The Sierra Adventure: The Story of Sierra On-Line Review

Photo of The Sierra Adventure hardcover edition
A worthwhile read if you're into PC gaming of the 80s and 90s, especially adventure games

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Title: The Sierra Adventure: The Story of Sierra On-Line
  • Author: Shawn Mills
  • Publisher: Self-published
  • Number of Pages: 361
  • Release Date: 9 Jul 2020

What is it

The Sierra Adventure: The Story of Sierra On-Line is a book written by Shawn Mills that covers the history of Sierra On-Line, a games developer and publisher that was active from the late 1970s to the early 2000s.

Shawn Mills is an Australian game developer who has co-designed two games inspired by Sierra adventures: Quest for Infamy and Order of the Thorne: The King's Challenge. He fell in love with Sierra adventures in his youth and as he grew up he eventually wanted to know more about the company. Despite finding some information through interviews with some of its developers, it did not satisfy his curiosity so he eventually decided to do his own research and the culmination of that research is the book, The Sierra Adventure.

Shawn confesses that the book doesn't cover the entirety of Sierra's history nor all its games but it does cover quite a bit, right up until 1999 when Sierra's internal development studios closed. Much of the content in the book is sourced from interviews with Sierra alumni and Shawn manages to interview not only many of the designers, but also some of the programmers, producers, artists and composers.

Shawn has mentioned that the main reason he wanted to write this book was to emphasise why Sierra was important and how they brought among many innovations to the game industry. While he provides much trivia in this regard, the book also covers the highs and lows of game development during the 1980s and 1990s and the many personalities that worked in and out of the company.

How I got it

I'm a fan of Sierra adventures and I've generally backed anything related to Sierra On-Line on Kickstarter in the past. I eventually came across Shawn Mills's Kickstarter campaign to publish a book about Sierra On-Line's history and when I read I could even get special autographed copies by Lori and Corey Cole (designers of one of my favourite game series of all time, Quest for Glory), it was an opportunity that I couldn't miss. The campaign successfully raised $37,908 AUD from 638 backers on 20th October 2019 and almost a year later, in September 2020, I received the book in the mail.

What I like:

Flows well

Shawn's writing style is very easy to read and follow, so much so I think this book would work well as a video documentary in the same vein as the Double Fine Adventure documentary or the Revolution 25th Anniversary documentary.


Shawn made sure to interview many prominent designers that worked at Sierra which gives more authority to what is said in the book. Al Lowe (designer of Leisure Suit Larry), Mark Crowe (co-designer of Space Quest), Lori and Corey Cole (designers of Quest for Glory) and Josh Mandel (writer, designer and producer on several Sierra games) are a few that have provided their insight in Shawn's book. But he wasn't satisfied in just interviewing Sierra alumni that were designers, he also interviewed those serving in different departments such as Mark Seibert (lead musician, designer and producer), John Williams (marketing), Gurkha Singh Khalsa (Executive Producer), Marc Hudgins (Art Director) and Bill Davis (Creative Director).


While the fans of Sierra games would consider all the aforementioned Sierra alumni as celebrities in their own right, there are also plenty of other intriguing anecdotes about celebrities outside the company, such as John Romero's perspective on Sierra backing out of purchasing id Software, John Rhys-Davies's voice acting work on Quest for Glory IV, former LAPD Chief Daryl F. Gates's reputation amongst Sierra staff while developing Police Quest: Open Season and how Sierra almost managed to hire Robin Williams to voice one of their games.

The influence of Sierra on its fans

Some Kickstarter backers (who are obviously Sierra fans) were given the opportunity to say a few words about their own experience with Sierra and their games. As a Sierra fan myself, I found this section fascinating, like you're trying to catch up with what your school classmates are up to many decades later. I was originally skeptical on whether I would enjoy discovering how Sierra adventures impacted on people's personal lives and careers, but I was gladly mistaken.

What I dislike:

Might be a bit niche for some

The problem when you cover old genres of games or companies that are associated with said genres is that you're probably only catering to a niche of gamers. I'd argue that in this case, Sierra was important enough to cover many important developments in PC gaming and consequently is worth a look even for those who aren't Sierra or adventure game fans. But mileage may vary.

Score – 8/10 (Recommended)

A well-written, entertaining and insightful book that has many interviews from those that were around at Sierra during its heyday. While some might suggest the topic only covers a small niche of gamers, I'd still recommend this book to those who have a general interest in PC gaming history, even if they're not a Sierra or adventure gaming fan.

Is the book worth $50.00?: Yes. Mind you, this is the price for the dearest option, the hardcover edition (which is the one I have). If you're not fussed on whether you have the hardcover version, you're able to order the paperback edition for $35 and the ebook for $22.

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[ LINK: Official The Sierra Adventure Website ]