The Williams: Were they KQ fans, fans of technology, or fans of money (or a mix)?

edited January 2013 in Discuss
So, in your opinion where did Roberta Williams and her husband sit on how they viewed the KQ series? What were they more interested in? Did their views change over time? If so when did the views change?

For was Roberta Williams more interested in technology than the KQ universe itself? Was Ken more interested in the monetary success? Was Roberta interested in the monetary success or not?

Comments

  • edited January 2013
    Good grief. It would be more than a little presumptuous for many of us to try to answer these questions. These are questions that could best be answered by Ken Williams. Even today Williams (though busy with many other things) remains remarkably accessible for fans when he is able to participate in the forums at SierraGamers.com, is forthcoming about his Sierra years, and is also supportive of new adventure game projects. I just want to say right now that the man is a genius. You don't remain the undisputed leader of an entire industry for as many years as he did and not have some serious skills.

    To try to answer your question, though, Sierra seemed to rely on the KQ series to introduce new technologies and design features.

    By the way, who isn't interested in monetary success? And didn't the very survival of Sierra at one point depend on the success of KQ1?
  • exoexo
    edited January 2013
    First of all, it is a question. And all opinions are presumptuous to some degree. I find it hilarious that you came and called this question presumptuous, right after posting a threat "demanding" answers from TellTale...

    Anyways, I think Ken gave away his motivations fairly clearly when he decided he needed to establish a "forever" company. The concept of a "forever" company, especially in terms of software, is a joke. Not only would you have to produce multiple software products across a broad spectrum of needs, but you would also have to continually predict the best use of new technology.

    Based on the software releases that Sierra had in the years before Ken departed, it seemed he thought a "forever" company could subssts on raping the PrintShop license, a ton of productivity shovelware, a few sports games, and a smattering of action games with a highly variable bar of quality. Sure, they published Half-Life, but for that one title they also published 15-20 generic POS titles.

    Ken was a business man, first and foremost. It goes back to his days of having traveling salesman hawk their games... or setting up booths at trade shows. The way Al Lowe describes Ken's hiring and payment practices (in interviews with Paul Trowe for the LSL Remake) really made him sound like he was always looking for the cheapest way to handle things, and Al wasn't even trying to sound disparaging.

    Roberta is a bit harder to pin down, primarily because she wasn't as vocal as Ken about her motivations. However, her body of work (and lack there-of in the past 15 or so years) gives me the impression that she simply saw the opportunity to fiddle around with this "new fangled computer game world" due to her husband's company. She hit upon a particular winning formula, and it gave her a creative outlet. Attempts to recreate the success of KQ with franchises like Phantasmagoria didn't do so well. And the changes that occurred in kq7 & 8 hint to me that she didn't really understand what it was that people enjoyed about her games in the first place. Even KQ6 is hard to attribute to her, as Jane Jensen was such a driving force on that game creatively.

    In another thread I compared her to George Lucas, and for me at least, the comparison stands. They both managed to stumble upon something that was commercially and creatively successful. And they both fiddled with it until a majority of their fans got frustrated. Change is required to sustain interest... the real key is knowing what one can change without alienating the user base. It is a safe assumption that removing most of the puzzles and the hand drawn world of KQ and going 3D Action/Adventure is messing with the wrong knobs.
  • edited January 2013
    exo wrote: »
    Roberta is a bit harder to pin down, primarily because she wasn't as vocal as Ken about her motivations. However, her body of work (and lack there-of in the past 15 or so years) gives me the impression that she simply saw the opportunity to fiddle around with this "new fangled computer game world" due to her husband's company. She hit upon a particular winning formula, and it gave her a creative outlet. Attempts to recreate the success of KQ with franchises like Phantasmagoria didn't do so well. And the changes that occurred in kq7 & 8 hint to me that she didn't really understand what it was that people enjoyed about her games in the first place. Even KQ6 is hard to attribute to her, as Jane Jensen was such a driving force on that game creatively.

    In another thread I compared her to George Lucas, and for me at least, the comparison stands. They both managed to stumble upon something that was commercially and creatively successful. And they both fiddled with it until a majority of their fans got frustrated. Change is required to sustain interest... the real key is knowing what one can change without alienating the user base. It is a safe assumption that removing most of the puzzles and the hand drawn world of KQ and going 3D Action/Adventure is messing with the wrong knobs.

