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Sierra may be coming back (New KQ Game)

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I think adventure game fans are their own worst enemies.

They supposedly want the genre to survive, they supposedly want it to rise again. They claim to want a new era of glorious adventure titles--but only if it's in a format exactly like the '90s, except with hi-res graphics of course.

 

The massively negative reaction to the new KQ game revealed to be not a pure "point and click" game is evidence enough that for one, this game is damned no matter how good it is, and two, that the adventure genre will remain a niche genre--and it's because of adventure gamers.

 

The guys working for Sierra to make the game have alread clarified that it's still going to be an adventure game, you're just not going to simply use the mouse--and that still wasn't enough. The game is pretty much DOA because of one little statement--that is how rabid adventure gamers and Sierra fans are.

 

What people seem to forget is that the Sierra of old was changing the adventure genre all the time. In 1980, when Mystery House came out, it introduced graphics.

 

If that was today, you'd have adventure gamers on social media damning this new company called Sierra for dumbing down the genre with graphics. "The whole point of adventure games is that it's an interactive novel, we play it out in our minds, and now this company Sierra is forcing the images on us."

 

When KQ came out, it introduced non-static animation and more accessible controls.

 

When King's Quest V came out in 1990, it made the genre even more simplified---

 

Imagine how adventure gamers of today would react to point and click "You've taken away the challenge! The fun! The parser, oh the parser!"

 

And relying on the old Sierra team as if they were Gods.

If Roberta Williams isn't involved, it's not KQ!", oh, you mean the Roberta Williams who spear-headed KQ8?

If the Two Guys or Josh Mandel aren't involved, it's not SQ! - Oh, like, Space Quest 5 and 6, which have the most mixed reactions of the series?

 

I'm not trying to downgrade Roberta, Scott, Mark, or Josh. I'm saying they aren't Gods. They're great, creative people. But there are much younger minds out there who could really do series like King's Quest and Space Quest justice. We're in a time where it's ripe for games like KQ and SQ. Look at the success of Frozen and Guardians of the Galaxy. People want light hearted, good old fashioned fun fantasy and sci-fi again.

 

But, no, let's all get pissed off because the new King's Quest isn't purely point and click.

Let's all boycott Sierra because Ken Williams isn't the CEO and the original gang isn't designing the games.

 

Adventure gamers lie in the bed they made and helped make themselves. And the adventure genre--once the leading genre when it came to innovation and revolutionizing gameplay--suffers and has grown stagnant for it, because of the loud voices of the purists.

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And relying on the old Sierra team as if they were Gods.

If Roberta Williams isn't involved, it's not KQ!", oh, you mean the Roberta Williams who spear-headed KQ8?

 

I agree with much of what you have said, but the "spear-headed KQ8" suggests that you are unfamiliar with the history of the development of the game. The game was just under development when Sierra was wrested from the control of the Williams. Roberta's influence over the game kept slipping all the time. Ken Williams on his site has related much of what went on during that time.

 

http://www.sierragamers.com/Forum/bbs/Topic.3846.530202

 

Your point may be better made with KQ6, where up-and-comer Jane Jensen put her mark on the game to the point that it was more of a Jane Jensen game than Roberta's.

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Go check out the Omnipedia, it's much more comprehensive and unbiased at least in regard to KQ8's design history.

Pre-production started in '95 as Phantas wrapped. Roberta said she made the decision to go 3D around '94 or '95 for KQ8. She even speaks of this in a 1995 interview. At one point in '95 she even considered making KQ8 fully first person.

In May '96 for Gamespot, she unveiled Connor as the new protagonist, saying it was "time to unload" the royal family.

 

Sierra wasn't sold until July '96, and Ken didn't leave as CEO til mid '97.

The Christmas '96 trailer for KQ6 talks about combat.

 

So, Roberta was responsible for the 3D, Action and Conor elements of KQ8 at least.

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Are there actually people in this world who think that Roberta Williams was a good designer OR writer...??

