Jane Jansen's "Gray Matter" Adventure Game in the Works

Matt Barton's picture

When it comes to designing and developing great graphical adventure games, three names stand out far and above the rest: Ron Gilbert, Rand Miller, and Jane Jensen. I doubt they need introductions, but suffice it to say that these are the folks responsible for The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Gabriel Knight--games so different from each other that it's almost ludicrous to lump them together in a single category. Gilbert's games are focused on light-hearted, satire, comic humor and Disney-like themes. The Myst games are clearly about hopelessly captivating environments, mostly surreal, and puzzles that would be at home in any Zen garden. Jensen's Gabriel Knight series, on the other hand, is about the characters and the dramatic (and supernatural) dilemmas they always find themselves in. It's about as close to an "interactive television show" as I've seen.

Unfortunately, Jensen's last GK game didn't do as well as expected (I suspect because her fans weren't ready for a 3D game yet). Jensen has always been willing to try new approaches--GK 1 was a fairly straight-forward point and click, whereas GK 2 was mostly live-action. GK 3 was an early "3D" game that, when all is said and done, controlled much better than Cyan's Myst URU. Unfortunately, it really wasn't until Cyan's Myst V, released just last year, that GAGs were finally able to adapt comfortably into 3D. So, now that there is a good model in place for how it ought to be done, I'm hoping that Jensen's new game, Gray Matter, won't suffer the way GK 3 did from a confusing interface (not to mention, the lack of 3D experience among fans).

However, FunCom's latest game, Dreamfall, demonstrates once again just how easy it is for a clumsy interface to render an otherwise impeccable game virtually unplayable. If you haven't gotten a chance to try the game, let me warn you--it's better left to consoles. The game is extremely frustrating to control with a mouse and keyboard, and I wasn't even able to do much better with a gamepad. Sigh.

Anyway, it looks like Jensen's new game is not another GK title, which could be interesting (though, I must admit, I'm more than ready for another GK!). "Gray Matter" sounds like it could either be a puzzle-based game (perhaps even a casual game, which Jensen has been working on lately) or possibly a science fiction yarn. Nothing to do but wait and see...