Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Game 98: King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (1992) - Introduction

Written by TBD

Who will win – the giant minotaur with the spiked bracers... or the dude wearing a scarf?

It's time for King's Quest VI. I played through 1990's King's Quest V a little over three years ago (we're a bit slow around here) and my most lasting memories are good graphics but nonsensical puzzles and lots of annoying dead-ends. I'm hoping for a better game this time around.

With King Graham perhaps ensuring Daventry's army is properly armed with custard pies in case the yetis invade, we'll be controlling his son, Prince Alexander, this time around. We last played as Alexander in King's Quest III: To Heir is Human.

According to the extremely cheesy and pixelated Making of King's Quest VI documentary that I found in the game folder, King's Quest VI took about 1.5 years to produce and cost over $1 million.

The video nicely shows the important steps in getting the game from concept to release

First you make storyboards...

Then you put people in costumes and film them for more realistic animations

Finally two child actors pretend to excitedly convince dad to buy the game

Okay it's actually much more of an advertisement than a documentary but it did contain some interesting comments from Roberta Williams and Jane Jensen.

The game was released in October of 1992, with a CD version coming out the next year and an Amiga version soon after, Apparently there are some significant differences in the various versions of the game, specifically the Amiga version which was ported by Revolution using their Virtual Theatre engine instead of Sierra's familiar SCI engine that the PC version uses. We've seen the Virtual Theatre engine in action during our playthrough of “Lure of the Temptress”.

Remember this game?

It seems that the Amiga version even has some different puzzles. I'll be playing the Dos version - specifically the CD version available from Steam. I'll be wanting to play with voices, but also want subtitles for the purpose of screenshots. I don't think I can play with both voices and subtitles with Dosbox but I know I can with ScummVM. I usually play the Dosbox versions of games to ensure I have a more authentic 90s experience, but if I can't get subtitles and voices together I can either play the ScummVM version or just play on Dosbox with either speech or subtitles. If anyone knows of a good solution to my quandary or a suggestion for what version you'd prefer me to play, feel free to suggest...

Of particular note in the voice cast, Prince Alexander was voiced by Robby Benson.

Robby Benson is better known in voice acting circles as 'Beast' from 'Beauty and the Beast'


King's Quest History

Here's a short plot summary of the previous games in the King's Quest series.
  1. King's Quest I – Find three treasures in order to prove my ability to be a good King (insert Monty Python discussion on systems of government here)
  2. King's Quest II – go on a long journey to a faraway land to rescue my future wife who I saw in a magic mirror
  3. King's Quest III – rescue Alexander (as Alexander) from a wizard
  4. King's Quest IV – catch a hat before my sibling in order to determine which of us would be a good adventurer (actually that's only the plot summary of the first half of the opening cutscene)
  5. King's Quest V – rescue Alexander and family (as Graham) from a wizard
So far in the King's Quest series we've had...
  • ...two games that start with the premise of performing unrelated tasks in order to determine your future vocation...
  • ...two games where you rescue Alexander from a wizard...
  • ...but only one game where you go on a long journey to a faraway land to rescue your future wife after seeing her in a magic mirror...
To achieve some kind of plot equality King's Quest VI should have me go on a long journey to a faraway land to rescue my future wife who I saw in a magic mirror. But hoping for such symmetry might be asking too much


Introduction

Let's have a look at the game's intro to see if it's anything at all like King's Quest II...

Sitting in the royal throne room, King Graham is lonely
Sitting in the royal throne room, Prince Alexander is lonely
The magic mirror suddenly shows an image of a beautiful woman in a tower
The magic mirror suddenly shows an image of a beautiful woman in a tower

Using knowledge gained from the magic mirror, King Graham makes his way to the shore of the land of Kolyma to find his future wife
Using knowledge gained from the magic mirror, Prince Alexander makes his way to the shore of the Land of the Green Isles to find his future wife

Hmmm. I suppose I see some similarities. The newest game has a much longer opening cutscene of course, with more detail.

