This article concerns the development of King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow. It is a repository of details concerning early prototype ideas for the game up to its final finished version. The game was written and designed by Roberta Williams and Jane Jensen (text and dialogue was done by Jane Jensen). They were also the game directors along with William D. Skirvin.
From the opening sequence of the game, there could be no doubt that if King’s Quest V redefined what computer gaming actually was, King’s Quest VI provided the quality standard for the next generation. The state-of-the-art “floating camera” sequence that opened the game, featuring young Prince Alexander as he sets out to find his “girl in the tower,” gave computer gamers the world over a real view of what the new age of multimedia computers could bring to classic storytelling. The character graphics were based on motion captures of real actors, giving the game an unprecedented ‘feel’ of reality. The King’s Quest VI love song “Girl In the Tower,” a soulful duet featuring the voices of Bob Bergthold and Debbie Seibert, rivaled the best motion picture anthems of the year. Continuing in a long tradition, Jane Jensen, who would go on to design the industry bestselling Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, assisted Roberta Williams in game design of this epic.
At one point, KQ6 had a different title, King's Quest VI: Genie, Meenie, Minie, Moe.
Welcome in the King's Quest 6 HintbookEdit
Welcome to the world of King's Quest VI! This astonishing journey through the imagination was 14 months in the making, and by far the most ambitious project Sierra has ever attempted. The King's Quest VI team is not ashamed to admit they're delighted with the results. We hope you will be, too. Come on, let's take a look... May 1991. King's Quest VI begins. Series creator Roberta Williams and co-designer Jane Jensen meet for the first time to discuss the design. Jane and Roberta worked together for the whole month of July and part of August to come up with the design ideas.
After five months of hard work and long hours, the documentation for the design was complete. The rest of the thirteen person development team begins work. Project manager and co-director Bil Skirvin and the King's Quest IV artists begin the storyboard and character sketches. Shortly thereafter, the background painter, John Shroades, begins the pencil sketches for the game's 80 background paintings.
The video-capture animation process begins. Roberta and Bil have carefully chosen the actors and costuming for the entire game. The 2000 plus character actions in King's Quest VI will be produced by capturing the movement of the live actors on video, then on the computer. In the end, the animation and backgrounds must match up believably. Michael Hutchison leads the efforts of the animators as each cell of the video-captured actors is artistically enhanced on the computer to more closely fit the hand-painted backgrounds.
While animation and backgrounds are in progress, Jane writes the scripts. The scripts define for the programmers what the game response will be for any player action, including the timing and placement of the animation. The scripts also provide the more than 6,000 lines of written messages that will appear in the final game.
As the art progresses, the team's programmers, lead by Robert Lindsley, begin the intricate process of weaving the game elements together with code.
Meanwhile, team composer, Chris Braymen leads music in writing original themes for each of the game's major characters and locations, and producing innumerable sound effects that take place during game play.
Robin Bradley is the game's quality assurance tester. He will play each scene in the game over and over again, making sure that the programming, art, text, and design are running smoothly.
Incredible as it may seem, all these elements begin nearly simultaneously. The different team members coordinate their efforts, and slowly, the game takes an amazing and complex shape.
July, 1992. The last few months of the project are critical. Every aspect of the game is tested again and again, day after day, and polished to perfection. The days grow long and the team grows tired, but a special kind of excitement is in the air. The game will ship in less than two months!
September, 1992. More than a year after it was began, King's Quest VI is finished. The team turns its baby over to marketing and distribution, who have been working alongside them to promote the product since it's early stages. King's Quest VI is ready to ship--But work on the game is hardly finished. After initial distribution, it will be translated into five languages, as well as being converted to a CD-ROM full voice version.
From there, King's Quest VI will go on to astound and delight an audience of a least half a million game players. We hope you're one of them!
