The Quest for King's Quest VI is an article by Rich DeBaum about the development of KQ6. It was originally published in InterAction magazine Fall 1992 as part of a feature of two articles called Inside King's Quest VI. It was later included Inside the Chest.
While not specifically a lore article (while it does contain a short overview of the universe and its themes towards the beginning of the article), it is notable in that it does mention the concept of royal family's continued role in the battle between Good and Evil, the their adversaries the family of Evil (Manannan, Mordack, and Hagatha), the nemesis to Graham's family of Good (this is a nod to the idea presented by Derek Karlavaegen in the The King's Quest Companion). Actually this article has quite a few nods from the Companion, including the "Nothing is as it appears" adage, and the rules of magic.
The Quest for King's Quest VIEdit
There's always an undercurrent of excitement at Sierra On-Line whenever a King's Quest game is about to ship. This past summer, as the release date for King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow drew closer and closer, you could almost feel the electricity in the halls of Oakhurst. After fourteen months of work by dozens of creative and technical specialists, the latest installment of the King's Quest saga was nearly done.
The sense of anticipation was hardly surprising. The award-winning King's Quest series is Sierra On-Line's flagship line, with millions of fans around the globe. Indeed, from Tasmania to Toronto, King's Quest is the best-selling series of computer adventure games in the world. Not bad for a game concept first sketched on an airline cocktail napkin during a business trip.
Your quest begins when Prince Alexander is shipwrecked on an unknown shore — the fabled Land of the Green Isles!
In 1985, when Sierra released King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown, it was hailed as a giant step forward in game design. Ken Williams designed the technology, and his wife, Roberta, wrote a charming story that turned it into a game. The original King's Quest I was 128K, unheard of for an entertainment program at the time, and with each succeeding game Roberta has added as much depth and breadth as the current technology could handle (and these advances quickly found their way into other Sierra titles). The phenomenally successful King's Quest V, for example, took another step forward by being the first game in the series to use the more user-friendly icon interface — a move which Roberta says has allowed her to create deeper stories, more intricate puzzles, and characters that can become more fully developed as a game progresses. "It's really freed us up to build the kind of interactive fiction that's emotionally involving and challenging at the same time," she says.
In addition to the technological advances the games have in- corporated, the amazing popularity of King's Quest is due in large part to the special environment Roberta Williams has created for the series over the years. She has set the games in the world of Daventry, an enchanted place populated by familiar characters from well-known myths, fairy tales, and folklore. Its Piers Anthony landscape is filled with delightful puns and wordplays, and life-and-death encounters lie around each turn in the road. It's a world where dragons, witches, mermaids, and magicians roam, where the supernatural is commonplace, and you are rewarded for using your wits rather than tor slaughtering every- thing in your path.
The fundamental component of Daventry is magic. Magic permeates every aspect of life there and is often the ace-in-the-hole you can use to turn a quest that's foundering on the brink of defeat into a glorious victory. However, you would he ill-advised to use this resource carelessly or rely on it more than you do your own intelligence and imagination. Harnessing the power of magic in Daventry requires a meticulous approach. To cast a spell successfully, for example, you must have an exact combination of ingredients and incantations and use them in an exact order. Dire consequences await sloppy spell casters. Shortcuts or substitutions can result in ineffective spells or magic that backfires in very unpleasant ways.
The King's Quest saga is the continuing story of the ruling family of the Kingdom of Daventry. It follows King Graham's rise to the throne, the rescue of his queen, Valanice, and the heroic quests of their twin children. Princess Rosella and Prince Alexander. This courageous family plays a pivotal role in the struggle between Good and Evil in Daventry. In King's Quest V, they finally seemed to have vanquished their nemesis, the family of the dark wizard Manannan, the champions of Evil. In King's Quest VI, Roberta Williams broadens the saga, taking adventurers to new regions of her imagination. Echoing the story of Graham and Valanice a generation earlier, she has Prince Alexander follow his heart in a quest for true love. In so doing, she has created a chapter that far exceeds its predecessors, both as a game and as a story.
An audience with the vizier mises more questions than it answers. What is your true quest?
