Reply To: Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings: The Rise and Fall of Sierra On-Line

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Tom Procyk

Dear Mr. Ken Williams,

Thank you for writing this awesome book! I really enjoyed the style and tone which felt like I was having “lunch with Ken.”
Like many, I was a huge Sierra fan growing up and still have my games in their boxes on the shelf in my office, but what really interested me through the years was how Sierra was run as a company. Your article would be the first one I would read in every InterAction magazine hoping I would learn the secrets to success from the master.

Today, I own a “retro tech” shop in Juno Beach, Florida and have run my own company for about 5 years. I learned a lot from your book on how to leverage skills to grow a company. (And it was a lot of fun reading it!)

What I took from the book:

– How to recognize (and be) AAA talent.

– How to be confident in my decisions based on the information I have at the time. Hindsight is only as practical as time travel.

– Projects never come in on time and on budget, and that’s ok, if they’re great products.

– Being a publicly traded company isn’t fun.


– The Sierra Network / ImagiNation

I was a member of this amazing creation, and I could tell from reading your book that you are very proud of it! The interface is incredibly user-friendly, even by today’s standards. Do you feel that seniors (for whom TSN was originally created) have been left behind in today’s on-line world? Would a “Constant Companion” connected device (like a tablet) for seniors be more practical now than it was originally?

– The Sierra Multimedia Club

My memory is very fuzzy on this one, but I remember signing up for it and I still have the letter from John Williams in 1995 saying it was canceled and money refunded. As I recall, it was supposed to be a quarterly CD-ROM sent along with InterAction. Do you remember this project?

– Labels and packaging decisions

On Page 202 is a picture of a disk with a caption talking about label styles. This is an area that always intrigued me, and I was hoping to learn more about the decisions behind disk labels and packaging changes since you mentioned how you had to “see everything that the customer will see.”

The famous label with the full color picture of half-dome was used up until about 1990, and then Sierra changed to the white labels with the three color stripes. About the same time, the game boxes changed to the thicker style.

I’m assuming the labels with the picture were very costly, was that the main reason for the change?
As for the game boxes, did they get thicker to accommodate more disks, or to have more space for screenshots on the spine? (or both?)

What kind of considerations were made on the production and cost of all the physical things that went into a Sierra game? (Manuals, maps, the Space Piston and PlaySpy magazines, etc.) Were the extras considered part of the game design and thus, up to the designer? It seemed to me that Sierra spared no expense in that area. That attention to detail made Sierra the Disney of computer games.

I have more questions, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Thanks again and all the best on your future voyages!

Tom Procyk

**Interlude: A quick story**
In 8th grade English class we had to pick a CEO of a company whom we would “like to be” and write a paper about it, and I chose Ken Williams of Sierra On-Line! When I read it in front of the class, most of the kids were confused but the Sierra fans were grinning from ear to ear.