The last few days of any game project are hectic. We know it, we have to work hard, and it’ll be long hours. Yet it seems that every time we reach this stage, I feel so overwhelmed by things that I always think that we’ll never make it.
Episode 3: The Oracle is a special one for me. Even though Nick Bryan took more care of the episode than I did, I always wanted to stay close to this episode because I knew it would be my favorite of the bunch. It’s such a critical one because this is the episode to reveal it all, the one where all the story comes together before the frantic ending that will be Episode 4: The Cain Killer.
To me, The Oracle has the better plot twists and some of the most gut-wrenching stuff in the series. It’s the episode that will make you torn about the motives behind the killings, and will make you see that everything is not as black and white as it seems. If we did our job right, by the end of the episode you might feel sympathetic towards characters you never thought you would feel sympathetic for.
So this episode needed the utmost care, and that’s why I never let it drift out of my hands too much. I was there when puzzles were being designed, dropped in the general outline for the episode, designed some of the puzzles myself, and took care of Act 4 (the ending section). I put it the hands of the very capable Nick Bryan, and stepped back to take care of Moebius or some non-fun business stuff that always requires my attention. (continue reading…)
I often forget how much I really love GDC. Yes, it’s exhausting, yes, by Friday all you want to do is go home and have sometime for yourself. Yes, the driving in and out from San Jose to San Francisco wears you out (Remind me to stay in a hotel in the city at least one day next GDC, I think I said that one last GDC). But, all in all, you get to meet so many interesting people, and rekindle the friendships you’ve made at past conventions. It’s a celebration of all things video games, and because it’s more business oriented than something like E3, it is my kind of place.
This time, Dave Gilbert from Wadjet Eye Games contacted a bunch of us in order to throw a party! It was the first branded “Adventure Game” party, and I wanted to recount a bit of how it went and the great people in it.
Vitek and myself were late to the party because we were stuck in the G.A.N.G Awards, where Cognition’s “The Taking” by Robert and Raleigh Holmes had been nominated for Best Song (Pop) in a Videogame. It was very exciting to see the game get a nomination on a big screen among so many other great songs. Of course, Journey won EVERYTHING (even the stuff it wasn’t nominated for!)
When we arrived the party had already started. The first puzzle: Apparently, even though Dave confirmed twice with the place, somehow GDC rejected our party (we are still scratching our heads about this one) and the booking was off. So we didn’t have a space and we had a bunch of people coming in. How do you fit that many Adventure Gamers in a place taken up by the normal crowd? Easy, you just “Take on the World” a-la Day of the Tentacle. And so, we slowly started to dominate the place. Part of that involved just eating random patrons French Fries. (Oh, you are not in the party? These fries are good, though).
We had celebrities! So, the day before Agustin Cordes from Senscape’s Asylum and myself were randomly walking in San Francisco when we bumped into Ron Gilbert (I swear to God I wasn’t stalking him! Maybe). Long story short, we introduced ourselves and felt awkward and so we invited him to the party, and he made it! Which was awesome! I didn’t get much chance to spend with him, but I hope a lot of people came by and said “hi!”
We also had Ragnar Tørnquist in the party. Now, everyone that knows me also knows that I LOVE The Longest Journey and that I was greatly influenced by it when I was
writing The Silver Lining. So, my excited self sent an email (or maybe a thousand) to Ragnar a while ago asking if he was going to be at GDC to meet. And out of the blue, the week of GDC, he replied to (one of) the email(s) and asked us to meet over at the Lobby of the W. I have to say I randomly get the chance to meet with such nice developers. Dag Scheve (co-writer of Dreamfall) and Ragnar, are really two of the nicest people I have ever met. Aside from trying to get as many revelations on “Chapters” as possible, we also invited them to the party, and they showed up with all the team that was here for GDC before heading over to the Nordic Party! Ragnar invited me over there, but I had to decline as I was hosting this party. Next time, bud!
I even had the chance to meet some of the people from my own team an the forums. Seeing Kelsey (Rosella from the forums) and Wayne (from our QA team) as well as Gavin (our Production Coordinator) was great. I really felt like part of a big family.
All in all, it was great to see so many Adventure Game enthusiasts in one place (including the girl who told me she was a big fan of our work and couldn’t wait for Episode 3 of Cognition, Hi!) was a feeling you don’t get too often these days. I call for a repeat for GDC 2014. Bigger, bolder, and with more inventory items.
Thanks to everyone for hosting the party! Wadjet Eye Games, Senscape, Skygoblin, Los Munditos, Irresponsible Games, Grundislav Games, Freebird Games, Floating Hands Studios, Autumn Moon Entertainment, and Emily Morganti!
This past Sunday, we wrapped up the recordings for our voice actress for Erica Reed, the extremely talented Raleigh Holmes. After four episodes, I felt a little sad as we wrapped the last few lines of the episode and called it done. For us, we still have to walk this road until we release the episode to all of you, but for Raleigh, today was her last day on the job.
