Passing King's Quest
to a New Generation
I take a deep breath, holding it in for a second before I exhale slowly. The bustling crowds of E3 can still be heard, muted by the temporary walls of the unassuming room in which I sit. I open my eyes to see the darkened space in which I will be seeing nearly an hour of the upcoming King’s Quest as reimagined by the small development team at The Odd Gentlemen. To my left sits Matt Korba, lead designer, creative director, and writer for the upcoming adventure title. Behind him sits Lindsey Rostal, producer of King’s Quest, as she girds herself for the madness of the coming days.
I quietly run over everything that I know about the upcoming game while Korba gears up the build to show myself and one other journalist. It isn’t much. I know that there are nine main games in the series, the last one released over fifteen years ago. I dabbled a bit in many of the games, though I spent the most time in King’s Quest V and VI. However, I am far from an expert on the mechanics or lore. I’ve always planned on dedicating a month for a deep dive into the series. Despite the dearth of experience, I am really interested in the episodic King’s Quest. The new adventure is being published by a revitalized Sierra under the wing of Activision. Though a couple trailers have released to the public, this will be the longest showing of King’s Quest to date.
I watch the animations playing on the large television screen that takes up almost an entire wall of the room. It’s hard not to be intrigued just from the visuals presented by King’s Quest. It looks rich and vibrant, like a hand-drawn Disney film come to life. The distinctive images flow across the screen as Korba sets everything up for the demonstration. He sits in a casual button-up shirt, a beard covering his face. It is Tuesday and the show hasn’t left his face looking exhausted yet. He looks at me and smiles. I catch a glint of excitement in his eye and I know. I know there is something special here and I am to be let in on the secret. Korba’s excitement for his video game is palpable and infectious.
A PR representative, Bill Linn, enters the room and informs us that we have some time for questions before the demo begins. I didn’t need much prompting. I launch into my questions. This was going to be good.
Jack Gardner: Did you use any one King’s Quest game in particular as a model for this new King’s Quest?
Matt Korba: I am a huge fan of the series, it is my favorite game series of all time, so this is pretty much a dream project for me. The first chapter is very much inspired by King’s Quest I. The next chapter I think will be more inspired by King’s Quest III. But this one has the open forest map. Just like King’s Quest I, you can solve the puzzles in any order you want and based on how you solve those that actually changes the story. The order you solve them and the way that you solve them changes the story. So, there is a lot of, I would say, King’s Quest I and II in this one.
JG: What kind of challenges did you face bringing it to more modern platforms? Because I feel like looking back at older King’s Quest games… that presents a big challenge by itself.
MK: Yeah, I mean, the cool thing about King’s Quest was that it was always evolving, right? We went from a text parser to one of the first point-and-click games to full-on point-and-click. I think IV was actually point-and-click and text. What we wanted to do was make the game that Ken and Roberta would have made if they were still making adventure games in 2015. What we did, and you’ll see it, because console was one of our big platforms, we needed to make sure we had a control scheme that worked really well on console. Not necessarily using the mouse with the joystick because that never works out really well. We were very much inspired by the King’s Quest V icons and verb set, and we boiled that down to a console context sensitive button. That way, because the controls are so easy, we get to put a lot of the depth into the actual puzzles. You can still use the wrong inventory on things and get the funny responses and stuff like that.
It would have been a different project, it would have been an interesting one, but a different one, to say, “Okay, we are going to make King’s Quest VI HD.” But that’s not really what was set out to do with this project. It was to make a reimagining or a modern version of that. We needed to align ourselves with- [he pauses] Another studio or another approach might be to look at King’s Quest VI or VII and amp that up or whatever. But what we wanted to do was to go back to the core and find out what were these games inspired by and what they were trying to hit back then. I was lucky enough that I got to meet with Ken and Roberta early on to make sure that… I wanted to do that just to have their blessing because they were involved in pretty much every project, right? I wanted to make sure that we were pulling from the same references. We got to have an awesome retreat with them and showed them a very early build of the game and had a lot of conversations. They are pretty much the best video game mentors/parents you can have. They are amazing.
