As seen in: King's Quest: Quest for the Crown (PC)
Also in: King's Quest 2: Romancing the Throne (PC)
Distinguishing feature: A jaunty teal feathered cap
Strengths: Infinite patience, above average wisdom for a Sierra adventure game character.
Weaknesses: Puns, logic, a Sierra adventure game character and thus prone to stupid and unfair deaths.
"Agents," said the disembodied female voice from HQ, "your target this week is King Graham of Daventry." The agents exchanged brief, staged glances. Weren't kings normally NPCs?
"King Graham began as Sir Graham, in a fully graphic adventure intended for IBM's ill-fated PCjr. The King's Quest series survived that flaming wreckage to become Sierra On-Line's flagship franchise, but," HQ's smugly continued, "as we all know, adventure games didn't survive long after the games industry moved to 3D." The Gameplay Agent nodded and smirked along with HQ. "But there's no reason why King Graham has to stay in the past. Your task this week, Agents," HQ purred, "is to update King Graham and his family for a modern-day comeback!"
At this point we move to stock footage of the stretch Humvee driving around various video game worlds while exciting R&B music plays, and we're introduced to the Agents of the Fun Bureau International, Wednesdays at 8. Cute video clips of the three Agents play as part of the montage; Jason Fleming, the Environments Agent, spelunking in his usual dark, screen-printed T-shirt and cargo pants; the Sergeant Major, the Gameplay Agent and token non-white, doing a barrel roll and shooting some round, blue creatures with his realistically rendered assault rifle; Princess Emily, the Character Agent and token female, looking over her shoulder and smiling and winking.
Normally, the format is that the Agents get out of their stretch Humvee and thoroughly mock whatever environment the target PC calls home. We're going to skip their tour of Castle Daventry, partly because their jokes are even worse than Graham's are and partly because, as the graphical power of the PC improved, the castle was redesigned several times, and so their snarky comments wouldn't appear to have any basis in anything from the games. After they're done mugging for the camera, it's on to the intensive training.
On the battlements, Jason Fleming and King Graham were looking out over the kingdom of Daventry. Fleming rubbed his stubble. "Well, your Majesty, I've seen a lot worse, I have to say. There's a bit of variety here already, and the fairy-tale theme of the kingdom lets us get away with a lot, even though there's a lot of overly bright colours that we'll try and tone down. We've already got a sky level, a cave level, and if we borrow Kolyma we can get an island level and an ocean level. If we stretched it, we could get a dungeon level out of the castle, but honestly I think we've got enough variety already. What we're really missing is a fire level. If we could get a volcano just over there, where that castle is, it'd be perfect."
"That, good sir, is actually our castle."
"Daventry wraps around. That over there is Daventry Castle."
Fleming turned around. There was another castle to the north that looked a lot like the one they were standing on. Fleming went through his inventory, selected the Binoculars, and pressed X. Through the Binoculars, he could see the back of his own head.
"Makes for a spectacular fireworks show, come Midsummer," volunteered the King. "I must protest, however: I do not think a volcano is wise anywhere in Daventry. There is nowhere for any lava flow to go, and volcanoes are not a suitable place for adventure."
Fleming cancelled his Binoculars and put on his usual smirk. "Course it is. It's a classic theme."
"What about convection? Volcanoes are very hot, even if you don't go anywhere near the lava."
"Like hell! This is a video game! Audiences don't think like that any more, Yer Majesty. People don't think about convection, ergo, volcanoes are perfectly safe unless you fall in the lava."
King Graham sighed. "I suppose you're right."
The Sergeant Major was out in the archery range, turning the bulls-eyes into confetti. "Right!" he said, after he was out of ammunition, "Here's a scenario. You're walking along a road somewhere, when bandits appear! Two in front, two behind. One in the front is the closest. They say to you, I don't know, 'Your money or your life,' something like that. Whaddya do?"
Graham considers. "What do I have in my inventory?"
"Well, a sword of course, and some gold, and maybe a couple a mystic goo-gaws like you fantasy types are always pickin' up."
"Well, first I would save, and then, assuming that the 'mystic gewgaw,' as you put it, does not have any useful properties, I would climb a tree to the side of the road. Then I would use the sword with a branch, dropping it on the brigands and likely releasing some kind of useful object."
The Sergeant Major rubbed his eyes. "No, no, no! What you do, is you go up to one of them, then you attack them with the sword. Simple, clear, unambiguous." The Sergeant Major puffed on his cigar.
"It beggars belief that a king is going to be better at swordplay than someone who survives only thanks to their skills with a blade."
The Sergeant Major shifted his cigar. "That's what the previous ten hours of swordfight gameplay is there for."
