So Ken, anymore news on this “meeting” with Sierra’s CEO in April?

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    • #24587 Reply

      So like the title says, anymore news? I’m deathly curious about it. Nobody else seems to be making a big deal out of it, so maybe I missed a message or something where you said the communications fell through or something. Personally, I think Sierra must be getting desperate. After the large number of times you’ve offered your help, how many times did they accept? I just found it funny while reading your earlier message saying that they though “it was critically important to meet face-to-face”. I mean, after ignoring you for so many years, and to suddenly accept, it just seems strange.
      Another thing I’m curious about is why did they turn down your help so many times? I mean, by just looking at past financial statements of the company, it’s obvious that the years you were in control, the company did rather well, and when ownership was switched over, it just started sliding like crazy. Why was it so difficult for any executives at Sierra, or Vivendi, or whatever they are (I can barely tell the two companies apart now) to see that? I would assume they would do anything to make the company profitable, meaning accepting advice. You obviously possess some leadership skills and a market-understanding to have kept the company going for so long. I mean, did they think your ideas would be stuck in the past (ie adventure gaming) or something?

      Anyhoo, thanks for (hopefully) taking a look at my message,


    • #24588 Reply

      (re: So Ken, anymore news on this “meeting” with Sierra’s CEO in April?) Nate:
      Good question. The Sierra meeting appears to be dead. It’s a long story, and it’s mostly my fault, but there’s plenty of guilt to go around.
      As you know (from my messages on this board), I contacted them several months ago. A meeting was tentatively set up between myself and their CEO in Los Angeles on April 14th. That was months ago.
      I set up the meeting via one of my old employees, one of the few who is still there, an incredibly gifted person, who runs their european operations. I never spoke with the current CEO. They wanted me to fly immediately to New York to meet with them, which I refused – which is how it came to be that we set the meeting for April 14th in LA — because that is when I would be in the area.
      When they asked if I could meet in New York, and our meeting was postponed for months, I asked if it would be possible to start working immediately, via email, phone calls, and fax. I have never been a fan of face-to-face meetings. At Sierra, I had a bizarre system for meetings. I met with my team VERY early in the morning, before the workday began, once per week. I didn’t want to lose any “work time” to meetings. I’m all about efficiency. If there’s a more efficient way to do something, that’s the system I like. Also, I hate riding on airplanes. The idea of flying to New York for a meeting, just didn’t sound like fun. And, lastly, this is the 21st century. Telephones exist. Email exists. Fax machines exist. Use them. I was ready to start that day. Waiting three months to get started seemed like a strange idea to me — but, I agreed.
      During the intervening three months I heard zip. Nada. Nothing. Rien. Zero. Then, my schedule changed. A few days ago, I let them know that I had to return to Seattle early, and wouldn’t be in LA as I had thought on April 14th. Once again, I spoke through an intermediary. No direct contact with their CEO. I offered an immediate conference call. My intermediary responded “maybe”.
      Given their clear lack of excitement about talking to me, I sent the following email:

      Dear []:
      Pass this along to Bruce Hack (VUGames CEO) if you think it is relevant…
      I have a website that I operate personally ( It has thousands of messages, many of which are me sharing my thoughts on the computer game market. Some of the comments are on Sierra and some are on the industry as a whole. Some are interesting, some are not.
      Mr. Hack could hang out with me for the next 10 years, and not learn as much about what I think, and what Sierra customers think, as he would by simply reading through the website. To some extent, meeting me is more time consuming, and less efficient than reading through the site. I tend to say the same things over and over and over and over. I don’t have a lot of opinions, but the ones I do have I am highly opinionated about.
      To the extent he does read through the site, a fun place to start would be for him to write me, and tell me “Ken, you are full of crap, and here’s why.” Or, “Ken, your opinions are completely obsolete in today’s market, and here’s why.” I would then respond in self defense, and a discourse would ensue which would hopefully result in something better than he or I could have arrived at alone. Customers would win the debate… which is of course the right answer.
      -Ken W
      PS Here’s a couple of fun postings to start the conversation going. He will need to register on the site before these links will work. Once he is on the message boards, he can click on my name on any message board to see everything I’ve ever posted…. 

