In the early 80s, Atari was the king of video games. Prior to Major League Gaming, they held their own pro level contests to find the best of the best. Perhaps the most famous was SwordQuest. The contest began in 1982 with a series of four games planned for it. Gamers who joined the Atari fan club received a t-shirt and would receive each game as soon as it launched. The games also shipped with their own DC comic book tie-in.
|SwordQuest as a rudimentary precursor to Zelda type adventure games|
Gameplay was basically the same for all four One had to navigate rooms, collect items, and find clue words. These clues were hidden in the companion comic. They would then have to be arranged in the correct sentence. Those who got it would compete at a finals event at Atari HQ. The champions were given custom cartridges and had 90 minutes to find as many clues as possible. The winner would receive a fabulous prize.
|A clue in Earthworld directs the gamer to page 16, panel 4 of the comic. The clue is "SPIRE".|
|The prizes, clockwise from top left: Talisman of Penultimate Truth, Sword of Ultimate Sorcery, Chalice of Light, Crown of Life, Philosopher's Stone|
The winner of Fireworld received a platinum chalice with gold base. It was adorned with citrines, diamonds, green jade, pearls, rubies, and sapphires. Michael Rideout won the chalice and still owns it to this day.
Winners of Waterworld were suppose to receive a gold crown, also adorned with rare gems. Then the video game crash of 1983 hit. Production of SwordQuest games stopped. Two semi-final winners of the Waterworld contest received $15,000 each. The finals for the crown were never held.
After that, Atari stopped the contest. Had it continued, winners of Airworld would have been given a white jade "Philosopher's Stone". It was to come in a jewel encrusted, solid gold box.
Both the crown and the stone did exist. They were on display at the previous three competitions. However, neither captured gamers' imaginations quite like the grand price: the titular sword.
When the four contests were over, the previous grand champions would have a chance compete for the ultimate prize. The Sword of Ultimate Sorcery featured a solid silver blade and solid gold hilt. The hilt was also covered with rare gems. This ultimate prize was valued at $50,000, or over $100,000 today.
|A rare photo of the legendary lost sword. It was rumourned to be owned by former Atari CEO Jack Tramiel.|
Some people claim to have seen the sword hanging in Tramiel's house. However, none of these reports have been confirmed. Tramiel repeatedly denied he was in possession of the items.
So gaming's greatest mystery persists. Now that Tramiel has passed on, we may finally find out if he did indeed hold on to these legendary relics of games past. That is if his estate chooses to share that information. Until then, the quest continues.
If you want to know more about this contest, check out Cinemassacre's Angry Video Game Nerd special on SwordQuest.