Sierra Hi-Res series, the conclusion

If you've read my individual takes on the Hi-Res series, it won't come as a surprise, when I say that I don't think the series has aged very well. Not only are they technically archaic, their concept of what constitutes as good gameplay just doesn't work for the modern me, in this day and age. While I do find the efforts and technical achievements of Roberta and Ken Williams applaudable, even impressive, that still doesn't mean that the games themselves are something I'd recommend anyone to play, at least without a walkthrough.

That being said, there's no disputing their historical significance at least what comes to the careers of Ken and Roberta Williams and the company they created, first by the name of  On-Line Systems, later on, dubbed Sierra On-Line and shortened to just Sierra. While the couple weren't the first ones to make a living by doing computer games, they were among the first ones to make it big in the home computer games market.  Companies like Adventure International, that was doing games long before Sierra was founded, never did manage to stay relevant and faded away long before Sierra's tale was done.

From their first game onwards, Roberta and Ken wanted to do something different from other developers. While adventure was the genre chosen by Roberta, Ken knew there was a hook they needed and the hook was graphics, which was something other adventure games didn't yet have. So after Mystery House turned out the be a hit that sold about 15 000 copies, making over 160 000 dollars, the road ahead for the husband and wife duo was set.

Making these games made Ken Williams realize, that it wasn't only the games that were a sellable product, it was the tools as well. Computer games were still in their infancy and many of the tools that were used to create those games had to be created first. And as not everyone was capable, or had enough time, to create those tools themselves, licensing them out was a no-brainer.

The game engine itself, Adventure Development Language, served Sierra during the creation of 7 games of varying length, quality, ambition and even developers. With this now archaic tech Roberta managed to bring her visions to other people, she even managed to envision games that ended up being far too much to the technology at hand as well as her skills as a newly found game designer.

Time Zone is the best example a game that should have been made by a more seasoned developer with better technology at her hands. This insanely large adventure ended up being a huge flop, thanks to its high sticker price at the time. It was a gamble from Roberta and Ken Williams, an attempt at trying to create the biggest adventure game ever. And for what it's worth, it still is one of the biggest, if not the biggest game of its kind ever created, with an insane amount of 1500 unique areas you can visit and comb through.

While there are clear missteps on the way, the Hi-Res series also shows how Roberta Williams grew as a developer as well as that she wasn't necessarily interested repeating the same things other people, or even she, were doing at the time. Her game designs turned later on into series like King's Quest and Laura Bow-games, but the Hi-Res series is, from where she began her journey.  Mystery House was the game that convinced Ken that there was money to be done with games.

Like I said, the Hi-Res games haven't necessarily aged well. Very few games from the early 1980s, an era when game designing was self-learnt, have done so, especially from the modern perspective as what constitutes as a good game design is very different now than it was then. But still, there's importance in these titles, as they were a seed that grew to a larger tree.


The games in the Hi-Res series:

Mission Asteroid
Mystery House
Wizard and the Princess
Cranston Manor
Ulysses and the Golden Fleece
Time Zone
The Dark Crystal

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