Where does "Sierra" end?

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    • #29515 Reply

      In retooling Sierra Gamers I am taking another look at the historical Sierra Game list that has been circulating on the internet for several years.  It was originally based on a list put out shortly after the Sierra closure in 1999 and focused only on those games developed in Coarsegold.  From a purist perspective (and only focusing on that Sierra operation) the list was and is a great tool.

      In reality, however, there were a lot of game releases in the 90s from the subsidiary operations that were as much Sierra games as any King’s Quest game.  Rise of the Dragon, Lords of the Realm 2 and to some extent Nascar 2 were all solidly identified with Sierra even though they were developed by acquisition companies.  The Krondor series stands out as a real example – the first game by Dynamix, the last game by another studio and Betrayal in Antara using the engine were all Sierra games.  Return to Krondor has always been on the list, Betrayal at Krondor wasn’t.

      My point?

      In adding content to Sierra Gamers I am going to be somewhat flexible (and probably unpredictable) on what I include when it comes to the late 90s games.  At the same time I’d love to hear what other readers and Sierra fans think.  What was Sierra?  What wasn’t?  What do I do with Front Page Sports?  What do I do with the entire Hoyle series?


    • #29516 Reply

      I think that it is reasonable to include all of the “Sierra Family” of games. This means especially the Dynamix, Coktel Visions and Impressions games. If you look at the game files, it is obvious that there was even sharing of code, not just talent. Others would include the likes of Papyrus, subLOGIC and Synergistic, but I would not go too heavily into the companies that Sierra was not much more than a publishing house. Ken, himself might have brought Valve on board with Half-Life, but it was never a “Sierra Family” company. Rudy may disagree with me, but I would not include the things that VU only used the Sierra name to publish.

    • #29517 Reply

      I am in TOTAL agreement with Collector on this.  He actually put it into much better words than I could’ve.  Dynamix, Coktel Visions, and Impressions have always been a part of Sierra in my eyes and I have always included them and their games on my list of ‘Golden Age of Sierra’ games and companies.  They were indeed part of the Sierra Family of games, as Collector put it.  Those other companies he mentioned were never really identified alongside and with Sierra and should never be included.  Half-Life?  It was a very good, high-quality game, but still…I would not include it on the list.  Anything VU put out should not be included (including the positively awful two recent LSL games *shudders*).  I know I’m basically repeating what Collector just said, but he is so right on this.  How he views it is how I view it, too.

    • #29518 Reply

      The SierraVault policy on LSL was: “No Al, No Leisure Suit Larry”.  They left him out so I leave them out.  Simple algebra.

      Carry on though.  This is a good discussion.


    • #29519 Reply

      Great question, Andy!

      Some games are easier to include than others.  For example, when you say “Hoyle” I immediately think of the first three in the series which I played a lot.  Definitely Sierra classics.  But many more titles were eventually released and to me they aren’t really an important part of the Sierra we know and love. 

      As far as other studios like Impressions Dynamic and Coktel Vision, Collector and Josh are spot-on.  They should definitely be included.  Yes, they were acquired assets but Ken acquired them because he knew they would make outstanding games and be good enough to be under the Sierra umbrella.  And he was right 🙂

      It’s hard to pinpoint a “cut off” date for games to include on the site.  I’d like to say “Chainsaw Monday” (Feb 22, 1999) but if memory serves me, Sierra’s final masterpiece, GK3 was released after this date.

    • #29520 Reply

      I don’t disagree with you, Collector. Since SierraGamers is Ken Williams’ site, i doubt he’d want to focus on games which his company did not develop. Since Coktel Vision, Impressions, Dynamix and so on were acquired by Sierra, they were also part of Sierra. Games developed by acquired studios under Ken Williams’ management should therefore in my opinion also be considered as developed by Sierra, even though it was not done so by the people in Oakhurst.
      However, this brings several more questions: 1) what about games which were developed by those companies before Sierra acquired them (Operation Wolf, Detroit,When Two Worlds War,…)? Should those count as Sierra games? 2) what about games which were published by Sierra, but not developed, nor acquired in the early days (Thexder for example, for which Ken bought the rights from GameArts to sell it in the USA in the mid 80ies)? 3) what about the games which were developed after Sierra’s demise, but by an acquired studio (for example the citybuilding series by Impressions, the Tribes series by Dynamix or the later Nascar titles by Papyrus)? It is very hard to draw a line.