Excerpts from the Game Design Document for "King's Quest VI" by Roberta Williams and Jane JensenEdit
Game Bible - Easiest Path OutlineEdit
The Easiest Path is the linear path through the game to the marriage of Cassima and Alexander, doing absolutely none of the optional sub-plots and puzzles. There are five major 'milestones' the player must complete to finish the game. The Easiest Path has been organized as five acts, corresponding to those five milestones. These acts are internal and invisible to the player. They are:
I) Finding a way to travel
II) Getting past the Gnome Guards
III) Finishing the labyrinth
IV) Beauty & the Beast
V) Castle of the Crown infiltration and subsequent victory over the Genie & the Vizier
The last portion of the game, from the castle infiltration through the end-game cartoon differs quite a bit depending on whether the player's only done the required puzzles (Easiest Path), has done optional puzzles, and which optional puzzles the player has done.
Global Views /Actions:Edit
1) Magic Map. Alexander travels via the use of a magic map. The magic map will be an inventory item. When used on Alexander, a map inset will come up. Clicking on any one island teleports instantly to that island. The map can only be used on the beaches and transports the player to the other island's beach.
2) Death. Anytime Alexander dies, we'll do a regular death view in his current location based on the specific death. We'll then fade to the "Underworld Entrance" screen. Alexander is now a ghost and he floats onto the screen along with other random ghosts. There are Skeleton Guards at the huge entrance door and Alexander is handed a ghostly ticket to get into the Underworld, which he then hands to the Skeleton at the door to get inside. We now bring up the death restore box. This will be the same view for all deaths and serves as a hint about the Isle of the Dead and the ticket.
Plot Summary: Is a summary of the action in a given section.
Puzzles & Clues & Notes: Gives the details of the action, art descriptions, and logic behind a given section, including listing the specific player actions and the responses those actions trigger. Things that are underlined and bolded, are actual player actions. Underlining only, is used for emphasis and subheadings - usually 'Notes', 'Deaths', and 'Hints'.
Recommended reading aids:Edit
1) Game maps - to visualize Alexander's movements.
2) Pawn Shop Trading Table - useful for understanding the inventory management with the pawn shop.
I: Opening Sequence:Edit
The opening sequence introduces Alexander and Cassima and sets up the background and motivation for Alexander's quest in the Land of the Green Isles. Game credits can be displayed on the title screen before this cartoon, during this cartoon, or on a separate screen.
1. Alexander decides to leave Daventry.
After the titles, we fade in to the "Daventry Throne Room" screen. Alexander is sitting in the throne room of the castle in Daventry. His head is in his hands and he looks melancholy. The Magic Mirror hangs silently on the wall. Valanice comes into the room.
Valanice: "Alexander! You've been fretting about that lovely girl you met in Mordack's castle for too long now! You've got to get on with your life."
Walk Valanice up to Alexander.
Fade to the "Close-up of Alexander and Valanice" screen.
Alexander: "I can't get her out of my mind, Mother. One moment I'd found her and everything was different. The next she was being sent back home. Now it's like she's disappeared without a trace. I can't find anyone who's even heard of the Land of the Green Isles, much less knows where it is! Who would have thought that something like Geography could ruin my life?"
Valanice: "I understand how you feel, Alexander, but there are many beautiful girls right here in this kingdom. I only want you to be happy, Alex. I hate to see you so... purposeless. You've got to stand up and make a decision about your future."
Alexander: "I know you're right, Mother. It's just... nothing else seems like it could possibly be right without her."
Valanice: " [sigh] Oh, Alex. I wish there were something I could do."
Alexander: "I'll be alright, Mother. I promise."
Fade back out to the "Daventry Throne Room" screen. Valanice pats Alexander's hand and then walks out of the room. Alexander, heartbroken, continues to brood in his chair.
Alexander: "I can't forget your face, Cassima. A face that could haunt a man forever. Cassima, where are you?"
Suddenly, the magic mirror begins to dazzle. We hear a far-away woman's voice calling Alexander's name. Alexander says "What...?" He gets up and walks over to the mirror.
Fade to the "Close-up of the Magic Mirror" screen.
