King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
Development history

After finishing King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder, Roberta spent about a year trying to evaluate the pros and cons of the new icon interface introduced in that game. Her goal was to find out how to preserve the ease of play that the fans of this new interface liked and still be able to make icon-based games challenging enough for the fans of the old parser system. At the same time, she felt that she had reached a point where most of her good ideas had been used in the series already and that it might be time to hand over the King's Quest series to other people. She also wanted the freedom to work on other projects. One of these projects was The Dagger of Amon Ra: A Laura Bow Mystery, the sequel to her best-selling mystery adventure Colonel's Bequest, a Laura Bow Mystery. For this sequel she worked on the basic plot and characters at an early stage, making sure the game was in the spirit of its predecessor, and then left the bulk of the game design for Bruce Balfour. She was credited as the Creative Consultant on this game. Roberta also started sketching on a project she called "Scary Tales", an idea that resulted in Phantasmagoria a couple of years later. But the King's Quest series proved harder to let go of than Roberta thought. She finally decided to make another sequel, but shared the writing, design and directing tasks with Jane Jensen and William D. Skirvin. Work on the game started in June 1991, and after setting up the basic plot, characters and locations, she worked together with Jane on all the plot details and puzzles in the game. Later on, Jane single-handedly took on the task of writing dialogue and narration text.

The result was a game layout that would give the player a lot more freedom than usual. With almost half of the gameplay optional, even an inexperience player could finish the game, while the more experienced one could try to solve some of the optional, harder puzzles and discover new sub-plots and other interesting twists in the story. Most importantly, at one point in the middle of the game it would branch out into two completely different paths, each one with unique puzzles and locations, making the replay value of the game great for any player. As producer, director and art director, William D. Skirvin worked together with Jane and Roberta to create the look and feel of the game.

King's Quest VI pencil artwork: The Ferryman King's Quest VI pencil artwork: The Bookworm King's Quest VI pencil artwork: The Beast
The game was developed in SCI 1, the same system used for King's Quest V, but a number of technical improvements enabled this game to look even better. These included a scaling technique, making the characters look smaller when standing far away while still using the same character graphics improved the illusion of depth on the screen, and extensive use of motion-captured live actors to base the game graphics on. This was done by filming live actors dressed up to look like the characters in the game in front of a blue screen and then transfer the video data into a program called Movie 256 that converted it into a computerized animation ready to be digitally edited by artists. The result was life-like character animations and beautiful, cinematic cutscenes.
A rough King's Quest VI storyboard
For the introduction to the game, Sierra wanted a 3D-rendered movie of Hollywood quality, so they hired Kronos, a company known from their special effects work on movies like Batman Returns and The Lawnmower Man. The result was a 1.5 gigabyte movie that was later reduced to a three-minute eight megabyte introduction movie of incredible quality for its day.

Although targeted for an initial release on floppy disks, it was decided right from the beginning that this game would also come out in a multimedia version on CD. Many critics had complained about the performances of the amateur voice acting cast in the multimedia version of King's Quest V, so professional voice actors were hired for all later projects. For the voices to be released on the multimedia version of King's Quest VI, Sierra went to Hollywood talent coordinator John Grayson and gave him the task of finding voice actors for the characters in the game. The result was an impressive cast, including Robby Benson, voice of the Beast in Disney's animated blockbuster Beauty and the Beast, as Prince Alexander. The theme song Girl in the Tower was also recorded by Sierra composer Mark Seibert in full digital audio, to be played during the ending credits of the game.

Composer Chris Braymen created an exciting soundtrack for the game and the hard work of a talented team of programmers, artists and quality assurance people resulted in a finished product after well over a year of work.

Game designers Jane Jensen and William Skirvin discuss the game storyboards Sierra's animation editor
Filming of live actors dressed like Alexander and Cassima Recording voices for the multimedia version of the game
In October 1992, the floppy version of King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow was released. It was shipped on eleven 3.5'' disks and was an instant sales hit. Eleven disks was a lot to handle, but this version still didn't have character voices and only a few seconds of the digitally recorded ending theme due to space limitations. It was first with the multimedia CD version, released in 1993, that the game's great features were really put to justice. The multimedia version, apart from being conveniently shipped on a single CD, featured voice acting, a greatly improved introduction movie, now about seven minutes long and 50 megabytes big, and the full Girl in the Tower song as a regular CD audio track that was played at the end of the game. In order to enhance the look of the character face close-ups, Sierra purchased Seattle-based company Bright Star Technologies, developers of a lip-synching technology used in their popular education product Alphabet Blocks. Their technology greatly enhanced the realism of the graphics. A Windows version of the game was also shipped on the CD, and it featured redrawn high-resolution graphics of all the character face close-ups, the inventory objects and the menus.

The Macintosh version of King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow won the Best Adventure Game Award at Mac World 1993 and was listed in the Mac World Game Hall of Fame.


Back to King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow - Main page
Back to The King's Quest games - Main page
Back to The King's Quest Chronicles - Main page
1