Reply To: Questions from Hawaii


(Re: Questions from Hawaii) My answers are embedded — prefaced by ***
-Ken W
From: Sierra On-Line Fan Site []
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 8:00 PM
To: (

Subject: RE: join (somebody is on mushrooms)
I knew someone was on mushrooms. Well at least we’re getting some list activity.
So I should start taking advantage of the opportunities of this list and ask you some questions. What made you want to this?
*** Do what? Start Sierra? Roberta and I were kids at the time, with romantic notions of living in a log cabin in the woods. It had more to do with leaving Los Angeles, and moving to the mountains, than with making money. Sierra was started as a way of moving to the boondocks, where there were no computer jobs.
How did you and Roberta meet
*** in high school. Roberta was dating a friend of mine.
and how long where you together when you had the idea lets make a game together.
*** We were married, and I was working as a programmer. Roberta had the idea to do our first game (Mystery House) after seeing a text adventure game on a mainframe computer I was working on. She talked me into programming an adventure game with graphics. She did the design and the art. I did all the code.
What were those early days like? (I know you’re sick of this question, but I’d really like to know)
*** We had no idea the company was going to be big — to us it seemed like the fulfillment of a dream. Our goal had been to find something that would allow me to quit my job in Los Angeles and buy a small log cabin in the woods. When I quit, I thought that we were going to just retire to the woods, and write computer games. I remember us specifically saying that our goal was to someday make $10,000 per year. I think we did that our second month.
I’m still learning. Being from Hawaii myself one thing I see is the Hawaiian language being lost along with the beauty of the culture as Walmart, Starbucks, and Home Depot move in to mainstream us into another resort community. I hate it.
Having a Hawaiian game would be wonderful. One of the things that Sierra did for me as a child through its text adventure games is it gave me excellent verbal and written communications skill and good vocabulary and spelling.
I’m in the midst of designing a scripting engine and parsing system similar to Sierra’s. I’m tempted to create it with AGS but I want the challenge of doing it myself from scratch. I’m doing it in Hawaiian with basic vocabulary like the text commands in Sierra’s early games. This is both a intellectual challenge and a wonderful opportunity which is putting me in touch with my native culture and its original and mostly lost language. Even if I failed in it I would learn much in the process about my culture. Though I am determined to succeed.
*** Cool! Lucas did one game which used a non-conventional parser (Loom) — they tried using music as a mode of communication. What you’re discussing could be interesting.
I got into this because I wanted to make games. It seems along the way I realized I could make a much bigger contribution. I will enjoy all of my endeavors and opportunities.
*** Games are best when the person building the game is passionate about what they are doing. If it becomes a job, the game will not be good.
I’m trying to pull in from Hawaiian legends and stories much in the same way as Roberta pulled from Fairy Tales. But have my own line of character development and plot that links in this things to bring the culture into it.
I visited Oakhurst this Christmas and boy was it a trip. I hadn’t been there for almost seven years. It is gorgeous, peaceful, and quiet. It has a good feeling about it. And Yosemite is breathtakingly gorgeous and driving up there in the snow was an experience I will never forget. I even learned that chains/cables don’t go on the back tire. After 40 minutes of trying to get them off I got them on the front tires and I was good to go. HAHAHA!!
Running in snow meadows with my girlfriend, having a beer with a snowman…it was a good trip.
So do you still live up there? I don’t see why you would want to leave (other than the cold and the lack of much of anything up there) but it’s almost perfect otherwise. And It was the most beautiful new thing I can say I’ve ever remember being up in Yosemite in the snow.
*** No – we had to leave the area in order to keep growing the company. We’ve thought about going back, but that would feel like we were moving backwards. We always like to do new things, rather than doing something we’ve done before – no matter how good it was.
So my questions I guess are:
Do you still live in Oakhurst or are you in warmer weather now?
*** Currently, we primarily live in Mexico. It’s normally warm here, but not today … it feels like Seattle! (which is where we usually live when not here in Mexico)
What problems do you see with the game industry today?
*** I’ve been out of the game industry for seven years — I don’t know much about it now. My sense is that not much has changed, which is the #1 problem. The industry should reinvent itself to keep things interesting. I don’t think it is doing that.
What are you perceived solutions?
*** Some problems solve themselves. Someone out there is working on something innovative as I type this. I don’t know who they are, or what it is — but, it will surprise us, and give the industry a new sense of direction. It’s been too stagnant too long. Someone needs to shake up the business.
What made you want to start?
*** My quest for a programming job I could do from where I wanted to live. For Roberta though, it was a chance for her to do something creative. She felt like she was born to do adventure games, and really misses doing them.
How did you and Roberta meet and how long where you together when you had the idea lets make a game together.
*** Already answered
What were those early days like?
*** Already answered
Would you like a website so you don’t have to answer this question so much? I’d do it for free.
*** I have a website!!!! You must have found it, or, I wouldn’t be reading this email!
Project management in Game Development – will you ever write a book?
*** Me? Write a book? Nah…. Well … maybe. I’ve thought about it. Maybe someday.
I think you’re one of the best out there. Put me down for 10 copies if you do. I remember someone asking you this before and you said no – that writing books is just not something you do – so you don’t need to answer this question…I’m just trying to kick you into doing it because I want to read it and learn from you…so ignore me I’m a rude ass 😛
*** Grin!
I hope there are nothing but smiles on your face in these retirement days. What are some of the joys/pains of not being in the game industry today?
*** I miss being part of the action. I miss feeling like I’m making a d