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Sierra

King's Quest developer talks silent film influences, possible Wii U port

Jul 28 // Chris Carter
Destructoid: Can you give us a bit of background on the history of The Odd Gentlemen and the acquisition of the King's Quest rights? This is a rather long story but I'd like to hear it from your perspective. Matt Korba: Many people have tried to bring back King's Quest over the years, in many different ways.  Our game and concept was built from the ground up, so besides public knowledge I don't know anything about the direction other teams wanted to take the series.  What I do know is that a little over two years ago, Activision was looking to fund and support a development team to reimagine King's Quest. They put out a call for ideas to various studios. I had been meeting with Activision since I was a student working on Winterbottom about possible collaborations, but it wasn't until King's Quest came along that we found a match.  King's Quest is my favorite series of all time so you can imagine how excited I was for a chance to bring the classic series back to life.  I met with Lindsey (our producer) and Evan (our art director) on the roof and we put together a pitch over a very long lunch for what we thought would be an interesting direction. It centered on King Graham as a very old man sharing stories from his past with his curious granddaughter Gwendolyn.  At the time we were only nine people, but Activision loved our creative pitch so much that they took a chance on us.  This rarely happens in the industry. It was a big risk for them because, they could have gone with a larger team, or a team that has shipped more titles on more platforms, but they decided to go with a small team that had the best creative (and the biggest KQ nerd). I am externally grateful to them for that. From there, Sierra was brought back, they fostered the growth of our company and here we are today.  What lead to the choice to include action sequences in this new rendition? I particularly liked how everything wasn't just a QTE. The original directive was to reimagine and update the classic series for a modern audience.  But, for us that wasn't a good enough reason to include small action sequences.   One of the most important parts of a good adventure game is pacing, and for us we are always trying to strike a balance between gameplay, story, and art.  If we were going to include anything it needed to serve that purpose. The action sequences help to break up the pacing and keep it interesting. When we put an action sequence in the game it usually has a puzzle element, branching choice, or a story point to it. We decided early on that if something can be played it should be, as opposed to watching a cutscene. This theory is not new to our game, the classic series mixed things up with action as well. The early games even had jumping and swimming controls. Remember climbing the beanstalk in KQ1 or the whale tongue in KQ4? The games felt pretty dangerous when you had to time a click just right before a wolf ate you or to throw a pie at an attacking yeti in KQ5, and of course using the arrow keys to avoid the paths of monsters added tension to the exploring.   Will we see the same cast of characters, notably the knights, pop up in other episodes? The game takes place over the lifetime of Graham.  That means that not only does much of the cast return, but they age as well. Players will get to control Graham from a young squire to a very old man.  Each chapter will also introduce new characters. How was it working with the voice cast? I noticed that all of them seemed to have a lot of fun based on the strong performances. It was an amazing experience. The fact that we got all those people still baffles me.  Our casting director Eric Weiss, did a phenomenal job of getting together a great cast. There were few occasions where we had placed a sample voice clip into our casting doc and Eric would just say "Why don't we just cast that person". To which we would say "Huh? We can do that"? We had done some small VO work in the past but this was definitely a huge learning process for the whole team. I think in general the cast got excited, because games like this don't come around everyday. This was a story filled with charm and humor, they wouldn't need to record 500 stabbing exertions or one line taunts. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for young Graham's mannerisms? I noticed that he seemed familiar when he'd get really excited about something. The inspiration for him was really only the classic series.  With other characters I can say, oh Groucho Marx inspired him, or Monty Python inspired them, but Graham was difficult.  We wanted to allow Graham to grow into a hero.  We didn't think it would be appropriate for a Graham to be a traditional "Bad Ass." We have seen enough characters like that already. We looked at the classic series and knew where we needed to take him, so we worked backwards.  I wrote this line early on to describe Graham and everything stemmed from there. "While other knights returned from their quests trailing bloody victories behind them, Graham returned with friendly dragons and yeti companions." Oh, and silent film, we pulled a ton of his physicality from the silent film greats; Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd.  Do you have any sort of timeline in mind for future episodes? We want to make sure the games are great and of high quality.  When we announce the schedule I think people will be impressed.  This is not a game you will have to wait a year in between chapters.   Was there any consideration in terms of developing for Wii U? If the game does well it can definitely end up there as well as some other platforms. But, we are still a relatively small team and 5 platforms at launch almost killed us! Just in case you haven't heard this yet, I feel like I need to make the case for the Land of the Green Isles (I saw the tapestry Easter egg on the wall in the castle). Is there a chance we may see them and some Alexander adventures in the future? Season 1 is focused on Graham's adventures, but if there is a demand for it anything is possible. That said some of your favorite charters just might be coming back in future chapters.   Likewise, if you can answer this question, where does the series stand on re-releases of the classic entries? This game is a big testing ground for many people.  If it can prove that there is still an audience for this type of game at this type of scale, then I think it opens many opportunities for us, Sierra, and other development studios as well.
King's Quest interview photo
'This game is a big testing ground'
As you could probably tell from my review, I was blown away by King's Quest: A Knight to Remember. I went in with very little in terms of expectations and at the end of it, I was looking at a Game of the Year contender. Spurr...

