May 13, 2008 at 8:12 am #21264
isnt there a market for a book about the company and all their games? this would be fantastic. if i have access to the archives, id love to create it myself
May 13, 2008 at 11:37 am #21265
There actually is a bit of a book about the early days at Sierra: Hackers, by Steve Levy. It sold VERY well.
I doubt another book, about the company in the later years, would sell well. Sierra is fairly well forgotten at this point. It’s sad, but true…. I’d like to see a book written, but it would be a lot of work with no payoff.
May 13, 2008 at 11:34 pm #21266
I wouldn’t be to sure about that fact.
I just turned 40 and have wondered about how you and Roberta manage to accomplish everything you did.
Not only were you folks gods in my eyes but you seemed to be very nice people even though I never met you and only had snippets of information on who you guys were.
I had played most of the adventure games you wrote and spent many hours in front of my 286, it probably kept me out of trouble:)
I just wanted to let you know that I still think about sierra on line and the games you wrote and how it impacted my life.
It looks to me though that you have found a new adventure with your boat and believe you deserve to relax and enjoy your life, just know that there are still people out here who enjoyed what you and sierra had done and still think about the old days and smile.
May 14, 2008 at 12:41 am #21267
(blush) — thank you!
Actually .. here’s a bit of a fun ‘scoop’ for you… I sent the email that follows to Activision CEO Bobby Kotich last week. They recently announced that they are acquiring what little there is left of Sierra. The following email should be self explanatory:
Greetings. I’m the Ken Williams who founded Sierra. We met a few times a life-time ago.
I understand that in a few months you’ll be owning what’s left of my prior company. My apologies for the idiots who bought the company, and the mess they made of it.
I’ve been a deadbeat since selling the company 10 years ago (mostly boating and traveling the world).
I’m toying with the idea of dropping back in. I’m well set for life, and don’t want to work full time, so don’t worry that I’m looking for a job. Specifically what I’m thinking is that it would be fun to have one small development team, and focus on doing something cool and innovative. I’m thinking small projects that break ground in some way.
For instance, I’d like to think about what kinds of games are possible on the iphone, that really take advantage of the features that are unique to iphone; some sort of platform game. Alternately, I’m still interested in something massively multiplayer. Remember that I did The Sierra Network (TSN was renamed as the Imagination Network) that was on the bleeding edge of multiplayer gaming. I’m not interested in running a big project with a big budget. My preference would be to think if there is something small that could be done with a small team (4-5 people) which can break through because it does something people haven’t seen before. A big budget would be better – but, I’m not interested in managing a big team at this point in my life.
My favorite project is if you get the rights to the old Leisure-Suit Larry line. I’d like to either do some sort of a fun platform game for the iphone using the Larry license (I have some “out there” ideas), or do something massively multiplayer on the PC, like the old Larryland (it was part of TSN).
I realize all of this is stuff that belongs much lower in your organization, and I’m not even 100% certain I want to do it – but, figured if you thought it would be cool to do, you could point me at the right bus-dev guy. The one thing I can guarantee is that I’d do something that would surprise people, or at least not burn through much money experimenting (which could all or partially be mine – I haven’t thought that far ahead).
Anyway, if this sounds like something you think is worth talking about, let me know who to contact, and I’ll do some soul searching to decide how serious I am about getting involved ..and, then make a call.
I honestly don’t know if he’ll write me back or not, and am not sure if I care one way or the other. I do think I could do some cool things, but there’s also a good argument that once you’ve been gone for a decade, you should stay gone. If he calls back I’ll have some serious thinking to do. – Ken W
May 14, 2008 at 9:36 am #21268
Hey your talking like your old(at this point in my life), you probably have another 40 years here.
Look at Steve Jobs he left(or forced out) and came back stronger than ever, so don’t think that you should stay gone unless you want to stay gone.
You know video games have become so mianstream nowadays and accessible to such a diverse age group, when I first started playing your games I was a minority.
Now parents and grandparents are playing games, My wife and my 2 sons, we all play them together.
I wouldn’t be surprized to see a flash version of King’s Quest on the internet nowadays.
I think guys running software corps now have no idea what a good game is and just push crap out with movie tie ins just to make a buck for the stock holders.
Times certainly have changed since you were “running the ship”.
Guys my age, I think really appreciate how far games and hardware has come. I am sure you could do something really interesting with whats out there , you have a great mind.
Do you still do programming or are you just oilling teak and scrapping your bottom?(het that could be a good LSL title:)
I’m sure Mr. Kotick will call, remember you are a rock star and he did produce Guitar Hero.
May 14, 2008 at 10:03 am #21269
Wow. Thanks for sharing. I hope he takes you up on your offer and presents you with something enticing enough to put you back in the saddle. If you were to work again and keep a journal … similar to that of your offshore adventures – that would be priceless reading materials!
May 14, 2008 at 10:06 am #21270
Why not combine MMO and the cell phone? Ok, maybe not MMO in the traditional sense, but something where multiple users could participate in a single game over the network.
