Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Evolution of King's Quest (I AGI)

The original King's Quest had a long history of releases for the IBM PC and compatible platforms. The game was originally developed for the enhanced graphics and sound of the IBM PCjr.  The PCjr. was hyped to the max and many media publications were predicting that IBM's consumer-focused machine would quickly dominate the home market when it was announced in November of 1983.  Sierra Online was facing a troubling future and made good on a deal to publish an ambitious and revolutionary game for IBM's machine.

IBM bankrolled much of King's Quest's development, but the game would not be available at launch.
However, by the time King's Quest was released in May of 1984, the market had shown that it was not about to become IBM's playground.  The PCjr. was overpriced cost twice as much as the Commodore 64 with a disk drive and did not offer much to the consumer that the C64 could not.  The Apple IIe and //c computers were also strong competitors at the same price, offering a huge library of software.  The PCjr struggled with compatibility with several popular IBM PC programs and included a keyboard that was laughable for trying to get real work done with it.

The result was that within weeks of King's Quest being released for the IBM PCjr., it was released for the IBM PC.  The IBM PC had inferior graphics and sound capabilities but was faster than the PCjr. and could give a reasonable approximation of the PCjr. experience.  Sierra would eventually sign a publishing deal with Tandy Radio Shack that would ensure its survival and give priority support to Tandy 1000 computers with their PCjr-compatible graphics and sound.  King's Quest and most of Sierra's other games would include specific support for Tandy 1000 graphics and/or sound.

Eventually, Sierra understood that PC games would run better off hard disks and there were enough hard disk based systems on the market to add support for them.  Similarly, IBM's EGA could do justice to the 16-color RGB graphics of King's Quest and had sufficiently come down in price to displace CGA as the color graphics solution for PC-compatibele owners.  The AGI engine which ran King's Quest would be overhauled to support new features.

King's Quest undoubtedly has more distinct releases than any other AGI game.  I have counted no less than eight distinct versions of the game.  My list does not count the later SCI remake from 1990 or the Tierra Entertainment/ADGI fan remakes of the 21st century. Much of the credit for this article goes to NewRisingSun, whose efforts to discover, fix and crack these games know no bounds.

King's Quest IBM PCjr.
Released on May 10, 1984.
Copy Protection : Non-standard sector sizes

Runs only on an IBM PCjr. or a Tandy 1000 with 128KB of RAM
Type "copy disk" to make a play and save game disk
IBM's later printings replaced the full keyboard overlay with a function key strip when it recalled the chicket-style PCjr. keyboards.  Boxes with a copyright of 1983 have the overlay, boxes with a copyright of 1984 has the key strip.  

King's Quest IBM PC
Release : May 30, 1984
Copy Protection : Formaster Copylock

Supports composite color CGA and PC speaker sound.
Requires 128KB of RAM
The protagonist's name was changed from "Grahame" to "Graham".
The manual was drastically changed to give a more dramatic version of the story.
Playing information now given on a reference card

King's Quest IBM PC
Release : August 16, 1984
Copy Protection : Formaster Copylock

CGA RGB color support added
Chris Iden is credited for the first time
Script bugs were fixed

King's Quest Tandy 1000
Release : May 24, 1985
Copy Protection : Unnamed Protection, unofficially known as "Sierra Online Protection #2"

Will run on a 128KB IBM PCjr. but not an IBM PC or Compatible
Sound effects derive from PC version, even though the Tandy supports the same 3-voice sound chip that the PCjr. uses.

King's Quest Tandy 1000 & IBM PCjr.
Release : September 4, 1985.
Copy Protection : Unnamed Protection, unofficially known as "Sierra Online Protection #2"

Identical to above, but copyright text strings no longer reference Tandy or Radio Shack.

King's Quest : Quest for the Crown
Release November 13 or 26, 1986
Game Version : 1.0U
AGI Interpreter : 2.272
Copy Protection : Softguard Softlock 2.0.3 Sierra Variant

MS-DOS Required
Adds EGA and Hard Disk drive support
Status bar visible
RGB and Composite CGA dithering algorithms changed
Different and more music and sound effects (Greensleeves from KQ2), ambient sounds removed
256KB Required
Replacement character art (Wizard from KQ2, crocodiles from Black Cauldron)
New version and special thanks credits added
Title screen gives black background/white text scroll
Screen vector drawing and filling no longer shown
Two alligators on castle screens
Slow, Normal and Fast speeds added
Can add text descriptions to save games
Copyright date 1986
Pre-title screen prompt to center the joystick

King's Quest : Quest for the Crown
Release : May 5, 1987
Game Version : 2.0F
AGI Interpreter : 2.245
Copy Protection : Softguard Softlock 2.0.3 Sierra Variant

Hercules Graphics support
Drop down menu support
Fixed red-leaf title screen error
3.5" 720KB Disk Support
Executable recognizes certain command-line arguments -c, -r, -t, -h, -e
Graham stops walking when he touches a solid object
Tells you to press Escape if you do not want to use a joystick
Copyright date 1987

King's Quest : Quest for the Crown
Release : December 1, 1987
Game Version : 2.0F
AGI Interpreter : 2.917
Copy Protection : Softguard Softlock 2.0.3 Sierra Variant or None (Slash and Anniversary releases)

MCGA 16-Color Support
EGA Graphics Speed Bug fix (no more trails on 386 and fast 286 machines)
Supports EGA or VGA on Tandy 1000 with Tandy 3-voice sound (unofficially)
Note envelopes added to 3-voice music, different envelope parameters used on PCjr and Tandy 1000


Jared said...

My first PC game was Kings quest v but my brother and I made sure to go back and buy all the previous games. My friend had a pc jr with kings quest and black cauldron but we spent most of our time on the black cauldron which is still one of my fav games from back then.

Great article! It's so interesting to me how they used copy protection back then. I spent months trying to figure out how to copy many of those old games. Thank god for most games that just used manual references.

What was your first Sierra games that you owned and on what machine?

Stu said...

At one point I had a few other versions of the PC version booter, and a lot of intermediary script versions existed across 2gs/mac/atari st/amiga etc that fixed various things.

I would say Space Quest I saw more distinct releases that KQ1 across all the machines.

I still regret loosing my entire AGI development archives