It’s not an every day chance to talk with Jane Jensen. That’s exactly the reason we seized the opportunity, which at the same time is an undeniable success for our site, and subjected as many questions as we could to her, in order to find out which is the opinion of the “Gabriel Knight”, “Gray Matter” and the upcoming “Moebius” writer on various issues, concerning adventure games, and not only them.
What’s her standpoint towards the FMV games of the past? Which company does she consider the best nowadays? Which are her impressions on Kickstarter campaign, as well as her involvement in “Cognition-An Erica Reed Thriller” game? Are her expectations high on “Moebius”? And, finally, are there high hopes for a GK4 release in the future? All the answers are present in the following interview with the first lady of adventure games!
RQ: Hello Ms. Jensen and thanks a lot for this interview! It’s a real pleasure for me to have the opportunity to communicate with you. The goal of this interview is to give our members the chance to learn a few (more) things about you, your work and the plans you have since returning to the industry.
For a start, I would like you to tell me how it feels to co-work with your husband, Robert Holmes. Which are the positive and negative aspects of such an unusual co-operation? Do you express your opinion to him, regarding the music themes he creates for the games?
JJ: I have worked with him for quite some time on the game music front – since GK1. So it seems very normal to me now. Generally I show him a scene and describe briefly the mood and he composes something for it. Usually it’s right on target the first time.
RQ: After “Gabriel Knight-Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned”, it took you eleven whole years to take part in the creation of an adventure game. Was this a conscious decision, the result of not finding a studio which could provide you the means for taking part in a new game, or did it have its roots in the major changes that took place in adventure games’ genre?
JJ: It really was about the industry. Adventure games were not being made in the US during that time.
RQ: You were introduced to most of us through your “Gabriel Knight” games. Except for them and “Gray Matter”, you have written two novels, “Judgment Day” and “Dante’s Equation”. If I asked you to compare novels with video games, always regarding your work on them, which one of these two would you point as your favorite and why?
JJ: I like working on novels because it is a very peaceful existence. Just myself and an editor. But then again, working on games is fun precisely because you get to see the story come to life in art and voice and music in a way that you can’t with a book. So each has their advantages. At this point, I have done mostly games for a few years so I’d like to write another book.
RQ: From a writer’s perspective, how does it feel to see her story, its surroundings and the characters she has imagined, to get a picture, an image, to acquire visual substance? Does this always happen the way she prefers?
JJ: It’s wonderful to see the story come to life with art and actors and animation, etc. Sometimes things are better than you could have imagined and sometimes different or not what you expected, but it’s all part of the process. In the end, the game takes on a life of its own.
RQ: There’s been a lot of talk in the past about Full Motion Video adventure games and the overall quality they finally demonstrated as part of the whole genre. Were you a fan of them? If you could choose, would you prefer a 2D (or possibly 3D) “Beast Within” with animated graphics or not?
JJ: I really liked FMV and I think it’s a shame it is not used more in games. It has been used in casual games like “Mystery Case Files”. As for redoing “Beast Within”, if we redid it now it would probably not be FMV and that would be a tough act to follow. So it’s not high on my list for the future.
RQ: Nowadays there’s no Sierra On Line, no LucasArts, no Westwood Studios, but fortunately there are other studios which produce notable adventure games. How do you evaluate this era, compared to that of the 90s?
JJ: There are some very good companies, like Telltale, and some very good games. Also the Kickstarter era has launched a number of new adventure games. I think we have to wait and see how these games do. And then, too, tablets are a whole new market for story-based games. It’s an interesting time. We’ll have to see how well the Kickstarter games do before anything can be evaluated in terms of ‘the era’.
RQ: “Gray Matter” marked your return to adventure games. However, it was not the huge success everybody was expecting. Personally speaking, I believe that Samantha’s magic tricks implementation was not the best there could be and that the game lost crucial time until it managed to build the right atmosphere and give us the environment we were looking for (something that happened in the last –and best, in my humble opinion- Daedalus Club chapter). We know that its production met several difficulties. Could you give us some info on the development story? Did these difficulties have a serious impact on the game’s final form?
JJ: The hardest thing with “Gray Matter” was that I was not really involved in production. The game was done in Hamburg and Paris and I was living in the US. It also had budget issues and so many of the things I suggested could not be done. In the end I was really providing a game design document to the team but wasn’t directing production as I did on “GK” and “Moebius”. I’m proud of the game – I think “Gray Matter” has a great story and most of the art was brilliant. I would love to continue the series, but I don’t know that the odds of that are.
RQ: Apart from writing stories, do you also play adventure games? If so, could you name us some of the games you consider successful from a story angle?
