The titular house in Mystery House

Sierra On-Line and Mystery House - Getting Graphic

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Sierra On-Line 1980

Let There Be Graphics

Roberta and Ken Williams, founds of computer video game company On-Line Systems, later to be called Sierra

1981 image of Roberta and Ken Williams, founders of On-Line Systems, later known as Sierra

The plain text canvas of early computer adventures isn’t the summit of the rising video game industry. In 1979, Roberta Williams is a housewife with two kids, living in Simi Valley, California. Her husband Ken is a programmer at Informatics in Los Angeles, working remotely on large mainframe computers located thousands of miles away. Programming an income tax program at his home on a terminal hooked up to the computer at work, one evening Ken uncovers Microsoft’s version of Crowther and Woods’ Adventure aka Colossal Cave game sitting resident on the large mainframe and, after some experimenting with the verb/noun adventure game parser, shows it to Roberta. An avid reader, she is instantly hooked on the added dimension of actively participating in the story, obsessively playing the game on Ken’s terminal  via a 110 baud modem and teletype printer all the way to its conclusion.

Upon learning that Scott and Alexis Adams, another computer gaming couple, have formed Adventure International in Florida and created several new Adventure-type games, Ken borrows a TRS-80 home computer from work and he and Roberta run through the Adams adventure game library. Varying little from Crowther and Woods’ original Adventure, with the same verb-noun parser and plain text screens, Roberta quickly tires of the format. Ken eventually purchases an Apple II computer in 1980, with the intention of creating a FORTRAN language compiler for the machine and selling it to Apple. Looking for a real challenge, and with the belief that she’s not the only person out there who wants to play more of these games, Roberta writes her own adventure for Ken to program on the computer, and they decide to try something completely new by adding images to go along with the text prompts. Mystery House, on 48K diskette for the Apple II, becomes the first computer adventure game to combine text with graphics. In a tale inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, as well as Parker Brothers’ mystery board game Clue, the player must roam a house finding treasure and avoiding the deadly fates of the other occupants. User input is a limited verb-noun parser with a vocabulary of a paltry 300-400 words… well below the over 600-word library available in Infocom adventure games like Zork. However, Mystery House does contain 70 images, rough outlines created by Roberta on a VersaWriter tablet using a metal arm with an electronic eye at the tip. With this arm, an image drawn on paper can be traced, and Ken writes a program to convert the drawings into plotting commands that the computer will execute, drawing the illustrations live while the game plays without having to take up the memory space of storing and displaying pre-drawn images. Even a type of rudimentary animation is present in Mystery House; when the player affects the drawn scene, by opening a door for instance, the program will redraw the image to display the change. Ken also invents a special language to create the game, for use only in making graphic adventure games, called the Sierra Creative Interpreter. SCI takes the same route as competitor Infocom’s ZIL; it is a platform-agnostic language that can be easily adapted to any computer.

They launch their new company, On-Line Systems, along with Mystery House and two other programs called Skeetshoot and Trapshoot, with an ad in the pages of the May 1980 issue of Micro magazine. Despite the rudimentary artwork, the couple consider their products “interactive films”, and while this might seen a grandiose description,  Mystery House IS a sensation upon release. Priced at $24.95, the Williams sell 11,000 copies of the game inside the first year, grossing nearly 300,000 dollars for the new company. It is a small step towards one of Ken Williams’ goal for his nascent company: to be bigger than Activision.

Snap of Mystery House, a graphic adventure game by On-Line Systems 1980

The sketchy graphics of Mystery House

 On a Quest

In 1980, Ken Williams is worried about the rise in crime he senses in LA as he commutes back and forth to work. To find more bucolic surroundings to raise their two young boys, the Williams family pick up stakes and move from the LA area to Coarsegold, CA.; a brief 40 minute or so ride north from there and you’re into Yosemite National Park. They produce 20 more games for the Apple II, including further Hi-Res adventures Mission Asteroid, based on SF novel Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  The first colour adventure game, The Wizard and the Princess comes from Roberta’s love of fairy tales, and is one of the first commercial entertainment programs available for the IBM PC, with the title Adventure in Serenia, when the mainframe giant’s first foray into home computers is released in in 1981. The Wizard and the Princess is also considered a sort of unofficial start of Roberta’s vaunted King’s Quest series (see below).   Following up is Ulysses and the Golden Fleece, taken from Greek mythology. Produced by Roberta over a span of six months, Sierra also releases Time Zone in 1982, sporting over 1300 colour images and packed onto both sides of an astounding six floppies. Referred to in ad copy as a “micro-epic”, the game is a response to the feeling of disappointment Roberta always experiences at having a well-made adventure game come to an end: the length of Time Zone ensures that players won’t get that feeling of finality any time soon. That same year, the company name is changed to Sierra On-Line. They also post revenue of around $10 million, placing them as a top-tier independent game publisher.

While enjoying the success that being a game publisher has brought, Ken Williams is feeling a bit taken aback that the company he helped found has moved away from his original vision of a “serious” business applications maker. Some feedback that reassures him that his company is on the right track comes in the form of a heartfelt letter in 1981 from one of his heroes: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who writes in thanking Sierra for making compelling adventure games that helped him pass the time while convalescing after a serious crash of a plane he was piloting a couple of months earlier. Sierra does put their hands into productivity applications as well as games, with word processor Screenwriter and Screenwriter II in 1982, and personal filing system The General Manager in 1983. Sierra On-Line is also lined up as a 3rd party developer of software for Coleco’s highly-anticipated ADAM computer system, to port their HI-RES graphic adventures like Ulysses and the Golden Fleece and Cranston Manor to that platform. In 1984, the company officially drops the “On-Line” from their name, now known simply as Sierra. To ease the process of programming the company’s contributions to the gaming landscape, two graphics utilities, called Paddle Graphics and Tablet Graphics, are developed to automate the illustrations in the games.

In 1983, Sierra is visited by a crew from IBM’s home computer division in Boca Raton, Florida. They are hoping the company can produce a game to show off the advanced graphical and memory capabilities of a new computer they are skewing towards the gaming market, then known only by its codename: Peanut. So feared is the idea of IBM entering the low-end computer market, that Apple’s stock price is halved overnight just on the rumour of such a machine. Using a provided prototype system, along with IBM development funding AND the promise of game royalties, Roberta designs the next evolution of the graphical adventure. With Williams writing the story, artists then illustrate the scenes which are traced on a Calcomp Graphics Tablet. Programed using Sierra’s AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter) system, the result is an animated adventure game with astounding 16-colour pseudo-3D graphics, allowing the player’s onscreen alter-ego to walk in and around 80 different locations. The process is actually similar to that of the original Mystery House: the tablet merely gives the computer the instructions of what to draw, which it does in real-time as the player moves to different “rooms” in the game. The computer takes about four seconds to draw and colour each scene, although the drawing process itself is strangely compelling to behold: it’s like watching a small child with extraordinarily fast fingers completing a fantasy-themed colouring book.

With a team of seven programmers and artists and a development cost of $700,000, King’s Quest is released this year, weighing in at 128K, sold initially for what is now known as the IBM PCjr. Players control Sir Graham, who is charged by King Edward to search the kingdom of Daventry for three treasures. The PCjr ends up tanking in spectacular fashion, felled mostly because of its atrocious keyboard: wireless, but with rubber chiclet-style keys that make using it a chore. An update to the computer in the later part of 1984 fixes the keyboard problem, but the damage has been done. IBM only manages to move about 300,000 units all told, and mercifully puts Jr to sleep by ending production in April of 1985. This failure of the platform for Sierra’s biggest game almost puts the sword to the company… but Radio Shack valiantly rides in with a knight in shining armour, namely their Tandy 1000 computer. It is a 100-percent PC compatible, with much better expandability and a keyboard that doesn’t make you want to jump off a cliff. More importantly, it supports the PCjr’s advanced graphics system, so it can play King’s Quest in all its animated, 16-colour glory. The wild success of the 1000 and the fact that Sierra’s game is now on shelves in Radio Shack stores all over the U.S. means a big hit for Ken and Roberta too. Ported to other popular systems like the TRS-80,  Apple II family and the IBM PC, King’s Quest sells over 2.7 million copies. It receives a subtitle, Quest for the Crown, when it undergoes a VGA graphical remake in 1990. The subtitle puts it in line with the seven sequels that follow it.

The first such sequel is 1985’s King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne, starting a habit in the series of play-on-words subtitles, this one referencing the popular 1984 adventure film Romancing the Stone. The game is designed by Roberta Williams, with a story by Annette Childs. It finds Graham, now King of Daventry, questing to find and rescue (and bethrothe) a beautiful maiden from the far-off kingdom of Kolyma, secreted away by the jealous crone Hagatha. To enter the enchanted realm where the prisoner is kept, King Graham must scour the land for three magic keys. To create this wonderous world, Roberta sketches out each area of the game, to give the artistic team a guide of how the various places should look. She also plans out all of the dialog and game messages that are delivered to players, and what their available responses can be. Finally, she consults with the music composer to ensure that aural accompaniment matches her vision. When the whole shebang goes to the programming step, Roberta oversees things so the results comes out as expected.

Taking a darker turn, with a focus on magic, is King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human, released in 1986. With another story by Annette Childs, soon-to-be Leisure Suit Larry creator Al Lowe (see below) cuts his teeth in programming the game designed by Williams. The plot concerns Gwydion, slave to an evil magician who must escape before his 18th birthday or meet the awful fates of the previous slaves. Along the way Gwydion must also uncover the nature of his heritage, and via this truth rescue Princess Rosella. King’s Quest III also serves as a pretty good typing tutor: players must gather the ingredients for some pretty complex magical spells, then consult the game manual and type in multiple instructions for creating them, in full, utilizing the text parser. This process also serves as copy-protection for the game.

