By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online is a huge fan of Wadjet Eye Games and the Blackwell series of point-and-click adventure games. With the fourth game, The Blackwell Deception, due for release next week, AMO caught up with studio founder Dave Gilbert for an exclusive online interview!
Hi Dave, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO! It’s great to finally have you with us.
Great to be here, as it were.
Before we begin, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
In a nutshell, I am an NYC based indie game developer! About ten years ago I started making freeware adventure games, and in 2006 I decided to sell them commercially instead. Since then, I partnered up with my wife Janet and we’ve released eight games under the company banner of Wadjet Eye Games.
There have been three Blackwell games to date – how would you describe the overarching premise of the series so far?
The premise is about a medium (Rosa) and spirit guide (Joey) who help lost spirits come to terms with their death and move onto the next world. There is also the overarching plot of just who Joey is, how he came to be connected with the Blackwell family, and why all the Blackwell women die in horrible – yet similar – ways.
I have often heard the previous three games referred to as a “trilogy”. Was a fourth game always on the cards?
If you heard the word trilogy, it was never from me! I’d always planned to make as many games as it took to tell the whole story, and the story isn’t quite over yet. I have a definite endgame in mind, and at least two more games worth of material left to get through.
The fourth game in the series is soon to be released, entitled The Blackwell Deception. What is this new game about?
The fourth game has Rosa helping a trio of ghosts who are all connected to the world of street psychics. There’s a bit more to it, of course, but you’ll have to play it to see.
The Blackwell Deception deals with the world of street psychics. What inspired you to tackle this somewhat unusual topic?
Personal experience, oddly enough! Several years ago, a friend of mine asked me to help out a small news station with a story they were doing on phony psychics. She knew I was into the subject because of Blackwell, and she figured that I would “think it was cool.” She was right.
So I met the news crew and they gave me a fancy button camera to take into the psychic’s office. I went in and let myself get scammed. It was an interesting experience – she told me that my aura was weak, that she needed to meditate further on the problem, and the service would cost 200 bucks. I told her I’d think about it and left, feeling proud that I got it all on camera.
Unfortunately, I had aimed the thing about one inch too far to the left and ended up recording her wall for twenty minutes! James Bond I am not, but the experience stuck with me. Blackwell Deception became the eventual result.
Rebecca Whittaker and Abe Goldfarb return in The Blackwell Deception as Rosa and Joey respectively. Would you say that both actors have now become almost irreplaceable in their roles?
Heck yes. I hear their voices when I write their dialog now. Since they’ve been playing the roles for so long, they have very good instincts about who the characters are. So they often make small suggestions on how to improve the lines and make them sound more authentic. Plus they enjoy it so much. Their enthusiasm for Blackwell makes the hours of recording sessions a joy.
How would you describe Rosa and Joey’s relationship?
Some think of them as a “bickering couple”, but I think of them more like bickering office colleagues. Two people who are forced to work together but have a grudging-but-growing respect for one another.
New York City plays a huge part in all of the Blackwell games. Are there any new real-life locations being featured in The Blackwell Deception?
Some! You’ll visit Chelsea Piers at the beginning, and see the George Washington Bridge from a yacht. Later you’ll visit the High Line – an elevated train track that was recently turned into a park.
How about real-life characters, such as Joe Gould in The Blackwell Convergence?
Not this time, although you do meet a street psychic who is very much based on the psychic I mentioned earlier.
Will Rosa and Joey’s backgrounds be further explored in this new game?
Yep! You’ll meet some old friends of Rosa’s, and learn a bit about Joey’s life and death. You won’t get the whole story though. It wouldn’t be Blackwell otherwise.
How does Deception differ from the previous games? Have there been any changes or improvements?
There are a bunch of small improvements and changes here and there. The most obvious is that Rosa has a Smartphone now! So no trudging back to her apartment every time you want to use the computer. I also used a much more professional sound setup this time, so the voice acting quality is much better. The game is significantly longer than the others (the average tester time is 8-10 hours), and it contains more ghosts than any Blackwell game so far! This game also marks the first time I’ve ever tried to do anything resembling a love story. You’ll see what I mean when you play it.
The backgrounds in this game certainly appear to have increased in resolution and detail compared to the previous games?
The game’s backgrounds are made for 320 x 240 resolution, but everything is blown up to 640 x 480. Indrek Plavutski, the background artist, pre-rendered everything in 3D and painted over it. It seems like a roundabout way of making backgrounds, but it enabled him to make some pretty nifty lighting effects. There’s a nightclub in the game that still blows my mind when you walk in.
This latest instalment is once again built using Adventure Game Studio. Have you ever considered moving to a different game engine? What makes AGS so attractive?
I’m not much of a programmer, but after using AGS for so long I *really* know how to make it do what I want. And if I don’t know something, its got an amazing support network of users who are always around to help. The only major problem I had with the engine was the lack of portability, but since it just went open source that could change as well. If it does, I probably won’t ever need to use anything else!
Will The Blackwell Deception work as a standalone game? Is it a good starting point for newcomers to the series?
I definitely designed it with that in mind. There are a few references where newcomers might be a little lost, but they aren’t important to the game’s story.
Wadjet Eye Games now publishes games as well as developing them! How easy was it to make this transition as a studio?
It seemed like the most logical direction to take things. I always hated the fact that I could only release about one game a year, working by myself. There are just so many risks. I was always one bad seller from going out of business and I didn’t like those odds. After the success of Gemini Rue, it was obvious that getting into publishing was the way to go. We’ve already got three games signed up. The first of which is very close to completion (it just needs the voice acting and some final touches) and you should be hearing about that one soon after Deception is released.
When is The Blackwell Deception out and where can AMO’s readers pre-order/buy the game?
October 12th! And you can pre-order/buy the game at: www.rosablackwell.com
Thank you for your time! I am a huge fan of the Blackwell series and shall look forward to reviewing The Blackwell Deception!
Not a problem!