    I'd say there's a couple of big, big differences between Roberta and Lucas.
    1) Lucas had a bucketload of help and advise from day one. Go read his first four original drafts of the original Star Wars film, starting in May 1973. One is a direct rip off of a foreign film. The next several have only very vague similarity with the film that came out in 1977. Han Solo is an alien with green skin and gills, for example. Only in his last draft in 1976 does the plot of SW come out. Lucas had tons of friends in Hollywood giving him ideas and helping him out, his wife Marcia heavily edited the original film (before she did, everyone who saw it felt the pacing was terrible). On Empire, he was barely involved. On Jedi, he took a direct hand's on approach and we got the least of the original films.

    Roberta, on the other hand, was the main creative force behind the King's Quest games until KQVI. And even on VI, she and Jane hammered out the design document, the story, the characters, the events. Jane wrote the dialogue and descriptions, but basically what she did was adapt a story that'd already been laid out by Roberta. She and Jane are listed equally on the list of Designers, Directors, and Writers.

    KQ7 is the game with the least input by Roberta. She's only responsible for the basic story and characters. She doesn't even have a writing credit on the game.

    KQ8 had a very messed up development history with a lot of executive meddling and a lot of pressure on Roberta. Had the circumstances been different, we might've gotten a much different game. She'd planned action elements in the game and 3D as early as 1994-1995 but I think the idea was that action was only going to be limited to Bosses...And then the suits got involved.

    I think Roberta knew full well what people loved about King's Quest, but at the same time, she was a contracted employee in a public company. The computer game market and what the public at large wanted was changing very rapidly. At the end of the day, even though Ken had control of Sierra for the first year of KQ8's development, he was still responsible to the shareholders. After he left, she had neither strong backing or support and was probably pushed toward adding more and more action elements. Remember, this was in the era where RPGs and FPS games were becoming HUGE...And the adventure genre was considered a dead genre as early as 1996. I think she knew what the fans--the core fans--wanted--but balancing that versus the demands of the shareholders, the executives, and the market--was an incredibly difficult task.

    Also, Phantasmagoria was a big hit. It was the best selling game in Sierra's entire history. Sold around a million copies in it's first month alone. She handed Phantas II to Lorelei Shannon because she was busy working on KQ8. Lorelei took Phantas in a different direction than the first game, and by the time Phantasmagoria II was out, movie games were passe. And they were too expensive and risky for even big companies like Sierra to continue investing in.

    2) Roberta never went and tweaked the original games. Lucas has tweaked the original Star Wars films to the point of utterly alienating his fans. While Roberta didn't please fans with KQ8, she didn't also go back and tweak the originals and make the original games unavailable. Yes, KQ1 was remade by Sierra, but the original didn't stop being offered--Whereas you'll probably never see a re-release of the original, unaltered Star Wars trilogy unless Disney forces Lucas to do it.

    As for Ken, I think he was just as interested in the games end of the business as he was with the business end. Actually, before Sierra's sale, he'd gotten himself mostly out of the business end of Sierra. He appointed an executive named Michael Brochu as President & COO of the company. Brochu would handle the day to day running of Sierra and business decisions, while Ken focused on R&D. Every three months, Ken would embark on a one month trip to every Sierra studio and spend all day going over every game in development with the designers, trying to tweak this or that, acting as sort of an Executive Producer.

    I look at Ken as being basically sort of like a Walt Disney type of guy. A shrewd businessman who also had a keen interest in the creative end of things.
  • edited January 2013
    Tweaked games never? Let me point to the year, 1990 - when King's Quest I was remade in the glorious SCI engine.

    Bt
  • edited January 2013
    I'll point out that the KQ1 remake was the only great remake Sierra ever made. It was beautiful and a total improvement on the original in every way, unlike the other remakes which always had something wrong with them somewhere. Then again, it was also designed by Josh Mandel.
  • edited January 2013
    However, too bad the remake was a total failure. Sierra lost alot of money on the remakes.

    Though personally I found the Space Quest I remake one of the best of the remakes.
  • edited January 2013
    BagginsKQ wrote: »
    Though personally I found the Space Quest I remake one of the best of the remakes.

    SQ1VGA had a lot of great improvements on the original in the form of a few alternate puzzle solutions, hilarious additional deaths, etc. But the graphics were always the one area of that game where I felt they really faltered. It's not that the VGA graphics aren't pretty, it's that the art direction is such a drastic departure from the original game, which had a bit of a grittier tone to the visuals. It just never sat right with me. It's sort of like if someone remade the original Alien and changed all ships and technology to look like 1960s Star Trek.
  • edited January 2013
    Well, I see major difference in KQ1 vs. the SCI remake art styles as well. One went with a bright and happy cartoony fluffy fairy tale style, and the other went more for a dark/ominous/gritty/realistic look.

    I actually liked the homage to old 1950's scifi movies in the art style of the SQ1 remake, and the improved and more detailed room descriptions.

