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Developer: Sierra Online
Platforms: IBM PCjr
Release Date: May 10, 1984
Why this game mattered: Where most adventure games of the time featured static backgrounds with little to do other than the primary objective, King's Quest was the first major release to feature interactive scenes to walk through. Water appeared to move, leaves appeared to shift in the breeze, and you could actually interact with the environment. You could see the main character pick things up off the ground, for example. It made a huge difference in how the game felt to the player.
It's important to remember these graphical improvements were coming along as many people still thoroughly enjoyed Zork and other text-based RPGs on similar platforms. Making the overall visuals feel this much more interactive was a huge deal, even if it meant the game wasn't quite as long. Fast-forward to today, and an RPG without highly-immersive graphics just wouldn't sell.
Fun fact: This game was re-released seven times between its original launch and the big 2.0 release in 1987, each with small changes ranging from a keyboard template for shortcuts to bug fixes to an expanded backstory in the user manual and support for more systems. The game didn't technically have a "version 1.0" release until 1986.
Future games influenced by this title: Shadowgate, The Idiot's Tale, and Fable are all examples of games we have today where the visuals make such a tremendous difference in the gameplay. Fable, for example, left actual scars on your player as you continued through the game based on your choices, and it encouraged you to play over and over again to see what different choices do to the actual body of your character. In many ways, the first step for these immersive details was King's Quest.
Where you can play it today: You can play the entire King's Quest Collection now on Steam.
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