King's Quest I

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King's Quest
King's Quest: Quest for the Crown
Apple II 1987 re-release cover art
Developer(s) Sierra On-Line
Publisher(s) IBM, Sierra On-Line
Parker Brothers (SMS)
Designer(s) Roberta Williams
Series King's Quest
Engine AGI
Platform(s) IBM PCjr, Tandy 1000, Amiga, Apple II, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, Macintosh, MS-DOS, Master System
Release date(s) July 1983[1] & May 10, 1984 (original)
September 19, 1990 (remake)
Genre(s) Adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

King's Quest is an adventure game developed by Sierra On-Line and published originally for the IBM PCjr in 1983 and later for several other systems between 1984 and 1989. The game was originally titled simply as King's Quest; the subtitle Quest for the Crown was added to the game box in the 1987 rerelease, but did not appear in the game itself.

It is as the first official part of the long King's Quest series (not counting 1980's Wizard and the Princess), in which a young knight, Sir Graham, must save the Kingdom of Daventry to become the king. Designed by Roberta Williams, the game was revolutionary and highly influential in the evolution of the graphic adventure game genre by introducing more detailed graphics and animation.

An official remake titled Roberta Williams' King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown was released in 1990. An unofficial remake titled King's Quest I VGA was released by Tierra Entertainment in 2001.


Opening scene of King's Quest

King's Quest features interactive graphics that were an enormous leap over the mostly static 'rooms' of previous graphical interactive fiction. Prior to King's Quest, the typical adventure game presented the player a pre-drawn scene, accompanied by a text description. The player's interaction with the game consisted entirely of typing commands into the game's parser, then reading the parser's response, as the on-screen graphics rarely changed (except when the player moved to a new location).

King's Quest is the first adventure game to integrate graphical animation into the player's view of game world. Because of this, King's Quest shifted the focus away from the static scenery, to the player's character, which was now animated on-screen. There are animation sequences for most player-world interactions reachable through the normal course of exploration. For example, there were different animation sequences showing Graham picking up objects from the ground, opening doors, and wading through water. Depth perspective was simulated as well; Graham could walk behind objects, causing his character to be 'hidden' from view, or walk in front of them, obscuring the object. This attention to graphical animation, while commonplace in action games, earned King's Quest the distinction as the first "3D-animated" adventure game.

The original version of the game relies primarily on textual input as its interface. As the player used the keyboard to explore the game world, the on-screen character, Graham, was animated walking to the chosen destination. The fantasy world of Daventry consists of an 8×6 cyclic array of screens (or rooms) that make up the outdoor world in which the player can navigate freely (except for the screen South of the East end of the castle, which must be reached by special means), plus 30 or so additional screens for indoor and underground places (as well as a smaller world in the clouds).

King's Quest was innovative in its use of 16-color graphics for the IBM PC platform. The game used the PCjr and Tandy 1000's Video Gate Array and enhanced sound, and those with the Color Graphics Adapter computers could display 16-color graphics with artifact colors on a composite color monitor or television. Selecting 'RGB mode' at the title screen would instead result in the usual 320×200 CGA graphics mode limited to 4 colors. In this mode, dithering was employed to simulate extra colors. Like previous static-screen Sierra adventures, King's Quest used vector graphics rather than pre-rendered bitmaps which would take far too much disk space. Each screen is drawn line-by-line and painted in. This technique was used on all Sierra adventure games up to King's Quest V.


King's Quest[edit]

In the original version for the IBM PCjr, the story was simple. The Kingdom of Daventry is suffering from recent disasters and hardship. King Edward calls his bravest knight, Sir Grahame, to his throne, and tells him he has heard of three legendary treasures hidden throughout the land that would end Daventry's troubles. If Grahame succeeds he will become king.[2] In later releases, knight's name was changed to Graham.

