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Activision Shuts Down  King's Quest  Fan Sequel
Activision Shuts Down King's Quest Fan Sequel
March 1, 2010 | By Chris Remo

March 1, 2010 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC

Online-based development team Phoenix Online Studios has canceled The Silver Lining, its long-in-production King's Quest sequel, following a legal threat by franchise owner Activision.

The current incarnation of The Silver Lining has been in the works since 2002, and was intended to serve unofficially as the ninth entry in Sierra's long-dormant adventure game series. Midway through development, the team adopted an episodic release model. According to a note posted on the game's official site, the first episode had been completed when the publisher revoked the team's existing freeware license.

Phoenix was granted the fan license by IP owner Vivendi, which owned all assets of the former Sierra Online, in late 2005 after several months of negotiation. In compliance with the license's terms, Phoenix changed the game's title from King's Quest IX: Every Cloak Has A Silver Lining to simply The Silver Lining.

Since then, however, as the result of the merger between Vivendi and Activision, Vivendi Games came under Activision management. As the site now explains, Activision "reached the decision that they are not interested in granting a non-commercial license to The Silver Lining, and have asked that we cease production and take down all related materials on our website."

According to the site, all development has been halted, and all materials related to the game, including the company's web forums, have been taken offline at the request of Activision.

The Silver Lining had long been one of the most well-known projects in development by the amateur adventure game community -- a surprisingly vibrant scene, perhaps in response to the relative scarcity of modern commercially-developed adventure games.

Roberta and Ken Williams, Sierra's founders and the creators of King's Quest, supported the project in an unofficial capacity; they had long since ceased to be legally affiliated with the Sierra brand.

"What the future holds for us, as individuals or a team, we cannot say," the team wrote. "We have an amazing development team, however, filled with talented and hard-working individuals, and we hope the teamwork and rapport we’ve developed won’t go to waste. We hope that when we do know what the future holds for us, our fans will be there to enjoy what we can give them still."

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Timothy Aste
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Pretty lame, especially considering Kotick's DICE speech.

Eric Harty
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You would think that they would have been able to find a way to work this out...

Chris Melby
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Ditto Timothy.

Instead of just abandoning the work Phoenix Online put into this, can't they change the assets and the story just enough so that it's not King's Quest and release it under their own title?

Andrew Swain
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Could this mean that Activision want to make a new King's Quest game?

Or is this the Activision standard "If it does not make us money, then kill it" attitude?

Sean Currie
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I wonder how much legal weight is behind this. It seems like it would be very difficult to argue that this infringed in any actionable way on Activision's copyright. It's akin to J. K. Rowling suing her readers for writing fan fiction. Why bother?

Since when did our audience become the enemy? And how exactly are we going to maintain the moral high-ground when it comes to piracy and DRM when legitimate forms of fandom are stomped on? I've always wondered why there's an almost adversarial relationship between gamers and developers. This kind of explains it.

Good job, Activision. And Kotick? Make sure you greenlight that King's Quest sequel post haste, hmm?

Jonathan Jou
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Activision has "reached the decision that they are not interested in granting a non-commercial license to The Silver Lining, and have asked that we cease production and take down all related materials on our website."

Well... let's think about this... My naive, corporate-devoid mind thinks:

1. Here's a bunch of people, who love the King's Quest franchise, so much that they're willing to work, for FREE, on the game. And everything I see says that it looks to be an amazing game, at that.

2. Oh, I'm sorry, you're working on that KQIX of your own, release date set to be... when, again? Clearly a conflicting interest with your need to sustain yourself as a company.

And all I can conclude, is... "Not only are not hiring them, or just saying 'here, we'll sell it for you and give you a nonexistent cut of our nonexistent profits,' you're... shutting them down entirely?"

I'd pay a lot of money to know what the heads of Activision were so worried about. Trademark infringements matter when, you know, you're marking your trade, not a long-dead genre you couldn't possibly be planning on reviving.

Dave Sodee
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Should of found a way to let it be released...people have fond memories of this series and it deserves to be brought back.

Brian Kirk
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Even if Activision was hoping to release its own King's Quest sequel, this is a ridiculous move. Have they never heard of free advertising? Or is it one of those instances where the quality of the fan-made game was too close to what they could produce, making gamers everywhere take notice of the quality possible by real fans?

Boo, Activision. Boo.

Josh Green
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The answer to why Activision revoked their license has to do with something called Good Old Games. Activision has released a large portion of the Sierra back catalog on there. In fact, their homepage has a huge graphic with King's Quest IV, V, and VI advertised as DRM-Free.

While I don't think the fan project posed any real threat to Activision's IP, I can understand why they wouldn't hire those developers to actually develop a real game. Given Activision's slate of games over the last couple of years all the way through to 2011... They don't see a new King's Quest game as a worthy investment. They see the brand as an old IP that has value to the nostalgia niche market. But given that the brand is relatively unknown to what is their traditional markets (teens and 20's) and that (to them) point & click adventures are dead, a new game in the series has no perceived value to them.

King's Quest holds a very special place in my heart. But let's face facts. Even if there was a more vibrant market for point & click adventure games, the franchise was driven into the ground as Sierra (via parent companies) got purchased many times over. The vast majority of gamers out there know nothing of the series. And these gamers are too sophisticated (having started with PlayStation and/or Nintendo 64) to grasp what made these games so great. It's like trying to get someone born in the 1980's to watch silent films from the turn of the prior century.

So instead of being stuck in the past, let's use what we liked from King's Quest to develop tomorrow's games!

John Petersen
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I dunno, it sure does make me less inclined to befriend game companies though.

Jay Simmons
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As someone has already stated, why not just alter the assets and story release it as an original IP? Its not like the Kings Quest story was all that compelling. As i remember it had about as much depth as a 'choose your own adventure' novel(which I loved as a kid but they weren't LOTR). Now this way you can charge money or ask for donations and if fans were following the development they aren't going to abandon it now just because its 'not Kings Quest'. Now I'm interested in this new adventure IP!

John Woznack
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Decisions like this prove that it's time to replace Kotick as CEO.

Tristan Pilepich
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Respect has to be given to The Silver Lining dev team for complying with these requests and not making a massive hoo-hah about it. I really feel sorry for such a devoted, dedicated and professional indy dev team.

Good luck to them I say, I just wish all their hard work and effort was spent on their own IP which they could realise without all of these issues. I'd love for a rebirth of the point and click adventure genre.

David Reese
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The question about altering the assets and story to make the TSL game an original IP has come up a lot recently and it's a very good question. However, the reason why that's not feasible is because it would require reworking the entire game, which would include changing the story to remove the KQ references, completely changing at least 75% of the locations (and therefore the puzzles), reworking all the character models, and then getting a hold of the voice actors who did the voice over audio to re-record new audio (which would also require redoing the lip-sync animations).

Could it be done? Sure... but such an effort would be like making an entirely new game and it wouldn't be The Silver Lining anymore.

I would also like to point out there is a movement to reverse the Cease & Desist. Information about this movement can be found at

Thank you for the kind words and support of The Silver Lining.