Hey there, all. Sorry I haven’t been around here for a bit. Oddly, the side effects from radiation treatment that I was supposed to experience weeks ago finally hunted me down. Each day since the end of my radiation treatments, I’ve felt a little worse. I don’t mean to complain. It could have been a lot worse, and a lot longer. The fatigue drains everything you have. And it made me incredibly mean. Really, really fucking mean. And it’s not all gone. I think it is but then – mean. Aside from having little energy I feel like it further sapped my intellect, as if there’s any sparable quantity. But I was so f#$king mean. Those two things kept me from posting. I mean really mean. I didn’t break anything. That’s amazing.
I wanted to get on here though and give you all an update. You’ve all been incredibly supportive and that’s helped me. I feel like I’m headed in the right direction again. My sense of well-being is spending more time in the positive zone, so that’s a good thing. I’ll be trying to get caught up. I have lots to do that’s fallen behind in hour-to-hour and day-to-day life system things as well as lots of communication. I hope everyone’s had a good weekend. More later.
We’re doing a livestream tonight (May 4, 2019) on YouTube starting at 6 pm PDT (3 a.m. UTC on May 5) and ending at midnight (9 a.m. UTC). Corey and Lori will play partway through Quest for Glory III: Wages of War (aka Seekers of the Lost City) and answer questions. Roberta Vaughan is hosting and will be running contests and giving away several amazing prizes donated by Himalaya Studios, artists, and the Coles.May the Fourth Be With… Lori and Corey Cole
The stream is supposed to be at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJLMIcRLZWw. If you don’t find it there, find the Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption channel on YouTube and look for the livestream there. We’ll also be saving the entire livestream as a video so you can watch it later. Subscribe to the channel to keep up with all of our YouTube content posts.
We’ve also created a Discord server for discussion of our games and related topics. Join us at https://discord.gg/Z7dp47M. This will be our main discussion forum in the future.
Finally, after many requests, Corey and Lori have set up a Patreon page for fans who would like to help us afford to continue making games. We’ll be posting a lot of unique content there including comics and articles from our 1980’s fantasy gaming newsletter, The Spell Book. We’ll also include articles from Corey and Lori’s Quest Blog on the original School for Heroes website as well as new articles, artwork, and art photography.
The Patreon page is https://www.patreon.com/coreyloricole . Our tiers are $2/month, which will get you most of the Patreon material and access to a special Discord channel for patrons, and $10/month, which will also include a new desktop wallpaper each month and occasional special rewards.
It was 20 years ago today, February 22nd, that Sierra On-line had officially shut down it’s doors in Oakhurst (California), laid off 150 of their employees, and those that were not laid off, and the other one third, were offered a position in the new Bellevue (Washington) office. This was all done by the new owners of Sierra On-line at the time, Havas, which had just purchase Sierra On-line from CUC software.
Ken Williams, former owner of Sierra On-Line had sent this letter to his (former) employees:
Dear former Sierra employees,
Roberta and I wish to express our deepest sympathies for the recent loss of your jobs. Hopefully, it will not be long before you resume work at Sierra in Seattle, or at some other company… in Oakhurst, or elsewhere. According to tradition, I’m supposed to say something uplifting and motivational to help everyone feel better. Unfortunately, I have failed at this task. There is really nothing good that can be said. This is a sad ending to Sierra’s twenty-year operating history in Oakhurst, which at one time, represented over 550 Oakhurst-based employees. This story should have had a happy ending, but instead has had a long string of bad news concluding with the shutdown yesterday of all of Sierra’s Oakhurst-based product development activities.
The problems began with the move of corporate to Seattle. The move to Seattle was mandated for several reasons, primarily due to the difficulty we were having recruiting senior management staff and software engineers. The relocation, although it was painful for Oakhurst, was instrumental in our tremendous growth from 1993 through 1996. I remain convinced that this relocation was the right decision for Sierra, and that we would not have prospered without it.
I can’t say the same about either the sale of The ImagiNation Network (INN) in 1993, or the sale of Sierra itself in 1996. When Sierra started INN in 1991, it was a decade ahead of its time. After investing millions in INN, Sierra found that it did not have the financial resources to support INN’s continued operations. In 1993, AT&T sought aggressively to acquire INN, promising to market the service and grow the company. Unfortunately, AT&T lost interest in INN and sold it to AOL, who to my great disappointment, shut INN down.
