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Roberta Williams/Josh Mandel discussion

posted by tomst on - last edited - Viewed by 1.3K 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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  • Here is the history of the development of the game...

    http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/KQ8_development

    http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/King%27s_Quest_8_(Davidson_%26_Associates)

    Pay particular attention to Davidson's involvement... They or rather there 'henchman' managers, tried to take the control from Roberta, and make the game on their own without her input ('ignore her')... This is likely the point where she threatened to pull her name from the game...

    The Davidsons didn't like Roberta that much apparently and saw her as all that was unholy influencing children to ungodly ways (through violence and anti-religious imagery)...

    After Davidsons left Sierra, she regained much of the control... She was able to pull the game back to her vision, and agreed to have her name on it.

    However, realize, that many of the 'action'/'RPG'/3D stuff was purely Roberta's ideas, and she was discussing some of those ideas as early as 1995 (before Sierra was sold), long before she physically started making KQ8... If anything she had more ideas for bosses, that ended up being cut... It was actually 3D and combat that she first started on, in hopes she could flesh in the puzzles later on (which probably lead to some puzzles being cut unintentionally as well).

    http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/Inquisition_2000_(Spring_1997)

    rereleased collections of the main Quest games.
    Poorly conceived, buggy and incomplete collections... Like leaving out the original version of LSL1, the CD versions of LSL6, and no LSL7....

  • The original versions of KQ1, PQ1, and SQ1 were also absent. Definitely not the best collections ever, but at least they released something. I believe they also got the games on GoG and/or Steam before ActiVision took over as well, though that might not be true.

  • @BagginsKQ said: Here is the history of the development of the game...

    http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/KQ8_development

    http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/King%27s_Quest_8_(Davidson_%26_Associates)

    Pay particular attention to Davidson's involvement... They or rather there 'henchman' managers, tried to take the control from Roberta, and make the game on their own without her input ('ignore her')... This is likely the point where she threatened to pull her name from the game...

    The Davidsons didn't like Roberta that much apparently and saw her as all that was unholy influencing children to ungodly ways (through violence and anti-religious imagery)...

    After Davidsons left Sierra, she regained much of the control... She was able to pull the game back to her vision, and agreed to have her name on it.

    However, realize, that many of the 'action'/'RPG'/3D stuff was purely Roberta's ideas, and she was discussing some of those ideas as early as 1995 (before Sierra was sold), long before she physically started making KQ8... If anything she had more ideas for bosses, that ended up being cut... It was actually 3D and combat that she first started on, in hopes she could flesh in the puzzles later on (which probably lead to some puzzles being cut unintentionally as well).

    http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/Inquisition_2000_(Spring_1997)


    Poorly conceived, buggy and incomplete collections... Like leaving out the original version of LSL1, the CD versions of LSL6, and no LSL7....



    You have to remember, though, the Davidson's involvement with Sierra was only for a very short period (September 1996 to January 1997). Mask's development started around the Fall of 1995 (with probably some ideas floating in Roberta's head as early as 1994) and ended in the Winter of 1998. So really in terms of it's development, the Davidson's involvement was a very short period.

    @ Hiroshi Mishima: I don't recall Roberta ever wanting her name off KQ7. That was her vision; She had wanted to make a Disney-esque KQ and got it done, that was the mood she was in in '93/'94 as far as KQ was concerned, even though she acted as more of an "Executive Producer" on it than with the other games.

  • MusicallyInspired, plus early buggy 16-bit version of KQ7, no attempt to include and make KQ8 Work on modern machines. No installer for KQ6 Enhanced and/or compatibility wih modern machines. A buggy version of the dos version of KQ6 with a glitchy intro video. Etc...

    Anakin...

    However, the Davidson's period was the only period where she actually physically lost control of the game according to a book I read.

    If anything later on from what I was finding the higher ups were actually starting to threaten her with canceling the game, because it was going over budget (there wasn't enough for them to go about releasing it without her)... If that had happened there would be no game for her to put her name on! So that's not really a control issue... What they wanted was a finished game that could be shipped within the designated budget, than careing to have any direct input on what went into the game. At that point in time she and Mark Seibert were the ones in charge of the actual game content (he deferred to her when it came to the decisions)...

