Defender of the Crown

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Defender of the Crown
Amiga cover art
Developer(s) Cinemaware
Publisher(s) Cinemaware
Designer(s) Kellyn Beck
Artist(s) James D. Sachs
Composer(s) Jim Cuomo
Platform(s) MS-DOS, NES, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, Macintosh, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, C64, Amiga, CDTV, CD-i, Windows, Game Boy Advance, iOS, Android, Jaguar
Release 1986
Genre(s) Strategy game
Mode(s) Single-player

Defender of the Crown is a strategy computer game designed by Kellyn Beck. It was Cinemaware's first game, and was originally released for the Commodore Amiga in 1986, setting a new standard for graphic quality in home computer games.

Strategy game type of game in which the players decision-making skills have high significance in the outcome

A strategy game or strategic game is a game in which the players' uncoerced, and often autonomous decision-making skills have a high significance in determining the outcome. Almost all strategy games require internal decision tree style thinking, and typically very high situational awareness.

Cinemaware video game developer

Cinemaware was a computer game developer and publisher that released several popular titles in the 1980s based on various movie themes. The company was resurrected in 2000, before being acquired by eGames in 2005.

Home computer class of microcomputers

Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977, that started with what Byte Magazine called the "trinity of 1977", and which became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a single nontechnical user. These computers were a distinct market segment that typically cost much less than business, scientific or engineering-oriented computers of the time such as the IBM PC, and were generally less powerful in terms of memory and expandability. However, a home computer often had better graphics and sound than contemporary business computers. Their most common uses were playing video games, but they were also regularly used for word processing, doing homework, and programming.


In 1987 it was ported to MS-DOS, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Macintosh and finally, the Apple IIGS in 1988. It was later ported to the CDTV, CD-i, and then the Atari Jaguar.

MS-DOS Discontinued computer operating system

MS-DOS is an operating system for x86-based personal computers mostly developed by Microsoft. Collectively, MS-DOS, its rebranding as IBM PC DOS, and some operating systems attempting to be compatible with MS-DOS, are sometimes referred to as "DOS". MS-DOS was the main operating system for IBM PC compatible personal computers during the 1980s and the early 1990s, when it was gradually superseded by operating systems offering a graphical user interface (GUI), in various generations of the graphical Microsoft Windows operating system.

Nintendo Entertainment System 8-bit third-generation home video game console produced, released and marketed by Nintendo in 1985 and 1995

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is an 8-bit third-generation home video game console produced, released and marketed by Nintendo. It is a remodeled export version of the company's Family Computer (FC) platform in Japan, commonly known as the Famicom, which was launched on July 15, 1983. The NES was launched in the test markets of New York City and Los Angeles in 1985, with a full launch in the rest of North America and parts of Europe in 1986, followed by Australia and other European countries in 1987. Brazil saw only unlicensed clones until the official local release in 1993. In South Korea, it was packaged as the Hyundai Comboy and distributed by Hyundai Electronics which is now SK Hynix; the Comboy was released in 1989.

Atari ST series of personal computer models

The Atari ST is a line of home computers from Atari Corporation and the successor to the Atari 8-bit family. The initial ST model, the 520ST, saw limited release in April–June 1985 and was widely available in July. The Atari ST is the first personal computer to come with a bitmapped color GUI, using a version of Digital Research's GEM released in February 1985. The 1040ST, released in 1986, is the first personal computer to ship with a megabyte of RAM in the base configuration and also the first with a cost-per-kilobyte of less than US$1.


The game is set in England in 1149 during the Middle Ages where, following the death of the king, different factions are fighting for territorial control.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th to the 15th century

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

The fighting screen was one of the features added to the Atari ST version ST Defender of the Crown fight.png
The fighting screen was one of the features added to the Atari ST version

The player assumes the role of a Saxon (Wilfred of Ivanhoe, Cedric of Rotherwood, Geoffrey Longsword or Wolfric the Wild) and tries to fight off the Norman hordes and wrestle for control of England. Eventually, the player must fight for control of all territories, and potentially those controlled by other Saxons, if they have become antagonistic. The player must amass armies and fight for control of opponents' castles. The player may engage enemy armies in battle, loot or lay siege to opposing castles. Territories can also be won in the periodic jousting contests. From time to time the player may attempt to rescue a damsel in distress and can appeal for help from the legendary bandit Robin Hood.