    I find both versions equally entertaining though.
  • edited January 2013
    You think KQ1SCI is gritty and realistic? Huh. Can't say I wholly agree with that. It's got dynamics and a lot of tone for sure, but it's not inherently gritty or realistic at all. I picture KQ1AGI as the low budget kids cartoon, and the remake as a fairy tale storybook major motion picture. (in the art department, that is, though the writing was much better, save the plot which was largely unchanged)

    SQ1VGA was ok. But like Lamb, I disliked the art direction. The older 80's "angular" type architecture style was far more interesting. I often wonder what SQ1VGA would have looked like if Mark Crowe had directed the arwork.
  • exoexo
    edited January 2013
    Anakin, you went a bit too far with my Roberta/George comparison. I meant that they are similar in that they both had commercially successful properties, and as they continued to develop those properties, they continually moved away from the things that people enjoy in the first place with their respective properties. Sure, phantasmagoria did fairly well, but the game was an fmv gimmick. The acting is/was horrible, and the game may have sold well, but it was also incredibly expensive to produce. I'm not saying that they are so similar they both stand up to pee in the same way.

    I am speaking about Roberta specifically in regards to KQ here, and I feel she moved away from what people liked most about those games as she moved on. KQ7 tried to go casual adventure with everyman appealing graphics, while KQ8 said - oh people like polygons and action? Lets do it.

    This has derailed the topic though. The original question was, what were their motivations. I am saying I don't think the creative outlet nature of gaming was Roberta's primary motivation. I feel she just messed around with it because she could. Not like an Al Lowe or 2 Guys from Andromeda that specifically worked towards making their own game.

    It is telling when all the other game creators are out there getting new projects going, and Roberta is quick to say she is totally done with it.
  • edited January 2013
    Well, she's been totally done for a long while now. Since long before the Kickstarters.
  • edited January 2013
    Realistic as in it looked like a real forest, down to the "gritty" sand and pine needles. Dirt paths, etc. Humans characters are less deformed and more natural looking. The old woodcutter and wife isn't just poor, the wife is sick and near death. There is more people living in the castle and not just the King. It had guards, a doctor, and lords and ladies.

    The witch's house in a dark and dirty forest. The house itself looks dark and filthy inside.

    Many of the deaths are a bit more violent than they originally were.

    Places in general where people or races live actually look more "lived-in".

    The forest seems far more dangerous and forbidding. Monsters & wizards can attack from almost anywhere.

    As for "gritty" it's a very simple term with simple definitions. It has ties back to old West in language.


    grit·ty *(grt)
    adj. grit·ti·er, grit·ti·est
    1. Containing, covered with, or resembling grit.
    2. Showing resolution and fortitude; plucky: a gritty decision.
    gritti·ly adv.

    Gritti·ness first has to do with sand/dust/dirt. Art style fits this compared to the first as nearly everything has a much more dirty, lived-in, decayed and eroded look.

    Second definition has to do with courage.

    To take from an old west term "true grit" or "he has grit" otherwise "he has sand" which meant "courage" or "balls".

    Graham in the original the stakes were not as defined. The kingdom didn't look like it was in decay to extent that remake portrays it. It's not nearly as under siege by bad guys. The remake ups the ante and increases the threat level and dangers. Graham's adventure seems to require more courage. He comes out portrayed more heroic because of it.
  • edited January 2013
    I like the KQ1 remake, but the original version of King's Quest is one of my favorites of all time, purely for my own nostalgic reasons. It was the first adventure game I ever played.

    The remake just had better graphics, and the updated writing was much better too. They're both fun to play in different ways - but since this is a talk of technology, even though KQ1 appears to be more like a cartoon-adventure-fairy-tale, it was merely a product of it's time and the technology used to produce it. At that time, that was the latest and most revolutionary example of home PC computer graphics. People knew no better graphics on computers. Roberta had a fun idea, and Ken made it work to the advantage of the technology. The SCI remake was also to take advantage of the new technology - updating a beloved classic with new technology seemed like a no brainer, but often times the user really doesn't care about the technology - they love things in spite of the technology.

    Bt
  • edited January 2013
    SCI remake was also to take advantage of the new technology - updating a beloved classic with new technology seemed like a no brainer, but often times the user really doesn't care about the technology - they love things in spite of the technology.