King's Quest: Quest for the Crown[edit]

Since the 4th release IBM PC/Apple II (1984) and the repackaged 5th release (1987), the backstory was greatly expanded. The Kingdom of Daventry is in serious trouble, after its precious magical items have been stolen. One day, King Edward the Benevolent rescued a beautiful young Princess Dahlia of Cumberland, but on the night of their wedding she was discovered to be really an evil witch who stole the king's treasure. Knowing that he had to save the kingdom, the dying King Edward sends his bravest knight, Sir Graham, to Cumberland on the quest to rid of the treacherous witch, outwit the other assorted villains, and retrieve the three lost treasures. Because he had no heir, if Graham should succeed, he would become the next king.[3]

Development history[edit]

In late 1982, IBM contacted Sierra On-Line for launch titles for its forthcoming PCjr home computer, announced in 1983. Among the software Sierra developed was King's Quest, the first Sierra's animated adventure game.[4][5] the first Sierra game to use the Adventure Game Interpreter (AGI) game engine. (However, the AGI engine wasn't known as such until King's Quest II.) IBM, which paid for much of the $850,000 development cost, requested a sophisticated and replayable adventure game.[5] In addition to the designer and writer Roberta Williams, six full-time programmers worked for 18 months to complete the game. Because the game's complexity made it impractical to write in assembly language, Sierra developed a scripting engine (AGI) which worked as a high level language compiler and made it easily portable to different platforms.

IBM stated in advertisements that King's Quest "runs on the IBM PCjr and makes good use of some special PCjr capabilities", with "unusually smooth and realistic" animation and "an impressive variety of sound effects".[6] Its discontinuation of the computer in March 1985 stunned Sierra,[7] but due to the PCjr's poor reception, King's Quest did not sell very well. Thanks to the AGI engine, Sierra released versions for the Tandy 1000, standard PCs, and the Apple II, which made the game a success.[5] The game was re-released for DOS (the original was on a self-booting disk) in 1987 using Sierra's updated AGI V2 engine. It was also ported to the Amiga and Atari ST at the same time, and eventually to the Sega Master System, in which the text parser was replaced by a point and click verb system similar to LucasArts adventures.

The DOS version of King's Quest lacks some sound effects present in the booter versions, including birds chirping and distinct sounds for each enemy. Also the AGI V2 engine used an off-screen buffer when drawing the graphics to avoid the painting effect of the original game. This was not done merely for the sake of tidiness, but because the booter versions inadvertently allowed the player to cheat as they drew hidden objects followed by scenery on the screen.

King's Quest was notably not ported to the Commodore 64 despite its being the most important computer-game platform.[5] Roberta Williams said that the limitations of its graphic system (three colors per 8x8 block) did not permit Sierra to get the level of graphics detail they wanted. In addition, the computer's 64k of memory was too small to fit the complex AGI engine into. She said that she would always wanted to make an adventure game with animation, but it was not possible up to that point.

Identical places in the AGI (left, 1983–1987) and "Enhanced" SCI (right, 1990) versions of the game
  • Original version[1] (1983, IBM PCjr) – The original IBM-branded release for the PCjr. Came with a full keyboard overlay template. Released as a demonstration product for the PCjr demo machines.
  • (1984, IBM PCjr) – A minor update to the original packaging.
  • (1984, Tandy) – A version for the Tandy 1000.[1] Introduced the new backstory.
  • (1984, Version for the standard IBM PC) – Expanded the backstory.[1]
  • (1984, Apple //e & IIc) – A version for Apple. Requires the 128k //e, or IIc to run.
  • (1984, various platforms including Amiga, and Atari ST)
  • (1987, PC) – A full re-release adding support for the Enhanced Graphics Adapter (EGA) and Hercules Graphics Card (HGC). It ran under DOS, unlike the 1984 releases, which booted directly at startup. It was with this release that the sub-title Quest for the Crown was used on the box for the first time.
  • (1987, Apple IIGS) – Enhanced version with improved sound, new original intro theme, and digital sound effects.
  • (1989, Sega Master System) – Game redesigned from the ground up for the Sega Master System.
  • (1990, various versions for PC/Amiga) – SCI Remake. Complete redesign with its own engine, enhanced storyline, and changed puzzles. Loosely based on the original KQ1.

1990 remake[edit]

King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown is a 1990 remake of King's Quest. This release is the "Enhanced" version of King's Quest. It uses the Sierra's Creative Interpreter (SCI) engine, the same engine used in titles such as King's Quest IV; while it still used 16-color graphics, it featured twice the resolution as well as music card support instead of the PC speaker. There are two different box variations for this release: one that used the same box as the 1987 AGI original and a box created specifically for the remake.

