Specials: Interviews:

Interview mit Dave Gilbert (Wadjet Eye Games) - Englische Version



Adventure Corner:
Hi Dave, it´s a pleasure to welcome you here. Please introduce you and Wadjet Eye Games to those of our readers wo aren´t familiar with you yet.

Dave:
Sure thing. I’m Dave, an indie game developer who focuses on making adventure games under the company banner of Wadjet Eye Games. I’m based in New York City, where I work from cafes or my home. We’re known for making 'The Shivah', the 'Blackwell' series, and the recently-released 'Emerald City Confidential'.


Adventure Corner:
How and when did you get in touch with the adventuregenre in the first place and what made you realize, you wanted to do these games yourself?

Dave:
I have always been a fan of these games since I was a kid. My mom bought me a copy of 'Wishbringer' when I was 12 and that was that! :) I started making them back in 2001. The World Trade Center had just come down, and being a New Yorker and unemployed I was looking for a creative outlet to keep my mind off things. I discovered AGS (adventure game studio) and made a short freeware game called 'The Repossesser'. People seemed to like it, so I continued to make more.


Adventure Corner:
Please give us an idea of how things developed for you, from the time you started working on your own games /free games, making your first steps, until you decided to release commercially distributed games.


Daves´ first commercial game: The Shivah.

Dave:
In 2006 I had just come home from teaching English in Asia for a year, and I had money saved up and was in no hurry to get a fulltime job again. So to put off the inevitable, I took a month and made 'The Shivah'. I had so much fun making it that I couldn’t envision doing anything else, so I decided to start selling them. Ironically enough, I started selling games to avoid getting a “real” job but now I’ve become busier than ever! Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Adventure Corner:
How can we imagine ourselves the working process of a Dave Gilbert title, from beginning to end? And despite that: How does an obviously very busy day in the life of you look like, while you´re working on a game?

Dave:
The design process usually involves me staring at a notebook for several hours, scribbling ideas down until I accidentally come up with something interesting! I have dozens of notebooks with various designs and ideas scribbled in them. Eventually, something cohesive comes out of it and I expand on the idea from there. My days vary. Sometimes I’m online 24/7, communicating with various team members or the publisher and answering emails. Other times I am in a café, completely unplugged from the internet, focused on working on the game itself. Honestly, there’s no rhyme or reason to the way I work. I’m not organized at all. The fact that I managed to release 4 games surprises even me!


Adventure Corner:
Your critically acclaimed 'Blackwell' series won yourself quite some loyal fellowhip throughout the last years. Please give those of our readers – who aren´t familiar with Joey and the Blackwell family- a little description from the author´s perspective what the series is about.

Dave:

The first chapter of the Blackwell story: Blackwell Legacy.

'Blackwell' is about a reluctant medium named Rosangela Blackwell and her spirit guide Joey Malone. They investigate haunting and supernatural goings-on and help lost spirits pass on to the next world. For me, the games are mostly character studies about the ghosts you are trying to save. You have to find out who the ghost was, talk to people they knew in life, and connect to the ghost on an emotional level to help them move on. There’s also a backstory about the Blackwell family itself, which will reveal itself over the course of the series.


Adventure Corner:
You´ve been working on the upcoming 'Blackwell Convergence' for quite a while, then you did 'Emerald City Confidential' inbetween and ,if i´m not mistaken, the plot of 'Blackwell Unbound' –that takes place before the first game 'Blackwell Legacy'- was originally intended to be used in' Blackwell Convergence' as a simultan storyline from the past. Please give us some ideas about the development-history of 'Blackwell Convergence'.

Dave:
Yep, you are right. The events of 'Blackwell Unbound' were originally meant to be flashback sections in 'Blackwell Convergence'. I later cut the flashback sections, expanded on them, and called it 'Blackwell Unbound'. It ended up working much better as a stand-alone game, so it was definitely a good decision. My original plan was to work on 'Unbound' and 'Convergence' at the same time, using two separate teams. This proved to be difficult. Even though 'Unbound' had a significantly smaller budget, I still had to do all the writing, programming, design, and post-production that I do on any other game. So I spent very little time on ' Convergence'. Then, I got the publishing deal with PlayFirst and working on 'Convergence' became even more difficult.So it’s been a very long road indeed! It’s exciting to see 'Convergence' nearly complete and a few months from going out the door.


