Daniel’s Interview With Roberta Williams.

With permission from Daniel De Kock, who originally posted this:

Hi everyone,

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today and went through my external drive with material from years ago and felt best to share it with you before it is lost forever. Once upon a time in a land far far away there was a 12 year old boy that felt in love, like most of us here, with the games from Sierra which touch our hearts and has such an impact on our lives. To this day I’m still touched that people like Ken and Roberta Williams would find the time in their busy lives to engage with us, their fans, so young..

So, many many years ago I’ve taught myself the basics of html and create the Roberta Williams fan club and had a few interviews, received content from the Sierra game designers. Please find below my pride and joy at the time (12 years and English is not my first language , an interview with Roberta Williams from just before King’s Quest VIII was released. Sierra, Ken, Roberta, John, Al, Jane, Lori, Corey and Lorelei, Mark, Josh and Scott (just to name a few, especially the mods from old Sierra forums and chat rooms), thanks for being part of growing up, it was worth it.

1. How would you describe a typical day at Sierra On-Line, working on Mask of Eternity ?

Answer: I work mainly at home for the most part; always have. I go in and work with the rest of the team when I need to but I consider myself more of a contract “writer/designer.” (I suppose this habit got started because I began my career when my kids were very young and I felt that I wanted to be at home as much as possible with them. So – I depend very heavily on good producers (like Mark Seibert) and top-notch team members who don’t need me there full-time. Therefore, describing a “typical” day at Sierra On-Line (now called Sierra Studios) is not really possible for me. I can tell you that it is extremely busy with many products being developed…and a lot of creative energy flying around. The team itself is extremely excited about “King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity” and is beginning to work overtime trying to get it shipping by Christmas.

2. I’ve read in a interview that you may begin with another project as soon as MOE is finished. “However, Roberta and I have been talking about another project that might follow this one.” (This text was quoted from an interview with Mark Seibert he had done with Sierra Gaming World) Can you maybe tell us more about your upcoming project, could it be Phantasmagoria 3 ?

Answer: I hate to disappoint you, but there isn’t any upcoming project as of now. Certain projects have been discussed, but nothing has been decided definitively. I think the (new) management of Sierra is trying to decide what projects to do next…and any input from “fans” out there would probably help them sort out these decisions.

3. What have happened to the marble statue turning alive idea for MOE, which would have been the hero of the game ? That was your first idea for King’s Quest VIII.

Answer: At first the story of KQ8 was going to involve a sort of “evil magic” which causes everybody in Daventry – including King Graham and his family – to turn to stone while, conversely, this same magic would cause a reverse effect on a stone statue…bringing it alive. Then – this “guy” would have to set out to figure out the cause of this evil magic and try to save the people of Daventry by defeating the source of this evil. As the story (and the game) developed, though, the story began to change. Now – it involves a “normal citizen” of Daventry (Connor of Daventry) who survives the onslaught of evil magic, managing, somehow, to “stay alive,” while the rest of the citizenry turns to stone. Connor figures out that the source or cause of this “magic” involves a sacred golden object called the “Mask of Eternity.” A piece of this mask saved him…and it will be the means by which the rest of humanity will be saved….but it’s up to him to accomplish that immense task.

4. You are probably tired of answering this question, but can you tell us new about MOE, e.g. if possible maybe something which will happen in the game etc. Also, what is the most exciting world in MOE and why ?

Answer: What happens in the game is that the most sacred, powerful object in the world, the Mask of Eternity, is shattered by an evil magic (really, an evil “sorcerer-type” guy). When this happens, “Truth,” “Light,” and “Order” are banished from the world and all of humanity turns to stone, while all the supernatural creatures of evil and chaos crawl out from the dark nooks and crannies of the world and begin to spread turmoil and upheaval throughout the land. Connor, being the only “human” left (because he found a piece of the Mask – which saved him), is the one who needs to find the remaining pieces of the Mask and then return it to its rightful place…and to destroy the evil “sorcerer” who caused all of this mess in the first place. If or when he does so, he will cause “Truth,” “Light,” and “Order” to be restored to the world…and humanity to come back to life.

5. Is it more challenging, harder to create Mask of Eternity than it was
with Phantasmagoria ? Is it the creating of the game engine that puts up a
challenge or is it something else ?

Answer: In some ways, it was harder creating Phantasmagoria and in other ways it’s harder to create KQ: Mask of Eternity. (By the way, I feel to the need to stress that this game is “King’s Quest” first and foremost. “Mask of Eternity” is the subtitle. Basically, it’s “King’s Quest 8.” I noticed that you keep referring to the game as “Mask of Eternity” – but not really referencing “King’s Quest.” I need to make sure that people who read this understand that this is DEFINITELY a “King’s Quest” game.)

Anyway – with Phantasmagoria, we weren’t really creating a new game engine, but we were dealing with a lot of issues concerning integrating video, actors, silicon graphics, blue screen effects, etc. – within our old established adventure game engine. With King’s Quest: Mask we are dealing with a game series which already has an established look and feel, but we are creating a brand new 3D engine to evolve the series and bring it up to the expectations of today’s audience. Both were difficult in their own ways; it’s difficult to say which is/was harder. (None of my games are easy! It seems that each one in its own time was difficult! But…I love a good challenge.)

