I’m a few weeks late to this party, but when I found out this week that Sierra, one of the premier gaming companies from my childhood, was making a comeback, I may have squeed in delight. They’ve restarted their website (with a brief teaser of…something or another) and at Gamescom they announced two games coming very soon.
For those not familiar, Sierra was founded in 1979 and was one of the gaming companies who thrived in the 1980s. My own connection was through their popular King’s Quest franchise, following the story of Graham, as he rises from knighthood to being the king of Daventry, and then the adventures of his children over the years.
King’s Quest was one of those wonderfully simple and yet difficult text-based 8-bit games, where you were given almost no instruction and had to figure out how to beat the game through trial and error. As a kid, this often meant polling the audience, or in this case, bugging your classmates about how they beat this particular part. You had a giant map and you walked through it, finding objects and having random encounters, until you figured out the puzzle. It was all about repetition and logic and simply seeing what worked.
Over time the storylines and graphics got more advanced, until with King’s Quest 7: the Princeless Bride, we got animation. This was my first experience with what I’d call “modern” gaming, where you’ve got the toolbar and the items and whatnot. I loved this game. The player rotated between playing the princess and the queen, going through a ridiculous cartoon world trying to escape from an evil enchantment and return home to Daventry.
The final installation was King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity, which came out in 1998. You can see more screen shots of it here. This was two years after Sierra was sold to another gaming company, and the original founders and developers retired, and it definitely shows in the game. Though this one carries the King’s Quest game, it’s much more of a first person “shooter” (or in this case, first person sword-slasher). It wasn’t so much a logic puzzle as a check-off-the-quest-box type game, and though I enjoyed it when I played it, it was certainly different. I think Mask of Eternity was the stepping stone for me to console games like Fable and Baulder’s Gate and the like. But there it is.
And then Sierra disappeared. In 2008, it simply stopped existing, except in very old copies of the PC games, most of which have become obsolete over the subsequent OS updates since. I’ve been occasionally playing on a laptop from 2000 that can still read the CDs I have (a “special release” at some point).
Until a month ago.
Last month, the new website went live, and they unveiled a new King’s Quest. It will be the story of King Graham’s granddaughter learning about his adventures, and hopefully going on some of her own.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, these games were made by a husband and wife team, Ken and Roberta Williams. Roberta is credited on every game, and she really was a pioneer for women in the gaming industry. Though there are many more women making games now, they are still very much the minority, and games based on story telling and logic puzzles aren’t in vogue the way first person shooters are. I hope this new chapter takes us back in that direction, toward the smart and well written challenges and away from the hack and slash that’s so common these days. Or maybe it can at least round out the choices a bit more. Let’s head back to Daventry!