Bio: Criada con un padre fundamentalista, Jane comienza a trabajar en Sierra en 1991 ayudando en aspectos técnicos de juegos como Police Quest 3 o Ecoquest. Poco tiempo pasó hasta que se le dio via libre para crear su primera aventura gráfica, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. Se fue de Sierra con varios títulos en su haber y se dedicó a explorar la literatura con libros como El Despertar del Milenio y La Ecuación Dante, que dejaban en claro el interés de la autora hacia la religión. En 2006 vuelve al mundo de los videojuegos asociándose con Oberon Media, una compañía de juegos casuales, en donde diseña Inspector Parker, BeTrapped! y Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile. En 2007 se junta con la compañía alemana Anaconda para dar vida a su nuevo proyecto, la aventura gráfica Gray Matter.
Juegos: Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery, Gabriel Knight 3: Testamento del Diablo, King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, Police Quest 3: The Kindred, The Dagger of Amon Ra, EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus, Pepper's Adventures in Time, Gray Matter, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers - 20th Anniversary Edition
In “La Aventura es la Aventura” we have the immense pleasure of interviewing one of the most influential figures in our community. Jane Jensen need absolutely no introduction, since her work in Sierra (King’s Quest VI and the Gabriel Knight saga) and her work in fiction (Millennium Rising, Dante’s Equation and the novels of the first two Gabriel Knight games) is well known not only by adventure gamers. She has kindly accepted to answer a few of our questions regarding past, present and future of his career, so without any more delays, we give you… Jane Jensen.
Radiobuzz » Hi Jane, thank you for having us! In an interview you've made with the Spanish website "Aventura y Cia" in 2003 you've mentioned that you were writing Dante's Equation, but you've also talked about some short romantic novel. I haven't found any mention of it anywhere, was it published?
Jane » No, I didn’t continue with that project.
Radiobuzz » On the web you can find lots of people saying that they already knew what they've read on the highly overrated book by Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, by playing GK3. The only documentary I've seen on TV regarding Rennes le Château had the author as special guest. A couple of years later, we find the text "If you've liked The Da Vinci Code..." on the Spanish edition of Dante's Equation. It gets to a point in which we want to yell "don't you know Jane Jensen?!", in a very nerdy fashion. Do you think you could have gotten to a bigger audience if you hadn't been involved with the gaming world and instead have dedicated to directly write novels?
« At least in adventure games, there is a much smaller field and I know my work will be taken seriously. »
Jane » In the philosophy of Dante’s Equation “there’s good and bad about everything”. The adventure game audience is somewhat limited, so a story published there might not achieve quite the mass market recognition as a book can ultimately achieve. But on the other hand, many books come out and do very little. There’s no promotion in the book field and thousands of new titles every week. At least in adventure games, there is a much smaller field and I know my work will be taken seriously.
Radiobuzz » I have a boxed Gabriel Knight Mysteries (which I hold near to my heart), and I've read GK1's novel. I've enjoyed it, but I think that it was a little weird to see Gabriel solving puzzles in a book. Do you see these games' novelizations as training for your other two books? Was it hard to translate the games into a novel?
Jane » It was a way to get my foot in the door and I suppose, yes, to get experience writing novels. My original hope was that the books would be a way for the Gabriel Knight series to reach a non-gamer audience. But they were published as, and shelves with, game books so that didn’t really happen.
Radiobuzz » Looking at your work you can see many similarities, but there's one in particular that I find very curious: homosexuality. In GK1 there's Bruno and even the college professor. In GK2 the sexual tension between Gabriel and Von Glower was overwhelming, not to mention Priess or even Ludwig himself. In GK3 there's Jean and the ambiguously homosexual relationship between Lady Howard and Miss Stiles. In Millennium Rising there's Andrews, and in Dante's Equation there's Ferris that, in my opinion, was a repressed homosexual (or at least was extremely homophobic). It's curious because it's not usual to see homosexual characters in games unless they are in the context of comedy, and on the other hand your work has a huge religious aspect. Is there a reason behind it all or is mere coincidence?
Jane » It’s not a coincidence that my work has a huge religious aspect. That’s a result of my upbringing. But as for homosexuality, I never really considered how often I use it. It was very deliberately a part of GK2 because it was involved in the theme – that of the dark pull of our animal nature. But I really never thought about it being in the other titles. And Ferris is not gay (for what it’s worth). It may just be a result of my tendency to prefer to deal with shades of gray and people who are not stereotypical and “perfect”.
Radiobuzz » Your father was a fundamentalist minister, and yet on your stories you play a lot with the ambivalence of the divine. In fact in all your projects, including those which deals strictly with religion (Gabriel Knight 3 and Millennium Rising), there's never an explicit presence of a god. Do you consider yourself to belong any particular religion or philosophy? Maybe agnostic?
