Ken Williams (game developer)
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Ken Williams (right) and Jim Henson, circa 1982
|Born||October 30, 1954|
Ken Williams (born October 1954) is an American game programmer originally from Simi Valley, California, who co-founded On-Line Systems, which later became Sierra On-Line, together with his wife Roberta Williams. Roberta and Ken married at the age of 19 and have two children. The couple were leading figures in the development of graphical adventure games. Sierra was a leader in adventure games, employing nearly 1,000 persons prior to their acquisition in 1996.
Ken and Roberta's early contributions to the computer game industry were partially chronicled in the book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. In the early days of computing, Ken authored the textbook Apple II Computer Graphics. Sierra's notable online service, the ImagiNation Network, was purchased by AT&T in 1994. Ken was the president of Sierra until the company was sold to CUC in July 1996, but he remained with the company leading its strategic direction until November 1997. Vivendi (now Activision Blizzard after the Vivendi Games and Activision merger) currently holds the Sierra name.
In his role as Sierra's CEO, Ken was always seeking to lead innovations in the computer game industry. In a 1999 interview with Adventure Classic Gaming, Ken speaks about product development in the computer game industry and his role as a CEO: "I'm not sure how typical I am of other CEOs...most of my time is spent looking at product ... To me, everything is about being able to build awesome product ... Any game which does not push the state of the art leaves an opportunity for a competitor's game to look better."
In Sierra's later years, the company's focus had shifted to publishing many titles from other studios, including Valve's Half-Life. In their Half-Life feature, GameSpot refers to Ken as an "industry legend." Commenting on first person shooters, Ken recalls, "By the time I decided we wanted into the genre, we were too far behind. With 20/20 hindsight, I blew it when I had the chance to buy id and didn't ... Valve was the first group I had spoken with that could put Sierra in front of id."
In a 2006 interview with Adventure Classic Gaming, Ken mentions two individuals who most influenced Sierra's business model: "There were two people that had a heavy influence on Sierra: Bill Gates and Walt Disney. These two companies were our role models. I read every book written on both companies. I did everything to try to understand how they thought, and how they did business."
As of 2012[update], Ken is enjoying retirement with his wife Roberta. He is no longer active in the computer-gaming industry; his current projects are limited to writing and managing a website construction tool called TalkSpot, where his goal is to redefine how small business communicates with their customers on the Internet. He has published three books on boating talking about his worldwide cruising along with his wife Roberta on their 68-foot trawler. In addition, he publishes a blog about cruising, KENSBLOG.
Ken's trademarks have been his mustache and hair. His appearance has inspired Sierra's designers for some sprites, honoring Ken with cameo appearances in some games. One of these "incarnations" is the chief Keneewauwau of the Nontoonyt natives and Ken, the annoying joke teller (both appearing in Leisure Suit Larry games), as well as a whipper of "scumsoft" in Space Quest III.
- ^ Amazon. "Apple II Computer Graphics: Ken Williams". Retrieved September 18, 2012.
- ^ Associated Press (1994). "AT&T Buys On-line Service, Opens New Communications Unit". Retrieved September 18, 2012.
- ^ IGN Staff (2008). "Vivendi and Activision Complete Transaction to Create Activision Blizzard". Retrieved July 10, 2008.
- ^ Jess Morrissette (1999). "Ken Williams (1999 ACG Interview)". Retrieved September 18, 2012.
- ^ Geoffrey Keighley (1999). "GameSpot's The Final Hours of Half-Life". Retrieved September 18, 2012.
- ^ Philip Jong (2006). "Ken Williams (2006 ACG Interview)". Retrieved March 29, 2006.
- Ken and Roberta Williams page
- Ken and Roberta Williams personal blog
- Ken's latest company, Do it yourself websites and blogs (primarily targeting small business)
- Interview with Ken Williams at Adventure Classic Gaming (1996)
- 17 Oct 2005 interview with Ken Williams
- Entry at The Dot Eaters featuring Williams and an early history of Sierra
- Ken Williams at MobyGames
- Ken Williams at the Internet Movie Database