The game is not a 1:1 remake. The story was expanded upon (mainly in the cutscenes and conversations) and made more linear. There is a set order to finding the three treasures. The first two can be done in any order, but the last treasure is always the shield. Many of the character roles were expanded slightly to include more dialogue, and more characters were added. Some of the puzzle solutions were altered and some removed. The changes lead to the distribution of points being different in both games (though both add up to a total of 158). Some item locations were changed; the pebbles for example are found near the river in the original, but near a lake in their remake. Some locations were completely revamped (the stairs in the mountain were replaced with catwalks). The soundtrack was also expanded and included better musical queues when different characters appeared or action ensued.

The 1990 SCI EGA "Enhanced" version of King's Quest: Quest for the Crown was announced for the Atari ST line of computers and later canceled.[8] It is not known if a beta version exists or how far into development the game was, although it was announced via Sierra Online's magazine, Sierra News Magazine, in spring 1991. The magazine said owners could send disk #1 or the front cover of the manual along with a check or money order for $20 to upgrade their copy to the enhanced version.

Sega Master System[edit]

The Sega Master System 1989 port uses its own engine, with a verb/noun interface similar to early LucasArts titles. It has original tile and sprite-based graphics and was published by Parker Brothers. The game is based on the original King's Quest, and shares the puzzles and points-list of that game. Some of the puzzles and rooms have been modified a bit (for example, the boulder covering the dagger rolls a different direction than in PC). An extra item exists — it is now possible to pick up the three-leaf clovers. There are some extra places to die (including a dangerous staircase added to exit of the Leprechauns' realm). It is non-linear, and the three treasures can be collected in any order, like in the original PC version. Game saves were done through passwords.


Both versions of King's Quest I have been released in assorted collections beginning with the King's Quest 15th Anniversary Collector's Edition (1994), followed by the King's Quest Collection (1995), the King's Quest Collection Series (1996) and Roberta Williams Anthology (1997). The 2006 collection lacked the original AGI version of King's Quest, and contained only the SCI remake. This version was released on Steam in 2009 (it was removed as of 2015). The original AGI version appears in the KQ1+2+3 collection released on GOG, but the SCI remake is not included.


The 1990 enhanced version was described by critics and fans alike at the time as 'destroying a classic', and was compared to the controversial practice of colorizing classic black and white movies.[1] The remake was a critical failure and prevented the release of further remakes in the series.

Fan remake[edit]

Main article: King's Quest I VGA

In 2001, the group AGD Interactive (then known as Tierra Entertainment) released an unofficial remake based on Sierra's 1990 version, updating the graphics to use VGA colors, dropping the parser in favor of an interface that mimics that of King's Quest V, and full speech - including the voice of the original voice actor for King Graham in Sierra's official CD-ROM full-speech versions of King's Quest V and VI, Josh Mandel.[9] This was later updated with original handrawn artwork.


  1. ^ a b c d e "King's Quest Collection - Manual" (PDF). Sierra On-Line. 1997. p. 4. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  2. ^ King's Quest (1983) PCJR, pp. 9–10,
  3. ^ KQ1 manual, pp. 1–10.
  4. ^ Wiswell, Phil (1984-01-24). "Coming Soon: Games For The PCjr". PC. pp. 142–145. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d Maher, Jimmy (2013-07-18). "The Unmaking and Remaking of Sierra On-Line". The Digital Antiquarian. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  6. ^ "Read Only". InfoWorld (advertisement). 1984-12-10. pp. 37–40. Retrieved 5 January 2015. 
  7. ^ Kennedy, Don (1985-05-14). "Junior Axed By IBM". PC. p. 33. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  8. ^ Staff (Spring 1991). "Atari ST Owners Set To Enjoy Two Brand New Products Plus Reillustrated Versions Of Two Classics In Spring '91", Sierra News Magazine. pp. 13, 22 Archived February 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.‹The template Wayback is being considered for merging.› 
  9. ^ AGD Interactive Studio's KQI: Quest for the Crown Remake, Development Team Info Page

External links[edit]