Bill Tiller, Gene Mocsy interview 2017
Bill Tiller, Gene Mocsy interview 2017

Bill Tiller, Gene Mocsy - Duke Grabowski: Mighty Swashbuckler! interview

Ingmar: There’s an enormous amount of games getting released on Steam nowadays. It has become pretty much impossible to keep track of them all as there’s just so much stuff out there. How difficult is it for a niche game to get noticed these days?

Bill: Luckily, Alliance Digital Media has good people, so we’re kind of relying on them. But I still think it’s a bit of a struggle, and I think you need a good marketing budget to get people interested. I mean, I worked on a few games that have gotten great reviews but just didn’t sell well, mostly on the iTunes platform. I worked on one called Snuggle Truck which did well because it was kind of controversial. So, that’s one way of doing things. You do something that’s controversial, everybody will hate it, and it ends up on the news. (everyone laughs)

Ingmar: I remember when Snuggle Truck was launched that reading your press release was quite funny by itself! (everyone laughs)

Bill Tiller and friend (not Gene Mocsy)

Bill: It’s a fun game, you know. People took it the wrong way, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. Some people totally got it, though, and got the whole irony in it. But then we did a follow-up game which we thought was better, and it didn’t sell well. It’s just hard to stand out. Then I worked on another game which was kind of a kids-friendly, funny first-person shooter called Bounty Bots. It got good reviews, and people who played it loved it, but while there was some marketing for it there just wasn’t a lot of it. So it’s not enough to make a good game, you’ve got to make a good game and then go to town, pushing it and pushing it.

This whole month, I thought I’d be working on just [Kickstarter] rewards and episode two. But now it’s like I’m working half-time on PR and marketing and working half-time on rewards, artworks, and game design. I should have known that, but it kind of struck me as a surprise and I was just like “D’oh! Come on! You’ll also have to do PR and marketing!” That’s fine, as I like doing everything that helps the game, but yeah, it’s a struggle, you’re absolutely right!

Gene Mocsy: Not-so-mighty swashbuckler!

Gene: At least there’s a really solid adventure community, though. And – of course – sites likes yours and KickstartVentures that celebrate these games constantly keep us in the news, and continually help kickstarting adventure games, so there’s some great support. Actually, discovery isn’t so hard if you know your niche, and you’re friends with your niche. I think that’s a blessing!

Bill: I also think that adventure games don’t age in my opinion. I could still play Grim Fandango – even the old version…

Ingmar: … or Monkey Island 3!

Bill: Exactly! Monkey Island 3 doesn’t look that old. These games are like cartoons. You know, you can still watch Warner Brother cartoons from the ‘30s, but if you’re watching a melodrama from the ‘30s, you might feel like, “what the hell is this?!” So cartoons tend not to age. Maybe you don’t need to be a big-splashy success to be a success, and you just need to have a good game that’s solid and steady, and that becomes a hit through word-of-mouth and reputation…

Gene: … and Bill Tiller art on your screenshots!

Ingmar: Never a bad idea!

Bill: We hope that our screenshots make you go: “I want to adventure there!” I mean, that’s kind of my goal when I draw the artworks. I want to make something where I would like to go and explore. You know, sometimes I compare this to designing an amusement park. You want to create an environment people want to explore and just immerse themselves in. That’s the goal, and it doesn’t hurt the screenshots either.

Ingmar: That’s also something I remember of the time when A Vampyre Story was announced. There wasn’t that much visual material available back then, and you didn’t even need to know much about the actual game. Looking at the artworks was enough to feel like this was something to look forward to; something with a unique selling point.

Bill: That can be a curse and a blessing at the same time. You know, the hype for A Vampyre Story got a little out of control. I got a little worried people started to expect a new Tim Schafer-Grim Fandango kind of thing. That’s a lot to live up to, and it can make things a little more difficult at times. I think with Duke we’re very clear about what this is. This first game, and all the episodes, are short games, around nine locations and about 2-4 hours of gameplay each. You know, basically inspired by… a spoof of… or just a straight rip-off of the Monkey Island franchise. 

Gene: (raises his voice) NO! A parody and homage! (Gene and Ingmar laugh)

Ingmar: Of course!

Bill: (cheerful) A parody and homage, okay! (short moment of silence) Well… I stole some of it! (Gene and Ingmar burst out laughing) Just for fun, you know, like… the jail house. Tim and Ron didn’t seem to mind, though. They seemed to get the joke.

Ingmar: I think everything is fine as long as no one from Disney reads this interview! (Bill and Gene laugh)

Gene: Oh my god, let’s turn off the recording right now!!!

Ingmar: (laughs) Probably a good idea!

The Curse of Monkey Island (any similarities in Duke Grabowski are purely intentional)

Bill: I don’t know how much they care. (Gene seems to gasp for air) I changed it like 30 percent or so. I think it’s fine. Well, I hid some stuff in there. (laughs) Don’t know if you saw it.

Gene: Is there a Max in there?

Bill: There is a Max in there!

Ingmar I didn’t realize Max was in it, but I definitely noticed some other references like the jail house. It was also cool to see that [LucasArts veterans] Dave Grossman and Larry Ahern both appeared as characters in the actual game. Watching the two of them getting mad at each other was a lot of fun!

Gene: (laughs) Larry wrote a lot of that dialogue, by the way.

Bill: They know each other very well, so that was probably the best way of doing it.

Gene:  It’ll be a challenge for your readers to find more easter eggs!

Ingmar Sounds like a good idea for a neat competition. (Gene laughs)

Bill: Max only appears in a video for two seconds or so, by the way. I was trying to get hold of Steve [Purcell] to get permission to do it, but I could never reach him, so eventually I said: “I’ll just hide it in here, he won’t get mad!”

Gene:  (gulps) Uh, oh!

Bill: I just saw him the other day, he’s cool with it. I’ve got a verbal OK. (Gene takes a deep breath)

Ingmar: (laughs) I don’t want anyone to get into legal problems here…

Bill: Nah, I think we’re all good! I think we’re all good, Gene?

Gene: Everything Bill said is on the record!

Continued on the next page...

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Duke Grabowski

Platform(s): Mac, PC

An episodic comic series from Bill Tiller and Gene Mocsy.

About the Author
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Ingmar Böke
Staff Writer


Mr Underhill Mr Underhill
Mar 19, 2017

Always a treat to have insights like this into game production. Huge fan of mr. Tiller’s work, he’s an inspiration.

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