User Avatar Image

The first mentions of KQ ever on the Internet/The KQ/Sierra On-Line Archives

posted by Anakin Skywalker on - last edited - Viewed by 3K users
Not exactly newsworthy, but I thought it was interesting for it's sentimental value. These are from the Usenet Archives--the first iteration of the "Internet" dating all the way back to around 1980.

The VERY FIRST mention of King's Quest on the internet happened on January 15th, 1985; A James. W Hoffman was asking for help:

"My children (age 8-9) managed to map out all of King's Quest but
have no idea where to begin. Any hints for them or clues
for getting around some of the bad guys or how
to get the treasures

Followed by another post on February 25th, 1985 also asking for help, by an R. Curtis Jackson:

"I have a friend who needs desperately to know how to move the
boulder in the cave -- he's figured everything else and it is
driving him and about four of his buddies crazy. He has stooped
to asking for a complete spoiler, so I told him I would see what
the Usenet could do

Two posts in November 1985, the first by a Michael Lopez, the second by a David Somner:

" Does anyone know how to :
1) move the huge boulder in the cave
2) find the mirror
3) find a cutting tool to cut the bucket off the rope in the well
4) find the shield
5) use the cheese for some purpose
6) use the note from the witches house
7) how to avoid the dwarf
8) to guess the gnomes name? What is it?
9) to make the giant fall asleep faster

"Hmmm... I tried to get this game about 2 years ago, but was told by several
people that this game wasn't being made any more... Could someone tell
me where it might be possible for me to get a copy? Even better yet, could
someone post a listing of games for the IBM-PC saying where to order them
from, and the price? I think that a lot of people could benefit from this
-Dave S."

It's now January 1986 and Michael Lopez still hasn't finished KQ1, he writes another post asking for help:

"I've finally got all of the items - the mirror, the shield, and
the chest - but, when I go to the king, I'm not sure what I'm supposed
to do. If I try to talk to him, he says to come closer, but I cannot
get any closer to him. Any suggestions would be apprieciated

More people asking for help, February 1986:

"After you have all three treasures, how do you get
the king to stop asking you to come closer?
Is there any way to find out the gnome's name?
How does the magic ring work?
What are the gold egg and gold walnut for?
-thanx, Steve Miller ihnp4!bambi!steve

A man asking for a game recommendation for his 11 year old daughter, who is a fan of KQ, in September 1986

"My daughter's 12th birthday is coming up. She has been playing
"King's Quest II" on a friend's Tandy and wants something similar
for our C64. She says the graphics for "King's Quest" are terrific.
My understanding is that "King's Quest" is not available for the C64.
Can anyone recommend an alternative "adventure" game with good
29 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Some self proclaimed "frivolous" questions by a Steve Udell, on February 9th, 1987:

    "While this might be a bit frivolous in this world of heavy duty computing, I
    have some questions about King's Quest II.
    WARNING: don't read any further if you're playing
    the game and don't want any hints.
    1) At the end of the game, when you see all the characters you've met sitting
    in the church, their happens to be a dragon there. Did he show up any
    place else in the program (or in KQ I), or is he just there for show?
    2) Early on in the game I encountered a "Batmobil" in the screen outside the
    witch's cave. After I got the first door opened, it didn't show up again.
    Has anyone been able to figure out what it's for--is it just for show, can
    you get into it, etc.????
    Scott Udell

    On September 8th 1987, a man asks for game recommendations for his 4 and 8 year old children, who just so happen to like King's Quest:

    "My kids are 4 and 8, both read somewhat above the average for their age, and
    they're clamoring for games to play on their parents' PC. (AT with EGA
    display.) I've discovered that most of the games available on BBS's are
    either inane, poorly designed, violent, or simply boring to my kids.
    Games they have liked include WPK (public domain), Facemaker (mildly
    interesting), King's Quest (!!!), and Gertrude's Secrets. Flight Simulator
    was a turnoff (too complex and frustrating). Adventures in Math is a big hit.
    I'm interested in both educational and purely recreational software, that is
    truly suitable for kids. Please post, rather than mail your suggestions, so
    that others on the net can see them. (Also, my system's mailer is flaky.)
    If you can comment, please note if the game is dependent on the system
    clock speed, or absolutely must have a CGA. (I have a neat p/d routine,
    SETVID, that throws the EGA into CGA mode. Works sometimes.) Also, please
    note if the game is self-booting, or runs under DOS, or even (like King's
    Quest) has a hard disk install routine