The quest beginsEdit
The game's puzzles are ingenious and challenging. When you face the Cliffs of Logic, your solution must be letter-perfect.
You'll have to be sensitive to sensational nonsense to sense the sensible solution to the quintet of sensory gnomes.
You'll become the target of magical obstacles if you try to beat around the bush or hedge against beastly misfortune.
Deadly traps and a beefy opponent lurk in the shadows of the shifty catacomb maze. You may not be ready for this.
If you can survive long enough, you'11 want to check the diplomatic maneuvering on the royal chess board.
Roberta began work on King's Quest VI in June, 1991. After laying out the basic story — deciding what it was going to be about, where it was going to take place, and who the main characters were going to be — she was joined by co-designer Jane Jensen. "We went through the game from beginning to end," Roberta says. "We wrote every puzzle, every object, every action you could do in the game."
In addition to being co designer, Jane Jensen is also a huge fan of the King's Quest series (the first computer adventure game she ever played was King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella). As a result, one of the many fun things you'll find in Heir Today Gone Tomorrow are tongue-in-cheek nods to previous games, little "in" things for people who have played the series. For example, the text messages for the background objects in the game's pawn shop identify the objects as things a player might want to have in other King's Quest games — like self-adhesive emeralds and a whale-tongue tickler. While they have no effect on King's Quest VI, they add a certain spice to the game for people who have played other Quests. "The reason they got into King's Quest VI is because I'm a fan, and it's such a thrill for me to be working on the series," Jane says.
One of Roberta's main concerns when designing King's Quest VI was to make sure the game didn't lose the tone she'd carefully crafted for the series in previous episodes. "King's Quest fans come to the games with very specific expectations," she says. "You can't just take any game and slap a King's Quest label on it."
From the very beginning, the two designers had endless discussions about what would and wouldn't happen in a King's Quest game, what characters would and wouldn't say. The challenge was to come up with a completely different game, different story, different surprises, and still deliver an experience that felt like a King's Quest game.
Another of Roberta's goals was to create a story that would really connect with players' emotions. She had made this connection successfully in past games, moving to tears at least one woman who saw the opening deathbed scene in King's Quest IV as part of a Consumer Electronics Show demo. In King's Quest VI, Roberta wrote the romantic story of Cassima and Alexander specifically to make the emotional connection she wanted to achieve.
"I consider myself a writer first and foremost," Roberta says. "When you think of yourself as a writer you think of your story, and you want to have
people connect with your characters on different levels depending on the story. King's Quest is a fairy tale. With classic fairy tales you're trying to tug at players' emotional heartstrings in a different way than in, say, Laura Bow. In King's Quest VI you get a lot of personality from the characters. There's an emotional involvement that makes it a more total experience."
That's why the central plot of King's Quest VI — an enigmatic, romantic quest — has much more depth than other games: "It's a real sweet love story," Roberta says. "We definitely wanted to set up at first that Alexander doesn't know if
Cassima's really in love with him. We wanted to set up this question in his mind. He's on this sort of search for her, but he doesn't know if it's going to be of any use. In other words, maybe he'll be able to save her, but will she love him? Does she love the vizier like the vizier's told him she does? The question we wanted to set up in players' minds was not only can Alexander save Cassima, but once he does, is it going to matter? It's a way we tried to get deeper into the emotions of Alexander."
Roberta and Jane's collaboration produced a complex, multi-layered design with realistic characters and a story line that runs all the way through the game. Players will find each scene serves multiple purposes: it sets up clues about something that's gong to happen later, furthers a given plot line, and influences or refers to a sub-plot. There's a feather you can find on the beach, for example, that's both an inventory item you need for a spell and a clue about where to find another item elsewhere in the story. A clue for what the feather is for is integrated in an innocuous way in another part of the story.
King's Quest VI is also a game in which you can reach at least a half- dozen different endings depending on which paths you take and which puzzles you solve. In addition, you can finish the game playing less than half of the possible action. You might not even find one or two of the major regions in the game. "The goal was to make it easy for people who were beginners, yet put in lots and lots of optional paths and puzzles for those who wanted more of a challenge," Roberta says.
