King's Quest: Quest for the Crown
First posted on 20 September 1999. Last updated on 24 November 2013.
|Created by Williams, King's Quest is long regarded as her masterpiece.|
|What creatures are swimming around the castle?|
|The King sends Graham on his quest.|
|Graham sees a gingerbread house.|
|The graphics in the remake are greatly improved.|
In 1984 Roberta Williams created the King's Quest series, a series that forever changed the face of adventure gaming. It was a series that helped to define an entirely new gaming genre—graphic adventures. King's Quest: Quest for the Crown was the first game Williams created for the series. With this masterpiece of art and technology, she made a landmark history in the computer gaming world. Countless number of fans had dedicated their loyalties to the series since its debut and made King's Quest the best selling adventure game series of all time. Indeed, all adventure games of today owed a debt of gratitude to this title for their origin.
In a kingdom far away named Daventry, there lives King Edward the Benevolent and his lovely Queen. After many years of happiness, the King and Queen are saddened by the fact that they have remained childless in their old ages. They have no son or daughter to inherit the throne. One day, a powerful wizard appears at the castle and tells the King and Queen that he can cast a spell to bring them a heir. In return, the wizard wants neither gold nor honor but only the Mirror. This Mirror is no ordinary mirror but holds magic that can look into the future. The magic Mirror has been used to foretell the weather for planting and harvesting in the kingdom. However, the gift of a child is too valuable to the King and Queen to be ignored, so they gave the Mirror away to the wizard.
Months pass but the Queen never conceives. When the harvest is lost in a storm for the first time in centuries because there is no Mirror to forecast the weather, the Queen becomes ill. After 4 days, a dwarf comes to their castle and claims to have a cure. He says that he has a powerful root that is specially made by the dwarves. He takes the root and touches the Queen's lips. The Queen then opens her eyes and smiles at Edward. In return, the dwarf wants the Shield. Traditionally, the ruler of Daventry carries this Shield to battle. This is because whoever carries the Shield is always victorious in battles. "No," says the King, "You can take everything you want except the Shield." When the dwarf refuses, the King has no choice but to give the Shield away to the dwarf. He receives the magic root and uses to try to cure his wife. Unfortunately, the magic root has not worked and the Queen dies a few days later. Deep sadness spreads across the whole Daventry as the King mourns his loss love.
Years pass and Daventy is attacked by many armies. Without the Shield, the King loses many battles. Without the Mirror, he cannot look into the future to see what his enemies may do during these battles. The King becomes lonely and sad. One day, he finds a beautiful young woman who is perched on a tree. She is hiding from a pack of wolves. The King rescues the lady, and finds out that her name is Princess Dahlia of Cumberland. The King brings her back to his castle, thinking that he has finally found someone to replace the emptiness in his live. Everything is well again until the Princess finds out about the Chest. This Chest is magical and fills itself forever with gold. The Princess becomes greedy and steals the chest from the King.
Now, the King has lost everything that is of value in his live. He does not know what to do and grows desperate. Fortunately, a noble knight named Graham comes to his castle and offers his help. Because the King has no heir to the throne, he tells Graham he can become the King of Daventry if Graham can bring back the 3 stolen treasures of Daventry.
The development of King's Quest: Quest for the Crown started in 1983 when IBM wanted a game to be made that could show off the capabilities of their new computer system. They approached Sierra to make a game that could support 16 colors and 128K of memory. Since sound cards were not yet available, music had to be played through an internal speaker. Williams agreed to work on this new game and released King's Quest: Quest for the Crown a year later. Unfortunately, the new IBM PCjr was an ill-fated machine, and the initial sale of the game soured. Luckily, the game rose to become an industry bestseller the following year when it wasre-released for the IBM PC and the new Tandy 1000 computers. It was the first game to fully support EGA graphics. It was not until 1990 when Sierra On-Line decided to remake the game that it was renamed it King's Quest 1: Quest for the Crown.
By that time, new standards in graphics and sounds have been adopted. As a result, the new graphics are greatly enhanced and the new music is much improved. Details that are previously hidden can finally be seen in this remake. The updated version also mixes in limited mouse support with a text parser interface. Unfortunately, the remake is a flop. Many fans criticize the updated version and even compare the effort to the coloring of a classic black and white film. Personally, I disagree with this opinion. The old version is clearly outdated, and a remake is surely necessary.
The original version is written using a proprietary game engine called AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter) pioneered by Sierra On-Line. The interpreter provides the game interface and handles all subroutines used to display graphics and sounds. The game itself is then programmed using scripts written specifically for the interpreter. As such, the scripts themselves are platform independent, and can be played in any platform given the right interpreter. AGI is the first interpreter made by Sierra On-Line. It supports only text input and low resolution (160x200) EGA graphics of the IBM PCjr for which the interpreter is originally written. It is, however, the first game engine that supports a pseudo-3D graphic environment whereby characters or objects can be moved on screen in front of, behind, or over other objects on screen. It also uses vector graphics rather than bitmaps in order to speed up screen redraws while minimizing the size of the graphic data files. The remake is written using SCI (Sierra Creative Interpreter) version 0. SCI is an object oriented interpreter. It supports 16 color EGA (320x200) graphics and a text parser based interface. It is also the first interpreter to support sound cards.
The gameplay is a complete breakthrough for its time. King's Quest: Quest for the Crown is the very first 3D computer game ever made in which the player can control a character on screen. Never before has a game been made that features a third person mode. This game can be considered as the very first true "interactive cartoon". In the original release of the game, you move Graham with the keyboard (since mouse support is not yet available). You can make Graham perform an action by typing in a command line, such as "look at flower". The remake adds mouse support and makes it much easier to explore the lands of Daventry. Before this, all adventure games are only text based, so that this game truly represents state of the arts for its era and is destined to become a classic.
Williams has once commented on the artistic and technical achievements made by this game, "So IBM wanted a new type of game to show off its new computer. I was thinking about a fairy tale adventure with lost treasures, giants, dragons, leprechauns, a gingerbread house, a troll bridge, guessing a gnome's name. Underground and sky castles were always popular stories, so I had to find ways to include them too. Flat pictures wouldn't do. It had to be animated. You had to be careful climbing the magic beanstalk or you'd fall. Limited floppy space would have restricted my design, but we had been compressing our pictures by drawing them as lines and fill colors for a while. That scheme was kept all the way up to King's Quest V. People were amazed you could walk around these detailed screens, behind trees and in front of rocks." Williams has also commented on the changes in the remake, "I received a LOT of letters about the old gnome's name. In retrospect, it was an awfully nasty puzzle (using a backwards alphabet to spell Rumpelstiltskin), but that was a typical "advanced" puzzle in those days. At least you had an alternate path to win the game if you couldn't figure it out. We toned it down a bit in the remake; now you just spell Rumpelstiltskin backward."
Without a doubt, King's Quest: Quest for the Crown is one of the best adventure games ever created. Every element in this game is a breakthrough for its time. It is here that gamers are introduced to the notion of a graphic adventure, a third person mode of play, and a new method of character control on screen. The graphics may be old-fashioned compared to today's titles, but if you want to experience the origin of the graphic adventure genre, then you owe yourself an obligation to try out this title. I think every devoted adventure fan should experience the joy of playing this game, since it is this game that heralds the next golden age of adventure gaming.