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

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    • #42198 Reply
      Ken Williams
      Keymaster

      Does anyone have questions about my book? If so, this is a great place to post them. And, if you aren’t aware of my book, visit
      http://www.kensbook.com to learn more!

    • #42201 Reply
      Alexis
      Guest

      I have a first one!

      On the FAQ page is written:
      “Why did Ken write the book?

      That’s in the book! The quick story was that our boating season was canceled by the virus and I was stuck home quarantined with nothing to do and Roberta said, “Maybe you could write a book.”

      My question: if the virus didn’t exist and the boating season was not canceled, did that mean NO book would ever appeared (because of no free time) or was the plan to write a book about Sierra still in your mind?

      • #42203 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        You are right — Had there not been a virus, there never would have been a book. I really wasn’t thinking about Sierra. I do love all of the memories of Sierra, but Sierra was several decades ago and I’ve moved on to other things.

        I was bored, and Roberta said, “Write a book” and I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Initially, I decided to write a book that was evenly divided between management philosophy, Sierra, and boating. It did start that way, but Sierra kept creeping in bit by bit, and then when Al Lowe read the first few chapters he suggested I dump all of the non-Sierra stuff and just write the history of Sierra. Al’s a smart guy. Some of the philosophy stuff stayed in, but overall .. it (the book) is the history of Sierra, from my perspective.

        It’s a very long story .. and, I don’t have time today. But, running a boat prepared me for running a company much more so than running Sierra. Had I reversed my life and been a boat captain prior to running Sierra, Sierra would have been much better off for it. Crossing oceans on a small powerboat is serious business, and even one mistake can easily cost lives. You have to be a master of many skills (communications, diesel engines, electronics, electricity, navigation, etc), and you need to constantly be heading off problems before they occur.

        -Ken W

    • #42208 Reply
      Alexis
      Guest

      Hi

      I was wondering if Roberta helped remembering Sierra’s facts or events that happened for your book?
      Also did you contact ex-employees to ask things? It has been 25 years ago so remembering everything would have been difficult I think?

      • #42212 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        I occasionally asked Roberta her recollections, but I really didn’t interview anyone else. It is just a style thing, but it worked better for me to blitz through writing 400 pages, and then have people read it and tell me what I messed up.

        After the book was written I sent copies to 50 ex-Sierra employees, as well as to some of the people mentioned in the book. Some agreed with what I wrote and some didn’t. There were some serious gaps in my knowledge. Based on feedback several sections of the book got rewritten and some new sections got added, and some got tossed.

        I found it a very efficient way to work.

      • #42213 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        PS I actually didn’t ask Roberta anything until the book was almost complete. I did the writing early in the morning when things were quiet and kept the book secret until it was well underway. I wasn’t sure if the book would turn out well and wanted to be able to scrap the project if I wasn’t happy with it. It seemed better to write the book without anyone knowing until I was ready to tell them…

    • #42214 Reply
      Alexis
      Guest

      Hi Ken,

      Should this page not be rewritten? The book is there!!!

      Letter from Ken

    • #42216 Reply
      Alexis
      Guest

      I think you should also put the Sierra book on the home page of Sierragamers, next to Roberta’s book.
      All Sierra fan should see it immediately when visiting the website.
      I think many fans now just don’t know there is a book…

    • #42222 Reply
      Alexis
      Guest

      Hii Ken,

      What would you do differently if you were te start Sierra today all over again?

      • #42227 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        What would you do differently if you were te start Sierra today all over again?

        Nothing!!!! -Ken W

    • #42224 Reply
      Alexis Bousiges
      Guest

      hi

      After reading the book: what would you (Ken) do differently if you were to start Sierra today all over again?

      • #42228 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        After reading the book: what would you (Ken) do differently if you were to start Sierra today all over again?

        I would run Sierra forever and not sell it.

    • #42232 Reply
      Alexis Bousiges
      Guest

      Almost finishing your book, I was wondering if specific questions about its content can be asked in which I quote a sentence or paragraph of the book (for more explanation).
      Or is this going to far because you don’t have the time to answer detailed questions?

      • #42243 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        Always happy to answer questions … although … I sometimes have to be very succinct due to lack of free time.

        I never seem to have free time …

    • #42447 Reply
      Alexis
      Guest

      Hi Ken,

      Some general questions about the book.

      – how many months were needed to complete it?

      – as I understand correctly: it’s only your personal memories of Sierra?

      – are there employees or other people presented in the bookyou still meet or are friends with?

      – on the first page is written version ‘v1’ in my book. Does this mean a new version will be released too?