1988 sees the release of King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, the subtitle a play on the name of the famous 1914 movie serial The Perils of Pauline. The Plot in this one puts Princess Rosella, introduced in the previous game, on a series of quests to retrieve a magical fruit that will save her dying father, King Graham. There are around 95 rooms or scenes for the gamer to adventure across, over a 24hr narrative within the game with a day and night cycle, and multiple endings possible depending on player actions. Over 11 man years are poured into the game’s development by a team consisting of over 13 members including programmers, artists and other creatives. King’s Quest IV features a number of developmental advances for the series, including a move to the SCI (Sierra Creative Interpreter) programming system, allowing for improvements such as more and better animation than the previous AGI… but also requiring users to upgrade their hardware to play it, and subsequent Sierra adventures. To ease this transition for fans of the series, an AGI version of the game is also produced, but hardware upgrade holdouts must contact Sierra directly to buy it. The SCI version offers twice the graphic resolution of the former King’s Quest installments, taking advantage of higher-end x86 processors and graphically adroit computers like the Commodore Amiga. Professional composer William Goldstein (tv show Fame, Shelly Long vehicle Hello Again) provides forty minutes of scored music for the game, which supports stereo music cards for PCs including Adlib and the Roland MT-32, the latter offering 32-voice capability. Sierra helpfully sells these cards to users who want to upgrade their games to orchestrated sound.

Aside from all the technical mumbo jumbo is the simple fact that in this adventure, the hero is female, a rarity for games of the time. Sierra game designers use the placeholder name Ego to refer to their main characters while developing games; designer Roberta Williams has a hard time grappling with the idea that the “Ego” in this game is a woman. Body language and character movement suddenly becomes a larger issue, and Williams also has to come to terms with the act of killing a female character in the myriad ways typical in a Sierra adventure.

The follow up, King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder, released on floppies in 1990, is in development for 10 months. It is the first game to demonstrate Sierra’s point-and-click interface, allowing users to directly manipulate the world with their mouse pointer instead of having to puzzle out which words are the right ones to type into the parser. It also represents the arrival of VGA graphics to the KIng’s Quest series. By mid-1990, in contrast to the series’ shaky start on the PCjr Sierra has moved six million King’s Quest games off store shelves. KQ5 gets a CD-ROM version in 1991, featuring characters actually speaking dialog, lip-synced with over 50 voice actors. If one yearns to hear what creator Roberta Williams sounds like, pay special attention to Amanda in the Bake Shop. One can also hear Bill Davis, Sierra’s Vice President of Creative Development, as the hermit on the beach. Sierra had broken ground already earlier in 1991 by releasing their first CD-ROM game, a remake of the 1987 Roberta Williams title Mixed Up Mother Goose.

By the time Roberta starts work on the sixth KIng’s Quest game in June of 1991, she has started  feeling confined by having to crank out games in the popular series, so she steps back a bit by bringing in Jane Jenson, co-designer of EcoQuest for the company, as co-designer of the King’s Quest VI project. Bill Skirvin, who had served as Art Director for the previous King’s Quest games, shares directing duties with Williams on what becomes King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow in 1992, taking a year and a half to produce with a production budget of over a million dollars. Awaiting gamers are finally welcomed by a startling fully 3D-rendered cinematic opening created by animation and game development house Kronos Digital Entertainment, running 3 minutes for the floppy disk version and expanded to an over 40 meg epic running 7 minutes for owners of CD-ROMS. Adventurers are also treated to such technical progressions in the game as scaling sprites as characters move back and forth around the screen, along with intelligent pathfinding when players click a destination for characters to move around scenes. Sierra also breaks more ground in adventure gaming by having character voice dialog lip-synced to to their mouth movements, a technology the company acquires when they merge with Elon Gasper’s educational software company Bright Star. Robby Benson, fresh off the success of his role as Beast/Prince in Disney’s megahit animated movie Beauty and the Beast, heads up the cast of over 30 professional actors who give voice to over 700 total pages of dialog in the game, lending his voice to main character Prince Alexander. Optimized programming, headed by lead programmer Robert Lindsley, also makes things run speedier and smoother.

Ad for King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride

Click to see a magazine ad for King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride

Roberta Williams’ King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride is released in 1994, made with co-director Lorelei Shannon. It features over 100 megabytes of high-quality Disney-style animation, produced by four different animation houses contracted by Sierra. The lush animation is accompanied by over 120 fully orchestrated musical themes from composer Jay Usher, made possible by the room available due to the game’s CD-only release. The 8th installment of the franchise, the fully 3D King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity, is released in 1998, with Roberta Williams designing the game. While it is the last in the series that enjoys her direct involvement in its creation, it also constitutes a first: it is the only King’s Quest game not featuring King Graham or any of his family as the main protagonists. While Graham makes an appearance in the game, it is focused on the struggle of knight Connor in restoring Graham and the people of Daventry after they are all turned to stone. When the Sierra brand is eventually raised from the ashes in 2014 (spoilers!), the vaunted King’s Quest saga is reborn along with it, reimagined in an episodic game series put out by Sierra and The Odd Gentlemen. Staring in 2015 with King’s Quest : Chapter I – A Knight to Remember, the series moves through five chapters, with an epilogue finishing things off in late 2016.

Ad for computer video game King's Quest, by Sierra and Roberta Williams

Designed by Roberta Williams, the King-dom goes 3D in the 8th and final installment involving Williams,, 1998

Greetings From Andromeda

In 1986, early Sierra employees Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, aka The Two Guys from Andromeda, are coming off a rough assignment, working on Sierra’s adventure game adaptation of the Disney film The Black Cauldron. Crowe had started years previous in the Sierra art department; Murphy worked his way up through support, finally get his chance to code with Cauldron. After finishing up the Disney adaptation, they combine their mutual offbeat humour and interest in science-fiction into an idea for a space-based adventure. They approach Ken Williams with the idea of creating a humorous science-fiction adventure game titled Star Quest, but he is unconvinced of the commercial viability of the project and says no. But they go ahead and develop a four-room demo around the premise during their spare time, with Crowe doing the graphics and Murphy coding. When the duo present Williams with the demo, he gives the two guys the okay to proceed.

Retitled as Space Quest, it is packed full of SF references on everything from Douglas Adams’ book series The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy to Roswellian alien crash sites.  As the “hero” of the piece, the Space Quest series follows the exploits of space janitor Roger Wilco. This cosmic custodial engineer has an uncanny ability to stumble into, and then unravel, the galaxy domination plans of arch-villain Sludge Vohaul (who makes his first physical appearance in the second installment). The first two games, Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter, and Space Quest II: Vohaul’s Revenge, are written using Sierra’s  proprietary game creation language AGI

Released in 1986, the first installment of Space Quest is another huge hit for Sierra, and it spawns five follow-ups. Starting with Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon, the language SCI or Sierra Creative Interpreter is used for programming the games. It is an object-oriented language that allows for various classes of things in the game that can be created and used by the programmer, with varying attributes depending usually on their interactivity with user actions. The switch in engines from AGI to SCI causes a delay in the release of the game, from 1988 to March of 1989. This incarnation also features music from Supertramp drummer Bob Siebenberg, who lands the job by literally answering a Sierra want ad in the local Sierra Star newspaper. Siebenberg composes the soundtrack in his home studio while viewing videotaped scenes of the computer game in a process similar to film scoring. Roger also teleports into pulp paper media with The Adventures of Roger Wilcoa 3-part comic book series from Adventure Comics, an imprint of Malibu Graphics.

As Scott Murphy tells it, things steadily go sour between the creators and Sierra management as the Space Quest series progresses, culminating in the difficult development of 5 and 6, the former of which Murphy isn’t much involved in. Less and less money is being paid to the creators for each installment, even in the face of greater and greater success. The killing blow is when Crowe leaves Oakhurst for the Dynamix division in Eugene, Oregon to develop the 5th installment, leaving his former partner in the lurch. In spite of the difficulties, Space Quest 7 is announced, complete with a trailer, for 1998, but it is eventually canceled by Sierra. Incensed by Sierra’s abandonment of one of computer gaming’s most beloved characters, fans create the Save Space Quest 7 webpage in a vain attempt to have Roger Wilco materialize again.

Cover for Softporn Adventure, a computer game by On-Line systems

They’re soaking in it, on the cover of Softporn Adventure: L to R: Diane Siegal, On-Line production manager, Susan Davis, bookkeeper, Roberta Williams, author of Mystery House, 1981

Shady Characters

1987 sees the release of the controversial adult-themed graphic adventure Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. It is created by former jazz musician Al Lowe, who has come up the ranks of Sierra creating, of all things, Disney games such as Donald Duck’s Playground and Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood. Leisure Suit Larry is based on a text-only adventure game called Softporn Adventure by Chuck Benson (Gary Thompson later develops his own improved version of the program), of which Sierra sells over 25,000 copies on the Apple II in 1981. This an impressive feat when you consider that at the time there are estimated to be only 100,000 of the computers sold in total; factor in the huge amount of unrecorded pirated copies that were undoubtedly distributed and the ratio would be even larger. The goal of Al Lowe’s version closely follows the source material: get the sleazy title character into bed with three different women. LLL is a particular hit with bored male office workers, and it introduces the “Boss” key, which instantly clears the screen of any evidence of the game in case the manager walks by. Unauthorized copies of the  game are responsible for their own blanking of data… a virus added to bootleg copies of the software deposits a ticking time bomb onto office computers, which after a certain number of plays or within a certain timeframe will delete all the data it finds on any hard-drives connected. Attacks by this virus on the systems of bored bank employees or financial trading houses create headlines around the world.

Sierra also has to contend with magazines refusing to accept advertising for Leisure Suit Larry while letters of outrage poured into the offices and some resistance from stores in the Southern U.S. to selling it. This might account for the dismal sales that LLL uncovers on the initial release in June of 1987 of its two 360K floppy disks, receiving the lowest first-month sales figures that Sierra has seen in a long time. By the holiday season, however, mostly through word-of-mouth, the game is a hit. Despite (or because) of the notoriety, many Larry sequels naturally ensue, starting with Leisure Suit Larry 2: Larry Goes Looking for Love (In Several Wrong Places) in 1988, where Lowe tries to tamp down the unbridled sexual chicanery of the original by having Larry seeking a committed relationship. The next year sees Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals, which further tries to get the series woke by introducing a female character whom players control in the second half of the game. This continues in Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work in 1991 (the game titles inexplicably skip a 4th installment)where horndog gamers flip back and forth between the two titular characters. Heh heh heh. I said “tit”. Players of Larry 4 also get to use, according to the box, a “No-typing ‘grope and click‘ interface for quick-feel, one-hand action scoring”. Lowe must also agree that size matters, as the game wields a 14 megabyte file size, coming on eight high-density floppies. Some of this space is taken up by a musical score created by Craig Safan, who has music composing for the hit TV series Cheers under his belt. 

