Commmander Keen: Defender of Earth!
Commander Keen was first released to the public on December 14, 1990 by the famous shareware distributor, Apogee Software. It changed the face of PC gaming forever and all major games from Quake to Half-Life owe their existance to this game which was the first to have: Secret areas and levels, lots of various animated characters, saving in the middle of a game, and manual reconfiguration of the keyboard commands. Interestingly, this legendary game started as a practical joke by the founders of id Software who were all working at Softdisk at the time. While working at Softdisk, John Carmack had devised a smooth, scrolling routine like those on the Nintendo Entertainment System. When Tom Hall found it, he and Carmack decided to play a prank on John Romero. Working all night, they created "Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement," a pixel-by-pixel recreation of the first level of Super Mario World. Romero realized the marketing potential in the games and approached a project manager, Jay Wilbur with the game. Eventually, they had it sent to Nintendo, but it was ultimately rejected with Nintendo stating that they were in the console-only market. Even Softdisk rejected the usage of this because the routine only worked on EGA systems and they need games that could also function on CGA systems.
Despite this, the future founders of id Software decided to do something by themselves and thus Commander Keen was born. However, they were working for Softdisk and had to find some other ways of funding the idea. Through a series of fake praise letters, the group met with Scott Miller one of the founders of Apogee who was so interested in the game as well as introducing them to the shareware idea of selling software that he took the $2,000 the group wanted to make the first game out of his own bank account. With that, the group worked for 3 months and eventually got intern Adrian Carmack, whose art they had admired, to help them out.
When Commander Keen first came out it was a wild success, the month after the release, the group got a fat check for $10,000 in royalties and promptly quit...taking Adrian along with them. id Software was formed on February 1, 1991 with the original Keen trilogy completed the previous month. However, during all of this the group still had some unfinished work at Softdisk. As part of their resignation, they agreed to finish the Gamer's Edge series of products. One of these was "Commander Keen in Keen Dreams."
Once they were free of Softdisk they started work on the next Keen trilogy entitled "Goodbye, Galaxy!" Starting with this series, the game could be played by those who were still limited to CGA video and game play was upgraded..sound was also possible with a SoundBlaster compatable card. First released in the not-to-be trilogy (More on that in a sec) was Secret of the Oracle. Introduced here was the fish that spawned one of the most bizzare cults ever...the Dopefish now found somewhere on almost all computer games...it can be found in the Well of Wishes island.
The next one in the "Goodbye, Galaxy!" series was the Armageddon Machine which many Keen fans think of as the best. However, it was decided to make the 6th Keen game, "Aliens Ate My Baby Sitter!" a retail item instead of shareware and sold by FormGen instead of Apogee. This was the last Keen game despite the tagline at the end promising gamers a new and exciting return of Keen...the success of DooM and Wolfenstein 3D halted all development indefinately on Keen. Tom Hall, one of the original creators who left id because his tastes were more into whimsical humor instead of the games that id has become known for has stated he hopes to see another Keen created, but he doesn't have the rights to it. However, Keen did make a comeback in 2001 with a GameBoy Color release.
The Commander Keen Trilogies/Series
Episode 1: Marooned on Mars -- Marooned on Mars, you 8-year-old genius Billy Blaze (Commander Keen) must take the parts the Vorticons have hidden in Martian city from your Bean-with-Bacon Megarocket before your parents come home!
Episode 2: Invasion of the Vorticons -- The Vorticon's mothership has deathrays aimed at earth! Shut them all down!
Episode 3: The Earth Explodes -- Your archrival Mortimer McMire who scored 315 on an IQ test...one point higher than you is controlling the Vorticons to do his evil bidding...to destroy earth to prove he's the smartest person in the galaxy!
Secret of the Oracle -- Rocket to an alien planet to rescue the Keepers of the Oracle, who are the only ones capable of helping Keen find out more about the Shikadi who plan to make our galaxy a practice target!
The Armageddon Machine -- After learning about the Shikadi you rocket to their huge ship...also the largest weapon ever built which the Shikadi plan to use in order to destroy the galaxy. Put an end to their schemes...or else.
Keen Dreams -- You must fight a world of giant vegetables...because you didn't eat your veggies!
Aliens Ate My Baby Sitter! -- Hungry aliens have kidnapped your baby sitter...save her or face explaining to your parents...
Commander Keen for GameBoy Color