Adventure Corner:
Please describe the gameplay of 'The Blackwell Convergence' to our readers –especially to those, who never played a game of the series before-, what kind of tasks can the players look forward to?

Dave:
'Convergence' is very much like any other point-and-click adventure game. There is nothing revolutionary about the gameplay. You talk to characters, you get clues, you pick up objects that you use in inventory puzzles, and you interact with the environment. In 'Blackwell’s' case, that usually means talking to lots of ghosts and people with secrets!


Adventure Corner:
In the recent past you mentioned that part 3 would be more comprehensive than its predecessors. Beside that: How would you describe the evolvement of the series and what´s new in the 'Blackwell Convergence', compared to the first two games?


Joey and Rosangela will soon return in Blackwell Convergence.

Dave:
If 'Blackwell Legacy' and 'Blackwell Unbound' had any problem, it’s that the games never got very exciting until the very end. You spend the entire time investigating, talking to people, investigating some more, solving some puzzles, and then there’s a big climax before the game ends. I wanted 'Convergence' to have a steady number of “payoff moments”. You save your first ghost in the opening scene of the game, and the game is filled with more exciting and dynamic things happening. The only drawback is that the game is a bit more linear, but I feel it is much more satisfying.


Adventure Corner:
Obviously some of our readers are craving for german versions of your games. Any chances, something like that is ever gonna happen?

Dave:
I would *love* to localize, but unfortunately I did not design the games with easy translation in mind! There are lots of graphic assets with English text burned into them. Translating them would mean remaking lots of graphics from scratch. It’s a lot of work, and I’d have to hire a good localization team to do it properly. I’m kicking myself for this now, but to fix it costs money which I unfortunately do not have. I’m designing all my future games with an eye for easy localization ('Convergence' included!) but translating all my other games would require more effort than I’m prepared to give right now.


Adventure Corner:
As those, who read our review or our news concerning the game know, in contrast to your previous games, 'ECC' was a game that you delivered for the Casual Game platform PlayFirst. In how far did the work on 'ECC' differ from what you were used to do and how was the whole idea of creating a game for a Casual Game website born? Did they approach you and say: “we want you to write something that mixes film noir with the 'Oz'-books by L. Frank Baum,” or did you come up with the whole scenario yourself?

Dave:

Just recently, Dave Gilbert won an Adventure Corner-Award for ECC:

The idea was mine! I had the idea for several years but I knew that I would need a big budget to make it happen. When PlayFirst approached me, I knew exactly what I wanted to pitch to them. The main difference in working with PlayFirst was that I had a lot more resources to draw from. Aside from the financial aspect, they have a marketing department, a QA department, and an art department all at my disposal. They also did usability testing, which was a big eye-opener for me. They brought in testers who would sit at the computer and play the game, while camera recorded their reactions. We could see where they got frustrated and where they were having fun. It was a fascinating experience.


Adventure Corner:
The Casual market is opening up completely new possibilities for adventuregames to reach a wider audience. Yet, we´re probably still at an early stage of seeing these 2 worlds mix up more and more. What chances do you see in this “new market” and how might the future for this new adventure/casual/online distribution model look like?

Dave:
The interesting thing about the casual market is that the players are becoming less and less casual! There is immense brand loyalty in the casual space now, and developers are trying to create new and unique IPs that they can expand upon. Adventure games present a great opportunity for that, since you’ve got actual characters that you interact with.


Adventure Corner:
You´re one of THE stars of the indie scene, blessed with a lot of talents, at the same time having a lot of freedom in the things you do (maybe less considering 'ECC'). Now let´s imagine this scenario: One of the really big adventurepublishers like dtp approaches you and says, hey, we want you to work together with a team and do a game for us. Is this something that could possibly attract you, or is the process of doing such a big production (with a big team) something you wouldn´t want to do, as it might mean a lot less freedom, a lot more compromising and a completely different way of working?