 

I think Sierra really started making great games when they began bringing in the genuine writers to supplement the people who were just "in the right place at the right time." 

 

Roberta Williams, Scott Murphy, and Al Lowe are all outstanding figures in Sierra lore, but none of them is really legendary for their writing/design talent. Before Sierra, the latter two were small-time programmers and Roberta was the wife of the big chief. Roberta in particular led a long series of mediocre titles that were primarily notable for their technical innovations.

 

In any case, Roberta, Scott, and Al certainly don't hold a candle to Josh Mandel, Lori Ann Cole, and most prominently Jane Jensen, all of whom were primarily writers and designers, and all of whom are associated with consistently quality games (criminally underappreciated in Josho's case, despite his talent and passion: the good parts of SQ6, ignored by marketing; Freddy Pharkas, one my favourite Sierra titles; and Callahan's Crosstime Saloon.) 

 

By the way, Mop Jockey, the only thing I really disagree with you about is your repetition of the canard that adventure games are dead (or stagnant or suffering). I don't know how many new adventure game releases annually will be necessary to get people to stop saying things like that.

 

I also don't think you established that Roberta was responsible for the action portions of KQ8. She was a vehement opponent of the industry's trend toward action, calling it a sign that computers were now affordable by the common man instead of "consumers of a certain income level."

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The following is just my response to the thought that "adventure gaming is dead". Skip this if you feel it's too irrelevant.

 

Just wanted to chime in with a thought that's been bouncing around in my head for a while. It may not be 100% related, but I feel that it'll paint a picture of how I believe the "industry" is.

 

Basically, back in the day we had adventure games, we had RTSes, we had arcade styled challenging games, we had what I'll refer to as (for lack of a better term) "hardcore games". These games typically had much higher difficulty ceilings, or required more work from the player to truly enjoy. I would put adventure games into this category. Now what happened as hardware became less expensive, and the idea of playing video games became less of just a "nerd hobby", more people started getting into them, and as more people got into them, the companies started to notice that they gravitated towards a certain kind of game. This has led us to the present day, with our adventure games, and our plethora of more "mainstream" type games. 

 

Where is this all going? Well, let me try to illustrate it this way. Imagine that back in the day that adventure games typically sold to 100 of the 200 people who played games. That's a pretty good chunk of total players. Companies totally went for that. Today though, adventure games may sell to 100-120 of the 40,000 people who play games (I'm making up numbers to illustrate a point, don't quote me on exact figures). In comparison to everything that's out there, and the amount of effort that companies will spend to please their customers adventure gaming may appear to be dead, when in actuality it's right where it was before, it's just that the pool of players and games has increased. The market grew around it. Adventure gaming is currently a niche genre with growing popularity. Will it ever be "mainstream"? I have no clue, but I know that until it does achieve that "mainstream" status, it'll be considered dead by many.

 

END RANT

 

I do agree with suejak in that I feel that there's too much emphasis on adventure games being about story. An adventure doesn't need to have some crazily crafted masterpiece of a story. An adventure can simply be exploration into the unknown. This is what I feel Sierra games did well in the past, and what I would like to see from any new endeavors under the same name. In Sierra games I felt like I was on an adventure, that I was exploring worlds. I've never been able to get into the LucasArts adventure games for some reason and I wonder if it's because of 1. The greater emphasis on story, and 2. The lack of death. Exploration and the threat of death are the biggest things that jump out to me when I hear the term "adventure". I don't care what format the new King's Quest plays in, as long as I feel like I'm an actual adventure, and not just riding along with a highly interactive visual novel with no failure states. I want a game, not a movie that waits for me to figure out what the plot is.

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Are there actually people in this world who think that Roberta Williams was a good designer OR writer...??

 

I think Sierra really started making great games when they began bringing in the genuine writers to supplement the people who were just "in the right place at the right time." 

