Joshua Nuernberger

Gemini Rue is an upcoming indie adventure game created by Joshua Nuernberger.  Recently picked up by Dave Gilbert and his studio Wadjet Eye Games, it quite simply looks stunning, a slice of science fiction adventuring that initially evokes comparisons (at least visually) with Blade Runner, before surprising with a narrative that feels both refreshingly unique and wholly its own.

It has been my greatest pleasure, both via HardyDev and Alternative Magazine Online, to review some of the finest indie adventure games of the past few years. Perhaps that explains why I am so excited this month: It feels like Gemini Rue is going to be something  truly special. I am therefore proud to present an interview with Joshua Nuernberger, with a guest appearance by Dave Gilbert!

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Martin Mulrooney: Hi Josh, thank you for joining us! May I first begin by asking you to tell myself and HardyDev’s readers a little bit about yourself please?

Joshua Nuernberger: Hi, my name is Joshua Nuernberger and I am a student at UCLA. I’ve been making mostly adventure games for fun since 2002. My latest project after almost 3 years of work is the neo-noir science-fiction adventure, Gemini Rue.

MM: Gemini Rue was originally called Boryokudan Rue. What prompted this name change? What does the game’s name refer to?

JN: Boryokudan was hard to pronounce. And to spell. So, it was changed to Gemini Rue. The word “Boryokudan” is Japanese for “violence group,” while “Rue” is English for “regret, sorrow, or pity.”  Changing the title to Gemini Rue worked both artistically and practically, as the Gemini myth parallels the story’s themes of duality and is also the setting the game takes place in.

Dave Gilbert: When my wife and I played the game for the first time, we both fell in love with it but neither of us could remember what the proper name of the game was! I didn’t want to become “that” producer who shoehorns major changes into someone else’s vision, but I couldn’t deny that the title of the game would be a huge obstacle. Fortunately, Josh was completely cool with changing it. We batted a few names back and forth, and we ended up coming up with the word “Gemini.” It takes place in the Gemini system, and deals with two characters and issues of identity, so it seemed appropriate to call it “Gemini something.” Since the “Rue” of the original title was the part that everyone remembered, we ended up with “Gemini Rue.”

Gemini Rue in its full, noirish glory

MM: Before Gemini Rue (which is set to be your first commercial game) you experimented with several free, independent games. Can you tell us more about these?

JN: I released my first finished game, La Croix Pan, in 2007 and then Chatroom in 2008.  La Croix Pan came about as I was in a rut on my then long-term project, and I needed to finish a game to get back on track.  My goal with that game was to put as much polish in every environment as possible and to also experiment with a couple of innovative gameplay ideas. Keeping things small, I was able to churn out a final product in about four months.  La Croix Pan was a great learning experience, as it taught me how to finish a game from its design to its publication. It also gave me the insight on how to structure a development cycle so that I wouldn’t get bogged down with any over-ambition or useless production assets.  Shortly thereafter, I started the design on Boryokudan Rue (now Gemini Rue) and used La Croix Pan’s work model as a jumping off point.

Chatroom came about as an entry for the One Room One Week competition on the AGS forums, where you have one week to design more or less a one room game. I always wanted to experiment with theoretical AI in the context of a chatbot, and with Chatroom I had the chance to do so without getting carried away on the aesthetics or design.  Also, I decided to put a little twist on the game by embedding the simulation in a post-apocalyptic narrative.

screen from La Croix Pan

MM: Were these earlier games the reason you decided to stick with the Adventure Game Studio engine when creating Gemini Rue?

JN: Definitely. Working that long with any engine builds a strong foundation, which is crucial for any long-term project.

MM: Something I always find very interesting when interviewing indie point-and-click adventure game developers are their varying opinions on the pros and cons of the AGS engine. What are your own personal thoughts towards AGS as a means of fulfilling your own creative vision?

JN: I don’t think about it too much, because AGS already does everything I need it to do. So, it’s great! Sorry, I don’t have much else to add!

DG: I love using AGS. It takes a ton of the grunt work out of the process and is perfectly geared towards these types of games. If you want to do an old-fashioned 2D point-and-clicker, there’s no better engine to use. As for cons, it’s rigidly PC-only and is getting a bit old in years.  But the engine is going open-source, soon. So hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more features added to the engine. Me, I’m crossing my fingers for a Mac runtime port!

MM: You seem to be doing some really impressive stuff with the AGS engine that perhaps hasn’t been seen before. How would you say your own game differs on a technical level from other AGS adventure games?

