Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Game 42: King's Quest Remake - Introduction


It's actually quite strange that the King's Quest Collection on Steam has this version rather than the original. Not a very accurate journey through the evolution of the series.

We’ve made it to the first remake on the list, and unsurprisingly it’s the original Sierra “Quest” game that got the treatment. The original King’s Quest was a huge success, and pretty much all adventure games that have come after it owe it a debt in some way or another. But interfaces, visuals and sound quality had moved on a fair bit by 1990 (six years after the original’s release), and some bright spark at Sierra realised they could apply the most up to date engine to the game and stick it back up on the shelf. We’ll discuss how successful this plan was a bit later, but first let’s take a look at who was involved in the project. Roberta Williams is still listed as the game’s designer, but given it’s a remake, one has to wonder how much involvement she really had. I’ve not played the remake previously, so I don’t yet know how different it is (if at all) from story and puzzle points of view. Perhaps someone can find an article, such as an interview, that clarifies her involvement? Regardless, no other members of the original King’s Quest team took part in the remake. Sol Ackerman, Charles Tingley, Greg Rowland and the MacNeil brothers had all left making adventure games behind by this stage, while Chris Iden and Jeff Stephenson were busy making King’s Quest V (Roberta likely was too).


I've read that there were two separate covers for the game, but haven't been able to find the other one.

So who was involved? Well it seems to me that this game was a training ground for wannabe programmers. The experienced Jerry Shaw (Police Quest 2, Hero’s Quest) was leading the show, but there were no less than six first time programmers working beneath him (Gary Kamigawachi, Randy MacNeill, Raoul Said, Chad Bye, Oliver Brelsford and Mark Wilden). All of them would go on to work on future Sierra adventure games (our friend Corey Cole will definitely recognise a few of those names). The Art Designer was William Skirvin (Larry II & III, King’s Quest IV), while the animation and backgrounds were handled by the majority of the team that worked on Codename: ICEMAN (Jeff Crowe, Cheryl Loyd, Cindy Walker) along with newcomer Jennifer Shontz. Finally, the game’s music and sound effects were produced by Ken Allen (The Colonel’s Bequest). What’s interesting is that this was the very last adventure game that Sierra made with the SCI0 engine. Given the purpose of the remake was to modernise the aging original, I have to question why they didn’t wait a few months for the superior SCI1. As it is, the resulting game, which was released as Roberta Williams’ King’s Quest I: Quest for the Crown, has a similar look to King’s Quest IV, using 16 colours (the same amount as the original) and offering optional mouse and soundcard support.


It sure seems a long time since I replayed this!


It's definitely a step up, but not as pretty as I would have hoped.

The response to the remake was pretty bad, with many critics and fans feeling that Sierra had “destroyed a classic”. The process of updating the game was compared to colorizing classic black and white films, which was frowned upon by lovers of cinema. It wouldn’t be the last time that Sierra would remake series-launching games (Leisure Suit Larry, Space Quest, Police Quest and Hero’s Quest would all get remade in the next couple of years), but it did halt their plans to remake more of the early games in the King’s Quest series. It’s important to note, particularly for those wanting to play along, that an unofficial remake was made by Tierra Entertainment in 2001. I’ll be playing the version that’s included in the King’s Quest Collection that’s available on Steam (the GOG collection doesn’t contain the remake). For some reason I wasn’t able to find the collection on Steam to purchase, but using one of Lars-Erik’s gifts (the one that Laukku has declined to take) allowed me to get it. I’ve downloaded the files from Steam, but will be running the game with my own settings in DOSBox. A quick look back at the Year Ahead post for 1990 reveals that it was Laukku who traded CAPs to make me play the game, so I assume he’ll be playing along (right?). Anyone else up for a little treasure hunt? Shouldn't take long!


Better than King's Quest V you say?!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance (see below for an example bet). If you get it right I will reward you with 20 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

Example Bet:

Vg frrzrq n onetnva V unq sbhaq
Creuncf V fubhyq unir xabja
N cynpr jvgu ornhgl nyy nebhaq
Fubhyq pbfg zhpu zber gb bja

Jub nz V sbe 20 PNCf naq n pbcl bs Ora Gurer, Qna Gung & Gvzr Tragyrzra Cyrnfr (qbangrq ol Ynef-Revx bapr ntnva)?

Extra Note: Once again, Lars-Erik will gift the next readily available game on the list to the reader that correctly predicts what score I will give this game. So, if you predict the right score (or are closest), you will get 10 CAPs and a copy of The Secret of Monkey Island from Steam. It foesn't get much better than that!? Good luck!

52 comments:

  1. Eek, now my if/of typo is screenshotted for all to see! :-)

    I'm going to guess 60. It looks pretty good, has great music and is the second Sierra game to have digitized sound effects (after SQIII). The exploration-based gameplay was really fun, as was experimenting with various things. There are several alternate solutions too, which is always a good thing in puzzle design. Story is simple but cute.

