Definitely a different time.
To continue this chain with my own letter writing story.. I was a little younger than you two since I was born in the very early 80s, but I sent a letter in the very late 80s or early 90s telling whatever address was in Interaction magazine that I was one day going to work at Sierra.
They wrote me back telling me they'd be waiting for me. Of course being a Xennial (Oregon Trail Generation), I never made it in time. But wow, would I love to be there today. Two moments in gaming history that I've witnessed that were outstanding for me, 1989's Hero's Quest and the launch of the 3dfx Voodoo 4MB in '96. It was thanks to King's Quest & Space Quest that I learned how to type and spell at an early age. As well, a little later on when I got my hands on them, thanks to Police Quest, Leisure Suit Larry and Hero's Quest.
I was a totally ignored child, I can't say how many days & nights playing those games, eating up bologna and Velveeta sandwiches that I made myself at a pretty tender age, and washed down with RC Cola. Pretty terrible mental image, I know. The isolation just made it all that much more impactful. It was the happiness & high point of my life and honestly, still is. Sometimes I still sit and think about the worlds that Sierra created to bring myself a bit of happiness.
Sierra, and especially Hero's Quest / QFG will live within me for the rest of my life and die with me as probably the most cherished memories, characters and stories in my heart. Tolkien and the rest could never have anything on the impact Sierra adventures had on me.
I still prefer it's original name "Hero's Quest". Is a much more fitting title. The protagonist had not so much an interest in "glory" but was training to become a hero in order to save the town. I'm probably biased and sentimental.
(They had to change it due to a trademark claim. I think I still have the infringing floppies around somewhere.)
You can find her photo (in archer costume with an actual bow) in the hintbook to Conquests of the Longbow. GOG version has it. She also talks about making of the game there.
which portrays early '90s Ken Williams as callous tool of the Man, in contrast to the the free-spirited hacker/entrepreneur version you get in the post's origin story. (I don't have any strong feelings or opinions about the accuracy of either portrayal)
”with Carey incinerating the killer—a cross-dressing man who is given about as much humanity and depth in this story as you'd expect”
despite this hit piece being little more than an exercise in denying Gates himself of any depth or humanity.
Some interesting nuggets:
- Al Lowe basically invented beta testing at Sierra for Leisure Suit Larry. He wrote a program to capture user inputs that didn't work onto the floppy disk, which the beta testers then sent back to Sierra. They then updated the graphics, text, or parser to account for these confusing areas.
- Ken Williams was quite a visionary on several things, including the rise of IBM compatibles, MS-DOS, and the early internet / social networks.
- Lori Cole's vision for Quest for Glory, using a cardinal direction, a season, and an element as inspiration, was really fascinating to reflect on. (I have a soft spot for Quest for Glory IV's Eastern European mythology, which was very rare in the pre-Witcher days.)
- There was a failed merger between Sierra and Broderbund (Carmen Sandiego, Print Shop, Prince of Persia) in the early 90s that could well have changed the face of the industry.
Overall, was way better than the average internet rabbit hole!
And yeah it sucked.
Adventure games died for a while, but there are some good ones that have come out since the 90s. The Shivah captured a lot of the humor of the genre but with a distinctly Jewish flavor, and I found The Cat Lady to be far more captivating than Gabriel Knight or Phantasmagoria.
The artwork, music, sense of humor, and character building - including being able to import your character and keep building your skill points through each successive game in the series - made it really special. Truly the golden years of graphical RPGs, IMO.
Just a shame the series ended on a cliffhanger. There was supposed to be a Manhunter: London, but it was unfortunately canceled.
I learned a foreign language English by playing text based adventure games such as those from Sierra! Got the English basics from school, but it was by playing text adventure games that my English got much better. In order to play the text based games in English I had to use a Swedish to English dictionary to understand the words. Remember Sierra games such as Police Quest, Kings quest, Magnetic scrolls, Lucas art games.
Links to Police quest
And traveling back to Space Quest 1 with EGA graphics.
There is also this scene where you have to free up memory on some machine by throwing applications in the thrash can (erm toilet) . The first time I made the mistake to trash the SQIV icon, which throws you right back to DOS. Of course, I hadn't saved for a while.
There's also some great Space Quest games made by the community, such as Space Quest 0, Space Quest 2 Remake, and Vohaul Strikes Back. Worth checking out for any SQ fan.
Maybe people of our generation will have their needs met with a new popular genre of games 'discovered' by a later generation? Maybe many of these games exist but I'm naively missing them since I'm not following the releases?
EDIT: oh... duh - there's a link to the Levy book in the blog post!
Ah, the nostalgia.