February 16 marks 60 years of Robert Williams, one of the most famous women in the games industry. Not that her name is now on the ear, but this anniversary pass without mentioning at least briefly, the contribution of the birthday girl in the formation of certain game genres, it would be unforgivable to our historical column.
Nee Hoyer, Robert grew up in Southern California, immediately after school, at age 19, is married to Ken Williams - the groom was a year younger than the bride, but he studied at university, going to become a physicist. However, his plans for a diploma was not to be: in the family was the completion, and the young man, and before completing his higher education, enrolled in courses programmers first, and then to work. In the mid-seventies, specialists in programming was relatively little demand for their services has increased by leaps and bounds, and Ken are more and more coming to work at home at night, doing the job for a variety of companies, including the very IBM. In 1979, the head of the family decided to buy a brand new
Home and an expensive Apple II, for which he was going to write a compiler language
Robert at that time was already the mother of two children, and not having any education at all, except for school, worked, for the most part, the household - but out of the blue, with her husband, became involved in computer games. More specifically, games storyline, which at that time existed only in text mode. Of course, the first representatives of this kind of electronic entertainment was just the video games - they are displayed on the TV screen glowing and moving point, which, depending on the imagination of the authors, was designed to symbolize the ball for the game of tennis, a mouse in a maze or a car on the highway. The whole plot fits only in a few sentences describing the gameplay, such as the famous instruction to play Pong: "To score points, try not to miss the ball" .
So playing action games in 1970: Colossal Cave Adventure on the PC Osborne
And because the game other alternative genres (besides purely arcade) that one point on the TV is clearly not enough to reflect the subtleties of the gameplay, the graphics are not used at all. Back in the late 1960s, in large systems, such as the family of PDP from Digital Equipment Corporation, began to appear text games - prototypes of future Genre: Strategy (Hamurabi), RPG (Dungeon), or adventure. It is to the latter category are Colossal Cave Adventure or simply Adventure (1975), a name which has become a household name in the end.
And strategy, and role-playing games to the screen of the mainframe computer, and later on the monitor first home PC, the game displays a description of the situation, including the resources available - then the player typed words describing the desired action: to take an object or use it, go to the north or to the south - in the adventures, to attack the enemy or use a spell - in RPG, buy land or distribute stocks of grain to the starving peasants - in the first strategy. "Artificial Intelligence", however, left much to be desired, so sometimes you have to try a lot of synonyms of the same word before the computer "understands" what he should do. Gradually, with the increase in processing power and the emergence of some hint of multimedia features, the developers tried to add to the game play something other than text. So, in 1980, came to light
Role-playing game Rogue, too, became ancestor of the whole genre - later gave the world and Diablo, and Legend of Grimrock, - in which the screen with characters of text (pseudo) conclusions conditional dungeon map indicating the player and monsters.
Legendary Rogue - later in color, but still performed by the pseudo
However, before that, Robert Williams, fascinated Adventure on Apple II, set about trying to create their own game on the same plane - but with images instead of text descriptions. The plot was conceived classically detective, something in the spirit of "Ten Little Indians" by Agatha Christie and the popular board game Cluedo: the player is trapped in an old Victorian mansion with seven other characters. But instead of hidden treasures, for which all the search and there was originally going, every day, the player must discover a new corpse, while trying to identify the murderer of surviving fellow prisoners ...
Robert drew about seventy staging, which, together with the writing of the script took her three weeks, and then Ken for a few nights of work translated into vector drawings two-dimensional graphics for Apple II. Text mode while still here, even the description of rooms duplicated words if graphics: the latter still looked very austere. May 5, 1980 the game was ready - and Robert Ken became engaged in spreading it, packed in plastic bags 5-inch floppy disk with a photocopy of a single-user manuals and personally offering this set then the few shops selling computer software.
Mystery House, the first graphic adventure: the hero finds another corpse in the nursery...
Much to the surprise of the authors of the game, Mystery House was very successful and popular project: at the price of $ 25 has sold more than 10,000 copies, which at that time was a real record of entertainment software. One of the first graphic games immediately attracted the attention of all owners of Apple II, then followed by versions for other platforms, and related products from other developers, including Japanese. Although Ken Williams and wondered if a bright future computer games industry, he succumbed to the entreaties of Roberta - and the same in 1980, by generating revenue from sales, the couple not only moved from Los Angeles in a small and quiet town in California's outback at the foot of the mountain range of Sierra Nevada, and founded his own company - On-Line Systems.
The first few years were devoted to the production of games, similar to the Mystery House and developed his ideas - they were all united in a great name for a series of Hi-Res Adventures. Pictures gradually became six-, and the plot and the gameplay more and more complex. The peak of this period of creativity Roberta Williams became the fifth edition of Hi-Res Adventures - Time Zone. The design and script writer working alone whole half a year: in the game, there were nearly 1,500 screens-locations (compared to 70 in Mystery House). Solving a variety of puzzles, players visited all seven continents, including Antarctica, for seven historical periods - from 400 million years BC and the far future. True, much furor innovation is not made - it spread to six ds (though ordinary games of the time were content with the one-sided), and therefore worth as much as $ 100, that few could afford.
