We're happy to present you another part of the exclusive Q&A's with developers of your favourite classic titles. This time, Aaron Conners was so very nice and answered questions from the community and the GOG staff about the awesome Tex Murphy adventure games series. What's more Aaron, after going through the thread where you posted questions, was so eager to give you more insight into the development of the series, that he picked more questions and answered them as well - those will be posted in the second part of the Q&A soon.
Once again, huge thanks goes to Aaron Conners for answering all those questions. Now enjoy your read.
The first Tex Murphy game was released way back in the 80's. With the experience of creating a new title in the 80's, big budget series in the 90's and casual games in 2000's how could you describe all the changes happening in the gaming industry over the years? Are you happy with where it's heading?
A: I think the gaming industry is headed in some great directions. Game-making technology has come so far - and is so affordable and accessible – we’re really only limited by our imaginations these days. If you take time to look around, you’ll find a ton of super-creative small games, in addition to the mind-blowing blockbuster franchises.
On the other hand (and I’m going to sound like a crotchety old bastard here), I think the “Golden Days” of videogames are long gone. As graphics have become more and more realistic, it leaves less and less to the imagination. And creating compelling characters and stories is just as difficult (and rare) as it ever was.
If anyone’s interested, I wrote an article a couple years back for Adventure Gamers (shout-out to Jack & co.!) about my three decade voyage through the gaming industry.
How did you come up with starring Chris Jones as the main character in the series? Do you believe it was easier for him to get into the role of Tex because he was one of the creators of the character and the whole story?
A: Chris was already playing Tex Murphy when I got involved. By the time I got to Access Software, Chris had already created Mean Streets and was halfway done with Martian Memorandum. To that point, he hadn’t been required to do any acting; he just used himself as the model for the Tex avatar and appeared in the static photo screenshots between gameplay sequences (mostly death scenes!).
He says it was primarily because he didn’t want to pay someone else to do it, but since he had become (literally) the face of Tex – on the box covers and everything – we were kind of locked in going forward :).
We didn’t see him act or hear that great voice until the next game, Under a Killing Moon. Fortunately, he turned out to be a natural in front of the camera and has a great sense of humor. I wrote the words, but Chris brought them to life.
And did I mention he didn’t have to pay someone else to play the role?
When you heard about GOG and that we're interested in re-releasing the Tex Murphy series for new generation of gamers, what was your reaction to that? Did you know that there's still so many people that want to play those games?
A: I was excited to work with GOG. For years, I kept an old PC with Win98 on it, just so I had something that would play the Tex Murphy games! When GOG talked about bringing Tex back as a “no freakin’ CD-swapping” download that would play on modern systems, I was thrilled.
I have such a soft spot for classic adventure games and I always thought it was a shame that so many people would never get a chance to play them. It’s great to know that so many new players are discovering our games (and enjoying them) after all these years.
I’m not too surprised that people still want to play the games. Sure, they’re not at the quality level of today’s games, but adventure games are special and there aren’t many new ones coming out. Plus, I think there’s something magical about “Golden Age” games. I may be biased, but I think the Tex Murphy games, especially The Pandora Directive, still hold up pretty well today.
With the FMV background of the Tex Murphy games have you ever considered making a full-length movie (or a series) out of it? Was there ever a chance for that to happen?
A: There was a time when Hollywood had a lot of interest in adventure games and, after Under a Killing Moon, we were a pretty hot commodity for about, say, a week and a half. Unfortunately, in that period from 1994 to about 1997, FMV came on, got huge, turned crappy, and then died like disco.
There were a lot of really bad FMV games and we couldn’t escape the “FMV sucks” label. However…for a few moments there were glimmers of hope. I’d collaborated with Adrian Carr (who directed the cinematic scenes in The Pandora Directive and Overseer) on a screenplay version of Pandora, titled “A Black Sun Ascending”. It was pretty awesome, with speeder chases through Goblin Valley, some sweet high-tech stuff, and a slightly different ending that would have blown people away.
I know the script got read by some big-name producers – and they had great things to say about it – but when the FMV game market tanked, the project lost all momentum. I know Adrian (who continues to work in the movie biz) would still love to see Tex on the big screen. We’ll see if it happens!
In the meantime, you can just watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and swap Indy for Tex Murphy :).
If no future Tex Murphy games can be developed at a commercial level, how would you feel about a community of game developers and Tex Murphy fans creating an episodic series based on the story from the Radio Theater, or your yet-to-be released novel? This has been done with The Silver Lining, the free, fan made episodic King’s Quest series, and with great success.
A: I’m a big supporter of fan fiction. In fact, over at UnofficialTexMurphy.com (shout-out to James, Jen & JTOG!), they’ve had several rounds of excellent fan fiction, one of which I even contributed a tiny bit to.
Thanks for asking about my novel, by the way :). I’m continuing to work on it, with the first ten chapters written. I can’t say when I’ll have it finished; I’m shooting for the end of the year, but things always go slower than I think they will!
Once the novel is finished, I’m open to having it developed into some other form, whether it’s an episodic fan-created series or a full-on Tex revival. Meanwhile, I’ll move on to writing the next two books in the series!