Sierra, as you know, was purchased by CUC International in 1996. Because CUC was offering to buy the company at a price roughly 90% higher than it was trading, the decision was out of management’s hands. At the time of the purchase, we did believe that through consolidation with several Sierra competitors (Blizzard, Knowledge Adventure, Davidson and others), Sierra would become a much stronger company. We had good reason to believe that the acquisition would cause us to grow faster, not shrink. Unfortunately, CUC elected to transfer control of the company to Davidson, and shut down several groups at Sierra. Later, as we all know, CUC was merged with another company, HFS, to form the Cendant corporation, with roughly 12,000 employees. A few months after this merger it was discovered that someone, or possibly some group of people, within the former CUC organization had been fraudulently preparing financial statements. The actions of this handful of people, who shall hopefully get their due, caused the plunge in Cendant’s stock price, and wiped out the net worth of many HFS and CUC employees, including many of you, as well as much of my own. Cendant was sued by its shareholders, CUC’s former management team was terminated and the decision was made to sell the software business. It should surprise no one that morale suffered through all of this anarchy, and although I have not seen Sierra’s financials for several years, my assumption is that the recent consolidation of operations is driven by a quest for restored profitability and stability. If this story were written as a book, the publisher might seek to classify it as “Fantasy”, “Science Fiction” or even “Horror”. It is much too outrageous to be true. But the bad news is that these events really did happen.
I console myself in the following way, and perhaps it will help you to cope with what has occurred. Let’s imagine that a stranger had walked up to any of us, on the street, in 1979, and said: “Would you like to move to one of the greatest cities on earth? While you are there, you can play a key role in creating a company that just about everyone will know and respect. Your grandchildren will be amazed when they learn that you once worked there. You will be the envy of your peers, because they will know that your team created the largest collection of hits ever to come from one company. There will even be years when you will have played a role in over half the products on the industries top ten lists! You will be surrounded by incredibly intelligent, hard working people, who will work 20+ hours per day when it takes it to get the job done. And, you will have more fun than you ever thought possible. There’s only one catch though. This will only last for twenty years.” Even knowing it wouldn’t last forever I would have followed that stranger anywhere. I’m disappointed that it didn’t last forever, but, a 20 year ride on the greatest roller coaster on earth beats the heck out of life in the slow lane any day. Life may never be the same, but it also isn’t over, and we all have some great memories we shall never forget. Good luck, and I miss you all.
On February 25th, 1999 – Josh Mandel also wrote a Sierra Eulogy…
On Monday, the last vestige of the original Sierra On-Line was laid to rest in Oakhurst, California. That branch, renamed “Yosemite Entertainment,” was shuttered on Monday, February 22nd, putting most of its 125+ employees out of work.
You may not care for what Sierra has become since the days when dozens of unpretentious parser-driven graphic adventures flowed, seemingly effortlessly, out of Oakhurst. But there’s no denying that, back then, Sierra On-Line was the life’s blood of the adventure game industry.
Maybe the games were a little more rough-hewn than those of its competitors–not that there were many competitors at that point. But Sierra kept adventure gamers happy and fed, gamers who would’ve otherwise starved to death on the arguably more polished, but frustratingly infrequent, releases of Lucasfilm Games (as they were once called).
Sierra alone grew the industry in other ways, too. It was Ken Williams who, almost single-handedly, created the market for PC sound hardware by vigorously educating the public to the AdLib card and, shortly thereafter, the breathtaking Roland MT-32. He supported those cards in style while other publishers wanted nothing to do with them. It was Corey and Lori Cole who invented the first true hybrid, replayable adventure/RPG. It was Christy Marx’s lump-in-the-throat ending to Conquest of Camelot that reminded us that not every computer game had to have a group hug at the end. It was Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy who made us want to kill off our onscreen alter ego, to see what inventive, gooey death had been anticipated for us. It was Roberta, before anyone else, who invented strong female heroines. It was Al Lowe, bringing up the rear (literally and figuratively) by creating Leisure Suit Larry, the most popular, pirated game of its decade. We knew this because we sold far more Larry hint books than we sold of the actual software.
It was the Sierra News Magazine (later InterAction) that let us feel like we knew the people making these games, that they were a family-run business, staffed by people who lived an isolated life, surrounding by idyllic, ageless beauty and creating games that were a labor of love. That was, at least for awhile, an accurate picture. This was a family we wanted to feel a part of, for good reason, and people came from thousands of miles away to take a tour and see how real it all was.