 

Roberta Williams, Scott Murphy, and Al Lowe are all outstanding figures in Sierra lore, but none of them is really legendary for their writing/design talent. Before Sierra, the latter two were small-time programmers and Roberta was the wife of the big chief. Roberta in particular led a long series of mediocre titles that were primarily notable for their technical innovations.

 

In any case, Roberta, Scott, and Al certainly don't hold a candle to Josh Mandel, Lori Ann Cole, and most prominently Jane Jensen, all of whom were primarily writers and designers, and all of whom are associated with consistently quality games (criminally underappreciated in Josho's case, despite his talent and passion: the good parts of SQ6, ignored by marketing; Freddy Pharkas, one my favourite Sierra titles; and Callahan's Crosstime Saloon.)

 

Whoa, whoa, Scott doesn't hold a candle to Josh Mandel? Come on now. Equal talents, maybe, I'd say. But come this is Scott we're talking about! He's one of the very best.

 

Roberta worked well when she wasn't trying to be epic. None of the KQ games are mediocre IMO. Except 7, but that one was written primarily by Lorelei Shannon. Phantas is horrid, but what about the first Laura Bow? That's a pretty awesome game and it's Roberta. But I will give you that Lori Cole is a much better designer than Roberta; her games are developed.

 

Jane Jensen is perhaps the most overrated game designer in history. I honestly have never gotten why people so love Gabriel Knight. It's such a sacred cow of adventure gaming for reasons I don't understand.

 

Christy Marx -- creator of Sierra's Conquests series-- is criminally underrated and forgotten sadly, because her games didn't sell as much as the others and weren't marketed nearly enough, but they're two of Sierra's best.

 

 

 

By the way, Mop Jockey, the only thing I really disagree with you about is your repetition of the canard that adventure games are dead (or stagnant or suffering). I don't know how many new adventure game releases annually will be necessary to get people to stop saying things like that.

 

I'm not saying it's dead. I'm saying that, the way most adventure gamers think, it will become more and more of a niche market. Adventure gamers stopped appreciating innovation sometime around 1997 or so and you have a loud, vocal, purist minority who wants everything to be just like it was in 1992. And that minority gets enraged and very loud at the first mention of anything different than the KQ5 model of adventure games.

 

 

I also don't think you established that Roberta was responsible for the action portions of KQ8. She was a vehement opponent of the industry's trend toward action, calling it a sign that computers were now affordable by the common man instead of "consumers of a certain income level."

 

Look at the Fall 1996 InterAction article on KQ8. Written while Ken was still CEO. Roberta talks about how she's added combat to KQ, calling them a 'moral choice', adding that in real life you'd have to fight and kill an enemy. Mark Seibert--Roberta's co-designer on KQ8--has said they decided very early on to add combat. That combat seemed natural once they established it was going to be 3D. It didn't make sense to have these wide open areas full of nothingness and they were worried it'd bore players.

 

In that article, she was talking more about the decline of interest in the adventure genre as compared to shooters. KQ8 isn't a shooter or even purely an action game and Roberta never saw it as such.

 

Go and read the KQ Omnipedia's article on the development of KQ8. It's very very interesting as there was 3 almost entirely different versions of the game over a three year development history. At least three levels were cut, a ton was changed, including Connor's back story, the look of the game, the feel of it, the lay out of Daventry.

 

KQ8 went through three separate designs, but the consistent elements were Connor, the idea of the Mask being broken wrecking havoc on Daventry, combat and it being 3D.

 

At one point, Connor was going to be a marble statue who is brought to life when everyone else is turned to stone by the mask being broken and he would be rewarded with 'life' ala Pinocchio at the end. In another version, he was to be the son of a fisherman, and when he was born, a piece of the Mask touched his forehead, marking him as the One and leaving a scar. In the final version, he's just a tanner.