The mirror dazzles for a moment, then clears. We see Cassima staring out a high stone window. It is nighttime and out the window we can see a number of star patterns clearly (these will serve as Alexander's clues for finding the isles). Cassima is crying.
Cassima: "Oh, Alexander, I need you. I have never been so unhappy. Why do you not come? Have you forgotten me so soon?"
The mirror fades back to a dazzle. Fade back to the "Daventry Throne Room" screen.
Alexander: "But... what?!"
Alexander: "Mother! Mother, come quick!"
Valanice rushes in. The two meet in the middle of the room and grab hands.
Fade to the "Close-up of Alexander and Valanice" screen.
Valanice: "Alexander! Your face is so white! What happened?"
Alexander: "I've just seen her - Cassima! She was in the magic mirror! Mother, she needs me!"
Valanice: "But... what about finding the isles?"
Alexander: "Stars, Mother! The magic mirror showed me the night sky and I can navigate by the stars!"
Valanice: "I can see that there's no talking you out of it. But I have a bad feeling, Son. Please be careful. If I lost you again, I don't know what I'd do."
Alexander: "Oh, Mother. Everything's going to be fine. I promise. Now I must go prepare my ship."
Alexander and Valanice hug. He leaves the room. Fade out to the "Ship's Voyage" screen.
Puzzles & Clues & Notes:
None. Computer controlled cartoon.
Transition: Fade to Alexander at sea.
2. The journey to the Land of the Green Isles.
The journey is shown with a far shot of a ship on the "Ship's Voyage" screen. Use alterations in the weather and waves (night - stars matching magic mirror vision, day, calm, rocky) to indicate the passage of many days. Fade to the "Close-up of Alexander on ship" screen. Alexander is looking anxiously out to sea, as though urging the boat to fly faster to his love.
Print a message, "Three long months Alexander follows the stars to reach the other side of the world, where the mysterious Land of the Green Isles lie scattered on the ocean."
Show Alexander raise a spy glass. He looks in various directions through it. Fade to a black screen with a small, round inset that shows the distant ocean as seen through a telescope. The inset pans over ocean. Suddenly we see an island on the horizon. Zoom in to the island.
Fade back to the "Close-up of Alexander on Ship" screen. Alexander, obviously excited, points and yells "Land Ho!". We see crewmen start to scramble.
Fade back out to the "Ship's Voyage" screen. The boat rocks and gets caught in the strong currents, reefs, and rocks that surround the island. They are obviously struggling.
Overlaid over this screen as we watch the ship struggle, we see text. A crewman shouts "Prince Alexander! We're barely holding against the currents! It's like a whirlpool here!" Another crewman shouts "Sir, the rocks!" Just then, use a screen shake to imply that the ship hits something. Show the boat start to sink. Iris to message screen. "...The next morning."
Fade to a shot of a beach. Alexander is lying face down on the sand, alone. It is morning. Slowly Alexander rises, staggers, and rights himself. He looks around. We'll print some text here about Alexander mourning the loss of his crew.
The game is now under player control.
Puzzles & Notes & Clues:
None. Computer controlled cartoon.
II: Act IEdit
Purpose of act: To find a way to travel to the other islands.
Trigger for next act: Getting the magic map.
Places involved: Isle of the Crown
1. Getting the magic map
To get the magic map, Alexander will have to explore the Isle of the Crown quite a bit. He will need to talk to the owner of the book shop in the village, the old man living in the ferry down at the docks, and then the owner of the pawn shop in the village. These must be done in this particular order. The Book Shop Owner refers Alexander to the Ferryman. With the referral, the Ferryman agrees to talk to Alexander and tells him that he heard the Pawn Shop Owner had a magic map. Alexander needs to learn this so that he can go to the pawn shop and ask about the map. From these three characters, Alexander will also be given story detail about the islands, Cassima, the Vizier, and the general situation in the Kingdom.
Puzzles & Clues & Notes:
A. Finding out about the magic map
1) Hand on Ferryman's door, shows Alexander knocking on the door of the Ferryman's boat.