Anglo-Saxons Germanic tribes who started to inhabit parts of Great Britain from the 5th century onwards

The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, their descendants, and indigenous British groups who adopted many aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language; the cultural foundations laid by the Anglo-Saxons are the foundation of the modern English legal system and of many aspects of English society; the modern English language owes over half its words – including the most common words of everyday speech – to the language of the Anglo-Saxons. Historically, the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement and up until the Norman conquest. The early Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today, including regional government of shires and hundreds. During this period, Christianity was established and there was a flowering of literature and language. Charters and law were also established. The term Anglo-Saxon is popularly used for the language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. In scholarly use, it is more commonly called Old English.

<i>Ivanhoe</i> 1820 Walter Scott novel

Ivanhoe is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott, first published in 1819 in three volumes and subtitled A Romance. At the time it was written it represented a shift by Scott away from fairly realistic novels set in Scotland in the comparatively recent past, to a somewhat fanciful depiction of medieval England. It has proved to be one of the best known and most influential of Scott's novels.

Normans European ethnic group emerging in the 10th and 11th century in France

The Normans were an ethnic group that arose in Normandy, a northern region of France, from contact between indigenous Franks, Gallo-Romans, and Norse Viking settlers. The settlements followed a series of raids on the French coast from Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, and they gained political legitimacy when the Viking leader Rollo agreed to swear fealty to King Charles III of West Francia. The distinct cultural and ethnic identity of the Normans emerged initially in the first half of the 10th century, and it continued to evolve over the succeeding centuries.

The game's strategy boils down to a war of attrition as the player tries to amass larger armies than his opponents and manages to attack their territories at the right time.

Attrition warfare is a military strategy consisting of belligerent attempts to win a war by wearing down the enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and material. The war will usually be won by the side with greater such resources. The word attrition comes from the Latin root atterere to rub against, similar to the "grinding down" of the opponent's forces in attrition warfare.

Due to financial strains, Cinemaware decided to release the initial version without all the features originally planned for because of their need for revenue. Some features were partially implemented, but were removed so the game could be shipped. Some additional features completed but never seen in the shipped game include flaming fireballs (launched via the catapult), more locations (more varied castles to attack) and more in-depth strategy. Some of these features were implemented in the ports of the game.

Catapult ballistic device

A catapult is a ballistic device used to launch a projectile a great distance without the aid of explosive devices—particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines. In use since ancient times, the catapult has proven to be one of the most effective mechanisms during warfare. In modern times the term can apply to devices ranging from a simple hand-held implement to a mechanism for launching aircraft from a ship.

James D. Sachs, the primary artist for the game, showcased some of these features on the Amiga during interviews after the release of the game.


The first public demonstration of Defender of the Crown occurred at the Los Angeles Commodore Show in September 1986, before its November release, and attracted a huge crowd. [1] An excerpt from Brian Bagnall's On the Edge: the Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore [2] captures the effect that seeing the game for the first time had on users:

Screenshot of a raid with graphics in the 1986 Amiga version. Amiga Defender of the Crown raid.png
Screenshot of a raid with graphics in the 1986 Amiga version.

Mical saw artist Jim Sachs push the Amiga to its full potential. "Jim Sachs, what a god he is," marvels Mical. "Jim Sachs is amazing. These days everyone sees graphics like that because there are a lot of really good computer graphics artists now, but back then, 20 years ago, it was astonishing to have someone that good."

The final game was a landmark in video game production values. As game designer Bob Lindstrom recalls, "The shock of seeing Defender for the first time was one of those experiences that changed the gaming stakes for all of us."

Compared to other video games of the time, Defender of the Crown established a new level of quality. IBM had Kings Quest by Sierra On-Line, a decent but primitive adventure game. The Macintosh had games like Checkers or Backgammon, or board games like Risk. Defender of the Crown had richer graphics than any computer, console, or even arcade game could boast in 1986. It was a revelation.

