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Roberta Williams/Josh Mandel discussion

posted by tomst on - last edited - Viewed by 2.5K users

Congrats to the Telltale team for announcing the return of mid-30 year old males (and anyone else old enough to remember this series) to the world of computer gaming!

Can anyone from TT comment on Roberta Williams's involvement in terms of story & design, if such plans even exist?

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    Cez

    @Anakin Skywalker said: Given all they contributed to the industry, their names should go a lot farther. Sierra is generally forgotten or unknown by the average modern gamer and that's a shame because they innovated quite a lot beyond the adventure genre and were in their day one of the biggest power players in the entire industry. I mean a late 90s piece on Sierra named only Microsoft and EA as Sierra's main competitors. That's how important they were.

    I read that in 1996, Sierra's games altogether made up a majority of PC game sales, not just in the adventure genre. They were huge and you'd think even if the modern GAMER doesn't know of them, that at least some modern designers/creators outside of the adventure community would be inspired by their legacy.

    I mean id Software considered Sierra a big influence; The founders of id grew up playing tons of Sierra games...Where's the other modern industry recognition?

    It is a shame, and frankly, it's something that often pisses me off. I was at Barnes and Nobles the other day and I picked up this book called something like "1001 games you should play". There was not a SINGLE mention of a Sierra game. Not King's Quest, not Space Quest, not Larry. All Lucasart games were in there, ALL of them, but not one single Sierra one.

    In the same way, I've seen many "100 most important games", or stuff to the like online where there's always mention of at least 2 LucasArts games, but there's never mention of Sierra.

    Anyone who makes a list like this, or worse, a book with 1000 games, and there's no mention at all of Sierra, completely loses my respect. The sheer importance and the legacy not only the company, but people like Ken and Roberta left, the contributions they made to the evolution of games, and that today, people seem to have forgotten that they ever existed --that's a real shame.

  • @Cez said: It is a shame, and frankly, it's something that often pisses me off. I was at Barnes and Nobles the other day and I picked up this book called something like "1001 games you should play". There was not a SINGLE mention of a Sierra game. Not King's Quest, not Space Quest, not Larry. All Lucasart games were in there, ALL of them, but not one single Sierra one.

    In the same way, I've seen many "100 most important games", or stuff to the like online where there's always mention of at least 2 LucasArts games, but there's never mention of Sierra.

    Anyone who makes a list like this, or worse, a book with 1000 games, and there's no mention at all of Sierra, completely loses my respect. The sheer importance and the legacy not only the company, but people like Ken and Roberta left, the contributions they made to the evolution of games, and that today, people seem to have forgotten that they ever existed --that's a real shame.

    Amen. I know I'm biased but when I was growing up, Roberta was like this amazing storyteller, and Ken was like Walt Disney. You know how all the older people of today fondly remember watching "Uncle Walt" on TV? Well, for me it was rather similar when I was 4, 5, 6 years old watching all the specials that came with Sierra collections; Ken, Roberta, Scott, Josh etc would be on them (depending on which series). The company really did appear to be a family, to be not just faceless designers and producers but a company made of PEOPLE.

    Too many companies today, and even companies in Sierra's day, are just faceless entities. If you read the book Hackers, which in part details Sierra's history from 1979-1983, one of the things Sierra hated about the big companies (like Atari) was that their employees were treated as faceless gears in a machine. Ken, after reading about how Walt Disney ran Disney, decided to change that--From now on, the designer/writer would be a celebrity. He thought of video games as the new art form, which would become as respected and important as movies and books; He didn't see games as just cheap, mindless entertainment like most view games now--He literally viewed them as the next art form and strived to make sure Sierra's products were art; "Interactive storytelling" as he called it.

    I bet any modern gamer wouldn't be able to name the writer of, say, Call of Duty. But most adventure game fans--even fans who aren't Sierra diehards or even casual Sierra fans--could probably tell you who Roberta Williams or Jane Jensen are.

  • Was Infocom in the book? Because for me that's where the conversation starts.

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    Cez

    @DAISHI said: Was Infocom in the book? Because for me that's where the conversation starts.

    Yes, I think they had Zork.

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    Cez

    @Anakin Skywalker said:

    I bet any modern gamer wouldn't be able to name the writer of, say, Call of Duty. But most adventure game fans--even fans who aren't Sierra diehards or even casual Sierra fans--could probably tell you who Roberta Williams or Jane Jensen are.

