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BOREDQUEST: Unfinished Business
by Lee K. Seitz

Did you ever wish Atari made a sequel to their hit game "Adventure"? Well, you're in luck because they did. Sort of. "Adventure II," as it was originally known, was intended to be similar to the earlier Adventure, only much grander in scale. In fact, the project became so enormous, they decided to break it up into four separate games. These games came to be known collectively as the "SwordQuest" series.

Each game would take the theme and name of its elemental counterpart: Earthworld, Fireworld, Waterworld, and Airworld. To sweeten the deal, Atari promoted a national contest to award valuable prizes to contestants who could solve each of the games by deciphering a series of clues. The clues would be found in comic books included with the games.

The winners from each competition would receive the following prizes valued at $25,000 each:

Earthworld: An 18kt solid gold Talisman with twelve diamonds and twelve other precious stones representing the signs of the Zodiac.

Fireworld: A platinum and gold Chalice decorated with jewels such as pearls, rubies, and sapphires.

Waterworld: A gold Crown trimmed with valuable gems.

Airworld: The Philosopher's Stone, which was a large piece of white jade encased in a jewel encrusted 18kt gold box.

The winners from each contest would then compete to win the ultimate prize: a jewel-encrusted Sword with an 18kt gold handle, silver blade covered with emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds (no green clovers, though!).

If you wanted to get your hands on some of this loot, all you had to do was purchase the games, play them, and hopefully solve them with the help of the comic books. At that point you would mail your solution to Atari and hope you were one of the finalists. But make no mistake about it: These were incredibly boring games and totally unplayable without their comic book counterparts.

First up in the contest was SwordQuest: Earthworld. To solve Earthworld, players must run maniacally from room to room gathering objects and making sure they are placed in the appropriate rooms. Placing the correct object (or combination of objects) would cause a pair of numbers to appear. These numbers would then refer to a page and panel numbers to refer to inside the comic book. Inside the panel in question, you'd need to find words that were hidden in the artwork. The answer to Earthworld contained five words, but 10 words were hidden in the comic book. The question of which five words to pick was answered in the eleventh clue: a poem. The poem contained the highlighted words, "prime" and "number." So by only looking at the prime numbered page and panel numbers, would one determine which of the five words were needed.

For the record the solution is: QUEST IN TOWER TALISMAN FOUND. Yes, quite a few people figured that out and went on to compete to see who could win the Talisman in the Earthworld Finals.

On May 2, 1983, Steven Bell was that man. The contestants were given 90 minutes to compete head-to-head in specially programmed versions of SwordQuest: Earthworld. Clocking in at just 46 minutes, Steven Bell claimed the Talisman.

For the record, the contest was started with the phrase, "Gentlemen, start your joysticks!" Who says those Atari marketing folks didn't have a sense of humor? Quite frankly, I think a contestant should have been awarded bonus points for drop-kicking the announcer after he yelled that.

Next up was SwordQuest: Fireworld. Another snoozer of a game, which, again, has players running around from room to room, gathering objects and deciphering clues from their comic books.

The finalists of Fireworld met in San Francisco, CA. to fight it out and claim the Chalice. Michael Rideout was the proud winner of this contest. He somehow determined that the solution was based on "The Tree of Life," which can be found in the Jewish Cabala, as well as Tarot Cards.

Logically, the next step for Atari was to release the next game in the series, SwordQuest: Waterworld. This is where things tend to get a bit sticky. About this time, Atari was having difficulty maintaining its niche in the videogame market. In essence "The Crash" was beginning. As a cost cutting measure, Atari released Waterworld as an Atari Club exclusive. That is, you could only obtain it if you were a member. Very few of the games sold and since Atari was bleeding red financially, they just decided to scrap the entire tournament. So, the Waterworld contest never took place.

The Waterworld finalists were given $2,000 for their troubles and Steven Bell and Michael Rideout were each given $15,000 to call it quits.

This leaves two out of five prizes claimed. So, where are they, you ask? Earthworld winner, Steven Bell, apparently needed the cash and had his Talisman melted down, but kept a gold cross which was attached to it. Fireworld winner, Michael Rideout, still has his Chalice and keeps it stored in a safety deposit box. Where the other three prizes are remains a mystery. The popular rumor places them in the possession of Atari CEO at the time, Jack Tramiel. I'm sure they are quite the conversation pieces and the jewel-encrusted sword is quite the babe magnet.

The SwordQuest debacle is a prime example of good intentions, great marketing, and horrendous follow through. But I think the time has finally arrived. Now that Hasbro owns the rights to Atari, I'd love to see them finish what was started. The technology exists to create bland rooms and a boring game in realistic 3D! At the very least, let me be there when the guy from marketing proposes the idea to the Hasbro Suits. I just might recommend he not begin his pitch with, "Gentlemen...start your joysticks!"

Ed note: An interview with Fireworld winner, Michael Rideout, can be found online at:


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This article written for Classic Gamer Magazine by Lee K. Seitz


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