Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
King's Quest is an adventure game series made by the American computer game company Sierra Entertainment (formerly Sierra On-Line). It is factually considered one of the most classic titles of the golden era of adventure games, and some kind of trademark for the company. This is because King's Quest I was the first '3D' adventure game ever made, becoming an uncomparable success. The designer of all of the games was Roberta Williams, co-owner of Sierra.
The world of the King's Quest games is not highly consistent and sophisticated, but is indeed largely immersive. It encompasses over ten different and beautiful worlds. These include Serenia (KQ V), Tamir (KQ IV), Kolyma (KQ II) and Llewdor (KQ III).
The main characters in each of the series are persons of the family of King Graham or himself. The only exception is KQ VIII where the player has control of Sir Connor of Daventry, King Graham's kingdom (who makes a guest appearance in the KQ II remake, establishing thus a link between the two characters). Because of this, and because of the large focus on RPG and arcade in the last game, many fans refuse to consider it a true sequel and call it KQ:MOE (Mask of Eternity being its subtitle).
Many equivalents of famous characters from myths and legends make their appearance and relate themselves to the puzzles. Namely Beauty and the Beast, Rumplestiltskin, Red Riding Hood, Count Dracula and others appear in the tale, mainly in the earlier parts, when the concept was simply about solving puzzles in a surrealistic fantasy world. The later sequels have been more logical and have a better established storyline, and realistic places and characters.
The first game is known to take place in a toroidal 'doughnut' world, that means, no matter what direction the player goes, he will return to the same screen he began. This gave an impression of a spherical (albeit very small) world, and can be explained internally by saying that the character is trapped in the region magically. KQ II, III and IV held on this although in a more realistic manner. The world becomes 'cylindrical' and the looping occurs only when the characters goes north or south (in the west and east there is the sea, or mountains, or deserts), giving thus an impression of making circles along an island. This way of layout was abandoned in KQ V where a new policy of sophisticated and realistic storytelling and gameplay was adopted.
There have been eight King's Quest games released: There are a number of websites giving plans for a ninth installment in the series (many just that, plans), but there is no official King's Quest IX. There is, however, a group of fans that have made extensive progress creating a ninth game in the series.
King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown (1984)
The Kingdom of Daventry is in serious trouble because its precious magical items — the magic mirror, shield and chest — have been stolen. King Edward the Benevolent sends his bravest knight, Sir Graham to retrieve them. If he succeeds, he will become the next king.
The story and the general design of the game is by Roberta Williams. Williams was the chief designer of all official releases of King’s Quest, working with the series all the way up the last official release – King’s Quest VIII.
Development and Technology
Released in 1983 by IBM as a demonstration product for their IBM PCjr, King’s Quest I is not only the first ‘animated’ adventure game, it was also the first Sierra_Entertainment game to use the Adventure Game Interpreter (AGI) engine. (However, the AGI engine wasn’t known as such until King's Quest II.) Since the IBM PCjr didn’t sell particularly well, the game was later released directly by Sierra for IBM PCs in addition to other platforms such as the Amiga, Atari ST and Sega.
King’s Quest I was innovative in its use of 16-color graphics on the PCjr and Tandy 1000; even CGA owners could enjoy 16-color graphics if they used a composite monitor or TV.
The game relied primarily on textual input as its interface. Detractors often say that this way of interacting with games is time-consuming and frustrating, however others would argue that it requires more thought on the part of the player because it requires more than point and clicking. One review noted, “Things need to be worded a certain way. You might see a brown CGA lump on the ground and want it, but typing "PICK UP ROCK" could very well yield you a "You can't do that - at least not now." error. But a little patience and a logical mind can always overcome this limitation. "LOOK AT THE GROUND". You'll see it's not a rock after all; it's actually a walnut. Don't try and be verbose - the parser isn't as intelligent as today's gaming AI technology. You can't tell the game "Offer to help the woodcutter with his poverty issues" without getting an "I don't understand 'offer'." error, but "HELP MAN" does the trick.” 
Re-releases and Remakes
A 1987 re-release added support for the Enhanced Graphics Adaptor (EGA) and would run under DOS, unlike the original release, which booted directly at startup.
In 1990, a remake was released by Sierra that used the Sierra Creative Interpreter (SCI) engine, the same engine used in titles such as King's Quest IV; while it still used 16-color graphics, it featured twice the resolution as well as music card support.
In 2001, the group AGD Interactive released an unofficial remake based on Sierra's 1990 version, updating the graphics to use 256 colors, dropping the parser in favor of an interface that mimics that of King's Quest V and VI, as well as adding full speech for all characters of the game. The latter is especially noteworthy in that even though it is an unofficial, fan-made project, the game's protagonist King Graham is voiced by Josh Mandel, who also spoke the part in Sierra's official CD-ROM full-speech versions of King's Quest V and VI.
King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne (1985)
The magic Mirror shows King Graham a vision about a beautiful woman, Valanice, imprisoned on the top of an ivory tower. Being charmed by her, he is teleported to the world of Kolyma to rescue her. There he must travel through sea, air, and even death to gain the keys that unlock the three doors to the world where Hagatha the witch has imprisoned Valanice.
