In the fall of 1982, Sierra On-Line was contacted by IBM and asked to develop a sophisticated and replayable adventure title that would showcase its upcoming PCjr‘s capabilities. After more than a year and a half of development and over $800.000 (of mostly IBM’s money) later, Roberta Williams‘ story of Sir Grahame, the aging King Edward of Daventry’s bravest knight, was complete. While it was critically acclaimed and heralded new standards in the adventure genre, the poor reception of the IBM PCjr consequently resulted in low sales figures.
IBM had for nearly two decades fought against anti-trust actions by the United States Department of Justice because of its near-monopoly, controlling almost 70% of the computer market. Afraid of being split up, IBM had to be cautious of all transactions made, resulting in Sierra On-Line maintaining the rights to King’s Quest. This made it possible for the struggling company to release it for other and competing platforms as well. With the advantage of using the flexible AGI framework, developed specifically for King’s Quest, Sierra was able to quickly release versions for the Tandy 1000, standard PCs, and the Apple II, and sales soon skyrocketed, spawning one of gaming longest-running and most successful series.
The very first King’s Quest was published for the IBM PCjr in May of 1984 to showcase the newly introduced compact form factor computer’s graphics and sound capabilities.
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 about the three legendary treasures hidden throughout the land that could end Daventry’s troubles
The second title in the series was published in the summer of 1985 and was received with much critical acclaim and became an even bigger hit than the first title.
King’s Quest II with the subtitle Romancing the Throne, a spin-off of the 1984 movie Romancing the Stone, would continue the story of Graham, now king of Daventry (after finding the three legendary treasures in the first installment).
In the throne room, Merlin’s mirror shows a damsel held captive in a tower in a faraway land. King Graham sets out on a journey to the land of Kolyma to find and rescue Valanice.
Kings Quest III: To Heir Is Human was published in October of 1986. The game was bigger but also considerably more difficult than the earlier titles. It was for the most part received well but fans of the series were disappointed because it didn’t immediately connect with the already established story and instead focused on Gwydion, a young slave, and his attempts to escape his evil master. It wasn’t until the end of the game the connection between Gwydion and King Graham of Daventry became apparent.
This is the 2.14 version from 1988.
Kings Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella was when published in September of 1988, the first commercial game released for the IBM PC to add support for soundcards. While earlier titles in the series all had been developed using the proven AGI framework, Sierra now had the first iteration of its new SCI framework ready, allowing for higher resolution graphics, more sophisticated animation, mouse, and sound card support.
To cater to the broadest market possible the game was developed and published simultaneously in both an AGI and an SCI version.
Roberta Williams continued the story from the third title, this time focusing on King Graham’s daughter princess Rosella who sets out to find a magical fruit, in the faraway land of Tamir, to save her dying father.
This is the SCI version with added Amiga sound effects.
King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! was published in 1990 as one of the most anticipated titles of its time. It was the first title in the series to leave the aging text-parser interface behind.
The point and click interface and the impressive 256 VGA color graphics heralded Sierra into the golden age of adventure games. Animation techniques, similar to the ones Disney employed was used for the framework of the characters and their animations. Background scenes were hand-drawn, painted, and scanned. All in all, the game’s total budget of around one million dollars (over 2 million in today’s money) was pretty much unprecedented at the time.
King’s Quest V would over the years sell over half a million copies and along the way win several awards.
In 1992 the title was reworked and released on CD-ROM with full voice acting, all done by members of the Sierra staff (which left a lot to be desired).
This is the original 256 colors floppy version from 1990. I thought of playing the 1992 CD-ROM version but its mediocre voice-acting made it a frustrating listening experience (I’m especially looking at you, Cedric).
King’s Quest V: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow was designed and written by Roberta Williams and Jane Jensen and published by Sierra On-Line in October of 1992. It’s considered by many to be the best title in the series and was received with critical acclaim.
In its first week, the title sold more than 400.000 copies.
Text and dialogues were done by writer Jane Jensen, who would go on to create the Gabriel Knight series.
This is the CD-ROM multimedia release from 1993 with a slightly different opening movie, more detailed artwork and animation, and full voice acting. The voice acting was done professionally and sounds much better than the previous title, though still lacking behind what LucasArts did with Sam and Max and Day of the Tentacle from the same period. This version also featured a revised soundtrack with a full version of the game’s love theme, the ballad “Girl in the Tower”, composed by Mark Seibert with lyrics by Jane Jensen. Sierra sent the song to various radio stations and a leaflet listing the stations was bundled with the game and suggested fans to call in and ask for the song to be played.
Over the years I have recorded hundreds of gameplay videos and whenever I have the time, I’ll edit and upload them, all in 4K – Check it out here and remember to subscribe as I’ll continue to add new videos in the future.