JG: That sounds incredible!
MK: It’s… It’s a huge… [Korba smiles at me a bit sheepishly] It keeps me up at night. I started having anxiety attacks over this game because I don’t want these games to go away. I love making this type of game and I want to continue making this type of game. Now we are at the point where, you know, [King’s Quest Chapter One] is basically done. We know we have something special that we poured a lot of love into. The trick is, is there still an audience for it? We know a lot of people are still excited for this, but are they going to come around and make it so that, not only us, but everyone else who wants to make narrative games or game modes [can do it], where they can just be funny. There isn’t a lot of humor in modern games. So, it keeps me up at night just because we’ve now built a team that loves this type of game and loves making it and we want to continue to do that. [Laughs] Hopefully you guys like it. Hopefully you tell your friends about it.
JG: I think you will find that the people who like these kinds of games are still out there, they’re just under served. They’ll flock to something like this.
MK: One thing that we’re excited about; we did mock reviews a little while ago. They were very high and very good. They are mock reviews, so who knows if they will actually be the same when the game releases. One of the things that I am personally the most proud of, one of the things that we set out to do that I have been trying to do ever since I started the company was to make games for families. I feel like when I was growing up I had a lot of fun games to play with my uncle and my dad and we don’t have a lot of stuff like that anymore. Not real family entertainment. We don’t have the video game version of The Goonies, for example, or a Pixar movie. Everyone says there are Pixar games, but we don’t actually have those. The Lego games are awesome, but that is a co-op, arcade-y experience, not necessarily something you are going to have a discussion about around the dinner table on the morals or anything like that.
JG: In other words, there aren’t family stories.
MK: Right. One of the things in the mock reviews that we were really excited about was that every single one of them said something along the lines of “oh, I really want to play this with my child or I can’t wait to share this with my daughter.” We’re hoping that helps carry it along to the next generation.
Bill Linn pops in to remind us that we need to start the demo. Korba turns to fiddle with a few more settings and Bill gives a few of the newest details on King’s Quest. The reveal of the first chapter, King’s Quest Chapter I: A Knight to Remember, came along with an expected release window for late July. Korba pauses the game and turns back toward me, launching into a brief overview of the central conceits of his addition to a franchise that goes back to 1984.
MK: In the new King’s Quest you play as old Graham, you can kinda see his silhouette on this pause screen. He is now a very old man. The game really centers on his past adventures and the stories that he shares with his curious granddaughter Gwendolyn and they have a very special relationship. It’s set up like the movie The Princess Bride or Big Fish where the stories take place in flashbacks, but because it is a game we can do cool stuff. [The player] can actually color how that story is taking place, so your actions in the game when you are playing Graham as a younger man, they will color that type of story. Whether it is a story of compassion or wisdom or bravery, is completely up to your choices and those choices then shape Gwendolyn who is facing her own problems in the castle. Depending on what you do she’ll be inspired and do something similar. It has this overarching theme of handing down these stories from generation to generation just like the classic games we want to hand down to a younger generation.
JG: It’s a passing of the torch.
MK: Yeah. The game takes place over five chapters and Graham ages from a young man to a very old man through each of those. I think that’s all you really need to know. I’m going to skip ahead maybe twenty to twenty-five minutes into the game. Gwendolyn has a fencing tournament coming up that she is very nervous for and of course that reminds Graham of a story he would like to share with her. That’s where we are going to jump in.
King Graham, now an elderly man weakened and wizened by time, appears bedridden and ill. His granddaughter, Gwendolyn, enters his room carrying a tray full of medicinal potions. She gives him his dosage instructions and the two begin talking. The recognizable voice of Christopher Lloyd lends Graham an air of magical elegance. He really feels kingly and has the kind of voice where you just want him to tell you a story that goes on forever. Gwendolyn, in a voice that sounds youthfully exuberant, asks the king about duels, providing players with an opportunity to directly give advice. The options range from suggesting a clever outmaneuver to displaying graceful courtesy for your adversary to win by not fighting.