One of the most satisficing aspects about game development for me as a designer is the joy of hearing the lines I wrote take life in someone as talented as Raleigh. Extremely professional and completely dedicated to making things as perfect as possible, in this episode Raleigh just flew through her lines. And although Michael Fortunato, our voice over director, plays a big role in such a great performance, Raleigh was so comfortable by now that you could feel her transformation: She has actually become Erica!
And to bring a character to life through voice overs is not an easy task. Actors normally always have the energy of the stage, the set, or other actors to bounce off from. In voice-overs, they are alone with their microphones in a little booth, and everything happens in their imagination. So kudos to them!
We recorded in two sessions. On Saturday we went through the first two acts and part of act three. We skipped all the sections that would be hard on Raleigh’s voice, such as some of the skin-crawling screams you’ve heard from her in previous episodes, or sections that were so action-oriented they would put a strain on her voice. We saved all of that for Sunday, towards the end of the recording, in case they made Raleigh lose her voice. We have to be very careful in general, as Raleigh’s other passion is singing and she has an upcoming gig at Jane Jensen’s Open House event, so we definitely didn’t want Raleigh to hurt her voice for that! So we took it slow, while Raleigh took sips of her tea to help her keep her voice in check.
Katie joined us as always to make sure Raleigh kept her Bostonian flare. I normally just keep quiet, letting Michael do the direction and sometimes taking over for him when baby Sebastian, his son, needed attention. In those occasions, I would normally ask Raleigh to go to a safer place (such as the inventory lines) because I really prefer Michael to work with Raleigh to get Erica down to the great character we all love. He has such an easy way to get people to read the lines the way they are meant to be written, that I feel nervous that by taking over the more dramatic sessions, we wouldn’t get the best of the best. In those cases, I normally keep to myself unless I feel really strong about how to read a line, or when I need to come in to explain the motivation behind a particular session, behind the character’s thoughts or history that helps the actor understand the characters better. And, sometimes, also as lines are being read, sometimes they don’t feel quite natural once we hear them aloud, so Katie and I are normally there to go over the script and try new lines that feel better for the character or the situation.
To round out the team of people behind the recordings, we had our own Austin Haynes under a different hat, on the technical side, running the recordings in L.A. with Raleigh, and setting everything up so that the rest of us can listen in from our locations in Boston, Montreal, and California. Technology allows us to do this the same way as if we were in the studio with them! Austin especially takes care of things so that the volume doesn’t peak and distort as Raleigh screams or is not too low when she’s whispering, making sure that everything is balanced.
In film, there’s a term called “The Martini Shot” which refers to the last shot done before it’s a wrap . I called it as Raleigh was doing her final screams. I hope (and beg) that we can share many more of those Martini Shots with Raleigh in many productions to come! Talents like hers are rare, and we are very lucky to have her helping make of Erica such a compelling character. Thank you, Raleigh!
I’m supposed to be writing about how much I’ve learned from Jane Jensen’s design, which was my original goal, or about the actual production of Moebius as a game. But instead, as I started writing, I got pulled into telling you a bit about what I particularly think of Moebius. I can’t help it, I’m the Producer of Moebius, yes, but more than that, I’m Jane Jensen’s number one fan.
Obviously I cannot reveal much, and I feel that if Jane was reading what I’m writing, she’d give me the killer glare. But let me try…
“Time and Time Again” is the slogan for Moebius, the next masterpiece from the “Queen of Adventure” herself Jane Jensen. Moebius is a metaphysical adventure that finds Malachi Rector in the middle of a mystery surrounded by the “Moebius Theory” which suggests patterns that repeat throughout history.
For those who missed a little bit of the edgy Jane Jensen from Gray Matter, you can definitely welcome her back. But don’t expect Gabriel Knight Redux, Moebius has its own distinct voice, and the character of Malachi is fascinating, analytical, incredibly smart, and can sometimes come off as the biggest asshole you’ve met–but you can’t stop loving every bit of him. It reminds me a lot of Sherlock Holmes from the BBC series, a character that I also adore.
At the same time, whereas Gabriel Knight was very edgy and spooky, I would categorize Moebius as more action oriented and high tech. Now, don’t fear, ye old adventure fans, I’m not talking about action sequences that will test your reflects, I’m talking about punching and kicking and relentless fighting sprinkled here and there in the game through beautifully rendered cutscenes or inserted as the background scenery for some provocative choice-making puzzles. That, together with the very classy, Armani suit-James Bond look of Malachi, his knack for high end toys, and the attention to current economical tendencies in the story, makes the game really feel like a poignant ultra-modern masterpiece.
Malachi travels around the world to many different locations, giving the story a grand and cosmopolitan atmosphere, a dream of globe-hopping travel bunnies like me. From the classical European locales to the modern streets of New York City and even exotic Egypt, Malachi is always on the move. He’s an antiques dealer, and what makes him such a good one is his acute sense to—well, let’s just say that it makes for great gameplay moments in the game.