Dave:
First of all, thanks! :) I don’t often think of myself as a star, but it’s cool that others do! Now, if a publisher like dtp approached me with an offer like that I would definitely say yes. I have no illusions about being a carefree indie. I love designing games, so if an opportunity presented itself to create a big-budget game for an established publisher, what’s to think about? True, there is a level of “compromise” but there’s always a bit of that even when you work for yourself. There are tons of games that I’d love to make, but I know they just wouldn’t sell.


Adventure Corner:
Despite doing your own games under the flag of Wadjet Eye Games, you´re in the publishing business as well now. Please introduce the first Wadjet Eye Games title(s), not coming from your own mind. Is this maybe just the beginning of the Wadjet Eye Games “extension”?


The designer of Puzzlebots: Erin Robinson.

Dave:
The game in question is called 'Puzzlebots', and it’s an adventure/puzzle game where you control a bunch of little robots who solve puzzles in real-world environments. It’s being designed by Erin Robinson, who did the artwork for 'Blackwell Unbound', and it’s looking very sweet so far.
Assuming it works out, I hope to publish other indie adventure developers as well! It’s my goal to have lots more games on the website. Wadjet Eye Games was always synonymous with “Dave Gilbert” and it doesn’t have to be that way. Eventually, I hope to be in a position where I can release a new game every few months, instead of once or twice a year.


Adventure Corner:
It´s no secret that further 'Blackwell Games' are on your mind. But do you - at this point of time- know (well, you surely do, the question is rather if you can talk about it :) ) what´s gonna be your next game after 'Convergence'?

Dave:
This 'Blackwell' game has been in-the-works for so long that I might want to take a break and do something different! I would love to do an RPG if I get the time and financial stability to make it happen. Still, there’s 'Puzzlebots' and I’ll be doing another game with PlayFirst, so there’ll be plenty to keep us busy. A new Rabbi Stone game ('The Shivah') would be fun, but the first game didn’t sell very well so it’s hard to gauge whether or not it’s a good idea (remember what I said about compromise? Sigh…).


Adventure Corner:
You consider Jane Jensen as a rolemodel, and often mention your 'Gabriel Knight' influence, especially in relation to the 'Blackwell' series. Please give us some insights into your feelings about the 'Gabriel Knight' series and Jane Jensen.

Dave:

One of Daves´ biggest adventure-influences: The Gabriel Knight series by Jane Jensen.

What impressed me the most about 'Gabriel Knight' was the amount of research that went into each instalment. The blending of the supernatural and historical fact was so perfectly executed you forgot it ws fiction. The concept of Ludwig II of Bavaria being a werewolf sounds silly on paper, but when you play 'Gabriel Knight 2' you can almost believe it happened.'Blackwell' is essentially me trying to do 'Gabriel Knight'. But rather than tackling such epic topics as Jane Jensen did, I am focused more on odd events in New York City history. The story of Joseph Mitchell, for example, is one that always fascinated me. He was a famous writer for the New Yorker magazine that mysteriously stopped writing but still went to his office every day for thirty years without producing a thing. I tackled that mystery in 'Blackwell Unbound'.


Adventure Corner:
Speaking of influences: Film noir seems to be something, that really left its mark on you, as it is a returning motif in your games. Which movies of that era would you consider to be your personal favorites? Any favorite noir-aventuregames beside that, as there were quite some of them?

Dave:
What I love about noir is the antihero. Characters that do bad things for good reasons, or vice versa. My favourite noir is Night and the City, which is about a con man who is trying to get out of the poorhouse by any means possible. The guy wants to lead a good life, but keeps digging himself deeper and deeper with dirty deal after dirty deal. You want to hate him for the rotten things he is doing, but you still want him to succeed.I was a big fan of 'Discworld Noir' when it came out, although it’s kind of dated now. It should come as no surprise that it was what inspired 'Emerald City Confidential'.


Adventure Corner:
Thank you very much Dave! You´re always a very welcome guest for further interviews in the future. But for now, we´ll look forward to another date with Rosangela and good old Joey Mallone, as a new chapter of the 'Blackwell' story is about to be opened SOON.

Dave:
You are very welcome!


geschrieben am 11.05.2009, Ingmar Böke




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