Unwrap The Bones, Light The Incense: Resurrecting Sierra

By Alice O'Connor on August 9th, 2014 at 10:00 am.

Uh, haven't you followed the news? We're into other Mountains nowadays.

Necromancy is a perennial interest of the video games industry. Not the cool kind where Cara and I wander around a graveyard doing Morrissey impressions and chanting spells we learned from The Craft but the grim sort where someone realises they have a corpse in a freezer somewhere so sure, why not dig it out from beneath the frozen pizzas and curly fries and attempt to spark some form of life into its frostburnt husk? What could possibly go wrong?

Which is to say that it seems Activision have exhumed Sierra‘s corpse and are preparing sacrifices for a dark ritual at Gamescom (which begins on August 13). “King’sss Quesssst” hiss the shadows.

Sierra.com is now online, still registered to Activision but no longer redirecting to their site. This contains a short, useless video with that old mountain logo and mention of Gamescom.

Sierra was around in some form from 1979 to 2008, when parent company Vivendi merged with Activision. Sierra is, of course, long-dead. Almost everyone who made King’s Quest, Space Quest, Gabriel Knight, Police Quest, Phantasmagoria, SWAT, and Leisure Suit Larry what they were, or championed publishing games like Half-Life, left forever and an age ago. What remains is a name owned by Activision Blizzard and little more. As far as we know, anyway.

But names are powerful. Names bind demons. Names are as powerful as we believe they are. Valve, id, Irrational, Maxis, Half-Life, Doom, Shock, Sim–these names hold power because of our expectations. This means the people whose flesh Activision ritually tattoo and scarify with the name might also believe in it, in what it once was, and the spirit longing to find flesh again. But never forget that a name is ultimately only a name.

Games journo Geoff Keighley and Wayward Manor devs The Odd Gentlemen have engaged in vague tweeteasing back and forth about the Gents making a new King’s Quest game, which, sure, sounds possible. Telltale once planned to make such a thing, but confirmed last year that they no longer did and had no idea what Activision planned with the rights.

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71 Comments »

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  1. mvar says:

    It seems the video gaming industry’s giants want to follow Hollywood’s steps. Perhaps we’ll start seeing game remakes or whole franchise reboots in the near future?

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      golem09 says:

      Ónly difference will be that Hollywood uses more CGI

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      gnodab says:

      You mean like Fallout, Monkey Island, Resident Evil, Thief…

    • Kein says:

      You mean it is not yet happening?

      • SuicideKing says:

        That’s exactly what the OP means, it’s already happening.

        • mvar says:

          Well, yes and no. I can’t think of a game that has been remade and kept its original title except from Id’s latest announcement for Doom. They usually suffix the title with a number or some secondary title. I expect some announcement on “King’s Quest by Sierra” with fireworks, as if the brand Sierra will magically add to the quality of the game (the saddest part is that there will be people who’ll buy into this)

          • Shuck says:

            Duke Nukem (3D)? There have always been game reboots. The thing is that you don’t want to re-use the exact same name, especially in the game industry, until a sufficient period of time has elapsed to prevent people confusing the new product for the old one. So we’re only now getting to the point where franchises have been around long enough to do that.

          • pepperfez says:

            Don’t nuThief and nuTomb Raider both do that? Or do they have subtitles so shameful no one has ever mentioned them around me?

            e: Or see this list.

          • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

            Don’t forget to add the new Unreal Tournament to that list.

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            Hidden_7 says:

            The first Thief was called “Thief: The Dark Project” whereas the most recent game is just called “Thief.” Also I could have sworn that the original Tomb Raider was titled “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” but apparently that naming convention only started with Angel of Darkness, so yeah that one is bang on.

            Some other games on that list are a similar situation, with the original having a subtitle that has since been dropped, but there’s a good chunk that are just straight up the same name.

            So yeah, I guess it’s not exactly uncommon in games at this point.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Somehow I suspect they won’t do another Starsiege tho. At least not one where you actually drive the mechs.

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      welverin says:

      ULTIMA!

      But for real, not the lame crap EA has been doing so far.

      gnodab, has it right, it’s been going on for a while now, forgot to mention Devil May Cry and Tomb Raider.

    • remon says:

      Game remakes has been happening for a whole lot longer than many of you realise. Sierra specificaly has done this way back in the begining of the 90s with Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry.

    • GrIdL0cK says:

      Come at me Space Quest remake!

  2. LionsPhil says:

    I challenge them to remake King’s Quest 2 and keep the puzzles exactly the same. They can update the graphics and screw with the UI, but that bridge stays. There will be a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from the coddled gaming masses.

    Especially if they put in a modern checkpoint-only one-slot-and-it-overwrites-automatically save system.