    Another guy writing on December 16th 1987 recommends KQ, in response to another guy asking for kid's software recommendations:
    "Well, I can't recommend anything, but if anyone finds something, I'd be
    interested in hearing about it. I have two 5 year olds, and the only thing
    they consistently enjoy is NeoChrome. I acquired some public domain games
    (Mr. Potato Head, Old MacDonald's "Concentration", a couple "music for
    children" games), but they're not very interactive ("click on a square to
    select an action"), and the kids had absolutely zero interest in them, so
    I would recommend games where the mouse or joystick moves something besides
    just a cursor on the screen. I haven't looked in stores lately, but when
    I did, I was not impressed. Now that Toys R Us has stopped carrying the ST,
    I don't hold out much hope for seeing any decent children's stuff.
    It should be a lot easier to find something for a child who can read(something
    similar to King's Quest?) Also, everything I've seen runs in low-resolution,
    so you'd better have a color monitor.
    I think it depends a lot on the child: A five-year old friend came over,
    and we finally had to drag him off the machine, because he's a video game
    addict (he plays space war games as well as I do!)
  • Awe... look at them using proper sentence structure and grammar... the net was so cute back then.

    Thank you for sharing this .. it was interesting.
  • Ken Williams himself posted on Usenet, talking to Sierra fans and doubters, while he was still working for Sierra:

    on KQ8, December 3rd 1996:

    "KQ8 will be 3d ... the design goal was to be 1/2 Super Mario 64 and 1/2
    Kings Quest. The characters are 99% new, although the setting is still
    Daventry. There is a bunch about the game in InterAction, and also, if
    you can, try to see the video that is on the Roberta Williams Anthology
    CD. It shows some of KQ8, but most interesting is hearing Roberta talk
    about the game. I'm hoping I can think of a way to get the video into
    wide distribution -- for people that already own most of Roberta's games
    it isn't worth buying the anthology just to see the video -- but, it is
    definitely worth seeing.
    Thanks - Ken

    A fan asked:

    ">On Tue, 03 Dec 1996 20:14:31 -0800, Ken Williams
    >said something kinda like:
    >>KQ8 will be 3d ... the design goal was to be 1/2 Super Mario 64 and 1/2
    >>Kings Quest. The characters are 99% new, although the setting is still

    Hmm, just bought Matrox Mystique 4MB PCI. Matrox boasts support from
    Sierra on QFG5 ( Will Sierra support Mystique on KQ8?

    Ken replied on December 5th 1996:
    "I really don't know the Matrox that well -- we are supporting Direct3D,
    so if it runs with Direct3D, as its web page says, then it should run

    Ken gave his own review of Phantasmagoria II, November 28th, 1996:

    "I am Sierra's CEO, so obviously my opinion is biased, but here is my
    mini-review of the game:
    My wife Roberta wrote the original Phantasmagoria. She was hard at work
    on Kings Quest 8, so another designer, Lorelei Shannon, who had worked
    with Roberta on prior games, designed Phantasmagoria II. Phantasmagoria
    II is a VERY different game from Phantasmagoria.
    Here are some ways that it is different from the original...
    It is much more controversial. Roberta and I are tough to shock -- but,
    Phantas II did so in several places. You will definitely remember
    playing this game for a while. The story is much deeper than the
    original, more complicated, and many will find it much more involving.
    The game is roughly the same length as the original, which Internet
    hackers may slam us for. Those in search of a tough game should buy
    Lighthouse instead -- Phantas II is not a 'puzzle game,' it is an
    experience to be enjoyed.
    Here's the perfect way to play Phantas II: Dim the lights, crank up the
    sound, don't let anyone interrupt you, and then play the game over five
    successive nights, along with your 'significant other'. The game is
    broken into five chapters, so it is perfect for this. Skilled adventure
    gamers will be able to complete any chapter in 2 to 3 hours. Total play
    time with getting a few hints should be in the 10-20 hour range. Roberta
    and I had people to call for hints, so actual playing time might be
    longer for others. Don't rush through this game! Pace yourself, and
    enjoy. Try not to read too much about the game on the Internet. The plot
    has plenty of surprises and you will damage some of the fun for
    Roberta and I really enjoyed Phantas II. Unfortunately, it is Sierra's
    last movie game for many years to come. Even though Phantas was such a
    hit -- and advance orders on Phantas II indicate it also will be, live
    action is not cheap to shoot. This industry really isn't big enough yet
    to support the big live action projects like Phantasmagoria. We were
    definitely depressed to finish the game, realizing there wasn't a sequel
    in development, nor anything else like it in the industry.
    The bottom line: I highly recommend the game to those looking for a few
    evenings of fun that they'll remember forever, especially those who
    liked Gabriel Knight or Phantasmagoria. You may not like the game if you
    are looking for a "tough challenge with Myst-style puzzles" or are
    easily offended.
    Thanks - Ken Williams, Sierra
    PS It is in stores now

