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Why has the reputation/legacy of LucasArts fared better than Sierra?

Discussion in 'Adventure Gaming' started by Korgoth of Barbaria, Mar 24, 2018.

  1. bertram_tung Arcane Patron

    bertram_tung
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    While not a massive mega-hit by any means, if the reasonable success and solidly positive reviews of Thimbleweed Park are any indication, compared to the failure of the double fine kickstarter I can't even be bothered to look up the name of, then it looks like it would have been a better way to go. But I'm no expert. I can definitely say Thimbleweed was more in the style of what most of those early Kickstarter backers thought they were putting money down for.
     
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  2. taxalot I'm a spicy fellow. Patron

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    Worked well enough for Ron Gilbert.
     
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  3. Boleskine Arcane

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    The key difference is that Ron Gilbert had a plan. He knew what he wanted to make and how he wanted to make it. He knew the limitations of the tools he was using.

    The problem with Spaceventure and Hero-U is that they joined the kickstarter party on a whim. It took Hero-U 2-3 years to find their game. Unity gives developers plenty of powerful tools, but if you don't finalize your game design before starting full-time development then design and development are going to influence and work against each other.

    To me the distinction isn't whether some projects used AGS or Unity or a different engine, or whether they did low-res 2D or high-res 3D. People will be receptive to any decent looking presentation as long as the game is good. Projects that have struggled didn't do the bulk of design before they started development. The Jim Walls game looked hastily thrown together without a clear vision for what that game was supposed to be.

    I think going with AGS or a 2D approach would have been better for these projects simply because it would have allowed them to focus more on design and less on messing around with 3D. Take the early Spaceventure prototypes for example. There's no reason a well-made game in this style couldn't have been successful.

     
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  4. Tramboi Prophet Patron

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    Ron Gilbert coded a brand new engine, with a well understood frame.
    He's probably the best engineer of the old legends' pack, and it did definitely help him to deliver his game design.
     
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  5. Boleskine Arcane

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    Sure, but he and Gary Winnick spent several months designing the game before they started development. So, at the very least Gilbert had a strict set of guidelines and criteria to guide programming their new engine.
     
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  6. Tramboi Prophet Patron

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    Totally agree, just saying that making the appropriate engine yourself makes the underlying knowledge of the game model and constraints explicit. He knew what he did from the start.
     
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  7. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Could they possibly have done worse? I mean, of the ones you list:

    (1) Two Guys, no game yet, the game looks unlikely to be successful.
    (2) The Coles, no game yet, and they purport to have mortgaged their home to the hilt, and the game looks chancy at best.
    (3) Walls, unsuccessful Kickstarter.

    Add to these:

    (4) Jane Jensen, launched Moebius to 136 simultaneous players, somewhere between Primordia and Dropsy, ~50% Metacritic and 79% Steam (worse than either Primordia or Quest for Infamy on both measures).
    (5) Al Lowe (sort of), launched Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded, the most traditional and seemingly the most successful of the bunch, but still pretty middling as these things go.

    Generally speaking, AGS projects have at least launched (making them better than three of the five ex-Sierra projects) and some have been quite successful.

    [EDIT: In fairness, Mage's Initiation is now looking at a development cycle that will be slightly longer than Hero-U, so perhaps we can't lay the blame entirely on AGS vs. non-AGS.]
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2018
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  8. Blackthorne Infamous Quests Patron Developer

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    Right, I just used AGS as an example because it exists and I've used it to make a couple of games, but it could be any game engine. Ron Gilbert making his own for Thimbllweed Park is, in particular, really cool because honestly, you never code your own engine. I know people have romantic notions about that, but it's really a headache most people aren't ready for. Ron is the exception; his talents really lie in that area, as well as being a creative game developer too.

    I just ponder because I had a lot of people say things to us like "You should have worked with the Coles (insert any old Sierra designer here) to make a game! It would have been awesome." and I suppose I wonder about that. We were prepared to make the kind of game we did because prior to QFI, we'd been making these games consistently for almost 9 years at that point. People WILL buy a game just for a name, but there does have to be a good and enjoyable game under the hood. (Moebius comes to mind... Jensen had the fans and support, but the game was met with a really lukewarm 'meh'.) So, I guess I just wonder what it might have been like if a team like ours had paired with an ex-Sierra designer and made a game more in line with how a classic Sierra game looked. I don't think it would have been some chart-topping ripper of a game, but it might have sold enough to keep doing more in the same vein with a decent budget. Anyway, it's all speculation.


