Any blog about classic retro gaming simply MUST include a homage to Roberta Williams’ King’s Quest series, originally published by Ken and Roberta Williams’ Sierra On-Line company in the 1980s.
The story was a simple one: the Kingdom of Daventry is in trouble as three of its greatest treasures – a mirror that tells the future, a shield that protects its user from danger, and a chest that is always filled with gold – have been stolen. The King sends Sir Graham, an honest and unpretentious young knight, on a quest to recover the treasures. Should he succeed, he will become King. Should he fail, he’ll become worm food. Of course, how Graham accomplishes the task before him is up to the player!
This was the original “big-game” release. The industry was still very new, and it was not unusual for games to be coded by a single person over a couple of weeks for a low budget. King’s Quest was coded by six people with Roberta Williams as the project leader, with a cost of $700,000, for an 18-month period. This was completely unheard of, and was a very risky gamble that ultimately paid off, fueling an entire line of games from Sierra On-Line.
King’s Quest was a huge leap forward for gaming. In a time when games either were completely text-based or with the occasional static graphic, King’s Quest provided character interaction with the game environment. By pressing the arrow keys, Sir Graham could walk across the screen and could cross in front of or behind objects, making the game the first 3-D adventure. And even though the interface was still text-based (you typed in what action you wanted to do), seeing the result of what you typed made for classic gaming.
Like any good adventure game, the puzzles in King’s Quest were varied and fun. The Sierra team programmed puzzles to have more than one solution, and points were awarded to the player depending on what actions they took. And unlike many of the action, destroy-everything-you-see games of the time, King’s Quest rewarded players with a higher score if they found non-violent solutions.
There have been several releases of King’s Quest over the years, starting with the original version in 1983, which was packaged up in the IBM PC Jr series of computers. Fortunately, poor sales of the computer did not result in the termination of the King’s Quest franchise, as it was released in Apple II, PC (boot disk) and Tandy format in 1984 to general fanfare, and around 500,000 copies sold. The game sold well enough that it was re-released in 1987 in the Amiga, Atari ST, Macintosh and MS-DOS formats, which sent it back up the sales charts. (It was at that time that the second part of the title, “Quest For The Crown,” was added.) It even crossed over into the console video game charts with a version for the Sega Master System in 1989.
King’s Quest was remade in 1990 with much better graphics and music card support. The quest points were changed slightly, which meant that the game itself played somewhat differently from the original. A fan-made King’s Quest was released in 2001 by AGD Interactive, which has seen many updates right up to 2009. You can find it here: http://www.agdinteractive.com/games/kq1/
King’s Quest was such a solid game that it spawned an entire genre, the 3-D animated adventure. Sierra shot to the top of the gaming industry with hit after hit, including an entire King’s Quest series, Space Quest, Quest for Glory, Police Quest, and so forth. If you haven’t played any of the original games, give them a try. Yes, they’re incredibly simple and crude versus the immersive gaming environments we play in today, but they’re an important part of gaming history. Be a retro gamer and Quest for the Crown today!