 

 

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Go check out the Omnipedia, it's much more comprehensive and unbiased at least in regard to KQ8's design history

Always take Omnipedia with a very large grain of salt. It contains quite a few errors. It took someone I know a long time to get the owner to change his entry on the fallen knight in the land of the dead in KQ6. He absolutely insisted that his name was Shahrazad just because of Jane Jensen's poem that mentioned her name.

 

There were a number of insiders there that have all pretty much corroborated the course of events on the sale of Sierra. There was a transitional period that passed control from Williams to CUC.

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Pardon the very obvious plug, but Frederik Olsen and I had a chat about the Sierra reunion here: http://backseatdesigners.podbean.com/e/episode-1-sierra-is-back-yay/

 

Also, just so you think I'm not just plugging my own stuff, here's Joe from the "Upper Memory Block" podcast talking about the same thing: http://umbcast.com/episode-55-sierra-revival/

 

And here's Some Guy's "Point And Click Times" episode on it: http://www.pointandclicktimes.com/point-and-click-times-podcast-sierra-reaction/

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"You've taken away the challenge! The fun! The parser, oh the parser!"

Quoted from: every Scott Murphy interview ever.

 

consistently quality games (criminally underappreciated in Josho's case, despite his talent and passion: the good parts of SQ6, ignored by marketing; Freddy Pharkas, one my favourite Sierra titles; and Callahan's Crosstime Saloon.)

Just to be fair: Not everything Josh Mandel has touched also turned to gold. Apparently he co-wrote a fairly awful Cowadoody-clone for Nfusion way back when. Still need to get my hands on that one, the combination of comedy writer and WWII-FPS (by the creators of "Larry Reloaded", no less) simply sounds too outlandish to pass up.

 

a sign that computers were now affordable by the common man instead of "consumers of a certain income level."

The Old Man Murray article that tore Roberta Williams to shreds for that statement is a lot more fun to read than her games are fun to play.

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I've never been able to get into the LucasArts adventure games for some reason and I wonder if it's because of 1. The greater emphasis on story, and 2. The lack of death. Exploration and the threat of death are the biggest things that jump out to me when I hear the term "adventure". I don't care what format the new King's Quest plays in, as long as I feel like I'm an actual adventure, and not just riding along with a highly interactive visual novel with no failure states. I want a game, not a movie that waits for me to figure out what the plot is.

 

I can definitely appreciate that lack of deaths takes the edge off a game, and some people definitely prefer having

deaths included... I'm not that bothered with that personally...

 

With the stories though, I think LucasArts was similar to Sierra in that the actual story wasn't usually THAT important.

I think again it's more to do with the characters, the puzzles, the humor, and the interesting locations

rather than the actual "plot".

 

Monkey Island 1 and 2 don't really have a prominent story to them, nor does Sam & Max or Day of the Tentacle...

it's basically a rough outline to get you moving from one location/puzzle/joke to the next...

 

Full Throttle, Fate of Atlantis, and Grim Fandango have more story elements to them, but again,

more so just to give an interesting setting to fun characters, locations, and puzzles...

 

The Dig is probably the one that hinges mostly on its story, but even that is a lot about 

atmosphere and exploration of the setting.

 

I think with most adventure games, if you just recapped the "story" for most people, there usually

isn't that much going on in most of them.

And a lot of the story is often built specifically to introduce an interesting puzzle (eg. Guybrush sword-fighting

random people is only really interesting because of the insult-sword-fighting puzzle).

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Monkey Island 1 and 2 don't really have a prominent story to them, nor does Sam & Max or Day of the Tentacle...

it's basically a rough outline to get you moving from one location/puzzle/joke to the next...

They totally have prominent stories!

 

Guybrush wants to be a pirate and he's also looking for Big Whoop; Sam & Max are looking for a bigfoot; and Bernard, Laverne, Hoagie, and Dr. Fred are trying to stop Purple Tentacle from taking over the world!

 

Okay, so the stories are simplistic, but they're still stories...

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The core of the experience comes instead from, you know, the game -- the exploration and the interaction with the world, events, characters, puzzles, etc. In other words, the participatory elements of the story.

