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It sucks being a Sierra fan....

posted by Anakin Skywalker on - last edited - Viewed by 1.4K users

Does anyone else ever feel that it kind of sucks sometimes to be a fan of Sierra, or Sierra's games? Not because of the games themselves--they're quality, awesome games, classics--But because of all that has happened since around 1999 or so?

I'm not old enough, sadly, to have actively experienced Sierra's glory days--Not in any major way. I played my first Sierra game in 1995, at the age of 5--Right around the time the "good times" were about to end for Sierra, and in any case, too young to fully understand.

But playing the games, watching and checking out all the bonus material that Sierra would put in their Collections, reading stuff like InterAction Magazine (having bought a few issues off Ebay), I can get just a taste of what an amazing time it must've been. Sierra, at it's peak, must've been both an exciting and fantastic place to work at--and for the fans which churned out classics of place which inspired awe and wonder. It must've rivaled Disney under Walt Disney in terms of the general "magic" surrounding the company.

To this day, I contend that there isn't nor hasn't been any game company which is as cool, or as good to it's fans, or as "warm" as Sierra under Ken Williams was. From InterAction, to the bonus features, to their No Risk Return policy, Sierra seemed to do it's all to make you feel like a part of the "Sierra Family"--to make the customer feel like he or she wasn't just a faceless consumer, but were themselves a part of the whole operation--That they were listened to, understood and treated as more than just a faceless market.

Even while CEO, Ken Williams would come on Usenet and chat with fans directly, nothing censoring the fans' questions. That would be like the CEO of Activision (Sierra was, in terms of size, power and income, the Activision or EA of the early-mid 90s) coming into a thread and directly chatting. You don't see that kind of accessibility or warmth from any company except perhaps small ones. And somehow despite having over 1,000 employees and being a publicly traded company, Sierra did manage to maintain that intimate, accessible sort of feel that a small group of rebel game makers would have, rather being than the cold, detached monolith which most corporations are.

And then the bad times came. Sierra was sold once, then financially gutted because it's new owners were corrupt and used Sierra's name in illegal activities, then sold again to a company which had no interest in what made Sierra what it was, a company which promptly shut down Sierra's adventure game divisions and shut down the original headquarters which helped give the company it's name, the place from which so many classic and beloved emerged. Ken and Roberta Williams sailed, with the money made from the first sale, away from the gaming industry, and all the rest of Sierra's writers, artists and designers either quit or were fired when Sierra was sold to Vivendi.

Then Vivendi decided they were going to "bring back" some of Sierra's classic franchises, while giving a big middle finger to the original designers who made said franchises and rejecting any advice or offers of help...And promptly shat out Leisure Suit Larry: Magnum Cum Laude, a horrendous, generic, half baked game which shares with the real LSL series only a common brand name. And they attempted to make a "sequel" to Space Quest around the same time--which had nothing to do with the original Space Quest series at all.

Around this time, Vivendi shut down Sierra's physical headquarters at Bellevue--Having been Sierra's HQ since 1993--and closed down Sierra's last remaining subsidiaries. Sierra was reduced to being a company which existed only in name--a brand and logo which Vivendi slapped on it's products for the next several years, whose legacy was forgotten totally and desecrated. And then finally, Activision laid the name to rest...Sadly for good.

A last LSL game was released, and it was much the same as Magnum Cum Laude--It had nothing to do with the original series.

And that's where we stand. Yes, we have a remake of the original LSL being made by Al, Josh and some of the others...But I am skeptical. Not because I doubt the talents of any involved--But because we live in a time where the gaming industry has no real soul left; It's just utterly commercial, generic crap being pumped out by faceless companies, each trying to copy and out do the other. We live in an age where the gaming industry is locked into very narrow boxes and doesn't tend to accept anything outside of those boxes--And Sierra's games, and adventure games in general, fit way outside any box with their innocent, goofy atmosphere and non-violent formats.