A buddy of mine and I were contacted a few years ago to create a true multi-player chess game for cell phones (we essentially offered our services up for free on gamasutra.com for the experience). Players would be able to play chess against opponents anywhere in the world – all on the cell phone. It was a cool idea. I may be showing my ignorance here, but perhaps this concept could be extended to create a game with an endless user base (as opposed to 2 player).
I remember how much of a shock it was trying to develop for cell phones after coming from the MS world of development. There were so many different flavors of cell phones and so many version of Java. The IDE’s were not that great and the debuggers were even worse. It was really a hard time to develop. But now, and especially with iPhone, things appear to be much better. I have actually been creating a little app with Google’s Android SDK for cellphones. Things have improved greatly!
May 15, 2008 at 2:45 am #21271
I truly hope the new CEO of Activision-Blizzard will receive this message, and take this truly to heart. You’re a true pioneer, and one of the souls that made this industry exist in the first place. 🙂
As a member within the organization myself, I’m pretty sure there’s no way I can ensure the message is heard by the addressee. However, this is something I’d like to present to people I can contact myself.
I’ve sent you an email to your seanet account, not sure if you got it. Simple re-cap, you told me ‘If you to succeed, be the best in QA.’ Well, it paid off. 2 years later still reminding myself of those marching orders, I’ve landed an amazing position within Blizzard. The position I’ve acquired comes from the inspiration from the games that I religiously played through many, many years. The games you helped create.
So, again, not sure if this can be passed along to the right people… but I’ll see what I can do. It would be amazing opportunity to have a chance to hear of the ideas you have, and what new ground we could break in today’s gaming times.
May 15, 2008 at 9:49 am #21272
Thank you everyone. If I get a response I’ll post something here. I’ll give it a week or two. Perhaps he is thinking about what to say … or, perhaps the message didn’t make it through the system to him.
The thing I like about the iphone is that it represents something really new. I focused on the iphone becuase it is a portable gaming platform, that is always on the internet. It has a touch screen plus tilt sensors. As has been suggested, I like the idea of some massively multiplayer game using the iphone as the front end. This said, I’d like to think of something “outside the box” to do. I really don’t want to fall into the trap of convincing myself I can do something that has been done 50 times before better than anyone else has done it. My focus will be on “what’s something that no one has thought of doing, that might be possible.” We’ve got a few ideas, but nothing really radical. If Activision says they are interested, Roberta and I will keep pushing until we come up with something fun. Our son Chris has a ton of experience working on cell phones, and is fairly negative. He doesn’t think there is a market and thinks we would be wasting our time. He might be right.. If Activision responds with a “let’s talk”, I’d spend a month or so thinking of something worth doing, that I could get excited about. Both iphone and PC products would be considered. I think anything I do would have a server component. I wouldn’t limit my thinking to just games. The goal is to find new forms of entertainment, and I’m not sure games are the only way to entertain using a internet-connected multimedia device. I wouldn’t rule out a game .. but, I’d really like to think broader than that.
Currently, I’ve got two things keeping me busy: 1) We are very active boaters. We just took our boat from Seattle to Costa Rica, over about a six month time. I’m just wrapping up a book about the trip that should be out within about two weeks. Unless your into boating, it isn’t very exciting – but, check http://www.nordhavn68.com for it to be available. 2) I have a little website maker I’ve been working on with my other son, DJ — http://www.talkspot.com It is starting to generate money, and growing quickly (nearly 25,000 websites!) I had thought it would be a one year project, and now it has stretched for five years, and still isn’t making money. It has allowed me to keep my programming skills current, and been a bunch of fun. I need to keep focused on it so that I can get it to breakeven, which should happen in the next year.
Roberta has been hard at work on a book about the Irish immigration (to the US). She’s always loved history, and has spent years researching the book. Book writing isn’t as “sexy” as building games, but it’s much more practical when you are living on a boat.
May 15, 2008 at 8:33 pm #21273
Well that’s great. I love boating but I don’t own one. I live in Florida so boating here is good.Have you ever been boating here?
My brother has a small 26′ center console. Its older from a long gone builder in Miami, he just put a new v6 mercury on it ,and does about 40.
Setup mostly for fishing so not very comfortable but very fun., not to many things better than a early morning on the water.
The boat is not bad, but twin engines are really the best when is comes to reliabilty and maneuverabilty. I’ve driven some small single engine and some 60′ foot twins with side thrusters and the 60′ are much more enjoyable and easier to handle, I think.
he Florida keys are interesting and we have the intracoastal for showing off your boat, it is always calm on the intracostal.
I wouldn’t say Florida boating is better but I think the West Coast has rougher water and more difficult navigating. But I do recommend I trip down if you have never done it.
May 15, 2008 at 11:17 pm #21274
We haven’t done a lot of boating in Florida, but we have had boats there twice. The first time was when we crossed the Atlantic in 2004. We started across from Fort Lauderdale. Then, last summer we were there with another boat to leave for the Bahamas, where we ran more than 2,000 miles on a little 27′ power catamaran. – Ken W
May 16, 2008 at 10:51 am #21275
“Our son Chris has a ton of experience working on cell phones, and is fairly negative. He doesn’t think there is a market and thinks we would be wasting our time.”