But what makes the closure of Sierra On-Line’s Oakhurst facility (recently renamed “Yosemite Entertainment”) a bigger, sadder event than most game company closures–including the far larger decimation of 500 Broderbund employees–is that this was not just a game company, this was a community.
Oakhurst is barely a dust mite on the mattress of America. It existed, for a long time, as a miniscule stopover for tourists on their way to and from Yosemite National Park. As recently as 1991, the mountain-bound town had not a single stoplight, just one grocery store, a single-screen movie theater, and one video rental store. There is no broadcast television (the mountains block it all). The nearest larger town is Fresno, 45 miles distant over the mountains. In severe snowstorms, the town is virtually cut off from the world. And the cable company there is still so provincial, so disdainful of outside influence, that there is no MTV offered, no Nickelodeon (or any MTV-owned stations), nothing to disturb the elderly farmer-types have been the chief population since the Gold Rush days.
Sierra was the second-largest employer in town (the phone company being the largest). Thus, the people of Sierra did not simply work together as they do in most of the country. These people are families, roommates, and neighbors. The person who works in the cubicle next to you may be your girl or boyfriend, your spouse, your landlord. He/she may well have been in your wedding party, and may have driven you 45 miles to the hospital when you were sick (how else could you have gotten there?). Secrets never stayed secret for long; divorces, trysts, and personal traumas all were public knowledge. People at Sierra weren’t just working together, they were living together. Now their lease has expired and the family will all at once be scattered.
The town has grown somewhat. The theater is now a multiplex, but Rusty still gives you his unabashed opinion of each film on the recording when you call for the movie times. There are several stoplights in town now. There are several supermarkets, more hotels, and the infamous “Talking Bear” has undergone a recent facelift. But the town still revolves around Sierra and tourism. And tourism may not be enough to support the town, at least in the winters when much of Yosemite (“the park” in local vernacular) is closed.
With Yosemite Entertainment gone, not only are more than a hundred people out of work (some of whom are fabulously talented), but an entire community has been wiped out with the stroke of a pen. It will be morbidly interesting to see whether or not Oakhurst’s economy can bear up under the mass exodus that will result.
Some may argue that Sierra lives on in Bellevue, Washington, where Al Lowe, Jane Jensen, Roberta Williams, Mark Seibert, and a handful of Oakhurst refugees still labor diligently on games side-by-side with scores of newer talent. But games like KQ:MoE and LSL7 have a distinctly different flavor than the seat-of-the-pants, funny, touching adventures that Oakhurst once produced. They are commercial.
Invariably, in a company that grows the way Sierra grew, innovation gives way to emulation. Whereas Sierra’s management once strove to make it solid, profitable, and yet fun, they now strive to dominate other companies, force annual growth in the double digits, and (like so many other companies) cut jobs mercilessly to improve the bottom line and thrill the stockholders. Yet the Ghost of Sierra Past still walked the halls in Oakhurst. The rooms were adorned with the art of glories past, the artists and programmers who helped to create those glories were, in fair measure, still living and working there. Now that spirit has been exorcised by scrubbed, glad-handing executives who don’t know, or don’t care, what those artists and programmers could do when they were motivated and well-managed.
People, living and working closely together in the pursuit of shared joy, were what made Sierra games great. Thank you, Ken, for creating something utterly unique, something warm, fun and beautiful. Damn you, Ken, for allowing others to tear it down.
Whether you were a Sierra fan or not, we are all diminished by the loss of history, talent, and continuity within the gaming industry. Rest in peace, Sierra On-Line.
It goes right up there, along the lines of The Hobbit and Star Wars in regards to how big of an impact it had on me. The same way The Hobbit opened my eyes to the world of fantasy (back in the 4th grade), the way Star Wars opened my eyes to science fiction on the big screen, Sierra On-Line opened my eyes to the story telling and the 3D adventures, that made me want to work at Sierra.
The video above goes into detail about most of those things…
The Death of Sierra On-Line is one I still mourn to this very day.
20 years later.
As evidenced by this Leisure Suit Larry fan page, and my activity (and co-admin) of the Sierra Help forums.
I want to thank Ken & Roberta Williams, Al Lowe, Jim Walls, Lori & Corey Cole, Christy Marx, Bridget McKenna, Scott Murphy, Mark Crowe, Ken Allen, Jane Jensen, plus the assortment of other creators, employees in every regard who helped create, mold and shape my creativity and help become who I am – which I think, turned out all right.
