Al Lowe, one of Sierra On-Line's seminal game creators and programmers, has been sitting on a pile of his original games' source code files for over 30 years, fully convinced that they are worthless.
"I’m 72 years old, and none of my kids want this junk!" Lowe said in an interview with YouTube personality MetalJesusRocks (aka Jason Lindsey, himself an ex-Sierra developer and a friend of Ars). "Does anybody?"
Lowe is about to find out, as the developer has begun posting eBay listings for his entire source-code collection. (You read that correctly. The whole shebang.) The sale's opening has been accompanied by a MetalJesusRocks video (embedded below), which offers a 12-minute tour of backed-up files, original game boxes, original hint books, and more.
As of press time, Lowe has listed auctions for the first two Leisure Suit Larry games' source code, with bids already climbing (both well above the $400 mark after they went live). Lowe indicated to Lindsey that more games' code will follow on eBay, and this will likely include a stunning treasure trove: Lowe's other Leisure Suit Larry games, King's Quest III, Police Quest I, and Lowe's games based on Disney franchises Winnie The Pooh and Black Cauldron.
What's more, Lowe also has original backups of his complete programming pipeline, including the Sierra utilities that converted plain-text, ASCII commands to interpreted code. When pressed about how curious users could peruse these disks' files, Lowe plainly responds, "It's a text file! Put it in Notepad."
In the below video interview, Lowe confidently offers his opinion on the source code collection's rarity: "I backed everything up because I knew Sierra didn't."
Lowe's listings clarify a few things: first, he has not tested any of these disks, and second, owning these disks is not the same as owning the legal rights to freely or commercially distribute their contents. "Realize that, while you’ll have my data as of the day of Larry 1’s creation, you will not own the intellectual property rights to the game, the code, the art, or anything else," Lowe says in the LSL1 listing. "Nor do I. The IP rights were sold over and over again, until they are now owned by a German game company."
Beyond source code, this Sierra treasure trove includes a rare retail copy of A Gelfling Adventure, his Dark Crystal spin-off game that reused the first game's assets, and an original-print floppy of Softporn—a game that Lowe didn't work on but inspired him to make the Leisure Suit Larry series. As Lowe admits on eBay, he got this copy from Sierra co-founder Ken Williams himself... to replace his own pirated version at the time. ("Sure, there’s no box—because I didn’t get a box," Lowe writes in the eBay listing. "But you get a unique piece of video game history!")
Original game boxes, art, and hint books are likely to follow, as well. We'll be bookmarking Lowe's eBay channel for the foreseeable future, and we've reached out to the team at the Video Game History Foundation for their thoughts on this apparently rare and unique collection of game-code history.
If you're less interested in source code and more in just playing the games, you have a few options: this depository of Sierra games programmed by Lowe and his peers, plus Lowe's own selected collection of game files (meaning, mostly the out-of-print ones, not the LSL or King's Quest entries).
Listing image by Metal Jesus Rocks