Review: King's Quest: A Knight To Remember

Jul 28 // Chris Carter
King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: The Odd GentlemenPublisher: Sierra EntertainmentReleased: July 28, 2015MSRP: $9.99 per episode / $40 for the "Complete Collection" To be clear, this isn't a true continuation of the series, but rather, a "re-imagining" with the same characters, and some of the same events. For the most part, this new rendition is going to tell side stories that happened between the games over the course of five episodes -- A Knight to Remember is the first. There's plenty of fanservice scattered about to keep old fans happy, but newcomers won't be lost in the slightest in their first foray into Daventry -- it's a great balancing act. When I first booted up the game, it was seemingly taking a low-key Ico-like approach, which I really dug. The protagonist didn't talk much initially, and you're thrown into an unknown situation that sets up the rest of the tale. It immediately reminded me of a Don Bluth project, with beautiful scenery and interesting character designs. There are a few areas I encountered that had some screen tearing issues, but nothing that affected my enjoyment significantly, or crashed the game in any way on Xbox One. Slowly but surely the game opened up and started to become more talkative, at which point I immediately fell in love with it. The way the game is framed is through the narration of King Graham, who is telling his granddaughter the tales of his youth. Christopher Lloyd plays an older Graham to perfection, with plenty of "grandpa puns" and lots of heart. You can tell he's really enjoying it and isn't phoning it in like some stars might (Destiny), and in fact, the entire cast is one of the most organic collective of characters I've ever seen in a game. There's tons of great references to classic films like The Princess Bride with a welcome appearance from Wallace Shawn, and even direct references to characters like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. While I don't want to spoil the surprises, they're done with the utmost respect to the source material, and never approach the level of an annoying forced meme. It helps that the game's animations are incredible, and it's hard to not laugh out loud when you see Graham frantically running with his arms flailing about like Disney's Ichabod Crane. In fact, I've never laughed so hard at a game in my life -- trust me when I say that's not an exaggeration. I particularly like how the game handles death with the Grandpa Graham narration mechanism, which even makes failure funny. There's also a few hilarious references to characters "remembering that" from Telltale games, and a clever use of the narration technique in other ways. For instance, there's one part where you're walking on a log, and after going over it again, Graham mentions that it would be repetitive if he had to explain that bit over and over to his granddaughter, so it transports you to the other side. It's convenient and charming in the same breath. One thing I need to mention is that the game is not as hardcore as past King's Quest titles, which is to be expected. The narration element sort of clues you in sometimes to the solution (which again, is done very well), and I really like how the game focuses in on objects you are currently trying to use a piece of equipment on, to eliminate any nasty instances of pixel-hunting. There's also plenty of choices to be had that change the story in smaller ways, like leaving tips in a collection plate in any empty store, or bigger conundrums that promise more of an impact in future episodes (stay tuned to future reviews to see how this plays out). While the first hour or so of the roughly five hour adventure is rather linear, the game opens up significantly after that, with a large sandbox that isn't as massive as a classic adventure game, but big enough to roam around in. There's also some third-person obstacle dodging, mild on-rails platforming, and several first-person aiming sequences. There's a few quick-time events but they are very few and far between, which is a nice touch, as modern adventure games use them as a crutch far too often. Of course, A Knight to Remember also has several puzzles as well as some memory work involved, which are well executed. So yes, it's much more involved than your average Telltale game. I wish King's Quest: A Knight to Remember was a bit more taxing, but I loved everything about it. If this series does well I hope we get to see the adventures of other family members like Alexander, and additional areas like the Land of the Green Isles. Right now though, I'm going through withdraws for the second episode already. Move over Telltale, there's a new adventure king in town. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
King’s Quest review photo
A kingly modern classic
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Sierra and Odd Gentlemen show off new King's Quest at The Game Awards


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Dec 05
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Geometry Wars 3 may look different, but it feels right

Sep 01 // Jordan Devore
For my appointment, I was free to play whichever single-player levels I wanted and much as I would've liked to try them all, I attempted to get a good feel for the variety. Some levels are reminiscent of past games in that the playing field is (more or less) flat, while others used Pacifism as a foundation. Even then, there's further variety -- one Pacifism level had no enemies and required me to fly through as many "gates" as possible in a time limit, while another was more traditional with enemies chasing my gun-less vessel. Shooting and movement feels great, as expected. Your past Geometry Wars skills will directly translate to Dimensions, though it will take time to acquaint yourself with the new level designs. You're free to move across the 3D environments at will, but so are enemies. Lot to keep track of. Stages themselves can also have moving walls, which was interesting. These are great at blocking foes from reaching you, but can also trap you in a crowded corner. Thankfully, you still have bombs, and there are drones to help out too. You select yours before starting a stage and equip it with a power -- one could drop a black hole, while another placed proximity mines (that I could fly over, free of harm). Helpful but, again, there's lots happening on-screen and it can take a while to adjust to what is and isn't dangerous. You can earn up to three stars in a level based on how high of score you attain, but only a single star is needed to unlock the next stage -- unless it's a boss fight, in which case there will be a set amount of stars needed to unlock it. Bosses, at least the two I tried, seemed right at home in Geometry Wars. It was like playing any other level, except there was this Big Thing I had to shoot at when its shield went down. Still plenty of other stuff to dodge in the mean time. When choosing levels from a grid-like world map of sorts, you're told which game type they represent and if a friend tops your high score, you'll see that level glow. I stopped the person giving me my demo to thank them for that feature. So crucial. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to try out any of the cooperative or head-to-head multiplayer offerings, but I'm expecting similarly good things out of those. If you enjoy the series on the whole, you'll dig Dimensions -- or parts of it, at the very least. It wasn't until the end of my appointment that I began getting into a groove and at that point, I just didn't want to put the controller down. Sorry about the wait, Patrick Klepek.
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Sierra is back! New King's Quest and, uh, Geometry Wars coming


As Activision's indie label
Aug 12
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Well look at that. Sierra is back from the dead. Activision is reviving the label, with a focus on indie development. It'll host new IPs and re-imaginings of beloved classics. In this case there's a new King's Quest coming in...

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