January 12, 2005 at 1:02 am #27380
This should be good for some debate. Overall, who would you say had a better run of adventure games or brought more to the table?
Don’t get me wrong, I love both companies work and I’m sure that the LucasArts games would not have been made possible without Sierra blazing the trail. I own pretty much all of both companies adventure games. I am very curious whether the majority values the innovative strides taken by Sierra over the fine honing of the conventions done by LucasArts. I’m also extremely curious whether Roberta or Ken ever played any of their competitor’s games and what they thought of them. (homage? slap in the face?)
The merits I see of Sierra games are:
1) They are logical. (very helpful in developing and testing one’s problem solving skills)
2) They were first/innovative. (Sierra was years ahead technologically and alweays pushing forwards)
3) They were serious. (although now, I do not find Police Quest nearly as serious as I once did)
4) They had a parser interface which allowed more complex problem solving. Note: This often did not actually create complex puzzles to solve, but allowed users to more creatively think about solutions to those problems that they would not have been an option with icons. (and taught typing)
5) Sierra survived longer. (many and a wide variety of adventures were created)
6) Death meant you had to be careful. (I never lost a term paper because I saved every 20 seconds)
7) Almost every game was a good concept. Some, like Gold Rush!, Gabriel Knight, Hero’s Quest, and Police Quest were truly great concepts. Even Manhunter, which I would say had some very bad implementation problems) was a very strong concept.
8) They had very good audio that was far ahead of the curve. Many of the games have unforgettably catchy audio that sticks in my mind to this day.
The bad parts of Sierra adventures.
1) The designers were a bit more amateurish – some puzzles were very clever, requiring deductive reasoning, whereas others were nearly impossible. This highly uneven level of difficulty made it hard to tell if a puzzle was worth solving. (If there would be a payoff for being stuck) The Manhunter Series has some notoriously horrific “puzzles”.
2) They died slowly and painfully. The Sierra adventures declined in quality gradually. It seemed like they were being pulled towards others’ visions of the future with the switch to icon based gameplay, FMV, and 3D technologies. These seemed like responses to the rest of the industry rather than Sierra’s own vision for what was best for adventure games. (story telling, puzzling) Sierra’s final days with PQ:SWAT, KQ7, and KQ:MOE could not have been too pleasant a time for most of us.
3) They were made by programmers. It was obvious that many (especially early) Sierra games were made by programmers rather than storytellers. The games sometimes did not have much character development or even follow a story arc. (King’s Quest 2 is a series of strange occurrences and a relatively pointless treasure hunt)
4) The visuals do not age well. Many of the games (post EGA) have not aged well. Most of these games, by today’s standards, look mucky, blurry, and sometimes poorly composed.
5) Some were buggy. (out of hunk!)
The merits of LucasArts
1) They require reverse logic. Most of the puzzles were predictibly illogical.
2) No death. (Now I only save every 30 seconds)
3) They had an unbelievably funny sense of humor. (have made the funniest games to date)
4) They had a better understanding of storytelling. (better character development)
5) Their talent knew when to leave. The games went from superb to complete crap. All their talent obviously left at once. This was not a slow death and was very easy on the consumer’s wallet. (we only had to see Monkey Island 4 to understand the crap that must have gone down at Lucas)
6) They had incredible art design/implementation. Many of the VGA games have undeniably attractive art styles that were made to stand the test of time and still look incredible compared to games 10 years later.
7) They had a killer sound crew. These guys not only created some of the most memerable video game music to date, but also greatly innovated in the area of game sound design with the invent of such systems as iMuSE which allowed multiple segways from song to song depending on the player’s actions.
8) Unforgettable Concepts – The insanely creative game concepts may not have been the most welcoming for new, cautious gamers, but none of us will be able to forget the wanna-be pirate, badass biker gang leader of the future, squat grim reaper, or tentacle hell bent on subjegating the human race.
The drawbacks to LucasArts
1) They require reverse logic. This is good and bad (in both categories) as it was kind of a jab/gag about traditional Sierra style games. In my opinion this was kind of a running gag making fun of the Sierra games tendancy to have at least one puzzle who’s solution made very little, if any, sense per game. (as well as jokes about many other perceived flaws) This made the games a bit less approachable than the Sierra counterparts as they almost required a working knowledge of the traditional Sierra games to completely comprehend many jokes. (Postmodernism) This approach, while hilarious for hard core adventure game fans, may have cut off the accessibility for new gamers to enter the market, and probably helped in some small way to kill off the genre.
2) They sometimes didn’t feel quite finished. (End of MI3, length of Full Throttle)
3) They got so good they scared off the competition. I to this day have suspicions that Warcraft Adventures was cancelled because of the quality of Monkey Island 3.
January 12, 2005 at 7:04 pm #27381
Cool topic idea. It’s hard for an adventure fan who appreciates both Sierra and LucasArts to say which they enjoyed more – that would be me. Then again, there are some people who are strongly in one camp or the other.
Another point for the Pro LucasArts is that their animations were amazing. Their games had tons of animation and it really brought their games to life.
