The Silver Lining (video game)
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|The Silver Lining|
|Developer(s)||Phoenix Online Studios|
|Series||King's Quest (unofficial)|
|Release date(s)||July 18, 2010 — November 8, 2011|
The Silver Lining is an unfinished four-chapter episodic video fangame based on the King's Quest series, which was developed and released in free download format by Phoenix Online Studios for Microsoft Windows starting July 18, 2010. The most recent release, Episode 4: ‘Tis in My Memory Locked. And You Yourself Shall Hold The Key Of It, was released on November 8, 2011. Until the release of King's Quest, the official ninth installment of the series, TSL remained the first release in over fifteen years to feature Graham's family in a new adventure (since King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride).
Although the game features 3D graphics, its gameplay departs from Sierra Online's last King's Quest release, The Mask of Eternity, which was mainly criticized for its RPG-like atmosphere, and settles into that created by the previous titles (for example, the setting returns to the land of the Green Isles, visited in King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, while some recurring characters include Mannanan from King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human and Pan from King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella). The plot itself revolves around King Graham as he desperately seeks the help of ancient druidic artifacts to undo the evil cast upon his children, Alexander and Rosella.
The fifth and final episode for the series, A Thousand Times Good Night, supposed to be released around Christmas 2011, was first slated for a new release in early 2012, and then delayed until furthermore into 2013 and 2014. Since Phoenix Online Studios changed its name to Phoenix Online Publishing on 19 May 2014 in order to respecialze for publishing of independent quest games, the company soon made a statement of releasing all rights to the game to Activision upon request. On 7 August 2014, Activision announced the reboot of Sierra Entertainment division with a new King's Quest game, though Phoenix Online Studios have mentioned several times through the official Twitter account Episode 5 will still launch as intended.
The game begins approximately one year after the events of The Mask of Eternity, with Rosella and Edgar's wedding on the Isle of the Crown, in the land of the Green Isles where Alexander and Cassima are rulers. As Rosella is about to take her vow of marriage, a strange man in a black cloak comes from the crowd and casts a spell on her, which renders Rosella unconscious. As Edgar catches her, Alexander, her brother, suffers the same fate elsewhere in the castle. The stranger then vanishes from the wedding, leaving only his cloak behind.
Having picked up the cloak, Graham decides to ask around the castle in order to find out more clues about who its owner might be. Captain Saladin suggests to Graham to visit the Oracle who lives on the Isle of the Sacred Mountain in order to find out more. As Graham dresses up for an adventure and quits the castle, a storm begins and he is forced to take refuge in the ferryman's house, befriending Hassan. Eventually Hassan agrees to help Graham visit the Isle of the Sacred Mountain and lend his ferry to him. After some conversation with the Winged Ones, Graham is escorted to see the Oracle, but as she is unable to trace the source of magic from the cloak (knowing only that it is black magic), she sends Graham to see the druids living on the Isle of the Mists. Graham journeys there immediately, and talks to the Arch Druid. The latter informs Graham that he is aware of unusual events taking place, and while working on a reverse spell from black magic, proposes Graham tries to reach his wife and children in their dreams. At the same time Graham is given a list of ingredients that must be found throughout every consequent episode in order to help the Arch Druid counter black magic. As Graham prepares to leave the Isle, the storm becomes unusually violent, leaving him no other choice but to stay for the night.
Next morning, Graham sees the face of Shamir, the Court's genie, in the scroll, and rushes back to the Isle of the Crown. There, he visits the library and meets with Ali the book keeper as well as Jollo the royal jester. Ali tells Graham that he knows where to find one of the ingredients, but will require a map of the Isles in order to pin its location. As Jollo plays a trick on Graham, he is eventually able to gather one of the ingredients for the scroll (the lethal liquid). At the village square, Graham manages to get a map copy done for him, which he then shows to Ali to obtain the location of the item. Upon visiting Shamir at the Castle, Graham finds out that the genie once belonged to one of the members of the so-called "Black Cloak Society", who might be the owner of the cloak. Knowing that Valanice (and, thus, his own children) are descendants of the "Silver Cloaks", who were an ancient clan of magic protectors, Graham wonders if both are related. He then thanks Shamir and makes his way by sea to the location of the map given by Ali, in order to retrieve the second ingredient (a magical bag). Hassan suggests that the third ingredient might be found on the Isle of Wonders, but dares not step there after his quarrel with the Red Chess Queen. Graham journeys into the Isle alone and eventually makes his way to obtain the third ingredient (the animated vessel). At the same time a nameless cloaked man shows up in front of Graham and tells him to question Valanice about her druidic roots. As the man disappears, Graham runs back into the Castle in order to do so.
