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Joshua Nuernberger at the 2011 E3 Expo in Los Angeles

Point-and-click adventure title Gemini Rue was a finalist of the 2010 Independent Games Festival's Student Showcase. Published for the PC by Wadjet Eye Games, the sci-fi noir thriller puts you in control of two separate protagonists, whose past histories are shrouded in secrecy. Locations to explore include a seedy urban sprawl on the surface of the planet Barracus and a hermetically sealed rehabilitation center set in an undisclosed location.

At E3 we had the chance to hear from Joshua Nuernberger, the independently developed game's creator, on the subject of Gemini Rue's release. Developing the final build with the publisher, which entailed the inclusion of additional character portraits and voice acting, he says succeeded in serving the game's artistic vision.

Were there particular techniques that were useful in developing such a detail-oriented and coherent storyline for Gemini Rue?

There were a couple things that I would always keep in mind when implementing the story through gameplay. I really wanted to establish the two central characters at the beginning and set up this mysterious relationship between them. You don't really know who Delta-Six is or what the doctors are doing to him.

Upon cutting to Azriel, there's a lot of mysterious details surrounding his circumstances. Why is he on this planet and who is he trying to find? Leaving out a lot of the standard exposition I thought would be a way to motivate players to continue playing to the end.

What characteristics of the voice acting served your vision of Gemini Rue?

I was really happy with how the voice acting for Azriel turned out. He really captures that gruff masculinity of a noir detective. Having that extra layer of audio helps submerse you further in the game.

The background music was written by Nathan Allen Pinard, with the soundtrack album for sale through digital download. Was the music being written throughout the development of the game?

Nathan first joined the project about eight months into development. I didn't want to ask anyone for a commitment until I saw something worth showing. Once I had an alpha build of the game complete, he played it and liked it. At that point he began sending me ideas of how he thought the music should sound.

For the following year, up until the IGF deadline, we experimented with implementing different music tracks while working on the sound effects. By the time of the IGF, the audio was more or less finalized. From there we mainly concentrated on voice acting. There were still times where if he got new ideas or if audio in areas seemed a bit sparse, he would update the music. In that sense it was always going on throughout development.

Adventure Game Studio is a development platform that you have been exploring for a long time. Was the creation of this title part of a larger dialog with that community?

For the last five years at least, I've been part of the AGS community. People are very supportive when you post games on the forum. They always look forward to your posts. There are epic, very ambitious games, many of which are never completed. Just the privilege of having been able to complete my own game and release it for everyone to play is something that I consider an honor. It's something to give back to the community.

What would you say are some of the other AGS titles that have provided inspiration?

I grew up playing AGS games. Dave Gilbert's are always great: The Shivah and the Blackwell games. Vince Twelve is making one called Resonance, which I am highly looking forward to. Ian Schlaepfer, who did the portrait art for Gemini Rue, made some great ones with his brother, particularly The Apprentice I & II.

There are a large number of touch platforms either available now or on the horizon. There's stylus support on the 3DS and Wii U, while mobile devices and the PlayStation Vita are including touchscreens. Might these interfaces be appropriate for point-and-click adventure games?

I think that would be great. When the Wii first came out, playing with the motion control I was impressed by how tactile it was in responding to physical gestures. There was a mouse-based adventure game on the PC that was very physics-based, called Penumbra. You would grab a shelf and pull it down to block an enemy from accessing a doorway. Even those kinds of physics worked great with a mouse and keyboard, but I thought now you could put that on the Wii or use touch-based interfaces to make it even more immersive.

Gemini Rue is really your baby. You came up with the storyline, characters, dialog, art design and gameplay dynamics. When you partnered with Wadjet Eye Games to publish, were there any concerns in the back of your mind that your vision could potentially be comprised if you weren't careful?

I think they did really well in keeping the original spirit of the game intact. Dave's games are very user-friendly, while mine have no formal tutorials and figure a bit more on action scenes. Rather than asking me to strip out any of the more intricate parts, Dave totally embraced the complex mechanics that vary throughout the game. I was really happy with that.

For independent game designers looking to partner with a publisher, what are the prerequisites they should have on their checklists?

The biggest thing is staying true to the artistic intention of the game. There might be more concrete advice, but I'm not in the best position to give it. Working with Dave, he's someone who's very indie spirited himself. Outside of this, I don't have experience with publishers.

Looking ahead, what goals do you have for future game development?

The goal of Gemini Rue was to create the game of my dreams: to go all out and be as ambitious as possible with both story and gameplay. I'm very happy with how it turned out. Next time, I think my priority will not be on scope, per se, but finding a more unique experience that's more compact. If Gemini Rue were my Half-Life 2, now I would like to create my Portal.

Images courtesy of Joshua Nuernberger and Wadjet Eye Games. Photo by Jeriaska. For more images from the 2011 E3 Expo, see our flickr photo set.