The road to romance
The challenge begins when Prince Alexander looks in a magic mirror and sees Princess Cassima calling for him. Using the stars he sees outside her window to guide him, he immediately sets sail for her unknown homeland. The quest nearly comes to a premature end, however, when his ship and crew are lost in treacherous, uncharted waters.
Alexander regains consciousness after the disaster to find he's washed ashore on a deserted beach. After a little exploring, you will quickly discover Alexander has landed on the Isle of the Crown, one of the fabled Green Isles and Cassima's home. You'll also learn Alexander may be on a fool's errand, that the image he saw in the magic mirror may be merely an illusion. The palace vizier informs Alexander that Cassima is in seclusion, mourning the recent death of her parents. The vizier further claims that he and Cassima are betrothed and gives Alexander a heavy-handed "invitation" to return home.
From that point on, the quest begins in earnest. You must learn the truth about Cassima, the death of her parents, and the civil war that has broken out among the once peaceful Green Isles — and you must survive while doing it. The investigation can lead you to several interesting regions, each with a different feel, look, and fascinating characters.
If the Undead don't find you charming, your visit to the Underworld is likely to be a one-day trip!
The hassle in the castle includes secret passages, Guard Dogs, ghosts, and a chance to lose the game by being the best man at a wedding.
If you haven't a clue, try strolling through a pun- filled garden where you can take your pick of lively plants and flowers.
The village bookshop is filled with items that would've been handy to have in previous King's Quest games.
The Hall of the Lord of the Dead is no place to rest a spell. You have to have a magic touch to survive this challenge.
On the Isle of Wonder, for ex- ample, you can encounter whimsical entities like dancing flowers, talking vines, an oyster with toothaches, and arguing chess queens. The Isle is guarded by five fierce gnomes, each with one highly developed sense. To get past them, you have to fool the Smell Gnome, the Taste Gnome, the Touch Gnome, the Sight Gnome, and the Sound Gnome into thinking Alexander is anything but an intruder.
A strange race of winged humanoids await players who venture to the Isle of the Sacred Mountain. These cold, haughty, suspicious creatures can test you in ways that are frequently fatal. If you survive the test, you may be given a glimpse of the possible futures facing Alexander, the dangers and des- tinations yet to come.
Adventurers who visit the Isle of the Beast will find their way through an impenetrable forest barred by such obstacles as a boiling pond, shifty shrubbery, and a gate ornament that tries to give Alexander the shaft. The fun really begins, however, when Alexander comes down with a severe case of "Curse of the Beast." The cure is simple enough — if you're an adept matchmaker. You'll want to make sure you have a little magic on your side if you attempt to learn the secrets which lie in the hidden regions of the game.
Try it without the necessary spell book and magic ingredients, and Alexander is likely to end up as either the leading character in a human sacrifice or a permanent resident of the Realm of the Dead. Despite the risks, however, these are journeys worth taking. Not only are they the only places you can solve important facets of the quest, but these dark, sinister regions are very unlike anything ever seen in prior King's Quest games.
You'll be hard-pressed to uncover the many truths of this Quest. Fortunately, crucial help is available in the form of advice from some of the game's "wandering" characters and from clues and hints hidden in the detailed game journal. On the other hand, there are also some perfectly dreadful types, like a Minotaur and
the Undead, lurking about to cut your adventuring short. Above all, during your encounters you'll be wise to heed the old Daventry proverb, "Nothing is as it appears."
The puzzles you encounter as you attempt to unravel the mysteries of King's Quest VI should make even the most stout-hearted player use the "Save" function regularly. There are time limits and other new twists that stretch your ingenuity to the max. "Roberta and I would often sit and chuckle over the nasty, terrible things we were going to put players through," says Jane. "While I think all the puzzles are fair and logical, we deliberately made the game really challenging, really tough. I hope people enjoy it."
Bells and whistles
Based on reports from Sierra's beta- testers — the folks who playtest a game before it's released for sale to the public — players will certainly enjoy the game's presentation. The animation artists have created a magical but believable world of color and motion that is an aesthetic pleasure to explore. Visually impressive, King's Quest VI is filled with a delightful variety of locations, characters, and perspectives. It features detailed, state-of-the-art screen animation and full-color graphics. It also includes cut-aways to parallel story lines so you can see (and get hints from) events which take place concurrent with but apart from the main story line.