That's why I support this TT game. Not because I am certain it will be good, but because even if it's say, closer in format to KQ7 than to KQ6, if it's successful, it might show Activision that REAL adventure games can make money. That it's worth investing in them further. If I had to choose between Activision doing a KQ game in house or farming it out to TT, the choice is clear. Even if it's not a "great game" by the standards of die hard fans, if it is a good KQ game--which respects the originals, has the same atmosphere, has the non violent format--and suceeds--it could change the game up a little.

It largely sucks to be a Sierra fan, because for the last decade or so we've been disappointed over and over again, but I do look to TT's game with a glimmer of hope, and at the larger picture, and I hope I'm not fooled again.

20 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • No, it doesn't suck to be a Sierra fan. Many of us have gone through and saw the end of the "glory days" and we have a heck of a lot of games from Sierra which gave us all immense happiness. If only three or four games were released and then they shut down adventures, yeah that would suck. But we have so much that Sierra gave us. So much variety. Like I said, we've since accepted it and made our peace with it. The fangames that were made were nice bonuses of a lost era as well. But now some of the Sierra designers are coming back and that's even more incredible! I, for one, don't really recall any disappointments. It's not like games were coming and then canceled that we were terribly looking forward to. SQ7 wasn't even an adventure game. Sure the fangame shut down and that sucks, but hey. We have 6 whole Space Quest adventures plus four or five mostly excellent fangames.

    No, it's a great time to be a Sierra fan. It doesn't matter what the rest of the industry thinks about it. I personally do not care. I don't even care if ActiVision takes notice or not. I'm just glad to see these old celebrated adventure creators back in the business again, for however long it may be. It's more than we could ever have hoped for. I've got to say, I'm more excited about the new IPs these old designers are wanting to create than the remakes or sequels they may or may not have planned. I'm happy to see games in a style we love and used to get all the time coming back again.

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    puzzlebox Telltale Staff

    Wow, so young and yet so jaded!

    @Anakin Skywalker said: Even while CEO, Ken Williams would come on Usenet and chat with fans directly, nothing censoring the fans' questions.

    Oh hey, remember that time when Dan Connors, Telltale CEO, checked in to the forum regularly over a couple of weeks and answered fans' questions directly? Sure Telltale isn't quite Sierra-sized, but that's pretty cool.

    @Anakin Skywalker said: Yes, we have a remake of the original LSL being made by Al, Josh and some of the others...But I am skeptical. Not because I doubt the talents of any involved--But because we live in a time where the gaming industry has no real soul left;

    Ok stop right there for a sec. If you're not seeing soul, you're walking around with your eyes closed. It's never been easier for developers (indies in particular) to reach fans directly, to distribute their wares widely via electronic channels, and to use crowdsourcing to make the kind of games that people want to play. That is having an amazing effect on the diversity of the gaming landscape.

    Is LSL the only thing on your gaming horizon?

    Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight, King's Quest VI) just achieved 145% funding for her Kickstarter project and will be making not one, but TWO games in the coming year. The information available so far for Moebius has got me ridiculously excited.

    The creators of Space Quest also have a Kickstarter project running to create a traditional adventure game (set in space of course) that combines a point-and-click interface with a text parser. A TEXT PARSER. How can that not excite a fan of oldschool adventure games??

    Not to mention that we have a new, official King's Quest game coming out. I've been waiting for this since 1997... that's FIFTEEN YEARS. This is a pretty goddamn amazing time to be an adventure game fan, and a Sierra fan in particular.

    @Anakin Skywalker said: It's just utterly commercial, generic crap being pumped out by faceless companies, each trying to copy and out do the other. We live in an age where the gaming industry is locked into very narrow boxes and doesn't tend to accept anything outside of those boxes

    If you truly believe this, go poke around on Steam or ask in the General Chat forum for some indie game recommendations. Get over the nostalgia for a minute, and you will find there is a whole wide and varied world of stuff out there.