    That's one of the things I really enjoyed discussing with Jane the times that I've met her. She always says she feels really blessed to have worked for a company like Sierra and that she's never ever felt she's belonged as much as she did in her time there. She's always wanted to return to a time like that, to recreate that magic.

    Ken was a person that respected his designers, and Jane confirmed how he always thought a game was better held by a single vision, even if he didn't share the vision. Jane told me that Ken wasn't too enthusiastic about Gabriel Knight, because he thought it was too dark. But, he decided to give Jane the chance to do the story she wanted.

    I'm sure there were limits to what designers could or could not do, and there was a company ideology they all had to follow, but there was respect from Ken and that showed. I feel close to the designers of Sierra because I felt like I knew them. They were not a bunch of faceless names behind Monkey Island, for example, which I did not really learn or really knew who the designers were until many many years later. But, ask me who Roberta was, who Josh Mandel was, who Al Lowe was. I knew them, and that's something that made me feel closer to them, even if I wasn't at the time.

  • Most all of the LucasArts adventures had a subtext on the box art of who the game was designed by. Much like Sierra. Maniac Mansion was Ron Gilbert, Day of the Tentacle was Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, Loom was Brian Moriarty, MI1 and MI2 were Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, Sam & Max was Mike Stemmle and Sean Clark. Full Throttle and Grim Fandango were Tim Schafer. The Dig was Sean Clark and Steven Spielburg, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade was Ron Gilbert, David Fox, and Noah Falstein, Fate of Atlantis was Hal Barwood, Curse of Monkey Island was Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern, Escape From Monkey Island was Mike Stemmle and Sean Clark, and Zak McKracken is David Fox. I'd say it was pretty important for LucasArts to prominently credit the lead designers wherever possible.

  • @MusicallyInspired said: Most all of the LucasArts adventures had a subtext on the box art of who the game was designed by. Much like Sierra. Maniac Mansion was Ron Gilbert, Day of the Tentacle was Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, Loom was Brian Moriarty, MI1 and MI2 were Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, Sam & Max was Mike Stemmle and Sean Clark. Full Throttle and Grim Fandango were Tim Schafer. The Dig was Sean Clark and Steven Spielburg, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade was Ron Gilbert, David Fox, and Noah Falstein, Fate of Atlantis was Hal Barwood, Curse of Monkey Island was Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern, Escape From Monkey Island was Mike Stemmle and Sean Clark, and Zak McKracken is David Fox. I'd say it was pretty important for LucasArts to prominently credit the lead designers wherever possible.

    Yeah, they credited them, but they didn't attempt to cultivate a developer image and fanbase around the developers themselves the way that Sierra did. That's what Cez is getting at. No Lucasarts game ever came with developer interviews on the disc, for example, but that was common with Sierra titles.

  • Hey guys, I know I haven't been around for a while so I wanted to stop by to say hi. I hope you have all been doing well!

    I also wanted to echo the sentiment regarding how under-appreciated Sierra is today. The company was a huge force in the 80s and 90s, but you wouldn't know it based on the [lack of] respect it gets. I was never a LucasArts fan, but I think it gets more credit because the company is still alive and making games, so the name is still out there (and it's supplemented enormously by the Star Wars brand). Plus many of the old LucasArts designers are still working today (Tim Schafer at Double Fine; Ron Gilbert w/ DeathSpank, etc.). AND there's TellTale, which is a double positive (ex-LucasArts designers working on games often associated with LucasArts in one way or another).
    I really wish some of the Sierra folks had gotten together to form a Sierra-equivalent of Telltale after Black Monday. It seems as though everyone just disappeared between Mask of Eternity and Gabriel Knight III. The only one still around who comes to mind is Jane Jensen, and she's given us one game in the last ten+ years (not counting her casual stuff).

    Now for the positive part: I always get really happy in the rare occasion when Sierra IS appreciated. My main reason for posting (aside from just saying hi) was to share two gaming publications giving King's Quest VI its due:

    1) Gamespot considers KQVI as one the greatest games of all time (a significant honor considering the relatively few number of titles on the list): http://www.gamespot.com/features/6144989/the-greatest-games-of-all-time-kings-quest-vi-heir-today-gone-tomorrow

    2) PG Gamer recently ranked KQVI as the 81st best game of all time (it's disappointing that it's so high on the list + so many LucasArts games are ranked much better, but at least it's being mentioned): http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/02/16/the-100-best-pc-games-of-all-time/2/

    If you haven't seen it already, the Gamespot article is definitely worth a read (the PCGamer article is just a couple of sentences).

    Catch you all later!

  • Ron Gilbert left Hothead for Double Fine now.

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