Larry gets his suit refurbished during Sierra’s mass updating of their original adventures in 1991 with a remake of the original game, with updated 256 colour graphics, expanded interactivity, ‘grope and click’ interface and a musical score from in-house composer Chris Braymen. Obviously striking enough people’s funny bones, Al Lowe’s four Larry games have generated over $13 million in sales for Sierra On-Line by 1992, with nearly 750,000 copies sold worldwide. By mid-1996 that number is 1.5 million. Outside of collections, Windows utility programs and other flotsam, the Leisure Suit Larry series continues with Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! in 1993, and the last LLL game under the tenure of Sierra, Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail! hits the high seas in 1996, after being renamed from the original uncomfortable title Yank Hers Away. Among the various innovations that pop-up in this iteration, all which inevitably have the 90’s buzzword “Cyber” attached to them (CyberGrope 2000, CyberVox 2000), is CyberType 2000, a system that attempts to bridge the gap between a simplistic point-and-click interface and the more freewheeling text parser of yore. We then get Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude (regular and an ‘Uncut and Uncensored’ version) from Vivendi Universal Games in 2004, the star-studded Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust from Funsta and Codemasters in 2009, an Al Lowe-created remake of the original game (which, remember, was a remake of another version, itself a remake of a text-adventure) called Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded (regular and Collector’s Edition) financed through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in 2013 and published by Replay Games, and Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don’t Dry, released in 2018 by Assemble Entertainment. Whew! I’m spent.

Poster for Leisure Suit Larry, a computer video game by Sierra

Oh, the puns, the puns! Please leave me Al Lowe-n!

Outside of the LLL milieu, Lowe rewinds the clock with Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist, a ribald western that also counts Josh Mandel in the design posse as director; Mandel had written text for games like the original King’s Quest, along with the first Larry game and number 5 in that game series.  Produced in 1993, Freddy Pharkas comes packed with nearly 11 megs of dusty streets and scattershot humour, detailing the trials and tribulations of the titular pill-slinger in his attempt to save the strangely-familiar town of Coarsegold. Said town’s main street taking up eight scrolling screens, making it the largest such landscape ever witnessed in a Sierra game. Another newfangled invention for the game is the Rewind-O-Matic feature, that lets players literally rewind the clock if they’re doing badly, and attempt to solve an action  sequence in a different way. Freddy Pharkas is also the first Sierra game to support the Microsoft Windows operating system.

A Cop’s Quest

On the more straight and narrow path of law and order is Sierra’s Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, created by Jim Walls. After 15 years as a “Chippie” on the California Highway Patrol, in January of 1986 Walls finds himself staring down the bore of a .357 magnum after a high-speed chase with a driver of a stolen vehicle, and while walking away from the incident, lingering complications from the case and post traumatic stress disorder lead him to retire early from the force . When Ken Williams reaches out to ask Walls if he’d like to relate his experiences as a cop in a police procedural for Sierra, he jumps in to the computer adventure game market. Walls designs the game, detailing the life of cop Sonny Bonds (name and appearance based on Wells’ son Sonny Wells) as he moves up the ranks of the police department in the fictional city of Lytton, eventually facing notorious drug dealer Jessie Bains aka Death Angel. Walls is completely clueless about the vagaries of computer game development, so Larry creator Al Lowe helps sheppard the product from concept to finished game. Also helping out is Sierra programmer and graphics artist Greg Rowland, who had worked on The Dark Crystal and King’s Quest. Art is also provided by Jerry Moore, a prolific artist at Sierra.

The game is a reality-based departure for Sierra, but so popular upon release in 1987 that it spawns another long string of sequels for the company. The verisimilitude of the police procedural work is of such a calibre in Police Quest that the program is used by various forces as supplemental training, including the Allegan Police Department of Allegan, Michigan. Police Quest 2: The Vengeance continues the series in 1988, and 1991’s Police Quest 3: The Kindred introduces gaming detectives to Sierra’s point-and-click interface, a cast of actors represented by digitized photos and 256-colour VGA graphics for scene backgrounds. Fans of the sun-drenched TV cop show Miami Vice will also appreciate the musical score in PQ3, composed by that show’s Jan Hammer. PQ3 is also notable as being the swan-song for long-time lead character Sonny Bonds in the graphic adventure era of the franchise. Fans can still walk the beat with Sonny, though, when the original Police Quest gets its VGA makeover in 1992, with digitized footage of real actors is added, along with a VGA graphic update, SCI point & click interface, three times as much dialog and a stereo soundtrack with moody music to accompany the various scenes.

Chief Controversy

When Jim Walls steps down from the series after PQ3, the Police Quest games are rebranded with the name of none other than Daryl F. Gates, controversial L.A. police chief whose tenure saw the sustained beating with clubs of unarmed Rodney King by several LA police officers after a high-speed chase in 1991. With Gates preparing to retire from the force, Williams reaches out about his possible involvement in the next Police Quest game. Gates isn’t all that keen on the idea initially, but after checking out Police Quest 3 and other Sierra adventures, is convinced that video games can be more than his perception of them being just hand-eye coordination contests. Ken Williams pays the former chief a personal visit to convince him to take job of author of the new game. Finding Gates a ‘perfect gentleman’ and ‘a real personable family kind of guy’, and with Williams already a fan of such controversial figures as firebrand conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, the Sierra head signs up the chief. This decision doesn’t sit well with many on the Sierra staff who come from the L.A. area and have personal feelings about the incident. Despite the chief’s notoriety (or more likely, because of it: Ken Williams’ brother John states in the Winter 1993 issue of InterAction magazine that Williams “decided the whole controversy over Gates would ultimately help the game sell better”), it is determined that Gates’ 43 years moving through the L.A.P.D. from patrol cop to police chief would lend the game a wide perspective on police procedure. Gates has his own reasons for accepting the offer. He seeks to overturn the false impression about police work presented in TV and movies, hoping to give game players a realistic portrayal of actual police procedures. He also prompts Sierra into promoting the D.A.R.E. or Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, which sends cops into schools to try and convince kids to overcome the systemic causes of drug abuse and “just say no” to drug use.

Having spotted some lack of realism in aspects of police work in PQ3, Gates seeks to double-down on accuracy in the new game. Not only coaching the cast for more life-like portrayals of procedure and lifestyle, Gates uses his influence to gain the production team access to locations like The Shortstop, a bar hangout popular with LA cops that caused the chief much consternation when he was in charge. He also arranges permission to shoot at the Parker Center police headquarters in downtown LA. The force’s Policeman’s manual and homicide manual are also made available to the production.

To convince shoppers to investigate this new product from Sierra, several box iterations are created by the company and presented to software retail clerks and customers by the Sierra Brand Manager and Marketing Research Specialist for focus testing. A version appearing as a file folder with the classic Police Quest branding is quickly rejected, while another with blood spray and a bloodied handprint on the cover is received better by stores but elicits concerns from parents about its violent imagery. The final released version, a cityscape and man brandishing a gun, is more in-keeping with the idea of a new Police Quest game even more concerned with realistic situations and locations.

Daryl F. Gates Police Quest: Open Season is released in 1993, with new lead character Det. John Carry solving a series of murders in L.A.. The game is produced and directed by Tammy Dargan, segment producer for the T.V. program America’s Most Wanted. Dargan also writes the story, with Gates offering advice in choosing a scenario for the game out of a list of story proposals, then giving extensive script notes about plot realism and procedure. Dargan and Sierra cinematographer Rod Fung employ digital cameras during production, believed to be a first for a video game, to display characters and actual L.A. locations in a realistic fashion. Along with all this technical achievement, Gates also takes pride in what he considers a 100% improvement in realism for Open Season compared to other police games. A CD version with the full multimedia bells and whistles (and sirens) gets its release in 1994. The Police Quest adventure series is then retooled into a line of tactical shooters, starting with Daryl F. Gates’ Police Quest: SWAT in 1995. Again produced, designed, written and directed by Dargan, Gates’ contacts and his position as creator of one of the first SWAT police teams in the U.S., after the LA Watts riots of 1965 is a valuable resource for keeping things authentic… although for security reasons, not every tactic used in SWAT response is depicted in the game. After Police Quest: SWAT 2 in 1998, the Police Quest label is dropped from further installments in the SWAT series, and thus Sierra brings the questing of adventuring beat cops to an end.

The Adventures Continue

Quest for Glory is another successful and long-lived entry in the Quest line at Sierra, the hallmark of this one being an interesting amalgam of a graphic adventure and an RPG game. Developed by husband and wife team Corey and Lori Cole, the first is initially released in 1989 under the name Hero’s Quest. Unfortunately, Sierra fails to copyright the title, and board game maker Milton Bradley manages to produce a game and copyright the title HeroQuest. Thus does Sierra have to change the name of the game and its sequel. Still, under the new name Quest for Glory: So You Want to Be a Hero, the game sells over 100,000 copies after six months of release. When it undergoes the obligatory graphical and interface updating in 1992, digitized stop-motion plasticine figures are used to upgrade the monsters and some characters in the game. The original is followed by Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire in 1990, and Quest for Glory III: Wages of War in 1992 introduces a system to allow users to adjust their game experience by making the combat sequences either lean more towards the strategic, or the other way towards twitchy arcade play. Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness follows in 1993, and Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire in 1998.

More copyright woes come to Sierra when it is forced to change the name of the magazine it publishes to promote its wares, The Sierra News Magazine. This at the request of long-time environmental organization The Sierra Club, publishers of Sierra Magazine. Hence, the magazine is retitled InterAction, which also puts it more in line with founder Ken Williams’ desire to increase interactivity and immersion in his games.

Snap of Maniac Mansion, a computer graphic adventure game by Lucasfilm 1987

Game changer: Maniac Mansion introduces the point and click interface, released in 1987 by Lucasfilm

Sierra retains its lock on the graphic adventure market until challenged by George Lucas’ Lucasfilm computer games division (later re-named LucasArts), with the 1987 release of their first in-house produced game, the graphic adventure Maniac Mansion. Along with their Monkey Island series and the Indiana Jones graphic adventures, LucasArts adventure games eschew the verb-noun text command parser for a slick point-and-click user interface.

