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Gray Matter

Seven years in the making...

Gray Matter has been in development for some time. Seven years to be precise, after its announcement in 2003.

The PC adventure from Gabe Knight creator Jane Jensen is now, however finally coming to fruition. We despatched Rob Taylor to talk to Jensen about the graphic adventure genre, Gabriel Knight and her hopes for Gray Matter.

When we interviewed you in the summer of 2008 about the making of the Gabe Knight trilogy, it seemed the graphic adventure genre was dead and buried. Since then, commencing with the Wii Broken Sword remake that Christmas, it's making something of a comeback. It that something you ever envisaged, or was it more a kind of faint hope on your part?

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I never really understood why they went away in the first place, so I guess I'm more surprised that they've taken as long as they have to reappear. Just like science fiction forms my favourite literature, graphic adventures have always been the kind of games I most like to play - so whatever size their audience is there should still be a place for that entire genre within the gaming community somewhere. Since I've been working in the casual space from 2003 onwards they've made a big appearance there too. As you probably know, they're one of of the most popular genres in that particular space right now - which isn't surprising given the casual gamer demographic.

Your last really notable was 1999's Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned. Was it hard to adapt to the games industry of today?

I think the industry really has changed since the Gabe Knight days. There's so much more focus on hardcore action games. In my opinion the industry is unaware of a lot of what's going on in the casual space - there's definitely more of a monoculture since I was last around. As far as development goes, when I was working with Sierra I worked with an on-site American crew; it's been a difficult, unusual process for me to work on such a sprawling, complicated game with a remote team.

Gray Matter is being primarily developed in France, right? So what it's actually like project managing from another side of the world? What's your exact level of involvement?

Well, I haven't really been able to do that much... In the film industry, say, normally the screenwriter is not all that involved; they purchase your screenplay then you're just expected to go away! It's been that sort of relationship with Gray Matter, in that I've had to trust the team and the on-site designer to really bring the project to fruition. Nevertheless, I've been fortunate enough to play builds - provide feedback - and also be really involved with casting, but to a large extent I've had to trust the team to take care of things from afar.

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You mentioned that Gray Matter was planned as a series, just like Gabriel Knight. Do you already have plans in place for the sequels?

The theme of Gray Matter involves cases which have to do with powers of the mind. I have a list of about thirty possible scenarios, from remote viewing to telekinesis - so there is a lot of material there, and I do have a pretty strong idea of what the second game would be like. The setting and main plotline...

Tell us a little about your heroine, Samantha Everett. What made you come up with the idea of a street performer as heroine?

Um, well I knew it was gonna be a paranormal series again - and usually you have one person who's the believer, one who's the sceptic. You need that balance of belief and logic to keep the story in balance. I've always been fascinated by spiritualism, Houdini was a really good friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was very involved in the movement. They sort of offset one another. That kind of relationship really interested me, so when I started writing Gray Mater I envisaged a similar relationship - between a really educated sceptic (who's also a magician!) and somebody much more open to the paranormal.

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