I think this has been the case since the dawn of cell phone games, but I am holding out hope. Perhaps platforms like the iPhone and Android will change things. Surely there are sites out there with sales figures and such for cell phone based games and entertainment? I remember my old way of doing market research was to visit handango.com to see which apps were selling best. 🙂
May 16, 2008 at 8:33 pm #21276
Ken and Roberta,
You are always welcome in Florida!
The only thing I could see great about a cell phone adventure game is that most companies would not want an employee to bring in a desktop computer into the work place. ; )
If you travel the world or hang out South of Florida, I hope you have a great time.
May 17, 2008 at 2:29 am #21277
Back to the subject that started this thread… it appears that a book about Lucasarts is coming!
So maybe we’ll also see a book about Sierra as well, one day. In fact, from the description in the link, that’s exactly the kind of Sierra book I would have wanted to see: an art-book with early concept-sketches and reference material.
May 17, 2008 at 10:41 am #21278
MXoder said: ‘….The only thing I could see great about a cell phone adventure game…’
I doubt that whatever I would do (were I to do something) would have much in common with the old Sierra adventures. They were great at the time, but it has been nearly 30 years since Roberta and I did Mystery House. Adventures were fun at the time, but I don’t think they would work in today’s market, no matter how well done. That said, it depends on the definition of the phrase ‘adventure game’ . I do believe that people still want to role-play as a character in an alternate universe, and that the concept of allowing you to be a knight in an ancient world, or an astronaut in space, is still valid — but, without revolutionary change, the category is dead. Better graphics won’t help.
Roberta and I have discussed some radical ideas in this area, and if ever we sit still long enough we’ll make something happen. My guess is that until we get boating behind us, and I get Talkspot ‘done’ nothing is going to happen (at least not with us). – Ken W
May 17, 2008 at 8:30 pm #21279
If you’re looking for a book about Sierra On-Line I’d recommend High Score. It had a industry wide focus but there was an extensive Sierra On-Line section. It looks to be ‘out of print’ but there are several used copies on Amazon.
The book was co-authored by Johnny Wilson who was the editor of Computer Gaming World when it was still a computer games magazine (and, you know, still existed). I’ve seen Wilson mentioned here and there as a ‘friend’ of Sierra On-Line during the early days and the Sierra section does have a inside feel to it. If you haven’t already, check it out.
May 17, 2008 at 9:01 pm #21280
I would agree with Ken that there is not a market for the early Sierra adventures. But, I must say the market doesn’t know what their missing.
The history of Sierra I would like to read about is Ken Williams, IBM and Windows (aka Bill Gates). The programs created by Sierra after the use of an IBM program mirror the behavior of Windows. There must be a story in that which would interest game programmers and early computer bufs. This was a transition time from MS DOS to Win 3.1.
May 19, 2008 at 8:44 pm #21281
I personally wouldn’t rule out adventure games entirely just yet – they’re definitely not as popular these days as RPGs and FPSs, but Telltale Games has definitely shown that adventure games can still have a valid place in the market. Their new Sam and Max games are doing very well. I think working with online sites like Gamefly/Gametap as a stepping-off point and releasing them in bite-sized pieces really worked out well for them, and the games sell just as well in stores now, too (they even re-released the old Sam and Max graphic novel AND cartoon series thanks to the success of the new games). They proved that there IS still a place out there for a well-crafted adventure game, and also proved that plenty of people are still interested in the old franchises. In my generation in particular (the 20-30 year olds), nostalgia is a huge thing.
*edit* and I even just read that they’re releasing Sam and Max: Season One for the Wii this year, too!
But hey, don’t get me wrong here – I’m not trying to tell you to make an adventure/quest game! If you get the opportunity, you should do whatever the hell you want. I’m just saying it might not be quite right to write off the genre just yet.
Also, if you don’t hear back in a few weeks, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t hear back at all. My partner’s in the business and often complains about the general slow reaction times involved with the higher-ups in most companies these days. It’s often helpful to know someone else in the company that can give them a little kick in the rear occasionally to get things rolling.
May 20, 2008 at 4:42 pm #21282
I think a much more sophisticated Adventure game could still work,
But the hardware may not be up to par with what I envision.
I always was fascinated with 3d and I remember Sega had a pretty descent game that used LCD glasses ,looked really good for the time.
Ken, like you said and I think back to George Lucas’ original movie Adventure, he had the idea and then tried to build the tools needed to get it done.
I used to write c programs in notepad, c to me anyway, is like paper and pencil, meaning you always go back to what works.
Your games were really ahead of thier time in terms of concept, a lot of games today try to make an interactive movie experience.
That could be fun to write a complete interactive game/movie using upgraded technologies, not really video cutscenes but actually interaction between the characters and scenes, with some nudging to help the player see everything the developer or director wants them to.
What did you write your original AGI in? And did you remember how long it took you to finish?
Do you personally own any of the source code from the early early sierra days, ie Mystery House?
May 21, 2008 at 6:04 pm #21283
May 21, 2008 at 6:54 pm #21284
Oh my goodness! The Art of Sierra book looks amazing (I want )! Is it still in production? The site seems to suggest the project was last updated August 2006.