  • I was alive and a fan during the glory days of adventure gaming.... I can honestly say I was sad to watch Sierra get ran into the ground... but I was also sad to see other companies turn away from adventure gaming...

    I was happy to find TTG and the current interest in the genre because of the kickstarter campaigns.

  • I was here several years ago, when our beloved franchise had no future in adventure form and everyone agreed that it was better for them to stay dead anyway because the alternative was massacres of Magna Cum Laude proportions. When most fangames attempts, which was the only future we had, stopped being updated one by one or received letters from Vivendi. When massive waves of people deserted the forums when nothing was left to discuss and everyone moved on with their lives.

    In the last years we've had several fangames, a couple remakes, several old Sierra vets making a come back, some games to look forward for, truckloads of Let's Plays... This is a great time to be a Sierra fan.

    And I like how you're skeptical of Leisure Suit Larry when we know it will involve good old puzzle solving, point and clicking, Al and Josh's involvement and extra stuff added to it, but you're not one bit skeptical of Telltale Games' King's Quest, about which we know nothing, except their previous and less than stellar attempts at "re-inventing" the genre.

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    Jennifer Moderator

    @blueskirt said: And I like how you're skeptical of Leisure Suit Larry when we know it will involve good old puzzle solving, point and clicking, Al and Josh's involvement and extra stuff added to it, but you're not one bit skeptical of Telltale Games' King's Quest, about which we know nothing, except their previous and less than stellar attempts at "re-inventing" the genre.


    Also note that Replay Games (who is making the Leisure Suit Larry remake) was founded by former Sierra employees, and the entire Leisure Suit Larry 1 team is back to work on the remake. With that formula, it will be hard for them to not make a game that is faithful to the original.

    As for Telltale's King's Quest, I'm not skeptical about it. Sure, their games based on entertainment licenses have been a mixed bag as far as adherence to the adventure game genre (and the easiness factor), but they haven't screwed up an adventure-based (or a property that has already had adventures) license yet.

    Sam & Max: Season One is equal to Hit the Road, and the other two seasons blow Hit the Road away, in my opinion.

    Also, in my opinion, Tales of Monkey Island was miles better than Escape from Monkey Island (which I still liked, despite it's flaws), and I even thought that it was better than Curse of Monkey Island (which I loved) and was equal to the original two games in the series.

    As for Tales of Monkey Island, they even added the ability to combine inventory items which fans have been clamoring for since Sam & Max: Season One (which added a depth and challenging factor to the game).

    Also, the puzzles in Tales of Monkey Island weren't super easy, and they did get harder as the series went on, despite Telltale already heading towards the casual market at that time. The same could be said for Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, which was released in the same year as the oft-complained about super-easy Back to the Future episode 1.

    They know what King's Quest fans want for the series, and I'm sure they'll deliver.

  • @blueskirt said: And I like how you're skeptical of Leisure Suit Larry when we know it will involve good old puzzle solving, point and clicking, Al and Josh's involvement and extra stuff added to it, but you're not one bit skeptical of Telltale Games' King's Quest, about which we know nothing, except their previous and less than stellar attempts at "re-inventing" the genre.

    Man has a point here. You're totally not being consistent, Anakin. Which is it? Hope or despair?

  • @MusicallyInspired said: Man has a point here. You're totally not being consistent, Anakin. Which is it? Hope or despair?

    More that I find the prospect of a totally new game more exciting than yet another remake.

  • Fair enough. But that doesn't really explain why you think it "sucks to be a Sierra fan", if you're so excited about Telltale's KQ.

  • @MusicallyInspired said: Fair enough. But that doesn't really explain why you think it "sucks to be a Sierra fan", if you're so excited about Telltale's KQ.

