Sierra On-line: In the shadow of LucasArts
The games industry has a history of famous rivalries. Countless playground arguments were fought over which was better: Sega or Nintendo? Mario or Sonic? Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat? For those of you interested my personal tally is: Nintendo, Mario and Street Fighter. However in my school there was an even more hotly debated topic (I say school, I mean in my own head). That was; who produced the best point and click adventure games? LucasArts or Sierra On-line? Also why before the true advent of the internet era were they called Sierra On-line anyway? Read on for answers to all, some, ok hopefully at least one of these questions - probably which one produced the games I liked better as that is all that ultimately matters. To me. A (very) Brief History of Everything
Sierra On-line was founded way back when in 1979 (when men were men and usually had long hair and glasses) by husband and wife team Ken and Roberta Williamsboth of whom are generally regarded as highly influential game designers and writers. Robertabeing most famous for the King's Quest and Phantasmagoriaseries of graphic adventure games
The company itself is known for a wide range of different Questbranded adventure game franchises. From the galaxy (and time) hopping Space Quest to the more down to earth police procedural based point and click Police Quest. And of course the forever inappropiateLeisure Suit Larry series.
LucasArts arrived on the scene in 1982 and promptly began removing Sierra On-Line from atop its throne as graphic adventure king. The company was founded by Mr.Star Wars himself George Lucas. To this day LucasArts probably has the most recognisable catalog of adventure games out of the two companies, including heavy hitters such as: the Monkey Island series, Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max and Full Throttle to name but a few (really, just to name a few, there are so many I could just dispassionately list them all here and run out space and reader interest)
So who was better? And why?
I think that it is a common perception that LucasArts is the better company in the context of this debate and has the most famous and commercially and critically successful games and blah blah blah. Well actually, that perception is wrong because in my opinion Sierra Online is better! There, that is fact, it is written and this is the internet and it is my post so I say so. No take backs.
But why? I ask you scream all the way from Melee Island.
Well, truthly? I just have fonder memories of all the Questgames. Whilst all the cool kids were insult dueling pirates and taking down corrupt car manufacturers (well I was doing that too, what am I, a loser?) I was happier mopping up in outer space, adventuring through fairy tale lands or learning booking codes so that I do not mistakenly arrest a DUI in for arson and get a game over.
I also felt that, aside from perhaps Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, most of the Sierra On-Line games took a more mature and gritty approach to gameplay and narrative, not that they would shy away from witty narration and comical death states.
Also LucasArts should NEVER be forgiven for not giving us a Star Wars point and click!
That's not to say that I don't have bad memories as well. I mentioned prior that this was long before the internet had evolved into the glorious hive of scum and villainy we all so happily inhabit now. Due to the lack of reliable internet, I would spend hours, nay days, completely stuck on point and click games (usually in Space Quest IV) so to try and help solve the latest and completely illogical puzzle I found myself repeatedly calling the Sierra helpline. Well, suffice to say, that was not a free telephone number. I still remember the haunting call I got from downstairs as my parents opened the phone bill, practically fainted and then attempted to kill me as they saw how much it was. They pretty much looked like the picture below.
Well, I hope you have learnt something from this post, I hope that you have learnt that you and the rest of the world are probably wrong in thinking that LucasArts are the best. Oh and Sonic sucks and my console has more bits than yours, so there.
As this is a democracy you are more than welcome to leave a comment disagreeing with me. If you are brave enough.