Digital Jesters Ė EGN/ Game Stars Live 2004

by Laura MacDonald

When you walked in the front door at the GameStars Live area of Excel. It was hard to miss the Digital Jesters, because the very first thing you see is their booth and the crowd gathered around trying to catch beach balls and such being tossed out by the infamous DJ Booth Babes. I wonít get into much detail about the DJ booth babes, but they were also impressive and gathered a lot of gaming traffic for Digital Jesters. *laugh *

They had playable versions of their gaming catalog scattered inside and outside the main display area. Several PCís set up in the front had a short playable version of Sherlock Holmes. I was sorry to see that a demo for Moment of Silence was missing, but the people there were happy to discuss this title as well as the rest.

 

 

 

They also had a very nice set-up across the hall at EGN for press inquiries. Since they had a great spread including; wine, juice and assorted beverages, it was a needed stop for this press person. More importantly, I was thrilled to find Kevin Leathers there. We finally got a chance to meet face to face and had a great chat about their new Sherlock Holmes: Case of the Silver Earring game as well as Moment of Silence. Kevin turned out to be one funny, articulate guy and is apparently quite mad for adventure gaming. Did I mention how clever he is? Well, enough of this stuff. Onto the interview...

 

Kevin Leathers, for Digital Jesters

LM: I am standing here talking with Kevin Leathers, of Digital Jesters. And yes, that is his real name. The first time I saw it, I thought hey, thatís a very clever alias!

KL:  *laugh*  Well yeah!

 

LM: We are in the process of talking about the new Frogwares game, Sherlock Holmes: The Silver Earring and then we will find out some things about House of Tales newest project, Moment of Silence.

KL: Yup!

 

LM: For the benefit of folks out there, what is your role or position within Digital Jesters?

KL: I am the PR Executive for them. Basically I am doing PR work for any of the games we have coming out in the UK and where ever else we publish them. Thatís me.

 

LM: Now were you with them before the company re-grouped as Digital Jesters?

KL: No, I came on board about two months after they started up. Which was straight after Christmas 2003. By today, we have a very healthy selection of titles, I think.

 

LM: OK now here's your chance to say Digital Jesters is a fabulous place to work, they treat you like gold and you love everyone here.

KL: Itís a fabulous place to work, they treat me like gold and I get drunk every other night as well Ė so yeah... Itís great! *laugh*

 

LM: Oh I want to work here too then! Back to the upcoming games.  The new Frogwares game, Sherlock Holmes: Case of the Silver Earring has just released. How has the response from gamers been so far?

KL: In all honesty, we are surprised really. Adventure games we know are really good and they have a very hard base of fans. However, they are not as large a group as some other gaming styles. But, the game has done extremely well its first week. It has gotten to number 14 in the PC chart in the UK, in its first weekend Ė straight away. Well itís fantastic really!

 

LM: Ahh  So now you guys are looking for a Sherlock number three? *smile*

KL: Oh very possible! Oh yeah, so long as itís Frogwares, we love Frogwares!

 

LM: If you were going to summarize it for people. What do you think are the main selling or I suppose marketable points about the Sherlock game? Perhaps as compared to other titles out on the market?

KL: I would say...storyline for this game. The story in Sherlock Holmes is unbelievable. Itís so well told, well done. The characters themselves are so believable; you would think they were ripped right out of the books. It is absolutely fantastic. The graphics are some of the best I have ever seen in adventure games or any games, really. The mixture of 2D and 3D is amazing. The voice acting as well. I just love the end movie, where he does the whole Sherlock Homes thing. It is absolutely great. I really loved that.

 

LM: What was the response to the use of in-between chapters to test out or check the playerís progress through the story logic and the case?

KL: Ahh the quiz sections?

 

LM: Yes

KL: The quiz is, well that section is slightly hard. I know a few people have had a couple of issues really. But this is an adventure game. You have got to be Sherlock Holmes. You have to be looking at everything, watching every single detail. You have to play as Watson as well. You must investigate people. They didnít have the answers given to them very easily. So, this is just like being them really, unless you want to just use a walkthrough.

 

LM: Your other game, Moment of Silence is completely different departure from what people will see in Sherlock Holmes. It seems very futuristic, big brotherish, sci-fi.

KL: A lot like Blade Runner really.

 

LM: Yeah! How has the response been here at the show?