    • #29521 Reply

      There were a few other Hoyle game beyond the first three that fall within the “real Sierra” era that should be included. http://www.mobygames.com/game-group/hoyle-licensees

      I have a box of the 1993 Hoyle Classic Card Games that I can scan.

    • #29522 Reply

      Some of the games developed by Dynamix, Impressions, etc. before the acquisition by Sierra that you mention were re-released under Sierra, so I would not have an issue with those being included. They were also the games that caught Ken’s attention that lead to the companies being added to Sierra’s lineup.

      “what about the games which were developed after Sierra’s demise, but by an
      acquired studio (for example the citybuilding series by Impressions, the Tribes
      series by Dynamix or the later Nascar titles by Papyrus”

      If it were up to me, I would include the games developed by the traditional Sierra family company that were still developing games after the closure of Oakhurst. Even the 3-D Ultra games are a continuation of the physics that Dynamix developed. I would not include any of the games that were developed by companies that no association with Sierra before the demise.

    • #29523 Reply

      Really nice, lively discussion, and important questions to considered in light of digital archiving.

      I get the hesitancy to throw any and all games made by minor subsidiaries on the list with our beloved “Sierra Family”. I think there should be a place, however, for acknowledging the presence of these games and the work of these subsidiaries as part of the Sierra Corporation–ultimately Sierra benefited from the profits of these games, and those profits made the company more valuable, thus better able to produce more games.

      An interesting way of thinking about it might be to ask, “If we don’t archive Half-Life, who does?” Are there people out there doing similar achival and commemorative work for the games of that subsidiary? Is it possible to provide historical and visual info about the game while acknowledging its problem in terms of ownership (problems which only seem to increase as games and game companies become increasingly investing in heavily capital-based entertainment markets)?

    • #29524 Reply

      Great insights, all. 

      In summation to this point we all agree the early acquisitions (Dynamix, Coktel, Impressions) “became” Sierra.  Collector’s point about the sharing of code was an excellent point.  Rudy brought up a pretty interesting question (and one I struggled with as webmaster of SierraVault):  What do you do with games the companies put out before the mergers?  What about when Sierra re-released them?  Impressions had a lot of games on the market before Sierra and Sierra heavily pulled from that catalog in their Sierra Classics releases.

      The digital archiving point made by Laine is excellent as well.  While Ken and Roberta were out of Sierra in the late 90s and most of the early developers and game series we view as “core” Sierra were put out to pasture by the early 2000s there were still a lot of people getting up every day and going to work at Sierra.  Were their efforts any less?  Shouldn’t their games deserve some credit?  A few years back I read a comment on a blog news post about the Sierra legacy from one of those employees and he made an impassioned argument that the “not Sierra” label was unfair.  The VU to CUC to Activision hot potato handoff sucked but the Sierra name took a lot of years of mismanagement before it could finally be killed.


    • #29525 Reply

      Well… i do know one person who also covers all Sierra titles after 1999, regardless whether it’s made by one of the Sierra Family members or outsourced development houses. He’s a bit nuts, but i’m sure every developer and every game until 2008 will be covered by him in detail.

    • #29526 Reply

      Awesome, awesome discussion everyone!  I’m going to respond when I get home from my appointment, but for now, I just had to say that this is the kind of discussion we needed for this subject. 🙂

    • #29527 Reply

      Fun topic everyone!

      I’m obviously biased, but I think of something as a Sierra product if I was the one who greenlighted the project, funded it, mentored the developers, shaped the marketing campaign, etc. Sierra had around fifteen development groups, and my process with each development group was the same. Some of the groups shipped better product than others, but they were all Sierra products.

      I don’t remember all of the development groups and products.

