King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride was released in 1994 by Sierra On-Line. It featured high-resolution graphics in a style reminiscent of Disney animated films. It is also the only King's quest game with multiple protagonists, and the only one to divide the story into "chapters."
King's Quest VII is the only game in the King's Quest series to feature Queen Valanice in a major role, and also the only one in which King Graham is not shown or mentioned at all. However, he is listed in the voice credits, so he may have been originally intended to appear in the game (the final game was much shortened from an earlier version). Despite the cartoonish graphics characteristic of family-friendly computer games, the game has several violent death scenes
As the game opens, Queen Valanice is lecturing her daughter, Princess Rosella. Rosella is somewhat rebellious, and dreams of adventure rather than marriage. While listening to this lecture, Rosella sits down next to a pond to take off her comb and admire her reflection. Suddenly, a miniature dragon darts out of the water. After a few seconds of watching the dragonet, Rosella tries to grab it, unfortunately, she 's too late and the dragonet dives back into the pond. Rosella's eyes dart to her mother and a mischievous smile spreads across her face, Rosella jumps in, determined to follow the magical creature. Valanice looks around, stunned to find her daughter no where, grabs Rosella's comb and jumps into the pool after her. Valanice and Rosella both find themselves in a whirlwind of color. King Otar's arm juts out from the side and Rosella is pulled out of the whirlwind.
Valanice lands in a desert in the land of Eldritch, while Rosella finds herself transformed into a troll and engaged to be married to the King of the Trolls. As the two characters attempt to find each other, they discover that all of Eldritch is in danger. The evil fairy Malicia has attacked or imprisoned the leaders of the different kingdoms of Eldritch, and plots to destroy the land.
With the success of King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, it was obvious that the King's Quest series still was Sierra's flagship. With the new and exciting possibilities opened up by the multimedia revolution, Roberta finally saw the possibility to design the kind of games she had already dreamed of for a long time. This would become her most busy period ever at Sierra, because she decided to develop two games in parallel, each one of a scale Sierra had not ever tried before. Her pet project was Phantasmagoria, a game she had already wanted to do for several years. The design of Phantasmagoria was incredibly ambitious and required huge investments for Sierra. Although overshadowed by this project, the other game- King's Quest VII- required a lot of resources as well. Right from the beginning, Roberta was concerned about how the series could stay alive and fresh. She wanted King's Quest VII to take a new approach and not become just another sequel. That approach would be to make the game much more light-heared and cartoony than previous King's Quest games. Roberta was always inspired by the Disney movies, and wanted the next King's Quest game to be like them. With multimedia technology becoming the standard, movie-quality animation could finally be used in games. The whole gaming industry was looking at the movie industry for inspiration at the time. Phantasmagoria was going to use live actors and sets. But the same approach was not going to fit the King's Quest universe, as it was much more about fantasy and imagination and would be limited by the use of full-motion video.
With the rapid increase in computer sales it was also obvious that the market of novice computer users was expanding, and to grab hold of that market, King's Quest VII needed to be easy to play. Roberta devised a simplified interface with only one mouse cursor for all actions instead of the multiple action cursor system invented for King's Quest V. The cursor would flash whenever moved over an interesting area on the screen. This would simplify interaction with the game so much that even young children could easily understand it, and the cartoony approach was already bound to attract more children to the series. This new interface would later receive a lot of criticism for the way it reduced the user interaction to simply clicking on everything interesting on the screen without thinking much about how to interact with the game world to solve puzzles. However, the simplistic interface certainly made the game design easier. The same type of interface was used for Phantasmagoria. Both games would run on the new, multimedia-friendly, 32 bit version of Sierra's SCI interpreter: SCI-32. One of the features of this interpreter was support for Super VGA graphics at a resolution of 640x480 pixels.
The workload of two big game project at once was tough on Roberta, but she wouldn't accept any of the games to suffer from too much attention on the other. However, it was once again necessary with assistance, and this time Roberta co-designed the game with Lorelei Shannon, who had previously written the hint book for the King's Quest I remake and co-designed Pepper's Adventures in Time with Jane Jensen, co-writer of King's Quest VI. This continued the tradition of using King's Quest to train new game designers. Lorelei would later design the sequel to Phantasmagoria, which Roberta had no part in. Working out of Sierra's new Bellevue offices, Roberta and Lorelei created the story and characters for the game, a process which featured a lot of crazy ideas that sometimes ended up in the game and sometimes not. The approach was to create a game full of wacky humor and cartoony characters, and no idea was too wild to consider. This time, there would be not only one, but two main characters. This was not a new idea in adventure games, but it was the first time it was used in the King's Quest series. The characters would be Princess Rosella and, for the first time, Queen Valanice. Having female leads was not a controversial decision anymore, as Roberta had already proven that it was a successful concept in her previous games King's Quest IV and Colonel's Bequest. As the game would reach a new audience as well and not only old King's Quest fans, it was necessary to make it work as a stand-alone game for players who didn't know of the history of the characters from the previous King's Quest games.
