King's Quest 1 - Redux

15th August 2019 | Games

This is a day I've been looking forward to for a long time...

When I was seventeen years old, I finally decided on a major to study Computer Science, so once I graduated I could go work for Sierra On-Line and make awesome games. Sadly, the Sierra of my youth would shutter a couple years later, taking my dreams along with it. Until today.

My friend Dan introduced me to the world of Sierra adventure games where we searched for the lost treasures of Daventry, saved the universe from the dreaded Sariens, and repeatedly crashed the patrol car on the streets of Lytton.

Heartened by our digital adventures, we would try to make up our own "games" by sketching out screens on paper for our own imagined magnum opera. That dream never fully died and today I am resurrecting it in the form of King's Quest 1 - Redux.

Barring the use of a time machine so I can go back to 1985 to work for Sierra, this is as close as I will come to achieving that original goal. This is my love letter to all of those great Sierra games I grew up with in the 1980s.

A year ago I began investigating the inner workings of the Adventure Game Interpreter (AGI), the game engine which powered the early Sierra adventure games (King's Quest 1 - 4, Space Quest 1 and 2, Police Quest 1, Leisure Suit Larry 1, and more). Early in the year I ported QT AGI Studio from Linux to the Mac, which provided the necessary tools to modify the original King's Quest game.

So why King's Quest 1? Why not, I suppose. But if I was going to hack on an AGI game, it might as well be the game that started it all and helped kick off a set of franchise series that Sierra would become famous for. Even with the EGA enhanced version of the game which came with the improved AGI engine, the game still has its flaws and shortcomings.

In the later AGI-era games, one could go into a screen and simply type "look" to get a general description of the area. However, games like King's Quest 1 and Space Quest 1 did not have this option and required the player to be more specific when inspecting their surroundings. I went through all 83 screens of the game and added the option to be able to just type "look" to get a general description. Upon doing this, I discovered that some of the screens did not even have a description (such as some of the screens with the troll bridges), so I borrowed the room descriptions from the SCI remake of King's Quest 1 to fill in the blanks.

Another shortcoming was that KQ1 had only three speeds: Slow, Normal, and Fast. Slow and Normal were standard, but Fast was dependent upon the speed of your computer, comparative to what the Fastest speed would be in other games. I tweaked the game so the Fast setting was equivalent to the Fast speed in other AGI games, and Fastest is now what the Fast speed used to be. Pressing F10 will also toggle through the four different speeds.

King's Quest 1 provides for a number of solutions to the variety of puzzles throughout the game, but it also came with quite a few dead ends. I went about fixing a couple of these dead end scenarios:

In the original 1984 version of King's Quest, there were no close up images of the inventory items. It wasn't until the later EGA enhanced version that this feature was added. However, how the item appeared in the game versus how it was displayed as an inventory item did not always pair up correctly. I updated a couple of items so they would better match in appearance and their description. Several examples include the Magic Mirror, the Sceptre, the Shield, and the Mushroom.

KQ1 has gone through several iterations, and it appears that even how certain tasks were scored has changed over time, which resulted in a couple of bugs I discovered, where it is possible to get a maximum score of 159 out of 158, or even achieve "negative" points, which will eventually roll over and become 255 points.

The first, and one of the most noticeable changes in the game is the revamping of the title and credits screens. I played around with a number of ideas, but settled on fitting in with tradition by using the title screen that was used for King's Quest 3 and 4, including using the same starting music from the title sequence of KQ3 before switching to a credits screen which was styled after the credits used in The Black Cauldron or KQ3.

So what's next? This past year has been an extremely fun and educational experience in learning how the AGI engine worked and then testing my new skills by updating King's Quest 1. I still have a couple of smaller ideas that didn't make it into the initial 3.0 release, so perhaps there might be some minor or patch versions at some time in the future. However, the big ideas I have in store would be for version 4.0, which would involve massive changes to the land of Daventry, new art work, and additional puzzles — practically a new game. This may never come to pass, but it is this same fun of imagining how King's Quest could be improved which lead to the creation of King's Quest 1 - Redux by taking an existing game and imagining how it could become even better.

It's been an amazing journey, folks. Welcome back to Daventry.