KL:  We have had a fair amount of people wanting to talk about Moment of Silence.  Most of the people, who have tried Sherlock Holmes and then saw MOS on our website, have been real interested in this game as well. One thing a lot of people are commenting on is the FMVís. These are some of the best I have ever seen as well.  A company called "The Lightworks" did them, they are the same people who did the FMVís for Factor 5ís game cube Star Wars game.

 

LM: Oh thatís impressive.

KL: So the quality is very high. Especially the main intro film. Itís actually fantastic. House of Tales has made it clear, this is a pure adventure game. Any action sequences that do exist in the game will happen in the FMVís. The game is purely adventure, purely puzzles. If you want a classic adventure game, Moment of Silence is definitely the way to go.

 

LM: What would you say about the main story line for MOS?

KL: Moment of Silence is set in the near future. Though it is in the future, a lot of things will look very familiar. But they have enhancements. Like he has sort of a super PDA, which acts like a credit card as well. The time frame is like 2044, 1920 or 1927. Something like that.

 

LM: So not too far off then. Tell us about the main character.

KL: You play a guy named Peter Wright. His family has been involved in a car accident. Obviously this guy doesnít want to speak to anyone or be around them. He has just had his family taken away from him. So he isnít going to be the most happy person in the world.

 

LM: Right, I can see that. So the guy is hiding out from the world.

KL:  Sure. So he is trying to piece his life back together. He is about to start on a government campaign for freedom of speech. It is also about how Big Brother type tactics are going on about him. What starts this is he sees his neighbor next door taken away. An NYPD SWAT team breaks into the guyís house, scares his wife and kids and then take him away at gunpoint. Obviously, being the curious person that he is, since it isnít every day the SWAT team takes out a flat on your apartment block. He goes next door to comfort the guyís family and find out what is going on. He checks into things and learns there are no records or any info about having this guy picked up.

 

LM: So there is no record of any of that?

KL: Yeah and then the conspiracy gets deeper and deeper as he tries to figure out what has happened to this man.

 

LM: I remember some footage from a German gaming site. It looked like the open to the game is in black and white?

KL:  The FMVís are in full color. It must have been a cinematic for the trailers.

 

LM: Oh I see, that makes sense. What about the interface in the game. How is that set up? I know its point and click. But in terms of visual movement Ė are there any panning or 3D aspects?

KL: It is pretty much similar to the Sherlock Holmes game. The same sort of gameplay. If you double-click he runs over to that point. You right click to pick something up or to use it. It has a very simple interface... If you right click anywhere on the screen the icon bar comes up. You can select what you want from there.

 

LM: Weíve got a certain schism in the gaming communities right now, between story intensive and puzzle intensive preferences. Though in a great game, I would think both would be addressed. Some people prefer puzzle-laden games others like story heavy, puzzle lite or at the least puzzles that are practical inventory based challenges. How would you categorize the challenges in MOS?

KL: The puzzles are very logical. They are set in the near future, so there are also computer-based things to figure out as well. For example. You have a small kid living next door. He has been traumatized by his father being dragged away like that. So he isnít speaking to anyone. So you have to try and find something to give him that might make him open up to you. Then you can give him the object and say, ďHere ya go mate, you want to give this a try?Ē I return, he gives you something his father gave to him that is a clue to the game plot or path. Well maybe I should stop there *laugh*

 

LM: Sure! We donít want to spoil anything too much for gamers. Is the game third person perspective? 

KL: Right!

 

LM: Is there anything else you want people to know about this game?

KL: I would like to emphasize that again this is one of those well-written story driven games. Itís one of those games that makes you think. Not just about the story in the game, but what is happening in the real world as well. You have these spy satellites and stuff and the truth is you have no real idea what they are actually doing, really. Itís the same kind of thing in this game. There could be something truly sinister going on and it would be difficult to learn the truth of it.

 

LM: Oh sure, I know what you are talking about.

KL: I think people will be able to really relate to the ideas and fears in this game. There are a few people who wonder about the smart TVís and snap shots of your PC when you go on the web. In some ways itís a very standard adventure game, however it has no action sequences that are interactive in the game. And you will really get sucked into the story line rather quickly.

 

LM: OK so what you are saying is that if there are any action events you are just an interested observer, you donít have to do anything in that scene?

KL: Thatís how Martin from House of Takes said it. In adventure games, if thereís any action you just want to watch it. You donít want to interact with it, die or have some instant death sequences. You want to just have a good fun adventure game.

 

LM: Well that sounds wonderful to me and I know there are a lot of gamers who will be happy to hear all this. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk. Anything else you would like to say?

KL: Buy the British version of Sherlock, you know you want to!

 

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