    A fan replied:

    Ken Williams wrote:
    > Roberta and I really enjoyed Phantas II. Unfortunately, it is Sierra's
    > last movie game for many years to come. Even though Phantas was such a
    > hit -- and advance orders on Phantas II indicate it also will be, live
    > action is not cheap to shoot. This industry really isn't big enough yet
    > to support the big live action projects like Phantasmagoria. We were
    > definitely depressed to finish the game, realizing there wasn't a sequel
    > in development, nor anything else like it in the industry.

    This is true and yet not true. Most companies do not have the financial
    backing to undertake such a project, definitely. But others do and have,
    and with a great deal of success. Origin's Wing Commander games feature
    a story driven by live action video (and actual film with real sets, in
    the case of WC4), and they have been wildly successful. As far as I have
    heard, Origin plans to continue making big-budget interactive movies. So
    I would not say that there is nothing else out there like it, per se

    So Ken replied back, to that:

    "Wing Commander 4 sold well, but was not a profitable project for EA.
    After the project, Chris Roberts, the designer of WC4, called to say he
    was 'looking for something new to do.' We passed -- this industry simply
    can't afford those kinds of productions at this point in the ballgame.
    When computers are as pervasive as televisions, you will see similar, or
    higher budgets, than the film industry has, on computer game projects.
    For now, when you do see it -- you can have a fairly good suspicion that
    someone lost some money.
    With respect to production values: You are right that Gabriel Knight had
    much higher quality video and sound than Phantasmagoria. We learned
    quite a bit from the first project. Phantasmagoria II is better yet than
    Gabriel Knight in this area. The special effects in Phantas II are as
    good, or better, with a few exceptions, than you will see in major
    motion pictures -- and the writing is far better.
    Thanks - Ken

    He also wrote in response to other comments:

    "We are working on a DOS/Win3.1 version. It should be out within a few

    "I agree with most of your comments -- we are in a "back to our roots"
    frame of mind. I am strongly considering going back to midi -- it
    doesn't sound as good on most systems, but there are all kinds of
    technical problems running digitized sound -- streaming the audio can
    hurt the interactivity of the game. Also, as I already mentioned, we
    have no FMV games currently slated for development. There is something
    magic about them when they are done right; Phantas II when it is great,
    is really great -- there is no similar feeling playing an animated game
    -- but overall, because of the budget problems, and because of the
    problems in providing long playtimes, we're out of the FMV market for a
    while. I felt pretty good about this until I played Phantas II last week
    -- it really caught my attention -- it'll be interesting to see what
    everyone else thinks...

    In response to a thread titled: "SIERRA SUCKS"--December 1st 1996:

    "I disagree.

    A woman named Kate Ashley replied:
    "Oh yes Sierra does. They have sold out to the money and no longer care
    about their loyal customers. Kate Ashley

    The discussion titled was changed to "Sierra DOESN'T Suck", with fans defending Sierra.

    Ken jumped in:

    How could you possibly believe this? Why would any company do such a
    thing? What can I do to convince you this isn't true?

    and also:

    When someone says "Sierra Sucks", I'm not sure how to respond. Obviously
    they've bought some game that they didn't like. It is impossible to
    please 100% of the people 100% of the time. We will ship over 8 million
    games this year. We offer a 100% satisfaction or your money back
    warranty on every single game, and book almost no refunds each year. I'm
    not aware of any competitor who has as liberal of a policy, and highly
    suspect that most couldn't afford it. Contrary to what some say, we do
    build great products. I am extremely proud to work for Sierra, and there
    is no company in this world I'd rather work for. I have trouble
    believing that we would consistently be #1 were we shipping bad product.
    That doesn't mean we can't improve. I am this companies biggest critic.
    People here complain that I am quick with negative comments but never
    get around to patting them on the back. This is a fair critique. I am a
    perfectionist. If something says Sierra on the front, it drives me crazy
    if it isn't totally perfect. No matter how good we do, I am always
    convinced there is a way to do better. I do read the comments on us that
    appear on the boards, and they show up in email to our managers almost
    every day. I am compulsive about trying to improve things. If any
    company ever ships a perfect product, I want it to be Sierra.
    Lastly, people should keep in mind that Sierra is not a company as much
    as it is a collection of highly impassioned people. Because we are #1,
    we have been able to attract many of the industry's best developers.
    Each game that we release represents 1 to 2 years of a 5 to 20 person
    team's life. Whole careers are made or broken by working on a game that
    sells well. I cannot over stress how hard our people work on these
    games, and how much of them goes in. We are not a machine into which
    money flows and games magically pop out. Thats not how the system works.
    Our people care about their products, and put their souls into them.
    Occasionally a game is produced that doesn't find its market, but
    overall, I'd match our record against any other companies.
    Sorry to sound defensive ... as I said at the beginning, it's a hard
    message to respond to.
    Thanks - Ken

    Some more fan debates and arguments back and forth about Sierra.

    Ken said:

    "My original "I disagree" was meant in jest --- I apologize if it came
    across incorrectly.


    "We've been putting manuals back in products. I had made the decision to
    take them out, because I would rather spend money on code, than killing
    trees. It didn't occur to me that this would be perceived negatively.
    The whole strategy changed after a few days of reading customer mail.
    Manuals are back.

    And finally he responded to other comments:

    I appreciate the time you took to write this. Comments like these I can
    cope with and react to. Sierra's customers represent 100% of our revenue
    (not to mention job security). If I know where we can improve, I know
    how to do a better job.
    My answers are embedded below in your comments.

    Thanks - Ken
    Kate Ashley wrote:
    > Ken,
    > I recall ordering games from Coarsegold when the staff were in a trailer and didn't even
    > have computers. The women were friendly and actually recalled you if you ordered often
    > enough. I wrote to Susan Walls, I've forgotten what about, and she very nicely sent me
    > a coupon for a free game. The staff were far more responsive and made you feel valued.

    In those days we had a hand full of people in customer support. We now
    have well over a hundred. It is tough for our service representatives to
    be on a first name basis with all our customers. That said, we just
    invested heavily in a system so that when you call support your entire
    history with us pops up on screen. That way if you have to call multiple
    times we at least have the full history and have the best possible
    chance to make sure that all is resolved happily. It's not as good as
    always going to the same service rep, but it's the closest we've been
    able to get.

    > I have called Washington, have used your BBS (now defunct? Shame because I liked it)
    > and have written, faxed and emailed you and Roberta re the disastrous decision to put
    > KQ7 out for Windows only. I never ever got a reply, not even a postcard acknowledging
    > receipt. It was obviously important to me as I tried various methods to find out why
    > this decision was made. When I asked a Sierra rep in Washington why this game was not
    > in DOS, the reply involved "there are plenty of other game companies out there play
    > their games." I believe I mentioned this in the letter. This really gives me the
    > feeling Sierra still cares.

    I am amazingly great at answering my email. My guess is that I answer
    50+ emails a day from customers. I'm bad at answering snail mail. My
    guess is that I get 20+ a day and answer a couple. You've now found how
    to find me. The bad news is that I am close to the breaking point. If I
    spend just 5 minutes per email -- and do 50 a day -- and the number
    grows at 30% per year -- oops...

    > I find that Sierra now makes game expecting people to have the latest software/hardware
    > especially Microsoft stuff. This really annoys me when you do not have to do this. I
    > really like the various Quest series and am angered when I am unnecessarily forced to
    > buy software so I may play a game.

    I've been on the cutting edge, and on the trailing edge. It seems like
    there are lots of companies that know how to make trailing edge software
    -- why do it here? Sierra really does target the premium user with
    premium product. We have a tremendous backlist of products which runs
    great on older machines -- if someone really wants DOS 386 product, I
    have plenty of it. The challenge for me comes from looking at what
    computers can do today they couldn't do yesterday, and then building a
    product around it.

    > BTW I wish the actor you chose to play Gabriel Knight didn't remind me of Kato Kalin (or
    > what ever OJ's resident in the guest house is called.) I preferred the animated
    > version.

    Oops ... No more actors who remind people of Kato .. got it .. written
    down (sorry, I forgot my sense of humor already got me in trouble)

    > If you care to scan your registration files you will see I have many, many Sierra games,
    > in fact some I've not even yet registered.