    I didn't say I'm "excited" per se. Perhaps I should've used the word interesting. I said it sometimes sucks to be a Sierra fan because we've frankly gotten repeatedly disappointed for more than a decade when it comes to Sierra and the treatment of it's IPs by the IP holders. I just see this new, original game as a glimmer of hope. It will be something new, and may change the game a little if it is successful. It could even possibly be good. That, to me, is a little more interesting than a remake of a game that was already remade. If Replay Games and Al and the rest were making a new LSL sequel, it'd be exciting (but to be honest I was never really a big LSL fan)...But we've had more than a decade of remakes.

    I don't view Mark & Scott making Space Venture as all that exciting because, while it's cool that they're together again, it's not Space Quest. It's different. Maybe it will be good, maybe not--I don't know. But I haven't been looking forward to Space Venture for years. But I have been looking forward to a new Space Quest game for years.

    And I've never been a big Jane Jensen fan, so the fact that her kickstarter was successful, while it's great for her fans and for adventure games in general, doesn't really excite me because I've never really been into her work.

    My favorite Sierra series were KQ, SQ, QFG, Conquests, the Phantas series, Laura Bow and a bunch of non-series games. LSL and Gabriel Knight never were my thing.

  • @puzzlebox said: Oh hey, remember that time when Dan Connors, Telltale CEO, checked in to the forum regularly over a couple of weeks and answered fans' questions directly? Sure Telltale isn't quite Sierra-sized, but that's pretty cool.

    It's not the same as the CEO of what was then the biggest computer game company around talking to the fans. You guys are still a midsize company--In today's world, Ken talking to the fans so directly would be like the President of Blizzard Entertainment coming onto their forums and chatting with them. And no gaming company has the equivalent of InterAction Magazine, which was just awesome. It isn't the same.


    Ok stop right there for a sec. If you're not seeing soul, you're walking around with your eyes closed. It's never been easier for developers (indies in particular) to reach fans directly, to distribute their wares widely via electronic channels, and to use crowdsourcing to make the kind of games that people want to play. That is having an amazing effect on the diversity of the gaming landscape.

    That's all well and good, and it happens in indie and fan developer circles all the time, but most mainstream, larger companies don't tend to reach out in such a way.


    Is LSL the only thing on your gaming horizon?

    Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight, King's Quest VI) just achieved 145% funding for her Kickstarter project and will be making not one, but TWO games in the coming year. The information available so far for Moebius has got me ridiculously excited.

    The creators of Space Quest also have a Kickstarter project running to create a traditional adventure game (set in space of course) that combines a point-and-click interface with a text parser. A TEXT PARSER. How can that not excite a fan of oldschool adventure games??

    Not to mention that we have a new, official King's Quest game coming out. I've been waiting for this since 1997... that's FIFTEEN YEARS. This is a pretty goddamn amazing time to be an adventure game fan, and a Sierra fan in particular.

    LSL is not really on my gaming horizon, for reasons mentioned above--Sierra remakes don't tickle my fancy anymore, and LSL1 has already been remade once before, and I was never an LSL fan. If they were making a real "Larry 8", I'd be thrilled and would play it because I'm starved for something new and original in a Sierra series, even if it's one I wasn't really into.

    I've never been into Jane Jensen's work so while it's a boon for adventure gaming it's not something which personally has me excited. Just never really dug her writing.

    Scott and Mark working together again is great and I will definitely buy Space Venture when it is out, they are tied as my second favorite Sierra designers behind Roberta, but it's not as exciting as the idea of a SQ7 happening. I'm more interested in a revival or continuation of Sierra franchises than anything else.

    There's only three things interesting happening in the world of Sierra related stuff: TT's KQ game, IA's Kingdom of Sorrow, and I do want to see the last episode of TSL released sometime soon.

    The only other thing which is exciting to me in gaming right now is the enhanced versions of the Baldur's Gate games, but that has nothing to do with Sierra.


    If you truly believe this, go poke around on Steam or ask in the General Chat forum for some indie game recommendations. Get over the nostalgia for a minute, and you will find there is a whole wide and varied world of stuff out there.

    Indie-games are great but what about mainstream games??

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