Pro Sierra I would add the awesome documentation and extras that came with most of their games.
Sadly I don’t have a single original boxed LucasArts adventure. I have the first adventurer’s pack, and then all the adventure games that came after that I have on stand-alone value CDs. So I don’t know of the cool stuff if any that came in LucasArts adventures.
Both companies had pretty cool hintbooks.
January 12, 2005 at 7:31 pm #27382
Overall I would say that the Sierra documentation was much, much cooler and in depth. But I do not fault the Lucas guys for this. I think there has been a trend starting in the late eighties to cut costs of manufacturing by reducing the amount of cool stuff that we the consumer get in the box. Since the Lucas games really took off near the end of Sierra’s run, most of their games were caught in this trend and had very light documentation (like the rest of the industry). Monkey Island 1 had a pretty comical code wheel that created really silly looking pirates that doubled as the copy protection, but the further time progressed, the more sparse the cool stuff got. Some of the Sierra docs are still really cool. The cool puzzle books that came with the Dr. Brain games, the large history book on the California Gold Rush, and the neat investigative reporter stuff that came with the Laura Bow games are some things that are very memerable off the top of my head.
January 13, 2005 at 5:05 pm #27383
I grew up during the late 80s early 90s and own most of the Sierra and Lucasarts adventures. This question is a no-brainer for me – I love playing Sierra games far more than the Lucasarts ones.
This is only my opinion, so don’t get too offended by it. I’d rather have a constructive discussion than an argument. So take it with a grain of salt.
There are a few points behind my thinking.
1. Sierra games had far superior stories – this the key point for me. For the most, their games had great story lines and fantastical worlds to adventure in. I found the Lucasarts adventures to be more focused around humour and sillyness. Stuff like Gabriel Knight, Manhunter, Police Quest and Quest for Glory was brilliant for me.
2. The themes of the Sierra adventures covered such a wide range of topics. Police, Space, Manhunter, Heros, little kids, historical. There were so many variations that I never got bored, and they catered for all kinds of gamers. I used to love playing Mixed Up Mother Goose and Black Cauldron with my little sister as much as I loved playing Police Quest and Quest for Glory with my brother.
3. Sierra was far more prolific – there’d always be something new to play.
4. Finding funny ways for your characters to die, and then watching the cool animation and laughing at the sarcastic comments.
5. The characters in the Sierra games were just so lovable and memorable. Their is a big emotional investment there too. I loved seeing what adventures Roger Wilco, Leisure Suit Larry, Gabriel Knight and Sonny Bond got up to. I never really cared for the LucasArts characters as much. GuyBrush was cool, but he was basically just an imitation of Roger Wilco and Leisure Suit Larry anyway.
I do admit that LucasArts had a higher quality ratio, but the argument about Sierra dying slowly and horribly is exactly the same (to me) as what happened to Monkey Island after Ron Gilbert (I think) left. It basically became a lame parody of itself. And some of the Sierra series finished off really well (for me) – I loved the last Space Quest, Gabriel Knight and Larry games (the new one doesn’t count IMO – its not even Larry in the game).
Also, I think Monkey Island 1 is one of the best ever games I have played, and probably as good as any of the top-drawer Sierra games (of which there were only a handful IMO).
January 16, 2005 at 3:56 pm #27384
I loved the adventure games both comanies released, but Sierra is my personal favorite. For me, Police Quest 1 was what brought me into the world of adventure gaming, and PC gaming in general. Police Quest 1, 3-D Helicopter Simulator, Thexder, and trying to sneak a copy of LSL1 from my dad’s office without getting caught are what reeled me in as a Sierra fan, and it just stuck with me ever since. Like others said, Sierra also covered a broader range of storylines… from all of the major series games to everything in between (Codename: Iceman, Conquests, etc.) Needless to say, I own more Sierra games than LucasArts. Plus, it’s the classic Sierra (Ken Williams era and prior) games that I am passionate about to the extent that I still enjoy reading about them on these sites, even though a game hasn’t been released in almost a decade.
LucasArts released some great games… (the Indiana Jones series (Crusade and Fate of Atlantis) and the Monkey Island series were excellent), but my personal favorite will always be Sierra.
May 26, 2005 at 4:51 pm #27385
I’m a bit bias, but I’d have to say Sierra HANDS DOWN. Maybe its just me, but Sierra games just had something special about them… they created a serious sense of nostalgia within myself. LucasArts games were just another ‘game’ to play. With the exception of Monkey Island 3, I have no desire to even go back and replay them. I’ll sit and play King’s Quest 3, Space Quest 4, or Gold Rush any chance I get even though I know exactly what to do to finish the game. That’s an attribute Sierra games have that no one can match.
As for who had a “better run” I still think Sierra wins. In my opinion thier run started in 1984 with King’s Quest 1 and continued until 1998 with Quest for Glory V. That’s a solid 14 year run. I don’t know when LucasArts’s run started or ended, but it doesn’t matter and I don’t care. Sierra wins no matter what.