    > May you don't see this Ken because you are the owner not the customer. I doubt your
    > staff run to tell you the problems and complaints.

    I am hyper sensitive to customer issues. I always read the boards --
    and, I buy tons of our product at retail. I call our support lines. I do
    everything I can to try to put myself in the position of being a Sierra
    customer. If customers are not happy we with us, we are gone. Dead.
    Deceased. All over. I constantly remind everyone here that we are only
    as good as our last product. We take this issue VERY seriously

    Also said in response to other fan comments (same thread):

    " ! I've been saying that around here, but have been
    able to convince people that anyone other than me remembers Laura Bow.

    About 50 or so replies back and forth later, Ken changed the name of the thread to "Sierra is AWESOME":

    "I just posted this message to get a better name going on the thread.
    As long as I'm here posting, I would like to comment on a prior message
    regarding Urban Runner...
    Urban Runner was a flawed game. It spent several years in development,
    and several million dollars into development we decided that we had a
    product that was never going to be 'of Sierra quality.' We had already
    announced and advertised the product, but were not satisfied with it. I
    decided to release the product, but at a budget price. Urban Runner was
    released at $19 suggested retail - which I felt was a very good
    price/value proposition. The product was flawed, but it wasn't a total
    waste of time. $19 for a 4 CD FMV product is not a bad deal.
    Some retailers did not get our message about the price decrease and sold
    some copies at $70 -- this didn't happen many times, but it did happen.
    We refunded a hand full of people $70 even though the retailers only
    paid us about $12 for the product -- and did so with a smile. This is
    the Sierra way of doing business. I am proud of how we handled Urban
    Runner. I'm not delighted that we shipped a non-perfect product, but it
    is almost impossible to develop a Sierra quality product, so it doesn't
    surprise me that even we have trouble doing it 100% of the time.
    Thanks! - Ken Williams, Sierra

    Another poster changed the name of the discussion back to "Sierra sucks"
    Ken changed it back to "Sierra is AWESOME", saying:

    "I prefer this name for the thread, and believe it much more reflective
    of reality.

    And speaks about Urban Runner again, in response to suggestions (I didn't read through the whole thread):

    "I wish that it were possible to do as you have suggested, unfortunately,
    ad schedules are set often a year in advance. Urban Runner was a rarity.
    99% of the time it is possible to keep working on a game until the
    quality is up to Sierra standards. With Urban Runner, this turned out
    not to be the case. We made the decision to cut spending and release it
    as a budget title. Sierra's customers are smart -- my guess is that they
    figured out quickly when they saw it retailing under $20 that it wasn't
    our best work.

    Same thread, on a possible SQ7:
    "since sierra is working
    > on Quest for glory 5, Kings Quest 8, and just realeased Larry 7, Why
    > has plans for a Space quest 7 been released yet?

    We are thinking about Space Quest 7. I want to do the game, but Scott
    Murpy has been out for a while coping with the after effects of a motor
    cycle accident. My guess is that we'll have something on the market by
    Spring 98.
    Thanks - Ken

    In a discussion about PC hardware and whatnot, December 23rd 1996:

    "> Ken Williams the leading man of Sierra, is pushing his own 3d-vid card.
    > He did the same thing for Audio cards a few years ago.
    > Of course None of these audio cards are mainstream anymore (gone the way
    > of the dynosaur : extinct).

    Everything gets extinct sooner or later. The Screamin'3d will be extinct
    someday -- so will the Pentium 200.
    > Ken William says that Windows 95 is the *BEST* game platform for the PC.

    I don't know that I've said that. Nascar2 is our hottest selling game
    right now -- and it is DOS. The problem with DOS is that it can be a
    problem both for the publisher and the customer. Here's what I mean:
    Under DOS, the application is much closer to the hardware. This is good,
    because you can get maximum performance. But the bad thing is that when
    your application and the hardware are linked without an operation, you
    need to swap your application when the hardware changes.
    Here's a clear example: most dos apps which talk directly to 3d cards
    will not be compatible with future 3d cards, whereas those written for
    direct3d (win95) will be. Assuming you want to keep your existing
    hardware forever, you would be better off in dos, but to the extent
    future compatibility is important you may want to trade some frame rate.
    DOS is also not very "mass market". A greater percentage of the
    population will someday be able to learn to use Win95. There is an
    argument that better games can exist for a more widely used platform.
    For instance, compare game availability between Mac and Windows.
    Lastly... Microsoft's strategic direction is directx. Some of why
    windows hasn't performed well in the past is because Microsoft hasn't
    been focused on this. The consumer market now has their full attention.
    There have been three releases of directx in the past year -- each
    faster than its predecessor.
    The gap between DOS and Windows is closing rapidly.