Development and Technology
King's Quest II used the same AGI engine as King's Quest I.
Re-releases and Remakes
It was first released in 1985 as a disk that booted on start-up but was re-released in 1987 with EGA support to run under DOS. This is why most remaining copies bear a 1987 rather than a 1985 copyright date.
Due to rather disappointing sales of the 1990 remake of King's Quest I, the prospect of officially remaking and re-releasing King’s Quest II was scrapped. However in 2002, AGD Interactive, then known as Tierra Entertainment, released a fan-made remake of King's Quest II. The project improved the usability of the game compared to the original engine and also added improved graphics and sound. The project also added new story elements and puzzles, including a richer back-story, a town to visit, and references to Graham's past and future. The project was titled King's Quest II+: Romancing the Stones. As with most fan-made remakes, controversy remains over the copyright issues surrounding the game.
King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human (1986)
In King's Quest III, the game has moved away from Daventry and King Graham to the land of Llewdor, where a boy named Gwydion is being kept by the wicked magician Manannan. Gwydion was kidnapped from Daventry by the magician when he was young, and this adventure tells the story of his journey back to that land.
The player plays Gwydion in King’s Quest III. The major events of the story include breaking free of Gwydion’s captor wizard by turning him into a cat and escaping Llewdor, returning to Daventry where he frees Princess Rosella (Gwydion’s twin sister and daughter of King Graham and Queen Valanice), and finally discovering that Gwydion is actually the royal couple's lost boy, Alexander.
Because King’s Quest III initially shows no connection to the previous installments of the series – some fans initially criticized the third installment of King’s Quest for not tying into the previous games. Only after playing to near the end of the game did players find a connection to King’s Quest I and II.
Technology and Development
This was allegedly the first adventure game featuring auto-mapping, with a 'magic map' found in the game that can be used to teleport to most locations that the player has visited before. This feature was unpopular among some fans who claim it made the game too easy, hence magic maps in future Sierra games were more limited in their teleporting ability.
King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella (1988)
KQ4 was the first adventure game with a female protagonist, Princess Rosella - the daughter of King Graham of the first two games, and sister of Gwydion/Alexander of the third.
This game was simultaneously produced and published in the AGI and SCI engines. The AGI engine was used in all earlier Sierra adventure games, the SCI in all later ones. The main advantages of SCI are a higher video resolution (320x200 rather than 160x200 in AGI), sound card support, mouse support, and a more versatile scripting system.
The AGI version was made because Sierra supposed that contemporary low-end systems would be unable to run the SCI version, thus requiring a 'lighter' version of the game. However, sales figures proved them wrong, and the AGI version was discontinued almost instantly. Because of its rarity, the AGI version could be considered a collector's item.
The two games are identical in gameplay, except that the SCI version was updated with some additional parser responses later on. However, the AGI version contains the famous 'beam me' easter egg (which transported Rosella to a Star Trek-esque room with all of the development team present). This easter egg is not present in the SCI version.
King Graham has suffered a heart attack and is on the brink of death. The Mirror sends Rosella a vision about the fairy Genesta in the land of Tamir. Teleported there, she learns about a fruit which can heal her father. However, Genesta herself will die soon if her talisman, stolen by her evil sister Lolotte, is not returned. Rosella must win Lolotte's trust by performing three tasks for her (specifically, capturing the unicorn, finding the hen that lays golden eggs, and recovering Pandora's box), and then she must defeat the evil fairy to recover the Talisman. Luckily, her enchanted and adopted son, Edgar, has a crush on Rosella and will aid her. Finding the magical fruit is optional, but failing to do so will not give a happy ending.
King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! (1990)
King's Quest V was the most innovative King's Quest since Quest For the Crown's 1984 release. Released in November 1990 , its graphics were amazing and it became the highest selling computer game in history up to that point. It was later released as a "talkie" CD rom; (it is noticeable that here Graham looks very young and well-built compared to his assumed years).
The evil wizard Mordack, brother of Manannan (the antagonist of KQIII), shrinks Daventry castle and puts it in a bottle. King Graham was the only one who wasn't trapped, since he was out for a walk during the spell. Mordack wanted Alexander to restore Manannan who was now a cat. Graham arrives in Serenia, and with the help of the doddering old wizard Crispin and his familiar, Cedric the owl, he must travel to Mordack's castle and free his family. On his way he frees his slave girl, Princess Cassima of the Land of the Green Isles.
The owl Cedric accompanies Graham through the entire game to provide comment, and has to be rescued from danger at several points, but the owl never in fact does anything useful - hence his unpopularity to most of the fans, and easter eggs in future Sierra games that showed Cedric being harmed in some way. (In Space Quest 4, while playing the Ms. Astro Chicken game, you net 50 points for hitting Cedric. In Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist, you can see vultures eating Cedric.)
