First posted on 30 June 1999. Last updated on 21 October 2008.
This article is courtesy of King's Quest Plaza © 1998.
Mark Seibert, musician extraordinaire at Sierra On-Line, is best known for his MIDI work for the King's Quest series. His love song "Girl in the Tower" from King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow is among the most recognized musical themes in adventure games. Nearly a decade since joining the company, he now holds the distinguished title of producer for King's Quest: Mask of Eternity, the eighth game in the long running series. Seibert has kindly agreed to this interview a few months before the release of the much anticipated title.
- First of all I want to ask you some questions about your work at Sierra. Why did you choose a job at Sierra?
- Back in 1988 I responded to an ad in the paper. There was this company, Sierra On-Line, looking for a musician. I was a working musician at the time and spent most of my time out on the road with a band. I was looking for something that would allow me to stay at home more. I sent in a tape and résumé. It was several months later, I had forgotten about even applying, that they called me for an interview. Up to that point I had never heard of Sierra. Anyway, to make a long story short, I got the job and here I am ten years later.
- Why particularly Sierra and not some other adventure company?
- As you can see above, it was pretty much by chance.
- Do you think the adventure genre is doomed to die?
- No. I think it will continue to change and develop. Those who will survive will be the ones that can find the right combination of elements to draw the sales. With the poor sales on adventure games right now, it's obvious that something has to change. Companies cannot afford to continue to lose money on projects. People love stories. Look at the sales of books and movies. Adventure games are stories. Right now, technology is king when it comes to the game market. But it won't always be that way. We've seen this kind of thing before with graphics, sound, live action, etc. Eventually it comes back around to content. When it comes to content, I think you'll see a reemerging of more story in games. Will they be adventure games? Maybe, or maybe they'll be some blend of game and story. We're already starting to see story and characters become more important in all genres. Just running around shooting things isn't enough anymore.
- We've heard some rumors saying Sierra might stop making adventures and focus on action and strategy games. This decision would depend on the success of Kings Quest 8. Are these rumors true?
- This is not the case. Sierra is interested in making good and fun games in all genres including adventure. Your question implies that KQ8 is not an adventure game. I wish to set the record straight. King's Quest: Mask of Eternity is first and foremost an adventure game. There is a lot of story, characters, and puzzles. Just because there are other elements blended in, doesn't mean it's not an adventure game.
- We've heard you're planning to begin with the production of KQ9 and Phantasmagoria 3. Could you please give me some more information?
- Neither KQ9 nor Phantasmagoria 3 are scheduled. There has been a little talk about Phantasmagoria 3, but it's just talk. As for KQ9, there hasn't been any talk at all. I have no doubt that there will be a KQ9, but we need to finish this one first.
- And now for some questions about your latest game--Kings Quest 8: Mask of Eternity. Why did you choose for a 3D engine?
- 3D is hot right now. So many people have their new 3D hardware and want a game to show it off. That's the marketing hook, but there's also good game reasons. Being able to explore a virtual world is fun. Building this King's Quest in 3D has allowed us to do a lot of things that could not have been done in 2D. After playing the game for a while you get used to being able to move the camera around and look over, under, behind, around, etc. This kind of control is really great, and when I go back to older 2D games I find myself, by habit, trying to move the camera, look behind things, etc.
- Did you find a solution for the fact that in most 3D games your hand or leg just disappears into a wall or you can see through one?
- It's a real problem. The balancing act we've found is how far do you go to make it reality, and how much playability do you sacrifice for look. We have several places where this kind of thing can happen. We've made the decision to let some of it go in order to keep the playability of the game.
- Because of the fact that there is much more action than in the former parts, don't you think that will scare away the diehard adventurers? This is a very different kind of game.
- Yes, I think we're out there on the edge trying something new. What we're going for is a fun and enjoyable experience. Our concern was not to make an "adventure" game, but to make a fun game. Being a King's Quest, it is largely "adventure" by nature, but there's a lot of other elements to this game.
- Is the story linear or is there a branching storyline?
- While the story is not linear, it is one basic story. The game is built in levels. Once you complete a level you can go to the next one. There are a few puzzles that bridge across levels, but for the most part once you complete a level you're done with it. There are a lot of side quests in each level that don't have to be done. In fact, I'd say maybe half the puzzles in the game are optional.
- Why is the unknown Conner the main character and not for instance Rosella, Valanice, Alexander or Graham?
- When we started making this game Roberta (Williams) said she was ready for a new character. We did talk several times about using Alexander, but in the end having Connor won out.
- How many characters would you meet in the game?
- There are somewhere around 40 or 50 different characters.
- How do you talk to other characters?
- This will be very familiar to King's Quest players. You simply click on the character. Each character has their talk messages. As in previous King's Quests, you continue to talk to characters until their messages are exhausted.
- Is there a magic map with which you can travel through the world as in KQ6 or do you have to walk as in KQ7?
- There is a magic map that allows you to teleport between levels. However, there are puzzles involved in finding the places you can teleport to and from.
- Can you move back to Daventry and see well known things from the previous games?
- Connor actually lives outside of Daventry. While you will be able to get into the castle (I can't tell you how because it would spoil the puzzle), you won't be able to get into Daventry proper.
- Is the release date still August?
- No. We are running a little behind schedule, but it will definitely be out this fall. After spending almost three years on this game it makes sense to polish and make it perfect instead of rushing it out a few weeks sooner.
- Many thanks for taking time to answer these questions. Good luck with KQ8!