But even with the help from Lorelei, Roberta had to work very hard to develop both games in parallel. She sacrificed much of her free time and personal life for the sake of the games. She has mentioned that it was sometimes hard to keep both games in her head at the same time, especially because they were so radically different. But she always managed to give one of them full attention at all of the critical moments.
Long-time Sierra musician Mark Seibert was appointed as producer for King's Quest VII. In the coming years he would be the producer of some of Sierra's biggest games.
Once the story and characters were developed, art director Andy Hoyos and animation director Marc Hudgins could start development of the artistic style of King's Quest VII. Marc did illustrations of all the characters in the game to base the animation on.
The amount of animation needed for the game could easily rival that of an animated feature film, and Sierra did not have such in-house resources. They required the help of several animation houses, and the in-house animation studio was only used for some of the animation in chapter 6. Four animation houses were contracted to do the rest:
- Animation Magic Inc. was an animation studio in St. Petersburg, Russia. They were given the responsibilities of doing the global animations and the animation for chapter 1.
- Dungeon Ink & Paint, based in South Carolina, did the animation for chapters 2, 3 and 5.
- LA West Film Production did the animation for chapters 4 and 6. They were based in Croatia. The political situation in the area at the time never created any problems though.
- Animotion, a New York studio, made some of the animation for chapter 5 and the opening and closing movies.
The animation was done with traditional animation techniques, where the animation frames are first drawn on paper and then scanned into computers where they were submitted to a digital touch-up and coloring process
Backgrounds were painted in-house, and a novelty of the game was the use of backgrounds bigger than the screen. When the player walked towards one of the sides of the screen at some locations, the background would scroll in the opposite direction, revealing more scenery. This was another part in the effort to make the game more cinematic. The inventory system also featured a novelty. All inventory objects were rendered in 3D and could be rotated by the user. This feature was utilized to make some of the inventory objects reveal important details that could only be discovered by close examination. All of the 3D artwork was done in-house at Sierra.
The voice acting, directed by Lorelei Shannon, featured a cast of professional voice actors. Although they were less famous than the King's Quest VI cast, going back to amateur voice acting like in King's Quest V was out of the question. The music was composed by four of Sierra's composers: Jay Usher, Neal Grandstaff, Dan Kehler and the producer Mark Seibert. Although moving towards full multimedia, the music still needed to be done with traditional synthesizer technology to make the game fit on one CD and run smoothly. The music was best suited for the Roland Sound Canvas, but support for General MIDI was naturally implemented.
A sneak preview of the game was released with the 15th Anniversary release The King's Quest Collection.
King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride was released in November 1994 and ended up as a much-awaited Christmas present in many homes. Shipped on CD only, it set pretty bold system requirements. Deals with computer manufacturers like Compaq made King's Quest VII ship together with many new multimedia computers to show off the possibilities opened up by CD-ROM drives and digital sound cards. Much like with Cyan's mega-hit Myst, this made the game reach many people who would not have discovered it otherwise, and King's Quest VII sold very well, boosting the total sales figure of the series to over 3 million copies. In 1995, Sierra released a second version of the game with full support for Microsoft's much-awaited Windows 95.
KQVII is very different from other King's Quest games in terms of structure. The action is separated into six chapters, each set primarily in a different region of Eldritch.
The player alternates between Valanice and Rosella with each chapter. The two heroines travel through some of the same places during the course of the game, finally meeting up again in the end.
Aside from the multi-chapter layout, the most significant change in game structure was the introduction of the "smart" pointer. When playing the game, the pointer lights up when passed over an object that can be used. Players can get or use objects and talk to characters by simply clicking on them. Previous games required the player to choose their actions by selecting Look, Talk, Use, etc., from the icon bar, and did not reveal the location of usable items with the pointer.
Although less linear than earlier King's Quest games, KQVII does not include as many different endings or optional tasks and plot threads as KQVI. Some puzzles do have multiple solutions, and there are two possible endings - one happy and one sad - depending on whether Rosella manages to rescue her love interest Edgar (introduced in KQIV) at the very end of the game.
KQVII was met with mixed reviews by longtime series fans, but sales were high despite a number of technical bugs that plagued the initial release of the game.
The game has two different endings: bad and good. For the good ending with celebrations and thanksgiving, you must use the extra life to revive the prince. If you use the flower (required to awaken King Otar), he will die, and will result in the bad ending (noted by the black chariot instead of the white victory chariot).
- When the game in early production, there were plans to have six lands. At least one of the lands never made it into the game.
In King's Quest VII, the player will travel to six lands, including Nonsense Land, the Rubber Jungle, Cloud Land, and Ooga Booga Land (home of the dreaded Boogeyman).-Interaction Magazine, Fall 1994
- KQ VII is the only game in the King's Quest series to feature Queen Valanice in a major role, and also the only one in which King Graham is not shown or mentioned at all. However, he is listed in the game credits, and was originally intended to appear in the game. In fact there is a sound file for him in the audio resource file, where Graham states he had been waiting 15 minutes for Valanice and Rosella to return for lunch. He is also featured in the novelized account in King's Quest Companion.
- Despite being an ingredient in Matilda's potion, the crystal dragon scale is optional.