Rap Sheet

About me

Except for the few short years I lived in Nevada, California has always been my home.  Born raised and schooled.  From small fry through mid teens I lived in the East Bay Area towns of Richmond, Berkeley and El Cerrito.  As a teenager I remember traveling to Fresno where I would spend summers with my grand parents, aunts/uncles, cousins and the likes.  Once in awhile, we would make a day trip from Fresno to the Oakhurst/Bass Lake area where I was forever stricken with the beauty of the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  Eventually, I would make my home in the area near Coarsegold, CA.

Prior to joining the California Highway Patrol, I began a career as an Optician in the Fresno area, where for several years I worked for various Optometrists and Ophthalmologists.  It was about 1969 when I met the husband of a co-worker who, at the time was one week shy of graduating the CHP Academy.  While speaking with him, his enthusiasm for his new career was such that I was practically recruited on the spot!  I was hooked!  The rest is in the books. In December of 1971 I graduated the academy and began my career as a CHP Officer in the Southern California town of Van Nuys.

I served as CHP Officer in various assignments throughout the state for the next thirteen years.  In Jan 1984, while making an enforcement stop, I became involved in a shoot out with a parolee that would soon change the course of my life.  After approximately one year later, I began to experience complications considered to be related to the shootout.  The department placed me on administrative leave in order to evaluate my condition and determine the cause.

During this time of administrative leave I met Ken Williams.  I was introduced to Ken by my wife Donna who worked as a hair stylist for a salon in Oakhurst.  Ken, from time to time would go to Donna for hair cuts.  It was during one of these sessions that the focus of conversation turned from hair style to Ken’s idea of creating a police oriented adventure game.  He also conveyed that he wanted a cop to be involved with the design in order to capture the realism.  He gave my wife his business card and asked that I call.

The Police Quest journey began when Ken invited me to his house to play a few rounds of racquetball.  Mind you I played lots of handball during those days but this would be my first experience at racquetball.  I would soon learn the difference between the two games as Ken handed me a thorough beating.  After the beating, though it was a great workout, we moved to the game room for beverages and to discuss Ken’s idea of a police adventure game.

Ken asked if I could take some of my experiences as a CHP Officer and put them into a short story about two pages long.  So I did, and after a couple days we met again.  He read my little two page story, commented on it and asked me to go home and detail it into 4 or 5 pages, which I did.  This process went on until the first full blown story of Police Quest was complete.  From that point the story was converted into a design document and broken into game components.
I was skeptical and a bit nervous in the beginning, wondering if I could really make a living designing computer games.  I was out of my comfort zone, after all, chasing and arresting people was all I knew.  But all that slowly changed as time went by.  Roberta Williams would give me pointers from time to time as well as Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy.  Then, there was Al Lowe who came onto the project near the end.  If only I had a hidden recorder during those sessions.  It was a special time and will stick in the ole memory bank for a long time to come.

The design theme from PQ through PQ3 was constant.  It was all about using correct police procedure.  We wanted to give the player the opportunity to see what it’s like to be a police officer.  And judging from the fan mail that would soon come, we were successful in doing that.  Some of the mail was from active police officers.  And speaking of mail, when you read letters from 10 year olds who go on and on over Police Quest, saying it’s the greatest game they ever played and when they grow up they want to be a cop!  That is a great feeling and the ultimate reward.

Many memories were made during my time with Sierra, too many to list in one document.  However, there was the time when Sierra’s Public Relations Officer Anita Greene and I were on a promotional tour for PQ3.  We flew into Tucson AZ and met with Shay Adams, Editor and Chief of Quest Busters.  After showing off the game, Shay opened up a bottle of whiskey called Waterfill and Frazier.  This brand of whiskey just happened to have been Wyatt Earp’s favorite.  Wow!  Needless to say we started off with a toast to Wyatt, then toasted PQ3, then the old west, the new west, the great northwest, Anita, Shay and me.  It was great and I understood why Wyatt liked it so much.

Then, there was the Sierra connection with Billy VuKovich III (his grandfather is Indy 500 legend).  Sierra became Billy’s co-sponsor for the 1989 Indianapolis 500.  I have pictures of the Indy car with the Sierra logo on it.  Four of us, thanks to Sierra, went to that race.  We watched the race from a fully catered suite and had pit badges giving us access to “Gasoline Ally.”  What a time for all, except Dale Carlson.  When we got into Indianapolis Dale discovered, thanks to the airlines, that all he had was the clothes on his back.  Needless to say we had to go shopping.

My time with Sierra was a rewarding experience along with the many friendships that developed over the years.  However, after PQ3, circumstances developed causing me to decide it was time that I leave.

In 1992 I contracted with the newly formed company by the name of Tsunami Media. Tsunami for the most part consisted mainly of former Sierra employees.  Ironically, Tsunami occupied the very same redwood building that Sierra occupied when I first began Police Quest.  During the short stay with Tsunami we did Blue Force, a police adventure which shipped in 1992.  Blue Force was the only title published by Tsunami that I was involved with.

After Tsunami I contracted with two other companies on titles which were never published.  The first was Tachyon Studios, another splinter group from Sierra.  The second was Phillips Interactive Media.

Then, in 1996 I settled in with a small company by the name of Westwood Studios in Las Vegas.  There I was contracted by Louis Castle to work with lead designer David Leary on the title “Blade Runner.”  Once Blade Runner was out the door I was offered a full time design position which lasted until 2003.  During my time with Westwood I was credited on the titles, “Blade Runner,” “Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat” and “Earth & Beyond.”  Westwood Studios was eventually bought out by Electronic Arts and later phased out.

Jim Walls

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