I am delighted to present and advertise here the pilot for the new Aegis Quest.
[Select Part 2 at the end to watch the concluding part, and don’t miss the cameo after the end credits]
Created by Alan Boyd, a victorious Knightmare contestant in 1994, Aegis Quest is a live-action RPG game in which advisors guide a quester through a dungeon full of puzzles, traps and riddles in an interactive Dungeons and Dragons style adventure. The concept began over three years ago, and the end product so far represents a strong legacy, a tight team, and devoted craftsmanship.
The game owes clear precedents to Knightmare, although there are conscious efforts to distance the project from the old classic. Aegis Quest strongly fashions itself as starting anew, and the authenticity allows it to do so. The gloomy dungeon of the pilot [with a consistency of aesthetics akin to Knightmare‘s Series 8] and the gaming machine have been created from scratch, and new characters and backstory have been devised by Ben ‘Pooka’ Maydon.
Knightmare, it is worth saying, has left unfinished business. Despite its controversial axe in 1994, constant pressure by fans for its return persuaded Tim Child, then of Televirtual, to mould his technological developments towards an advanced VR gaming system to create a new series. Doing so pushed aside TimeGate, a more mainstream gameshow project aimed at adults. Sadly, the Knightmare VR pilot, released in 2004, was met with disappointment. The fundamental principle of blindfolding the dungeoneer had been abandoned, and with that, out went the drama, the fun, and the interest from broadcasters.
With fan demand for the original format still showing no signs of waning, Tim Child returned once again to the site in 2008 to announce work in progress that lit many hopes but sadly failed to deliver. Despite reports claiming that adolescents were sorely under-represented in children’s programming, the state of public finances offers little hope. Anything remotely approaching the impact that Knightmare had can only be a distant – if not virtual – reality.
“Through My Eyes Only”: Playing Quester
And so Aegis Quest arrives to stake its claim. If adolescents have now migrated wholly to consoles, AQ, for all its strive for independence, offers perhaps the last realistic chance of bringing this gaming format back to glory again. What has changed significantly over the last 15 years is the desire of young gamers to participate rather than merely spectate. As an prospective multi-player RPG, Aegis Quest would present the opportunity for contestants to become actively involved.
Playing the Quester for this pilot was a completely new experience. As a literal cross between a television show and a computer based RPG, I’m not sure if there is anything else like it out there on the gaming circuit. Crucially, the fundamental tenets are back. The Quester is unable to see the dungeon environment, with only a chequered grid shown on the playing screen. It is down to advisors, who have the chromakey-created environments available, to guide me by VOIP as I control the character through the chambers.
The ledge room in the second segment of the pilot hopefully shows the wonders of this format. Even navigating around a plain grid can have its tensions. If only the death sequence could have been held a little longer. We macabre beings like to savour the bleak darkness for a few seconds; it reminds us, refreshingly, that just once, it can be quite cool to fail.
A Stab in the Dark
Such a project would not be possible without a meritable team, and the credits do not do significant justice. Alan Boyd (alias Mystara) recently submitted his PhD thesis in Computer Science, and earlier this year he masterminded a relaunch of the Knightmare website (for which I was recruited). Alan developed the 3D client and gaming system with the graphics, and oversaw the project development.
No less important is Aaron ‘Forester’ Parker, long the unsung hero of Knightmare fan-based projects, and creator of the Interactive Knightmare site. His technical expertise produced flawless chromakey results; slick effects [Ward’s viewing globe; Maraki’s magic]; and made many troublesome continuity problems vanish.
The acting panel has its shining star too, with Anna Francombe (Maraki) soon to depart for the United States to take her place at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in Los Angeles this Autumn. [Support Anna]
Keeping it Real
And what has been achieved here so far may mean little without public support for Aegis Quest to commit to its first season. Whilst Knightmare‘s legacy has never been in question, the seizure of opportunity in the 21st century has been woeful. Two efforts to bring the game back have failed, and the Knightmare RPG has never surfaced owing partly to growing too quickly over too short a period.
Hence, there is a lot at stake for Aegis Quest, and it deserves to grow and achieve great things. Anyone who values quality ideas, gaming, programming, innovation, fantasy and nostalgia should consider offering vocal support, via sites, forums, Youtube, and by spreading awareness, to keep this project in operation.
It may be the last of a dying breed…