At the Castle, Valanice falls unconscious as Graham breaks into her room. She sees herself at 23 years of age, when she was forcedly taken away from her family by a certain wizard Shadrack. Shadrack keeps her in a deadly tower surrounded by her own nightmares. Back in the Castle, Graham, by her side, keeps a promise to help her. The list shows four new ingredients and Graham continues his adventure. Talking with Shamir the second time reveals to Graham that at least two of the ingredients, which he can use to revive the children, are found at the Isle of the Mists. Eventually Graham arrives there and meets again with the Arch Druid, who confirms the presence of the elements which can only be found in the depths of Mother Nature. In order to address it properly, Graham undergoes a ritual in which he proves that he is both a savior and a part of the Nature. Graham passes the guardians and accesses the Sanctuary within the Isle, usually only available to druids. There he meets and talks to the spirits of Nature, which explain that in order to obtain the requested items (a male subject's strength and a female subject's voice), Graham must enchant regular items with which he plans to do so. Graham touches the stones on an ancient tree to grant himself such power. Valanice is then shown to him by the spirits, and he understands that she was once a druid. At the same time, in her dream, Shadrack visits her in the tower and begins torturing her. Seeing all this, Graham rushes back into the Castle and reaches Valanice's crown, transporting himself inside her dream. After some fierce confrontation with the nightmares, he steps in and frees Valanice from the tower. As they are back in reality, a cutscene reveals that Shadrack was in fact the master of the Black Cloak Society, to which another prominent figure, Mannanan, once belonged. As Mannanan delivers young Valanice to Shadrack Shadrack, on the other hand, plans on tormenting Valanice In the present, Graham vows to destroy Shadrack whatever it takes. Having brought Valanice back into reality, he journeys to the Isle of the Mists once more and now asks for the items to be enchanted. Upon returning, he gets both ingredients from his children. He gets the third ingredient (a silver moon) from a crescent emerald shape he obtained from the druid tree, with the help of a blacksmith, and the fourth one (a pinch of lively shaken salt) from the druids at the Isle of the Mists. There, he sees Cassima in the scroll and travels back into the Castle to witness her give a speech of hope to her people.
Captain Saladin interrupts Graham's witnessing of the speech by telling him that Rosella is not well in her bed. At the same time, a dream sequence shows her venturing into a cave in which stands the Pandora's Box. Shadrack then shows up and orders her to open in. In the present, Graham sits next to her, then sees his list trace three more ingredients. Outside the castle, Graham starts seeing strange things occur in the Green Isles: a bird with eggs which he saw hatch before, water flowing backwards in the fountains, trees which were torn by the recent storm still undamaged. Graham decides to talk to the Arch Druid about these events, but voyaging back to the Isle of the Mists, he finds out that the Arch Druid is rather clueless. However, upon exiting his hut, Grahams meets once again with the nameless cloaked stranger, who now reveals that the secret of the events can be found in the gems of the spirit tree which stores the memories of the world. He also notes that one of the ingredients is located with the Winged Ones on the Isle of the Sacred Mountain, while the other one can be found at the mansion on the Isle of the Beast. As soon as Graham finds these two, the man hints he would know where to find the third one, and disappears again. Graham visits the tree as told and the memory stored in its gem reveals to him that Pandora's Box possesses a specific ability of being able to undo any deeds, good or bad, done by the powerful wizards, protectors of magic, by the hand of those who dare to open it. Graham understands that Shadrack must have found the Box and tries to open it, hence the unexplainable events. Seeing as meeting with the Winged Ones, who consider themselves superior to humans, has been forbidden to Graham after he visited to Oracle unless he "learns to fly like them", Graham continues his journey to the Isle of Beast first, where is meets with the Prince Cocteau, formerly a hideous beast, turned back human with the help of his beloved bride, as well as does the necessary in order to obtain another item for the list (this time, an ebony rose). Back at the Isle of the Crown, Graham meets one of sirens he got a magical bag from, and convinces her to give him flying shoes in exchange for a chance for her to fly, that he cleverly provides to her with the help of some locals. Having obtained the shoes, Graham ventures to the Sacred Mountain right by flight, much to the disdain of its rulers, where is henceforth granted access. By provoking the four Wind Gods to exercise their power onto a sacred spot in the Mountain, Graham eventually obtains the second ingredient (the richest fruit) from a golden tree located there. The list then hints Graham visits the Isle of Wonders where a chess tournament is being currently held. Upon arriving there, he is captured hostage by the guards and brought to the Queens who have an argument over the fact that the White Chess King has fled the chessboard. Graham proposes his help and is offered the third ingredient if he succeeds. All Graham then needs is to replace the king with a similar figure crafted by the best masters in the Land, which he does and finally obtains the third item (the evening glory). With the three more ingredients crossed out, Shamir appears once more in it, and Graham rushes into the Castle. Shamir then suggests that Graham visits the Arch Druid in order to bring all the obtained ingredients to use and have a possibility at stopping Shadrack. Back at the Isle of the Mists, the Arch Druid accepts the items and demands that Graham reunites with his spouse and children for the time being. Graham does so and promises that come the next day, they will all travel to Daventry in order to put an end to Shadrack's plans. That night Valanice once again witnesses a nightmare in which she helps Shadrack finally open the Box as he tortures Rosella. The final sequence of the dream shows the Silver Cloaks being defeated by the Black Cloaks in the past, and Valanice gets saved by the nameless stranger. The next day, Graham and the family prepare to travel back to Daventry along with Hassan and Edgar, but are caught in the unusual storm. Shadrack's projection appears and attacks Graham, who is saved at the last minute by the nameless stranger. The cloaked man grants Graham ability to enter dream world by his own will and hence control its time. Now facing the projection once more, Graham sacrifices his reality to chase it off and finally stops Shadrack from hurting his family.