Many of the choices in King’s Quest appear to revolve around choosing between brave, smart, or compassionate options. These three virtues interact in various ways to shape unique stories. Players who tackle puzzles differently might have completely disparate experiences. Korba chooses to advise Gwendolyn to try a deft maneuver in her upcoming match. Recounting his own clever tactic from a past duel launches Graham into a story about how he participated in a knightly tournament when he was a much younger man.
The story begins with one of the most charming examples of slapstick humor that I’ve seen in video games. Watching Graham tumble down a cliff is one of the highlights of my time at E3. The gorgeously realized visuals of a cartoon man face-planting into trees and boulders left me with a large grin on my face and thoroughly engrossed. I want to see this loveable loser succeed. As Graham rolls to a halt at the bottom of the cliff, Korba continues.
MK: Okay, so I am showing this to show you how some of the narration works, but I will also explain the HUD a little bit. I have these context sensitive actions when I get to these points of interest. [He gestures at the context sensitive prompt that has appeared on-screen] This is an examine [icon]. There’s also a use, an action one, and a talking one. Of course, I have an inventory. Right now, I just have my life’s savings which is five gold coins. The first thing you will notice is that the game has a hand painted feel. That’s because it is actually hand painted. There is no technical tricks to that, it‘s just a lot of manual labor and artistry.
JG: Wow, how did you manage that?
MK: What we are doing is printing out the 3D models and then physically water coloring on them and then scanning them back in.
JG: That’s amazing!
MK: I forgot to bring it, I’ll bring it tomorrow, but we have binders full of, you know, an unskinned tree that has pen and ink work over it. That’s something that we are pretty proud of. [Gesturing back to the game] I am supposed to go to the right, but because this is an adventure game we stuck in way too many Easter eggs. I’ll show you what happens if you try to go the other way.
Korba maneuvers Graham off to the left which rewards him with a humorous admonishment to head off to the right. He goes left again, and another line of funny bit of dialogue follows. Several more times Graham struggles to exit the left side of the screen, each encounter raising the irritation in Christopher Lloyd’s narrative voice. Finally, old Graham narrates somewhat testily how a strong gust of wind pushed his young self down the path to the right.
MK: [Laughing] You are going East whether you like it or not. We are doing stuff like that. Lots of little secrets to discover, little secrets. I’m going to follow this path that has these tracks on it. Seems to be something weird up ahead.
Graham comes to a bridge that has collapsed. Next to the bridge remnants sits a strange, old horn. On the other side of the gap, a knightly procession reminiscent of the king’s procession from Disney’s Robin Hood marches humorously along. They’re clearly on their way to the same tournament Graham wishes to attend, but he can’t join them due to the bridge situation. After the parade disappears into the distance, Korba demonstrates interacting with puzzles.
MK: It seems like some sort of a missing bridge and like some sort of a horn, I guess? I’ll try blowing that, you can see the use icon now. [Blowing on the horn proves to be ineffective] Okay, I guess I’ll check my inventory. As you can see, when you can interact with something it shows you a nice framing of that, a nice portrait of that object. I guess I’ll try using my coin on it. [The coin has little effect] I guess I’ll try blowing it one more time. [The second attempt to blow the horn earns some amusing dialogue about how gross and unsanitary it must be] So, I can go back and blow that horn like 8 more times, but I am going to skip ahead. Lindsey and I wrote this, so a lot of it was just like, “Man, these voice actors are so awesome, we should give them TONS of stuff to say!” [laughs] So we put lots of crazy stuff in. Now I am going to cheat to get to the actual tournament.
JG: [laughs] King’s Quest promotes cheating.
MK: At least in the demos. [Korba transports Graham a little ways farther into King’s Quest] There is a little intro to this scene when [Graham] gets dropped off. There is another missing bridge and the parade has been halted. They can’t get into the tournament.
