Interview with Jane Jenson  
by Danyboy
December 7, 2012

 

 

Jane Jensen, after more than 2 decades in the gaming industry, hasn't anything more to prove. She's already an internationally renowned game designer. Her Gabriel Knight PC adventure game series won numerous industry awards and continues to be praised by the adventure community.

In 2003, Jane co-founded Oberon Media and decided to design best-selling casual games such as Deadtime Stories, Women's Murder Club , and the recent hit Dying for Daylight . Her newest adventure game, Gray Matter , came out in November 2010 after great anticipation and has been very well received. She recently worked at Zynga and also wrote four novels over the years. Jane has involved herself in several aspects of game production.

 

The Questions:

We already know that you have been involved in several areas of game production, but if you were forced to choose only one area, which one would it be and why?

Design and dialogue writing. I'm really most happy when I'm by myself, tapping away at story and dialogue.

Your earlier games are some of the reasons I started playing adventure games. You have a very interesting curriculum vitae, and I enjoyed following your career over the years. Is there something you would have done differently in your working career?

I would have liked to have stayed with adventure games from the start, if that had been an option. But I'm pleased with the work I was able to do in the casual market and with having written the novels.

In some of your projects, you worked more behind the scenes, almost in the shadow. In other projects, you were the main actress. Which way of working do you prefer and why?

On a few of the casual games I did, we worked with very big authors – James Patterson on Women's Murder Club and Charlaine Harris on Dying for Daylight. I also worked on a few Agatha Christie titles. In those cases it makes more sense to promote the big-name author. I really enjoyed working on those authors' material, but of course nothing beats being able to do my own story from the ground up.

You have been called the queen of adventure games and were widely praised by the adventure game community for your Gabriel Knight games. Why did it take you so long to get back to the adventure genre?

It's really been a matter of publishers not having a lot of interest in adventure games for the past decade or so. It's slowly been coming back and now it feels like a viable market again.

Gamers were looking forward eagerly to the release of Gray Matter. Did you get the satisfaction you were expecting with this first adventure game after so many years?

I did that game with a German publisher and wasn't able to be as involved as I usually am, because I was working full time on casual games at that point. So it was good to get back in the arena, and I think the game was good, but the production wasn't as good as I would have liked.

If Jane Jensen were an adventure game character, what would that character be like?

Ha! Nerdy writer? I am a girl nerd for sure. Also, intense and blunt.

In the past ten years the technology used for game development has evolved tremendously. We're able to view very realistic-looking characters and scenery that often mimic real life. What do you think is the future of game technology, and what kinds of games could be produced with it?

I once had visions of virtual worlds, holodeck kinds of experiences. At this point, though, I'm less interested in technology than I am in storytelling and beautiful delivery

In Gray Matter there were two playable characters, Samantha Everett and Dr. David Styles. Is it more difficult to create a male or a female playable character? Which do you prefer and why?

I feel like I always write better men than women and I prefer it. Maybe because I'm just more interested in men than women! I like feeling a sort of attraction to my main character. Besides, my own personality is more androgynous. I'm not really a girly girl. So the women I do write tend to be pretty strong – Sam, for instance, and Grace.

Not so long ago you created, with your husband, your own game development company, Pinkerton Road, and you decided to use Kickstarter, a new way to find money to help you develop your upcoming games. The last time I checked, you had exceeded your goal. Was there a time when you thought you wouldn't reach it? Why did you decide to use Kickstarter instead of any other method of financing?

We used Kickstarter to fund so we could retain IP on our game concepts and not give away the entire company before we'd even begun. Yes, in the early days of the campaign it was scary, wondering if we'd reach out goal. It was intense.

Looking at your website, there are some interesting upcoming games. Can you give us more details about those upcoming projects? Which one are you most looking forward to making?

We're heavily into production on Moebius now and that's very exciting. I love the way the story turned out. I have several (!) really interesting and attractive lead characters (refer to the above for an idea of gender) and the art is unique and cool. So that's been fun. We're also working on a yet unannounced title we call “Mystery Game X” which has been sort of a dream come true. But I can't talk about it!

The first game you will be releasing will be Moebius. When do you estimate the game will be available and what kind of a game can we expect?

We're hoping to launch around late summer/early fall 2013. It will look very graphic novel like with an intriguing mystery/ever-so-slightly-paranormal plotline. Something like GK, Broken Sword mixed with something… a bit sci fi like The Matrix or Fringe.

While doing some research for this interview, I noticed that the master comics artist Jean Giraud signed most of his work under the name Moebius. Are there any links between M. Giraud and your game?

No, there isn't any connection to the artist. Moebius is just the best English spelling of möbius, as in a möbius strip, which is the inspiration for the title.

The games you will be developing will be available for PC download, iPad, and Android. Will there also be a Mac version?

Yes, we've promised that to our Kickstarter backers.

I'm one of those adventure game collectors who prefer to put their hands on hard copies. Why did you decide to go with the downloads instead? What can you say to persuade collectors like me to try the download versions?

We will have boxed versions as well! That's something special we're doing for CSG members since we know it's important to collectors. But downloadable games enable us to get our product out on a number of platforms quickly, and without the cost of physical goods. That's really important to make a small studio like Pinkerton Road viable.

It wouldn't be an interview with Jane Jensen without a question about Gabriel Knight. It's been several years since Gabriel was forced to retire as a character in an adventure game. With all of the social changes that have happened in the past ten years, what kind of character would he be today?

Well GK1 took place in 1993 and I wouldn't change that, or him. I think if we ever do a sequel, it would take place ‘back then', more around 1997 or so and he would be changed by the experiences he's been through but not so much by the times.

Is there anything you'd like to talk about that we didn't ask you?

We just released our first app, a kid's ebook called “Lola and Lucy's Big Adventure” for iPad. It's a sort of fund-raiser for the studio. So if you have kids, check it out on the app store.

 

Conclusion:

Jane, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions about your career and your upcoming projects. I wish you the best of luck with your new company and your upcoming games.

You can visit Jane Jensen's website and learn more about her, her husband, and her work by clicking here: Pinkerton Road

 

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