      This was sent several days ago. To my knowledge (and, I check these things), neither he, nor anyone else senior in his organization, has ever been to the website.
      I WOULD like to help Sierra. I feel bad that this offer of help doesn’t include a willingness to jump airplanes and fly to meetings. The bottom line is that I was never really about money. Don’t get me wrong. I like money as much as anyone — but, I haven’t asked Sierra for a dime, and don’t want a dime from them. My offer of help is not financially motivated. My sole interest is that I think I can help them make better games, and make customers happy. I like games, and I like customers. If I can help, I would like to do so. That said, I can’t do it alone, and I don’t want a full-time job at this point in my life.
      If their current head hauncho doesn’t value my input highly enough to call me within the three months after I’ve offered to help, then the reason is that he doesn’t perceive that I can add value. If he doesn’t believe I can add value before he hears what I have to say, I doubt his willingness to listen is going to rise after I speak.
      When I last worked for Sierra, we had roughly 700 developers, and 300 “other” employees, most of whom were customer support, sales or manufacturing. Product was king at Sierra. I was willing to outsource anything except customer satisfaction. My guess is that Sierra has fewer employees in product development today, than I had in accounting (a very small overworked department). You have to have priorities. When the accountants outnumber the developers, it isn’t good. When you can’t talk to someone for three months without having a meeting, it’s not a good sign.
      All that said… I have never spoken with anyone in senior management at Sierra as it exists today. They may have two million developers for all I know. Mr. Hack may be someone who I would respect tremendously and who is well on track to build Sierra (and VUGames) into the next Microsoft (except bigger). I may be back posting on this bulletin board tomorrow raving about their product strategy. I honestly haven’t the vaguest idea what is happening at Sierra or VUGames.
      What worries me, and what keeps me awake at night, is this deep rooted fear, that the company Roberta and I worked so hard to create, over an 18 year period, simply doesn’t exist anymore. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
      -Ken Williams

    • #24589 Reply

      (re: re: So Ken, anymore news on this “meeting” with Sierra’s CEO in April?)

      It’s unfortuante that nothing came of you contacting them. It actually sounded really promising when I read your first message that spoke of meeting with the CEO. Of course, I find that most things coming out of Sierra/VU Games nowadays always sounds promising at first, then gets scrapped later on (like the cancellation of the new Space Quest last year, cripes, will this game ever get made?)
      I get the vibe from reading various sources (such as this fine site) that no one who has a shred of power in the corporate heirarchy actually cares about the company itself. They don’t seem to want to put forth the resources and talent needed to innovate, or generally even make a good product. I remember back when my family got its first computer (1993 WOOH!!!! Packard Bell!!! Ok ok, we were slow adopters when compared to other posters here, so sue us :P) that computer stores were loaded with Sierra products. I remember buying Space Quest IV (2 years old by that point, but in the perfect price range for a youngin’ looking for a game to impress his computer-lacking friends) and watching a demo movie of Police Quest III playing on a computer at a local Radio Shack and thinking how cool it looked. Now, you walk into a store and MAYBE see one product with a Sierra logo on it (usually a friggin’ collection, like Half-Life or something).
      I also wonder how much is left of the former Sierra. During 1998-2000, the company seemed ok enough. Sure, adventures weren’t on the agenda (last one was Gabriel Knight III I believe), but atleast there was a relatively constant flow of new product. A good balance of internally produced software (SWAT 3, Gabriel Knight III) and externally produced software (Homeworld, Half-Life) meant a robust selection of quality titles. Now, I can’t even remember the last title actually produced BY Sierra. Until I heard of SWAT: Urban Justice (which has been in development for 2+ years, so it better be good), I actually thought the company had no development studios internally at all. They outsource everything now, even flagship titles, such as Leisure Suit Larry and (at the time) the rumoured Space Quest.
      Despite all these problems, I believe Vivendi is to blame. The company has such a stranglehold on Sierra that I can’t blame the lack of creative freedom, what with all the corporate problems. VU Games has also taken quite a bit of publishing from Sierra (apparently VU will publish Half-life 2 & Leisure Suit Larry 8), which makes me wonder if Sierra isn’t just a brand name to grab a few nostalgiac gamers who happen to glance at the game and recognize the logo.
      Hopefully Vivendi will get its act together, and hencefore, enable Sierra to get its act together. I hope you don’t completely give up trying to offer your services. Eventually, someone has to come along who actually gives a damn and will listen.
      Oh, and by the way, thank you very much for lengthy response. It’s very heart-warming to know you take the time to craft an intelligent response that answers all the questions, unlike other game message boards where developers might drop in every few months and leave a few badly-spelt messages that don’t really say anything.


    • #24590 Reply

      (re: re: re: So Ken, anymore news on this “meeting” with Sierra’s CEO in April?)

      I’m not sure if VU is 100% to blame for the current state of Sierra. Take a look at Blizzard. They’re owned by VU and they still churn out good products (one in a couple years, but they’ve always done that).