    Keep in mind Ken Williams was somewhat similar back when he was in charge, remember how many games were forced to be shipped buggy and incomplete to meet Christmas deadlines! Quest For Glory 4 is a prime example! You can find ex-Sierra employees that were somewhat disgruntled with his management... Including the Coles as I remember... Roberta actually was one of the few designers he gave extra development time and budget leeway...(not surprisingly)!

    Neither was Dynamix development of their Red Baron II game have anything to do with control issue... Yes Roberta hoped they would finish that game so she could utilize their engine, but she had no physical control over their completely unrelated game development... The development of Red Baron II had nothing to do with KQ8 directly...

    You do realize how juvenile it would be if Roberta had a temper tantrum over Dynamix not finishing their game Red Baron quick enough! Simply because she wanted to use their work to build her own game? That wouldn't have gotten her anything, except for maybe a buggy incomplete engine... Also Make a bad impression with her peers... I just can't see her saying, "I'm not going to put my name on KQ8, because Dynamix won't release their work on Red Baron II to me."

  • Yes, it wasn't the best presentation obviously but at least they DID SOMETHING.

  • True, but unfortunately those bugged versions have left their mark on later Activision releases... For what ever reason, GOG only has access to the VU Four Most Wanted edition of PQ collection minus the original PQ1AGI.

    While they got access to release the AGI version of KQ1 and 2.0 of KQ7. They used the buggy version of KQ6 (for what ever reason left out KQ1 remake). The SQ set left out the Remake of SQ1...

    Yes I know the intent was to highlight the original development of the KQ and SQ series. But what would it have hurt Activision to include the remake perhaps in he last sets of each respective series on GOG.com.

    Why didn't they follow that for thePQ release as well?

  • @BagginsKQ said: True, but unfortunately those bugged versions have left their mark on later Activision releases... For what ever reason, GOG only has access to the VU Four Most Wanted edition of PQ collection minus the original PQ1AGI.

    While they got access to release the AGI version of KQ1 and 2.0 of KQ7. They used the buggy version of KQ6 (for what ever reason left out KQ1 remake). The SQ set left out the Remake of SQ1...

    Yes I know the intent was to highlight the original development of the KQ and SQ series. But what would it have hurt Activision to include the remake perhaps in he last sets of each respective series on GOG.com.

    Why didn't they follow that for thePQ release as well?



    Didn't the 1994 and 1997 KQ collections include both the original and the remake? I had the '94 Collection, I'm pretty sure it did...Plus it came with all of those extras, the behind the scenes and videos and whatnot.

  • Yes, Anakin the 15th Anniversary collections, the interrim reboxed collections (released a year or two after) and the Collections 2 series are actually really well done!

    They are the versions that Vivendi Universal should have based there 'updated' releases on (with the added DOSBOX support, and addition of any games not previously released in earlier collections)....

    Keep in mind collection 2 included latest games in the series respectively (KQ7, SQ6, LSL6CD (LSL7?), etc)

    The 2006 collections really dropped the ball in quality...

  • Excellent post (edit: there was a good post above this one, it mysteriously vanished) , you are right Ken Williams management of the company would have destroyed people's opinions of the company, had he sold it or not... He was after all as you said trying to simple take Sierra in the direction that would make him the most money (Adventure games were not part of that plan)!

    This quote was was especially important;

    http://www.adventure-treff.de/artikel/interviews/ken_williams_e.php By the time Sierra was sold, it was mostly a non-game company. In about 1990 I made the decision to focus away from games. This came about as a result of a discussion with Bill Gates himself. It's a bit of a long story, but we had been talking about Sierra and Microsoft doing a project together when I got bold enough to ask Bill if he would ever consider buying Sierra (I had always had tremendous respect for Microsoft, and would have teamed up with them in a minute). His answer changed Sierra's future.
    People at Sierra remember this meeting well, because I came back and changed the company dramatically. Bill said that he had just noted the bankruptcy of United Artists. His contention was that they were in a hit driven business, and that ultimately in a hit driven business you run into a time of no hits. Sierra lived and died with the best seller charts. Fortunately, the charts were very good to us, but Bill's contention was they had also been good to United Artists. Ultimately, you run out of hits and die. It might take a hundred years, as was the case with United Artists, but it always happens. My goal with Sierra was to create a company that would live forever. I didn't want to be a "hit machine".
    I set a new goal for Sierra to exit the hit business, and reorganized the company around a new vision to be 1/3rd education, 1/3rd productivity and 1/3rd perennial products. The first two categories should be obvious, but the last needs some explaining. My goal was to find products that could be "rev'ed" each year, such as Microsoft's Flight Simulator, or Electronic Arts Madden Football. I wanted to find an array of products that could be done better each year. Flight (and other) Simulators fit this category, as did construction sets. Products like Caesar fit this definition. The Incredible Machine.
    By the time the company was sold, I had about 80-90% of revenue that matched my vision. It's not clear that I would have continued in adventure games at all. My guess is that this vision won't make me popular with adventure gamers, but it was working. My focus was on building a company that would live forever. The new owners had different ideas and scrapped many products I considered key to this vision. I wish they had at least asked where I was trying to steer the company."