Roberta Williams succeeds in revamping the Sierra Adventure Game Interface to add an icon-driven control scheme to later Sierra games, as well as encouraging game developers at the company to rethink their game design in the absence of the typing parser. Even with Lucasfilm breathing down their necks, by mid-1990 Sierra is responsible for 25% of computer game software sales in America, and the company continues to push its technology even further. Made by development teams numbering around two dozen people, games like Police Quest 3, Space Quest IV and Quest for Glory III utilize motion-capture techniques to digitize live actors into the games. Pulling from their pool of 400 employees means that the acting isn’t quite Oscar calibre, but it does lend some verisimilitude to how their digital avatars move in game. Shot against a blue screen in studio, Sierra’s proprietary Movie 256 program digitizes the footage of the actors at 16 frames aka cels at a time, amounting to five seconds of screen time. These fragments are then strung together, edited by Sierra artists and placed into the game on hand-drawn backgrounds. Ken Williams can also consider progress in his initial goal to build a company bigger than Activision: that company declares bankruptcy in 1991.

The Dagger of Amon Ra, a computer video game by Sierra

Williams didn’t design this sequel; she was creative consultant on it. 1992

The Laura Bow mysteries are more entries into the Sierra parthenon from Roberta Williams. The first in the series, released in 1989, is originally given the title Murder in the Southern Quarter, before following in the company tradition of putting Quest in the names of its games with The Colonel’s Bequest. The plot is set in 1925 and concerns itself with the exploits of recent college graduate Laura Bow, who takes her name and appearance in the game from famed movie starlet Clara Bow. Invited to a New Orleans plantation to witness the reading of the will of Colonel Dijon, Bow must unravel the nature of a series of murders that start occuring there. This makes it a kind of remake of Mystery House, along with more than a little bit of the board game Clue. A text parser game, The Colonel’s Bequest sees a revamp to a point & click interface a VGA graphical update in 1993. It is followed by Roberta Williams’ Laura Bow and the Dagger of Amon Ra in 1992, but despite the title Williams only serves as Creative Consultant. The script for the game, spanning over 600 pages, along with the various puzzles are written by Bruce Balfour, who co-directs the project with Bill Davis. For the CD version of the game,  Just recording all the dialog in that massive script takes several months.  Even though she has stepped back from the project a bit, Williams ensures that the sequel retains its consistency with the first game, and that the portrayal of the eponymous Laura Bow stays true to the character.

Good Knight

The mystery continues at Sierra with the Gabriel Knight game series, designed by Jane Jensen, getting her chance to go solo after her stint as co-director with Roberta Williams on King’s Quest VI, along with work on other Sierra properties. Her future in computer interactive storytelling seems pre-ordained: her father was a mathematician, and she has always had an interest in creative writing. Her future in particular in  horror/suspense games seems equally assured, having fallen in love with the works of horror writer Stephen King after reading his first book, Carrie, when she was 12. Leaving her job as a Systems Programmer at Hewlett-Packard, Jensen makes a journey to Germany to write a mystery novel, There, she picks up a PC and copies of two Sierra games: Manhunter: San Francisco and, more pertinently, King’s Quest IV. With that, she has immediately fallen in love with the graphic adventure genre. In a mirror of Roberta Williams and her obsession with the genre after playing the original Adventure, Jensen obsessively consumes every Sierra adventure, and lobbies for and eventually lands a job making adventure games at the company best known for them.

Jensen describes the first game in the series, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers as a “psycho-thriller”, with shades of other works like the Anne Rice Vampire books, along with movies like Alan Parker’s Angel Heart and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Her tale has Gabriel Knight as an author and antique bookstore owner in New Orleans, who is researching a book about brutal voodoo murders in the city. Through the adventure he is drawn into world of dark rituals, and must come to terms with a curse laid down on his family 300 years before. A star-studded affair, the CD version features actor Tim Curry as the lead character, joined by other celebrity voices like Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker, Star Wars), Michael Dorn (Worf, Star Trek: The Next Generation), Leah Remini (Who’s the Boss, Cheers, and later King of Queens) and prolific actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Along with all this high-powered acting talent, the irregular box packaging for Sins of the Fathers hopes to also attract the attention of customers.

After winning Best of Show at the 1993 Summer CES for the original game, Jensen continues the series with The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery in 1995, the second Sierra adventure game to feature live actors married with composited CGI backgrounds, after Roberta Williams’ Phantasmagoria (see below). This magic is made available via Sierra’s high-tech production studio, with Jensen working from her 700-page script, a cast of 60 characters and over 1000 SVGA images. The two main characters who walk through these digital landscapes are Dean Erickson as lead Gabriel Knight, and Joanne Takahashi as his long suffering research assistant Grace Nakimura. Playing out over six CDs, The Beast Within tells the story of Gabriel Knight going up against an apparent werewolf in his first case as a full-fledged Schattenjager (Shadow Hunter), with Will Binder as the director of the project.

Jensen subsequently releases novelizations of the first two Gabriel Knight games, starting in 1997. The Beast Within game is followed by Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned in 1999. A remake of the first game is released as Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers – 20th Anniversary Edition in 2014.

JUMP: Video playlist of Sierra adventure games

A screenshot from The ImagiNation Network Revival, an emulated version of Sierra's online service 1991

The ImagiNation Network Revival

Online Sierra

Sierra isn’t a neophyte to online communities; they had developed an extremely popular 24-hour Bulletin Board System (BBS) in 1988, boasting over 25,000 active users and fielding an average of 6,000 calls per week. The system allows users from the across the world to dial-in via their phones and gives free access to participate in discussion forums dedicated to the company’s games and offering tech support, as well as download demos and DLC to Sierra games and other goodies. Back when he was telecommuting into mainframe computers from the comfort of his home, Ken Williams envisioned the idea of creating an online community to service house-bound seniors. His thoughts turn to his own grandmother, and he embarks on his own personal quest with the following mission statement:

What if I could invent something which would allow my grandma to pick up a card game, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without leaving home, at a cost she could afford?

His pet project at Sierra initially takes shape as The Constant Companion. It is to be an online service for seniors that would provide games like bridge and backgammon, accessible any time they like through phone lines via an easy to understand graphical user interface (GUI). After a 1000-user beta test of the system in the Los Angeles area in 1990, the service is officially launched nationally in 1991, as a part of The Sierra Network (TSN)… although users might be forgiven for thinking they are still beta testers, as the service suffers rampant unreliability in its early years. While the first 50 subscribers are indeed seniors, the visionary system quickly expands beyond the elderly and parlour games, with aerial dogfighting game Red Baron joining the online stable in early 1992. This WWI combat game is joined later in the year by turn-based RPG The Shadow of Yserbius, which resides in an area on the service dubbed MedievaLand. Yserbius is developed by Joe Ybarra, who at his former employee Electronic Arts had shepherded such vaunted games as M.U.L.E. and One-on-One. If you want to get online to play Yserbius, access charges for TSN are initially on a per-hour basis, with an hourly fee on weekdays of $2.00 per hour between the hours of 6pm to 6am, or $7 an hour during daytime hours (6am to 6pm). Weekend rates run you 2 bucks per hour, starting from 6pm on Friday to 6am Monday. A minimum charge stands at $4.95 no matter how long you remain on the system. TSN moves to a flat pricing system in certain cities in 1992, charging $11.95 a month initially for 30 hours of usage, which is eventually upped to unlimited time.  Premium features are extra, of course.

Growing up Ken Williams had considered Walt Disney one of his heroes, and he takes his chance to follow in Disney’s footsteps with TSN, presenting Disney-like virtual theme parks on the system in November of 1992 with Leisure Suit Larry-themed adult LarryLand and more kid-friendly SierraLand. It’s promised that at the latter you can do things like play on an 18-hole mini-golf course, dump some virtual quarters into the game cabinets at Wilco’s Arcade, challenge players to a round of paintball, communicate visually with other members across an ‘electronic chalkboard’, among other activities. At the former, try your luck in the casino, catch some laffs at the local comedy club or soak with some “friends” in the hotel jacuzzi. This quickly expanding scope requires a move to bigger digs around town, with Sierra purchasing a local former steak house called The Old Barn and installing its online network headquarters there. Escalating costs for running the service, along with a desire to expand the geographical coverage of TSN and fund R&D projects to offer the service for 3DO and Genesis console modem users, spurs Williams to sell half of the system to AT&T in 1993, along with developing relationships with other online partners. One such agreement is made in May of 1993 with the Prodigy online service, then the largest such system in the U.S., to offer access to TSN to their customer base. In September Sierra also partners with the NTN Entertainment Network, allowing TSN users to compete online in trivia games also played by physical users via NTN’s network of bar-based trivia consoles. Hasbro’s popular strategy game Stratego is also lands on TSN, along with an online version of Wilson Prostaff Golf, originally created by Novotrade and Konami. Playable by up to four golfers online, the game is titled 18-Hole 3D Golf on TSN.  A multiplayer TSN version of Front Page Sports Football by Sierra’s own Dynamix label is also touted for the network.

AT&T eventually renames TSN to The ImagiNation Network (INN). and AT&T eventually ends up muscling Sierra out completely amid a morass of bureaucracy, opting to develop their own games for the service, whereby membership starts to dwindle.  AT&T ends up selling INN to America On-Line, who shutter the system in 1996. Sierra further plumbs the depths of online gaming with the evolutionary The Realm, a massively multiplayer online game before the term MMORPG was even coined. Launched in late-1996, The Realm allows players to create a character, gives them a house, some clothes and some coin, and sends them out into the wider online world to do what they will. It is one of the first online games to use instancing, where its turn-based battles take place in a separate “room” outside of the main game server.

The Realm, a MMORPG by Sierra On-Line

1997 ad for Sierra On-Line MMORPG The Realm

A Dark End

By 1994, Sierra On-Line is seriously outgrowing its bucolic woodland setting of Oakhurst, California. The community just is plain unable to support the needs of the company, either in a talent pool to draw from, or even enough housing to accommodate employees. Thus, the Williams family and Sierra corporate moves to Bellevue, WA that year, with another benefit being the easing of the hardship of trying to attract high-quality talent to the wilds of Oakhurst… although game development and The Sierra Network sections remain in the Yosemite area. This includes a new digital production studio at Oakhurst, built by Bill Crow at the cost of nearly $1 million. Roberta Williams is the first to utilize the new production facility in order to move away from her squeaky-clean fairy-tale image and stretch herself creatively. She does this as writer and producer of the extremely dark Phantasmagoria, a point-and-click CD-ROM gothic horror adventure game released on August 24, 1995 to great success. Williams had conceived of a horror adventure game back as far as mid-1991, when it had the tentative title Scary Tales. Spending six months preparing for the subject matter, Williams dives into the world of horror, both literary and cinematic, studying the genre closely along with the art director for the project, Andy Hoyos. She is especially influenced by the gothic themes of Edgar Allan Poe, along with contemporary horror writer Stephen King.