In the cutscene, Alexander sulks about his inability to find the Land of the Green Isles where the love of his life (who he met for two minutes at the end of King's Quest V) lives. While sulking, he has a discussion with his mother (Queen Valanice) who was nervous about the concept of him travelling to a faraway land to find love.

Alexander and Valanice have the entire discussion in this extremely... ummm... original?... choice of camera angle

Valanice eventually gives in, perhaps after realising the only eligible princess in Daventry is Alexander's own sister, Rosella...

So mother wished him luck and off he went.

Valanice quietly leaves before the cameraman wakes up

Taking a royal ship, Alexander travels for three months through the known seas and beyond, following the stars he saw in the mirror. Eventually he sights land.

Is the royal navy's uniform policy really lax or did Alexander just grab the first three drunken sailors he found at the local pub?

As he arrives, a storm appears and destroys the ship. Alexander sees his crew to the lifeboats before washing ashore himself. Time for the opening credits!

The title spins into view like the old Windows screensaver
This makes me happy. I was very impressed with Jane's writing on the Gabriel Knight games – particularly in regard to historical and mythical research. Hopefully her writing skills are as good here.

After being unconscious during the credits, Alexander wakes on the beach.

It took three months on the open sea BEYOND the known seas on a proper sailing ship full of provisions that was destroyed by a storm... I'm sure the crew will find their way safely back to Daventry on their medieval lifeboats – not a problem...

Leaving Alexander in his state of denial, we get ready to explore the Land of the Green Isles, which we'll do next week.


Place your bets

So what type of scores do these King's Quest games typically get?

Here's the scores of the previous games in the series...
  • King's Quest                             48
  • King's Quest II                         53
  • King's Quest III                        52
  • King's Quest IV                        55
  • King's Quest I VGA remake    44
  • King's Quest V                         56

So far the series has seen a small improvement per game (with the exception of King's Quest III and the significant drop off with the remake of the first game.) The only one I personally rated was King's Quest V. When I played King's Quest V I was unimpressed with the puzzles in particular but pleased with its graphical improvements. Have Sierra learned to create better puzzles for their point-and-click games? Our Quest for Glory III rating suggests no, but we'll soon see how this game goes. I'm hoping for some solid puzzle solving in my near future.

I've never played the game before so I'm going in blind apart from generally having heard it's a good game and being a big fan of Jane Jensen's later games.

So get your final rating guesses in and any bets for potential requests for assistance I make.

For the record, I almost always ask for assistance. I didn't need help with Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis or Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2, but those are the only two games I've played that didn't have any dead-ends. I assume this game will follow Sierra's policy of giving us dead-ends but I've been deliberately not reading much about the game for fear of spoilers so they might have changed their tune on that one. Be assured that if there is a single dead-end in the game, I'm a good chance of finding it.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

36 comments:

  1. I'll guess 62. Looking forward to this one!

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  2. 70

    Widely regarded to be the best King's Quest game. I don't think it deserves a higher score than, say, Conquests of the Longbow though. There was at least one dead end that forced me to replay several hours.

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  3. I'll go with 65. Easily the best KQ (although I do have a soft spot for parts of 3). Jane Jensen's writing really shines through.

    Items of note:

    - There was a song released with the game, CD quality Girl in the Tower which they tried to get on the radio as a top-40 love ballad. Although that never worked, it was a well-produced song. As I recall, it played directly from the CD, so sound cards weren't an issue for when that song played in the game (closing credits? I don't remember)

    - One thing that will reduce the score a tiny bit, I expect: N qnza znmr. Undergound, with a Minotaur.

    - The bookworms were probably involved in the writing of this video years later...

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  4. Also, as for DosBox/SCUMM -- as long as you don't use any of those graphics filters, it feels like you're playing the original game. I don't remember any bugs or wide-spread technical limitations that SCUMM covers up, so you aren't losing anything from the translation.

