Author Archive

Phoenix Online to develop Jane Jensen’s Moebius!

by on Nov.20, 2012, under cognition, featured, news, tsl, Uncategorized

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.

877 Comments more...

Previews are here!

by on Oct.25, 2012, under cognition, news

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!

291 Comments more...

A few words from Jane Jensen!

by on Apr.10, 2012, under cognition, featured, news

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.

So head on over to the Kickstarter page and get in on the action! We’re excited to see what game will be voted on by the backers, and for the future of Pinkerton Road!

Jane Jensen.

660 Comments more...

Robert Holmes composes main song for Cognition

by on Apr.09, 2012, under cognition, news, Uncategorized

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!

[grandmp3 id=1755 autoplay=false]
The Scarlet Furies – The Taking Sample

696 Comments more...

Game Informer loves Cognition: Check out the first demo preview and see shiny new screenshots!

by on Mar.06, 2012, under cognition, news, Uncategorized

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!

272 Comments more...

Space Quest fans, rejoice!

by on Dec.29, 2011, under news, tsl, Uncategorized

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*


683 Comments more...

A very Sierra Thanksgiving: Meeting Ken Williams and Al Lowe

by on Nov.29, 2011, under cognition, news, tsl

My great friend Eriq Chang (of Fable Foundry and Art of Sierra fame!) invited me to Seattle for Thanksgiving and my birthday (it’s today!). We thought it would be a great time to get together, have some fun, and work on some of the projects that we’ve been talking about for a while.

Seattle has a charm to it, a certain sort of magic to it that makes it easy to separate it from any other city in the world. As we drove from the airport in Eriq’s car, the mountains opened up to the vast sea, and I could see houses lining up on the hills everywhere. Seattle seems to be perpetually buried inside a forest. This was Sierra’s last home, and it seems so fitting that it can be so charming.

Eriq’s house is a gorgeous designer’s home pinned atop one of the highest points in the city. From where I’m writing now, I can clearly see the skyscrapers from downtown, looming over the snowy mountains in the distance, all surrounded by the blue sea. Weather tends to be flimsy. The first two days, it was sunny, and then Seattle showed me its grayness as it started to rain nonstop.

Climate changes my mood. A lot of rain makes me withdrawn, and inspires me like few things in nature can. Seattle’s torrential has buried me in my mind for quite a while, making me think of how near I was to some of the people that had made that magic at Sierra happen. And then, of course, the thought crossed my mind: Why not?

Eriq had Al Lowe’s number, so we gave him a call. Al has a fatherly voice to him and just by listening to him, you feel as if you’ve been friends for years. Thanksgiving was approaching, so we decided to get in touch again on Friday to decide where to meet. The place was the Flat Iron Grill, in Gillman Village outside of Seattle, a shopping mall that retained the flavor and history of the turn of the century, the home to some of the city’s earliest settlers.

We got lost on the way, and arrived 20 minutes later in a rush. Al was sitting by one of the tables at the entrance and immediately greeted us with a big smile. We shook hands, exchanged business cards, ordered some good food, and Eriq and I kicked back to relax and listen to the great storyteller and comedian Al Lowe.

Eriq Chang and Al Lowe

He walked us through his whole career. From the early days and how he was bold enough to get into videogame developing, to the first games that he created, and how he put forth a whole month of salary to rent a booth in a videogame convention.

He went into more details of his time at the convention. Ken and Roberta were walking by, Ken on the front, Roberta staying behind–Al said Ken was very hard to pin down in one place for a long period of time, always wanting to move to the next thing. But Ken stopped by when he saw Al’s games, turned to Roberta and said “Hey Berta, these look like your games,” something Al was extremely proud of as a big fan of Sierra’s products. And that’s essentially how he got to work for them: A chance meeting, a chance encounter, a passion for doing videogames and the guts to jump into it and do what you love. My admiration for Al had just tripled. This is exactly what I’ve been fighting for, and exactly what I’ve been doing! I saw a mirrored story, a parallel there, and I should be so lucky if I ever get to be as half as great as he is.

Juicy stories came left and right. While it was Ken’s idea to always have one mind behind any game, we learned that it was Al’s idea to put Roberta’s picture and name in the next King’s Quest release –“I convinced him to do it because I wanted my name and my picture in my Larry games, and I knew that it would be the natural next step if I convinced him to do it with Roberta!” he joked while sipping from his cup of java.

Eriq told him the story of how when he was young, his family would always visit Yosemite during the summer, and Eriq would hate every minute of it because he didn’t do well with heights and got sick very quickly. Turned out that in one of those trips, Eriq decided to go to sleep to pass his motion sickness, and when he opened his eyes, awaken by his father, the big Sierra logo was in front of him. What better sight to wake up to, huh?

His father had brought 12-year-old Eriq to tour Sierra. Al had a laugh –“Yeah, that was also my idea” –referring to the open tours at Sierra.

He mentioned to us how Torin’s Passage came to be. “How on earth did you go from Larry to Torin’s Passage?” I asked. Turns out that since Roberta was working on Phantasmagoria, Ken chose Al to make their “family” game that year. Al wrote a five-game treatment that portrayed Torin’s life from the early years of his first game to the day he died. Alas, we only got to see one part of that story!

