It takes a big man to admit when he's wrong. I am a very big man. One of my greatest laments about the state of the adventure game is the reduction in interactivity.
Time was when an adventure game had infinite inputs. A parser bar let you type in anything you wanted. On the billion to one chance the game understood it, that command would be carried out.
Of course, inevitably you'd type "Do a poo" and then be annoyed the developers didn't write in a funny response for that. But in principle these games offered you extraordinary freedom.
Then came the verb system of LucasArts' SCUMM, where sentences were constructed in chunks. "use HAIRBRUSH on MOUNTAIN", for instance. Once again, the degree of choice felt overwhelming.
This was simplified further by Sierra, years before LucasArts moved over to it, into what I would argue was the best system: the rotating mouse cursor.
Here you would right click to change the cursor through the various verbs and then click on the item in-screen. This opened up the whole window for the gorgeous graphics of a Space Quest IV, or a Sam & Max, while allowing the player to improvise and experiment.
As the adventure's heyday drew to an end the system was reduced further - first with a "verb coin" that gave you three or four options to choose with a right click, then with the left click becoming a general "use" and a right click providing "look". It was never the same again.
Now, most of the blasted things just have a single button which does everything. One stinking button. We went from infinity to one in 20 years.
That's not progress, that's regress. Presumably the next generation will ask us to press any button to start the game, and then play themselves for us.
That's my rant. I've made it for years. I've been wrong. Because in 1992, Westwood - the developer most famous for creating Command & Conquer - released the almost forgotten point and click adventure, The Legend Of Kyrandia: Book One.
It contained a single cursor.
I'm not really sure what to do with this information. Does it undermine everything? Is everything that's being produced now a homage to Kyrandia?
Obviously not. And not only because Kyrandia also suffers from the same issues.
To say the story owes something to the King's Quest series is a bit like saying Vodafone owes something to the Inland Revenue. In this fairytale land an evil wizard - brilliantly named Malcolm - is removing all the magic and, er, killing a few trees.
He's also turned your friendly wizard grandfather to stone! The cad. So you must seek out an amulet and then fight Malcolm because you are the chosen one, as destined before your birth.
It's an odd game. The tone slips between deadly serious and slightly silly. Oddly, the guff about your destiny seems to fall entirely in the serious camp, which lends the game a sense of pomposity it really cannot sustain.
So you march about, solving puzzles, and eventually it stops. That was the model for most adventures of the time - a story happening at you between inconveniences. It's all rather charming, really.
The single cursor was in fact something of a noteworthy novelty when Kyrandia was released in 1992. LucasArts was still verb building, while Sierra had introduced the rotating cursor only the year before.
Rather than a sign of the adventure's declining mind, here it was an experiment to see if the focus could be shifted elsewhere.
In Kyrandia it was onto the inventory. Another unique element for a straight point and click adventure was the inventory's limitations.
A long running joke in the genre has always been the infinite pockets of your character, but here you had ten slots and that was it.
However, you were also able to drop objects. These would stay on the screen wherever you left them, so you had to choose what to take with you on any excursion.
Which was idiotic. Knowing which items to take with you as you walked 40 screens away required psychic powers. The inevitable traipses back offered not a jot of joy. Things got particularly tedious when stranded in the network of caves so generously provided.
The whole game requires mapping if you're to have any chance of avoiding aimless wandering. Which is something I haven't done for years.
Completely lacking squared paper I resorted to actually printing some out. Then, just as my father taught me, I began drawing squares for each location.
Westwood's game faithfully allows this, not resorting to the silly looping forests or randomly generated exits that frustrated in so many of the adventures at that time.
But the caves - the dark gloomy caves - required that you light you way with fireberries. Each berry could be moved no more than three locations before burning out, and stepping into darkness meant instant death.
The process of mapping and lighting the labyrinth is certainly an elegant logic problem, if one of the most tiresome events I've experienced.
But it turns out mapping makes everything OK! What a remarkably satisfying process that is. In fact, thanks to my complete lack of a sense of direction (I get lost going upstairs) I mapped the entire game.
As much as some of the utterly idiotic puzzles may have annoyed me, looking at that pile of paper brings me the sense of satisfaction that Anaximander must have felt as he completed his first map of the world.
It's strange that Kyrandia is so forgotten. There were three of them, to start with (only while replaying the first did I remember it's the second one - Hand Of Fate - I really liked).
Not only did the game innovate with its cursor, inventory and the (massively underused) spells the amulet offers, it was also an absolutely beautiful game.
The painting is gorgeous, far ahead of the detail others were offering in '92. The animation is remarkable, the characters far more vivid and alive than you'd expect for the time.
Westwood is a studio famous for being remarkably good. Few have forgotten its most famous adventure, the troubled and brilliant Bladerunner. So why did the Kyrandia series slip through the cracks?
I'd venture possibly because it was so similar to King's Quest, despite being not nearly so insufferably smug. Westwood is a studio which will always be (rightly) remembered for Dune II, Command & Conquer, Eye Of The Beholder and Lands Of Lore (what a résumé!).
But while Kyrandia unquestionably makes some of the worst mistakes of adventures at that time (it was a year before LucasArts would convince the rest of the world that killing your character was a bad idea), it also offers some smart writing, a few nice puzzles and a bunch of daft imagination.
However, I'd prefer it if people could continue to forget about it, so my rant about the degradation of adventure controls can continue. Thanks.