Interview with Wadjet Eye Games

Following the release of the splendid independent adventure game “Blackwell Unbound”, Dave Gilbert, Erin Robinson and Thomas Regin kindly answered the questions of the AGS Ezine regarding their work on the game and what is to come.


Tell us more about yourselves, what you do, what you like, etc.

Dave Gilbert: I’m 31, lived in the NYC area most of my life, and design/write adventure games fulltime.

Erin Robinson: You mean outside the adventure gaming world? I like drawing comics, and I’ve been lucky enough to see my stuff in a few local publications. I guess my “real” job is finishing up my degree, and this year I’m doing an honours thesis in behavioural neuroscience. I’m also a published bead artist. They’re a lot like pixels. πŸ˜‰

Thomas Regin: My name is Thomas Regin and I’m from Denmark (the small dot on the map just
above Germany). I’m male, caucasian, 31 years old and I have a wonderful girlfriend and a beautiful 7 months old daughter. I’ve performed and composed music for as long as I can remember and I’m working hard to add to my “official” list of compositional merits. So far they include some demo
work for the sample library Garritan’s Personal Orchestra, a few radio station jingles and short movies and the background music for the space simulator OrbiterSim’s Sound AddOn. And now Blackwell Unbound – which I hope won’t be my last PC-game. It’s been a life long dream of mine to compose music for PC-games and adventure games in particular, ever since I was introduced to them in my early childhood (on the Commodore 64, of course). My personal favorites include the first two Police Quest games, the Monkey Island Series, Gabriel Knight and Leisure Suit Larry 1-3. And of course the Blackwell Series!

How did you get interested in creating adventure games? Which were the ones that inspired you in particular?

Dave Gilbert: Why does any guy enter the game industry? To meet girls, of course. Aside from that, I started writing games as a way to distract myself from the aftermath of September 11th. Being a New Yorker at that time was a trying experience, and writing games for fun helped me get through it. As for inspiration, there are two games that I’ve definitely put up on a pedestal. Gabriel Knight and Discworld Noir.

“Gabriel Knight”, with its research based storytelling and interesting characters, was the first time I really fell in love with the genre. It’s very difficult to give a detailed backstory while providing good gameplay (most games have you read diaries or show cut-scene flashbacks), so I admire GK for that.
“Discworld Noir” was the first detective game where I actually felt like a real detective, sorting through clues and making connections, as opposed to just solving random arbitrary puzzles. Plus the sleek noir atmosphere – with the rain and the jazz soundtrack – made me fall in love with it.
The Blackwell series is me trying to do both GK and DN at the same time. πŸ™‚

Erin: King’s Quest VII will always hold a special place in my heart. I first played it back in grade 4, and it was neat to see a game with two female player characters. Up until then all the women I’d seen in video games were either holding weapons or being rescued (or doing god-knows-what, in the case of Duke Nukem 3D). I used to draw little sketches of what Commander Keen would look like as a girl, that sort of thing. I think I always knew I’d make a game someday, and it was just a matter of finding the right people to work with.


How did you join the team? Did you have any experience with AGS games before that?

Thomas: I’ve been a member at for around a year, but I’ve never really been very active. Whenever I post, threads seem to die instantly (heh!), so I try to post as little as possible and just lurk in the background instead. Basically I registered there hoping that I might find someone who needed music for a game, but it was pretty hard to get into the “circle of trust”. So I pretty much forgot about my membership until a good friend of mine (and fellow composer), Nikolas Sideris, asked me if I would like to write the music for a new game that he didn’t have the time to do. And that’s how I got in touch with Dave. Luckily Dave and I hit it off from the beginning.

Tell us a bit more about Unbound, some background information about the game itself, how did it strike you to write a prequel, not a sequel?

Dave Gilbert: The game takes place in the early 70s, and stars Lauren Blackwell instead of Rosa Blackwell. Lauren, you might remember from Legacy, was Rosa’s aunt and also bonded to Joey. Originally, the game was going to be a “real” sequel starring Rosa (Called “The Blackwell Convergence”), with occasional flashbacks starring Lauren. In the end, the game was too large and ambitious so I cut the flashbacks out. It seemed a shame to remove them entirely, so I decided to make it into a standalone game.


How long did it take you to make Unbound? How much time a week did you put into its creation?

Dave Gilbert: It’s difficult to gauge this because it took me 4 months to design the larger game (Blackwell Convergence). I decided to make the flashback sections into a separate game in May, and from there it took four months to complete. It’s a fulltime gig for me, so I try to put at least 8 hours in per day. Some days I work more, some days I work less. Towards the end of production I was putting in 12 hours a day at least! There are also times when I concentrate entirely on marketing/sales and don’t work on the game at all, so it varies.

Erin: My part took about two months, total. The whole thing took four months but I was travelling for part of the summer. Weekly, I’d guess I was putting in about 20 hours.

Thomas: Good question and I wish I knew the answer. I guess I began the “serious” work around 3-4 weeks before the game was released and put in loads of time when inspiration hit.

What was it like working with Dave? Had you played his previous games? If yes, what did you think of them?

Erin: I’d played “The Shivah” when it was freeware and really enjoyed it. Dave has a real knack for storytelling, which I think accounts for a lot of the enjoyment in a game. I also bought “Legacy” when it came out and spent a fun evening in the world of Rosa and Joey. Dave also namedropped me in that game before I’d even really talked to him, which certified his status as “really cool guy.”

