Reply To: Questions from Hawaii


ifference. Retirement is tough. You feel like you’re just putting in time. On the other hand, we’re traveling a lot, and I’m playing a lot of golf – plus, I spend a lot of time writing code, which I love. Running Sierra, I never had time to write code. For me, coding is like solving an adventure game. I love the feeling of chasing a tough bug.
*** The early days of Sierra were my favorite, and what I miss most. Towards the end, we had nearly 1,000 employees. Game teams were starting to have 50 to 100 people working on them. Modern games aren’t solo efforts. It takes a team, and once you start having a team, bureaucracy creeps in. I like what I’m doing on my website. I have no pressure to ship anything by a certain date. I work on it when I want, and don’t when I don’t want. If I make progress, I feel good — and, if I don’t, I work harder. There’s no budget, and no revenue projection. It’s just hacking for hackings sake. And, more importantly, I’m confident I’ll come up with something new. It’s just getting started, and pioneering is a little like making sausage (not much fun to watch). Currently, it’s not obvious I’m doing anything that will be interesting, but I’m only in the first 1% of the project. Stay tuned.
Any advice to someone who looks up to you for all these things for the game industry today. One day I would like to be in project management position getting people to work better together and teams to be more effective and make it still a enjoyable and rewarding experience for everyone.
*** Most people aren’t willing to make the commitment to succeed. The secret is: work harder than those around you. It sounds silly, but it’s true. Skip watching tv, wake up early (and work or study) and then go to bed late (after working and studying some more). I’m famous for studying everything I do, to look for ways to use my own time more effectively. The book Hackers makes Sierra sound like a fun place, which it was in the early days — but, that fun almost put us out of business. Towards the end, I had come to understand that Sierra was in a competitive industry and that we would only survive by working harder than our competitors. We certainly had our flaws, but generally, I think we won, while others failed, simply because we worked our butts off.
*** The last part of your question is: “…and make it still a enjoyable and rewarding experience for everyone.” I always complain about expressions such as this. I really tried to focus everyone on building great product, and working harder than our competitors. Enjoyable experiences are something best saved for your family, after you leave work. I tried to send a message to employees that if fun was their goal, they should have plenty of it — but, only after the workday finishes. Sierra’s focus should always be on things that “move the ball forward” rather than distractions. Because of this clear setting of priorities, we won award after award — and, had more fun than anyone. Ultimately, job satisfaction comes from doing great work and succeeding – not from company picnics or small talk at the water cooler. It’s just semantics, but this is an issue I assign great importance to. I had a reputation for being rude, or more accurately stated: brusque. To me, I wasn’t rude, I was just succinct. My goal was to always “cut to the chase, get the facts, and make a decision.” Small talk was best left to those who weren’t out to build a great company. My focus was always on customers, and making sure that we were giving them good value for their money. I always believe that if you take care of customers, they will take care of you. If you start thinking about yourself first, then customers forget you. My needs, and my employees’ needs, were always secondary to our customers needs. Focus on customers above all else.
You stepped out of the boundaries with the release of Kings Quest 4 with a female protagonist. Looking at games today what do see for games that are about culture, richness, and adventure pushing the envelope in new creative ways…rather than finding 60 ways to kill someone with a steroid induced whatever. I don’t really know specifically what I’m asking it’s really a feeling and I’m sure you understand what I mean. I guess there have always been good and bad games but we really don’t remember all the bad games. But I believe Sierra games stood for something good and not for money. You guys cared about the quality and what it would bring to the values you all had, it is evident in the games which I played.
*** The company was partially a reflection of Roberta and I. Neither of us liked shootem-up games, so we didn’t really publish them. We did some games, like Aces over Europe, that did have shooting, but I considered these sims more than just action games. The same with early games like Thexder — I didn’t really put these into the same category with games like Doom. I remember feeling like I was selling out when I made the decision to publish Half-Life, but it was a VERY special looking game, and I liked that it was pioneering the merger of story-telling with an action game format.
Did you have a good Christmas/Holiday season?
*** Absolutely!
*** PS Great questions!
Me Ke Aloha,
Kalani (