Jane » A wistful agnostic. Well, I think the theme you see coming up again and again is really anti-fundamentalism, not anti-god per se, but anti the black-and-white, right-and-wrong, hell-and-damnation point of view that the conservative side of any religion has. I don’t think life is that simple and I’m against that perspective intrinsically because I think it’s fear based and very hateful towards anyone not like yourself. It’s extremely controlling.
Radiobuzz » I remember that in King's Quest Collection there's an .hlp file that talks about the games, and there's a part which for me shows what Sierra reflected as a company back then. I don't remember if it was you or Roberta that said that the story for King's Quest VI was basically created while driving Roberta's son to school. How do you remember the work at Sierra? Because from the outside it seemed to be a very familiar environment where everyone knew eachother and had a blast working together.
Jane » It was a great atmosphere. Of course, nothing is perfect, and at the time there was plenty of drama – usually around budgets. (ha ha). But looking back, it was really ideal. The best thing about Sierra was that they supported the creative vision and didn’t run the show from a marketing and commercial perspective. That is so rare now.
Radiobuzz » When I installed Microsoft Windows Vista beta, a year ago, I found with delight that the games were remade by your company, Oberon Media. Zuma and Inspector Parker were two of the most addictive games I've ever played, and judging from what I've said above I can't be the only one who feels that way, considering the company is doing pretty well. Now that you've returned to the adventure scene and you've established yourself as a solid writer, what will happen with Oberon? Will it keep going on without its mother or you'll still be involved in its projects?
Jane » I’m still very much involved. I’ve recently designed Agatha Christie’s Peril at End House for them and, before that, Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. It’s fun to work on the casual games, though very different from adventures.
Radiobuzz » I've read in several places that one of your favorite adventures in these last years was Syberia. The game definitely has a merit, since it reestablish the adventure game as the best media to deal with drama. On the other hand, it was a very criticized game because of its lack of interactivity with its world, and also because of its terribly long walks. What aspects would you point out to use as influence?
« I just felt [Syberia] did a terrific job of being very approachable and playable by a non-gamer. »
Jane » I just felt it did a terrific job of being very approachable and playable by a non-gamer. In fact, it was in some ways more of a “casual game” approach to adventures. A game should be fun and have great story and puzzles, but there’s no reason to make it obscure and difficult to the point where you have to be part of some secret adventure game legion to be able to figure it out.
Radiobuzz » A couple of years ago we were drooling over the news about The Adventure Company and you working together, but then Project-J was somehow cancelled. What happened with that company, and when did dtp/Anaconda appeared in the picture? Was there any big changes from what Gray Matter was back then and what it is now?
Jane » Originally, The Adventure Company intended to start their own studio and Gray Matter was to be one of their first projects. But in the end, they couldn’t quite pull it together and there wasn’t a strong outside team that could do the game for the budget they wanted, so it just lanquished.
Radiobuzz » We know that if everything goes right, Gray Matter will be a series. Do you know what you'll do next? You'll stay on the gaming community or would you write another book? One way or another, I'm sure it will be great news for any fan.
Jane » I really don’t have any long term plans right now. I’m pretty swamped just keeping up with the present.
Radiobuzz » You'll surely know that Gray Matter is the most anticipated adventure of these last years, the reason being that it's coming from you. Firstly, knowing that, being fair or not, it will be obligatorily compared to the GK games, do you feel like being pressured to make "the next big thing"? On the other hand, what should we expect from Gray Matter?
Jane » I think there will be comparisions, but I’m confidence Gray Matter can more than hold it’s own against any past games. I’m just looking forward to getting it out there.
Radiobuzz » Recently I've registered in a fantastic forum called AboveTopSecret.com, in where they talk about every possible conspiracy theory known to men. The subject always amaze me because every guy that brings up a theory, without caring how insane it sounds, shows proof so solid that it even makes you consider it. Your writer's career certainly appears to focus on these issues (in fact there's a theory called The Blue Beam Project that has some things in common with Millennium Rising), so I can assume that you are interested in the subject. Do you usually read these kinds of theories for inspiration? At any point do you consider them as a possibility? Also, I might be wrong here, but for what I know about Gray Matter (which is almost nothing), I think it goes in that direction, right?
Jane » There’s not a lot of that in Gray Matter. Well, maybe there is. Ha. Yes, I’m sort of fascinated by conspiracy theory in a similar way to how I’m drawn to the paranormal. I don’t really believe it, but I don’t completely NOT believe it either. It is amazing to read what some people believe and there’s also the slight niggle that there might be some truth in it. The conspiracy in Millennium Rising is very much in line with some of the major conspiracy theories out there and I think, if there’s any truth to it at all, MR is pretty close to what it would really be like.