The director for Phantasmagoria is genre veteran Peter Maris (Terror Squad, Hangfire et al), and he and Roberta strike a balance during production between the needs of a filmmaker like Maris and those of a game designer like Williams. While a director like Maris has spent his career pointing a camera at action and recording it for the audience to watch passively, Williams must act as an advocate for the gamer, ensuring that any action they might want to pursue while playing is represented. After nearly three years of production time, over $4 million spent and several release delays, the resultant 1995 game is an FMV extravaganza with all the CD-powered bells and whistles, featuring digitized actors handling actual props, filmed over a span of 15 weeks. Phantasmagoria is the first Sierra game to take this digitized live-action footage, captured with motion-controlled cameras, and sync it up with CGI backgrounds, created by Silicon Graphics workstations and composited using the Ultimatte system. With all the possible scenarios that players’ actions could reveal, the 7 CDs contained in the box hold as much video footage as eight full-length feature films. While it contains very graphic violent and adult scenes, Roberta’s game hasn’t completely abandoned her youth market: Phantasmagoria has a password-protected option to switch the game over from an “R-rated” version not recommended for anyone under 17 to a more sanitized “PG-13” option. Even so, Phantasmagoria is the first major game title to get slapped with the “Mature Only” rating from the ESRB, which only adds to its notoriety and, let’s face it, game sales. The original is followed by the less successful Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh in 1996, made without Williams’ involvement. In her stead is Lorelei Shannon, Williams’ previous collaborator on KQ VII, writing and designing, with Andy Hoyos serving as director.

Phantasmagoria, a computer horror adventure game by Sierra On-Line

3-page ad for Phantasmagoria, Roberta Williams gone wild!

Ken Williams, co-founder of computer game maker Sierra On-Line

Ken Williams, from his editorial section of Sierra-published InterAction, Fall 1996

There is an onslaught of acquisitions, sales, mergers and managerial changes at Sierra over the greater part of the 90’s, the ins and outs of which is worthy of its own, particularly complex adventure game. Dynamix is picked up in 1990, and in a mind-blowing March 11, 1991 announcement Sierra states it will be merging with powerhouse game, educational software and productivity program developer Broderbund… although this deal is eventually called off on March 27. A “disagreement regarding management structure” is the reason for the failed merger, according to Ken Williams.  SubLogic, Impressions Games and Papyrus ARE purchased by Sierra, all in 1995. Ken and Roberta leave the company in 1996 after its sale to Comp-U-Card International (CUC), a subscription mail-order and online shopping company looking to expand into entertainment software. CUC pays $1.8 billion in stock for Sierra and another software company, Davidson & Associates, makers of incredibly popular educational software Math Blaster!. This purchase price is about 90% over the current trading value of Sierra. Control of the company is then given to Davidson, which starts dismantling Sierra.

A merger of CUC and hospitality industry company HFS creates Cendant Corporation in 1997. Shortly following this merger, a wide ranging accounting scandal within CUC sends stocks tumbling, wiping out the equity of many current and former Sierra employees, including Ken Williams himself. Cendant subsequently sells their entire software division for $1 billion to Havas, a French advertising and PR firm, in 1998.

The end of the 90’s sees the market turn away from graphic adventures and fully embracing first-person shooters, and Sierra follows it by publishing products like Half-Life from Valve in 1998. There is less and less room for employees tied to the adventure game development system. On what is referred to as “Chainsaw Monday”, February 22 1999, 150 people are axed from the company as Havas finally closes down the Oakhurst facility after 20 years as the heart of Sierra. Space Quest co-creator Scott Murphy’s job isn’t affected by it though; he had already been laid off a month or so earlier.

Logo for Sierra, a video game company

Logo of the resurrected Sierra company, circa 2014

Havas is gobbled up by media conglomerate Vivendi Universal in 2000, who then merge their interactive software division with video game giant Activision in 2008. Activision, seen as a metric of success by Ken Williams at the beginnings of Sierra, shutters the company and puts an end to its adventurings. The brand is eventually revived in 2014, focusing on publishing indie products on Sony’s PSN, Valve’s Steam computer game distribution system, and Microsoft’s Xbox Live service… along with releasing the aforementioned re-imagined King’s Quest episodic adventure games.

As for the Two Guys From Andromeda… watch this spacelogo_stop

Ad for Softporn, an adult aventure video game by Sierra On-line

Ad for On-line’s ‘Softporn”, 1981

Ad for Sierra computer video games, 1983

An ad for Sierra On-Line’s varied wares, 1983

Sources (Click to view; inert links are kept for historical purposes)

Page 1 – Let There Be Graphics
Formation of On-Line Systems/Early Games
Hackers – Heroes of the Computer Revolution, by Steven Levy –
Williams, Ken. “The Inside View.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Summer 1993: 6+. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2020. The year was 1979. I was programming an income tax program on a mainframe computer…; I borrowed a TRS-80 from work and Roberta and I started enjoying Scott’s work.; I wanted my own personal computer to start programming a FORTRAN compiler… our gift to each other for Christmas 1979 was an Apple II computer.
Busch, Kurt. “A Game Designer Designs the Future.” InterAction, 1992, pp. 40–42. 1992 image of Roberta Williams. In 1980, Ken Williams scraped together every penny he could find and bought an early Apple II computer. His idea was to create a FORTRAN compiler for Apple Computers.
Gear, Tommy. “Backtalk.” Softtalk Jan. 1984: 122-24. Softalk V4n05 Jan 1984. Internet Archive. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. Back in 1979, Ken Williams was developing a Fortran compiler for the Apple II and Roberta Williams was just discovering the original Adventure from Microsoft.;Sierra On-Line posted revenues of Approximately $10 million in 1982, making it one of the largest independent publishers of home computer software.
Wiswell, Phil. “Gamemakers: Hi Res Sierra.” Comp. Scottithgames. Electronic Fun with Computer & Games Mar. 1984: 30. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 16 Aug. 2020. I played it and immediately got addicted to this type of activity because I’d always been a reader. But to me this was even better because you actually felt like you were part of the story, and that you had some control over what would happen to you. ;I believed that I couldn’t be the only person who would like this kind of game, so I thought I would help out by starting work on my own game!
Williams, Ken. “The Inside View.” InterAction, 1992, p. 10. I remember back in 1980 I started telling people…I wanted to build a company bigger than Activision… Activision filed bankruptcy last year….
Williams, Ken. “A View From the Inside: The Interactive Film Industry Is a Virtual Reality.” InterAction, 1991, pp. 4–6.
…my wife and I began a little company making what we referred to as “interactive films”.

1981 image of Roberta and Ken Williams, as well as other information from Softalk, “Exec On-Line Systems” by Allan Tommervik, pgs. 4-6, Feb 1981. ” Roberta takes her foundation from literature. Mystery House was based on Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (And Then There Were None) and the board game Clue; Wizard and the Princess was based on traditional fairy tales; and Mission: Asteroid was based on Lucifer’s Hamer by Larry Nevin and Jerry Pournelle.” Paddle Graphics and Tablet Graphics, On-line’s two graphic utilities, were devised for use in programming the mysteries in twenty-one hi-res colors.” “Both (Roberta and Ken Williams) desired a less urban environment in which to raise their two boys…” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Softalk collection, Oct 26 2015.
Image of Roberta and Ken Williams together, as well as other information, from ROM, “Interview: Roberta Williams” by Peter Ellison, pgs. 8-9, Oct 1983. “…after that she [Roberta Williams] created the first computer adventure game with color, ‘The Wizard and the Princess'” ‘Time Zone’ has more than 1300 full-color computer-generated images compacted onto 12 disk sides.” “Q: …you came out with the massive program, ‘Time Zone’. What caused you to write such a huge game?   A: It was because in those days I played a lot of adventure games and I was always disappointed when they ended.” “Q: How long did it take you to complete ‘Time Zone’?  A: It took about six months.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, ROM Magazine v1i8, Sep 27 2015. 
Softalk, “Tradetalk”, pg. 5, Sep 1980. “On-Line Systems has relocated from the hectic environs of the Los Angeles suburb of Simi to the more contemplative surroundings of Coarsegold, California, just outside of Yosemite Park.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Softalk collection, Oct 25 2015. 
Williams, Ken. “The Inside View.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Winter 1994: 8+. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 13 Sept. 2020. …even then, there were signs that LA was heading for trouble. Gangs were starting to form and crime was on the rise. I really didn’t even feel safe driving back and forth to work. This was not a world Roberta or I wanted for our children. So we decided to move to a much smaller town.
Scott, Jason, comp. “Sierra On-Line After 15 Years: Then and Now.” InterAction Fall 1994: 45. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2020. The adventure game from Roberta Williams (first released in 1980), was shipped for the IBM PC as one of the first five applications…
Page 1 – On a Quest
King’s Quest
Image of Roberta Williams in 1984 from Electronic Fun With Computers and Games, “Gamemakers: Hi Res Sierra”, interview by Phil Wiswell, pgs. 30-33, Mar 1984. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, EFWCG collection, Sep 10, 2015.
Catalog 1987. Coarsegold: Sierra On-Line, 1986. Internet Archive. 23 May 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2019. <>. Cover, image of Half-Dome, 1986
“Trade Talk: Subtle Progress Shines Through Vaporware Fog at Summer CES.” Softtalk July 1984: 88-95. Softalk V4n11 Jul 1984. Internet Archive. Web. 01 Mar. 2016. Sierra, which has officially dropped On-Line from its name….
Ahoy!, “Can the 64 Crack the Peanut?” by Steve Springer, pgs. 39-41, 90, Jan 1984

Williams, Ken. “The Inside View.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Summer 1993: 6+. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2020. We, on the other hand, received some very important visitors from Florida: IBM <>. The original King’s Quest I was 128K…