The door opens and the Ferryman peeks his head out.
Ferryman: "Whaddya want?" Set a 5 second timer. Talk on Ferryman before talking to the Book Shop Owner, and Alexander asks about the boat. The Ferryman grouchily tells him to "Go away! The ferry's not running!" and shuts the door in his face.
2) Talk to Book Shop Owner and Alexander introduces himself and says "What can you tell me about the Land of the Green Isles?" (this is the standard question he'll ask everyone he "talks" to). The Book Shop Owner, however, will give Alexander some good answers to that question:
- There are 3 other islands; the Isle of the Sacred Mountain, the Isle of the Beast, and the Isle of Wonder.
- Some folks say there's a 4th island, but it's probably just local superstition (this turns out to be Isle of the Mists).
- If Alexander wishes to learn about the kingdom, he should travel to the other 3 isles and meet their leaders.
- He might also try going to the Castle of the Crown and seeing if he could get a meeting with the Vizier, Abdul Alhazred.
- Unfortunately, the ferry is not running due to "political unrest," but, if Alexander goes and talks to the Ferryman, he might know of a way to travel.
3) Talk on Ferryman at door after talking to the Book Shop Owner, and Alexander mentions the Book Shop Owner to the Ferryman. The Ferryman invites Alexander inside. Bring up the "Ferryman's House" screen. The boathouse is a cozy room with two stuffed chairs and various nautical decorations/objects. Between the two chairs is a small table. The only thing on the table is a rabbit's foot. Alexander and the Ferryman enter the room and sit down in the two chairs and begin to talk. The Ferryman will tell Alexander that:
- The ferry is not running because the other islands are angry with each other. The Vizier ordered the ferry to cease operation because he wanted to "give things time to settle" between the islands.
- Cassima used to visit the islands with her mother, Queen Allaria. Cassima was terribly upset by the island's troubles, saying on her last trip, "But, who's spreading these lies?"
- The poor Ferryman is now out of a job - the job his ancestors have held for generations. He's the only one trained to avoid the reef and the rocks, but that knowledge does him no good now. The ferry's been inoperable for so long, she's no longer even seaworthy.
- There's only one other way to travel that he knows of - a magic map. He believes it might currently be in the Pawn Shop Owner's possession.
B) Getting the magic map
1) When Alexander was shipwrecked on the beach on the Isle of the Crown in the opening cartoon, his royal insignia ring came flying off his hand and landed in the sand near him. The player does not see this occurring, but will be able to see a glint on the sand near Alexander.
Look at glint on beach, gets a text message "Alexander's royal insignia ring is lying on the sand. It must have come off in the shipwreck." Hand on royal insignia ring, shows Alexander bending down and picking up the ring.
2) Talk to Pawn Shop Owner before learning of magic map, and Alexander says "What can you tell me about the Land of the Green Isles?" The Pawn Shop Owner replies that he only knows that his business has suffered because he's not receiving the imports from the other islands anymore. Look on pawn shop front counter, and the Pawn Shop Owner will describe each item 'looked' at (tinder box, wind-up nightingale, painter's brush, and flute).
3) Talk to Pawn Shop Owner after learning of magic map, and Alexander will ask him about the magic map specifically. The Pawn Shop Owner brings the magic map out from the back and tells Alexander that the map is very valuable and he'll need something of equal value in exchange for it. Alexander's royal insignia ring is the only thing Alexander could possibly have that's valuable enough to exchange for the magic map. Use [something else] on Pawn Shop Owner, and the Pawn Shop Owner says "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that's nowhere near the value of this magical map."
4) Use royal insignia ring on Pawn Shop Owner, shows Alexander handing the ring to the Pawn Shop Owner. "Will this do?" he asks. The Pawn Shop Owner examines the ring. Alexander explains who he is and where he is from ("Prince Alexander of Daventry"). The Pawn Shop Owner is delighted with the beautiful gold and jeweled ring and gives Alexander the magic map. He tells Alexander that he realizes the ring is a family heirloom and that he will give him some time to come back for it if he can find something else of equal value. He also tells Alexander about the operation of the magic map - that the map will only work "in the open and within sight of the sea" (i.e. on the beaches).