In the late part of the last millennium, you mentioned that outlines for three separate Tex Murphy stories were written, to possibility become games with the titles of Chance, Polarity, and Trance. A few years later, the Tex Murphy Radio Theater was released, and you have mentioned that you are currently writing a new Tex Murphy novel. How do all these stories fit with one another? We know that the Radio Theater begins immediately after the end of Overseer, but it’s only a small part of something much bigger. Will the novel begin where the Radio Theater left off, and will it conclude all future Tex Murphy stories? Also, how to do Chance, Polarity, and Trance tie into all of this? Have they been combined into one big story that will be told with the novel, or are they other stories entirely, beyond what will be contained in the novel?
A: I’ve known Tex’s future for a long time now. When we finished The Pandora Directive, our plan was to continue his story with a game (and novel) titled “Trance”. Our diehard fans know the story of how we were seduced into producing Overseer – an updated retelling of Tex’s first big case, framed by his blossoming relationship with Chelsee, with some foreshadowing of the future story – and then left everyone in the lurch with an absolutely brutal cliffhanger. The coup de grace was when Microsoft bought Access Software and then buried the Tex Murphy series.
Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Anyway…over the next few years, I continued to work on the Trance story, and realized that it was too big to fit into a single game (or novel). Eventually, a trilogy structure emerged, with working titles of “Chance”, “Polarity” and “Trance”, and Chris Jones and I continued to scheme about how we could revive the series.
In 2001, when we still had no means to get a new game made, Chris and I decided to release the “Tex Murphy Radio Theater” episodes as a little present to our faithful and devoted fans. The episodes are very much a part of Tex’s future story.
However, the new novel does not start with the TMRT episodes! But the upcoming novel does, indeed, tell the first part of the stories I’ve been working on for the past 15 years. All I can say for now is that Overseer’s cliffhanger is just the beginning of an epic adventure.
For those who are interested, I’m planning on releasing a free excerpt of the novel at www.unofficialtexmurphy.com in the next couple months.
Clearly Tex Murphy is inspired by hardboiled detectives like Marlowe or Spade. Was it always intended to set the games in a dystopian future instead of the 30's/40's era? Why did you place the story in the future anyways?
A: Chris Jones had already chosen the setting when he created Mean Streets. He’s a big fan of the Blade Runner movie (as am I) and that was his primary inspiration, along with influences from 1950’s and –60’s sci-fi movies.
When I started collaborating with him on Under a Killing Moon, I realized we both also had a deep affection for film noir, so I suggested that we make Tex a “man out of time” – someone who lived in the future, but identified with the past.
We played it extremely tongue-in-cheek in Killing Moon, but it was always a story element we took very seriously. I think it helped the audience to identify with Tex, who seemed as lost in his present as we would be, and most of us can identify with glorifying some aspect of the past. It made Tex very relatable and human, despite being an old-fashioned, technophobic, wannabe misanthrope in a post-apocalyptic, mutated future.
Replaying The Pandora Directive a few years ago, Tex sometimes mentioned "rules for a P.I.", for example: Rule #2 Hide from people with guns. It features as an actual book in Overseer, but only a few rules are mentioned. Was a full list ever compiled?
A: Great question! At one point there was a list, though I don’t recall if it was ever complete. Regardless, I think Tex is the kind of guy who likes to assign random numbers to random concepts…probably hoping it will impress the ladies.
If someone would make a full-budget Hollywood movie out of Tex Murphy's adventures, who would you like to see in the role of Tex and Chelsee? (Beside their original actors, of course.)
A: It’s interesting – this topic has come up on pretty much every Tex forum I’ve ever seen!
Believe it or not, Jim Caviezel (the actor who played Jesus in “The Passion of Christ” and is now on the TV series, “Person of Interest”) was apparently interested in playing Tex when my script was floating around. He’s a fine actor, but I’m not sure he has the sense of humor to play Tex.
One name that’s come up a few times is Noah Wyle (from ER), who happens to be friends with Adrian Carr. Hmmm…
Personally, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone playing Tex other than Chris. If I had to choose someone around Tex’s age (40), I might suggest Vince Vaughn or Owen Wilson. If I can go a bit younger, I really like Ryan Reynolds.
If you made a Tex Murphy game today how much different would it be? What would it look like?
A: That’s a loaded question! I guess it depends on the budget. With a small budget, I might create a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game with audio, FMV, interactive conversations, and a small amount of deductive gameplay. A 3D world is a significant investment and, while it’s a fun part of the old games, I don’t think it’s why most of our fans love the games.
With a full budget, I would make a game like the old ones, but with state-of-the art 3D and graphics. I think we would still need to do FMV, but we could blend it better with CG characters in the environments. I would also work on the pacing, make it a bit faster, but keep control in the hands of the player as much as possible. In fact, I would explore offering multiple modes of play – not just difficulty levels, but the actual gameplay style – so different types of players would get the kind of game they want.
Thanks for all the great questions! It makes me very happy to see that there’s still so much interest in Tex Murphy and the games we made. Happy Trails!