What is it?
King’s Quest is a graphic adventure game released in 1984 by Sierra. It went on to become a series of eight games, the last coming out in 1998. There is also a 2015 game titled King’s Quest, which is a “reimagining” of the series rather than a remake or a sequel. The episodes in the new game occur between the original games, filling in gaps and taking some creative license with events in the previous instalments in the series.
In the original adventure you play Sir Graham, a knight in the kingdom of Daventry. King Edward, lacking an heir, will make Graham the next king if he can retrieve three magical treasures stolen from the realm — a mirror, a shield and a chest of gold. Subsequent games in the series follow a similar format. In King’s Quest II, the now King Graham must retrieve three keys to rescue a princess. The third game features a new hero, Gwydion, who must escape from an evil wizard’s house by breaking into the wizard’s lab, reading his spell book and collecting ingredients to cast the spells. Gwydion is later revealed to be King Graham’s son.
King’s Quest I was designed as a pixellated graphic adventure game with a command prompt interface that accepted simple verb/noun commands such as “get rock” or “talk man”. Players could write phrases like “talk to the man” and the engine would simply filter out the extra words “to” and “the” to understand the command. The character was moved around a pseudo-3D environment (ie you could walk “behind” a tree or house) using the arrow keys or numeric keypad. The interface in later games was point-and-click. The puzzles in the games draw heavily on folklore, fairytale and mythology and several have alternate solutions (but may come with a points penalty or unhappier story arc).
Women and the Game
King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella is the first in the series where the player takes on the role of a woman, Gwydion’s sister Rosella. This game takes place in real time, with the player have 24 hours (with saves, of course!) to complete the quest. Certain puzzles can only be completed during the day and others at night. Rosella is in search of a magical fruit that will save her father’s life.
King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride features two female protagonists, Queen Valanice and Princess Rosella, who attempt to find each other after Rosella has been kidnapped by trolls and lined up to marry their king.
However, the King’s Quest series is really remarkable for the contribution of Roberta Williams who, along with the programming skills of her husband, Ken, created the first graphic adventure game, Mystery House, in 1980 and brought a new dimension to text adventures/interactive fiction. Their next creation, King’s Quest, was the first 3D (well, really more like 2.5D!) graphic adventure game and spawned a series that went on to sell millions of copies. Williams has rightly been called the “Queen of the Graphic Adventure”.
Blog post by Jimmy Maher on the history of Sierra On-Line
Roberta Williams interview on Adventure Classic Gaming