King's Quest VI sounds as good as it looks. It has dozens of fun sound effects, from the "Poof!" of a genie appearing to a mechanical night- ingale's song to the sound of someone being skewered by horns. The sound of the Minotaur prowling the catacombs is especially effective and helps maintain a feeling of imminent danger and suspense in that part of the game. Among the clever, "musical" sound effects created by Chris Braymen, the game's composer, are the clattering bones, twisted xylophone notes, and rattling chains made by a gang of dancing skeletons. The effect is reminiscent of classic Disney cartoons of the '30s and adds a special dimension to the adventure.
Several technical innovations also make the game more enjoyable. The use of "scaling," for example, adds to the illusion of visual reality by changing the size of a character so the correct perspective is maintained as the character walks from foreground to background. "Pather" technology lets a character avoid objects and scenery in its path intelligently as he or she crosses the screen to a location you've selected. You'll also note a big speed improvement in King's Quest VI over other games thanks to extremely tight programming.
You'll discover King's Quest VI is a lot more free-flowing, a lot less limiting, than other games. This is a direct result of the design team's desire to make sure players are a big part of the game's action. According to the team's lead programmer, Robert Lindsley, programmers sometimes take the easy way out when they come to a section of a game that's hard to program: "They'll take control away from the user and insert an animation sequence or something to get around it, leaving the players to sit back and watch while the programmer basically plays the game for them," he says. "We wanted players to interact to the fullest extent possible."
The idea was to make a truly interactive design in which player actions affect character relations and options during the game as well as the game's outcome. The result is a game which offers an extraordinary amount of variety — not merely
Game designer Roberta Williar. originator of the . animated computer adventure game and author of the popular King's Quest series. She has won numerous awards for her work, and her
antributions to the _ntertainment software industry have earned her the title: "The reigning queen of adventure gaming."
Your visit to the Winged < >nes could prove propbetable if you can help a yoflng girl who's on the horns of a dilemma.
from having different possible endings, but from the fact that the options within the game change depending on what you do. "A lot of the stuff you see in our games now is really ahead of everyone else," Lindsley says. "We're actually creating the technology."
Lindsley thinks King's Quest VI is going to be the best game Sierra ever made: "It's a very deep game. Players are going to see a lot of things they've never seen before. You're going to be able to play this game two or three times over. It's not linear at all. In fact, if anyone ever makes it through the game, if you ever solve it 100%, let us know. We'll give you a medal."
Take your best shot
Legions of King's Quest fans appear ready, willing, and eager to take Lindsley's challenge. Based on Sierra's
beta-test reports. King's Quest VI seems to be one of those rare, "addictive" games that has so many things to try it will be very difficult to take a break. There is so much to do, so many different ways to do it all, it's
Cut-aways to scenes with the vizier and his henchmen can give you hints about the shape of things to come.
one of those games that seem to have a little something for everyone. The sheer size of King's Quest VI ensures you'll be on this quest a long, long time before you complete it all.
Roberta Williams is very pleased with the result of all the work that went into the game, and she graciously acknowledges the efforts of all the talented people who helped make the world she imagined .1 reality: "Kven though all the King's Quests are great. Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow is going to be the best yet — and it's due to the people on the design team. I think the King's Quest VI team has been the best that any of the King's Quests ever had. They've done a superior job."
Roberta also feels that work on the King's Quest series is far from being over. "I will never, ever get tired of King's Quest," she says. "It will always have a special place in my heart." In fact, she says she's eager to start on the next episode and is already toying with a story for King's Quest VII. s^
Meet the King's Quest VI Team
Project Manager Designers
Additional Animation By
Opening Cartoon By
Additional Thanks To
Roberta Williams Jane Jensen
John Shroades Mike Hutchinson Russ Truelove Deanna Yhalkee
Robert Lindsley Randy MacNeil Robert Mallory Victor Sadauskus
Stanley Liu Albert Co
Cyrus Kanga Joel Mariano