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Emerald City Confidential - An Interview With Dave Gilbert

Regular readers here at Bytten may remember a review for a graphic adventure game, "The Blackwell Legacy". I have received word that Dave Gilbert, the creator of TBL, is releasing a new adventure this January entitled "Emerald City Confidential". I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about both his upcoming efforts and writing adventure games in general.

Hello Dave. We're very excited here at Bytten to hear of your latest development, "Emerald City Confidential". What can you tell us about it?
Thanks! Iím excited, too. The best way to describe Emerald City Confidential is "Oz noir" - imagining the Oz as written by L. Frank Baum in the early 1900s and putting a noirish spin on it. Itís about a PI in the Emerald City named Petra, who in the course of tracking down a missing fiancť gets caught up in a big conspiracy.

Petra, Emerald City's only private detective, in her office. Petra hits the streets, looking for clues.

Some time back we reviewed another of your games, "The Blackwell Legacy", which also features a certain film noir touch. How did this fascination with the genre come about, and what made you start creating games in this style?
Noir isnít always about shadowy streets and tough guys with fedoras, although those are certainly cool! The best noirs are the ones with ambiguity around the main character. You are never sure what the charactersí motives are Ė they are never completely noble nor completely evil. They can do some awful things in the pursuit of something they believe is good, or vice versa. Itís the various shades of grey that make these characters fascinating, and Iíve always tried to flesh out my characters in the same way.

How do you make your games? Do you code, or do you work from some form of game engine/creator?
I usually bring my laptop to a local cafť and do my designing, writing and programming from there. I get lots of work done without my home to distract me, and I support the local coffee industry at the same time! In terms of engines, I usually use the freeware engine Adventure Game Studios to make my games, but for Emerald City Confidential we are using Playground, the Software Development Kit created by PlayFirst. Itís been a challenge adjusting to a new platform but Iím loving the results!

Why not hang around with some familiar faces? This is Jack. Not the guy from "24", the pumpkin-headed one.

How about the writing of the stories themselves? Do you start with a clear plan, or do you start with the characters and see where they lead you to?
The games usually start with that initial Cool Idea and get fleshed out from there. I just write whatever comes to mind on paper until something solid forms. Iíve got about a dozen notebooks scattered throughout my apartment with various ideas in them.

What are your plans for the future?
I love adventure games, but Iíd like to try my hand at an RPG one of these days. I have a few designs and we might be in a better financial position to make a go of it next year. But my short term plans are to just keep making games! Honestly, it still blows my mind that I have been able to make a living out of doing this. I donít think of it as work, most of the time.

What advice would you give to anyone keen on writing their own adventure games?
Get out there and talk to people! Thereís only so much you can do while sitting in front of your computer. You need to talk to other folks in the biz, hear their stories and get their advice. Just having that support network makes a huge difference. You canít do it alone. I wouldnít have gotten anywhere if it werenít for the encouragement of my fellow game developers here in New York.

Emerald City Confidential is scheduled for release in early 2009.

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Published on 30 Nov 2008
Written by Andrew Williams