It became a best seller, selling 20,000 copies by the end of 1986, [1] and 1 million by 2001. [3]

Info gave the Amiga version four stars out of five, stating that its "graphics have set new standards for computer games". The magazine praised the "breathtaking" animation and "impressive" color, but hoped that future Cinemaware games would improve on the "adequate" gameplay which was "the weak link". [4] The Australian Commodore Review gave the Commodore 64 version of the game a total score of 96 out of 100, [5] while Commodore User said that it was "totally brilliant and one of the best games to date on the 64." [6] Computer Gaming World praised the Amiga version of Defender of the Crown's graphics and animation, calling the game "a showcase program to demonstrate the power of the Amiga to your friends." Although the gameplay was not as complex as other strategy games of the time, the reviewer was still exceptionally pleased with Cinemaware's first game. [7] That year the magazine gave Defender of the Crown a special award for "Artistic Achievement in a Computer Game", [8] but in 1990 and 1993 surveys of wargames in the magazine gave the game two-plus stars out of five. [9] [10]

Compute! also stated that Defender of the Crown effectively demonstrated the Amiga's graphics but stated that its gameplay was oversimplified. [11] CU Amiga stated that "there are not many areas in which Defender of the Crown could be improved ... the graphics are sophisticated with lush colours and visual effects." [12] Amiga Format were less kind to the CD rerelease of the game, stating that it "hasn't stood the test of time simply because the gameplay is somewhat weak." [13] [1]

In 1996, Computer Gaming World declared Defender of the Crown the 92nd-best computer game ever released. [14]

Cover art

The cover art of Defender of the Crown was put together by Peter Green Design and painted by Ezra Tucker.

Randy McDonald was in charge of art direction, design, and production for Cinemaware's first four games, and he explains in an interview that "Peter Greene or I would do a sketch of generally what we wanted for each cover. I went to Western Costume in Hollywood, which for many decades was the giant in the costume industry there, and rented costumes for the types of "look" we had settled on for each cover. We hired models and brought them into Peter's large photo studio, where we set them up in the costumes I had rented, posed as closely as possible to the way we wanted them to be illustrated." [15]

The initial artist, according to Randy McDonald, was supposed to be Greg Winter, but the cover eventually went to Ezra Tucker.


The ports of Defender of the Crown, notably for DOS and the NES, resulted in an enormous loss in graphic and audio quality due to those systems' inferior abilities compared to the Amiga. But these ports featured more in-depth strategic elements compared to the unfinished original version. The Apple IIGS, Atari ST and Commodore 64 versions were ported with better success, the IIGS, Macintosh and ST versions' graphics coming quite close to the Amiga version.

All ports:

In 1989 the game became the second game to ship on CD-ROM, after The Manhole . [19]


After a string of successful games and game series, Cinemaware eventually went bankrupt. In 2000, however, Lars Fuhrken-Batista and Sean Vesce bought Cinemaware's name and assets, and founded Cinemaware Inc., naming a remake of Defender of the Crown for modern PCs as one of the reformed company's first projects. The new version, titled Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown was released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2 (September 30), Xbox (October 6) and Windows (October 15). The new company also created "Digitally Remastered Versions" of classic Cinemaware games, including Defender of the Crown.

In February 2007, a homage to the game called Defender of the Crown: Heroes Live Forever was released by eGames, [20] who had acquired Cinemaware in 2005. Heroes Live Forever features many of the elements of the original game, including jousting and archery tournaments, raiding castles, rescuing princesses, and laying siege to enemy fortresses via catapult. A new addition to the game involved the use of Hero and Tactic cards during battles, giving the user's army various upgrades during the on-screen melee.


Defender of the Crown II was published by Commodore International in 1993 for the CDTV and Amiga CD32.

The Danish band PRESS PLAY ON TAPE remixed the theme music of the game, replacing the instrumental tune with proper medieval-sounding lyrics. [21]

During the second half of the 1980s, some games directly inspired by Defender of the Crown were released. Among these was for example Joan of Arc (Rainbow Arts, 1989).

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  15. This is how the cover art in Defender of the Crown was made -
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