IGM recently had the opportunity to talk with Josh about his inspiration behind the game, the development process, and some of Gemini Rue’s unique features. Josh is currently an undergraduate in UCLA’s department of Design Media Arts.
IGM: Gemini Rue’s gorgeous visual style brings to mind classic adventure games of the 1990’s. How did you decide to go with the pixelated look?
Josh: I went with the pixelated look for both aesthetic and practical reasons. Aesthetically, pixels represent a period in gaming in which adventure games flourished, which helps to establish the tone and context of the gameplay in Gemini Rue. Practically, pixels are easier to animate than high-res assets, and they also let you get away with a lot of ambiguity in smaller details. This also helps players to embody themselves in the characters easier instead of being emotionally detached from a nearly photo-realistic character model.
IGM: What led you to develop the game in Adventure Game Studio (rather than another engine)?
Josh: I chose to use AGS for Gemini Rue because that’s what I’ve used for all of my past projects. I discovered AGS in 2001 or 2002, and have been making games with it since then. It’s consistently gotten updated, people are always on the forums to help you out, and it’s always been able to do whatever I wanted to achieve.
IGM: What draws you to the narrative structure of adventure games rather than more open-ended or arcade-style gameplay?
Josh: Adventure games’ narrative qualities appeal to me because they can challenge or engage players, in my opinion, on a deeper level than many other genres—not to say that it can’t be done in an arcade game or sandbox game, for instance. But adventure games are perhaps a more natural fit to synthesize narrative with gameplay. And when you allow the narrative to becoming embedded in the gameplay, it allows for a much deeper emotional experience.
IGM: What are some of the influences behind Gemini Rue’s story?
Josh: A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner, Cowboy Bebop, LOST, Ben Croshaw’s non-Trilby games (yes, they exist!), Portal, and Monkey Island.
IGM: Tell me about the development process behind Gemini Rue – Did you already have the story in mind when you started creating the scenes?
Josh: When I wrote out the dual-storyline, I wanted each story to stand on its own as a self-contained narrative, but also kept in mind that both storylines had to converge for the player at a crucial moment. With this in view, each scene had to be paced well enough in order to keep the player moving through the action while also continuing to develop different gameplay elements. So, it was a pretty interesting balancing act.
IGM: Your games seem to incorporate elements that are uncommon for most adventure titles, such as the first-person sniper segment in La Croix Pan. How did you decide to include the combat system in Gemini Rue?
Josh: In each game I make, I want to at least try and do something innovative with the gameplay, particularly because adventure games have been rehashed in so many different ways over the years. In La Croix Pan, a sniper segment was natural, as it was contextualized into the setting of World War II. In Gemini Rue, one of the characters is an ex-assassin in a heavy noir-stylized world, so it made sense to try and bring in action elements, which eventually led to the combat system.
IGM: Gemini Rue gives you the option at certain points to switch between the two protagonists at will. How do you think the dual narrative influences the gameplay experience?
Josh: I think it allows for a lot of diversity and non-linearity in the gameplay experience. For example, instead of being stuck with one protagonist with one internal goal, you are presented with the stories of these two characters, between whom you can alternate back and forth. This allows for a lot more freshness in terms of just not getting bored with one character. Also, in terms of puzzle design, this allows the player to have more freedom to engage in other puzzles if he or she gets stuck.
IGM: Something that struck me immediately about Gemini Rue is its atmosphere – the sound, music, and voice acting help to create a gritty, rain-soaked (or, alternately, bleak and sterile when playing as Delta-Six) experience for the player. What led you to choose those settings?
Josh: Noir is something that evokes strong feelings for me because of its darkness, grittiness, and sense of loneliness despite being amid the cornucopia of society. So, that’s always a setting that appeals to me on many levels. Delta-Six’s environment was very inspired by games like Portal in which the environment encapsulated the emotional situation of the character—emptiness, lifelessness, and with little hope in sight. Yep, that sounds pretty depressing.
IGM: What’s it like developing a full-length adventure while also being a full-time student?
Josh: It’s an interesting experience, to say the least! What really helped in the development was getting down a fully playable version of the game before I spent a lot of time on the production assets. I started development in January 2008, and spent about 8 months getting down a solid skeleton of the game, start to finish, before really getting in to the meat of every environment. That way, it limits your scope as a developer, and prevents you from going off on any unnecessary tangents with needless features or endless revisions. Also, it allows you to build from the ground up, knowing that a solid foundation exists on which you can always go back to, in case you think you can never finish the game.
IGM: You’ve mentioned before that you have an interest in film – do you see yourself working on films in the future?
Josh: Maybe? Maybe not? I feel like in games you have a lot more freedom in terms of what you can get away with in a narrative, whereas in film, the visual language is so established that it almost becomes harder to get by on just a (not to be too negative) run-of-the-mill story. Because in games, narrative is not necessarily the centerpiece—it’s always balanced with gameplay. In that sense, you don’t have to focus all your attention on the story in the idea that everything is banking on it.
IGM: Are there plans for any other games on the horizon?
Josh: This wont be the end, but I’m going to try and concentrate on school right now. Maybe when summer break comes though!
IGM: Thanks for your time!
Josh: Thanks, my pleasure!
Gemini Rue was a winner of the Student Showcase award at the Independent Game Festival in 2010. You can purchase the game and download a playable demo at www.geminirue.com.