Now is a good time to mention that we really wanted to craft a game where we had gameplay, story, and art all working together, so what that means is we have a lot of different types of gameplay in the game. Not like, you learn one thing and it keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. There aren’t necessarily modes. So, what we wanted to do here when we approached this scene we really wanted to make Graham feel like an outsider and feel bullied, so how can we craft a series of puzzles to tell that story? I’m going to show you that. Earlier on in the game I came across another missing bridge, and I needed to use a hatchet to chop down a tree to make a bridge. I can try to do the same thing here… but they are blocking it, so I can’t. Because it is an adventure game, we also have funny interactions if you use the wrong thing at the wrong time. [Korba demonstrates using coins to try bribing the guards] Gwendolyn is obsessed with the hatchet, so I can try to use it on the guards. [Gwendolyn enthusiastically suggests that Graham massacred the guards] Let’s go try to cause some distress.
The setup for this scene is that the guards surrounding the knights cannot leave their posts under any circumstance unless someone nearby is in mortal danger. To get lure the guards away, Korba manipulates Graham down the bank of the river over which the bridge had stretched. Using the context sensitive button on his controller, Korba hops the plucky hero across the rocks. He assures me that the King’s Quest doesn’t have action platforming as Graham dives into the river and pretends to drown. The guards run to help and while they all stand around, Graham enrages some nearby bees to keep the law-minding guards occupied. Korba takes Graham back to speak with the knights.
MK: Lindsey and I wrote about 20 things you can ask them if you keep talking to them, but I will skip that for now. I should also mention that we are super stoked about the VO cast that we got. You heard Christopher Lloyd earlier. We actually hired kid actors, which very rarely happens in games, so the girl you hear is a young actress named Maggie Elizabeth Jones. She is in the movie We Bought a Zoo. I am personally proud of the guy in the orange cape. That is the voice of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. You will hear Wallace Shawn a little bit later who is Rex in Toy Story and the ”Inconceivable!” guy in The Princess Bride.
JG: No wonder you wrote so many lines for them to say.
MK: Right, well, we have Tom Kenny in the game who is the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants. He was our first session and it was like, “Is he going to be upset that he doesn’t have that many lines? We better give him a lot.” So we ended up doing a bunch of side lines. [laughs]
The puzzle on display here is basically the end of the linear tutorial of King’s Quest. It puts observation and creativity to the test to solve the problem of crossing the river. The first solution Korba tries is to chop down a nearby tree to create a makeshift bridge. As Graham pathetically chops at the massive tree, a huge knight steps over and simply shoves it across the gap. The behemoth crosses, looks at Graham, and then rolls the tree into the river below while laughing at our hero’s plight. However, the tree floats downstream, becoming lodged in some rocks. Korba tries to cross there. However, another knight runs past and pushed Graham into the water, which shifts the tree and causes it to float farther downstream. At this point, Korba takes out the axe to cut up the tree into logs, lashing them together with the rope the guards had earlier used to cordon off the knights. Graham sadly uses his hat to paddle his raft across the river as the final knight, a shrimpily short fellow, simply wades across. Korba notes that wading across is a viable option for solving this puzzle, too. It is an example of how many puzzles in King’s Quest have more than one solution.
MK: I am going to skip ahead again to show you a bit of the open world map. It is harder to show because it is, you know, open [laughs]. Basically what happens is you go up to the tournament and they give you a task, which is to come back with the eye of a hideous beast. Now, the way we are doing the puzzles they are branching and you can color the story how you want. You can go and try to find a very brave eye, maybe find the biggest monster. You could also try to be clever and subvert the whole system, maybe not bring an eye back at all. Or you could make a friend and tell a story of compassion instead of the most obvious thing.