      Also, when you goto the Sierra site, they say they do HL, but you are always forwarded to a VU site (support, etc). You can’t even e-mail sierra directly anymore for tech support (which stinks).

      I’m thinking, and this is a long shot, that Sierra/VU is close to publishing HL2 which they are claiming will “revive the computer game industry.” (every time I hear/read that I wonder what they’re talking about: I’ve been buying games for year and have been happy!). They’re probley hoping it will revive Sierra/VU, and since Valve is owned by them, they will got lots of $$$ from sales & engine liscences.

      But ken, I hope you get through to them. Or maybe you could get a couple of “promising” people together & invest in them to start something you’d like (not work with, just nudge them along). 🙂

    • #24591 Reply

      (re: So Ken, anymore news on this “meeting” with Sierra’s CEO in April?)

      Writing as a fan, perhaps the name and properties of Sierra are to be let gone unto God, and time for a new company could be formed. However, I understand about am owner watching their creations dissolve into unsuccess, and I know about fighting for that cause, to bring it back to snuff.

      VU Games is a company, in my opinion, that should have never been formed. Other than Simpsons Hit and Run and some of the Lord of the Rings games (about 5 games or so), VU has crashed not only Sierra, but Universal as well. I don’t know how many companies can publish Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, or Half-Life. VU has shown such disrespect to Sierra by removing Sierra’s series names of Police Quest and Half-Life from the new SWAT and Counter-Strike games. Furthermore, their Fox games aren’t that great, and I think it’s sales of old Blizzard games that are keeping the company floating somewhat.

      In the past posting, I’ve either kept neutral or optimistic about new games. But let’s face reality about PC/video games at present: THEY SUCK! I might be backwards, but on-line games want me to pay to play the game, after I’ve already bought the game? What a slap in the face! And what’s with all of the crappy first-person shooters? Was DOOM really worth copying 10,000 times? And though Diablo/StarCraft is good, why so many AD&D/Forgotten Realms clones? And it’s another series that both VU Games and Wizards of the Coast flushed down the crapper!

      Man, I wish Ken, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Nintendo would all co-operate to create the most powerful games in the world. I being overly hopeful, but I can’t stand these companies like VU Games, Ubisoft, Inforgrames/Atari, or any of these other French companies. France + games = poor companies & poor games.

      Though many companies over the last 30 years have done games, it wasn’t until 1995 that the copycats started being published. By 1999, either the game was a copycat or a forced attempt at originality (see Shenmue or Seaman on Dreamcast). In the distant past, each company, whether the game was action or adventure, would create a look and style unique to either than company or that series. Double Dragon and Ninja Gaiden are different, Mega Man and Super Mario, Contra and Commander Keen, Monkey Island and Leisure Suit Larry, Westwood and SSI, and so forth etc. etc. I personally believe that polygon-based 3-D gaming has killed almost every game that’s come across it. I belive the polygons should be used for extremely pretty graphics (Zelda 64, KQ8, Final Fantasy 7) that promote the story. Since almost every game plays like either Diablo, Tomb Raider, Mario 64, Doom, Virtua Racing, Final Fantasy 7, or is a sports title, 3-D gaming has truly murdered original concepts and styles that the old techology capitalized on. I feel if the veterans and pioneers of the industry at the beginning were in charge forever, games would be excellent to this day! And I take it, that’s what Ken is shooting for. I also deduct that Ken has a goal with a vision for Sierra, or at least a vision or a goal, and he will do something, somehow. When the hour is darkest, the light shines the brightest. Some businessman said that in the 1800s.

    • #24592 Reply

      (re: re: So Ken, anymore news on this “meeting” with Sierra’s CEO in April?)

      Little harsh, don’t you think? The country of origion doesn’t dictate the “goodness” of games. I’ve found several of ubisoft’s games quite fun.

      Of course I have to buy all of Sierra’s games out of bargin bins. Not many good ones comming out now. 🙁 And how (and why) would Gates, Jobs, Ken, & Nintendo get together? First off, Bill has his X-Box. Nintendo has it’s GameCube & GBA. Jobs has his fans. Ken has his wife and a big boat to go from point A to point B in. 🙂

      And how do PC games suck? I found all the Doom & Quake games quite fun. GTA is fun. Beyond Good & Evil is fun. Star Trek: Elite Force is fun. UT2004 is fun. Battlefield games are fun. May Payne is fun. Chess is fun. 🙂 I don’t see any of these as clones of anything.

      Doom wasn’t the first FPS eigther. That would be Wolf3D. So Doom is a clone of Wolf3d, right? You mention Double Gradon, Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, Super Mario, Contra, Commander Keen. Those were all basicly the same: you were a “hero.” You fought bad guys. You ran. Walked. Jumped. Ducked. At the end of the game you got a cool ending. One game you shoot, one game you use melee attacks, but it was all mostly the same with different graphics. They’re all also platformers. Most playformers play the same.

