You Make 'Em, We Break 'Em - Quality Assurance At Sierra

Quality Assurance at Sierra has a fitting motto, "You Make 'Em, We Break 'Em." Not a king phrase to the ears of our hard working programmers, this catchy slogan nevertheless well represents our qualified team of bug detectors. Their goal: to ensure that all Sierra products ship bug-free, so that our software doesn't eventually bug you, our customer.

The "Thrashmasters", as they fondly call themselves, can be compared favorably to a band of adventurers from a popular role-playing game. Their combined skills of dexterity, wisdom, intelligence and strength give the needed experience it requires to slay those nasty critters that creep in and take the fun out of our software.

Every band of adventurers needs a wizard to provide leadership and guidance. Sol Ackerman is the wizard of Quality Assurance. Bringing great knowledge of software to his team, Sol is one of Sierra's most prolific programmers in his spare time. In fact, Sol's wisdom of Sierra magic dates back to the early 80's, when he was involved in the programming of such blockbusters as King's Quest, King's Quest II, King's Quest III, The Black Cauldron, and Space Quest I.

Sol's latest work of wizardry has been the conversion of King's Quest III to the Apple IIe/IIc computers. This long-awaited sequel, which is just getting ready to ship, will be Sierra's second largest game ever to ship for Apple computers, residing on a whopping both sides of five disks. (Sierra's The Time Zone, the largest computer game ever, resides on both sides of 12 disks).

A cleric provides an adventure team with intelligence and insight. Nancy Grimsley qualifies quite well to be this gang's trusty cleric. Our resident expert on productivity products, Nancy has a keen eye for minute details, providing sage advice and clever suggestions when it comes to improving Smart Money and other Sierra programs. Nancy is always well-equipped with a dictionary or thesaurus at her side, and is well-versed to make sound decisions when documentation or on-screen text changes are concerned.

Nancy's life experiences include 20 years at the University of California, Berkeley, where she climbed the corporate ladder from Administrative Assistant to the Chancellor's office as Budget Analyst. Her interest in computers was kindled while experimenting on the UNIX system during her tenure at Berkeley, and has blossomed into a full-time occupation at Sierra.

One of Nancy's great interests is reading, especially science fiction. Her favorites include Isaac Asimov's "Robots of Dawn" and Anne McAffrey's "Dragon Riders" series, both which incidentally became translated to computer games. It seems that even Nancy's reading interests compliment her career as a Sierra Thrashmaster.

Jennifer Cobb is Sierra's latest recruit to the Thrashmasters Guild. Like a thief in the night, Jennifer has stealthily advanced from Sierra's production line to the long-desired quest of bug bashing in QA. It would only be fair to give her the role of thief in our band of adventurers.

A mere 18 years of age, Jennifer has acquired the dexterity of a master thief, with lightning-quick reflexes that give her a solid advantage in discovering "traps" in the game system that the aging members of the team might struggle with. Jennifer is world class in tackling games that require advanced dexterity. Thexder, and its upcoming sequel Silpheed, are prime examples of games that the "less agile members" of this party choose to leave in Jennifer's nimble hands.

A lifetime spent in the fresh air and breathtaking scenery of the Sierras has provided Jennifer with the positive outlook it requires to spend hour after hour battling computer bugs. A recent graduate of Yosemite High School, Jennifer has a great future in computer games, and has just begun to steal a peek of what the future holds in store for her.


Last, but not least, every team of adventurers needs a stalwart knight, fighter, warrior, call him what you will. Ray Marek is the top bug-basher in QA. With an exceptional background in entertainment and adventure, Ray Marek is a natural for Sierra On-Line's Thrashmasters squad.

Ray claims to have "done it all." On the computer screen, Ray has taken Sir Graham and Roger Wilco through every possible situation imaginable, regardless of the danger involved. His real-life counterpart has done the same. Be it pilot, skin diver, hang glider enthusiast, or acrobat, Ray loves to play with danger. His career includes everything from being the "Human Cannonball" in the circus to Hollywood stunt actor.

From the time Ray began his studies at Florida State University, it was obvious his life was destined for high adventure. He chose aerospace as a major, but he also had a great desire to study sharks (the kind that swim, not the card playing variety). When the college scene became a drag, Ray dropped out to join the circus, where he became part of a high flying trapeze act. His circus career skyrocketed even further when he was promoted to the position of "Human Cannonball."

In 1976, Ray's flying trapeze act "The Flying LarRays," was named the Premiere Flying Act by the Circus Hall of Fame. His career soared even higher when he landed in Hollywood as an animal trainer and stunt man. From hanging off of helicopters in flight to daredevil car stunts, Ray's stint as stunt man for numerous television shows and motion pictures is the envy of many "would be" adventurers.

Yet nothing is as simple as it looks, and stunt acting took its toll (broken back, dislocated shoulder, injured spleen, broken nose), and Ray wisely chose to retire to the relatively safe world of Sierra On-Line and computer adventures instead.

Now his days of dangerous living have paid off and Ray has the highest kill rate (most fatal bugs discovered) of the highly touted Thrashmasters team, a true adventure legend in his time.

So there is real adventure beyond the computer screen at Sierra On-Line, and it all begins with the Thrashmasters of Quality Assurance. The next time you boot up a Sierra adventure, remember that a fine team of adventurers have already explored the deepest depths of the game to ensure you a much safer and enjoyable quest.

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