Pixelhunter – Tex Murphy: Project Fedora

As I sit writing this piece the clock is ticking away on a very special countdown. Following the unprecedented success of Tim Schafer’s vaguely defined Double Fine Adventure, a raft of ‘point and kick’ adventures have followed his lead on Kickstarter, proving beyond doubt that this is no isolated anomaly. A recent noteworthy success is that of Jane Jensen (of Gabriel Knight fame), whose new studio ‘Pinkerton Road’ smashed their funding target to produce Moebius, a metaphyisical thriller that, whilst not actually starring everyone’s favourite laconic southern demon hunter, at least promises to update the aesthetic and feel of the first Gabriel Knight game. New IP is all very well, but now we can see a classic point and click hero truly getting a new lease of life with the announcement of Tex Murphy: Project Fedora.

A slightly older (but no wiser) Tex Murphy delivers his Kickstarter appeal from inside Edward Hopper's famous painting

The ‘idiot savant’, as co-creators Chris Jones and Aaron Conners, affectionately refer to their old school gumshoe creation, will return to his ramshackle office on Chandler Avenue, amidst the detritus of a post apocalyptic San Francisco, where he carves out a not too lucrative career as a private dick. A peculiar cross between Blade Runner and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Tex Murphy games have always had a roguish sense of humour, much of which emerged from the hammy acting and pulpy setting, played up wonderfully by some gloriously kitschy FMV aesthetics. Whilst Big Finish Games are promising that Tex will return in FMV (quite the novelty these days, since the technique went firmly out of fashion, not long after it went in fashion), Chris is quick to assure us that the technical bar will be greatly raised. In an encouraging interview with Adventuregamer.com he comments:  “Finally, the quality of the story, dialogue and acting has to be very high. There was a novelty factor to the early FMV games that quickly wore off and won’t be suffered lightly today.”

Tex is an anachronistic 1950s gumshoe in a futuristic San Francisco

The game also promises to build on the same multi-path branching narrative that defined The Pandora Directive, with one distinctive route providing fans closure for the sadistic cliff hanger that famously ended The Overseer (the remake of the first Tex Murphy adventure), 14 years ago.  The fact that anyone remembers Tex after so long, let alone feels inspired to chuck money at the screen to fund a new project, is testament to the growing popularity of adventure games. If Kickstarter is an excellent barometer of audience interest, as Chris Jones asserts, then it doesn’t take a PR genius to realise that we’re currently in a period of unparalleled pressure. Rather than a simple nostalgia trip, adventure games may be entering a new golden age, fuelled by the new social landscape of Internet 2.0 and the democratic environment it encourages.

Tex's homely office on Chandler Avenue

Fundamentally people are choosing to fund games on Kickstarter not only because it generally gives tremendous added value in the form of incentives and stretch goal bonuses, but because they get to feel genuinely connected to the creators, not merely left at the whim of some megalithic publisher. It’s worth noting that all three of these successful projects have promised fans a privileged look behind the scenes as the game is made. Incidentally this interaction is the same reason that developers are exploring this boutique alternative to conventional production regimes, relishing their freedom of expression and courting their newly connected fanbase with a steady stream of in-character videos. I would at this point express a hope that these new games prove successful, but as they have already met their funding goals this hardly seems necessary. For the first time in two decades fans of adventure games can feel proud that their favourite genre is at the forefront of games development, rather than just an whimsical anomaly that slipped through the cracks of the games industry as it exploded globally.


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