6. Since the design of MOE, dialogue etc. is finished, what are you currently doing on the MOE team ?

Answer: The design of King’s Quest is not finished…and neither is the dialog. Design doesn’t end with turning in a design document. It’s an ongoing thing. You think of new things; you play portions of the game and see that you need to “add” here, or “take away” there; you adjust various aspects of the game; you add, delete, or change dialog; you add more variety/atmosphere/ambience to the worlds; you change characters or add characters. Also – one of the biggest jobs of the designer is to play test the heck out of the game…right up until the minute it ships. You play it and play it and play it until you think you can’t stand to look at it anymore to find each and every little bug, design problem, graphics/animation problem, sound problem, dialog problem, etc. The designer is there at the very beginning – with the initial concepts – and still there at the bitter end…signing it off for shipment.

7. In an article 1989 (I know it is a long time ago and it was also on the KQ collection CD), called, The Making of King’s Quest VI, the author said : “Sometimes she consults her two little children, DJ and Chris, but husband Ken is little help. What did DJ and Chris came up with that you’ve used in your games ?

Answer: That’s a difficult question. I don’t know that I could necessarily think of any particular things. I know that I used to consult with them a lot. Many of my games would follow the ages of my children (at the time) – for instance, I did “Mixed-Up Mother Goose” when my son, Chris, was about 4 or 5 – or, they would be talking to me while on trips in the car, or when they were playing other games and I would ask their opinion of those games they were playing. And they were very opinionated…especially Chris! They have helped with their ideas on game interfaces, or story ideas. I would ask their opinions of characters I was developing, or what they thought of puzzles….or if they had any good ideas about puzzles. Basically, the way I work, I ask LOTS of people for ideas; I’m like an idea vacuum. I’ll ask anybody and everybody. Even my husband got sucked into discussions of my games, too – whether he liked it or not<g>.

8. Can you tell us about your childhood. That is something that your fans know little about. Where have you been brought up, do you have brothers or sisters etc.

Answer: I was raised in southern California – in La Verne – which is located about 30 miles east of Los Angles. When I was a child, my father, John, was a horticulturist and worked for the County of Los Angeles as an Agriculture Inspector. My mother, Nova, was a housewife – but one who was (and still is) a very good oil painter. I have one brother, Jim. He is 18 months younger than me. My brother currently lives in Rancho Cucamonga, California, while both of my parents live in Oakhurst, California. (Oakhurst, California, by the way, is where Sierra On-Line got its start.) Both of my parents are retired now and they love to travel the world and they also love to square-dance. My brother works for 3M Corporation. I am married to Ken Williams and we have been married for 25 years. I got married at age 19 (Ken was 18). I have two sons, D.J. (now 24) and Chris (now 18). D.J. is a chef who works at a fine restaurant in Seattle, Washington, and Chris is attending a university in Tokyo, Japan. My only “children” at home now are two dogs, a six year old Swedish Vallhund called Arcade, and a three year old Norwegian Lundehund named Shelbie. My family is very important to me, and I see and am in contact with my parents, brother, and two sons – all of the time. I guess you could say that my life – from the beginning – has been blessed.

9. How do you feel about the idea that Ken Williams have left Sierra, to start another company ? Why did Ken Williams leave Sierra On-Line ?

Answer: Ken and I sold Sierra On-Line to CUC International – now called Cendant. We both made the decision. Ken had been CEO of the company for almost 20 years and was ready for a new challenge. Ken is currently starting a new company, called WorldStream Communications – which is planning to do live, round-the-world, “talk radio” formats over the internet. He is very excited about this…partially because it’s something new…and it’s a company which will challenge him even more than Sierra did.

10. How does the future look for the King’s Quest series, will it survive in this 3D era and what new format (graphics) could come after 3D ?

Answer: I certainly HOPE it survives in this 3D era – and why shouldn’t it? It’s a 3D game, too! “King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity” is a true 3D, third-person adventure game…with some action elements. It’s very “now.” It definitely has its roots in “King’s Quest,” but it also is new and fresh…the whole look and feel is updated. There is a new character to meet, Connor of Daventry, and you can explore SEVEN beautiful 3D worlds to your heart’s content. We also added some “action” elements to give the game more of a “real-time” feeling and to enhance the 3D experience. You kind of know the story – but there are also lots of puzzles to solve in this game, too. The puzzles fit very well into the 3D aspects of the game. The one thing which is quite different from the older “King’s Quest” games is the fact that Connor can fight many of the evil creatures of “chaos” – but, with the good and friendly characters…he is more than a gentleman.

As far as any new graphic formats after 3D – what can you do beyond 3D? I mean, 3D is 3D. Nothing is more than 3D. So – 3D will just get better and better: faster, higher resolution, more realistic, utilizing actors, more objects, buildings, trees, etc. Probably in 10 years, you won’t be able to tell that you’re not walking through a real “world.” It’ll look totally real – like movies or TV – but it will be a computer-generated 3D world. (Obviously, multi-player games will also change the look and feel computer gaming…and will probably be integrated into the TV watching experience at some point.)