    Bt

    I am not sure that KQ1 SCI suffered so much because players supposedly preferred the original, not caring about the technology. I actually think that KQ1 SC1 failed to impress technologically speaking. After all, wasn't it one of the last SCI releases? Everyone had seen similar graphics already in Codename: Ice Man, Colonel's Bequest, etc. Didn't it come out around the same time as KQ5, a game with breathtaking art and a whole new interface? Kind of hard to share the spotlight with a game like that. KQ1 just wasn't flashy enough and it didn't make an observer watching say WOW, and I also think people just preferred all-new games.
  • edited January 2013
    Well, it was one of the last EGA SCI games. The VGA, SVGA, and FMV games were all SCI as well.
  • edited January 2013
    I much prefer KQ1SCI and SQ1VGA to their original counterparts. In large part because those were the first versions of those games which I was exposed to, but I also really rather dislike AGI. SCI and VGA are the best.
  • edited January 2013
    I much prefer KQ1SCI and SQ1VGA to their original counterparts. In large part because those were the first versions of those games which I was exposed to, but I also really rather dislike AGI. SCI and VGA are the best.

    I agree. My favorite Sierra era was EGA SCI. I love those graphics with the Roland music.
  • edited January 2013
    It really depends on your age, and your exposure to the games. AGI Sierra games were all I knew for years. I mean, honestly, in my head - when I think "Sierra Games" I still see a plethora of all the games I played and loved, KQ1 and 2, SQ1 &2, Black Cauldron, Gold Rush!, Manhunter, Police Quest, Leisure Suit Larry 1.... the AGI games have a certain charm that really appeals to me, and though I love the later SCI 16 color and 256 color games, those original AGI games will always remind me of Sierra.


    Bt
  • edited January 2013
    I agree with Blackthorne's initial post, and also find enjoyment out of each version for different reasons.

    However, I'll admit that for me I played the remakes first in many cases, and went back to play the originals later on. I grew to like the originals over the remakes. Perhaps it was the simplicity. For others maybe it was a better "consistency" with other games in the series. For example PQ1 remake makes quite a few changes plot wise, and oversimplifies some of the puzzles. The plot changes actually make it contradict PQ2 and PQ3 in some ways. One issue of which is the chronological dating for each game.

    PQ1 EGA actually had more puzzles and a few more points, and the car chases were better handled. So gameplay was another reason to prefer it.

    KQ1 EGA fits better with KQ2 and KQ3 in layout of the land, and KQ3 directly references the landmarks of the original version, rather than the remake. The mountain stairs, and cloudland in KQ3 is based off of the mountain stairs and cloud lands in KQ1. There is a visual continuity there. The remake changed the cave and clouds for example.

    However, I really do enjoy the improved narrative and music in the remake of KQ1, and different atmosphere.
  • edited January 2013
    I grew up with AGI as well. You can really tell the difference in quality from KQ1 (awful artwork) and their later games (Gold Rush! WOW!). Even KQ2 was far better than KQ1. Probably because it had actual artists directing it? Who did the artwork for KQ1 anyway? Was it KQ2 when Mark Crowe came onboard? SQ1 and SQ2, however, have some of the best AGI graphics I've ever seen. That's partially because I love Mark Crowe's sci-fi style plus he really knows how to make a few large rectangular pixels look amazing. SQ3 was fantastic as well. I miss his artwork. Can't wait to see it again in SpaceVenture!
  • edited January 2013
    I found Kerona to be kinda bland in SQ1 EGA. The in ship and space stuff was great. Although the colors were kinda bland, almost every screen was limited to 3-5 shades of color it seemed.

    SQ2 seemed leagues ahead of SQ1 IMO in the art department. Even the character sprites looked way better. There was alot more color diversity on the screens.

    SQ2 and KQ2 are probably my two most favorite AGI games.
  • edited January 2013
    AGI is the shit.

    I'm still holding out hope for that AGI Lord of the Rings adventure game.

    argonath.png
  • edited January 2013
    Haha! I remember those! Was that you the one that was making those, Lamb, on the AGDI forums? Before we joined IA? Holy crap that was a long time ago. I actually considered you a respectable member of the community at that time. ;)

    EDIT: Here's the thread!
  • edited January 2013
    Haha...yeah, that was me. I like how polite and nerdy I was in that thread. I'm not sure what changed. Still nerdy, I guess.
  • exoexo
    edited January 2013
    Well, it was one of the last EGA SCI games. The VGA, SVGA, and FMV games were all SCI as well.

    KQ5's odd looking EGA port would like to remind everyone of it's horror at this junction.
  • edited January 2013
    Heh, that's actually the version I grew up playing as a kid, because all we had at the time was a Tandy 1000. That and SQ4 EGA. I loved them. Though I was blown away by the colour palette cycling effect in SQ4 when I finally did see the VGA version on a friend's computer.
  • exoexo
    edited January 2013
    I grew up playing KQ4 AGI myself. Had no idea there was an SCI version. Years later I went back to play it again, and this time it was the SCI version and for the life of me I couldn't figure out why the game looked so damn different.
Sign in to comment in this discussion.