Gaming Flashback: Sierra On-Line
Author :        Date : 16-May-09

Sierra Entertainment officially closed its door this year and thus comes an end to a true pioneer within the gaming industry.

The companies founders, Ken and Roberta Williams, were avid gamers and produced the first graphical adventure game for the PC entitled Mystery House, which became an instant hit and is a cult classic to this day.  Sierra has endured a rollercoaster of successes, failures, acquisitions and the like. This article is not about the history of this company, but more to celebrate and remember some of its landmark game series.

My ascension into adulthood ran a parallel course with the maturation of the the home PC.  I remember being wowed when first firing up King’s Quest on my Packard Bell 386  computer after years of text-based adventure games.  From then I was hooked – Sierra continued to deliver innovation and new technology into my PC gaming world.

Let’s take a step back through time and take a look at a few of the treasured game series from this noted software developer.
 

King’s Quest (1984 – 1998)

The King’s Quest series is recognized as the true star that really put Sierra On-Line on the map.  This adventure game centered on the plight of the Royal Family of Daventry and many within the series introduced innovative features at its time.  Beginning in 1984, a total of eight (8) games were released, each subsequent plot building on the events portrayed in its predecessor.  A number of these games had excruciating hard puzzles to solve without any discernable logic used in the development of these challenges.  Still, game play was still a treat with an engrossing story and a satisfying experience.

Space Quest (1986 – 1995)

This six (6) game series follows the space adventures of Roger Wilco, an every-day-Joe if there ever was one, and his antics as he unknowingly gets thrust into saving the universe from some foe.  Unlike the rather somber tones of the King’s Quest line, Space Quest is all about fun, silliness and taking a parodical approach to almost everything.  Roger Wilco debuted in 1986 with the last game being released in 1995.  This light-hearted affair is somewhat of a cult classic amongst old-school gamers.  Technically, the series primarily used previously existed graphic engines that were released in King’s Quest and Quest for Glory.

Leisure Suit Larry (1987 – 1996)

Writing this text is rather difficult for me, since it parodies my actual life.  The Leisure Suit Larry series is another adventure series, this time featuring Larry Laffer – a balding, 40-something man still trying his best to score with the ladies and ‘be fly’ (or is it ‘fresh’?).  This is the only series of games that Sierra developed with a strong mature audience theme.  Even before the days of ESRB Rating system, early games in this series required you to answer a set of questions to weed out the younger gamers.  You can still enjoy the adventures of this playboy to this day, though Sierra is not involved in these newer entries.

Police Quest (1987 – 1993)

Probably my second favorite of the Sierra classics, in Police Quest you get to play as a rookie police officer working his way through crime and eventually up the ranks of his local division.  These games were more of action-adventure than previous Sierra entries mentioned thus far and also featured some disturbing crimes/graphics for the time.  Game play was somewhat open-ended and the best part of this series is that you really had to think about your actions and analyze data.  Later games in this series also featured full-res digital crime photos which you had to scour through for clues.  A true classic all the way.

Quest for Glory (1989 – 1998)

Now this is one of the all-time best Action/Adventure/RPG game series of all time (IMHO).  Often credited as being the first of its kind to incorporate meaningful statistical character building as a necessary component to move the story along (i.e. get past a tough bad guy in an area). Your Hero could be customized as a Fighter, Thief or a Mage – another first in this new genre.  Quest for Glory was truly a landmark during its time and set the bar/base standards that many of today’s games now follow.

Gabriel Knight (1993 – 1999)

The shortest series being featured in this article, this point-and-click adventure follows Gabriel Knight, a downtrodden horror novelist, as he unravels various mysteries of the occult.  A total of three (3) games were released, all of which featured very different technologies.  As depicted to the right, the first game started out as a pretty standard animated affair.  Subsequent games in the series featured FMV cut scenes and live digitized actors.  All of the games were rather dark in nature and the high tension was successfully translated to the gamer.


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