Compute!, “Inside King’s Quest” by Donald B.Trivette, pgs. 136-139, Feb 1985
Clarke, Theo. “On Line With Sierra.” Comp. Marktrade. Strategy Plus Oct. 1990: 23-27. 30 Dec. 2016. Web. 19 Aug. 2020.Fortunately this was the point at which Tandy chose to launch its Tandy 1000 computer. It was a massive success and, because it supported the PCjr graphics, it provided a new market for King’s Quest. It also mean that Tandy would sell Sierra games in their thousands of shops and the survival of Sierra was assured. ;Sierra has sold six million copies of the games in the King’s Quest series. ;King’s Quest I was written using a system called AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter). ;In 1988 Sierra started to develop products in SCI (Sierra Creative Interpreter) which has higher quality animation as one of its more obvious features. Beccause SCI is bigger than AGI it needs to be run on a larger or faster PC than was necessary for AGI. Because of this King’s Quest IV was released in both versions although only the SCI version is available from shops. This was to allow players of the first three games to play the fourth on their old computer. In the event, few people have taken up this option… ;Hero’s Quest I – So You Want to Be a Hero was successful beyond everyone’s expectations. It sold 75 000 copies in the first month and had passed the 100 000 mark within six months.
Attributions for King’s Quest boxes: III – TRS-80 Color Computer Archive ;IV – eBay ;II, V, VI – Mobygames,15893/
New York magazine, “Star Tech: Safe at Home?” by Phoebe Hoban, pgs. 16-20, April 29 1985
Sierra 10th Anniversary Catalog. Coarsegold: Sierra On-Line, 1990. Internet Archive. Jason Scott, comp. 19 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Oct. 2019. <>. Over the last ten years, Roberta and I have received thousands of letters….This one was dated May 23, 1981: “..I had a well-publicized airplane crash in February….[etc.etc.] … Sincerely, Steve (Woz) Wozniak. ;For me, Steve was a hero of the first degree.
Compute!, “Readers Feedback: Fate of the PCjr” by the Editors of Compute!, pg.8, Aug1985
Scott, Jason. “Apple Manual: King’s Quest – Box Cover.” Internet Archive, 11 Dec. 2013, Box art for King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown
Scottithgames, comp. “Output-input.” Electronic Fun with Computers & Games Sept. 1983: 10. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2019. <>. …all the Super Games originally slated for the Super Game Module will be translated into the digital data medium that is being used with Adam, the Coleco computer. The games will be released in time for Christmas and include…Ulysses and the Golden Fleece, Cranston Manor…
Shakar, Alex. “The Queen of King’s Quest II.” Comp. Jason Scott. Family Computing Dec. 1985: 75. Internet Archive. 30 Aug. 2011. Web. 15 May 2020. First, I had to map out the game world and draw sketches of each area…
“Roberta Williams on the New King Quest.” The Sierra Newsletter, 1988, pp. 15–21.
Reprint of a Questbusters article. Williams: The Perils of Rosella, for lack of anything better. It was sort of based on The Perils of Pauline.

Clarke, Theo. “On Line With Sierra.” Comp. Marktrade. Strategy Plus Oct. 1990: 23-27. 30 Dec. 2016. Web. 19 Aug. 2020. Sierra has sold six million copies of the games in the King’s Quest series.
The Making of King’s Quest 6. Perf. Roberta Williams, Jensen Et Al. YouTube. N.p., 26 Mar. 2011. Web. 28 Aug. 2020. A game like King’s Quest VI takes about a year and a half to produce, and has a budget of over a million dollars.
Williams, Kenneth A. “The Inside View.” Comp. Jason Scott. Winter 1993: 6+. InterAction. 31 May 2013. Web. 27 Aug. 2020. …the King’s Quest VI cartoon consumed over 40 megabytes…
Williams, Ken. “The Inside View.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Summer 1993: 6+. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2020. A small Seattle-based educational software company named Bright Star had spent nearly a decade wrestling with lip synching…; …our adventure game script [for King’s Quest VI] consumed over 700 pages.;
DeBaun, Rich. “The Quest for King’s Quest VI.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Fall 1992: 20-26. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2019. <>. Roberta began work on King’s Quest VI in June, 1991. ;Several technical innovations also make the game more enjoyable. The use of “scaling,” for example, adds to the illusion of visual reality by changing the size of a character so the correct perspective is maintained as the character walks from foreground to background. “Pather” technology lets a character avoid objects and scenery in its path intelligently… ;You’ll also not a bit speed improvement in King’s Quest VI over other games thanks to extremely tight programming.
Busch, Kurt. “King’s Quest VI CD: A Multimedia Masterpiece.” InterAction, June 1983, p. 49,
Busch, Kurt. “A Game Designer Designs the Future.” InterAction, 1992, pp. 40–42. 1992 King’s Quest V took 10 months to create.
“King’s Quest V Multimedia! Compact Discs in Daventry.” Sierra-Dynamix News Magazine, 1991, p. 40.
With the talents of over 50 voice actors, Daventry will seem as real as the world outside your door….

Smithe, Nancy. “The next Voice You Hear…” InterAction, 1992, pp. 46–47. Bill Davis, Vice President of Creative Development for Sierra, voiced the hermit on the beach in King’s Quest V, and Roberta Williams herself is the voice of Amanda in the Bake Shop.
Williams, Ken. “The Inside View: An Ongoing Issue: Icon Interfaces.” InterAction, 1992.
Williams, Ken. “The Inside View.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Fall 1994: 6+. Interaction. 31 May 2013. Web. 9 Sept. 2020. King’s Quest VII has over one hundred megabytes of Disney-like animation….
Scott, Jason, comp. “A First Look: King’s Quest VII.” InterAction Fall 1994: 20-21. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2020. Images of storyboard panels for King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride. Other information: The motion picture styled score resounds with over 120 musical themes… ;The composer, Jay Usher…. ;Sierra On-Line contracted four professional animation houses… ;Roberta Williams and her co-designer Lorelei Shannon….
Page 2 – Greetings from Andromeda
The Space Quest Games
Sierra 10th Anniversary Catalog. Coarsegold: Sierra On-Line, 1990. Internet Archive. Jason Scott, comp. 19 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Oct. 2019. <>. Image of Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy as The Two Guys From Andromeda
Sierra Catalog. Coarsegold: Sierra On-Line, 1991. Internet Archive. Jason Scott, 19 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Oct. 2019. <>. Cartoon image of The Two Guys From Andromeda, 1991
“Sq1ver2front.jpg.” Ed. Brandon Blume and Troels Pleimert. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2019. <>. Cover of Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter, 1987
Williams, John. “In Praise of One.” Sierra-Dynamix News Magazine, 1991, pp. 16-19.
…a programmer named Scott Murphy and this partner, artist Mark Crowe, went to Ken Williams with their own design for “Star Quest,” a silly, off-the-wall sci-fi parody. The name was later changed to Space Quest…

Grimsley, Nancy. “Space Quest III: The Men Who Created the Game” The Sierra Newsletter, 1989, pp. 3–25.
We just give him a video tape of the scene…

Edgemundo. “Atari ST 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 10 Feb. 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Game box image for the Amiga version of Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter
Edgemundo. “Microsoft MS-DOS 3D Boxes Pack (732).” EmuMovies. N.p., 17 May 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Images of boxes for Space Quest games 2-6
Green, Kirk. “From Supertramp to Space Quest III: An Interview with Bob Siebenberg.” The Sierra Newsletter, 1989, pp. 3–8.
Image of Bob Siebenberg

Antony30bc. “Space Quest Collection.” The Cover Project, Back and front box art for Space Quest Collection by Vivendi Universal, 2006
Jonathan, Dennis. “The New Sierra BBS.” Sierra Newsletter, 1988, p. 13. With the installation of Sierra’s new Bulletin Board System…
Page 2 – Shady Characters
The Leisure Suit Larry Games
Softalk, “Tradetalk”, pg. 50, Nov 1981. “The ad, in case you missed it in Time and Softalk, shows a hot tub with three taken women in it, discreetly submerged in water. The models and Roberta Williams (co-author of the Mystery Adventures and On-Line president Ken Williams’s wife). Susan Davis, On-Line bookkeeper, and Diane Siegal, production manager.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Softalk collection, Oct 28 2015.
Williams, John. “In Praise of One.” Sierra-Dynamix News Magazine, 1991, pp. 16-19.
Some magazines refused to advertise the game [Leisure Suit Larry 1]. We received some pretty strong letters of protest, and for a while we were worried that we might never get a computer store south of the Mason-Dixon line to carry the game.

Bateman, Selby. “Al Lowe – The Dirty Old Man Behind Leisure Suit Larry.” Comp. Sketch The Cow. Game Players PC Entertainment Feb. 1992: 18+. Internet Archive. 18 Oct. 2018. Web. 16 Aug. 2020. He [Al Lowe] is also a talented and market-savvy computer entertainment developer whose four Larry games have already garnerred will over $13 million for Sierra On-Line. Almost three-quarters of a million copies of the four games have sold worldwide… ;…an embarassing little number called SoftPorn, that Lowe says sold some 25,000 copies at the start of the 1980s when there were only about 100,000 Apple II’s in existence. ;”When the game went out, it bombed,” says Lowe, with a chuckle. “It was the lowest first-month sale of any product in years. it took a period of six to eight months before it began to sell respectably. And it was all word of mouth.” ;Game size is another big change. Larry 1 hit the retail shelves complete on two 360K disks…. Larry 5 is shipping on eight high-density disks representing some 14-megabytes of data. ;Add to all of that a musical score created by Hollywood composer Craig Safan…
BLAZER. “Commodore Amiga 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 15 Sept. 2018. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Images of first four Leisure Suit Larry game boxes, Amiga versions
Edgemundo. “Microsoft MS-DOS 3D Boxes Pack (732).” EmuMovies. N.p., 17 May 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Images of Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work and Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail! boxes
Klopjero. “Klopjero’s ScummVM 3D Box REDUX.” EmuMovies. N.p., 24 Aug. 2018. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Image of Leisure Suit Larry: Shape Up or Slip Out! box art [EDITED]
Levingstone, Robin. “PC/Windows 3D Boxes (2868).” EmuMovies. N.p., 18 Feb. 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Images of Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude and Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust boxes
“Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded Details – LaunchBox Games Database.” Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded Details – LaunchBox Games Database. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Image of Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded cover art
Treese, Tyler. “Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don’t Dry – Game.” Nintendo World Report. N.p., 21 June 2019. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Image of Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don’t Dry cover art.
Magpie, Johnnie. “First Look – Leisure Suit Larry: Yank Hers Away.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Summer 1996: 68-69. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2020. To date, over 1,500,000 Leisure Suit Larry games have been sold… ;…most all-around likeable Larry game yet, new Leisure Suit Larry: Yank Hers Away!
McKenna, Marti. “Ladies and Lounge Lizards: Al Lowe.” Sierra News Magazine, Apr. 1990, pp. 8–9, 32–33. Image of Al Lowe leaning on chair, image of Al Lowe in filmstrip, image of Al Lowe outdoors.
Bridgemon, Pat. “Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Summer 1993: 20-21. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 15 May 2020. (Freddy Pharkas takes up almost 11 megs on your hard drive.) ;…the main street of town in an incredible scrolling background eight screens long (the largest ever in a Sierra game).
Leisure Suit Larry poster with REALLY ATROCIOUS Al Lowe pun from the pages of Sierra-Dynamix News Magazine, Summer 1991
Page 2 – A Cop’s Quest
The Police Quest Games
“Behind the Disk: Jim Walls – Police Quest Designer.” Sierra Newsletter, 1987, p. 4. While the design of Police Quest is Jim’s, he didn’t get much into the programming…
Williams, John. “In Praise of One.” Sierra-Dynamix News Magazine, 1991, pp. 16-19.
While Jim had the story for Police Quest under his gun belt months before he even started working at Sierra, he had absolutely zero experience in the development of computer games, so Al Lowe helped pull the project together to get this first game out the door.