 

 

You have a very good point here. Let's face it, folks - the majority of the fun in adventure games is in the interactions. Walking around, exploring the game world, talking to people, poking and prodding at every hotspot to see what sorts of reactions you get - those are the things that really make the game experience unique. Space Quest proves that this sort of design can make for a great game even when the actual plot isn't exactly award-winning material. :rolleyes: KQ, QfG and the like had stronger plots, yes, but they too were more about world-building than story strength - more about the experience than anything else. Indeed, that's why the early KQ games were so heavily 'fairy tale' - the whole idea was to bring those tales you remembered to (virtual) life.

 

Didn't you have the option in KQ2 to kill the lion to get past it, but didn't get the points you got by choosing the non-violent path?

 

 

This was actually a strong running theme in the early KQ games - they often gave you the ability to *kill* certain monsters in your way, but then also gave you a less overtly violent means of dealing with them, with the latter always worth more points. The dragon could be killed with a thrown dagger, but could also be driven away using water. The troll/ogre/whatever in the cloud area could be felled with a sling, or you could hide from him and wait for him to fall asleep, then steal the chest from him without waking him. The lion in KQ2 could be killed with a sword, or fed with meat. The idea was that Graham the knight *could* be violent when he needed to be, but his kind nature preferred not murdering everything in his path by default. Sometime around KQ3, they started phasing these sorts of options out completely, making the clever, non-violent solutions more or less mandatory - this lead to the 'guile hero' archetype that almost all future adventure game heroes would adhere to from then on.

 

Instead of typing "use/talk/pick up/move/etc." those became icons

 

 

Lucasarts beat them to that one - they had the 'click on verb' system as early as Maniac Mansion. Sierra's icons were basically the same thing.

 

Also, don't forget the removal of the whole 'walk to X' system. The old games required you to physically move your character to where they needed to be to perform an action - a system which, while revolutionary at the time, was also wholly unnecessary outside of arcade or maze sequences (hello, root monster!). Lucasarts' mouse-based controls simply moved the character to where they needed to be when you tried to perform an action, which greatly streamlined interacting with the environment. This is part of the reason the interfaces for Grim and MI4 are so clunky - they *removed* this feature and forced you to manually walk around all over again. <_<

 

My SQ5 experience was worlds different from my AGI SQ1 experience due to the technology used to construct the world I was exploring.

 

 

Absolutely. Space Quest 5 made use of a radical new technology in adventure gaming that Sierra was only just learning how to properly apply - something called a 'supporting cast'. ;)

 

I think it all boils down to whether we get to experience the story without being forced to endure QTE sequences or other quick reaction type stuff.

 

 

You poor, dexterity-challenged fools. ;) Some of us are perfectly comfortable with a little ACTION!!! mixed in with our puzzle-based gaming. Still, I can see how such things would be supremely annoying for those who don't spend far more time than they should playing more traditional, actiony video games. :unsure:

 

the threat of death

 

 

IMHO, neither Sierra nor Lucasarts had the right idea at first. Lucasarts' 'no death' design, while certainly user-friendly, also only really worked because of the tongue-in-cheek nature of their games - you could only get away with not having any lethal consequences for in-game characters because creating contrived ways of having them *not* die was hilarious enough to fit with their style. Sierra's more ICly serious worlds demanded more serious consequences for failure to make them believable - but then people feel afraid to experiment for fear of getting the dreaded RRQ1 screen.

 

Sierra actually hit upon the perfect solution towards the end of their adventure gaming days, with games like SQ6 and LSL6. In those games, you could die or get game-overs...but when you did, you'd get a shiny new 'Retry' button that put you right back before you screwed up, good as new. It's the perfect system, IMHO - the in-character consequences (and potential out-of-character humor) of death, but with no real inconvenience to the player. It saddens me that the system isn't used in more adventure games even now...