    > I have had the chance to look at some of
  • User Avatar Image
    I would guess the reason there wasn't much activity regarding Sierra on usenet is because the rest of us were still happily chugging away on local bulletin board systems.

    And aside from that... the more I read about Ken Williams the less I like him. KQ8 was "1/2 Super Mario 64" in the same way that my bowel movement this morning was "1/2 chipotle burrito".

    Let me fix that for you Ken:
    "the design goal was to be 1/2 Superman 64 and 1/2 Kings Quest."

    Much more accurate.

    Another random snippet:

    "The game is roughly the same length as the original, which Internet hackers may slam us for."

    Yes... because all your critics are hackers... hah.
  • exo;586557 said:
    I would guess the reason there wasn't much activity regarding Sierra on usenet is because the rest of us were still happily chugging away on local bulletin board systems.

    And aside from that... the more I read about Ken Williams the less I like him. KQ8 was "1/2 Super Mario 64" in the same way that my bowel movement this morning was "1/2 chipotle burrito".

    Let me fix that for you Ken:
    "the design goal was to be 1/2 Superman 64 and 1/2 Kings Quest."

    Much more accurate.

    Another random snippet:

    "The game is roughly the same length as the original, which Internet hackers may slam us for."

    Yes... because all your critics are hackers... hah.
    Just because it was disappointing to you as a KQ game, doesn't mean that it's a bad game in general, on it's own merits. To class it with Superman 64, regarded by most as one of the absolute worst games of all time, is hyperbolic. It may not be "KQ" to you, but that doesn't mean if you just view it as a game just set in the WORLD of KQ, that it's a bad game. And every KQ game had a different idea going into it: KQ6 was KQ + a darker, more verbose plot, less interest in fairy tales and more mythology; KQ7 was KQ meets Disney, etc.

    Also, there were a lot of people who were trolling Sierra at the time, if you read through the boards, so him saying something about internet hackers was a justified response given the context. There is a LOT of Sierra related content on the usernet archives from 1990-1998, a ton of stuff that would take months to compile here--so yes a lot of people were talking a lot about Sierra.

    I don't see what's to dislike about Ken. He made a bad business decision in selling Sierra, but that was 16 years ago. He made many many more good decisions than bad ones and if it wasn't for him, Sierra wouldn't have existed in the first place...
  • User Avatar Image
    For all the things I like about KQ8 (I don't dislike it actually, so don't confuse me with those who do), for me the absolute biggest problems were controls and the camera. Second would be the lack of detail in the game world, but that was standard for polygon games of the time.

    Super Mario 64 was one of the first 3d platformers to have a decent camera system and solid controls. Yes, Superman 64 is an exaggeration, but my entire point is that as far as a 3d action game goes, it falls very short of SM64.

    And just because people were giving Ken hell on the newsgroups doesn't make hem "hackers". His comment, as quoted above, seems to suggest that anyone who "slams" their game is a "hacker".

    Any CEO who gets online and opens discussion with their fan base is exposing themselves to a lot of criticism. So while it was brave of him to be so forward, it was also rather ignorant as he was never going to win any arguments online. Changing the name of a thread from Sierra Sucks to Sierra is Awesome is just ASKING for people to mess with you.

    Look, don't get me wrong. I adored Sierra games, and I still own original copies of nearly all of them including some incredibly rare ones. But that doesn't change the fact that the quality of the games had begun to decrease towards the end (before the sell), and some bad decisions were made.

    Ken just comes across as a guy who was wowed by new technology a little too easy. he jumped on the FMV bandwagon instantly, and then the 3d platformer/action game bandwagon right after. Using a flagship series like KQ may not have been the best way to test the waters, ya know?
  • I think the industry up and got itself in a hurry during the mid-nineties.... new technologies became available not only to developers, but to consumers as well - in affordable prices. Yet, I don't quite think everyone had it figured out well enough before they started pouncing on it - and yeah, Ken jumped head-first into new technologies that may not have been the best fit. The development and growth of computers and gaming technology was much slower between 1985 and 1995.