Johnson, Sgt. Harry. “Product Spotlight: Police Quest – Review of a Patrol Simulation.” Law and Order, Oct. 1988. As reprinted in The Sierra Newsletter, Spring 1989, pgs. 5,8 It seems that other officers had observed him working on the simulation and had gotten caught up in the action. They demanded turns of their own.
BLAZER. “Commodore Amiga 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 15 Sept. 2018. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Image of Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel game box, Amiga version
Edgemundo. “Microsoft MS-DOS 3D Boxes Pack (732).” EmuMovies. N.p., 17 May 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Images of Police Quest 2, 3 and 1993 original remake game boxes, plus the two Daryl F. Gates SWAT games, MS-DOS game boxes
McKenna, Bridget. “Jim Walls Q & A.” Sierra-Dynamix News Magazine, 1991, pp. 10–12.
Images of Jim Walls in blue shirt

Shannon, Lorelei. “Lights! Camera! Interaction!.” InterAction, 1991, pp. 46–47. Image of Sierra motion-capture studio. Other information: …and a piece of proprietary software created by Sierra called Movie 256 turns the video feed into individual cels.

“The All New Police Quest I: Real Life Revisited.” InterAction, 1992, p. 21. Characters are video captured live actors. There is approximately three times as much text in the new Police Quest as there was in the original. Police Quest now sports a new, exciting stereo soundtrack. Every situation you’ll encounter has its own theme music.
Page 2 – Chief Controversy
The Police Quest Games rebranded with name of Daryl F. Gates
Smithe Grimsley, Nancy. “Decisions Behind the Scenes of Police Quest: Open Season.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Winter 1993: 14-15. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 28 Aug. 2020. Images of Daryl F. Gates being interviewed, Gates coaching an actor, the different Police Quest: Open Season box designs, Daryl F. Gates on set checking a gun. Other information: “A lot of Sierra people come from the Los Angeles area so there were some pretty strong negative opinions against Gates early on. ;When you figure that Gates was with the LA Police Force for 43 years… ;…and he’s been everything from a patrol cop to the police chief. ;The final decision to go with Gates came when Ken took a trip to Lost Angeles to see the man personally… Gates’ actions were those of a perfect gentleman, and he was a real personable family kind of guy. ;Ken is also a fan of Rush Limbaugh… ;He [Ken Williams] decided the whole controversy over Gates would ultimately help the game sell better. ;…the Brand Manager and Marketing Research Specialist took three versions [of Police Quest: Open Season box samples] to two different software stores and solicited opinions from customers and retail clerks… of the three boxes…the file folder lost overwhelmingly. There was a split vote between the city scene and the bloody hand. Parents often had a side comment about the emphasis on blood, and we ended up leaning away from that presentation. ;To their [director Tammy Dargan and DOP Rod Fung] knowledge this is the first use of digital cameras in any computer game. ;He [Daryl F. Gates] sees Police Quest: Open Season as an opportunity to help people get a more realistic view of the police. All too often people form their impressions from TV and movies… ;One of the reasons I’m very anxious to do this particular game is that Sierra On-Line is giving a plug to D.A.R.E.
Scott, Jason, comp. “Correspondence.” InterAction Fall 1994: 4. Internet Archive. 21 May 2013. Web. 9 Sept. 2020. Image of LA Police Chief Daryl F. Gates in uniform
Magpie, Johnnie. “Rumor Mill.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Spring 1994: 16. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 30 Aug. 2020. Image of Tammy Dargan and Daryl F. Gates on-set of Police Quest: Open Season
Ceccola, Russ. “Down Mean Street with Daryl F. Gates.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Spring 1994: 67. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 31 Aug. 2020. Image of Daryl F. Gates coaching actor on set of Daryl F. Gates Police Quest: Open Season
Scott, Jason, comp. “Meet the Maker: Sierra’s SWAT Assault.” InterAction Spring 1995: 60-61. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2020. Q: How close do you think the game [Open Season] came to reality? Gates: Compared to other police games, the reality factor went up 100%.
Scott, Jason, comp. “Coming Soon – Police Quest: SWAT – From Boot Camp to Street Smarts.” InterAction Fall 1995: 39-41. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 2020. Image of Daryl F. Gates holding machine gun. ;It paid off wonderfully because the Chief knows everybody. We had instant access to real experts. ;There were some things that we couldn’t give the public; we didn’t want to endanger any team member’s life.
Sauer, Jahn. “Coming Attractions: Daryl F. Gates: Police Quest SWAT 2.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Fall 1996: 96. Print. Image of Daryl Gates and Susan Frischer
Page 3 – The Adventures Continue
Other Sierra Adventure Games
BLAZER. “Commodore Amiga 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies. N.p., 15 Sept. 2018. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Image of Hero’s Quest box, Amiga version
Edgemundo. “Microsoft MS-DOS 3D Boxes Pack (732).” EmuMovies. N.p., 17 May 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Images of Quest for Glory game boxes I – V
Magpie, Johnnie. “Rumor Mill: Hero’s Quest – Quest for Glory – Which is it?” InterAction, 1991, pp. 4–6.
For those that don’t know the background, Sierra had to change the name of the series to Quest for Glory when the original name of Hero’s Quest turned out to be the trademark for a board game by Milton Bradley.

Bridgemon, Patrick, Lori Cole, and Corey Cole. “Quest for Glory Shadows of Darkness.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Winter 1993: 21. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 28 Aug. 2020. “Each player can set a ‘player skill level’ which will determine whether combat is arcade-like or purely strategic,” said designer Corey Cole.
Magpie, Johnnie. “Rumor Mill: More Trouble” InterAction, 1991, pp. 4–6.
It turns out that our old magazine name The Sierra News Magazine got us into trouble with none other than our environmental friends at The Sierra Club.

Clarke, Theo. “On Line With Sierra.” Comp. Marktrade. Strategy Plus Oct. 1990: 23-27. 30 Dec. 2016. Web. 19 Aug. 2020. So how come Sierra sells 25% of the computer games sold in the US? ;Its [Sierra] games are developed by teams of about two dozen people…
DeMaria, Rusel. “Industry News & Views.” Computer Play, Nov. 1988, p. 6. Roberta Williams is working with another author to create a mystery game called Murder in the Southern Quarter which will be set in New Orleans.
Busch, Kurt. “A Game Designer Designs the Future.” InterAction, 1992, pp. 40–42. 1992 Roberta forged the framework of the mystery, working as Creative Consultant for the second Laura Bow Mystery. Writing and puzzle designs were handled by Bruce Balfour.
Sayes Wilson, Leslie. “Riding the Cutting Edge.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Winter 1993: 37-38. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 29 Aug. 2020. The script of Laura Bow in The Dagger of Amon Ra was over 600 pages in length, and took several months to record.
Antic, “Roberta’s Bequest” by Tom Byron, pgs. 22 – 26, Mar 1990
Page 3 – Good Knight
The Gabriel Knight game series
Sayes Wilson, Leslie. “Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers – A New Kind of Hero.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Winter 1993: 22-23. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 28 Aug. 2020. Game designer Jane Jensen classifies the game as a “psycho-thriller”… ;Jensen cites Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles….Angel Heart, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula as current fiction and films with themes and atmosphere similar to those of Gabriel Knight. ;At the last Consumer Electronics Show, Gabriel Knight won Best of Show. ;sidebar titled ‘Designer Jane Jensen’, info on Jensen’s upbringing, affinity for Sierra games, etc.
Magpie, Johnie. “Rumor Mill.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Winter 1993: 64-65. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 29 Aug. 2020. Image of irregular box for Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
Robin55. “PC/Windows 3D Boxes (2868).” EmuMovies. N.p., 18 Feb. 2020. Web. 29 Aug. 2020. Box image for Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers – 20th Anniversary Edition, Windows version
“Gabriel Knight: Jensen, Jane: 9780451456076: Books.” Gabriel Knight: Jensen, Jane: 9780451456076: Books – Web. 05 Oct. 2020. Image of cover of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers novel
“Jane Jensen – Gabriel Knight 2 – The Beast Within – Novel.” Scribd. Ed. Maliardo. Scribd. Web. 05 Oct. 2020. Cover for Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within novel
“Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned (1999) Windows Box Cover Art.” MobyGames. Ed. MAT. 6 Dec. 2003. Web. 05 Oct. 2020. Image of cover art for Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned
Scott, Jason, comp. “Just in Time for the Holidays!” InterAction Winter 1996: 32. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 5 Oct. 2020. Image of Jane Jansen in round frame, 1996
Sayes Wilson, Leslie. “Hot Off the Press – Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Spring 1994: 57. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 31 Aug. 2020. Images of Tim Curry, Mark Hamill, Michael Dorn and Leah Remini in recording studio
Phillips, Christia. “Gabriel Knight The Beast Within: Roll ’em.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterActive Fall 1995: 17-20. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 2020. Images of Will Binder, Dean Erickson, Joanne Takahashi and Jane Jensen and Erickson together from The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery. Other information: They have the added challenge of handling a very large cast (60 characters)… ;”I read Carrie when I was 12 and that was it”)
Jensen, Jane. “Meet the Maker: Gabriel Knight Interlude.” Comp. Jason Scott. Spring 1995: 40. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2020. If he only knew what was coming, and could real the 700-page script entitled The Beast Within… ;The Beast Within will be the next Sierra game produced this way. We actually are very lucky in that Phantasmagoria pioneered the process…
Scott, Jason, comp. “A Gabriel Knight Mystery: The Beast Within.” InterAction Spring 1996: 64-65. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2020. Technological advances and over 1000 SVGA images bring this terrifying tale up close and personal. ;Playing out on six CDs, this is cerebral terror at its best.
Page 3 – Online Sierra
The Sierra Network
The Artful Gamer, Sierra’s “The ImagiNation Network Revived!” by Chris Lepine –”
“Excerpts from an Interview with Ken Williams On The Sierra Network.” InterAction, 1992, pp. 56–57. Walt Disney was my hero. The original mission statement for TSN, was: What if I could invent something….
Williams, Ken. “President’s Corner: Top Secret.” The Sierra News Magazine, 1991, p. 28.
In October of 1990 we announced a top secret R & D project at Sierra. What we announced, which is that we have a test going with 1,000 users in the Los Angeles area of a new multiplayer gaming technology…