JN: It has a lot of rain? Maybe? All I really tried to do was make sure that I put as much effort into each environment as possible, whether it was little animations or altering effects, just to make the game world that much more alive.

MM: Gemini Rue won a Student Showcase award in 2010, How did you react at the time? Did winning the award help to boost your confidence?

JN: It was unexpected, yet very much appreciated. I entered pretty much on a whim and I didn’t even know of the IGF until about three months prior to the deadline.  Winning a Student Showcase award was a great honor, and to get that much recognition on a project I was just doing for fun was really amazing.

MM: Can you tell us more about the story of Gemini Rue?

JN: Gemini Rue is the story of two characters, Azriel, an ex-assassin, and Delta-Six, an imprisoned amnesiac, whose fates are intertwined in a mysterious way. Azriel is on the planet of Barracus in the Gemini system in search of a defector, while Delta-Six re-awakens with the goal of escape, not knowing whom he can trust. The two storylines run in parallel, but eventually converge at a critical point.

MM: Are comparisons with the film Blade Runner apt, or do you feel they are more of a gut reaction to the rainy, futuristic look of the game?

JN: They are probably more of a gut reaction. Blade Runner was more of an unconscious stylistic influence than a conscious inspiration. I tried to take my aesthetics more from classic noir or even anime.

MM: Is it true that all of the backgrounds are hand drawn and painted?

JN: If by hand-drawn and painted you mean drawn with a mouse and a digital tablet, then yes!

MM: Who is providing the soundtrack and what involvement did you have with this aspect of the production?

JN: I worked with Nathan Allen Pinard on the music and SFX. He would play through a section of the game and write the soundtrack for it, and that worked really well. So, we just kept that method for the rest of the entire production.

MM: Wadjet Eye Games are publishing Gemini Rue digitally and on physical disk. How did their involvement come about, and how has said involvement aided you in completing the final game?

DG: Josh approached me with the game twice, actually. The first time I was swamped with Blackwell Convergence, Puzzle Bots, and a (now cancelled) game for PlayFirst so I had to turn him down. Later, he approached me again. I was just about to launch Puzzle Bots so the timing was perfect. My main production involvement was to get the voice acting into the game. I’ve had lots of experience doing that so I was more than happy to do it. Wadjet Eye is also shouldering all the boring business stuff like the marketing, sales, and distribution.

MM: Gemini Rue will be fully voiced. Can you tell use more about some of the actors involved and the casting process as a whole?

DG: Most of the actors you will recognize if you’ve played previous Wadjet Eye games. Abe Goldfarb (most known for playing Joey in the Blackwell series) has a supporting role as a starship pilot named Kane, and Shelly Smith-Shenoy (known for Yuriko in Puzzle Bots, as well as several minor roles in the Blackwell series) voices a mysterious woman who befriends the main character Azriel. Speaking of Azriel, he is voiced by an actor named Brian Silliman, who I’ve seen perform several times and is a guy I’ve always wanted to work with. Gemini Rue has a very large cast of characters, so I have had to increase my little cabal of voice actors significantly!

Casting for this game was a different experience for me, since I was directing somebody else’s vision instead of my own. So I made sure to record audition samples and send them off to Josh so he could make sure it was what he wanted. Occasionally I would change the wording or the meaning of a line based on the feedback an actor gave—I’ve learned to trust their instincts about stuff like that—but that was the extent of my meddling.

MM: The trailers show that there are going to be some action elements included amidst the regular adventuring. How have these action sequences been handled and what prompted their inclusion? Was the shooting mechanic hard to implement with the ACG engine?

JN: When creating the action scenes, my goal was to have it be fair and comfortable for traditional adventure gamers. As such, it revolves around a cover system, so that the players are only exposed to danger when they choose to be. Creating the mechanic did require some workarounds but it wasn’t too bad once a solid prototype was in place.

MM: Looking back over the past year, what have been the biggest obstacles you have had to overcome when developing Gemini Rue?

JN: Life, time, money, fixing bad writing, figuring out how to finish and release the game? It’s been a pretty interesting year, to say the least. 🙂

MM: What can your fans expect next? Do you plan to continue creating games within the adventure genre in the future?

JN: Hopefully. I’ll have to wait and see after Gemini Rue though to see where it goes from here.

MM: Thank you for your time!

Josh: Sure. Thank you for the interview!


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Gemini Rue can be ordered here.

The Limited Edition CD can be ordered only until the 24th February – the day of the game’s release.