      – Brightstar
      – Coktel Vision
      – Dynamix
      – Papyrus
      – Impressions
      – Headgate (is that their name? They made a golf game for us)
      – ??? (there was a group that did productivity products)
      – Sierra (can’t forget that one)
      – There’s a bunch more, but I’m drawing a blank.

      We also did products with companies like Henson, Disney, and, Playboy!

      -Ken W

    • #29528 Reply

      Wikipedia is an excellent tool.  Taking a look they have the companies associated with Sierra broken down.  How does this feel?

      Sierra proper – Oakhurst operations

      – Everything they made ties back to Sierra and should be here.  They were closed in 2001.
      Included the adventures (Rise of the Dragon, Willy Beamish), Earthsiege/Starsiege/Tribes, Incredible Machine, the simulations and 3D Ultra along with others.

      – 1995 acquisition, first major game for Sierra was Lords of the Realm 2.  By 1999 they were on the Caesar derivatives (Pharoah, Zeus, Emperor).  Last game was Lords of the Realm 3 in 2004.  Shutdown shortly thereafter.  I can see including everything that came out from Lords of the Realm 2 to the end with maybe a highlight of LOTR 1 because Sierra re-released it.

      Coktel Vision – 1993 acquisition.  Goblins series, Inca series, Lost in Time, Ween, The Last Dynasty.  Seemed to disappear off the map after Urban Runner in 1996.  Reported to be focused back on Edutainment in Europe.

      Bright Star Technology – Lots of the Discovery games: Alphabet Blocks, Lost Mind of Dr. Brain.  Kid’s Typing.  Early Math.  Looked to be a big contribution in the early 90s with not much after that.  Probably get most of those games included by fleshing out the Discovery series area.

      Papyrus – Acquired 1995, nothing but Nascar Racing releases after 1999 which should be tied back to the Nascar 1/2/3 that were in the Sierra time frame.  Some other racing games released in the mid 90s (SODA, Indycar)

      Books That Work – ?

      Green Thumb Software – Was this the home productivity stuff?  Home Designer, Landscape designer?  A productivity section of software is probably called for at some point – likely in the Sierra Museum as opposed to product by product study in The Games area.  There was the early stuff in the pre-84 range (Superscript, Sierra’s On Line) and then the stuff at the end (including Web Studio, Home Designer).

      PryoTechnix – As far as I know, this was just the team that did Return to Krondor.  Did they do anything else for Sierra?  Shows acquired in 96, closed in 99.

      Berkeley – You Don’t Know Jack series.

      Headgate Studios – Acquired in 96, sold in 99.  Front Page Sports Golf series that ended (for Sierra) with the PGA Championship 2000.  From there they started Tiger Woods PGA Tour for EA.  Interesting that Vance Cook (Access software’s Links programmer – I didn’t know that).

      Northwest Synergistic Software – Thexder and Silpheed ports in late 80s.  Back to Sierra for Birthright and Diablo: Hellfire expansion in mid to late 90s.

      Later VU Studios (Likely not included on Sierra Gamers)

      High Moon Studios – Later acquisition (2005-06).  Darkwatch, The Bourne Conspiracy. 
      Radical Entertainment – Mid 2000s stuff that came out under the VU label.  Scarface?  Dark Angel?
      Massive Entertainment – Ground Control, World in Conflict.  More VU than Sierra.
      Swordfish – Acquired in 2005, sold in 2008.  50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.
      Valve – Half Life in 99
      Relic – Homeworld in 99

      Click Entertainment – Throne of Darkness in 2001.
      Inevitable Entertainment – The Hobbit in 2003.
      Liquid Entertainment – Lord of the Rings: Battle of Middle Earth in 2003

      The post 2000 acquisition and development house list probably continues.  I’ve seen references to both Relic and Valve as being green lit and the games well in development before the 99 shutdown and I know most Sierra fans understand there was a bit of ownership over those games.  What about the later ones?  Did anything come out after 2000 that wasn’t captured in the top development houses already associated with Sierra that people feel strongly about?


    • #29529 Reply

      Wikipedia? What’s that? 😉

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