By sirdesmond 1 Comments
If you were a child anytime between 1979 and 2008, there was one developer whose logo you would see show up as you were booting tons of the games you loved to play: Sierra Entertainment (formerly Sierra On-Line and On-Line Systems before that). In this week's episode of the podcast, we discussed Hunter Hunted, one of Sierra's lesser known but much loved PC games from over the years. It sparked my memories of all the great Sierra games and reminded me of their absorption into Activision Blizzard back in 2008. With that in mind, I think it's time to look into a few of Sierra's more notable and interesting games of yesteryear.
Back in 1979, Sierra was founded under the name On-Line Systems. Soon thereafter, they began development of an idea that would later turn into the full-fledged Apple II release known as Mystery House. The player started in front of a Victorian mansion and eventually found themselves locked inside, forced to explore the house more fully in hopes of an eventual escape. A wide array of rooms and several different NPCs were available for the player to interact with. The game was a definitive hit and well received critically, praised most notably for being one of the first adventure games to feature actual computer graphics. Although greater adventure games would come further down the line, Mystery House is notable for being one of the first in terms of both look and setting (and obvious inspiration for games like Maniac Mansion and The 7th Guest).
Following in the adventure gaming footsteps that they had built up with Mystery House, Sierra released Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers in 1993. This game was the first entry in what would become one of Sierra's most beloved franchises. The player took the role of Gabriel Knight, a rare book store owner and novelist who begins to investigate a string of local murders as inspiration for his upcoming novel. As one can expect, Gabriel is quickly drawn deep into the mystery, and before he knows it, things begin to take on a formally unknown (and supernatural) composition. The game's CD-ROM version featured scenes of full motion video and voice acting by Tim Curry, Mark Hamill, and even Leah Remini (of eventual King of Queens fame). This game and franchise are truly one of the gems of retro point and click adventures that are worth leaving the beaten path of Lucasarts to check out. Luckily, all three entries can still be procured easily and cheaply through GOG and remain to sell fairly well despite their age.
One of Sierra's most notable releases is often forgotten into today's Steam-ridden world of digital distribution: Half-Life. In fact, Sierra published the entirety of Valve's line up at the time including this game, its port to Playstation 2 and the expansions Opposing Force and Blue Shift . Throughout its existence from 1998 until its absorption into Activision Blizzard in 2008, Sierra was primarily a publisher, rather than developer, and with that, their releases began to drop in quality with titles like Lesuire Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude and Timeshift. While good games were still released under the Sierra Entertainment name, gamers began to associate their goodness more with their developers than the fact that Sierra published them.
Sierra gave us the SWAT, Homeworld, King's Quest, Space Quest, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, You Don't Know Jack, and F.E.A.R. franchises, but even they were not too great to stand the eventual wear and tear of time (and business). You will be missed, oh mighty mountain!
Check back on Tuesday for our next episode in which we delve into the odd and often uncomfortable world of obscure retro fighting games, but for now, you'll just have to make due with this (or back episodes)!
- Christian (SirDesmond)