In honour of the big battles of Total War: Rome 2, and the huge screenshots coming out, we’ve put together a series of the biggest battles in PC history. Today we're ending the ultimate adventure game of death: Sierra versus Lucasarts.
What was the pivotal difference between Sierra adventure games and Lucasarts adventure games? Was it the technology behind them? Was it the fact you could die in Sierra adventures but feel free to 'use', 'walk to', 'look at' anything in the worlds that Lucasarts built without fear of death? Was it quality, was it dialogue?
I don't know what it is precisely but, for some reason, as a collective, we tend to talk about Lucasarts games far more than we talk about Sierra games. I wonder why that is?
When I first discovered adventure games Sierra and Lucasarts were like the Mega Powers. Literally they were the Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage of the adventure game scene.
To extend this ridiculous analogy, Sierra's catalogue was more like the Macho Man of the pairing: more complex, for a more refined taste. Sierra games were less accessible and, to me at least, just felt a lot more difficult to parse. Lucasarts games were crowd pleasers for kids my age back then: funny, visual, clear and direct.
Of the two Sierra seemed far more invested in the idea of a series: King's Quest went all the way up to King's Quest VII by 1994, Police Quest went to number six before expanding into the SWAT series. Space Quest was another pillar of Sierra's work in the adventure gaming sphere.
But even as a youngster it all felt a bit cynical. The simple fact was this: Sierra had been around longer. Their games were from a different time and place and they had longer to build up these established franchises, but when I looked at the Lucasarts games: Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders, The Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion. Instantly these games felt like something with a more vibrant soul, games I could fall in love with. I was always more drawn to the Lucasarts games.
Obviously it's a matter of preference. Ben White, who helped design the site you're reading, grew up as a massive fan of Sierra and, to this day, argues that games like Police Quest and Space Quest were more polished, seamless and actually more accessible than any of the Lucasarts games — completely going against everything I've said in this article. I think, more than anything, you love the games you grew up with. You remember them fondly, they become part of your fabric and you'll defend them until death, or some sort of physical pain — possibly a nipple cripple.
I think that's ultimately the difference between the Sierra and Lucasarts: the memories we have and the memories we share. The memories we lionise and reinforce with one another to this day. Were Lucasarts adventure games better than Sierra adventure games? I'd argue they were and so would most of my friends. But maybe that's the point here: the reason these games are so unforgettable is that so many of refuse to forget. We remember them together, we talk about them together and we enjoy them and refine them in our memories until there is absolutely no contest, no discussion: Lucasarts made better games. That's what I think, but your memory might say otherwise.