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  5. Oh, I have tons of nostalgia for this game (and a good deal of frustration with a few of the puzzles: there's a reason I never actually finished the game). Good thing I'm not the reviewer. I'll guess 63.

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  6. Didn't this game come on some ridiculous number of 3.5" diskettes (26 or something like that)? I remember a complaint in Dragon Magazine about how many disks games were taking around the time, in the rough transition period between disks and CDs.

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    1. One site said 12, maybe I'm thinking of a different game that used more.

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    2. I vaguely remember a semi-official statement coming from Sierra that basically said, "we made a diskette version for those 2 or 3 people still out there without a CD drive, but this is the very last time, no ifs, ands, or buts." Might have been in Interaction. I read that compulsively as a 13-year old...

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  7. 63
    I remember this being one of the best KQs but I don't think this is better than SQ4

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  8. Okay. I am going to cheat and say that the score will be 77 if TBD svaqf gur ybat raqvat, but 62 if he does not. Therefore, I have no idea. I guess if I need to guess one number, I say... er... 69.5.

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    1. I love it when people tempt me to ROT13... must resist... temptation...

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    2. V guvax jr fubhyq gryy uvz nobhg gur gjb ebhgrf fbbare be yngre. Ur'yy bayl zvff ba pbagrag bgurejvfr. Vg'f n snzbhf srngher bs gur tnzr, naq ur nyernql qvq zhygvcyr cynlguebhtuf bs DsT1 naq Ngynagvf.

      Gurer'f n anfgl cbgragvny qrnq raq vs lbh sbyybj gur ybatre ebhgr (snvyvat gb orsevraq Wbyyb gur eblny wrfgre), fb gung zvtug nphnyyl YBJRE gur fpber.

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    3. TBD, you should read the FIRST paragraph of the ROT-13 from Laukku. The second paragraph has a spoiler of sorts, but the first paragraph is something that will enhance the review.

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    4. Thanks for the tip Michael. I read the first paragraph. Yes, good call.

      If I notice a point where it feels like there should be a second route I'll mention it in the post and attempt to find both.

      Let me know in the comments if I miss a second option and don't mention it. Playing the multiple paths in my last three games definitely enhanced my opinions of each of them.

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  9. Since everyone else seems to be jumping in the "greatest King's Quest ever!" -bandwagon, I'll choose a different strategy and guess that there will be just another minor improvement in the score: 57.

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  10. 71

    I generally would give all these games higher scores, but then I grew up playing Sierra games so I have my nostalgia goggles firmly in place!

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  11. Also perhaps those sailors are the pirates that Alexander joined up with during KQ3? They may not exactly have parted on the best of terms, but I'm sure after a couple of years they'd let bygones be bygones!

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    1. Dunno if this counts as a spoiler, but gur cvengr ba gur yrsg ybbxf na njshy ybg yvxr gur cvengr va NTQ Vagrenpgvir'f Xvat'f Dhrfg VVV Erqhk, gubhtu ur nyfb ybbxf rabhtu whfg yvxr n trarevp cvengr gung vg'f uneq gb gryy jurgure vg jnf vagragvbany be abg. Vs fb, lbh znl or evtug!

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  12. Alex Romanov here, best game in the series, Ill go with a naughty 69

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  13. A common misconception about Sierra is that we had a single big team that made each of the games. In reality, multiple games were developed in parallel by mostly completely separate teams (some artists worked on more than one game at a time). As a result, you can't extrapolate from, say, Quest for Glory III, to learn if Sierra developers as a whole "learned anything" to apply to King's Quest VI. The two games were developed by different teams in different parts of the building at the same time.

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    1. Good point. Here's hoping they read and took heed of my KQ5 rant on dead-ends that I wrote 23 years after this game was released :)

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  14. First time I've been able to comment on an intro post of a game I've actually played! It's definitely the best King's Quest, though it's not the best Sierra game. I'd say it'll get somewhere in between Space Quest IV and Quest for Glory III, so...66?