The game KQV is infamous for its large amount of dead ends and obtuse puzzles, such as a magical machine which is powered by rotten cheese, and a nearly impossible maze which, rather than keeping north to the upper side of the screen, changes directions with perspectives. Also, there is more than one situation - not difficult-to-cause ones, either - where completing the game is made impossible. Thus, it is rarely completed by anyone without resorting to a walkthrough.
The wizard Manannan from KQIII (named after a figure from Celtic mythology) is consistently named Mannanan in this game. This is likely a typo, albeit an extensive one.
King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (1992)
King's Quest VI is universally known as the high point of the series for its in-depth plot, its landmark 3D graphic introduction movie, and its great voice acting, with actor Robby Benson providing the voice for Alexander, the game's protagonist.
Prince Alexander can't get Cassima (Mordack's slavegirl he met during his imprisonment in King's Quest V) out of his mind. The Mirror sends him a vision of her, and Alexander manages to reach her land by ship. He learns that she is destined to be married to the evil Vizier Abdul Alhazred of the Green Isles by force. In the optimal game route, Alexander travels to land of the dead to free Cassima's dead parents who were killed by the Vizier. Alexander must also finally stop the wedding and free Cassima.
King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride (1994)
King's Quest VII's release in 1994 featured cartoony graphics and animations and in high resolution. It was met with mixed reviews by longtime series fans, but sales were high. Perhaps most controversial was the use of the cursor that would light up when passed over an object that could be used. Previous games required the player to select Look At, Talk To, Use, and other options with items, and were not given the location of usable items by the light-up cursor.
Queen Valanice and Rosella fall in a lake and find themselves drawn into the realm of Eldritch. Valanice finds herself in a desert, and Rosella ends up in the Troll realm, transformed into one, and destined to marry its King. Each must pursue her own course to find each other and help prevent the destruction of Eldritch by the evil fairy Malicia. The action is separated in 6 chapters, each of which the player controls alternatively either Valanice or Rosella. Often they visit the same places and meet up in the end.
Although very unlike to the previous games, the game featured many different places for the player to explore, had alternative solutions to some of the puzzles, and two alternate endings, including a happy ending with Edgar, introduced in the fourth game. KQ VII is the only game of the series where King Graham is not shown or mentioned at all; however, there are voice credits listed for him, leading one to believe that he was originally intended to be in the game, however briefly.
King's Quest VIII: The Mask of Eternity (1998)
It was the only part of the series where the player is not King Graham or one of his blood relations.
The Realm of the Sun is a place above Daventry where the Archons, magical beings, guard the Mask of Eternity. Their chief turns evil and shatters the Mask into pieces. Daventry's inhabitants turn into stone and the land sickens. Connor is the only person to remain alive because a Mask shard fell on his feet. Connor then is appointed by a wizard to travel through different lands and collect all the Mask pieces, eventually arrive to the Realm of the Sun and fix it, bringing life back to his land.
This chapter of the series is cosmologically inconsistent to the others. KQ VII showed that above Daventry is Etheria, ruled by Oberon and Titania, while here this is replaced by the Realm of the Sun and the Archons. Also, here the Dimension of Death replaces the Realm of the Dead of KQ VI.
King’s Quest III was the first game in which Sierra used a manual-based copy protection scheme. Nearly all AGI games (including King’s Quest III) have a disk-based copy protection, requiring the original game disk to be present in order to play the game. This wasn't entirely effective and unofficial versions were widespread. (This key-disk check was removed from the later released "King's Quest Collection" versions.) However, to complete King’s Quest III, the player needs to create a number of magic spells, through alchemical formulae that are only available in the game’s manual. Many considered the process slightly overdone – 140 of the 210 possible points in the game are obtained through simply doing what the manual says, leaving less room for real puzzles. Starting with KQIV, later Sierra games would open with a dialog requesting that the player enter word X from page Y of the manual.
Three books have been published by Boulevard Books .
- The Floating Castle (1995): Written by Craig Mills, placed between KQ III and IV, it follows Alexander on a quest to discover what is behind the mysterious Floating Castle and the monstrous invasions over the kingdom.
- The Kingdom of Sorrow (1996): Written by Kenyon Morr, placed between II and III, it follows the adventures of Graham who moves to rescue an imprisoned Fairy Queen held by the giant Dunstan, in order to return balance in nature.
- See no Weevil (1996): Also written by Kenyon Morr and placed close to the previous book, it focuses on Rosella who on her 15 must run the kingdom of Daventry during an absence of her parents.
The books haven't acclaimed high reviews, but King's Quest fans understand that although these books do not belong in the high fantasy genre generally, they are written and intended especially for them.
- "King's Quest: Past, Present and Future", a 1997 retrospective by Noah Koontz
- Sierra Planet, about Sierra's games designed by Roberta Williams, co-founder (with husband Ken Williams) of Sierra Entertainment
- King's Quest discussion forum
- The King's Quest Chronicles, a fan site
- Anonymous Game Developers Interactive
- Sierra On-Line Fan Site, run by the one and only Ken Williams
- Official King's Quest IX website - although the website is "official," the King's Quest 9 game is not; it is fan-made
- MobyGames' entry for the King's Quest series
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