Gamechanger – Defender Of The Crown

Defender Of The Crown - Cinemaware, 1986

When Trip Hawkins founded Electronic Arts in 1982, he did so with a vision that a software company should borrow from the record industry for its business model. Bob and Phyllis Jacob, on the other hand, looked at the movie and television industries, at thought they’d discovered their own model. Cinemaware was founded in 1985 by Bob and Phyllis, and it focused on delivering gaming experiences like no other. With boundary-pushing graphics, stereo sound, and movie-like plots, Cinemaware games took video games by storm. And it all started in 1986, with Defender Of The Crown.

The King is dead, long live a King, any - Saxon - king!

The King is dead, long live a King, any – Saxon – king!

It is 1149, and the King, a friend, has been assassinated. You, along with 3 other rivals, vie to unite the land and become king. Defender Of The Crown is a simple resource management game, like a graphically-bionic version of Dynasty, but raising gold to pay for troops and catapults, rather than food.

Managing your growing kingdom and army

Managing your growing kingdom and army

Defender Of The Crown combat

Defender Of The Crown combat

Surrounding this core game, are side/mini games that can bring the player some extra gold, such as Raiding your opponents, or are critically important – like bringing down castle walls with your catapult, with a limited number of rocks, when attacking land protected by a castle.

A raiding we will go

A raiding we will go

Note the shadow broken by the pillar, very complex in 1986

Note the shadow broken by the pillar, very complex in 1986

Keeping with cinematic tradition, a love story is always a bonus, such as when you rescue a lady from the dastardly Normans.

"Is this a kissing book?"

“Is this a kissing book?”

With the good Lady Rebecca by my side, anything is possible

With the good Lady Rebecca by my side, anything is possible

Defender Of The Crown is a pivotal title in video game history because it married movie-style storytelling with video games in a seamless and incredibly fun way. Games from Grand Theft Auto, through the recent installments of the The Elder Scrolls can trace their roots back to it.

Ah, the tourney...

Ah, the tourney…

Pomp and circumstance

Pomp and circumstance

All the most fashionable people are here

All the most fashionable people are here

I was never good at the Joust in DotC, and don’t remember ever winning a single match.

"Where are you pointing that!?"

“Where are you pointing that!?”

It is really hard to stress just how utterly shocking Defender Of The Crown was in 1986.  The screenshots look simple now, but, at that time, this was the absolute pinnacle of computer graphics in a video game.  Realistic lighting, animated water and fire, first-person perspective, stone with shades of grey and textures, these were all mind-blowing achievements in 1986. There was a point from 1986 through 1989 where, all an Amiga owner had to do to win a ‘best computer’ argument was to put on DotC, and the Boing and Juggler Demos… nothing could touch Defender of the Crown graphically. For comparison, look at a screenshot from another groundbreaking game – Populous – for the same Amiga computer, but from 1989!

Populous - Bullfrog, 1989

Populous – Bullfrog, 1989

Or even Defender of the Crown for the NES/Famicom.

Yuck...

Yuck… a lot less pomp & circumstance…

Like only a handful of games before or since, Defender Of the Crown1 changed what was possible in a video game.

References   [ + ]

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Mike Knotts

Mike Knotts was born in 1968 in a small town in southern Indiana. Even when very young, Mike showed a love for all-things technical and sci-fi. Moving with his family to California in the early 80's, he eventually graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in History. Rather than put that to good use, Mike continued to pursue his passion for technology by working for early, regional ISP's in the mid 1990's. He currently resides in the Pacific Northwest, where he works as a project manager for an Internet startup. Mike is a co-founder of Geekometry.

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