      – can I post all questions here as a reply or does each question (about a new topic/chapter) better needs a new thread in this forum?

      thanks!

      • #42467 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        Answers, preceded by ***

        -Ken W

        – how many months were needed to complete it?

        *** My book was written quickly. I spent about 2 months on the writing, and then 4 months on editing and rewriting. I sent out a lot of copies prior to the release and wound up rewriting major portions of the book. The last third of the book was rewritten more than once.

        – as I understand correctly: it’s only your personal memories of Sierra?

        *** Mostly. There were things I didn’t remember, or never knew, like what happened to Sierra after the sale. Other people filled in the details.

        – are there employees or other people presented in the book you still meet or are friends with?

        *** I’d like to think I am friends with most Sierra employees, but I never see them. The only person I regularly see is Al Lowe, and even with him I don’t see him nearly as often as I’d like to. Roberta and I travel most of the time and are never in one place long enough to see people.

        – on the first page is written version ‘v1’ in my book. Does this mean a new version will be released too?

        *** I might do a second version of the book someday and add more content. That said, there really isn’t much more to say, and I don’t have any free time right now. So .. it’s unlikely I’ll do a revision anytime soon.

        – can I post all questions here as a reply or does each question (about a new topic/chapter) better needs a new thread in this forum?

        *** I don’t really know this software (WordPress) very well. I’m still trying to figure out how to get the most recent messages to appear at the top (and, haven’t figured it out). So .. do what you like and hopefully it will be ok. I’m not sure what is best.

    • #42463 Reply
      Alexis
      Guest

      Hi Ken,

      Is the book selling well? I don’t know if I’m allowed to know selling numbers but I was just wondering if it’s selling very well or maybe even more then expected?

      • #42468 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        My book sales were huge. I’m still selling copies every day, long after I thought the book would be dead, and every few weeks it seems to pop back to #1 status on some categories on Amazon’s bestseller charts. There are a LOT of Sierra fans out there.

    • #42480 Reply
      Alexis
      Guest

      Hi Ken,

      A couple of days ago I posted a new topic here about chapter 2 questions of the book.
      It doesn’t appear here…

      Were my questions not allowed for some reason?

      • #42495 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        Your posting went into the “spam” folder for some reason. I’ve approved it, and it should appear now.

    • #42836 Reply
      Josh H.
      Guest

      Hello Mr. Williams! I heard of your book through fellow fans and it just came in this past Friday. Im almost done. Excellent read and I cant thank you enough for authoring it.

      Just found this forum. Off the top of my head I have two questions:

      Of all the developers at Sierra how did you become so close with Mr. Al Lowe? In reading the part about working with friends and family (dont do it) it appears you and Mr. Lowe were definitely an exception. It appears you were able to get along through the existence of Sierra and remain good friends today without major incidents between employee and boss eventually causing an issue. Reading above comments it was great for me to hear you two are still in contact to this day. What do you believe was the secret? As someone who manages as well this greatly interests me.

      2. It wasnt clear (or maybe I just forgot this detail) if you developed/wrote the AGI language used for KQ1 and up? I do remember reading how you wrote the code for the early graphical high res adventures allowing Roberta to fill in the database and draw the pictures. Even wikipedia has unknown for the authors of AGI.

      Ok those are my first two questions at this moment. Sorry for any spelling or grammar issues as Im typing this on my Iphone at the moment. Thank you!

      • #42963 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        Hi Josh,

        I don’t know the answer myself, about why Al is the only person from Sierra I still hang out with. Roberta and I travel nonstop so we are rarely in the same city as the various Sierra people. Even as much as we enjoy hanging out with Al and his better half (Margaret) we only see them a few times a year.

        As to AGI (the language we used for our games… I was heavily involved, but don’t remember writing much of the code, if any. I don’t remember who wrote it. I think it may have been an engineer named Bob Heitman? I don’t think Jeff Stephenson, who was the father of SCI, was working at Sierra yet. There was another engineer named Chris Iden. Maybe him? Or, maybe it was me? It’s strange I don’t remember, but .. it was 40 years ago.

    • #43054 Reply
      Kennedy K
      Guest

      Mr. William’s, I like so many started playing Sierra games at a young age. I went through all the King’s Quests, Space Quests, Police Quests, Lemmings and many more.

      With so many titles over the years which was yours and Roberta’s favorites?

      • #43123 Reply
        Ken Williams
        Keymaster

        My favorites were always Leisure-Suit Larry, Space Quest – and, especially Phantasmagoria. Roberta’s would of course be King’s Quest!

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