The royal family successfully arrives to Daventry, but Graham is unconscious. The final episode would feature his wife and children as characters instead of Graham. They must find the Silver Cloak master.
- "Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be" (July 10, 2010)
- "Episode 2: Two Households" (September 18, 2010)
- "Episode 3: My Only Love Sprung From My Only Hate" (February 17, 2011)
- "Episode 4: ‘Tis in My Memory Locked. And You Yourself Shall Hold The Key Of It" (November 6, 2011)
- "Episode 5: A Thousand Times Goodnight" (TBA)
Production of TSL began in October 2000. After a long period of limited production and loss of focus, the original team was reorganized under César Bittar, previously one of the project writers, in January 2002. Dividing the production crew into five departments (Art, Design, Audio, Programming, and Public Relations), he turned Phoenix into an efficient working unit. Little of the original plot was kept, so its resemblance to the original team's concept is limited.
The game was intended to be released as a trilogy, but later was altered to be released as a single game. The finished game was to contain Chapters 1 and 2 at first, but soon into the plot writing, a third chapter was added, and then the team has added two more. Although it has been originally proposed to end the game on a cliffhanger, the team has actually thought through a "decent" ending, but never got to implement it due to delays and further unknown status of the final chapter.
A short demo of Chapter 1 was released on July 30, 2006. A beta testing build containing 3 scenes from Chapter 1 was released on March 9, 2008. On June 1, 2009 the team said that in the next couple of months they would be working to put the finishing touches on the game and submit it to Vivendi Games, Inc for approval. There was a delay in production from late 2009 to early 2010, when the first chapter was finally achieved and released on 18 July.
After releasing Chapters 3 and 4, many of the team workers have abandoned the project due to budget issues, and went on to perform paid work for their second game, Cognition. Bittar has stated in late 2011 that he has managed to keep 5-6 guys still working on TSL, basically for free, and that he was looking to split the studios into two divisions in order to retain interest in the game. Several files have since then leaked online on quest forums, but none amount to be sufficient to complete Chapter 5. In mid-2012, one of Phoenix's workers said a Telltale Games forum thread that the company has decided to release Chapter 5 for free to anyone willing to finish it. The sequence of events surrounding this statement remains unclear.
Delays and legal issues
The initial project was titled 'King's Quest IX: Every Cloak Has A Silver Lining' (or KQ IX for short). Due to legal issues with Vivendi Games, Inc in 2005, and parent company Activision throughout 2009—10, the title has been changed.
From its inception, the TSL project's stated intention was to give closure to the King's Quest series with the belief and assertion that the project was legal under U.S. fair use copyright law, though acknowledging that this was a legal gray area. The developers maintained a notice on their site promising to end the project if confronted by Vivendi Universal, the owner of the King's Quest license. In September 2005, after over four years of development, and immediately after providing their first trailer and announcing a release date, Phoenix Online Studios received a cease and desist e-mail from Vivendi. Phoenix kept their word and immediately halted all development on the project as they entered negotiations with Vivendi. Once the news was made public, fans of the game and the series began a mass mailing and e-mailing campaign organized by the Save King's Quest IX team to persuade Vivendi to allow Phoenix Online Studios to complete the project.
On November 29, 2005, Phoenix Online Studios was granted a Fan License by Vivendi. The license allowed for resumption of project development with the requirement that the title be changed to remove the "King's Quest" reference. All characters, locations, art, story, plot, and script content were permitted to remain unchanged. According to César Bittar, the full title at the time was The Silver Lining: a game inspired by the King's Quest series.
After Vivendi Games merged with Activision in 2008, Activision became the new owners of the King's Quest franchise. Subsequently, Activision revoked the non-commercial license agreement previously negotiated between Vivendi and Phoenix Online Studios. After several months of negotiations, Activision issued its own cease-and-desist to The Silver Lining team, requesting that they cease production and take down all related materials on the game website. On June 26, 2010, Phoenix Online Studios announced that Activision had changed its mind and decided to allow The Silver Lining to be released, which was agreed on condition of TSL remaining a free release and Activision still keeping the rights to all the content bearing resemblance to the original series.
