Leave it to Jane Jensen to take a familiar idea and put a creative spin on it. While Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert are promising a Double Fine Adventure, and Chris Jones will soon be reviving Tex Murphy for a new mystery, Jane and her husband Robert Holmes are taking the community-supported funding model to a whole new level as they launch their new independent development studio, Pinkerton Road.
After teasing fans that "something is coming" in advertisements right here on Adventure Gamers the past few days, today the acclaimed designer and master storyteller unveiled the big surprise, and it's not quite what you might expect. The good news right off the bat: She's going to start making adventure games again! That's "games", plural! And as many have speculated, a Kickstarter campaign is involved, but here is where Jane's idea differs from the norm. Rather than simply asking people to contribute to a single project, Pinkerton Road will use a broader "Community Supported Gaming" (CSG) model to help finance production. Based on a similar agricultural model (not coincidentally, as the studio itself is based on Jensen's Pennsylvania farm), the idea is to have backers pledge funds to support the company for an entire year. And what a year they have planned.
According to the Kickstarter page, meeting the target goal of $300,000 will result in two new games. Lola and Lucy's Big Adventure is a kid's ebook/game that's been in production for some time now and is nearly ready for release. Beyond that, however, is the promise of a downloadable "all new original adventure game by Jane in the vein of Gabriel Knight and Gray Matter", due approximately March 2013. Sound good? Well, if you're considering reaching for your wallet, it gets juicier, as reaching a secondary goal of $600,000 will include a second full-scale adventure.
While there's no immediate Gabriel Knight sequel on the horizon (sorry, though you can be sure that Jensen's return to adventure game design will have all the right people taking notice), just some of the concepts under consideration include what Jane describes as "a fun idea" for Gray Matter 2, an "anglophile adventure" (a game set in the period of Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy), and Moebius, which Jensen teases as being a game "Gabriel Knight fans will like".
Which of the proposed projects first gets off the ground will be decided not by Jane Jensen, but by Pinkerton Road supporters. And of course there are many other exclusive rewards as well. These range from a single PC game download and access to Pinkerton Road updates and CSG-only forum for $16 to getting all new games, beta test invitations, and signed pdf "design bibles" for $50. Pledges of $100 include packaged DVD versions of all new games, a T-shirt, and a game music CD, while the upper tiers include goodies like a visit to Pinkerton Road Studio and signed artwork.
If the Kickstarter goal seems modest for a full-fledged new Jane Jensen adventure (or two), that's because Pinkerton Studio isn't totally dependent on community support, though supplemental public funding helps ensure the creative freedom to make "the kinds of games that YOU and WE want to play". In the unlikely event the fundraising campaign does not meet its target, Jensen told Adventure Gamers, "If we don't reach our funding goal on Kickstarter, then the studio will be on a slower boat -- we'll reach out to investors and hope to fund one game that way. And once that game is released it can, hopefully, help fund more games." But raising enough funds using the CSG model is Jensen's preference, so she can maintain more control over her ideas and build a direct relationship with her fans.
So it's official: Jane Jensen is back, ladies and gentlemen! For more about the CSG model, pledge rewards, additional concept art, and an eerily amusing video (also displayed above -- click to view) hosted by Jensen's stepdaughter (and Scarlet Furies lead singer) Raleigh Holmes, visit the Kickstarter campaign for full details.