    >this was the very last adventure game that Sierra made with the SCI0 engine

    Isn't Quest for Glory 2 still using it?

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    1. Close, on Mobygames' trivia section for Quest for Glory 2...


      QFG2 is the only Sierra game which used the Sierra SCI 0.5 interpreter.

      SCI0 was the interpreter used for QFG1, LL2 and 3 and other EGA Sierra games, while SCI1 was used for the VGA point and click games.

      The only obvious difference is that if you right click on things, it is the same as typing "look thing". Another added bonus is the fact that you can use the MT-32 emulation of the SBAWE32 on it, which you couldn't on SCI0 games.

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    2. I'll talk more about this when Trickster gets to the Quest for Glory 1 VGA remake, but relevant to this post... From a development standpoint, there was no difference between the engines we used for Hero's Quest vs. Quest for Glory II. SCI was continually updated and improved throughout the 90's and late 80's. We did not make any in-house distinctions between "SCI 0", "SCI 0.5", etc. If we did, it would probably be more like "SCI 0.4492" and "SCI 0.4781". That's closer to how often it changed (most of the changes being trivial bug fixes or features requested by a game development team).

      Interface changes such as right-click to Look were in the game, not in the SCI engine. We decided that would be a good feature and implemented it. Incidentally, we are bringing that back for Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption after testing and getting feedback on our playable demo. Left-click brings up an action menu, and Right-click does a "Look at". Both are sensitive to context and history - They change depending on the game state and what the player has done previously. In later Quest for Glory games, we used right-click to switch verb modes. I don't like modal interfaces (I find them non-intuitive and cumbersome), so we are using a much more consistent, relatively non-modal, interface this time.

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    3. Can't wait to play Hero-U! Argh!

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  2. Disappointingly, this remake is almost purely a graphical/sound upgrade with 16 colours and a parser interface. All the other Quest games that were remade used the new mouse interface and 256 colours, which means the puzzles were noticeably different.

    And the reason you can't see it on Steam is, I imagine, the same reason I can't buy it - they don't want to sell it to Aussies.

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    1. Considering the original got a 48, and we've got some great games in the meantime, I think I'm going to keep my guess at 48. It might get a skewed score due to some horrible games lately, but I think getting Loom in there might push it back down again.

      Let me know if you want me to ship you a code, seems like gifting works.

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  3. And, for a score, I'll go with a 44. In my opinion, most other games were much more complex and interesting by 1990 so if time of release is taken into account it won't fare as well as the original did.

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  4. 49 is my guess for this one.

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  5. I'll guess 50 for a slight bump in graphics and sound, but from what I've read it's pretty much the same. I do wonder how jaded Trickster is after playing the last two games, and if that will alter his scoring.

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    1. I'll grab 50 as well, since if everything else is the same, and the graphics are a bit better, I'd guess it would get 1 point in Sound and Graphics, which would move it from 48.33 to a 50. I'll also withdraw from the Adventure Game draw, since I won't be playing that game.

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    2. Hmm, that seems sane: Manhunter 2: San Francisco, and Gold Rush! both got 50s. On the other hand, that would put it equal in
      the second S to Future Wars: Adventures in Time, Leisure Suit Larry, Mean Streets, The Colonel's Bequest, King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon, Police Quest II: The Vengeance, and Leisure Suit Larry III.

      That seems sane again, and I don't have time to go looking for screenshot comparisons. Feel free to win by looking up screenshot by screenshot comparisons.

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  6. Well... 51 I guess, although the graphics didn't seem such an improvement even in 1990...

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  7. I'll guess 52, cards in a deck with no Joker. :-) The team made a serious attempt at cleaning up the game and improving asset quality, but I'm not sure how much they could really do that in 16 colors. Jerry Shaw is working with us currently, so I'll try to get him to comment on the extent of the changes.

    When Sierra made the decision to stop doing remakes, I was told that the Quest for Glory 1 remake was the only one that had been profitable. However, Sierra made a blanket decision, so they decided not to remake Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire. Even the QG1 remake had a tough battle to profitability, as it cost significantly more to develop than the original Hero's Quest, close to the cost of a new, original game. As a result, Sierra decided their resources were better spent on new products.

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    1. Really? I thought the new Sierra engine would be a lot more developer-friendly with tools that help to port in texts/assets from the old engine into the new one. Well... at least, that's what I'd imagine it would.

      I'll take 54 since the original had 48; +1 for Sound, +1 for Graphics, +1 for polishing and a final +1 for stronger parser.

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  8. Hmm. I'll go a 50 for graphics and sound, as I recall the game being pretty well identical. I'll play through if I can find the time! (That said I'm not expecting multiple posts.)