"But wouldn't that get boring? My adventures usually have me interacting in dozens of ways with hundreds of things. To reduce all of that to a swordfight seems like it would be removing gameplay, not adding to it."
"It'll make things better, trust me. One strong mechanic is all you need. Now, let's go into experience points. You'll love this, all you fantasy types do."
"Okay!" Princess Emily announced in the perkiest of voices. "In your previous adventures, you were a knight or a king, searching for a way to save the land of Daventry! Now, that's good, that's a perfectly servicable video game plot, but the kids of today want a little more grit!"
"Grit?" King Graham questioned. "Is this what Mister Fleming was talking about when he wanted to make the castle walls greyer?"
"No, that's something else. I'm talking about a moral conflict, something that makes the kids think about you as a character, instead of you as an avatar! But we don't want to get too dark; we want the younger kids to be able to connect as well, so we want some kind of helpful, but extremely annoying, animal helper—"
"Helllllloooooooo, Graham!" Cedric, the waistcoated owl, called as he fluttered through the window. He noticed the cameras. "Is this a bad time? Hoot!"
"—and that will do nicely! Now, Graham, we want to organize some character development for you as the core of the franchise, and the best way to do that is to kill someone off."
Graham was shocked. "Absolutely not!"
"How about some of your subjects? You won't miss them terribly, I promise."
Queen Valanice felt it was time to step in. "Dear, remember when we thought we'd lost Alexander? We were upset, but we knew that Daventry was a fairy tale kingdom and these things can happen."
"Your wife does have a very good point! If you've used these kinds of plot devices before, especially losing a child, it's very hard to wring satisfying character development out of it!" Valanice allowed herself a very slight smile. It had done the trick. "Let's discuss it later, and work on some humor exercises! Puns are out of fashion, these days—kids today like their heroes to have a pithy, vaguely humorous phrase for any situation! Quantity over quality!"
Graham, nearing the end of his legendary patience, muttered, "I don't see what a reality TV parody has to teach me about humor."
"Pop culture references! Very good!"
"Right," Jason Fleming said, "we've done our very best, and so now it's up to you. We're going to leave you alone for now, and soon you'll kick off your big comeback adventure, with your whole family fighting by your side!"
"Yes, about that... we have been talking amongst ourselves, and we do have one thing we'd like to bring up."
"Shoot," Fleming said, forgetting that last time the Sergeant Major had taken it as a command.
"We have decided to forego a comeback."
The Agents were speechless, and Alexander took the opportunity. "There's really no conflicts we particularly want to invite back into our lives. Yes, the Black Cloaks are out plotting, but Manannan's spent so much time as a cat that he's probably forgetten he ever was a wizard, and many of them delight at others of their order. Besides, all of us are content as can be. Rosella has her Edgar, and I have a son with Cassima now. While I'm sure he'll have plenty of adventures I'm not sure they'll be the sort of adventures you say audiences want these days."
Valanice couldn't contain herself. "There's room in this world for common decency, even if you're dealing with creatures who believe you stole the moon. Solving problems only with violence is barbaric, honestly."
Rosella finished, "I think we're all agreed. We're quite content with the way things are, and happy that there's only one loose end in our story as far as we can see. We've had enough adventures for one family. Thank you for your time, though!" The family went inside, pulled up the drawbridge, and lived happily ever after.
The Agents looked at one another, unsure of what to do. The stretch Humvee was right there, familiar and inviting, with small bottles of alcohol. It was an easy decision. The Agents quickly piled in and started to break open the harder liquor, shaken by their experiences of a parallel evolution where nothing made sense and yet some things made more sense than where they'd come from. HQ was not impressed, and appeared to have left the speaker on as she was talking to someone on the phone.
"Yes, I know you've already got everything ready to go for tomorrow! Yes. Yes. I know! Uh-huh. Okay, look, we find some peasant kid, we make him the main character, that gives us an excuse to add action and RPG elements. Yes, I— Yes, fine, we'll just make sure the royal family gets turned to stone as well. No need for fancy animation, no extra modeling budget, no-one complaining that 2D looks better. It might even be an improvement. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Well, with Graham's pull with the kingdoms gone we'll have to reuse environments from the older games. I'm sure we'll find plenty of places that'll give us a tax break to get back in a King's Quest game—the Underworld was crushed that they were three almost useless screens in number 6, we'll make them the second level, make out like it's somewhere different, and they'll practically let us film for free. Okay? Okay. What? What do you mean you don't have enough— look, just ask Fleming, I'm sure he has an idea what to do with the fifth level. I don't care. Just make it happen. We'll call it, uh, the Something of Something format has real cachet these days. Goblet of Eternity. Mask of Forever. Something like that."