Roberta wins a Hall of Fame award!

The Consumer Technology Association had an awards event in New York last night and gave Roberta a Hall of Fame award. Congratulations to Roberta! 

A quick update on the game

I started the project with the idea that it would be something fun I could do alone. My original vision was to try to do something like Sierra’s old Dr. Brain series of games. Specifically, I wanted to do something to teach kids programming. I like kids and I like programming so it seemed a natural fit.

But then….

Roberta thought my project would go nowhere (which was fine with me, I never intended to do something commercially viable. I just wanted to have fun.) Roberta suggested I do a game and had an idea for me. I knew instantly that she was right and convinced myself it was a simple enough game that her and I could do it alone. I found art on the internet that I thought I might be able to massage to address the art needs of the project. 

And, that’s where things started going wrong (or, right!)…

A 3d artist (Marcus) contacted me and said he’d be willing to help with the art. I am definitely NOT an artist, and anyone who has seen Sierra’s earliest games, like Mystery House, might also question Roberta’s art skills. 

As bits and pieces of the game started coming together, it became obvious that we were on to something. The game was looking and feeling good! 

Somehow, we had the idea of seeing how it might look in VR on the Quest 2, and added a programmer to the team (Cidney) to focus on taking the code I was writing for computers and adapt it for VR. I didn’t see it as a distraction. All Cidney had to do was make the minor modifications to my code that were necessary to run it on the Quest 2. But, like often happens in life, reality sunk in. To produce something that Roberta and I could be proud of on VR, we would need a different user interface, a different way of moving around in the virtual reality world, and graphics optimized for VR. I remember having a tough weekend where I had to make a decision. Did I want to release a lame VR version of the game, invest in whatever it took to “do it right” or scrap the whole idea. The result of that weekend was the hiring of a “technical artist (Emily) to help with creating new art for VR, and recently another tech artist (Amber) to help. And, this past week we added ANOTHER engineer to help on the VR side of things. 

Meanwhile, I’m still doing 99% of the coding on the game itself and having a blast doing it. Our time-filler project has definitely taken over Roberta’s and my life. We live in a community where playing golf is a daily part of life. All of my regular golf buddies expect me on the course (remember: I’m supposed to be retired!) and I’ve been skipping out on them. I’m literally working seven days a week ten to twelve hours a day, as is Roberta. We send each other emails all day from our respective offices at opposite ends of the house. She’s been as sucked-in by the project as I have been. We alternately discuss the various ideas for new games we’ll do when this is over, and at other times say, “What in the hell have we gotten ourselves into????” 

Anyway, the game is going well, but is taking a lot longer than I ever planned. My current guess for release is sometime in the March to July timeframe of 2022. I’m hoping that the game will be complete enough by January or February that we can start some beta testing. 

One really nice thing: Unlike at Sierra, where we were a public company with tens of thousands of shareholders who expected us to hit revenue projections and constant quarterly pressure to make numbers, this is a self-funded project. Roberta and I are NOT doing this to make money. We’re doing it because we love games. We have no gofundme or kickstarter or wall street or any kind of investors we need to please. We only have ourselves, and those that will play the game, who need to be happy. The only pressure we are dealing with is the pressure to produce a game worth playing, and that is the best kind of pressure there is. 

17 Responses

  1. Hi, Ken.
    If you need a Beta tester, my nephew is into VR. he’s a very sharp kid and hooked me up to a VR setup once in Massachusetts. I promptly fell down. He’s a student at Wentworth Institute in Boston in computer technology.

  2. If you need a Beta tester for your new game, my nephew would be a good one. He’s a Russian adoptee and very sharp. He is either going to, or has already graduated from Wentworth University in Boston studying computer technology or robotics or something. He hooked me up to a VR setup once and I promptly fell over!

  3. Great update Ken. Keep up the passion for your project. Can’t wait to see and hear more of it.

    VR is fun me, I have had a quest 2 since release. Really interested in seeing how your idea works on both platforms.

    Have fun and go golfing !! Haha

    1. You’re the first real person (not on our team) I’ve heard from that actually has a Cygnus t-shirt.

      Someday, when we finish the game, I should probably look into making Cygnus t-shirts publicly available. For now, I’m trying to avoid thinking any other thought than “Get this thing done!”

      PS Thank you!

  4. Great to hear you’re still loving your coding after all these years. I have gotten my Son into coding too and we have both VR quests so more than happy for provide beta testing.
    Thanks from the admin at Sierra gaming world fb group who always love it when you pop in and say hi 🙂
    Cheers from your mate down under

  5. As a High School computer science teacher, I can say your proposed release lines up well with my summer break, so I know one thing I’ll plan on doing this summer :-). I’m so glad you still have the passion for it after all of these years!

  6. Congrats Roberta!

    I’ve been a fan since King’s Quest on my PCjr and I’d love to help with beta testing.

    I have a Quest, Quest 2, PSVR (if it goes that route) and Valve Index available for my side of the equation.

  7. The games industry has seen little innovation in the period from 1998 to about 2016.

    The reason is that the developer teams became too big and expensive to take any risk. Everything started to look like a 3D shooter.

    I skipped this entire period. Instead, I played old Sierra, DOS, SNES and other retro games.

    What drew me back to modern gaming is VR.

    I’m slowly seeing the same elements that attracted me to gaming in the 80s and 90s: smaller teams, innovation and technology that can be a platform for unique narrative driven games.

    I recently saw a photo of Roberta Williams wearing an Oculus Quest II VR headset, and I think she might have felt the same way as me.

    That’s why I think it’s wonderful, but not very surprising, that your project is now growing in this direction.

    I wish you much success and thank you for the unforgettable experiences from the Sierra Games period.

    Jay

    PS: Ken, your recent book about Sierra is wonderful

  8. So this is what will finally get me to buy a VR set! Looking forward to what you two are cooking up. Congrats to Roberta on the well-deserved award!

  9. “All of my regular golf buddies expect me on the course” … Who ? Larry David , Jeff & Funkhouser. lol
    https://youtu.be/K_HvjGG5NT8
    I’d ditch everything if I had a round with those guys .hehe.

    “What in the hell have we gotten ourselves into????”.
    You’re both on the right track then.

    Is the coding in Unity or Unreal. I’d like to help If I knew more about the type of experience you’re going for.

    Cheers,
    b

  10. Can’t wait to see what you guys have been up to. You’ve been missed by us fans!! Sierra Nerwork was simply the best.

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