Saturday, March 24, 2012

King's Quest

King's Quest is probably my single fondest memory of computer gaming.

I don't think that's something that will change any time soon.  It doesn't matter if it's not the best game ever.  To me, it will always hold a totally special place in my imagination.

So many things seem to have been lost, or at least not fully explored, that King's Quest did.

It was a cinematic world, presented in resplendent color.  And the best part, a fully WRITTEN story, based around TEXT, and the player inputing their actions through TEXT.  

I loved that the world was experienced through the eyes, and the MIND, and that to interact with the world, you would READ, THINK, and WRITE.

To be honest, I can see why they brought in the mouse interface years later.  But it did remove a layer of imagination from the game.  It removed the "infinity" of the game world.

When playing King's Quest, ANYTHING was possible, because there was basically no interface.  There was a flashing cursor at the botton of the screen, inviting you to type in ANYTHING.  Anything you could imagine.

Can you think of a VERB?  Try it!  

Sure the game might say, "I DON'T UNDERSTAND THAT".  But there's always the possibility that it WILL understand what you type next, that the next thing you type will open a new door, show you a deeper layer to the world, find a special hidden item or secret.  The world was revealed, and the story moved forward, by you talking to the computer, and it talked back.

I loved that.  

Every little morsel of the graphics were mouthwateringly full of potential.  My eyes and mind would savour every detail, wondering what lay hidden inside this world before me.

When the mouse cursor came in, with the fixed set of verbs, "Walk, Talk, Manipulate", it actually closed off a lot of that potential in the game world.  Things became much more explicitly binary.  There were things you could do, and things you couldn't do.  No discussion.

And ever since, I feel that games do not want to enter into a discussion with you.  You play by their rules, and you move through the puzzles laid out for you.

If you waved your mouse cursor over a hole in a tree that looked suspiciously alluring, and the cursor did not change, then you can forget about it.  Nothing of interest there.  That is a useless bit of graphics that you can just forget about.

With the text interface, you could never really close off the potential of anything.  You just hadn't discovered it yet!  And I think there was a beauty in that.  Sure, perhaps the actual interactions that are possible are the same.  But there was something I liked about not being sure.  About everything being possible, and my mind having to remain open.  Perhaps it more accurately mirrors the real world, where everything has potential, and that potential is in the eye of the beholder.


  1. This kid is a gem, and has a funny anecdote in his video review of King's Quest on the Sega Master System! He has a fowl mouth. And I find him rather refreshing. :)

    Let's Play! "King's Quest 1" on Sega Master System