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

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

Ingmar: Speaking of legal stuff… I know people ask you about this a lot, but of course we can’t do an interview with you without discussing the potential future of A Vampyre Story.

Bill: I think Crimson Cow has a new management. They’re probably not interested in doing it, but I don’t think they’re against selling it, so I guess if I came up with the right money I suppose I can get the rights back. I’m concentrating on Duke Grabowski right now, but once Duke’s over I’m totally open to talking to Crimson Cow. But I’ve also been discussing the idea of animated shorts with our animator Romero. I love these characters, you know, and I don’t want them to die off just because of the distribution rights.

It’s a pretty long and epic story, so it could easily be turned into an episodic game with around eight episodes before the whole story arc wraps up. So, yeah, I’d love to do it, but if worst comes to worst I have the rights to do animated shorts, books, or comic books. When the time comes I’ll definitely explore the options.

Gene: At least it’s not like an actor who might age out of a part. No matter how long it takes you to get back you can always pick up where you stopped because of the digital character models.

Bill: Yeah, but right now we’re fully concentrating on Duke’s story. I like him, too, and he’s not too dissimilar to Mona in that they’re both no geniuses…

Ingmar: … and they’re outcasts…

A Vampyre Story's Mona and Froderick... gone for now but not forgotten

Bill: Yeah, they’re outcasts. And, you know, they both have these powers they don’t fully know how to control, but they have a goal and are very driven. In one way or the other they’ll figure out how to get what they want. Along the way they learn that maybe what they originally wanted wasn’t exactly the best thing for them to begin with. They’re very similar, just one is a big, strong, and dumb pirate whereas the other is a little more sophisticated opera singer who just wants to sing, and doesn’t care about monsters, vampires and that kind of stuff.

Ingmar Adventure Gamers has a tradition of doing interviews with you every couple of years. I’ll come back to A Vampyre Story in the next interview. (Gene and Bill laugh)

Bill: The next 1½ years or so are going to be about Duke. I’ll be sick of pirates in 1½ years, though. It’s not like I’m going to hate them, but I’ll feel like it’ll be time for a break from pirates. The funny thing about that is that the pirate idea was just gonna be a little demo, and me and Gene were working on another game altogether. Then we realized it was really expensive to start a game from scratch. We already had all these assets, pirate character models, pirate backgrounds, pirate sound effects etc., so we thought, “it might be better if we go in this direction. We love that big-buffed pirate guy, so let’s focus on this other idea!”

A lot of people were like: “Oh, you’re just ripping off pirates and Monkey Island!” That wasn’t our original idea, though. I mean, we like pirates, and they’re fun to work on, but our first idea was to do something completely different in the science fiction genre. Duke Grabowski: Mighty Swashbuckler! made the most sense, though, and we really like the character.

Ingmar: We talked about some of the old games that left an impact on you. Have the two of you played any recent games that left an impression on you?

Gene:  I really like Kentucky Route Zero; a new chapter came out last year. A beautiful and very atmospheric game. I just want to live in that game! (everyone laughs)

Bill: What is it called again?

Gene: Kentucky Route Zero. Check it out, it’s amazing! It’s a surreal point-and-click travelogue through an alternate Kentucky at night with magical realism. The art direction is amazing, the music just gives you chills, and the characters are just as amazing!

Bill: Cool, I’ll have to check it out. The biggest game I really enjoyed over the last year was Alien Isolation. I don’t know if that counts as an adventure game. I guess it kind of does, and it kind of doesn’t. It’s not really a shooter… well, you shoot a little bit, but you can never kill the alien – you drive it off, you know. It’s kind of a puzzle/resource management/hide-and-seek kind of game. I really liked the fact that it scared the crap out of me, and I was just addicted to being scared all of the time, so I played the hell out of it. And then I finally got around to playing the first episode of The Walking Dead, which was pretty fun. Also been playing Broken Age on and off. Gosh, what else have I played? Gene, we were just talking about this before the interview…

Gene: I was playing Michonne, the Walking Dead spin-off. It had amazing voice acting from the main actor Samira Wiley. Her voice was so good and personal; it humanized everything in an inhuman situation. It was just great that Telltale did this short summer game instead of an epic series that continues on forever. I guess they sandwiched it in between elements from the comic books and the TV series. It was a just a great short segment that showed what Telltale can do. Also played the first episode of Batman, which was fun. You know, as people keep saying: “You should always be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Then you should always be Batman!” (everyone laughs)

Bill: I’ve been playing Knights of the Old Republic a lot throughout the last five years, so I’m really invested in that game. And my kids finally talked me into playing Minecraft. It’s an amazing little game. Very time-consuming, though! I just downloaded a new adventure game for iOS, called Bayou Island. I love the artwork in it; it’s got a beautiful flat painting style, so I’m gonna be exploring that game.

I was just looking on your website, by the way, and I was like, “Man! There’s a lot of really cool adventure games out there.” So I might check out some of them. My biggest problem is time, having a wife and three kids. (laughs) There are just so many goddamn games on your site that I want to try. Maybe I can learn from them a lot. I’m sure my games are up-to-par, but I also want to check these games out because they look so beautiful and have these great environments.

Ingmar: Bill, given the fact that you’re a brilliant artist, there’s one new game that might be right up your alley. It’s called The Little Acre. It had beautiful animations, and was full of charm. Some of the animators are from Ballyfermot college in Dublin, which was set up by Don Bluth Studios [creator of All Dogs go to Heaven, The Secret of Nimh, Dragon’s Lair etc.].

Bill: Cool – thanks! When I was at Cal Arts [California Institute of the Arts] I had a few opportunities to meet Don Bluth. Actually, everyone in my class was a big Don Bluth fan in the late ‘80s. There was a rivalry between our class which liked everything from Don Bluth, and another class that preferred Disney. I’ve learned a lot about Don Bluth in school, and I’m a fan, so I’ll check the game out for sure!  

Ingmar: Guys, thanks a lot for taking so much time for this interview. It was a lot of fun, and I’m very much looking forward to the next episodes of Duke Grabowski: Mighty Swashbuckler!

Bill: Cool! Thank you very much! (suddenly, crows can be heard in the background)

Gene: Thank you! I can hear birds in the background…

Bill: I don’t know, but for some reason my house seems to attract a lot of crows, which is cool.

Gene: It’s very dark and gothic!

Bill: (laughs) Yeah, perfect end!

Gene: Thanks for talking to us!

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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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