Korba teleports us to the middle of a forest. As Graham explores the wood, he comes across a snarling bush that might house some kind of monster, a pumpkin inhabited by far too many squirrels, and finally a town. Exploring this small segment of the open world of King’s Quest provided a few examples of what Korba called “location-based storytelling.” Some objects and scenes can be examined to provide more information on the world, story, and characters. These moments are meant to provide insight into situations and might even provide hints for difficult puzzles.
MK: [Korba steers Graham into the town] In each of these shops, there is a special character that represents a part of the story. There is the blacksmith who represents bravery. Across the way is the curio shop which represents the wisdom or trickery path. In this demo, I am going to go meet the baker who is a compassionate gentleman. Like being a king, everyone is going to offer you their opinion on how they would solve a problem and it is up to you to sort of balance that stuff out and choose which path to follow. […] They start reacting differently to you based on your choices. That also brings up another interesting point that we wanted to share. You make a lot of choices in this game and there are a lot of branches, but you aren’t going to be hit over the head with, “Hey Graham, make an important decision!” and then later in the game “This is because you made an important decision!”
JG: The Baker will remember that. [Laughs]
MK: There is a joke like that, but we aren’t doing “will the baker remember that?” That gives us two things. You could maybe, in theory, go through the whole game and not even realize how much it branches, even though this is the most branching any sort of episodic/chapter game anyone has ever done. You might go through it and not realize, “oh I didn’t really see all the changes,” so you’d play it a second time. We really designed it for that watercooler conversation or that dinner conversation where people are like, “I didn’t even realize that was possible,” or, “how did you get that?” or, “that wasn’t what I saw.” You are going to see a ridiculous example of that in a moment where you are going to go, “I can’t believe that they put that in for only a third of people to find…” and I can’t either. [Laughs]
If you have never played a King’s Quest game before, you can pick this up and be just fine. If you have, there are a lot of added layers that you’ll get. [Korba moves into a new area] If I sit here you are going to hear a bit of the music from King’s Quest V. I’ll get to a few bars of it. There it is. Slow.
JG: So many little touches.
MK: Yeah, there are. Because I am such a big fan, I have to be careful that I don’t put in stuff that people won’t understand and only I’ll get. You’ll see in this next scene there are probably about 15 references to King’s Quest II in there, but the jokes work completely without knowing any of that. If I go this way there is a bridge, which in a normal game this isn’t a big deal, but we have learned that all of the bridges are out, so this is kind of odd that there’s a bridge here and of course one of those weird horns again. Let’s see what happens.
The bridge rises up into the sky, revealing itself to be a massive bridge troll. This surprises Graham and leaves him at the troll’s mercy. Thinking quickly, Graham has a number of options to try to convince the troll not to kill him. Korba chooses an option that send him into what amounts to a quick-time event dance sequence with the troll. The dance becomes more and more ridiculous until Korba slips up, sending Graham back to pick one of the remaining options.
Bill quietly tells Korba that time was running a bit short and we won’t be able to see the conclusion of this encounter. I’m disappointed, but I knew that this leaves me a few more minutes to pester the creative director of this adventure title that has so thoroughly charmed me.
MK: I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but there were a ton of references to the bridge in King’s Quest II that you can only cross seven times before it collapses in that speech. That’s sort of what we are trying to do for the hardcore fans, putting stuff like that in that you aren’t even going to realize are references while still holding up as jokes.
JG: I know in previous Sierra Games, like in Space Quest, it is possible to completely miss something and only realize after six hours that you needed that thing that you can no longer get. Is that something that is going to be in here, too?
MK: No. So, we are doing death; that was a huge part of the classic series and that is something we are doing as more of a comical thing. It is always funny to die, but we are not doing dead ends. Especially because our game branches so much it would be really sad. I actually forgot about one of those dead ends when I was demoing King’s Quest V for the new team and it sucked because I had to stay up all night to get to the same point again so we could continue our demo. It worked back then because you had one game for a long amount of time, you know? That is one thing we decided not to continue on. There are no dead ends, no matter what path you choose, it is fine. That goes for Gwendolyn, too. She’s not like, pissed that you made a certain decision or something like that. She’s very impressionable and more supportive. For us, it was about supporting the story the player wanted to tell rather than punishing them or giving them more points if they chose the one that we liked or whatever.