We finished dessert and the staff on the restaurant was looking at us funny over how late it was already. So we took care of the bill, and stood up for pictures, and then parted our ways. I had so much fun learning little secrets of Sierra from Al–-what the building was like and where they were located, what the people were like, how spoiled he was by having a full staff at his command, his move to Seattle, and how he hired everyone at the new studio. I could write pages and pages on everything Al talked to us about that afternoon, and I would have no room to fill each one of the anecdotes and great things he had to say about his coworkers and all the funny jokes!

I left the restaurant feeling like I knew a lot more about Sierra, more than I ever imagined I would. But more importantly, I felt like I had just made a great new friend.

Cesar Bittar and Al Lowe

But wait! The weekend was about to get even better!

I had gotten in touch with Ken Williams once I knew I was going to hit Seattle. I wasn’t expecting to find them in town since I knew they spend most of their time traveling around the world, but what the heck, I had to try. A few days later I got a response back: “I’m in town. What works for you?”

I have been in touch with Mr. Williams for quite some time. I had taken on the role of a producer in a short-lived project he was experimenting with back in 2004. The project didn’t really take off, and Ken wasn’t really interested in pushing it further, since to him, it was only a hobby–he wanted to know whether a team could really work online and make a game happen. It took me the next 6 years to show him, that yes, it could happen, so you can imagine my excitement to be there with him and show him all the work we had done.

Since then, Ken and I have been in touch every few months. He’s followed our development with The Silver Lining, always offering great advice. He’s given us great tips on how to build a business and how to approach investors and more. What a great opportunity this was to finally meet him in person!

We woke up Sunday morning and drove to downtown to meet for brunch. Unfortunately, Roberta Williams had family in town so she wasn’t able to join us. We met at the entrance of a Seattle hotel. As I stepped out of the car, my hands were shaking–it was way too surreal. “Finally great to meet you!” said Ken, and we headed inside to the restaurant.

I sat directly in front of Ken, and while we started our conversation, I could not help thinking of something Al had shared with us the previous day. Al told us that he considered himself a smart guy, but whenever he was next to Ken, he would feel dumb. The genius of Ken Williams was something very hard to match–this is a guy that brought so much technology into the first steps of computer games, and who, whenever Roberta wanted to do the “next thing,” he would find a way to make it happen that nobody had thought of before. He is also very humble, and didn’t really promote himself, which is probably why today many things that should be attributed to him simply aren’t.

I couldn’t help to feel very little next to Ken–I wanted to sound like a business guy, and probably sounded more like a fanboy.

But, as with anything in my life, I carry on and always try to be myself. We exchanged business cards–Ken’s business card has their boat on it! He looked at my business card and was surprised to see I lived in the Bay Area—he thought I lived in Europe!

I was quiet for the first 10 minutes, trying to find the words to say, while Eriq walked Ken through all the great stuff that Fable Foundry is doing with Warner Bros and the Nightmare on Elm Street license, and then showed him trinkets and pieces of his work from when he was young and wanted to make a Sierra game.

Unlike Al, Ken is no storyteller. Instead, you can sense the gears turning in his mind as he carefully listens to what you have to say. And then, he bombards you with questions. He’s the perfect example of a great business guy that goes straight to the point in seconds.

It was then my turn to talk. We discussed the Kickstarter campaign about our new game, Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, and how it was a great idea for new indie developers, and he was interested to see the actual work we’ve been doing on Cognition. I showed him the trailer plus other material on the game, and he immediately related it to Gabriel Knight. He was pleased to know that we were working with Jane, and asked me that he’d like to see her and know how she is doing, so I showed him pictures of our visit to her farm. “She hasn’t aged a bit!” he said. He talked about how critically acclaimed the Gabriel Knight games were, and how Jane always interviewed very well, and had a great connection with her fans.

We then showed him another project we have under wraps, and he replied with “Wow, this is beautiful!” I wish I could tell you more about what exactly we were looking at, but you are going to have to wait a bit for that!

From there, we moved on to The Silver Lining, and this was when the questions really started. From our download numbers, to what was our relationship with Activision, to how our team was comprised, to how he loved our perseverance and how we deserved to make money for all the work we’ve put into this. As he was looking through The Silver Lining, he mentioned that he wished Sierra’s games looked and felt as good as ours back in their day. That completely floored me! I was sitting there, completely nervous about showing our work to the man who is the reason why it all had happened in the first place, and receiving praise like that is not something I ever imagined I would experience. Right there. Face to face, I was finally able to show him that it was possible, and that we have done it. He encouraged us to continue doing the great work that we’ve done and to continue working the miracles. We had gone way further than he ever thought we would, and that merited some good praise.

Ken stole the bill from us before we could reach it. I was disappointed because I wanted to invite him to that meal, but in retrospective I can say that Ken Williams invited me to brunch!

Time flew faster than I wanted it to. Ken had to return to his family as his son and in-laws were visiting, so we left the restaurant for pictures. Before we left, I handed him a copy of The Silver Lining Soundtrack. Some of his last words to us were “You guys have made me very nostalgic.”

