Jim Walls

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James "Jim" Walls
Born California, USA
Other names Jim
Police career
Department California Highway Patrol
Country United States
Years of service 1971–1986
Rank Sworn in as an officer – 1971

James "Jim" Walls[1] is a retired police officer, who in 1971 joined the California Highway Patrol. He retired after 15 years on the force[2] after a shooting incident that left him traumatized.[3]

During his recovery from the shooting incident, Walls met Ken Williams, who was then a developer for Sierra On-Line. Williams asked Walls to his house for a game of racquetball, and over drinks after the game, Ken told Walls of his idea of starting an adventure game series with a police genre. Williams told Walls that all he needed was a real police officer to be involved with the design in order to maintain realism.[4]

Following that meeting, Walls went on to become a game designer for Sierra On-Line (now Sierra Entertainment).

Walls claims "When I first sat down in front of a computer to begin the design story of the original Police Quest I had to be shown where the on/off switch was. I typed the entire story with two fingers (after all, the only skills I had at the time were chasing people down and throwing them in jail)."[4]

Walls' best-known works were the first three Police Quest games (1987's Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, 1988's Police Quest II: The Vengeance, and 1990's Police Quest III: The Kindred). Walls also created an espionage game called Codename: Iceman in 1989, but this sold poorly in comparison to the Police Quest titles. The games included real situations that he had lived through in his career.

The later games in the Police Quest series (Police Quest IV: Open Season, Police Quest: SWAT and Police Quest: SWAT 2) were designed by Darryl F. Gates after Walls left Sierra.

Walls also created Blue Force, another adventure game featuring a police officer, in 1993 for Tsunami Games. He is also credited on Earth & Beyond, in 2002, for Electronic Arts Inc. and Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat in 2002, for Electronic Arts, and had a cameo, as a weapons handler in a police station, in the adventure game Blade Runner in 1997, for Virgin Interactive Entertainment, Inc based on the 1982 film of the same name. Walls is sometimes credited as James Walls.

Early life[edit]

Walls was born raised and schooled in California. Prior to joining the California Highway Patrol, he began a career as an Optician in Fresno. For several years he worked for various Optometrists and Ophthalmologists. Around 1969, Wells met the husband of a co-worker who, at the time was one week shy of graduating the CHP Academy. While speaking with him, Walls was overcome with the man's enthusiasm for his new career and sought a career for himself in Police Enforcement. In December 1971, he graduated the academy and began his career as a CHP Officer in the Southern California town of Van Nuys.[5]

Police career and 1984 shooting incident[edit]

Walls served as CHP Officer in various assignments throughout the state for the next thirteen years. In January 1984, while making an enforcement stop, he became involved in a shootout with a parolee that would soon change the course of his life. Approximately a year later, he began to experience complications related to the shootout. The department placed Walls on administrative leave in order to evaluate his condition and determine the cause.[5][6]

Career change and Sierra years[edit]

While still on administrative leave in 1985, Walls' then wife Donna, who worked as a hair stylist for a salon in Oakhurst, introduced him to Ken Williams, then president of Sierra. Ken Williams would occasionally visit the hair saloon to have his hair cut by Donna. It was during one of these sessions that the focus of conversation turned from hair style to Ken Williams’ idea of creating a police oriented adventure game. He also conveyed that he wanted a genuine policeman to be involved with the design in order to capture the realism. He gave Donna his business card and asked Jim Walls to call him. Walls officially quit the police force in 1986.[7] The Police Quest journey began in 1987 when Williams invited Walls to his house to play a few rounds of racquetball. Although Walls was an avid handball player, it would be his first experience at racquetball. Walls would soon learn the difference between the two games as Williams handed him a thorough beating. Afterwards, they moved to the game room for beverages and to discuss Williams' idea of a police adventure game. Williams asked if Walls could take some of his experiences as a CHP Officer and put them into a short story about two pages long. He did so, and after a couple days they met again. Williams read the story, commented on it and asked Walls to go home and detail it into 4 or 5 pages, which he subsequently did. This process went on until the first full blown story of Police Quest was complete. From that point the story was converted into a design document and broken into game components. Walls was initially skeptical and a bit nervous, wondering if it was viable to make a living designing computer games. In time he overcame his hesitation, with Ken Williams' wife Roberta Williams giving Walls pointers from time to time as well. Al Lowe came onto the project near the end. Walls would eventually serve as a designer and programmer at Sierra and while most notable for the Police Quest (PQ) series, he also developed Codename: Iceman in 1989. Walls recalls the design theme from PQ through PQ3 as being constant. However, after PQ3, circumstances developed causing him to resign from Sierra.[5][8]

Post Sierra years[edit]

In 1992, Walls joined newly formed Tsunami Media, which largely consisted of former Sierra employees and was housed in Sierra's original locality. Walls' time with Tsunami Media would be brief however, resulting in only one game, Blue Force, which was coincidentally also a police adventure. After Tsunami Media, Walls contracted with two other companies on titles which were never published. The first was Tachyon Studios, yet another splinter group from Sierra. The second was Phillips Interactive Media. In 1996, Walls settled in with Westwood Studios in Las Vegas, where he worked on Blade Runner. He was subsequently offered a full-time design position, which involved work with other titles such as Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat and Earth & Beyond. Westwood Studios was eventually bought out by Electronic Arts and later phased out. Walls's employment with Westwood Studios ended in 2003.[5]

Future plans[edit]

On February 2, 2013 Jim did a live audio podcast with Co-Founder of Guys From Andromeda LLC, Chris Pope. Jim announced live that he has plans to create a new adventure game similar to Police Quest. This will be a new IP for Jim. The announcement also included plans to use Kickstarter as the funding method for the new game.[9]

On July 16, 2013, the new game proposal was finally announced.[10] Precinct is a spiritual successor to the classic Sierra franchise Police Quest. Sierra veteran Robert Lindsley has been signed on as the game's executive producer. The game will be developed by newly established studio Jim Walls Reloaded, where Lindsley also serves as the company's president.[11] The game aspires to follow the classic Sierra adventure game formula with a "modern feel". It has a funding goal of $500,000, with a fundraising period stretching from Jul 16, 2013 - Aug 16, 2013. However, this project was not successful and Walls cancelled the Kickstarter fundraising on August 6, 2013. Subsequently, Walls and Lindsley announced that they would instead launch an alternative fundraising campaign for Precinct, which they called "new and unique".[12] The new crowdfunding campaign would not have the same time restrictions as Kickstarter has and the game will be launched once the funding from its backers is secured. However, this campaign was also unsuccessful and was shut down two weeks later as Lindsley explained: "We simply don't have the momentum needed to meet the requirements of this project". Nevertheless, Walls and Lindsley still remain hopeful to realise Precinct sometime in the future.[13] As August 2014, Walls was living in retirement. Although Walls has yet to be approached by a game developer, he remains hopeful of making Precinct in the future.[14]

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