Roberta Williams, trying the VR version of the game

I am doing the coding on the desktop version of the game. Meanwhile, Cidney Hamilton, a software engineer who worked with some other Sierra alumni, Lori and Corey Cole, has been working on adapting the code to run on the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset.

Converting the game for VR has been far more work than I originally thought. We’ve mostly been struggling with two issues.

1) Frame rate. Marcus has been generating incredible graphics and a beautiful 3d Universe. But, both he and I are working on fast PCs with high-end 3d hardware. The Quest 2 is an incredible device but in order to fit within its memory and performance constraints, we’ve had to redo many of our graphics, keeping the beauty but reducing the number of polygons. In reality it is a good thing and has boosted the frame rate for both the desktop and VR versions of the game. 

2) User interface. The biggest issue, and the one that has Cidney working late on a Friday night, and as I type this, sitting at her computer on a Saturday morning, is the user interface. At the beginning of the project I didn’t really “get” the differences in controlling a game using a mouse or joystick, as opposed to controlling it via the hands (or wands) that one has in a VR world. I also underestimated the issues associated with motion sickness. Rapidly turning the world around you can quickly make a player nauseous. Poor Cidney has had to endlessly experiment with various methods of moving through our 3d world, some of which were enjoyable, and some of which quickly resulted in extreme disorientation and dizziness. 

The good news is that we are focusing on these issues early in the project and knocking them down one by one. And, of course the “better news” is that we are liking the end result. We just produced a playable demo of the first 5% of the game that we showed a small audience under non-disclosure. It’s still not at a level that I’d be willing to show it in public, but for us it was a major milestone.

I’m still not sure when the game will be ready, or when we’ll have something to show publicly. We’re having fun making the game, and it is looking better by the day. Our team is tiny, so we can’t always move as fast as I’d like, but major forward progress is steadily happening. 

Ps In the picture above you can see Roberta playing the VR version of the game while on our boat. Roberta and I spend most of our summers living on a small boat cruising randomly from place to place. We consider our boat a portable home, and love that we can change the world around us anytime we want. We cruised over 20 countries on our last boat and have a new boat we are breaking in now. We are looking forward to many more real-life adventures in the future!

17 Responses

  1. Good things to come Ahoy !
    Dear Kean & Roberta,
    I am so happy and excited that you guys are back in the saddle.
    VR is a tough nut (especially the UI / UX of it ). But I cant think of better creators to give it a shot.

    Onward ho ->
    love
    Behram

    1. Realistically — no. We’re paddling as fast as we can, but are at least a couple months behind our original schedule. My current best guess is Spring of 2022. My hope is that we are moving faster now. We’ve been fighting a lot of user interface issues that once we resolve give us the formula we’ll apply throughout the game.

      Marcus was also slowed down a bit trying to figure out his workflow for getting graphics in and out of the game, so that he could quickly patch art when needed. The team at Unity Software have been very helpful in guiding us. Their support is awesome!

  2. Wonderful to hear that great progress is being made! Thank you for updating us, and I’m sure we’re all looking forward to trying it when we can.

    Very respectfully,
    Tyler

  3. From what I can find about this game: Very cool! And a day 1 buy for me for my VR set.

    Thanks for the update, and keep them coming.

    Regards,

    Ernst Wendrich

  4. I’m going to assume that you’re not going to get seasick anymore. Are you also immune to VR sickness? The best way to move as a character in a VR game is to move/throw an curved arrow to the target point and then be beamed right there. You can check it out in the free “VRChat” for the Oculus Quest.

    1. Agreed. We did that for a while, and may need to go back to it. We are experimenting with other options and hopefully will find something better .. but, “teleporting” the player to new locations may turn out to be the best alternative. We shall see….

  5. Love to see Roberta and Ken taking on a new project. My first Sierra game was LSL1. Found it near my dad’s computer. What is this? We were kids but we would bruteforce the age-check questions until we could play.

    LSL, Space Quest, Kings Quest, Police Quest, Gabriel Knight and Phantasmagoria are good nostalgic memories of my childhood/adolescence. There were some good LucasArts games in that era as well.

    The LSL series was personally my favorite though. As I got a little older I personally bought copies of LSL6 and LSL7 (or my parents did for me), excited by the prospect of a new narrative with better graphics and audio. Those are still my favorite Sierra games though Roger Wilco is also a favorite character.

    I’ve watched some documentaries on youtube about Sierra and read your latest book on the history of the company Ken.

    It all brings back nostalgic memories when home computing was more rudimentary and also more exciting. It was in its infancy but changing so rapidly you had to buy a new machine every two years or less just to keep up with software requirements.

    Thanks for the memories.

  6. The original King’s Quest on the IBM PC Jr was the first game I ever played. Most of my formative years were spent playing your games. I’m very excited to see you folks working on something again. Best of luck to you, hope all is well. Take care!

    – Tom

  7. “I also underestimated the issues associated with motion sickness. Rapidly turning the world around you can quickly make a player nauseous. Poor Cidney has had to endlessly experiment with various methods of moving through our 3d world, some of which were enjoyable, and some of which quickly resulted in extreme disorientation and dizziness.”

    I hope you will be giving the player options on movement, as the thing about VR sickness is that it works differently for different people. For instance, for me, NOT being able to turn the world around rapidly and smoothly is what makes me nauseous. Another thing that helps for some people is limiting the field of view while moving, tunnel vision, but again that makes things worse for me and other people.
    Many games thus offer options, like choosing between teleport and smooth movement, turning on and off tunnel vision, etc.

    1. Great point. We’ve been working hard on the nausea issue and believe we have an approach that works .. but, as you said, what works for one person may not work for another.

      I’ll keep that in mind…

      Thanks – Ken W

  8. Hi Ken.
    Thanks for doing us going back to the Quest times. Believe it or not, I learned english playing Larry, Police Quest, Space Quest, Gabriel Knigth and all the Sierra Games. Now my kids (10 and 12 years old) are playing some Sierra Games too.
    I´m very anxious to know the story of the game and watch some screenshots. When do you can tell us more about it?

    Regards from the end of the world, Chile-Southamerica.

    1. . When do you can tell us more about it?

      I wish I could say what we’re working on now, but for a variety of reasons I need to keep it secret.

      My guess is that it will be November before I can talk freely about he project ..(Or December)

      -Ken W
      PS Thank you!

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