    Chris Williams quoting his own dad Ken Williams (on why KQ8 was moving in a different direction, and his choices to change the direction of Sierra in general) (Interaction, Spring 1997);

    "The traditional adventure game is dead."...it's time to change adventure games at least as much as the gamers themselves have changed over the last few years. It's time to make them "less pretentious. More open-ended, faster paced, and just more fun to play than they have been." After all..., "what's the use of creating these super-serious, overly literary, and downright studious games when the major audience that will play them played a Nintendo or a Sega last year? These folks are used to playing games where the correct answer to any problem might be jumping over something, hitting it with a hammer, or maybe even shooting it with a big bazooka. Why hassle through all the literary pretense when most of today's gamers just want to blow something up."

    Ken said about the adventure genre, and how it needed to evolve into action or something else entirely;
    Ken: "The adventure game needs to be re-invented to succeed. Doing more of the same with a new plot wouldn't cut it, beyond selling a few Sierra fans. My #1 skill at Sierra was in pushing people to innovate. There is too much copycatting in the industry today. No one has the courage to do something completely different. I don't think Sierra (or, anyone) will do an adventure game anytime soon. If they do something like what Sierra did, it will be at best a mediocre success. My guess is that companies no this, but no one wants to go out on a limb with something completely different."

    He felt the future of "Adventure Games" was something neither action, but neither a 'puzzle' (as in traditional adventure game puzzle) either, but pure interactivity with the world;

    "Imagine Super Mario quality animation, and the ability to interact with the world, but with realistic characters, and mature plots. But, a story game - not a action game, and not a puzzle game. Focus on characters and plot. That said, I would launch two different projects to reinvent the market, and my second idea might be the bigger one.
    I can't help but that paragraph he is somewhat describing the direction Telltale games is taking things... Less puzzles, but not quite action either, more like an interactive movie...

    I like the idea of where infocom was going. There were the inklings of an idea in their text games - which was to focus on artificial intelligence. If the same effort were coupled with todays computers - perhaps a game could be built that is a VERY accurate simulation. I like the idea of an environment with unpredictable characters. The problem with multi-player is that most people don't like multi-player environments. I think that through having truly smart NPCs, something that could be done that gives the best of both worlds; single and multi-player games. If I personally did a game, this is the area I would focus on. The problem is that games become puzzle games at some point. It's the player versus the traps left by the designer. I have a lot of ideas on how to build credible intelligent characters."




    Let's not forget, Roberta and Ken's desire not to just 'make games', but to bring computer industry closer to the film industry, as multimedia extraganzas! Possibly replace the film industry... That was the whole reason they hired Bill Davis as a 'Creative Director'! Roberta dreamed of a day of making 'interactive movies', where the players made choices for the actors (see making of KQ6 video, and 15th Annirsary collection videos)!

    Ken: "I always thought the future of storytelling was on the computer. I predicted that computer games would be bigger than films, and still believe there is huge potential with story-telling games - if done correctly. Watching a story from the inside is more exciting than from the outside. Phantasmagoria was a first step towards where I thought the future was. It's disappointing that we blew it with Phantasmagoria II and shot the category."

    Ken's internal development motto for Sierra was;
    "think entertainment, not games."

    He felt the limitations of "adventure game" puzzle design were limiting and gimicky, some how restraining from the kind of interactivity and entertainment he wanted!