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      basilisk says:

      Didn’t the (most recent) Larry remake do that? Keeping the god-awful slots minigame where the only winning move is to savescum?

      Between them, Sierra’s classics have enough moments of inexplicably cruel design to keep annoying millions of people for years to come. Erm, why are they resurrecting the company again?

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      Andy_Panthro says:

      There is actually already a fan-remake of KQ2 (and also KQ1, KQ3 (two different versions by two different teams), QFG2 & SQ2.

      They don’t change much, except for VGA graphics and mouse UI.

      http://www.agdinteractive.com/games/games.html

      http://www.infamous-adventures.com/home/

      • Premium User Badge

        basilisk says:

        The fan remake of KQ2 actually changes a whole lot, because the game is absolutely abysmal even by King’s Quest standards. Admittedly, a lot of the things the remake added have been directly lifted from Quest for Glory 4, but at least the story now sort of makes sense. And they fixed that infamous bridge.

        The KQ1 fan remake is pretty much a 1:1 copy with better graphics and optional removal of the very many dead ends, and the KQ3 one is somewhere in between. The (much better) first act of the game is mostly intact, the second one they fleshed out a bit, though not terribly successfully, in my opinion.

        You really can’t do a straight remake of an old Sierra game and expect people to like it.

        (That being said, the fan remake of QfG2 is one of the greatest things ever. It’s not a direct VGA copy, but it’s made with so much respect for the original that it is now the definitive way to play that game.)

  3. Premium User Badge

    RobF says:

    It’s about as meaningless as the shuffling corpse of Infogrammes wearing the skin of Atari. As you say, whatever once was is long gone, it’s just a husk of a brand.

    And cynical face, being Activision I struggle to see it as anything but an easier way to lop off an arm if it underperforms.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      Makes you think doesnt it? Bethesda can sue Notch over the word ‘Scrolls’ as it creates “customer confusion” (apparently) yet Activision can resurrect a long dead studio in name only with zero of the original talent behind it and its perfectly fine

      • TechnicalBen says:

        They can only sue for customer confusion if said confusion causes a loss of sales/profits. If it works the other way around (Say for example a Washing Machine with “HDTV” branding… yes, High Definition Towel Valeting) then anything goes.

      • Shuck says:

        Activision bought the rights to use the name. Frankly, it’s really no different than any long-running, publisher-owned studio – when it comes time to do sequels, the original people are usually long gone, and even if some of them are still there, there’s no guarantee that they’re even working that particular game. It’s actually pretty rare for a franchise to have even substantially the same group of developers on every game. Somehow, as long as there’s some continuity of ownership, people don’t get upset. I didn’t see a lot of people taking issue with the fact that Diablo 3 was made by a different studio and none of the original developers, for example.

  4. Premium User Badge

    yhancik says:

    They should bring back the old Sierra tune https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zx8wsb_1eYU :p

    • deadly.by.design says:

      Despite only being published by Sierra, this logo shown as Half-Life launches is the one I’ll always remember.

  5. Film11 says:

    Sierra is owned by Activision. It’s already dead.

    • Corb says:

      Well, yeah, it died back in 2008 when Vivendi bought it in the first place.

  6. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    Well, they better live up to it. Activision is not fooling anyone into nostalgia-mode, I think, not at this point in time. That might have worked a few years ago, but not now. In any case, if they really want to catch those of us who do remember Sierra games as something meaningful in our lives, they ought to choose their next move wisely.

    • Corb says:

      Even with Nostalgia, all of us who have nostalgia for the Sierra brand are old enough to know that Sierra isn’t a dev studio. It isn’t like they resurrected Relic with the original dev lineup so I really don’t see why there should be any hype for this. It’s the equivalent of Activision claiming “I A-SEXUALLY REPRODUCED! MEET SIERRA!” on facebook as a baby announcement.

  7. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    Introducing Activision’s new and revolutionary digital distribution software, SIERRA!

    • LionsPhil says:

      AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    • DanMan says:

      Ohhh Emmmm Geeeee !!!!

    • SuicideKing says:

      ANARCHY!

    • WaytoomanyUIDs says:

      KOOOOOOOTIIIIIIIIIIIIICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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      Anthile says:

      That would be beautiful.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Sierra On-Line.

      • LionsPhil says:

        AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
        AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
        AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
        AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
        AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
        AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
        AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
        AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    • Gog Magog says:

      SINK ALL COFFINS AND ALL HEARSES

    • Vin_Howard says:

      Someone just won the internet…

  8. Lorc says:

    When I installed Half Life 1 I put Sierra Utilities in a non-standard directory.

    And so when I uninstalled Sierra utilities it deleted my entire C:\games directory.

    • Koozer says:

      That’s amazing.

    • DanMan says:

      Now there’s something to look forward to.