    I think comparing MoE to Super64 isn't very far off at all. I really hate MoE. It's clunky, awkward and just kind of "meh". It had some interesting story concepts, but the execution was poor. It's like wanting spaghetti and meatballs at an Italian Restaurant, and getting served diced bread covered in ketchup.

  • Keep in mind when he was comparing to Super Mario 64, it hadn't even been released yet... He had a prototype copy from Japan, that he payed thousands of dollars for...

    That's not to say, he may not have gotten the full version when it was released in 1996 as well... But more of a big deal was made over the fact he had a prototype long before any Americans had a chance to see the game...

    But saying that Super Mario 64 (Tomb Raider and Quake are brought up as well), was showing the future of what 3D could do at that time... As everything on PC up to that time, were much more primitive, 2D sprites in a 3D environment type constructs...

    BTW, came across an interesting article from late 1990's concerning the dieing adventure game genre with quotes from Jane Jensen, Roberta, and even nods towards the changes in KQ8...

    The nonbloody adventure games preferred by female players are a dying breed.

    Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
    | December 30, 1998 | Gornstein, Leslie

    SANTA ANA, Calif. _ 'King's Quest: Mask of Eternity,' featuring the heroics of Connor, is the first of the eight-game series to include fighting.

    It's just another day in medieval Daventry. Fair maidens and their widowed mothers prance and dote. Ye goode sun shineth on.

    Suddenly a mysterious pox arrives and turns everyone to stone _ except you. Now you _ Connor, the dashing hero _ must find the missing pieces of the magical Mask of Eternity if ye hope to save yonder damsels.

    According to marketers and psychologists, ``King's Quest: Mask of Eternity'' is just the type of computer game that women players love _ a world of beauty, magic and loss.

    Except for one new element: blood. Connor must also fight zombies, ogres and sea serpents, severing heads and stealing booty.

    Combat has never appealed to most women gamers, experts say. But increasingly it's all designers are offering, even in series that have always avoided fights, like ``King's Quest.''

    Women's interest in computer games is at an all-time high, according to the Interactive Digital Software Association. But one of their favorite genres _ art-heavy, combat-free adventures _ is growing harder and harder to find.

    ``I have never seen it this bad before in all my years of writing games,'' said Roberta Williams, co-founder of game maker Sierra On-Line and creator of the popular ``King's Quest'' series. ``There is such a dearth of games for women. I have never seen the shelves so empty.''

    To be fair, plenty of women love shoot-'em-ups and sports games. And women must be finding happiness, because an estimated 38 percent of computer gamers are women, and

    their numbers are growing.

    But that hasn't stopped industry veterans and gamers from complaining. They say the wild success of violent ``Doom''-style titles has inspired the industry to the point of obsession, clogging store shelves with violence, distorting the image of the computer-game world and turning off potential female buyers.

    ``I am afraid that the market has gotten a comic-book reputation,'' said Jane Jensen, creator of Sierra's ``Gabriel Knight'' adventure series. ``The industry isn't addressing this new, growing part of the marketplace that isn't about that.''

    Jensen says the games she loves to write are fading. She remembers competing with 20 to 30 adventure titles in 1995, the year she released ``Gabriel Knight 2.'' But this year, she can count no more than six.

    ``It has been discouraging,'' Jensen said. ``I know a lot of people who worked on 'Gabriel Knight 2' who can't find work now because nobody is talking about story.''

    Meanwhile, peaceful adventures make up the only major genre to have a significant female audience, said Jim Veevaert, director of marketing at Sierra.

    ``Action games are going to have a 95 percent male audience,'' Veevaert said. ``Strategy games are going to have an 85 to 90 percent male audience; adventure games are going to have a 55-45 split.''

    But industry leaders say they have no choice but to crank up the action. For hard-core gamers, combat games are hot, and, with the exception of ``Myst,'' the best-selling computer game of all time, and the ``King's Quest'' series, which has sold more than 7 million copies since the early 1980s, adventures simply aren't flying off the shelves.

    For example, Irvine-based Blizzard Entertainment has sold more than 1 million copies each of ``Diablo,'' ``Warcraft II'' and ``Starcraft.'' The gory, frightening ``Resident Evil'' and ``Resident Evil II'' have sold more than 5 million copies combined.

    But the two ``Gabriel Knight'' games have sold a total of 300,000 copies, considered a success in the world of adventures, according to Jensen.

    To their credit, some companies have strained to keep adventures alive. But it has cost them.