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I haaaaaaaate the retry button. Screw that button. Might as well not even have deaths. Call me old fashioned, but I believe if you got yourself killed then it's your own fault that you didn't save. There's no threat to a death with a retry. It's part of the atmosphere. It adds to the tension. Retries completely ruin the whole point of deaths.

 

That's my opinion which also happens to be fact and anyone who disagrees is wrong and needs to seriously reevaluate their life choices, values, and goals. You're also stupid.

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Well, my personal problem with classic Sierra deaths (and hence my love of the retry button) is that - to name an example - it frankly isn't very fair that King Graham, the bravest, most dashing and most cunning knight of all of Daventry, is unable to survive a 2-inch fall. If you're going to make the hero that frail, consider giving him malignant melanoma during his desert hike. No wonder the guy has a heart attack in KQ4; his entire body must be made of glass.

 

Some Sierra games were just illogical and cruel. In games like Gabriel Knight 1 or Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (one of the few LucasArts games in which you can die, for the few who haven't played it), the deaths seemed very realistic and natural. So it really depends how death is implemented. If it's borderline unfair like my example above, I'd like a "Retry"-button. But if you can spot your own mistake from a million miles away, I'm more than cool with people re-learning how to "save early, save often" instead.

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A fair compromise. Graham doesn't die from every fall, though. The tree in KQ1 is a good example. That's more than two inches. In fact once I get the egg I jump out of the tree to get going faster. This goes for the AGI version as well as the remakes. In KQ3 you can fall off the stairs in the secret lab and survive (in the same room as the lab not above). In KQ4 there are lots of falls that don't kill you.

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You poor, dexterity-challenged fools.  ;) Some of us are perfectly comfortable with a little ACTION!!! mixed in with our puzzle-based gaming. Still, I can see how such things would be supremely annoying for those who don't spend far more time than they should playing more traditional, actiony video games.  :unsure:

 

 

True. As much as I enjoy adventure games, my history with Sonic and Mass Effect has desensitized me to the effects of arcade sequences on some adventurers. Personally, I welcome the AstroChicken challenge whenever I play SQ3. And I don't mind QTE sequences as long as the cut-scene they're attached to is awesome enough to warrant it. But action sequences are one of those grey areas where you just have to consider the needs of certain gamers during the design process. Some people want a "Retry" when they die, others just want to "Skip".

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Activision also owns the Sierra brand itself, meaning that Sierra operates under Activision and has access to all its IP. How did you think they were getting around making a new King's Quest otherwise?

 

LSL I can personally live without...

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Are there actually people in this world who think that Roberta Williams was a good designer OR writer...??

 

I think Sierra really started making great games when they began bringing in the genuine writers to supplement the people who were just "in the right place at the right time." 

 

Roberta Williams, Scott Murphy, and Al Lowe are all outstanding figures in Sierra lore, but none of them is really legendary for their writing/design talent. Before Sierra, the latter two were small-time programmers and Roberta was the wife of the big chief. Roberta in particular led a long series of mediocre titles that were primarily notable for their technical innovations.

 

 

 

 

I'd argue, that Roberta, Al and Scott were good designers, as they were working in an era where there was no real, clear methods for developing games. Had they been bad developers they would have taken the first model they made and churn out all of their games within that model. Instead of doing that  they at least seemingly learned from their mistakes and managed to make the gameplay better during their carereers.

 

Roberta learning from her mistakes lead into the high points of King's Quest series as well as Al learning from his mistakes lead into the high points of Larry series. I think most Sierra titles do show the gradual rising awarness on how games could be designed to be better, rather than sticking stubbornly on a couple design ideas meant for different kinds of games.  In one interview Al Lowe stated, that after they had shipped Larry 5 he realized, that the old method he used to design it was more fitting on a parser based game, hence it became his easiest title, so for the next title he had to think his methods all over in order to produce a game more suitable to a point and click interface. The things he learned from those games lead into IMO the best Larry title, Love For Sail.

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