Williams, Ken. “The Inside View.” InterAction, 1992, p. 6.
Scott, Jason, comp. “Multiplayer Adventure Gaming.” Editorial. InterActive Spring 1997: 80-81. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 9 Oct. 2020. Profile of The Realm
Sierra. The Sierra Network Service Agreement. The Sierra Network Service Agreement, Sierra.
Geraci, Vince. “The Sierra Network.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Fall 1992: 62-63. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2019. <>. Image of TSN HQ water tower ;Images of The Shadow of Yserbius  ;Image of LarryLand Super Get Lucky Slot
Magpie, Johnny. “Rumor Mill.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction June 1993: 80-81. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2020. Back in November, the opening of TSN’s new attractions LarryLand, SierraLand and MidievaLand… ;As expected, it looks like Dynamix will kick off next football season with a multiplayer version its award winning Front Page Sports Football for The Sierra Network.
Williams, John. “The Sierra Network Explodes!” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Summer 1993: 54-55. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2020. The network “blew up” with such regularity that even the most avid Bridge player grew frustrated with TSN’s instability. ;Not only will AT&T work with TSN to develop and improve network applications…[ETC] ;In late May, TSN and Prodigy announced a link between the two services…[ETC]
Geraci, Vince. “ImagiNation Explodes and Expands.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Winter 1993: 61-62. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 29 Aug. 2020. Images of Fates of Twinon, Stratego, 18-Hole 3D Golf and the NTN Trivia Network on the INN online network
Page 3 – A Dark End
Phantasmagoria/The End of Sierra
Sierra FX. N.p.: Sierra On-Line, 1998. Internet Archive. Jason Scott, 23 May 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2019. <>. Cover of SierraFX catalog
Williams, Ken. “The Inside View.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Winter 1994: 8+. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 13 Sept. 2020. Sierra outgrew the Yosemite area. The town physically could not cope with our growth. There started to be all kinds of crazy logistical issues, like having access to housing for our employees. Also, we were having trouble recruiting enough people.
Scott, Jason, comp. “News & Views: To Merge or Not to Merge.” Info June 1991: 16. Internet Archive. 30 May 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2020. On March 11, Sierra On-Line and Broderbund Software publicly announced their intention to merge. [ETC]
Magpie, Johnnie. “Rumor Mill.” Sierra-Dynamix News Magazine, 1991, p. 62.
In the next year, her time will be divided between two new projects. One is tentatively called “Scary Tales,” obviously a horror game.

Scott, Jason, comp. “The Ultimate Interactive Nightmare.” InterActive Spring 1995: 30-35. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2020. Image of Phantasmagoria director Peter Maris and designer Roberta Williams on-set together. Other information: Some of it is to see if I could do it – stretch my creative muscle. ;Now we’re on the last six months of the third year and we’ve got most of it done. ;From the beginning, it was a collaboration. Peter… would explain to me what he wanted from each scene from the perspective of a filmmaker, and I would explain what I wanted from the Perspective of a game designer. We always found a way to make it work for both of us.
Busch, Kurt. “A Game Designer Designs the Future.” InterAction, 1992, pp. 40–42. 1992 [Roberta Williams] “I’ve spent a lot of time studying horror, reading horror, watching horror.”
Williams, Ken. “The Inside View.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Fall 1994: 6+. Interaction. 31 May 2013. Web. 9 Sept. 2020. Phantasmagoria is basically a film with live actors, real sets, props, etc. but because its interactive, it will have as much video as eight full-length motion pictures.
Magpie, Johnnie. “Rumor Mill.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Fall 1994: 78-79. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2020. Originally announced as a product called “Scary Tales” over two years ago, Roberta Williams horror thriller will miss yet another Christmas this year. ;…the more than 15 weeks of filming that was done for the game.
Magpie, Johnnie. “Stories: Of the New Sierra Studio.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Fall 1994: 80-81. Internet Archvie. 31 May 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2020. Image of Roberta Williams in torture chair on set of Phantasmagoria. Other information: Bill did make clear the enormous expense involved in creating the new production facility. He had been a little offended that one computer magazine had recently reported the cost to be around $60,000 when actually the final const had been about 15 times that.
Scott, Jason, comp. “A First Look: Phantasmagoria.” InterAction Winter 1994: 24-27. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 13 Sept. 2020. [Phantasmagoria] is the premiere production to use Sierra On-Line’s new video studio facilities, and it’s also Sierra’s first game to integrate live actors with computer-generated backgrounds. ; Prior to writing the story for Phantasmagoria, Roberta immersed herself in horror books and movies, devoting about six months of her time to understanding what makes a plot truly suspenseful and scary. She also held brainstorming sessions with Andy Hoyos, Phantasmagoria’s Art Director and horror aficionado. ;Inspired by her research, especially the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King, Roberta then created a storyline that places contemporary characters in a gothic-style setting with diabolical results.;Live actors speak their lines and go through the motions against a blue screen set. Motion-controlled cameras record camera angles and movement. The digitized information is then loaded into the Silicon Graphics computers which synchronize the relative motion of computer-generated, three-dimensional background art. Then, the live action and the backgrounds are seamlessly composited using advanced techniques controlled by an UltiMatte system. ;…Sierra On-Line has implemented a password-protected toggle that will enable parents to confine the game to the equivalent of a “PG-13 rated” version… ;The “R-rated” version (not recommended for children under seventeen years of age)…
Scott, Jason, comp. “Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh: Horror.” InterAction Winter 1996: 13-16. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 5 Oct. 2020. Phantas[magoria] was the first major game ever to receive the “Mature Audiences Only” from the Software Ratings Board, instantly giving it national notoriety.
Scott, Jason, comp. “Phantasmagoria: Unprecedented Success…And Controversy.” InterAction Winter 1995: 5-6. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 28 Sept. 2020. With over $4 million invested in the project….
Scott, Jason, comp. “A Conversation with Roberta Williams.” InterAction Summer 1996: 76-77. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2020. Image of Robert Williams surrounded by her games, 1996
Scott, Jason, comp. “Phantasmagoria: It’s Finally Here… Let’s Explore.” InterAction Fall 1995: 30. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 2020. Image of Phantasmagoria packing with CDs
Scott, Jason, comp. “Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh.” InterAction Summer 1996: 66. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2020. Image of Lorelei Shannon and Robert Standlee together, 1996
“Sega Saturn Japan 3D Boxes Pack – Authentic Set (1201).” EmuMovies. Ed. Jason Scott., 14 May 2020. Web. 15 Sept. 2020. Image of Japanese version of Phantasm aka Phantasmagoria for Sega Saturn
Edgemundo. “Microsoft MS-DOS 3D Boxes Pack (732).” EmuMovies. N.p., 17 May 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Image of Roberta Williams Phantasmagoria game box, Windows version
“Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh (1996) Box Cover Art.” MobyGames. Ed. JulesThe. N.p., 17 Feb. 2006. Web. 18 Aug. 2020. Image of Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh box cover, Windows 95 version
Williams, Ken. “Inside View: Dear Ken.” Comp. Jason Scott. InterAction Fall 1996: 6. Internet Archive. 31 May 2013. Web. 1 Oct. 2020. Image of Ken Williams from 1996, surrounded by correspondence.
“Sierra On-Line, 1981-2004.” PC Today Feb. 2005: 106. PC Today Volume 3 Issue 2. Internet Archive. Web. 13 Mar. 2016. Between 1990 and 1998, Sierra acquired Dynamic (1990)…SubLogic (1995), Impressions Games (1995), Papyrus (1995)…; In 1994 Sierra moved its headquarters to Bellevue Wash….;In 1996 it was purchased by Cendant…

Oakhurst: Sierra On-Line, 1998. Internet Archive. Jason Scott, 23 May 2013. Web. 17 Oct. 2019. <>. Pages promoting Caesar III, Half-Life, Homeworld, King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity, Lords of Magic and Return to Krondor
Letter from Sierra founder Ken Williams to Sierra employees laid off during ‘Chainsaw Monday’
Bateman, Selby. “Al Lowe – The Dirty Old Man Behind Leisure Suit Larry.” Comp. Sketch The Cow. Game Players PC Entertainment Feb. 1992: 18+. Internet Archive. 18 Oct. 2018. Web. 16 Aug. 2020. Image of Al Lowe sneaking a look at a Playboy magazine, 1992
Unannotated, Uncategorized or I Just Don’t Damn Remember!
Roger Wilco’s Virtual Broomcloset –

The Human Element – Stage Select –
Adventure Classic Gaming, Ken Williams Interview by Philip Jong, Mar. 28 2006 –

External Links (Click to view)


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