Game design is not for the faint of heart

Lori Ann Cole and her husband Corey Cole are the creators of the Quest for glory series of computer games, which were released by Sierra from 1989 to 1998. In 2012, the Coles launched a Kickstarter for Hero U, a spiritual successor of Quest for glory. Hero U was finally released last year, after a grueling six-year development process. Unfortunately, when it comes to game design, these kinds of delays are inexorably common.

“The gaming industry is terribly stressful no matter who you work for or how you work,” says Lori Ann Cole in episode 349 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast. “You have to have a very high tolerance to be able to deal with stress and the persistence to keep going no matter what. Because believe me, things are going to happen.

One of the most stressful parts of creating Quest for glory had to change the name of the series after the release of the first game under the title The Hero’s Quest. Sierra did not properly file title and objections from creators of UK board game HeroQuest forced change.

“We ended up changing the name and we couldn’t even refer to it,” says Cole. “What a marketing nightmare. We’re changing an entire game that’s a series, and it’s the second in a series, but you can’t even tell what the first game in the series was.

Still, Cole says all the frustrations are worth it when you hear your players. A fan told him that playing a paladin in Quest for glory inspired him to become a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders. Others who lived behind the Iron Curtain told him that the cheerful humor of his games gave them hope for a better future.

“People said their life was changed by playing these games,” she says. “People felt like it was them, that they were making a difference in the world, and they felt like that was how they wanted to be in real life.”

Listen to the full interview with Lori Ann Cole in episode 349 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Lori Ann Cole on Video Game Creators:

“As I had not been elsewhere [than Sierra], it just seemed like normal, it was the way it should be. There didn’t seem to be anything different about it. It wasn’t until the women in our company went to other companies that I found out that it wasn’t like that in the real world. We were a small isolated system, and because Ken Williams – the person who was the founder and boss of Sierra Online – because his wife was a creator, it was only natural for him that women would be creators and work on these games. … [But] we were all isolated and barely spoke to each other. I mean, I think I saw Roberta Williams four times while I was working there. I was friends with other people, like Christy Marx. But when you were in Sierra, you were working.

Lori Ann Cole on Crowdfunding Hero U:

“Our initial thought was to make one Thug– role-playing style, which would have simple graphics – top to bottom – and would be mainly combat and would use skills like traps and things that could change the way the monsters interact with you, and therefore it would be a lot more puzzle solving, simple game. But then we did the Kickstarter, and the people who were drawn to the Kickstarter were mostly Quest for glory fans, and the Quest for glory the fans weren’t too crazy about the Thug-the style elements and puzzle elements as much as they were Quest for glory. And so during the creation of this Kickstarter, and then with the artists and people that we brought in to work on the project, it finally started to really come back to the fundamentals of Quest for glory. “

Lori Ann Cole on game design:

“At the time when I had seen [Quest for Glory] players throw stones a hundred times, trying to develop their throwing skills, for me that took away from the story. It was just a basic activity, like the dailies you do in World of warcraft, just to end it. Therefore, we wanted to find a way that would eliminate some of the boredom, while still giving the player the ability to make choices and make decisions for themselves. So therefore, time has become the crucial element in Hero U. You are always running out of time to do whatever it is you want to do. … This pressure on the player put more immersion in the game. You don’t just casually entertain yourself. You feel like you have to fix the problems before the problems go away.

Lori Ann Cole on Fan Mail:

“Some of my favorite letters from a long time ago, when we were still doing the Quest for glory games, came from the Soviet bloc – across the Iron Curtain, in fact – where they couldn’t buy our games. Our games were definitely not for sale there, because they were the “bad guys” and the bad guys, but they would get these pirated versions, and these games would give them hope. It would make them feel like the world wasn’t such a depressing and horrible place. And so we got some really good letters from people who hacked our game, and if that inspires them, I don’t care if they haven’t paid for the game. If it makes a difference in their lives, it is the important thing, far more important than a few dollars on a game.


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