Doing what you love for a living is the dream, isn’t it? Waking up everyday knowing you can put all of your energy into the things that make you happy, so that you can produce the best output, and feel energized by the knowledge that you will do the same thing tomorrow. You pay your bills with the fruits of your labor, and you feel a significant sense of freedom, as your financial burdens don’t feel so weighty after all. What can be better than that? You can get your wife in on the action, and become a programming power couple. Enter Corey and Lori Ann, or The Coles.
Corey was pretty into Dungeons and Dragons (still is) back in the 80’s, as were most nerds at the time. Not just playing home games, either. Cole was a staple at standardized public play, going to tournaments and even having one of his modules (see: adventures) published. It wouldn’t be until the late 80’s that Corey would begin doing real programming work for Sierra Online.
Lori would get into game design almost the exact same way, via their tandem fanaticism for pen and paper RPGs. In an interview with Adventure Classic Gaming, Lori would credit the Wizardry RPG series as the creative catalyst for their design careers. “We designed a paper RPG system about that time which would one day become the foundation for the Quest for Glory skill system,” she told the site.
But getting into the industry wasn’t as easy as picking up the phone and telling everyone how cool their idea was. “I proposed a couple of designs to a Video Game company, which didn’t go anywhere. ” Luckily, a friend they had made at a Sci-Fi convention just so happened to both like their idea, and work for a video game design company called Sierra Games. “Never underestimate the power of friendship when it comes to getting good jobs.”
The most unique thing about this husband and wife game development tag team is that almost every one of their games they’ve made together. That’s a notable achievement in any field, but especially so a in genre of entertainment that can consistently be difficult to find work in for a single person, let alone a dynamic duo. Among their works, the most significant would be the Quest for Glory Series, a line of games that would have a tremendous influence on the genre, and be instrumental in bridging the gap between pen and paper, and the digital medium.
A long running D&D game can be a dynamic, character-centric experience, and that was the immediate focus for Lori Ann when designing Hero’s Quest, the first Quest for Glory. Turning average joes into dragon slayers was the overall plot of each game in the series, and each game was in direct relation to others. The series was famous for its class system. It looked and felt like other Sierra Adventure/RPGs at the time, but allowed you to choose the class of your hero and make decisions that would aid in it’s growth, sometimes allowing you to mix and match (or cross class) abilities in later games. The Quest series was also one of the first to allow you to upload characters from previous games into sequels, carrying over abilities and skills into the next entry.
The games were also famously funny. In a cheesy way, but in an undeniable way. They were very self referential, building on its own in-jokes, and reveling in its many easter eggs. Each game was the perfect balance of serious and humorous, cementing a certain tongue-in-cheek wit that would be popular in the adventure genre.
The pair would work with Sierra for a major part of their careers, even with a brief break with the company over disputes related to Quest 4. None of their other games would spark like Quest did, but they never stopped making them. In fact, they’ve taken to Kickstarter for their next project, Hero-U. True to their history, they remain a bastion of adventure gaming’s robust past, and just in time, too. The genre is seeing a resurgence in these years; a perfect opportunity to show a new generation of adventure gamers how its done.