    Bt
     
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  9. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Yes, the Coles should've partnered with you guys or Himalaya Studios. Though, who knows, maybe once the glow of working with a childhood idol wore off, it would have been hard for an experienced team of AGS developers to be subordinated and totally overshadowed by a marquee oldtimer. Hard to know.
     
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  10. Blackthorne Infamous Quests Patron Developer

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    Exactly - it's easy to say now, in hindsight, that it could work, but who knows how it would have gone at that time.


    Bt
     
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  11. Korgoth of Barbaria Cipher

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    Everything just sucks
     
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  12. GandGolf Savant

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    If it weren't for LucasArts we'd all still be playing games with dead ends and constant deaths.
     
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  13. Unkillable Cat Prestigious Gentleman LEST WE FORGET Patron

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    Someone else would have come along with those very same game mechanics instead.

    Maybe even Sierra themselves.

    Eventually.
     
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  14. Korgoth of Barbaria Cipher

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    You say that like constant death is a bad thing.
     
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  15. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

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    Nah that stage of adventure game design would've been skipped and we would've gone straight for the cat hair moustaches.
     
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  16. Tramboi Prophet Patron

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    You say that like bad game design is a good thing.
     
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  17. Glop_dweller Cipher

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    Constant death is often player error.

    **I always considered any misadventures—as adventures, death or no death. No problem knowing what happens to them if they take the path less traveled; (or never survived). It's part of the game.

    The problem comes of the players taking it personally—as if it were them, and not the character, or as if it cast a pall of ineptness upon their abilities... to imply they were at fault; or worse... blaming the game for it. Bad design is pixel perfect platforming... not having fatal choices.

     
    Last edited: May 3, 2018
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  18. Tramboi Prophet Patron

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    The problem of most Sierra games is not so much death but the whole restore dance around it.
    Think slow floppy drives.
    And if you have limited space on the floppy (eg saving on game disk), you can overwrite a good save with a save that is too late to escape the death.
    Not everybody played those games first in DOSBox, UAE or whatever emulator !
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2018
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  19. Glop_dweller Cipher

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    I remember watching an animated choo-choo train loading screen, for what must have been eight minutes, on a C64. I remember how long the games took to load.

    You are right about saving past the point of death. EoB2 had several instances of that; and not all of them with warnings about it. IMO anytime the player is —inevitably dead, the save feature should be disabled. Some games did that.
     
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  20. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

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    The problem with Sierra games design was often that you had puzzles reliant on pixel hunting, getting into a "walking dead" situation where you've reached a completely unwinnable state without knowing that you did just because you missed a non-obvious item many screens back, the importance of which will only become apparent the moment you need it, etc.
     
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  21. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    I wonder how often this actually happened. It's certainly my bitter recollection, but I recall that when I went back and scrubbed the walkthroughs of prominent Sierrra games, the flaw was much less evident than I remembered, particularly because puzzles often had multiple solutions (or were altogether optional).
     
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  22. Blackthorne Infamous Quests Patron Developer

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    Yes, sometimes I think it's one of those things that got blown out of proportion, mainly because it happened a couple times in King's Quest V, which is probably the worst offender. Many other games had multiple solutions to things to prevent this.


    Bt
     
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  23. Tramboi Prophet Patron

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    Space Quest 3 detonator stuff made me rage wildly back then, for instance.
     
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  24. Berekän #11231 Patron

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    Just came out today, very relevant

     
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  25. Aeschylus Prestigious Gentleman Swindler Patron

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    Pixel hunting never really struck me as one of the big issues with Sierra's game design. If anything I would say they suffered from it less than Lucasarts since the lack of hotspots forced them to make it more obvious what could be interacted with. What I would say was an issue were the puzzles that were clearly just thrown in to make people call the hint line, the most egregious of which was probably the 'invisible bridle' in KQ2, but there were a few semi-unfair walking dead scenarios in later games (such as missing the boot in the desert in KQ5 and not saving the rat) which were likely designed to do the same thing.
     
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