Sierra Adventure Games Episode.016

Back in the 1980s, my dad acquired an Apple IIgs computer.  During that time, in what was a golden decade for the company, Apple games were abundant.  The company Babbage’s, which has now evolved into the huge chain, Gamestop, offered computer games much like you see in retail stores across the country today.  Beyond computer game stores, I vividly remember a monthly club that got together at a church auditorium that focused exclusively on Apple software.  It would allow others who were involved in using the computer to get in touch with other Apple users in the area.  The features of the club were really incredible for a young kid like me, though.  They had a video game library.  You were allowed to take one game for the month.  Friends in the club would temporarily donate some of their games for others to try.  Then once the mingling portion was done, one individual would do a presentation or tutorial on a particular software program that might be new or a difficult program to understand.

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It was through this club that I was very fortunate to discover what would be my favorite series of video games of all time, even to this day.  There was a company in California called Sierra, Inc., that was founded by Ken and Roberta Williams.  The company is now actually owned by Activision Blizzard though they were originally bought out by Vivendi games back in the late 90s around 2000.  However, back in the 80s, Sierra was one of the biggest companies in computer video games.  Programmers were legendary among gamers like Al Lowe, the creator of Leisure Suit Larry.  It was with this company that emerged a series of adventure point-and-click games.  One of these was King’s Quest.

Initially released in 1983, King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown, placed the user in control of Sir Graham, the world of Daventry’s greatest knight, to reclaim three stolen magical items to the monarch.  There was basically no violence in the game.  In fact, you would be penalized if aggressive actions were taken.  It was built on a points system similar to the achievement awards you find in numerous consoles of today.  It gave not only a goal to reach for to get a sense of accomplishment, but it also provided a hint if you missed anything along the way as you could beat the game with a less than perfect score.  Reaching the highest possible total would provide complete exposure to the game.  There were puzzles throughout that were almost in the form of riddles (in fact there is an actual riddle in the middle of the game), and it provided players with a different approach to solving a game by exploration and discovery.  Rich in mythology, legend, and fairytales, the entire King’s Quest series provided children and adults with reflections of age old stories and introductions to new ones in order to complete each obstacle.

With the great success of the first installment, seven additions were created over the next few decades although the bulk of the series was done in the first ten years.  Each one provided better graphics, more in depth story and puzzles, voiced characters, music, and sound effects alike.

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King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne, a play-on words for the Michael Douglas movie, Romancing the Stone, that came out in 1984 when the game was in development, took up after KQ 1 ended.  In this installment, Graham has become King and is looking for a wife.  He finds an imprisoned woman in a far off tower while looking through a magic mirror and is whisked away to the land in hopes of rescuing her.  Similarly to KQ1, three items have to be acquired in order to complete the game, in this case three keys to unlock a triple door that leads to the tower holding the lady captive.

King’s Quest III: To Heir Is Human, offered the unique feature of time keeping as the game ran on its own built-in clock that the player had to keep track of in order to not get caught by the evil wizard while the player snuck out of the house to explore the countryside.  Although still enjoyable of a game, it was a bit weaker in plot as the objective simply is to thwart the wizard that has the player kidnapped in his house to do his chores.  It offers spellcasting in the form of various ingredient gathering.

The fourth installment was King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, and this was the game that I was handed to first.  It was years later before I even played the first two games let along the rest of the series.  I fell in love with this game and played it forever.  I even had Mom and Dad play the game on their own every now and again.  When we discovered something new, we would bring the others into the room and show them what we did.  It was an incredible game, but it had a few spots where you struggled to get to a certain point only to realize that you lacked an item from earlier thin the game.  These kinds of dead ends happened frequently in adventure games back then, so it was common to have 5 or 6 saved files from various moments in the game.  It wasn’t perhaps until the mid to late 90s before I actually beat the game.

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The “ease” of making a simple game and the greater exposure online to sell the product to customers has led to the reemergence of adventure point-and-click games for the nostalgia and hopefully newcomers.  With Kickstarter, Steam, and GoG, these games are finding light once again.  There was a span of about 10-15 years when computers were exploding with power in a short amount of time.  You remember those days when you bought a computer, and it was obsolete within 6 months because Intel came out with a new processor.  During this period, games of the 80s and early 90s were having trouble running at all on more powerful computers.  Even today, unless given the proper software, these games don’t run properly.  Fortunately through assistance programs like DosBox, these games can live again in our homes.  Even more fortunately, since the file sizes of the games are next to nothing compared to today’s games, we are able to install and run these games on our tablets and even some phones.  And really the King’s Quest series, along with Quest for Glory, Leisure Suit Larry, and Space Quest series, will provide well over 100 hours of playing time as a complete collection.  Since they are simplified, there is no concern of quitting a game for a few weeks and forgetting where you left off.

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And after Disney purchased LucasArts, the ridiculous decisions of the past to not re-release their games from the 90s is now coming to an end.  So the equally challenging collection of adventure games like Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle (from Tim Shafer) are getting the green light finally.  After years of publishers thinking adventure games were dead (because no one was making them), their popularity is slowly returning (although they will never be as popular as, say, first person shooters).

Call it nostalgia, or call it rediscovery.  Exposure to these classic games that came about during one of the most exciting decades in computer software history is a warm welcome home to an old friend.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

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