JG: Is Gwendolyn going to be playable, too? Or is it going to be watching her react to the story that you’re telling her?
MK: What I will say is that the first season or series or whatever you want to call it will be very much focused on Graham and the stories he passes on to her. If you made the decisions as her, it wouldn’t have the same sort of messaging, right? It is really about the stories you tell and how they are handed down and if you are making the same sort of decisions as her it wouldn’t quite work. With some surprises, the first season is really about King Graham.
JG: Because this is chapter one, all of these branches are going to continue into chapter two, three, etc.?
MK: Yep, so the decisions get saved out and loaded up into all the rest of the chapters, which by the time we get to chapter five will be a nightmare. But that is really the art of... you know, you need to have a strong beginning, middle, and end and allow the player to get to those however they want. In our case, we have three different middles three different ends and things like that. You have to be sure you don’t have 26 different endings and then in the next one you have to account for 26 different beginnings and 478 or whatever the math ends up being different endings. [Laughs] Like I said earlier, there are a lot of branches and a lot of choices.
One interesting thing is that when we set out to do this project, we wanted to modernize it a bit and we wanted to add choice into it. Of course, I had played the classic games a lot, but going back and playing it with more of a researcher’s eye, I was like, “man, they were already doing this stuff.” Some of the Walking Dead stuff, this choice stuff, they were doing in King’s Quest I. In King’s Quest I, you have the choice with the dragon whether you want to throw the bucket of water on it or use the dagger. King’s Quest VI had multiple endings. King’s Quest III had that time scheduling thing and King’s Quest IV had a day-night cycle. They were playing around with a lot of this stuff that has kinda come back around. They didn’t make it the focus of the whole game or anything, it was just some little thing they were trying in different episodes. That was interesting for me going back and realizing that this was already in all of those King’s Quest games. We’re not really reinventing the wheel, kind of, but really we are just taking what they did and pushing it farther along.
JG: Do you have a release timeframe or schedule down?
MK: Yeah, we’re not announcing it yet. We are already working on Chapter 2. This one is basically done and we are working on some finishing touches on it. You’re not going to have to wait a long time.
JG: You aren’t going to have to wait a year or something like that?
MK: I mean, this is our first game that we have done like this, but you aren’t going to be waiting a year at all. It is going to get crazy, but you won’t be waiting a year. Especially for this game, because there is so much detail in it, you don’t want it to be like Battlestar Galactica where you forgot everything by the time the new season came out. That’s why they did the “Last time on Battlestar Galactica…” and it was like ten minutes long. We will probably need to do a little bit of that, like “Last time on King’s Quest,” but the schedule we are currently rolling with is one that everyone who likes the game will be very happy with. We are definitely a small group and shipping on five platforms is ridiculous for us.
JG: How big is the team?
MK: 20-21. We are working on love and pizza right now. [Laugh] Some of the other indie games you’ve seen maybe two years between them like Kentucky Route Zero and Double Fine did. We’re not. We are trying to release on a Telltale structure. Of course we are a lot smaller than Telltale. We don’t have an A and a B team. We have an A and… an A team. [Laugh] It’ll be challenging, but the schedule we have laid out, I think when people find out about it they will be excited.
JG: What was it like working with Christopher Lloyd and all these-
JG: What did he think of video game voice work?
MK: Well, you know, he was in Back to the Future with Telltale and he was also in Toonstruck.
JG: Oh, right I forgot he did that!
MK: I did, too! So he is very familiar with [the work]. It was awesome. We also have Zelda Williams in it, Robin William’s daughter, and she’s a huge gamer. Josh Keaton and his family loved the game. We were just hanging out on Sunday, showing him the new build and he is excited to play it with his daughter and wife. Tom Kenny is awesome; he is so professional. But the voice acting cast was sort of this magical thing. They just come in and… When you get good voiceover people- because they have to fly through content, right? The script for this game was 600-and-something pages for all the branches. You have to set up the scene quickly, give them the context, and they just go. The good, talented people, they get it. They just go.