Myself with the legend himself, Mr Ken Williams

It was raining outside. Eriq and I drove for what seemed hours while the rain fell over the grand Seattle sea, and the waves crashed violently against the bridge we were crossing. I felt small and big in the world at the same time. I looked up, and in the distance, I could once more see the snowy peaks.

While they were definitely not the ones from Oakhurst, I’m sure I saw the Sierra logo among them. Somewhere, the kid in me was playing through all Police Quests, King’s Quests, Space Quests, Larry Laffers, Gabriel Knights, Quests For Glory… and through all of the great Sierra games in quick flashes.

He was also having the greatest of all laughs.

“Happy Birthday, Cesar!” he said, before he scurried away to play yet another King’s Quest.

Cesar Bittar

1,420 Comments more...

Thank you video from Cesar

by on Nov.26, 2011, under cognition, news

Take a look at this link for a Thank You video from Cesar!

Kickstarter Video

30 Comments more...

Episode 4 Reviews by Brutal Gamer and Just Adventure

by on Nov.24, 2011, under news, tsl

A couple of Reviews for Episode 4. The episode is the highest scoring of all the episodes with Just Adventure, with a shiny “A”. Meanwhile Brutal Gamer gave us a 7/10 Read all about it here:

Just Adventure

Brutal Gamer

331 Comments more...

Unapologetic: The Path to Creation

by on Nov.23, 2011, under cognition, developer diary, news, tsl

Hello everyone,

In the past few months, I’ve been riding on a beautiful wave of love that has been almost the culmination of a 10 years project. A while ago, we decided to take the King’s Quest series and give it a new lease on life. And though that long process, I learned to express myself and help others do so.

I have to say that the success this project has gotten went beyond anything and everything I ever expected. From the recognition of the press, to the recognition of very fundamental people for me as I grew up, such as Ken Williams, Roberta Williams, and Jane Jensen, and more importantly, the place that YOU, our fans, have given to it. Because while all the nods from the press have certainly added a certain glamor to it, we would be nowhere and no one without the fans that have once and time again shown us that we are doing something very right, and I’m happy to know that, because we are doing it for YOU.

Now, it is also true that not everybody has been happy with what we’ve created. Through the many years of many series, a lot of people get their own opinion of what something needs to be, and what it is not. That is fine. King’s Quest itself was born and reborn in many different ways, and many different expressions, and if anything, it’s the one franchise of Sierra that lacked a certain identity to it. We had our view on it when we started, perhaps a very naïve one, as we were fans in the very early stages of learning how to express ourselves, our art, our love for the franchise, and looking back, I would have done things different here and there.

But I want to make one thing clear: I’m unapologetic of the final product to anyone that may feel different about it, and I am damn proud of it. The results have elevated this company to something that’s becoming very real and has attracted the attention of many big names in the industry that wish to work with us. For that reason, I know we’ve done something very right. And it’s opening our doors to continue to do great things, and given a chance to great people from both the past and the present to once again express themselves. But beyond that, more importantly, what really matters, it has been a piece of joy for many fans that wanted to have King’s Quest back in their life, and that are loving every minute of it. That is the POWER of The Silver Lining. And for that, I present no apologies whatsoever.

I am a creator, and I spend most of my time creating. I don’t understand and will never understand how people –including some people that call themselves creators— can take on a role of destroyer. The world would be a much better place if we limited ourselves to create –never to destroy.

Phoenix Online is comprised of incredibly talented creators I feel blessed to have on this team. We are here to craft, to create, to advance, to express ourselves in the shape of that fine thing called art. And we are here to bring it all to you, our fans. To make you happy, to give you joy, and to share the love for the things that are precious to us. And for that, we are unapologetic.

We are all made of the same stuff, and that’s ultimately what makes us human. I feel that especially in this time of the year, it’s the most valuable message I can give to everyone: Spend your time creating, never destroying, and never feel like you ever have to apologize to anyone over it. Be yourself, and stand up damn proud of it. And in that strength, you will find your success. And when you do that, no destroyer will be able to defeat you. You will always be at the top of the world, smiling together with the people that make you joyful, and that create with you, and those destroyers, they will only be sadly trying to scratch at your feet, completely unable to bring you down.

I always found myself dreaming of getting to meet my idols from Sierra. What I never imagined, is that by being a creator, I would get them to see AND praise my work. And that’s something that no one will ever be able to take away from me. And I can tell you, with all of my heart, that you can do it, too. Create, work hard, persevere, use every ounce of your energy and time into what you love. Surround yourself with people that feel as passionate as you, always give a chance to everyone, always remember how you would not be where you are without the people that support you, and never forget to be thankful to everyone that helped you along the way. Very soon, you will see the beautiful fruits of your hard work coming in bunches that never stop.

Have a great holiday season, wherever you are, whoever you are. Love, smile, laugh, and over everything else, be happy and good to others. And never forget to be unapologetic for being a creator and spreading that love you feel.

All the love in the world,

Cesar Bittar
Phoenix Online

87 Comments more...