Sometime in June 2014 Phoenix has turned over the rights to Activision, whose owners were looking to reboot the series, but keeping it a secret (this is why Phoenix has started with a statement of becoming a publisher first). On 7 August 2014, Activision has announced the opening Sierra Entertainment, which then presented the official reboot of the series in 2015. Sierra now legally retains the rights to TSL publication, but so far, the game is still available for free at Phoenix. In fact, TSL has always been the intellectual property of Activision, who once simply granted Phoenix the right to produce their game for freeware distribution, with all changes upon request (like removing "King's Quest" from the title).
"Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be" was released on July 10, 2010 as a free download and served as a "re-introduction" to the world of King's Quest. The chapter focused on setting the stage for the following episodes.
"Episode 2: Two Households" was released on September 18, 2010 as a free download. Marking a return to classic, Sierra-style adventure, Episode 2 sees King Graham investigate the mysterious curse upon his children as he searches for ingredients for an antidote. Taking into account criticism from the gaming community in response to Episode 1, Phoenix Online implemented numerous improvements to The Silver Lining for the release of Episode 2, including an option to toggle between shorter and longer narrations, improved pathfinding, a more realistic walking animation, the addition of a run/walk mode, and widescreen support.
"Episode 3: My Only Love Sprung From My Only Hate" was released on February 18, 2011 as a free download. This chapter contains more puzzles than the last two episodes and features King Graham's continuing quest to free his children. As a return to the classic problem-solving of the older games, note-taking is recommended, as well as returning multiple times to certain areas to see what has changed.
"Episode 4: Tis in My Memory Locked and You Yourself Shall Keep the Key of It" was released on November 6, 2011 as a free download.
The final episode will be released as a free download, but no release date has been given.
Reviews for the first episode were generally positive, but with some criticism of the length and the lack of puzzles. Others criticized the cast voices, or the narrator. The reaction to the quality of the graphics and music was more mixed in nature.
Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be Reviews
The first episode of The Silver Lining was met with both praise and disappointment often in the same review. However, by July 19, 2010 (nine days after the initial release) episode 1 had been downloaded approximately 23,000 times. Most critics seem to criticize the narrator (and other voice acting), and the lack of puzzles, and the shortness. Though most say they will be giving the future episodes a try (and welcome to have the free game). Below are links to the reviews, and quotes of praise and criticism from the various reviews. Mobigames calculated an overall aggregate score of 68 based on eight reviews. marking it with 'orange' (meaning 'mixed or average') score. Another aggregate score based on five reviews on metacritic was calculated with overall score of 66  with 'yellow' which also means 'mixed to average' on its three grade system (positive (green), mixed (yellow), and negative (red)).
Episode 2: Two Households
MobyGames gave the game an aggregate score based on six reviews of 73. It received an overall aggregate score of 73 (orange "mixed to average" designation). There is no ranking on metacritic.
MobiGames gave an aggregate score based on five reviews of 67 (orange color code of 'mixed to average' score). There is no score given on metacritic.
There is currently no aggregate scoring on Mobigames or Metacritic. Here are a few links to known external reviews.
- Team Team section of official TSL website from July 26, 2007 Archived June 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- The Future of TSLPhoenix Online Studios Forums
- King's Quest Lives Again article on IGN by David Adams from December 9, 2005
- KQIX: The Silver Lining -- A Talk with Phoenix Online Studios.GameSpy article by Allen 'Delsyn' Rausch from December 16, 2005
- Vivendi Games Agrees To Crown Fan-Created 'King's Quest' SequelMTV article by Stephen Totilo from December 9, 2005
- "Oh, and by the way, we still get to use "King's Quest" in our title. The full name is "The Silver Lining: A game inspired by the King's Quest Series"" 
- The Silver Lining Announcement Phoenix Online Studios
- "The Silver Lining: Episode 1 Micro-Review: Absence Makes The Heart Grow Colder". Kotaku.com. July 13, 2010. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- - By David Wolinsky (July 10, 2010). "The Verdict: The Silver Lining – Episode 1: What Is Decreed". G4tv.com. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- "The Silver Lining Episode 1 PC review | The Adrenaline Vault". Avault.com. July 12, 2010. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- "The Silver Lining Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be Review: Just Adventure - Reviews Walkthroughs and AdventureNews!". Just Adventure. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- "Phoenix Online The Silver Lining Episode 1 review". IT Reviews. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- "The Silver Lining review: About 30 minutes of cut-scenes and little else | Gamekicker.com - All the latest video game and gaming news". Gamekicker.com. Retrieved August 19, 2010.