He messaged me about “Unbound” at the start of May, and I was instantly sold on the idea.Β At the start,Β the game was only going to be about five backgrounds, but Dave realized it’d be better to sell a medium-length game. I told him I was cool with the changes, then coughed and held out my hand. πŸ˜‰

While I was working, Dave and I would chat over MSN like he was just another coworker in the next cubicle. We’re both slightly neurotic people with coffee habits, so we could get a lot done once the caffeine kicked in. It was a great way to work, and the best summer job I’ve had to date. Getting paid to sit in a Starbucks and do sketches? Hells yeah.

Thomas: Yes, I played Legacy which I absolutely loved. Brilliant story, graphics and gameplay! And I especially enjoyed Peter Gresser’s soundtrack, so I knew what I was up against from the beginning. But Dave’s a really cool guy to work with. He has the grand overview at all times (it seems) and he knows what he wants and was quick to let me know if my demos didn’t live up to his expectations. And that’s how I like to work: Keep writing until I hit something that suits the scene best.

How did you choose the musical direction for the Unbound soundtrack? Was Angelo Badalamenti a conscious influence? What synthesizers, instruments and software did you use? Do you have any released solo or collaborative works?

Thomas: Choosing the musical direction came quite naturally. Nikolas Sideris had already told me that Dave wanted something jazzy which initially scared me half to death, because I don’t consider jazz one of my primary strenghts. However, after watching a couple of early works in progress of the game, I began to hear, in my head, what kind of music that would work. So I sent Dave a little quick demo of how I imagined the opening scene. And he loved it! And although extended slightly, it’s that same demo that’s used for the opening scene in the game. After homing in on what Dave wanted, the rest of the tunes pretty much wrote themselves, although I had to force myself not
to write too catchy and too “dominant” tracks. It did happen a few times as the observant players probably have noticed in the bonus section.
Angelo Badalamenti was not a initially an influence. His style was not something I deliberately aimed for, but after it was brought to my attention that the opening cue was somewhat reminiscent of Badalamenti, I kept this in mind as I wrote the “late night jazz”-cues for the game. The rest is all me, I hope. I also wanted to be a little controversial, which is why I wrote a track with vocals for the end credits theme. I found that after playing the game, it was like watching a good movie, and movies often end with some kind of song as the credits roll over. So I thought about Joey’s “secret” love for Lauren and pretty much wrote a tune about it.
All the tracks were composed, arranged and mixed in Sonar 6 PE using my trusty Yamaha Motif ES7 synthesizer, EWQLSO Gold XP for the big orchestra samples, the amazing pianos from Pianoteq2.0, Session Drummer 2, EWQL Stormdrum and Garritan’s Jazz & BigBand Library for the drum sounds and finally my own vocals.
As for solo releases I don’t have any official ones yet, but it’s my goal (and dream) that one day I’ll be able to publish something entirely of my own!


How are your solo projects going? Is there a chance that we might see Spooks 2 soon? Will it be somehow influenced by your work for Dave?

Erin: Heh…those. Yes. My priorities at the moment are my thesis and my comics, but I think I should be able to finish up “Nanobots” over Christmas break. As for the Spooks sequel “Skyward,” I’ve actually been working away at the design document in the last few weeks. I can’t get the story out of my head, so I know it’ll get done someday. I probably won’t be able to even start before next summer, unfortunately. Cross your fingers and maybe I’ll have something done in time for Mittens.

As for the “Unbound” influence, I now have a pretty good idea how long it takes me to finish a Photoshop background from scratch. Ideally, this should let me budget my time for the next game. We’ll see how that goes. πŸ˜›

What might we expect from the next installment of the Blackwell series, Blackwell Convergence – length, plot outline, price, release date? Will neo noir continue to be a major influence?

Dave Gilbert: I really liked Thomas’s noirish jazz soundtrack for Unbound, and it’s something I’d like to see continue in the future installments (especially since they will get much darker). In terms of length, Convergence is looking to a have more characters, backgrounds, and animation than anything I’ve done before, so that’s an exciting challenge. The price will be $14.99 like Legacy.
As for release date, I’ve learned the hard way not to announce an “official” release date until I know I can meet it, so I’ll hold off announcing that. πŸ™‚ I will say that since the design document was already complete when Unbound was released and several assets had already been created, you won’t have to wait as long this time around.

What have you gained on a personal level from your work on Unbound? Will the team stay together? If not, what are your plans for the future?

Dave Gilbert: Unbound was one of those “happy accidents.” It wasn’t the game I originally intended to make, but it became a game that was great fun to work on. Erin and Thomas were so awesome it made production a “zero stress” affair. Thomas is definitely on board for the next game, although Erin is not. If Erin didn’t have that “busy college life” thing getting in the way, I’d snap her up again in a heartbeat.

Erin: I don’t think we’ll be seeing a reunion project or anything, but I’ll definitely be watching the future Wadjeteye projects closely. While wearing my team Wadjeteye trucker hat.Β πŸ˜€

Thomas: Since this was my first experience with a PC-game I guess I have learned a lot! To begin with, I was unsure about the whole process, but Dave made everything very easy for me. So I hope I’ll feel a bit more confident next time. Apart from this, it was all great fun and I’d do it again any day! And I love the positive feedback I’ve received for this soundtrack! Except for when my baby arrived, this has absolutely made my year!!

Dave and I are continuing where we left off a few weeks ago, so I’ve already started composing for his next installment, Convergence, which will come out somewhere in the beginning of next year. This time featuring even better music from a more confident composer (or complete crap because I’ve become too confident)! We’ll have to wait and see! πŸ˜‰

Thanks for your time.

Dave Gilbert: No problem!

Erin: Thanks for making me feel famous. πŸ˜‰

Thomas: Thanks to everyone who liked the game and the music and thanks to you, Vel, for setting up this interview!