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.
Changes and CutsEdit
One thing of note is that the intro sequence is different in each version of KQ6 (Disk, CD, and Amiga), and sometimes different depending on what graphic mode is being used (EGA vs. VGA). Different info, or more details are mentioned in each version of the intro (however these made it into the released versions of the game), and different panning around the palace (more of the Great Hall is panned around in disk version).
The Realm of the Dead would have apparently been larger, an unfinished screen of the surface of the realm can be found in the game's files.
There was a concept art for a close-up of the Genie's snake disguise. There was a sketch of a room of the catacombs, with a niches floor to ceiling filled with dead bodies, and a statue of a Winged One standing on a pillar above. Close up sketches were done for Charon, Lady Aeriel, and Lord Azure.
In early development the copper coin would have had the image of Valanice, rather than King Graham. The "Drink Me" potion bottle was empty, forcing Alexander to literally act as if he had died, with the Pawn Shoppe owner getting in on the act to trick the Genie.
Originally, the Winged Ones were intended to look like living statues with blank eyes, resembling ancient Roman white marble sculpture. This idea was later dropped, and in the final game the Winged Ones have human-like pink skin and dark hair, modeled on the traditional physical traits of the inhabitants of Italy.
There was a painting of the floor of the Castle of the Crown tower looking from above, that never made it into the game.
Alexander's sprite in the scene where he stands before the Lord of the Dead was entirely redrawn at one point. The original version can be seen in screenshots on various King's Quest Collection boxes.
Shamir Shamazel was initially going to have a close-up character dialogue portrait appear when he speaks during Alexander's final battle with Alhazred. The portrait is unused in the final game, but it remains in the KQ6 resource files. However, the KQ6 Amiga conversion by Revolution Software does make use of Shamir's dialogue portrait. The KQ6 Amiga port also contains a dialogue portrait for the Genie in disguise as Cassima, which did not survive in the PC version (or was created specifically for the Amiga port).
There is narration and dialogue hidden in the game files that does not appear in the main game. Some of this may have been included in the Amiga port. One example is that there is a bit of a description of the painting of the woman seen beside the door inside the Ferry, and other extended descriptions in the ferry's cabin. There is also a bit of dialogue talking about a cat on the porch of Beauty's house. There are descriptions and pointless interactions for a spider web and spider in the book shop.
The program Behind the Developer's Shield, released with older editions of the King's Quest Collection, contains a picture of Caliphim and Allaria on their thrones in a strange pose.
An AVI movie file on the KQ6 CD, KQ6ART.AVI in the Bonus subfolder, contains much of the KQ6 background art at high resolution. Much of the art, seen in its original state in the video, was later altered for the final game.
The Royal Scribe: Jane JensenEdit
The co-designer of EcoQuest as well as King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, Jane Jensen has gone on to become one of Sierra On-Line's newest and hottest designers.
Which King's Quest game(s) did you work on? Doing what?
I worked on King's Quest VI as co-designer and co-director with Roberta. Do you have any uplifting, insightful, or humorous stories about Roberta and/or the making of King's Quest?
The best part of the development process of King's Quest VI for me was the time that Roberta and I spent designing at her house in Bass Lake during the summer of 1992. They were long days, intense brainstorming days, and I was usually exhausted by the time I got home and unable to turn my brain off to sleep. Yet, we had a lot of fun making up all the silly puns for the Isle of Wonder (neither of us are humorists by nature, yet we seemed to do okay at it together), out-doing each other adding twists and turns to the puzzles and then feeling quite devious about how "challenging" we were making things for the player, adding layer upon layer of story and puzzles and locales until we could scarcely remember all the points ourselves and had to run for paper to jot down notes. People really seem to enjoy the game, yet I don't think any player could have had their brain turned to mush nor enjoyed themselves any more intensely then we experienced that summer creating the design.
