I still remember the first time I played a King’s Quest game. I must’ve been 8 or 9, because I think King’s Quest III was already out, and distinctly remember being excited for the release of Kings Quest IV soon thereafter. My family had only recently gotten a computer—a beige, Volvoesque 286 running MS-DOS that sat on a table in the basement. After quickly reaching the limits of my amusement with PacMan and poking around teaching myself a bit about the operating system, I decided I needed some better games. I remember flipping through the boxes in some musty little computer shop—home computers were still far from ubiquitous, and the feel was a bit like that of a Dungeons and Dragons supply shop crossed with an office waiting room. One stuck out: a gold-framed cover showing a man in a feathered cap reaching toward a floating door. It was King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne, and I’d spend hours poking around the pixelated 16-color land of Kolyma solving fairy-tale inspired puzzles (some of them, in retrospect, pretty irrational) in search of the requisite damsel in distress. I’m still a little nostalgic for the old Sierra command line interface, where the action was controlled by inputting instructions for you character rather than by pointing and clicking.
All of this was on my mind because the folks at Homestar Runner recently released a parody game in that style called Peasant’s Quest, in which you seek vengance for the burnination of your cottage by the dragon Trogdor. You can check out this walkthrough if you get stuck. Or if you’re a big fat cheater.
Nostalgia activated, though, I discovered something even cooler. A company called AGD Interactive has released both a soung/graphics updated version of the original King’s quest and a total revamp of KQII. Their version, in addition to better graphics and sound, has a heavily rewritten plotline that ties together the random series of puzzles that marked the original in a coherent plot. It’s a remake in the same sense as the new Manchurian Candidate: recognizable, but very different indeed. Other groups of old-school Sierra fans are working on homebrewed new games in the Kings Quest and Space Quest series. The copyright holders appear not to be freaking out, and it’ll be great if these fantastic characters and worlds are able to survive their “official” demise. Lawrence Lessig would be proud.