Interview with Roberta Williams from the foreword of The Official Book of King's Quest VI by Donald B. Trivette.
What is King’s Quest VI about?
At the end of King’s Quest V, Alexander met Princess Cassima and really liked her. She invited him to visit the Land of the Green Isles, and then they both got poofed off to their own countries.
In the beginning of King’s Quest VI, we see Alexander in the throne room going crazy because he can’t locate the Green Isles. At this point a vision of Cassima appears on the magic mirror; she’s in a tower calling for Alexander. It’s night and Alexander recognizes the stars in the sky and realizes he can locate Cassima from those. He outfits a ship and sails away.
Next we find Alexander’s ship in heavy seas off the coast of an unknown island; it piles up on the rocks and Alexander is washed ashore on the beach. That’s how the story begins.
Aren’t there several new technical innovations in King’s Quest VI?
Yes. For one thing the opening animated sequence that I just described was done in 3-D rendering using a flying camera technique. It’s very realistic, especially the CD-ROM version. This is also the first King’s Quest where the character shrinks as he walks away from the viewer. We call that scaling, and it adds to the illusion of depth and perspective.
And for the first time we can use expanded/extended memory if your computer has it. I don’t know much about the details, but it makes the screens load faster.
In KQV we did video capturing of people and modeled the movements of the animated characters from that. In KQVI we took it a step further by putting the people in costumes while we filmed their actions. And we picked people who looked like the characters they portrayed.
Who played Alexander?
That’s one that didn’t work out too well. The guy who played Alexander had long, blond hair; he was totally miscast because Alex has short black hair. I don’t know how he got picked, but we had to completely repaint him.
This quest seems to have a darker, more ominous tone than the other King’s Quests; it is also more wordy. Is there a reason?
I was thinking that same thing the other day, but I don’t believe we made it intentionally ominous. It just turned out that way.
The reason it’s more wordy is that I didn’t write the text. This is the first time I have had a collaborator. Jane Jensen wrote all the script, and we worked on the story line and character together. We spent a month working together before Ken and I left on a two-month vacation to France.
Jane has a different style than I do, and maybe she is more text oriented. Even her design documents were four times as thick as mine usually are - her fingers just fly on a word processor.
Each quest seems to have fewer arcade sequences where you pilot the character around obstacles, up steps, and along cliffs. In KQVI there is only the one scene where Alexander picks his way across a maze in the catacombs. Is this intentional?
We got more complaints about that than we got people liking it. Most people say, “We just want to go from here to there; we don’t want to worry about falling off steps.” So back in King’s Quest IV we started taking you up stairs automatically. And in KQV we introduced the Travel icon where you just click the place you want to go, and the software pilots you there safely.
In KQVI there is some danger: You can fall of the logic cliffs, but it’s not easy.
King’s Quest VI is the first quest that comes with both a long and a short version. What’s the reason for that?
Way back in Colonel’s Bequest I developed the technique of confining the adventure to a small area and dividing the story into acts. In that game everything takes place in an old mansion and the surrounding grounds. A variety of things can happen in the same room depending on where you are in the story and what you have done. Contrast that with the King’s Quest series where each room has a fixed script.
In a linear game like King’s Quest V, you have to keep moving to new places for the story to continue. But in KQIV, I used the concept of acts. You return to the same island over and over, and different stuff happens. The way this game is advanced by hitting different plot point – someone saying something, seeing something, or getting something. There are plot points that you have to do such as get the magic map, and there are lots optional things and subplots such as sending messages to Cassima via Sing-Sing.
King’s Quest VI has five acts though they are invisible to the player. The first act, for example, ends when you use the magic map for the first time. The third act ends when you exit the catacombs. Act IV ends when you get Beauty’s old clothes. The last act is the longest and has several optional subplots like the Druids and Realm of the Dead.
Although people think of it as longer and shorter versions, I think of it as doing optional stuff. All the magic spells, for example, are optional.
Why is so much stuff in this quest optional?
Well that’s a designer’s dilemma. Some players think the games are too difficult, and others think they are too easy. You can’t please everybody.
We batted around different ideas. We thought about designing and marketing different games: a beginners game, an intermediate game, and an advanced game. But that’s not a good idea because no one would buy a beginners game – none of us like to think of ourselves as beginners. Then we thought about asking what level of difficulty you wanted when you installed the game and adding or dropping puzzles based on that. But I didn’t like that idea at all.
I favored the act approach with some must do plot points and lots of could do things. Any player should be able to find the easy stuff and get through the game. We think it adjusts itself to your level of play.
If we got any complaints about King’s Quest V, they were that is was too easy. So this quest takes more thinking; the puzzles are more difficult.
Which is your favorite King’s Quest?
I like this one. But I think my favorite is King’s Quest IV where Rosella goes on a quest. The others sold really well, but when you read the comments from players, IV seems to have the highest approval rating. People really like it. My least favorite is King’s Quest III, probably because you have to type all those spells.
What can you say about King’s Quest VII?
Well I think VII is going to be about Rosella again. Or maybe it will be Valanice – Graham’s wife; she never does anything. If the main character is Rosella, I haven’t decided whether she falls for Edgar (Lolotte’s son in King’s Quest IV) or someone else.
And I am planning to design and write VII myself so it should have more of my own style. I’ll try to make it brighter and in the tradition of King’s Quest IV.
Are the main characters like Graham, Valanice, and Rosella going to age?
I don‘t know. The characters aged a lot between King’s Quest II and III because I needed to get the kids [Rosella and Alexander] in there. Between III and VI, there’s only a period of about two years. Graham and Valanice are still young enough to be active, and the kids are mature. It would be nice to think that they will go on forever. They seem to have a life of their own.