At long last, the first episode of the fan-made dedication to King’s Quest by Phoenix Online Studios is done and out in the wild. A word of warning at the time of this writing: you have to register with their fan club first, though, before you get the download screen which can be annoying to deal with. Either that, or wait until the 364MB download gets its own torrent. With that said, it’s worth it for fans of the series to check it out.
When the new holders of the King’s Quest IP, Activision, sent a cease and desist to the developers of “The Silver Lining”, fans were understandably crushed and upset especially after it had come so close to completion.
But it looks like the outpouring of support for the project as well as Phoenix’s dedication have convinced Activision otherwise and, in an uncommon reversal, allowed the free-to-download project to continue.
Though it won’t be called “King’s Quest” because of the usual legalese, fans that have been following the game know who the characters are and what the story is expected to tell. And now that it’s out, how does it fare?
Whenever gaming fans decide to create something off of a popular property, the odds are usually good that the company that actually owns it might want them to stop. Even if the game is being made for free, it doesn’t matter as it “might dilute” the brand or whatever else that company may have planned…even if they sit on the name forever.
When several fans got together to create their own King’s Quest tribute game, The Silver Lining, they opened themselves up to this kind of request. Vivendi Universal had owned the rights to the King’s Quest series at the time and at first, sent a cease and desist letter to the makers after they had already put in four years of hard work.
But an outpouring of incredible support from fans eventually managed to impress upon Vivendi to change their request and allow them to continue making the game, which they did, by granting the makers a “Fan License”. The only requirement was the removal of the name “King’s Quest”, but the rest of the game remained intact. It was a surprisingly positive gesture on the part of a company like Vivendi when several others, such as Square or Fox, had simply chosen to shut down similar projects with threats of litigation.
However, as time went on, the IP (intellectual property) of the King’s Quest series changed hands…this time ending up in Activision’s who sent another cease and desist letter which ultimately killed the project. By that time, eight years had already passed, a demo had been released, and the game was on the verge of completion. The details of the request even go so far as to include shutting down the forums that they use to keep in contact with fans and team members around the world.
Why did this game take eight years to make? This was largely a volunteer operation by a group of dedicated fans sharing their time on a project that they loved, but to keep it going for eight years also says a lot about their professionalism. As an unofficial close to the King’s Quest series written and created by many of those that found themselves whisked away by Roberta Willliams’ world, it could have been great. I was looking forward to playing it being a fan of the series and having watched this project grow in recent years. It’s the fan story that would have stepped in as an ending that only they could write for their favorite series.
And now, we’ll probably never know.