    • WaytoomanyUIDs says:

      And that reminds me of the time when an EVE update deleted c:\boot.ini which stuffed a lot of people over.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      I recently did this with (I think) Zandronum. I accidentally installed it in the games folder and there was a “delete entire folder” option I thought I should click for some reason. I was able to stop it before everything was deleted, but I did lose my Anachronox save file and Joy2Key profiles.

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    melnificent says:

    Missionforce:Cyberstorm reboot.

    I need some turn-based Mech action. That isn’t IAPed, online only or browser based

    • KDR_11k says:

      Also more Earthsiege/Starsiege (which is the same universe as Cyberstorm).

      • Turkey says:

        Okay, I’ll go for a unicorn and a thousand more wishes.

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          melnificent says:

          I expect it to never, ever happen. But it’s nice to dream once in a while about the what-ifs and maybes.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        It was hilarious how that series absolutely refused to stick to one title for more than two games, up until Tribes and “fuck all that giant robot shit, we got a gold mine here”. We had Metaltech: BattleDrome, MetalTech: EarthSiege, EarthSiege 2, StarSiege, StarSiege: Tribes, and Tribes 2. All one series. WTF.

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          melnificent says:

          Completely shifting in style too. Cyberstorm was Turn based Strategy, Earthsiege/Starsiege were Mech piloting and tribes were FPSes.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      1+ internet. I’d say it’s worse. Is it the same ship/object if everything is replaced with burning wasps?

    • Gog Magog says:

      Does anyone hear a falling tree if I fell the whole forest?

  10. WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

    Caesar V when?

  11. DigitalSignalX says:

    Just finished playing Homeworld 1 and 2 modded to 1080 on win7 64 with some texture and lighting enhancements. Seeing that Sierra logo every time I started up made me sigh wistfully at all the great games of my misspent gaming youth. It makes me want Shipbreakers all the more, plus Gearbox picked up the IP from Relic and is also making Homeworld Remastered.

    http://www.homeworldremastered.com

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Unless they’ve changed something, Shipbreakers is multiplayer-only and therefore automatically a travesty of Homeworld, even if it’s a good game on its own merits.

      Also, making it a Homeworld prequel appears to retroactively change the backstory from “Our people set aside our petty wars when we discovered the starship of our ancestors buried deep beneath the desert, proving that we were not born of this world” to “There’s a zillion wrecked starships of our ancestors lying around the desert, we like to fight over ‘em for loot.” So, y’know, more travesty.

  12. Koshinator says:

    I’ll never forgive Sierra for cancelling the Babylon 5 game only months before it was to be released….

  13. Keyrock says:

    Sierra died in 1996. Sure, it technically existed for over a decade longer, but it wasn’t really Sierra any more. This simulacrum can wear the Sierra nametag, but unless Activision found a way to coax Ken and Roberta Williams back into video games, this will be Sierra in name only, much like Interplay, Black Isle, Atari, and BioWare.

  14. dvorhagen says:

    “…But names are powerful. Names bind demons.” This is why I love this site.

    I hope you’re right, and that there’s something more to Sierra’s resurrection than just Activision trying to capitalize on old-fart nostalgic gamers like myself. Sierra, in its heyday, pumped out some of the best games ever made.
    But unless they’ve given Roberta Williams a sack of gold to come out of retirement, I’m not holding my breath.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      I don’t think it’s about old fart money either. There’s not much profit to be made there (e.g. the short lived adventure revival at LucasArts). A lot of goodwill but not many dollars, at least not for a company wanting all the money or nothing.
      But some executives and economics people has obviously looked it through and greenlighted it for some kind of plan.

  15. MeestaNob says:

    Sierra are being resurrected to finally complete the Babylon 5 space combat sim they were working on. Yes.

  16. squareking says:

    ARCANUM 2

    DEVELOPED BY OBSIDIAN, PUBLISHED BY SIERRA

    • InternetBatman says:

      I’d rather Obsidian just develop their own IP. Also, there’s nothing about Arcanum that needs a sequel. Let a good game stay good and move on.

      • Keyrock says:

        I disagree. Arcanum had some great writing and tons of charm and a really fantastic setting, however the mechanics and balance of the game were nothing short of abysmal (not to mention, some insane difficulty spikes). I would love to see someone make a game in that universe but with mechanics that didn’t make me want to throw my monitor out of a window.

  17. Talkar says:

    So i started looking at some of the source code for the website. If you go to this javascript file: http://www.sierra.com/etc/designs/atvi/sierra/scripts/main.js

    and then scroll to the bottom, you see the comment/ASCII art writing out: “King’s Quest Geometry Wars” I think that is as close to a confirmation as we’re gonna get before gamescom.

  18. M3GA says:

    Bring back FPS (Front Page Sports) NFL Football.

    …anyone remember Egypt?

    f’ing classics!!