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Project Jane-J archived preview

In a surprising announcement, The Adventure Company revealed at the E3 trade show that it’s working with Gabriel Knight series creator Jane Jensen on producing a new series of adventure games. We met with Jane Jensen at the show and spoke about her goals for the as yet untitled series. The pilot game is currently in the conceptual stages—if successful, it will be followed by more episodes.

Fans of her earlier work will be happy to know that the game, which is unofficially titled Project Jane-J, will be a Sierra / LucasArts style 3rd person adventure game. “The press release mentions that the gameplay style would be a combination of 3rd person investigative Myst-style logic puzzles and mild arcade sequences, which apparently has caused an uproar online. But basically, it’s the perfect description of Gabriel Knight 3,” Jane pointed out at the very start of our interview.

Jane compared the mild arcade sequences with the ones that were traditionally in Sierra’s games, using the ‘crossing the swamp’ puzzle from King’s Quest as an example. There will be absolutely no pure action such as jumping or shooting.

When asked about the puzzles for the game, Jane said she was working on many different kinds of puzzles in a conscious attempt to mix up the gameplay a bit. “In Gabriel Knight 3 there was quite a long puzzle sequence called Le Serpent Rouge that was sort of a big riddle,” she said. “We’re doing some of that [type of puzzles], but in much smaller chunks.”

“Personally I don’t like to play adventures where you’re always stuck at a puzzle--especially in the first five minutes, but even [at] any time during the game. Adventure games are about stories and it should feel free-flowing. This is something I really liked about Syberia.” The game is said to feature optional sidetracks that provide more things to do, but aren’t essential to complete the game. Jane described these as “little scavenger hunts”. The primary gameplay will however be investigative in nature.

While the Gabriel Knight games have a comic book edge to them, Jane is now taking inspiration from various TV series, citing CSI, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files but also The Matrix as examples of what she’s going for. As with any of her previous work, expect the paranormal to feature heavily in the game. This time the story will be taking a somewhat more philosophical and metaphysical direction, however. “It’s not just about witches, ghosts or ghouls, but about the question of what the nature of reality is,” she said.

The pilot game will introduce the two main characters of the game and establish their relationship. The first character is a reclusive neurobiologist who investigates occurrences relating to extraordinary human potential, such as phantom limbs and people who were born blind but use a sort of radar vision. Three years ago he was involved in a car accident, in which he lost his wife and was badly burned. The second main character is a graduate student named Samantha. Sam is a magician and performs at a local magic club. She has something of a problem with authority that stems from growing up in foster care.

Some Gabriel Knight fans were expecting Gabriel Knight 4 to be announced at E3, as Jane Jensen conducted a fan survey on their preferences for a fourth game not so long ago. The data was used in an attempt to convince Vivendi to green-light a new Gabriel Knight game. Unfortunately, they showed little to no interest. Jane went looking for other options. “I wrote my name on a wall in a restroom,” she joked. “For a good adventure game: call me.”

Jane openly discussed the potential for a long-term relation with The Adventure Company. “It is definitely designed to be the beginning of a series,” she said. “I would love to get at a place where we could turn out something new every nine months. That’s the thing about games—it takes so long. Gabriel Knight 2 and 3 took three years. That’s a long time to wait for the continuation of a story. Even films don’t take that long. If we get to the place where we have a great engine and a great process, we could just crank out new content every nine to twelve months. The games might be a little bit shorter [than Gabriel Knight] but every time I try to start a story small it ends up being big. So, I don’t know if I’ll ever be successful at doing a ten hour game. Maybe twenty hours or something—like the length of Syberia. The first game is definitely going to be pretty big.”

The Adventure Company is looking for an established studio to produce the game. The type of graphics engine is still undetermined. “We want to be in full production by September and start cranking out art and putting it together. Hopefully by late October we’ll have some actual screenshots.”

“[The Adventure Company] is the best thing for adventure games that has happened in a long time,” Jane enthused. “This company is at a point where they’re ready to start developing new products, getting new talent on board and funding top-notch triple-A stuff. It should be really exciting. Hopefully, if we’re really successful, it will mean not only more titles for me, but it will give other adventure game designers a chance to do products.”

Adventure Gamers will be keeping a close eye on the project. The game is scheduled for release at the end of 2004.


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