    Ken: "In some cases it was poor design, in some cases it was the natural thing that the designer thought would happen if someone did it in "real life". I'm a perfectionist. Sierra never shipped a game I felt was perfect. This bugged my staff, because it was tough to get complements from me. Oh well. My goal was never a happy staff - it was a perfect game. We got as close as we did because I, and more importantly the Sierra culture, was to find the perfect game.
    By the way: I always hated the word "adventure game". Phantasmagoria was a horror game. It worked when it scared you, and didn't when it felt like a "puzzle" or "adventure" game. Larry worked when you laughed. It was a "comedy" game. It didn't work when it felt like an "adventure" game. Decide the emotion you are going for; tears, laughter, fear, etc - and go for it. Do what makes the emotion, and blow off the rest. In some cases my own designers forgot the rule, and those were the weak parts of the games."

    They never really liked the concept of 'games', but more the idea of 'Interactive Fiction' (based on 'emotions')...

    don't recall Roberta ever wanting her name off KQ7. That was her vision; She had wanted to make a Disney-esque KQ and got it done, that was the mood she was in in '93/'94 as far as KQ was concerned, even though she acted as more of an "Executive Producer" on it than with the other games
    Anakin, the only evidence I can think of that may show that she was thinking of releasing the game minus her name (as well as the game's number), was in concept boxart;
    ConcepttitleposterKQ7.png

    There is also a rather strange message "Based on original characters created by Roberta Williams" in the credits!... The line seems to hint at some kind of divergence in the game's early development from direct Roberta...

    Note, that Roberta was thinking of leaving her name off of the games as early as KQ6, but then she believed that King's Quest was something that went much beyond herself, and was a universe that she felt other designers should be able to add to, without her involvement! But she was continually pulled back into the series... and still put much of her control over KQ6's development... There was a short period though, shen she almost left it entirely in Jane Jensen's control (and was thinking of putting little involvement into it)...

    "I originally wanted to be the Creative Consultant on King's Quest VI", "I wound up being much more deeply involved than I planned." As hard as it is for people to imagine a King's Quest game that wasn't designed by Roberta, it almost happened with King's Quest VI. It was believed that it would probably come to pass in the "not-too-distant future".-Interaction Summer 1992

    http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/KQ6_development


    Still Jane Jensen was able to leave her own signature on the game ("darker, more ominous...more wordy", as some put it).

    This quest seems to have a darker, more ominous tone than the other King’s Quests; it is also more wordy. Is there a reason?

    I was thinking that same thing the other day, but I don’t believe we made it intentionally ominous. It just turned out that way.

    The reason it’s more wordy is that I didn’t write the text. This is the first time I have had a collaborator. Jane Jensen wrote all the script, and we worked on the story line and character together. We spent a month working together before Ken and I left on a two-month vacation to France.

    Jane has a different style than I do, and maybe she is more text oriented. Even her design documents were four times as thick as mine usually are - her fingers just fly on a word processor.

  • I did notice with Phantasmagoria that their games started feeling more cinematic, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but insofar as the last chapter of the game went.. let's just say I never did find everything you could spot, or even beat it with the good ending, cause the time-based elements were pretty unforgiving. I think that The Beast Within did a better job with the finale.

    Hmm.. I'm wondering.. while I enjoyed the earlier KQ games, 5-7, especially 6 and 7, seemed to really appeal to me a lot more than the others. While I do think that the decrease in frustrating puzzles might've been part of the reason (as was the now mouse-based user interface), I think looking back what got me to enjoy them the most was the increased amount of writing I saw in them. The stories got longer, deeper, the characters were fleshed out more.

    Kind of off topic, but did any of you ever read the King's Quest Compendium? It was the really elaborate book, must've been over 500 pages long, and it included a written story based on each of the games in a way that helped players solve the games.. BUT also included a more normal guide for each game in the second half of the book.

    I used to just sit down and read the heck out of it, and the theories that would get put forth about some of the stuff which happened, cause it was all written in-universe by a royal chronicler.


    Oh, and I do have the '97 version of the collection and it was so wonderful being able to play in both the original and remade versions of the games, along with the bonus content like interviews and documentaries. I'm really sad that the Sierra Collection I got at GOG is just.. a pale imitation.

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