      All the adventure games could be called Kings Quest clones. After all, they ALL let you use the keyboard to move and you type a command (or, later on, use the mouse to select something).

      I also find it funny you say Zelda 64 was good, but it WAS a clone of Mario 64. They used the same engine, slighly modified. And what about metroid prime? That’s an excelent game. It’s 3d. In fact, nintendo did the OPPOSITE of what ken said he did (listen to fans) and didn’t listen to the fans and make it a sidescroller. Excelent game.

      I don’t think ken planned on having his video game vets take over the game world. Did you ken? 🙂 Maybe a strong nitch, but if there was no competition, what other good stuff would they have to compare themselves to? No competition, can’t say “we’re the best!” Microsoft doesn’t say they’re the best, they say you have no choice.

      Games are evolving. How many people complained when TV evolved from B&W to color? Or radio to Stereo? Or they had to upgrade to VGA cards to play the latest games?

    • #24593 Reply

      (re: re: re: So Ken, anymore news on this “meeting” with Sierra’s CEO in April?)

      How many years have you been following, involved or studying the game industry? I’ve 24 years and counting, since 1980, and little here and there.

      Your attitude and tone in the response in written in poor taste, towards opinions and hopes. And, apparently, you offer no proof towards your critisms, just blind praise of things that are, and from my “opinion”, no desire to actually change, like Conservatives on Talk Radio.

      C’mon, work with everybody, and start giving solutions with the critisms, and start to offer encouragement with the rage. I can do the same as you, but I choose not to. Not worth my time. I raged at the current state of games, and expressed a hope that some industry giants would see past their own egos to create what I feel inside of Ken whenever this issue comes up.

      Your letter is an anti-Nintendo, anti-Windows type of letter. Why? What have those concepts done to you personally? (Just curious.) I encourage you the next time you write something in response, keep attacks on opinions and hopes out of it.

      By the way, PC games do suck compared to what I’ve played over the last 24 years. And to compare another concept/industry to the gaming industry is not very meaningful. Why do that? Apples and oranges. Don’t do that, fire at me with my stuff, no rhertorics. It don’t work.

      Now, follow my response here carefully and understand I’ve critizing and giving you solutions to give a more powerful response to my opinions and hopes. The words you gave off, honestly, feel very powerless and seem just be an attack. Since I am a business owner, and also have worked in high management positions for over 40 years, I’ve seen these kind of responses before. Sorry, but whatever you were sharing with me isn’t there. The response isn’t from your heart, just your head.

      Please, re-read what I wrote, and give me an excellent response backed up with proof of what your see and what your have experienced.

    • #24594 Reply

      (re: re: re: So Ken, anymore news on this “meeting” with Sierra’s CEO in April?)

      It was a little harsh – I love a couple of UBISoft’s recent console games like Prince of Persia and Beyond Good and Evil.

      An important thing that was mentioned though was that the Sierra name is just being used to slap on games to make them more appealing as a known quality brand to gamers which is wrong. In doing this they have/are diluting the Sierra name. The logo they have is crap compared to the “legacy” Sierra logo. If you treat a person like VU has the Sierra name you go to jail for a long, long time with all the other r*pists.

      And developing a new Larry game with out Al Lowe on board is a terrible idea – look what happened to the Monkey Island series after Ron Gilbert left – it became a weak, pathetic parody of itself (in Escape From Monkey Island).

      As far as I know, Zelda 64 was a new engine, not an enhancement of Mario 64. I’ve never heard that one – but I guess it shows what 3D has done to games – they all end up looking and playing like each other.

    • #24595 Reply

      (re: So Ken, anymore news on this “meeting” with Sierra’s CEO in April?) First off, I apologize to everyone as I am reverse reading what I’ve missed in the past few months. I’m trying to comment as little as possible.


      Games are evolving. How many people complained when TV evolved from B&W to color? Or radio to Stereo? Or they had to upgrade to VGA cards to play the latest games?


      Games are definitely evolving, but the nice thing about going from B&W to color and from mono to stereo was that the same person could create the content. The same person could shoot B&W or color, the same DJ or musician could record mono or stereo. With games, going from 2D to 3D takes, I don’t know, 20 times the number of people?

      I’d love to see 3D become as easy as that, but the only places that seems to be happening are at and, etc.

      Does anyone have opinions on the online money trading thing? If you get so many second life bucks, you can trade them out for cash… it’s kind of crazy.


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