    Irvine-based game maker Interplay Productions tried mightily this year to win over adventure gamers, without success. In January, Interplay unveiled the stunning ``Of Light and Darkness,'' a combat-free game featuring $1 million in art from surrealist Gil Bruvel and the voice of high-profile actor James Woods. But sales were disappointing, said Green, who would not release a sales figure.

    Last month, Interplay shuttered its adventure unit and put its only baby, a Star Trek-based game, on hiatus, saying the company didn't have enough money to continue its development.

    ``We are trying to build a successful business with sports and strategy games,'' spokesman Kirk Green said. ``We have not had as much success with adventure.''

    Meanwhile, even Bellevue, Wash.-based Sierra, which has made its name in adventure games for nearly two decades, is turning to where the money is. The company released its first first-person shooter, ``Half Life,'' at the end of last month, and orders are already backlogged. Plus, ``King's Quest: Mask of Eternity,'' the eighth in the series, will be the first in the line to have combat.

    That decision raised eyebrows, even within Sierra's ranks.

    ``When I first knew what they were doing, there was a lot of talk of, 'My God, what are they doing?' `` Jensen said. ``There are hard-core adventure players who will not like it, and I am one of them.''

    Williams defended her strategy, saying it was time to introduce something different.

    ``It appeared that adventure games were just dying,'' she said. ``It just appeared that no one wanted adventure games anymore. ... I needed to do something strong and relatively risky in order to get it back.''

    Meanwhile, marketing to women isn't as profitable either, said Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association in Washington, D.C. They are more casual buyers _ harder to pin down, he said.

    ``Economically, they are not going to generate as much revenue,'' he said.

    But hard-core gamers, overwhelmingly male, can be counted on to buy a game a month.

    ``Hard-core gamers tend toward shooters and sports games,'' Lowenstein said. ``In terms of women _ unfortunately, I don't have any real data about what they are doing _ but I suspect women tend more toward the adventure- and puzzle-type products.''

    No wonder that Ruth Fry, a computer gamer from Sunnyvale, isn't standing in line at CompUSA.

    She is, admittedly, extremely picky about what she plays. She doesn't buy many games, but when she does, they can't have fighting. What they do need is beautiful art and a leisurely pace.

    ``I am not big into the whole manual-dexterity thing,'' Fry said. ``I would much rather have the luxury of walking around and not worrying about dying.''

    Combat is simply not a part of most women's socialization, said women's psychologist Dana Crowley Jack, a professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.

    ``Women are trained to de-escalate conflict,'' said Crowley Jack, whose upcoming book, tentatively titled ``Crossing the Line,'' explores female aggression. ``Combat is not where their psychological energy lies.''

    As for Fry, she's realized that most store-bought games don't thrill her, so she's ready to write her own.

    ``I do a lot of art and I have been learning some programming,'' she said. ``The only thing lacking is a plot.''

    Her efforts may not be necessary. Jensen and her peers are hoping that a new crop of adventure titles _ including ``Gabriel Knight 3,'' due out next year _ will reawaken the genre.

    ``It is like the publishing industry, where no one is selling mystery novels one year,'' she said. ``It is a cycle. Eventually adventure games will come back _ as soon as the next few years.''

    X X X

    PHOTO will be available from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099.

    X X X

    (c) 1998, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).

    Visit the Register on the World Wide Web at

    Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
  • 300000 a success during the better days of adventuring. No wonder the genre died.
  • 300000 a success during the better days of adventuring. No wonder the genre died.
    You do have a point...

    Roberta once said that each KQ game sold about double each previous one... This was apparently true of KQ8 as well...

    I think, IIRC, KQ8 sold about 900,000 copies initially (when best selling games in general were selling over a 1.5 million copies or so)... It selling at least double to Grim Fandango (which was calculated to have sold between 100,000 and 500,000 units worldwide)

    KQ7 was around 500,000 copies...

    KQ6, was around 350,000 IIRC...


    Sierra also had a tendancy to conflate the numbers, that is add up all the sales (even those beyond initial sales) of each game in the series to come up with a single number. Thus making what they called a 'million selling series number'....

    Thus King's Quest was considered something like a '2.5 million best selling series' at one point, IIRC. This was advertised on the box. Might have been around KQ7's release.


    I think this was just to make it sound more impressive than it was, and possibly bring in new players from other genres... who only bought 'best-selling' (million or more sold) games.
Add Comment