With Moebius: Empire Rising we find a Jane doing what she does best: Taking historical facts and blending them into fiction in a way where you don’t know where one ends and the other begins. The thing is that the historical facts, in this case, are the center of attention. So with a stage set for one of her best qualities to be the centric element of the story, I’ll let your imagination fly as to how good this one is going to be. In the meanwhile, I’d recommend checking out her novel Dante’s Equation to entertain yourself while you wait.
We are extremely excited to finally announce that Phoenix Online Studios is working with Jane Jensen and Pinkerton Road on her upcoming adventure game, Moebius!
After working with Jane on Cognition, we’re just ecstatic (and pinching ourselves!) to be continuing that relationship with Moebius. With mystery, intrigue, and a touch of the supernatural, in Moebius the player takes on the role of Malachi Rector as he investigates a series of events around the globe, uncovering startling truths about the nature of time and life itself in the process. With Jane at the helm and Andy Hoyos, also of Sierra fame, leading the Art Direction, you know it’ll be a fantastic, high-quality adventure game, and Phoenix is working hard to make Moebius a game you’ll enjoy and remember.
See what the press has to say about Cognition so far in these previews!
“This is like a mixture of Gabriel Knight, the Saw films, Stephen King’s The Dead Zone and CSI. Adventure gamers should without question preorder now – it’s probably going to be every bit as good as it sounds.”
Alternative Magazine Online –Full Preview
“I’m excited to spend some more time with Cognition – its rough spots were pretty easy for me to overlook in light of the excellent puzzle-solving gameplay. The story has a dark vibe very reminiscent of Jane Jensen’s Gabriel Knight and Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, and Erica seems like a complex and interesting character that I’m eager to learn more about. ”
RPGFan — Full Preview
Also here’s a few one in other languages:
For our Italian fans from IGN Italy — Full Preview.
And for our Romanian fans, from Games Arena — Full preview
More to come!
Hi, this is Jane. Cesar asked me to put together a few words for the Phoenix Online newsletter to let people know what I’m up to. This past year has been a tumultuous one for me – leaving my long-time job at Oberon/I-Play studio and trying to figure out what’s next. I’ve decided to start my own studio, Pinkerton Road. You know, it’s just high freaking time to put a stake in the ground and do exactly the kind of games I want to do, come what may. And as you may suppose, what I want to do is wonderful, beautiful, mysterious adventure games!
To that end, we have a Kickstarter campaign running now that will fund our first adventure game. What is the game about? Well you might ask! I have 3 games I want to do, hopefully in quick succession. And since part of the core idea of the studio is to involve our customers and fans more directly (in a model we call CSG – Community Supported Gaming), we decided to let you all vote on which of the three should be the first game we make.
The three games are Gray Matter 2 (in which David and Sam track Angela’s roots to discover the secrets of her mysterious power), a game set in Regency England that we’re calling “Anglophile Adventure” and a 3rd game – Moebius. Moebius is Cesar’s favorite so I’ll tell you a little more about it here. In Moebius, Malachi Rector is an antiquities dealer who hunts down artifacts all over the world. After losing everything in a fire, he’s hired by a Manhattan millionaire to investigate a series of events and document them in his meticulous way. But Rector soon realizes that the events hold a bizarre significance, as does his own existence. This is a metaphysical thriller a la Dante’s Equation and Gabriel Knight. It will have a 2D, graphic novel look and feel (like an updated GK1). It will be a 3rd person adventure game with a point-and-click mechanic and lots of sophisticated puzzles.
The concept piece below was done by Phoenix Online’s own talented artist, Elisa. Notice anything unusual about it? Look closely.
Entitled “The Taking”, Robert Holmes has delivered a beautiful composition that gels greatly to Austin Haynes’ soundtrack to the game. The main vocals are performed by the very talented and beautiful Raleigh Holmes, Robert’s own daughter, who also plays the main role of Erica Reed in the game.
The song is very much like in the vein of Robert’s band, “The Scarlet Furies“, for which Raleigh acts as the lead singer. It’s very reminiscent of some of the previous songs by the band, and it has a vibe that reminds me of some of the best pieces from Natalie Merchant.
Previously, Robert composed the music to Jane Jensen’s acclaimed Gabriel Knight and Gray Matter games.
This track will definitely be part of the soundtrack of the game, for which we are planning a full release, probably closer to the release of the final episode of the game.
Have a listen to a sample!
Tim Turi from Game Informer posted a very shiny preview of the demonstration we showed to him at GDC 2012 in San Francisco. Check out how much he loved the game and take a look at brand new screenshots!
With Space Quest: Vohaul Strikes Back, a fan-made feature-length sequel to the Sierra Classic series, and Space Quest 2: Vohaul’s Revenge, a full VGA remake of the same title by the guys at Infamous Adventures, this will be a very awesome December for fans of Space Quest.
And seriously, who isn’t a fan? Let’s all adventure with our favorite intergalactic hero, the man, the legend, the janitor! Roger Wilco!
*scuddles off to play*