Perhaps the most exciting element of the Kickstarter phenomenon is not just the resurrection of gone-but-not-forgotten game franchises, but the renewed interest in a forgotten game genre itself: the adventure game.
Sparked by the unprecedented success of Double Fine’s efforts, the creators of classics such as Leisure Suit Larry and Gabriel Knight have sourced enough funding to begin development on reboots. Continuing the resurgence is another beloved franchise that closed on a major cliffhanger over 14 years ago.
Tex Murphy is a hard-boiled Private Investigator living in a post-apocalyptic interpretation of the 21st century. While the series may have portrayed a future where the skies glow with radiation and half the population is disfigured and mutated, Tex himself is a throwback to the classic washed-up and washed out Dick of the Humphrey Bogart era.
Although 1989’s Mean Streets was the first in the series, it wasn’t until 1994 that Tex solidified its place amongst the genre when Under a Killing Moon introduced full-motion video and a custom 3D game engine. The Pandora Directive upped the stakes in 1996 with an alien conspiracy and multiple endings – a first at the time – while 1998’s Overseer took a retrospective look at Tex’s first case and closed on a cliffhanger that left Tex’s fate uncertain.
Chris Jones is not only the actor who plays Tex, but is also the creator of the series, and along with longtime collaborator Aaron Conners, the two have been creating casual adventure games under the moniker Big Finish Games.
Now Big Finish Games is currently halfway through funding its next Tex Murphy game, codenamed Project Fedora, on Kickstarter. We spoke with the pair about revisiting a cult classic more than 14 years later.
Gameplanet: What is it about Tex Murphy that you think seems to resonate with fans, why is there still so much love for the character years after his last appearance?
Aaron Conners: I'll take this one, since Chris is too humble to blow his own horn. I think it starts with Chris' portrayal of Tex. I write Tex to be a somewhat charming, cheeky, naive and bumbling – yet ultimately heroic character. But it's Chris who really makes Tex Tex. I think our fans can identify with the character. He's not some kind of James Bond badass; he's someone who makes mistakes, sticks his foot in his mouth and finds himself in over his head all the time. We can all relate to most of that. I should also mention that it's only through FMV [full-motion video] that we can have this kind of connection. If it were a cartoon character, I'm not sure people would have this depth of attachment.
Gameplanet: How has the response from the public been since you launched the Kickstarter campaign?
Chris Jones: People have responded very well to the Kickstarter campaign. In less than a week, we have received 50% funding. However, we have to keep up the momentum and make sure we hit our financial target before the campaign ends. Overall, we’ve been very pleased with the reception we’ve gotten so far.
Gameplanet: There was an appearance of Rook Garner in your original Kickstarter video – can you confirm any other characters or actors that would potentially make an appearance in the new game?
Conners: Rook will indeed return in the new game, as will Louie and Clint. There will be other returning characters as well, but identifying them would give away too much of the plot!
Gameplanet: FMV and special effects have come a long way in 14 years, what kind of new technologies would you be incorporating into the cutscenes?
Jones: The improvement in technology over the past 14 years will make the integration look much more accurate than in the prior Tex games. Overall, the process will be much more efficient and better integrated. The technology looks better – so I think people will be more accepting of our FMV inside a 3D environment.
Gameplanet: Big Finish Games’ focus has been on casual adventure games – what lessons have you learned from these titles that you can take into Tex Murphy’s development?
Jones: Casual games really taught us about pacing. For our next Tex game, we want to make the cutscenes punchy, interesting, and fast paced. It is a game – but we want to make sure each cutscene makes an impact on the player.
Gameplanet: What game engine do you plan to use to develop the game, or will you develop your own?
Jones: That is still up in the air. We have our own technology we have developed with our TruGolf software. However, there are off-the-shelf technologies that will work well with the Tex world. We’ll be making that decision in the very near future!
Gameplanet: Are you expecting to develop the game as a direct continuation of the Overseer storyline?
Conners: Yes, though as we've revealed in a video that on our Kickstarter page, the new game will take place some time after the events at the end of Overseer. It would be impossible to pretend that no time had passed between the two stories but, fortunately, the original story was already set up perfectly to accommodate this jump forward in time. I think players will really enjoy how the story is set up. Even though it takes place well after the events in Overseer, players will have the opportunity to uncover the details of Tex and Chelsee’s abduction, and what happened after.
Gameplanet: Will the game be accessible to those who haven’t played a Tex Murphy game before?
Conners: Absolutely! That's an important part of our story and design content. Even if you've never played a Tex Murphy game, you'll be able to jump into the experience and learn about who he is, and what's happened to him as you go. Of course, for those who've played the older games, there will be a lot of things that have deep meaning and context. I would compare it to watching Casablanca (my favorite movie): you'll enjoy it the first time you watch it, but watching it a second or third time adds a whole new level of emotional impact from the very start.