JJ: I don’t play these days as much as I read books, but I do have some games I thought were well done. I love “The Walking Dead”, “Hector” and “Puzzle Agent” from Telltale.
RQ: Lately, we have seen a new genre of games, the so-called “Interactive movies” or -according to Telltale Games- “Choice and Consequence Games” (“Heavy Rain”, “The Walking Dead”, “The Wolf Among Us”), where almost no puzzles are present and the player’s progress comes through dialogues, decisions he makes and possibly some quick time events he takes part in. Do you believe that this kind of gaming will, in long term, harm adventure games, or will a good story, along with smart and interesting puzzles, always find space to give us a truly valued adventure game?
JJ: I think it’s a very legitimate style of gameplay and I enjoy it. It seems to do well with a broad audience, not just adventure gamers. Personally, I think there is room for various types of games as long as they are well written, well produced and keep your attention. It doesn’t need to be either/or.
RQ: You had a story consultant role in “Cognition-An Erica Reed Thriller”. Αre you satisfied with the final result and the reception the game met from gamers and critics? In an interview that Cesar Bittar and Katie Hallahan gave to our site, they said that there may be a second season of the game. Do you believe there’s space for something like that?
JJ: I was not very deeply involved with that game, so I can’t take a lot of credit for it. But I think it was a very, very ambitious project for a young team like Phoenix. They have come so far since then on their work on “Moebius”, for example. The game seemed to get good reviews. So yes, I’m glad that I participated on it. If they intend to do a sequel, that would be good for Phoenix I think.
RQ: Let’s talk a little about “Moebius”. What are your thoughts on its Kickstarter campaign? Based on the information we have for it, its story seems rather rich and complicated. What are your expectations for this particular game, compared, for example, to “Gray Matter”?
JJ: I really don’t know what my expectations are compared to “Gray Matter”. My impression of “Gray Matter” is that it reviewed pretty well but there were a lot of issues with its availability and distribution. As for “Moebius”, of course I hope that people love the game and that it’s reviewed well. I think it’s a very strong story and certainly it’s a game I have put my own focus on every step of the way. The cutscenes and voices are really wonderful.
RQ: Some people say that Malachi Rector is the “spiritual child” of Gabriel Knight. Do they really have things in common? Hypothetically speaking, could one be part in the other’s world, in an imaginary cross-over of “Moebius” and “Gabriel Knight”?
JJ: They don’t exist in the same universe. “Gabriel Knight” is a world where things like werewolves literally exist. “Moebius” is a more realistic universe but has a paranormal element of its own. The closest thing I can use to describe it is the TV show Fringe. I suppose Malachi and Gabriel have some similarities in that they both have some rather sharp/witty dialogue, but they are really very different characters. Gabriel’s outward persona is very charming and flirtatious but he is (at least in GK1) rather a failure financially. Malachi is just the opposite. His outward persona is very cold and intelligent and rather rude at first and he’s extremely successful at what he does and has money as a result of that. But in terms of the games, yes, I think “Moebius” is a spiritual successor to “GK” in that both have a similar depth of story, similar gameplay, and are character-driven stories. Both involve mysteries with a paranormal element.
RQ: Needless to say, we all expect the HD remake of “Sins of the Fathers”. There’s a rumor (?), saying that its possible financial success will mark your return to the “Gabriel Knight” universe, preparing the fourth installment of the series. Is that true? If so, have you already in mind the main idea of Gabriel’s next adventure?
JJ: There is no guarantee that we can do a GK4 because we don’t have a deal with Activision for that yet. But yes, I hope that if we do a good job on GK1 and it does well on the market they will be open to discussing GK4.
RQ: We (=traditional adventure gamers) all hope that you have returned to the industry for good and Pinkerton Road studio’s formation is a really good sign on that. In your “Moebius” Kickstarter campaign, you mentioned a “Mystery X” game. Does this mean that apart from Rector’s adventure and Gabriel’s return, there’s one more story ready to be the core of another game?
JJ: Mystery Game X is the GK1 remake. But yes, we hope to do more games in the future.
RQ: My last question. Now that the smoke has gone down, what are your impressions on Kickstarter? Would you use it again?
JJ: Kickstarter was a very difficult and stressful process, and we are still trying to finish the games and fulfill on all our rewards. I wouldn’t jump to do it again. But on the other hand, we were able to fund “Moebius”, which we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise so it was worth it. We’ll just have to see what the future holds, but we might do another Kickstarter at some point.
RQ: I want to thank you for the time you spent answering all those questions. Allow me to wish you the utmost success for your upcoming games!
JJ: Thank you!