The day Atari was sold was the day that Swordquest died. Its murderer, Atari’s new owner Jack Tramiel, killed off Swordquest because the series wasn’t earning him enough money. AirWorld was only 20% complete at the time.
AirWorld would never officially be fully complete.
To recap, again, for the last time, Swordquest was to be a tetralogy of games for the Atari 2600 VCS, respectively EarthWorld, FireWorld, WaterWorld, and AirWorld. Each game was to have its own contest at the Atari headquarters in Sunnydale, CA, with the winner of each contest taking home a $25,000, solid gold, game-specific prize. You could enter each contest by playing its game and solving the puzzles, which led you to pages in the game’s accompanying comic book that contained hidden world clues within their panels. If you mailed Atari with the correct amount of clues, you would be invited to participate in the contest. Afterwards, all four winners were to compete against one another in a fifth epic contest, with the winner being awarded the $50,000 Sword of Ultimate Sorcery. The first two contest were held as intended, but the third suffered from WaterWorld‘s lack of distribution and sales, and as a result, the contest (as well as the remainder of Swordquest) was thrown out the window.
Little is known about what has become of game four. Lead programmer Tod Fyre is on record as saying that the prototype was based on the Chinese I Ching (Book of Changes), and that gameplay saw the player “[flying] around in a (sort of) first-person flying scenario with 64 hexagrams on the horizon, dodging some stuff in the air, and doing some other stuff”, but that’s just about as far as the game was developed. There were also a planned 64 minigames for the title, but that proved to be too ambitious a notion. No set storyline was ever written for AirWorld, nor any comic book produced. The never-fully-playable prototype and some early conceptual art are all that was ever made. There was no hope left for a conclusion to the Swordquest saga after Atari’s ownership changed hands…
…until the summer of 2001, anyway.
Indeed the prototype and concept art are all you’d ever see branded with an Atari Official Seal of Approval, but in June of 2001 a group of independent programmers began work on an unofficial Swordquest: AirWorld for the Atari 5200. Headed by Project Leader Ken Van Mersbergen, this team of game creators is working diligently to provide some closure for us all to the Swordquest saga, while trying hard to remain as true to the series and to Tod Fyre’s concept of the game as possible. John Swiderski, who is working on the title screen, artistic cut scenes, and title music for this new AirWorld, and who is the owner of Mean Hamster Software, has told GameCola that the project is currently at a standstill as far as gameplay is concerned. According to Swiderski, the project has come along nicely so far; no minigames have yet been created, but the player is able to wander from room to room and pick up objects. The homepage for the Swordquest: AirWorld Project states that the game is twenty-five percent complete, and lists no tentative release date.
So…there you have it. Swordquest. One of the more interesting ideas conceived in this industry, tanked by dull and uninspired gameplay. I’d like to thank John Swiderski for helping me out with this last article; check out his website for some really neat information on the games he’s created for the Atari 5200, including a Zeldaesque one-player adventure that goes beyond the limits of any current A52 title. Also much thanks to you, the readers, for keeping up with us these past five months. And on that note, I bid a fond farewell to Swordquest. May you rest in peace…officially, at least. 😉