Robert Williams on the background graphics of the company
Unusual and even piquant moment was the release in 1981 only in On-Line Systems entirely text-based games, Softporn Adventure, - as you can see, only for adult audiences. Robert in the development of the adventure was not involved, but it was on the cover in an interesting perspective. Nothing really obscene in the game was not even by the standards of the time, but the fact of its publication could not attract the attention of the widest possible audience. Softporn Adventure became the first ever computer game, a review of which was published in TIME, and Ken Williams solemnly asserted that he was able to sell as much as 25.000 copies for Apple II, while sales of the PC that had no more than a hundred thousand units, - so, apparently, Softporn
Holds the world record for the percentage ratio of the number game to the total number of owners of the platform.
The very cover Softporn Adventure. Robert - the extreme right, along with his two collaborators
But the greatest glory awaited Robert - and her company with Ken, which soon acquired a new, famous name Sierra On-Line, in honor of the same mountains, at which it was located - in 1984. IBM invited Williams to create exemplary as an exclusive game for his new project - PCjr, designed to replicate the phenomenal success of the classic PC, but in a series of "home for the family." Robert decided to express in this project his love for fairy tales and create a whole interactive cartoon: in contrast to static images of her previous work, the new game screens must be animated, and the hero - navigate to them in real time. On the program is the front Ken Williams has made a selection of IBM to develop their own game engine - which will be based on all the other Sierra games until the early 1990s.
The result of their work was the King's Quest - A Knight's Tale Graham of Daventry fairy kingdom, which was to find the three great lost relic. To interact with the objects of the world still use the string to enter text commands, but the screen displays the image from a third party, and an own character on this screen can be controlled with the arrow keys. I must say that, despite the fantastic atmosphere of the game was quite difficult and even cruel, especially by today's standards: one wrong click the arrow controls could lead to the death of Graham, for example, by falling into a pit with hungry crocodiles - and then remained just load a saved game,
If any. In addition, often arose and deadlocks when returning to the top of the game for some time had not taken the subject: the fact that at that time seemed normal and allows the passage of the same game for weeks and months, and later came to be seen only as an unfortunate mistake developers.
For most IBM this project, as well as the whole idea with the PCjr, was a failure, but the advent of cheaper and better clones of the last home PC saved game and the entire company Sierra -King's Quest for a long time, has become the benchmark of the genre, and the ancestor of the famous game series. And besides, with a light hand Roberta Williams in the vast one-sixth (still) part of the land is the word "quest" came to mean a genre that in the rest of the world still traditionally called adventure games.
Ken and Roberta Williams - with King's Quest in the foreground
For the "Royal Adventure" followed not only by numerous sequels, but a variety of heirs. Assistants who helped Robert to create King's Quest, is author of independent and equally famous game series from Sierra: Space Quest Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, Leisure Suit Larry from Al Lowe (first game with Larry in the title role was a graphic reproduction Softporn
Adventure), adventure-role-playing series Quest for Glory spouses and Lori Ann Cole finally trilogy Gabriel Knight, created by another famous woman - Jane Jensen.
By the 1990s, Sierra turned into an entire publishing empire, absorbing several smaller companies around the world. In 1995 was released the most ambitious development Roberta Williams - Phantasmagoria, one of the first games in which the main character played live actor (actually, actress), based on technology FMV (full motion video). Been spent on the project for two years and $ 4 million, the only one script text totaled 550 pages, and only managed to put the game on seven CD-ROM. Like other works of Robert, "Phantasmagoria" is different enough adult atmosphere with frequent scenes of violence and even death.
Phantasmagoria - the brightest representative of fashion in the mid-1990s, the genre "videokvest"
Alas, the golden age of Sierra approached the end. In 1996, financier Walter Forbes persuaded Ken Williams sell the company for half a billion dollars. At the same time the first conglomerate, CUC International, a corporation acquired and Davidson, but its composition and Blizzard Entertainment, - Forbes idea was to gradually link together all of the developers and publishers of game software in the same hands. However, these plans were not realized, Walter Forbes was accused of financial fraud, and eventually in 2007, sentenced to long prison terms, and Williams had to leave the company they founded in 1997. One of the recent administrative decisions Ken was accepted for publication of the famous Half-Life, and Robert managed to complete the last game in the series King's Quest - Mask of Eternity dark with elements of
Thriller and RPG.
Since then, for 15 years, Ken and Roberta enjoying retirement, traveling the world on his yacht. Meanwhile, the number of fans of games from Sierra remains practically unchanged. Even the early work of Robert Williams, not to mention the King's Quest, find its fans. In 2007, the Mystery House, with all its archaic character was named among the 52 most important games in
History, and most recently was released and version 6.0 for iOS - that's just the asking price of $ 6 still seems excessive, especially for a game than 30 years ago. Therefore, those who want to see the classic games from Roberta Williams, is more likely to recommend free and with very cute amateur remakes of the first three games of the series King's Quest.
A yubilyarshe - wish a long life and good health!