    As for the riddle, Nqevraar Qrynarl?

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    1. I would have guessed that too. I think, I'll try Zvxr Qnjfba from Qnex Frrq, since that involves also buying a house from an "idyllic" neighbourhood.

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    2. There again, the problem was less the house and more the mirrors in it, right?

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    3. Ilmari is correct! Man, I'd planned out a much longer riddle, as I never expected anyone to get it so early. It's damn hard to put one past you!

      20 CAPs coming your way.

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    4. Oh I forgot, this means you also win a copy of Ben There, Dan That & Time Gentlemen Please. Do you have both of those already?

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    5. It was the right answer??? Didn't see that coming at all. It only came to my mind, since I had recently played Dark Seed 2 (one weird of a sequel there) and the riddle kind of fit the first game.

      My collection of so recent games is far from adequate, so I'll accept them both gladly (although I guess I won't get to play them until 10 years from now...)

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  9. Well, the changes are minor, I think. Graphics and interface are slightly better, at least one puzzle is slightly tweaked and the game allows less alternative paths. Probably some added descriptions also. Still, I guess that the simple plot and EGA-graphics make the game feel a bit dated by now, so it might get even a lower score than the original. I'll guess 46.

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  10. Say, I see the next guest game is coming up. When do we get to volunteer for it? (I am not saying that I've got pretty well started with writing about the Oregon Trail, but I'll just imply that with all the subtlety of a falling meteor.)

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    1. Haha, I'd already pencilled in your name next to it Ilmari. I guess we should follow the rules though, so here goes.

      Ahem...The Oregon Trail has now hit the future destination list, which means it's up for grabs if anyone wants to guest blog their way through it. Are there any takers? Anyone? Bueller?

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    2. Wish I had more time, so I could pretend to fight Ilmari over this honor. ;)

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    3. Do we have to use the original version, or could I use the version I grew up with? I wouldn't mind doing a Let's Play or guest blog of that. *Readies his claymore*

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    4. I guess it has to be the 1990 version, that is, the first DOS version.

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    5. Since it's the Oregon Trail, flintlocks only. Swords not allowed, kemosabe. *Readies his popcorn*

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  11. Hey, here is a crazy idea Trickster: Why don't you do single post summaries of remakes, like Chet does on his blog for early non-PC titles? The writing takes you far, far longer then the playing, and I bet that is even more true in games you've already beaten for the blog.

    On the OTHER hand, stuff that was this early didn't get the best write up, as you are a far, far better writer now then when you started, so it is a cool chance to see you go back to some early games.

    On the third mutant hand, my belated lunch break is done, so I have to go back to typing up a spreadsheet of all the reactions, cyanide IR stretches, and luminescence of all the reactions I've done on my new project.

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    1. Yes, I thought about doing a summary post, but I agree that my early posts were nowhere near as thorough as they are these days. I'm going to treat the remake as a new game,while still comparing scenes to the original.

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  12. Everyone seems to be going for low scores! (Other than Laukku, anyway). I will go for a higher score: 56.

    I still think the remake has something to offer, even if it is mostly a sound and visual update. The original King's Quest was one of the first proper games I ever played, and Sierra was a feature in my gaming life from that point onward. I wouldn't say the remake can hold a candle to KQ5 though, which amazed me with it's amazing artwork and music (even if some of the puzzles are notorious!).

    I shall be playing along! Even though I've completed it before, it's quite a short and fun game, so I look forward to returning to Daventry.

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    1. Although KQ5 has excellent graphics and sound, I think it's a bad game otherwise. The puzzles are legendarily stupid, and story lame and poorly thought out. The voice acting in the CD version is also hilariously amateurish.

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    2. And that goddamned owl.

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  13. I don't know what the default settings are in the Steam release, but to get digitized sound effects you need to set SoundBlaster as the audio card. (It has the same OPL2 music synthesis chip as AdLib, with the difference being that it supports sample playback as well.) The problem is, Vivendi decided to remove the executable that lets you change settings. I posted a link to a fanmade patch that restores missing files a couple posts ago, but the faster and simpler solution is to open RESOURCE.CFG in Notepad and set "soundDrv=SNDBLAST.DRV".

    I guess I'll play along, since Trickster is apparently expecting me to. Let's see if I can remember how to get a full score.

    BTW, anyone seen this old demo for the game?

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    1. notepad? http://notepad-plus-plus.org/

      Also, am I the only one who finds editing well documented settings files easier then screwing around with some old dos application?

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  14. Is it Nqevraar Qrynarl sebz Cunagnfzntbevn?

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    1. Nope, sorry. Ilmari nailed it above.

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  15. http://store.steampowered.com/app/228300/

    Remember me!!! Going off at 33% of its original price. For you cyberpunk maniacs out there.