According to Roberta Williams herself the game had less of her style as she did not write the story and was not as involved in the design process. Roberta admitted that Jane had a completely different style than her own.
According to Interaction Summer 1992;
- "I originally wanted to be the Creative Consultant on King's Quest VI", "I wound up being much more deeply involved than I planned." As hard as it is for people to imagine a King's Quest game that wasn't designed by Roberta, it almost happened with King's Quest VI. It was believed that it would probably come to pass in the "not-too-distant future".
Roberta felt the time was right to let king's Quest stand on its own, and thought it was time to let the series go on the shelves without her name above the title. She found it hard to believe that other strong people couldn't carry through with it. She had intended to move herself out of the designer role, however it turned out to be a lot easier than actually doing it. She couldn't tear herself away from King's Quest, and felt she owed it to who'd been following the series, so she shared design duties with Jane Jensen and directing duties with Bill Skirvin.
She and Jane hammered out a design and story, the Jane took over the actual writing and dialogue and narration. Working with co-director Bill Skirvin, she established a look for the game. Bill then took over the task of of staging live video-captures, costuming the actors, directing the action, and overseeing the art.
She found it a very enjoyable experience, and that she was ready for the most part to let it go. So she was relieved that they were there to help her, and were talented, and that they cared so much about King's Quest. They were listening to her and working very closely with her.
Liberated from the day-to-day job of directing King's Quest VI, she had more time to have an impact on other Sierra projects, and start research for "Scary tales" (working title for Phantasmagoria).
There were two months in which Roberta was on vacation, and did no work on the game, but overall she was off and on for the last twelve months of the game's development or so.
According to Mark Seibert;
Girl In The Tower - The industry event of 1992! Sierra assembled the best writers, artists, animators, and programmers to create the biggest chapter in the best-selling computer game series of all time. In this richly textured adventure, you help the shipwrecked Prince Alexander make his way through a series of mysterious islands. Each island holds unique surprises and is populated with such amusing and terrifying characters as the Five Gnomes of the Senses, the Winged Ones, and the Lord of the Dead. This game is so detailed, it's quite possible for you to come to the end without seeing or solving everything. Fully 30-40% of the encounters are optional, so beginning players can complete the story with plenty of challenge but a minimum of frustration.
Girl In The Tower was an idea I came up with when I found out that King's Quest VI was going to be a love story between Alexander and Cassima. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to write a top 40 type love ballad to be sung as a duet. As I explored the possibilities, I found some of the motifs from the original Cassima theme worked well in this style...
King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
Written, Designed, & Directed by Roberta Williams Jane Jensen
Producer, Director, & Art Designer William D. Skirvin
Composer Chris Braymen
Text & Dialogue Jane Jensen
Senior Artists Michael Hutchison John Shroades
Team Artists Russell Truelove Deanna Yhalkee
Senior Programmer Robert W. Lindsley
Team Programmers Randy MacNeill Robert L. Mallory Victor Sadauskas
Team Quality Assurance Robin Bradley
Guidebook Writer Jane Jensen
Guidebook Illustration John Shroades
Guidebook Designer Mark Empey
Additional Artists Darlou Gams, Tim Loucks, Rick Morgan, Jennifer Shontz, Cindy Walker, Karin A. Young
Opening Cartoon by Kronos: Stanley Liu, Albert Co
Cinematography Rod Fung Bob Ballew
Additional Music & Sound Effects Dan Kehler, Mark Seibert, Rick Spurgeon, Nightingale Songs
Additional Programmers Doug Oldfield Carlos Escobar
Additional Quality Assurance Mike Brosius John Ratcliffe
Technical Support Rob Koeppel
Special Thanks Tammy Dargan Rebecca Sebastian Fresno State University
- ↑ King's Quest: Mask of Eternity manual, pg 7
- ↑ KQC4E, 524
- ↑ "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.", The Official Book of King's Quest VI, pg
- ↑ InterAction Summer 1992, 41
- ↑ InterAction, Summer 1992, pg 42