Game boxes and posters are going out! If you
backed at a level that gets physical goods, you have probably gotten an
email notice from Geekify.
If you’ve moved and haven’t updated your
address on BackerKit, your package may end up in limbo, which will make
everyone sad. There’s a small chance you can still fix that – Stop
reading this and send your current address (along with your old address
and email) to firstname.lastname@example.org right now! Then update it on BackerKit as well, please.
What we aren’t shipping yet: Autographed
postcards and Yearbooks. We have the postcards, and just need to get to
them – probably next week. Digital rewards remaining – the Making of Art
Book and the Hint Book. We’ve decided to make the latter available on
the https://www.hero-u.com website for everyone.
Lori and I have previously done two marathon
livestreams on YouTube – a “slow play” of the first week or so of
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption and a live play with commentary of Hero’s
We’re doing it again. In less than six hours
from when I post this, at 6:00 pm PST (0200 UTC), we will do a six-hour
long live play of Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire with contests and
commentary. There’s more about the livestream in Lori’s news post
(linked above). We hope you can come join us for at least a few minutes.
After we’re done, the stream will become a YouTube video.
The Live Stream is at 6 pm PST on Feb. 14, 2019 at https://youtu.be/zL8NqHagZew.
Or maybe somewhere else; we’re new to this streaming business. If we
get moved, we should be able to post a comment at that URL with the
correct place to join the stream.
A Time For Love
Love and relationships are a big deal in
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. One of the most loving characters is
Aeolus; he’s a true romantic who can fall in love with anyone. Here’s
Maus Merryjest’s take on one of his love songs for Esme:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HagO4C_2gWE
I want to thank Charles Eavenson II who posted these on Facebook, and got permission for me to repost them here. Special thanks to the folks at MAXCREATE for allowing these to be shared! Click the images that are cropped to see them fully.
Happy new year everyone! We know this update is late coming. The end
of the year went slower than we had hoped, even with all the pushing we
did to finish things up. We wanted to give a status update as well as
show more of the voice over for SpaceVenture. This update will contain a
couple of interviews with the cast, as well as show more of the VO in
the actual game.
Currently, we have been plugging VO into the game, but still have a
ways to go to get it to the polished phase. The game previously went
through the first round of beta testing. Our beta testers gave us some
great feedback as to what needed to change in order to make the game
play better. We are trying to make sure we focus on fixing all the main
issues that beta testers brought to our attention. Soon we will begin
the second round of beta testing to find out how the game is feeling in
the state it is in now. How this plays out will effect release date. We
are very optimistic on getting the game into everyone’s hands over the
Thank you all for your continued patience!
First off, if you missed the last VO update we posted on Kickstarter, you can view it HERE
VIDEO OF ACE HARDWAY AND IMOM INTERACTING
The below video is another demonstration of some of our voice over in
action within SpaceVenture. This clip, VO of Ace(played by Maurice
LaMarche) and iMom(played by Ellen McLain) having a little back and
forth here at the beginning of the game. We hope you’ll get some of the
humor and references that were thrown in. https://youtu.be/PmEQaB2jY6E
VIDEO OF ACE HARDWAY DROPPING BY NURBS BAR TO VISIT HIS PALS
This video clip is taken from the Nurbs Landing Bar. Ace(played by
Maurice LaMarche) hooks up with his buddies, Url(played by Rob Paulsen),
and Nurb(played by John Patrick Lowie). We definitely still have some
fine tuning and polish that needs to be done with some of the mouth
movements, but we hope you all will enjoy a quick look at how this is
coming along. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW9FAc6mOuo
BEHOLD! THE LEGENDARY THREE HABENEROS MUSIC VIDEO
Prepare to get this song stuck in your head!
The below video features vocals by Rob Paulsen, Jason Charles Miller, and John Patrick Lowrie.
The lyrics were written by Mark Crowe.
We’re Three habaneros
Three gay habaneros
We love to sing for you in our sombreros
We welcome you our winner
Free Breakfast, lunch, or dinner
And though your meal is free, does not include gratuity
Our tacos HOLY MOLE!
Much better than Chipotle
and you don’t have to worry ‘bout e-coli
Our spices are atomic
our salsa is so potent it will make you hypersonic
Oh please try our chingadero
Deep fried in it’s own bowl,
made with our special dough
So crunchy and spicey
but not all that pricey,
it’s three times as nicey
When you get it to go.
