dave_wadjet.jpg

"My long-term goal is to develop an isometric, RPG game." Dave enthused almost immediately upon being asked about his future plans. Given his background in the industry, I was completely taken by surprise. Dave Gilbert, for those who aren't aware of the name, is the CEO of Wadjet Eye Games, a company responsible for modern adventure games like the Blackwell Trilogy, Gemini Rue as well as The Shivah, Dave's very first foray into the world of game design.

"I used to teach English in Korea more than a decade ago. After I came back home, I found myself living with my parents because my apartment was still being rented out. Obviously, when you're living with your parents, there'd be questions about what you do all day, why haven't you gotten a proper job - you know, stuff like that. The Shivah was, originally, my way of puting off the inevitable. I'd take my lapop out to a cafe every day, sit down and write the Shivah."

With a somewhat flippant grin, he added. "Of course, it then ended with a choice Award in 2007 somehow. I started selling the Shivah and it was, well, it was a game without financial security but 100 % job satisfaction."

Of course, both Dave Gilbert and Wadjet Eye Games have gone a long way since then. "Yeah, I'm a publisher now. Sorta. I'm not really sure how." In spite of having titles like Puzzle Bots and Gemini Rue under his company's banner, Dave seemed rather amused about the whole idea. "It all started with Erin Robinson; she does the art for Blackwell. She showed me this beta for a game called Nanobots. I thought it was brilliant!"

With a shrug, he added. "She thought it wa more, you know, 'eh, it's OKAY.' But then, I looked at it and thought it had potential and I pretty much spontanenously offered to pay money to her so I could publish it. She sort of blinked and then went, 'Okay!' and that's, well, how we ended up with Puzzle Bots." Dave sat back, shrugging a shoulder, a smile already half on his face when I prompted him with the inevitable follow-up question. "I actually got approached about Gemini Rue twice. The first time Josh came over, I told him no. I was busy with my own endeavor. I had other titles I was working at. I was, well, swamped. Then, the second time, right after the IGF, Josh came again and he pretty much gave the game to me gift-wrapped. I remember going, 'Okay, I'll give this a shot. Why not?'"

gemini_wadjet.jpg

The question was apparently soon answered. According to Dave, Gemini Rue pretty much swallowed him and his wife; they did nothing but eat, sleep, discuss strategies and play the game further. "Gemini Rue has a little bit of everything. It's accessible. The looks, the idea, it's something that crosses generations, you know? It just works on every level." In regards to future games, Dave was understandably mysterious about his plans. After the Blackwell Convergence, it appears that there might be a lull in the series, one punctuated by the appearance of a fantasy-related title. Publication-wise, Dave hinted at the possibility of a freeware adventure game emerging from the Wadjet Eye Games collective though no concrete answers would be provided until May or June.

"2D is old school. Retro. Would I make my games 3D if I had a chance? Definitely!" Dave stated when questioned about the graphical presentation of his titles. "Nevermind how pretty it is, 3D is also more accessible to the programmer. It's easier to work with. For example, I talked to this guy who did 3D for a game studio once and there was this scene in one of their games, right? They wanted to make a character dance and boom, twenty minutes later, it was dancing. 2D on the other hand, takes forever; you have to draw everything, animate everything, and just spend way too much time on it. That's also kind of sad for another reason - a lot of that effort often goes to waste. Not that many people enjoy pixel art. They might say, 'Oh, it's pretty but, you know, it's still retro' which is somewhat unpleasant to hear as a game designer. Because of this, I Think the next Blackwell game is not going to be as pretty. No one buys it for the graphics after all."

In regards to the nature of adventure games as well as their prevalence in the community, Dave appeared to have a rather different opinion than most.. "Adventure games are not mainstream but they're definitely not dead. I think it's more along the lines of the fact they're taken more seriously now. They've always been around, they just weren't, well, popular for a while." Naturally, no conversation about adventure games is complete without a talk about obstuce logic and the difficulty curve of the genre. "Nowadays, people don't like being stuck. In adventure games, you're often stuck and this doesn't work well in this day and age. Then again, I'm not sure if it ever worked. Did I really enjoy smashing my head into a wall repeatedly back then? I don't know. It's easy to get nostalgic about games but I personally can't remember if I was ever having fun."

Looking more contemplative, Dave added, "But, yes, seriously, puzzles and hints in games are good. No matter how simple a puzzle is, there's always someone who gets stuck. For example, one of the games associated with Wadjet Eye Games is called Emerald City. There's a puzzle early on in the beginning that involves a locked door and a crowbar on the floor. Obviously, you're supposed to use the crowbar to open the door but not everyone knew that. Some people still got stuck. Clues and hints in a game are excellent because, you know, if the player has to Google it, you're definitely doing it wrong!"

As human beings, we're often prone to forgeting the tiny details. After having completed the interview, I realized there was one last thing that needed to be asked. Fortunately, I somehow managed to stumble over Dave again during the course of the second day.

"Will Rosa's aunt return as a ghost?"

As is appropriate for a rising star, Dave's cheery response was almost suitably Hollywood-like. "No comment!"

You can check out the games mentioned at Wadjet Eye Games' official website.