    King's Quest VI was the first game I ever purchased with my own money (I got $50 for my tenth birthday and blew the whole thing on this game). If I recall correctly, the floppy version had a slightly different introduction sequence than the CD version, with the CD version having some "impressive" camera tracking shots (once in the throne room around a chandelier and again following some seagulls out at sea before showing the ship) that were missing in the floppy version. I remember promotional material touting the fact that the entire intro video was around a whopping 20MB! A huge amount of disk space! I don't recall any other differences between the CD and floppy versions though (other than obvious things like the voice acting). I know the later Windows version had different hi-res portraits for dialogue, which may or may not be worth looking at briefly at the end of the project.

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    1. All the different intro versions: https://youtu.be/u2dMCRzGlSE

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    2. Wow, that takes me back! I don't think I've seen the floppy version of the intro for close to 25 years, yet I still remember some of the details: the bluer ocean water, the "sailing into the sunset" clip being before the "Land, ho!" clip (which I remember was confusing because the sun was setting and suddenly it was day again and *then* it turned to night), the different camera angle at the beginning, and even the "Sierra staffer" voice acting before Robbie Benson was cast.

      Also, it seems that, based on the screenshots posted so far, this version is the Windows version with the hi-res portraits (and rotating KQVI logo), not the DOS CD-ROM version.

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    3. Thanks Laukku. I saw a few versions of the intro on youtube (and in the game) but that video showed which version is which very clearly.

      MisterKerr: Yeah. Based on that video, the Steam version is definitely the Windows version - though in ScummVM I can choose to play the DOS version instead if I wish, which appears to be the DOS CD version.

      Interesting that the first version of the cutscene had a much more sensible camera angle for the conversation - maybe they changed it because the lip sync was off with the new actors?

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  15. I'll put in 62, from what I've seen the quality is much higher but I get strange dead-end feelings whenever Sierra is mentioned.

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  16. I think it'll only be marginally better than V. 58

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  17. Great intro! I’m psyched! I *loved* this game when it came out, but confess I haven’t played it since 1999 or so.

    I’m predicting a 71. I’ll bet it’s as good or almost as good as Longbow.

    And re: some of the imagery in this post...the less we remember Lure of the Temptress, the better...

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    1. :) Whenever I think of Lure of the Temptress that's the image that comes to mind - and for that, I BLAME YOU!

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  18. This game was not my first King's Quest game, but I am fairly certain it was the only KQ game that I ever purchased myself. Up to this point, I just played the games at my then-girlfriend's house as she owned a ton of Sierra games.

    If I recall, I didn't have a computer that could play KQ8 when it came out and I recall being disappointed how much simpler of a game it was than 7.

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  19. I only ever played V myself, but I did see a playthrough of VI and found it to be the better game. (A lack of yeti pies definitely helped) I'll say 64.

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  20. 68

    As I like the symmetrical idea of the best King's Quest game ranking equivalently to the first (and third) Quest for Glory games.

    As a youth, I played and beat KQ2, 3, 4, and 6. Never played 1 or 5. I enjoyed 6 quite a lot and am looking forward to this.

    Also, the juxtaposition between KQ2 and KQ6 openers made me laugh. They nearly even have an identical beach. That HAD to be on purpose.

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  21. Oh, finally I will be able to play this. Supposedly the best in the series, so I'll go with 61.

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  22. This was my favorite Sierra adventure game. I started playing them in 1984 with King's Quest on our IBM PCjr, and played most of the games from the various series until the mid '90s. I always thought King's Quest VI had the strongest combination of story, puzzles and artistry. In contrast, V was good-looking, but clunky. Looking forward to reading the rest of the articles on this one.

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  23. Myst III and IV released on GOG!

    https://www.gog.com/news/release_myst_iii_exile_myst_iv_revelation

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  24. Really enjoyed playing this game as a kid around the millenia with the KQ collection box, would probably have beaten it at that time too if it wasn't for my french instruction manual. And I go with gut feeling of 75.

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