Sierra On-Line

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Sierra On-Line Logo used in the 1990s.

Sierra On-Line was a video game development and publishing company founded by Ken Williams and Roberta Williams in 1979 with the name On-Line Systems which they changed the next year. Through several innovative games and several shrewd business deals, Sierra became the world's most profitable computer game company in 1995. In 1996, Williams sold Sierra to CUC International and retired shortly after. Over the next few years, Sierra was broken up into smaller groups, sold and resold to various companies, and the bulk of the earlier staff was fired or retired. In 2008, the company was incorporated into Activision and officially dissolved, only to be reborn, in name only, in 2014 to cash in on the previous brands.

As a child, I adored Sierra games, especially their adventure titles. However, as an adult with more refined taste in games, I find that most of their games are pretty awful. I became further disenfranchised with the company after reading Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution which paints the Williams's as clever and fun-loving, yet dishonest, miserly with profit-sharing, and not the most competent of bosses.


The following are games developed or published by Sierra that are important to me:




Sierra On-Line created and popularized several impressive technical aspects of computer gaming. From a software side, they created the Adventure Game Interpreter (AGI), and Sierra's Creative Interpreter (SCI) game engines which were not only used in dozens of their own games, but the style engine became an industry standard throughout the 1980s and 90s which many other companies copied.

Sierra also popularized two sound modules for the IBM compatible PC market by directly selling the Roland MT-32 synthesizer and the Ad Lib Ad-Lib sound card. These two audio modules later become industry standards for the PC game industry through the 1990s.


These are people who worked at Sierra On-Line whose work I appreciate.



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