. It wasn’t until we saw the finished product that we ever thought of trying to sell it. We placed a small ad in a magazine and hoped for the best.

That first software program, a game we called Mystery House, eventually sold over 10,000 copies. It was a hundred times more successful than we ever thought it would be! From that family project, we started a family business now known as Sierra On-Line, Inc.

When we started Sierra, we had no idea how big the computer industry was going to become. We thought computers and software would always be a small industry, of interest only to hackers and hobbyists like ourselves. Well, we were wrong. Our little software business quickly outgrew the space available on our kitchen table, and the operations had to be moved into the den and spare bedroom. But that didn’t last for long. Soon, we had no choice but to move our business to a larger building above the local print shop. Before we knew it, we had occupied three other buildings in town and we continued to grow. With the house (and kitchen table) once again available we created three more bestselling adventure games (The Wizard and the Princess, Mission Asteroid and Cranston Manor) over the next 18 months.

Today, I don’t work out of the spare bedroom anymore (our first house burned down in late 1982). I had to begin designing my adventures at the office in downtown Coarsegold. We hired some extra hands to help us out (about 77 pair at last count) and now our little software company takes up most of the town’s biggest office building. It’s very different from working at home, but the office still has a very “homey” feel to it. We’re all very casual (no neckties or shoes) and everyone gets along. It sounds a little trite, but we really do try to be one happy family. Every time I visit the Sierra offices, I think of a little line my mom used to say when she brought dinner to the table, “Here comes another miracle from the kitchen.” It was her favorite joke. Sierra On-Line is our miracle from the kitchen, and with every new product comes a new miracle. I hope you enjoy them…


Roberta Williams.