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    1. That isn't an adventure game Kenny. That is a bad, repetitive action game. It was sold as a creative adventure type game with the memory alteration mechanic, but as I understand it you only do it about four times in the game. Many of us had very high hopes for the game, then were disgusted at the tripe they tried to sell us.

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    2. Oh well. I got my CAPs, anyway. Not really a fan of games with female protagonists, really. Can't relate with them. Women, amirite?

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    3. .................... 1) That wasn't why it failed
      2) Games with female protagonists are the best: Portal, Mirrors Edge, Mass Effect (There was a male option?)
      3) I'm pretty sure that I now have to gut you like a fish for being a sexist pig. Well, castration is an option, but most guys will pick the gutting option.....

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  16. Hi. I'm Jerry Shaw, lead programmer for KQ1 remake. Corey asked me to share a few memories.
    Wow, this takes me back! Fun fact about this game: the art was nearly finished when Roberta finally took time away from KQ4 to look at it. She thought that the art was too realistic and too different from the original game's look. She decided that fans wouldn't like the change.
    My old friend Ken Nishawa (sp?) was the original art director and a fine artist. He had a far different vision for the look of the game. He used the increased resolution to create more apparent colors by putting colors next to each other so they blended. His style was also more realistic. Personally, I thought it looked great, and I was - along with Ken and several others - bummed that they threw all of it out.
    Bill Skirvin replaced Ken as art director for the project, and churned out what we see now in a few weeks. The idea was to replace the art without overly-impacting the programming, which was largely complete by then. Of course, that worked out about as well as anyone with experience might expect (badly). Which is why it was late, and why it might've been the last EGA game SOL shipped.
    And, yes, there were several game-programmers-in-training on KQ1 and SQ1 remakes. It gave both the programmers and Sierra a chance to see what they could do. Core SCI at the application programming level changed little over the years (we were largely insulated from changes do to soundcard differences, for example), so their experience on KQ1 applied to many other games later on. Not a bad thing.
    As for the actual game design, our mandate was to implement the original game as closely to the original as possible, since Roberta was busy working on KQ4. It might be interesting for you to play both side-by-side to see how well we achieved that goal.

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    1. Man, you hear more horror stories about game dev.... I'd love to see that art, though sadly I suspect it has all been lost...

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    2. Wow, that's sad to hear. I guess that explains the screenshot with different background art on the back of the box. (Found the image from this site.)

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    3. Wow, I didn't know that about throwing out Kenn's art. What a shame! Although the screen shot Laukku posted is a little low on contrast and I'm sure the dithered art took up more disk and memory space.

      By the way, if the KQI remake shipped in 1990, Roberta would have been working on King's Quest V. KQIV shipped in 1988, my first year at Sierra - My first job was to convert it (and the SCI system) to the Atari ST.

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    4. Interesting comments. I remember reading about this release in the Sierra publication. Both names escape me right now, of course. I think "Interaction" was the later one. Anyway, I do recall purchasing the Space Quest remake, but I couldn't find it in stores, so I ended up mail-ordering it from somewhere.

      I also remember having to send off my KQ4 disks to Sierra to exchange them for the AGI version. The 4.77MHz 8088 XT couldn't handle the SCI version. The exchange offer was in the box. I don't think I ever saw the AGI version in stores.

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    5. Thank you for commenting on the blog Jerry! I still pinch myself that my little project manages to draw the attention of important figures in the industry.

      After playing the game last night, I can confirm that you met your mandate very successfully. There are a few changes that I've noticed, but the whole experience is very similar to the first one, albeit with improved interface, visuals and sound.

      It's interesting to read that Roberta still had a big influence on the result, even if she wasn't directly involved in the game's creation. It's easy to see both sides of the equation there. Your team would likely feel pretty disappointed that someone outside the project team could come in and make drastic changes, while Roberta would have such clear ideas about the way "her baby" should look and feel, and would therefore be compelled to influence the outcome.

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    6. Throwing art away is like burning books in a Nazi bonfire! Abominable!

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    7. They lost the art to Baldur's Gate. :( Turns out that was the one server that wasn't backed up properly. :(

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    8. I want to thank you both, Mr. Shaw and Mr. Cole, for taking the time to comment here. Your knowledge really fills in the picture and helps us see where it all fits in. It's really appreciated!

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  17. Already finished it (again!), this time in a mere 50 minutes. I probably could have shaved ten minutes off that time, if I hadn't died three times and spent a while wandering around trying to remember where everything is.

    Didn't manage a perfect score though, 154 out of 158. Will update my blog tomorrow.

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  18. I'm finished already too, with a perfect score. I almost missed some points and was hesitating just before the end cutscene, wondering what I hadn't done, until I realized I forgot to npghnyyl ernq gur abgr (sebz gur Jvgpu'f ubhfr) V jnf pneelvat nyzbfg gur jubyr gvzr.

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