Radiobuzz » Let's recap: GK1 was old-school 2D; GK2 was FMV and allowed you to create a more direct, simpler interface; GK3 was pure 3D, so much in fact that the player had to adapt to thinking in 3D to solve the puzzles. Now with Gray Matter you're in "2.5D". You only need to make a text adventure to say that you've done it all! Graphics and interface apart, the games are very loved in the community. Was there any particular reason to choose 2.5D in Gray Matter?
Jane » Well, it’s less expensive and time consuming than full 3D and I think adventure games need to focus on being beautiful and having great stories and puzzles and yet keep the budgets down and also the bells and whistles. It’s just not necessary to have 3D, in my opinion. Frankly, I’d be just as happy to go with a technology and crank out 4-5 games with no change, but given the time frames involved, the industry just doesn’t sit still that long.
Radiobuzz » In our site we have this huge list with all the adventures in our database (808 to this moment). The users in our forum give the adventures they've played a score, and then we take the average to get a global rank. At least since 2001, GK3 is on the first place without interruptions with a rank of 89.61, followed by Monkey Island 2 with 88.68 (over 100). It's funny to point out that the game didn't had the greatest acceptance in the world when it got out, but as time went by the players put it on a pedestal. What do you think about this? Do you think you've set the score way too high?
« I think Gray Matter is very strong in its own right »
Jane » That’s very nice to hear, I had no idea. It does seem that GK has a great reputation out there. I’m very happy about that, because at least I can feel I’ve done something worth remembering with my career. As I said, I don’t really compare my current work. I think Gray Matter is very strong in its own right, as have been Millennium Rising and Dante’s Equation. But a writer can’t choose what things “stick”. I’m just glad if something did!
Radiobuzz » Obviously the Gabriel Knight saga is the most loved in the adventure scene: you can find lots of communities, projects and petitions on the web about it. Besides you've mentioned that once upon a time there were plans to make GK into a movie. Do you think it's possible to have a GK4 sometime? Assuming that in the future you could buy the rights to the characters, do you think Vivendi would sell them, considering they are not going to make any more games?
Jane » That’s such a complicated question. Yes, it’s possible. But it’s more likely to happen if either Vivendi decides to go ahead and make a sequel, which it might if adventure games look profitable again. I think the best chance of that is when/if adventure games break into the casual gaming space in a big way. The other thing would be if some other company buys those old Sierra licenses from Vivendi with the intention of reviving them. It’s very unlikely I could afford to buy the license myself.
Radiobuzz » You've been involved with The Adventure Company and now with Anaconda, a German company that's making huge movements in Europe regarding the adventure games. How do you see the popularity or profitability of the genre nowadays considering the companies mentioned above?
Jane » There seems to be a revival and new publisher interest. More than that, I can’t really surmise.
Radiobuzz » The adventure games are on a weird time, because first you have an important movement of new adventures and media, then you have people that insist on saying that the genre is dead, and also it's getting usual to read "the revolution of the genre" on the box of any dumb game such as Fahrenheit. While it's true that the genre is not as popular as it used to, do you think there will be a new golden age? Maybe with the coming of virtual reality? I ask this because I don't think people will enjoy diving into a virtual world that's just like our own, and that means a death to realism in videogames.
Jane » I really think it’s about the casual gaming space. And the reason is that the audience is just the right audience there – finally. It’s an older audience, mostly 30 and over half female. That’s just a great demographic for adventure games. But it’s a slow progression. The Agatha Christie games are a move in that direction and I would love to port Gray Matter to that space eventually.
Radiobuzz » Two years ago I conducted an interview with Lorelei Shannon, one of your ex co-workers, which is currently living happily with her family and her books. If there's someone who knows about violence in videogames is her, because Phantasmagoria 2 was extremely censured for some of its scenes (which looking back weren't that terrible), and there are some countries nowadays in where it's prohibited to sell the game in stores. It's funny that the classic adventure's developers, and some of the adventure's players, appeared to be taken from some pyramid a thousand years ago because we tend to compare the current videogame's situation with the scene from 10, 15 or 20 years ago. What is your personal view regarding violence in videogames? I'm talking about real-based games such as Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt or any first-person shooter.
Jane » I’m just not into those kinds of games as a player. I don’t believe in censorship, so I have no problem with those games existing. I’m just not interested in that myself. If the violence comes with a good story, like a horror story, I think it can be very effective. But just shooting things to watch blood splatter – boring.
Radiobuzz » It’s time to let you go. We appreciate the time you took to answer all these questions, and we’ll hopefully talk again later down the road. But don’t worry, I won’t ask such complicated questions! We wish you the best while we keep anxiously waiting for Gray Matter. Thanks.
Entrevista realizada por Radiobuzz
Publicado el 14 de diciembre de 2007
© 2007 La Aventura es La Aventura
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