Neil Rubenking shared the following:
With Leisure Suit Larry getting an update (the KickStarter campaign topped out a week early!) I dragged out my old commemorative plaque from when I beta-tested the original. Signed by Al Lowe, Mark Crow, and Ken Williams. How many companies these days would give their testers a plaque??
So I stopped him and asked him to share a few thoughts… like how did he gets into the LSL1 Beta (since there really wasn’t the “Internet” as we know it now, like signing up on a website), what was it like, how hard was the game, etc etc. Here’s what Neil shared:
You mention there was no Internet back then… but there was CompuServe, and the GAMERS forum on CompuServe. There were also BBSs aplenty, plus the proto-Internet RBBSnet, which updated BBSs around the world with each other’s content nightly. Like the Internet, but with 24-hour latency. The fellow who ran the San Francisco RBBSnet hub (responsible for the entire West Coast) was a friend of Janet’s and mine. In fact, when he went on vacation he’d give her a key to go in each day and make sure the update had happened overnight.
Before that, even, we were both already connected with Sierra. For a while Janet was the (remote) BBS Sysop for Sierra’s help BBS. People could dial in from wherever and ask for help, tech support, hints, and such. The BBS itself was an IBM PC running a product called “The Major BBS” – with eight eight-modem cards in an expansion chassis, no cover, and a big fan blowing constantly to make sure it didn’t melt down.
Amusing – the BBS software would auto-ban users who posted “bad language”, but it was badly written so it would find “bad” words embedded in good words. Janet had to be careful, because it would even auto-ban the sysop, requiring someone at Sierra HQ to go in and fix it. Tough to answer a question using the word “chardonnay” and get banned for “hardon”. Tough for users from Sweetwater TX.
Interesting. Janet also had an offer to work for Lucasfilm Games, which at the time was located at Skywalker Ranch. We went out one time and Brian Moriarty showed us around. I remember being impressed that every room had not just electric outlets but plugs for phone and Ethernet – elegant brass ones. She took the Sierra job instead because it didn’t require a commute.
Yes, we played all the other quests. King’s Quest, Space Quest, Hero’s Quest, even Police Quest.
Janet and I would go up to Coarsegold fairly often and hang out / meet with Ken, Roberta, Al, and the gang. At one point we invented the Internet. No, really! We had this idea of a game called LarryLand that people could connect to from all over the country and play multi-player in real time. Ken also liked the idea of a way for oldsters to connect and play card games and such with each other; called it “Constant Companion”. SOMEONE started referring to it as “Constant Constipation”…
When we’d go up there we’d stay at the Shiloh Inn. Little Katherine (now 28) was especially amused if we’d go in winter, as we could play in the outdoor heated pool while snow fell on and around us.
Visiting at the Williamses house on Bass Lake one time, somehow Katherine got scared of their dog (rhodesian ridgeback, I think?) and ran from it, prompting the dog to run after her – bit of a mess. Another time Ken took me and some others out on the lake in his spiffy boat, forcing Janet to sit and have kamikazes with Roberta; tough life!
I’ve been writing for PC Magazine since 1986, and I used to do game reviews back then. That’s partly how I got into the beta testing. Handy to already know the game inside and out by the time it’s ready for review. Alas, I can’t really tell you anything about the process or what I thought of it at the time. Too long ago! But I’m 99% sure we did NOT get any answers or ways to pass the puzzles.
In LSL2 there’s a dating game with Larry and two other guys. One is Ragooka Singh Song (play on Sierra guy Guruka Singh Khalsa). The other was GOING to be Neil Rubberking. But I told Al, if you do that I won’t be able to review it. So he stayed a writer but got the name A. P. Wire.
Al would now and then run things by me, puzzles and such. I remember one time he came down to S.F. to talk about Torin’s Passage (great game, VERY too-bad he didn’t get to make the two planned sequels). He showed me prototypes of a couple puzzles over lunch at Zuni Cafe (great place, STILL great). I worked one out fairly quickly, which pleased Al immensely as some at Sierra had said it was too hard, NOBODY will get it. Something about a line of little men and women facing each other, and you had to reverse their positions by jumping over?
Brain dump ends herewith! Hope you’ll find some useful information.
I just want to thank Neil for taking the time to share this. Thought it was an interesting look at Sierra back then!