We’re Three habaneros
Three gay habaneros
We love to sing for you in our sombreros
We’ll sing for you all day but to stop us you must pay.
Yes, here at Taco Nova it’s the customary wa-aay.
Without spoiling too much in the video, we’ll tell you this. Ace
arrives in Taco Nova to refuel(in more ways than one) and ends up being
the one billionth customer, which triggers the “Three Haberneros” to
begin serenading him. There is a puzzle here that you’ll need to figure
out in order to get them to stop singing to you.https://youtu.be/6dBeyI2ASvs
I would also like to give a plug to James Mulvale for putting
together and performing the music for this song. We gave James a
rudimentary idea of what we wanted, and he knocked it out of the park.
James also created an 8-bit version of the song that you will hear when
you play the Pepper Pals arcade machine you see in the scene. Yes that’s
right, that is an actual playable arcade machine in a SciFi fast food
joint, sound familiar?
If you’re not familiar with James, you should definitely check out his work at https://www.jamesmulvale.com/.
If you have little kids in your household, James(and his wife) most
recently started writing/performing children’s music that involves some
cool crafts for kids and sing along songs. It’s called “Sweetypies” and
you can check it out HERE
SVREWARDS DIARY POST
For all of you guys that backed at $30 and up, we have a little extra
behind the scenes for you to check out. Over at the SVRewards.com site,
you can login and check out some special versions of the Three
Habeneros song. Including an instrumental version, along with Rob
Paulsen, John Patrick Lowrie, and Jason Charles Miller singing all three
habenero parts solo.
NOTE: If you forgot your login info for SVRewards, there is a password reset link. If you still have problems, please DO NOT post in the comments, or message through Kickstarter. Please email: pcjjenks AT gmail DOT com
Click the image below to visit the SVRewards website diary post.
Remember that once the game ships, all the diary behind the scenes stuff
will be made available to all backers.
A SIT DOWN WITH ELLEN MCLAIN
Ellen McLain was kind enough to have a little sit down with me(Chris
Pope) during our VO session with her. You may have heard Ellen as GLaDOS
in the legendary Portal series that was released by Valve a few years
back. Ellen is also known for her work in Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead,
and DOTA 2. https://youtu.be/EqZ2oyTHBhU
A FUN CHAT WITH JOHN PATRICK LOWRIE
John Patrick Lowrie and I also had a nice discussion about his
experiences at being a singer, writer and voice actor in the
entertainment industry. John is probably most well known as the voice of
the Sniper in Team Fortress 2, but you may have heard his voice in lots
of games over the years, including DOTA 2. https://youtu.be/7PIlwedBhQ8
We still have more actors and videos to showcase, including Robert
Clotworthy, Vince Caso, Melanie Stone and Jake Stormoen. Stay tuned!
UPDATE ON SCOTT MURPHY
First up, we wanted to thank everyone who contributed to Scott’s GoFundMe campaign.
With your help, we made the goal pretty quickly! Thank you also for
your thoughts and prayers as well. Scott is moving forward and though he
has hurtles he’s still facing, he has made it through the first part of
his cancer challenges. Please continue to send thoughts and prayers his
way as he continues his battle.
SUPPORT LORI AND COREY COLE
If you’ve been living under an asteroid and haven’t heard, Lori and
Corey Cole(makers of the Quest for Glory series) have released their new
game, “Hero U”. If you haven’t already checked it out, you should! It’s
getting great reviews!
WE WILL NOT STOP UNTIL THIS THING IS DONE RIGHT AND RELEASED
To those in the comments saying that the game will never ship. We get
it. We’ve heard you, but we hope you all realize a few things. We are
all real people with real lives and families. I can promise you 100%
that we have worked very very hard these years to complete this game. We
have lost countless hours of sleep worrying about this, as well as the
blood sweat and tears that have gone into this project. There is no way
in this universe that we would let your financial sacrifices, not to
mention the hard work and time away from our families just get thrown
away like that. THIS GAME WILL GET FINISHED.
Of course, the comments are open for you to say what you will. We
respect everyone’s right to say what you want and give us your thoughts,
whether it be positivity or negativity, but we will continue to keep
our noses to the grind stone and focus on getting this thing done, as
opposed to dwelling on negativity.
Regardless of how you feel about the project and it’s pace, we thank you for your support and continued patience.
Chris Pope a.k.a your humble local intergalactic SpacePope