JG: How did you get all of these people?
MK: That is part of the benefit of working with someone like Activision or Sierra. We would not have gotten these people if we were just doing this on our own. We had an awesome casting director whose name is Eric Weiss, who I can’t praise enough. Part of it is because Lindsey and I were very much pushing for certain people because we know voice acting talent and we watch a lot of cartoons. Some of it was like, our sample guy, I had “kinda sounds like Gaston” or “kinda sounds like Wallace Shawn” and our casting director asked why we didn’t just get them? I was like, “Really? We can do that?” He was like, “Yeah we could probably do that.” He made it happen.
Christopher Lloyd was a tough one, because we really wanted for Graham someone who was actually older because the young people who tried didn’t really work. And we needed someone who sounded magical, but also who wasn’t British. So, in the first trailer there is a British, Ian McKellen-type of voice. Everybody loves hearing a British older man telling them stories, but obviously the character isn’t British and I felt really bad about changing that. When we found Christopher Lloyd, we saw some clip of him online, we were like he can do it. He has that perfect quality in his voice. Then we got him, so that was sweet.
We got lucky. It was just that mixture of working with Activision’s resources, a really talented casting director, and me and Lindsey being astute. The list that we released a couple months ago, that’s the whole cast for chapter one. I wanted to be sure they released the whole cast just because if you know VO acting everyone is sort of special on that list. We have Loretta Devine which is a huge name playing one of the townspeople. We have Kevin Michael Richardson who is like in everything in here, too. If you are a fan of voice over there’s a lot, not just our big, headlining names, but the whole cast is pretty well rounded.
JG: Was there anyone that you wanted to get but couldn’t?
MK: I don’t think so…
JG: Because it sounds like you pretty much got your dream team.
MK: I think we got above and beyond. A lot of times we would write somebody and we didn’t think we would get them. “Okay find someone similar who can hit the same beats,” and then they would just get that actual person.
Bill opens the door and light floods the small space we’ve been sitting in for the last hour. Time is up. As I stand, I can see Lindsey sitting in a corner, readying herself for the next couple of days full of craziness. I empathize, though at that moment I just can’t stop smiling. I shake Matt Korba’s hand and a part of me wishes I could tell him that King’s Quest, his dream, will resonate with the public. That will help his panic attacks, I think. At the same time, I know it won’t do any good. He already knows King’s Quest is special. I know it is special, too. It exudes a real passion obvious to anyone who pays attention. The gameplay looks simple and efficient, fading into the background to allow the puzzles and story to take center stage. The fluid movements and vibrant colors of King’s Quest feel wholesome on the eyes. Every character pops both visually and audibly. Every element seems to be coming together seamlessly.
As I walk back into the fluorescent lights, thumping music, and roaring murmurs of E3, my mind wanders back to the time I spent playing the older King’s Quest titles. They were games that required outside-of-the-box thinking to make progress. They felt like adventures in which you actively participated. In the current Telltale-dominated adventure genre, King’s Quest seems like a course correction. As amazing as Telltale’s games can be, they often rely entirely on the strength of their stories and lack engaging gameplay. King’s Quest seems like a perfect blend of Telltale’s modern narrative sensibilities with the problem solving and hijinks of the adventure games popularized by Sierra. As opposed to the grim Walking Dead or violent Game of Thrones, King’s Quest stands alone as one of the few high-profile adventure games that families can enjoy. It is that family story that can be discussed around the dinner table or watercooler. And I think that is all kinds of wonderful.
I take a deep breath and exhale slowly, my smile lingering long after I’ve left that presentation room. This is going to be a fantastic E3.
Feature originally appeared on www.extra-life.org 06/23/15