King’s Quest I: Landmark Adventure Game From 1984

King's Quest I

King’s Quest launched in May 1984. It was developed by now defunct developer Sierra On-Line. Along with early text adventures games like Cave Adventure, Sierra’s effort was a landmark step in video games.

Due to subsequent sequels, the game is now usually called King’s Quest I or, after its 1987 re-release, King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown.

It may look primitive now, but for the adventure game genre this was a big step forward. And Sierra’s title paved the way for genre-defining classics.

Early Point and Click Shenanigans in King’s Quest I

American game designer and writer Roberta Williams contributed enormously to this one, along with programmers Charles Tingley and Ken MacNeill. Plus, many other artists.

Worth highlighting Williams, though, as she’s an example of how women have long had a say in video games! It’s not just geezers, you know? She even contributed to a major 1990 remake.

Back in the day, King’s Quest I launched on all sorts of systems. Behold:

  • IBM PCjr (1984)
  • Tandy 1000 (1984)
  • Apple IIe (1984)
  • Atari ST (1986)
  • Amiga (1986)
  • Macintosh
  • MS-DOS
  • Apple IIGS (1988)
  • SEGA Master System (1989)

The original game launched across those over several years, but the VERY FIRST outing hit the IBM PCjr in May 1984.

Previous adventure games, included a pre-drawn screen and a description of some sort. And you’d type your commands into the screen to progress (think of 1977’s Cave Adventure). But King’s Quest was the first ever adventure game to add in graphical animation as part of the world you inhabit.

The plot!? You’re in the Kingdom of Daventry. Due to recent disasters and hardship you, the brave knight Sir Grahame, is summoned by the King. It’s your duty to head off to discover three treasures across the land.

Should you find the swag, the kingdom is thine own! Thus, off you head into a world of retro pixel art and no soundtrack.

Yes, so two things modern gamers may note there:

  1. The game is only 30 minutes long.
  2. There’s no music.

Both were common back in 1984. The total lack of music in games was fairly standard for quite a few titles. May seem odd, but there you go. Technical limitations and that.

However, King Quest I was a technical marvel in 1984, boasting a palette of 16 colours and 8×6 cyclic screen and rooms making up the world of Daventry. And plenty of indoor environments to explore, too.

Seriously, that thing would have blown your socks off if you’d been around in the day. It was a bold step towards being a modern type of video game.

The sense of exploration would have been unrivalled.

But its landmark nature will be lost on any modern players taking to it now. It’s primitive, but decent enough to play still. Just showing its age.

When it came out, critics loved the game and hailed it as a classic.

And in 2020, it was also added into the World Video Game Hall of Fame by The Strong National Museum of Play in New York.

That makes it more of an important historical marker in the world of gaming, particularly the adventure game genre. Rather than it being something you should rush out to play right now at all costs.

And Then There Were the King’s Quest I Remakes

To note, a batch of remakes popped up. The first one was Roberta Williams’ King’s Quest I: Quest for the Crown (1990), which featured overhauled graphics and a soundtrack (you can’t hear it in the above clip).

Yes, so that was Williams taking the 1984 effort she’d contribute to and advancing it on considerably. For the time, anyway, it got a modern overhaul.

However, that was heavily criticised at the time. The remake didn’t get good reviews and was also a commercial failure, halting any future remakes.

At least for a decade, anyway, as Tierra Entertainment released an unofficial remake in 2001. Behold!

This one added in plenty of voice acting and the like. Whether it’s a good thing or not is up for debate.

The likes of The Secret of Monkey Island did a remake much better in 2009. But hey ho, 2001 was still the early days of remakes. They’re much more common these days.

The Fate of the King’s Quest Series

The series continued on unabated after the first outing. The final one, 1998’s Masks of Eternity, is featured above. Behold how it has advanced from the original concept!

But in full, here are the rest of the games spread out over a decade:

  • 1985: Romancing the Throne
  • 1986: To Heir Is Human
  • 1988: The Perils of Rosella
  • 1990: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!
  • 1992: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
  • 1994: The Princeless Bride
  • 1998: Mask of Eternity

Finally, indie studio The Odd Gentlemen, based in California, rebooted the series in 2015 with King’s Quest. Here it is!

The game was released episodically over five chapters. The last was The Good Knight. All were pretty well received with solid reviews!

As a genre, adventure games are kind of considered a bit old hat these days. With the big popular genres like FPS and MMORPGs attracting many millions of players, meticulous and slow moving adventure games often don’t get a look in.

But there’s clearly an audience there, as recent indie titles like Norco (2022) prove. And it all harks back to 1984 and what King’s Quest I achieved. All hail, thine special beast!

Dispense with some gibberish!

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