If you hadn’t noticed, I’m not just a fan of movies and film making, I’m also a huge fan of gaming. But of all the games I have played, none stand out as much as the Tex Murphy series.

Access Software

Access Software, always been epic

Tex Murphy was the imaginative creation of Aaron Conners and Chris Jones from Access Software. A down on his luck, old style gumshoe detective living in post apocalyptic San Francisco in the 2040s. As a hard-boiled PI that would do almost anything to make rent, he was the unwilling star of 5 of the most groundbreaking PC game titles ever created. Groundbreaking because of the technology, the writing, and because you could quite easily call them the earliest pioneers of cinematic gaming. What the boys from Access software achieved was nothing short of amazing. They were one of the first to have full motion video in a game, single-handedly developed a method of enabling a basic built-in PC speaker to produce vocal sounds, and their Virtual World graphics engine, which debuted in their 3rd game Under a Killing Moon, was so ahead of it’s time that it would take the competitors years to catch up. In the midst of all this technology was the story, which more than did it’s part to match the technical prowess thanks to some stellar writing from novelist Aaron Conners.

There were 5 Tex Murphy games in total: Mean Streets (1989), Martian Memorandum (1991), Under a Killing Moon (1994),The Pandora Directive (1996), and Tex Murphy: Overseer (1998). The first two games were point-and-click adventures, but both featured basic full motion video and Access Software’s patented Real Sound engine, both elements previously being unheard of in their time. It was not until Under a Killing Moon in 1994 where the technology really took a huge leap forward, and they created the Virtual World Engine. Essentially, while most other games were still grasping the concept of 3D graphics in gaming (with Doom from id Software being the big name here) Access software created rich, explorable environments that enabled complete freedom of movement, and the ability to rifle through drawers and interact the your surroundings limitlessly. What also made Under a Killing Moon stand out from the crowd was it’s Hollywood style full motion video aspect and big-name cast members. They called the combination of the two an “Interactive Movie”… a title that would be a buzz word for many adventure games of the mid 1990; the golden era of gaming. I say this because it was a time where PCs were really beginning to show users exactly what was possible with the technology (a sentiment shared by Chris Jones himself in a “making of” video for The Pandora directive). I never really liked the term “Interactive Movie” though, because it always made the games seem like a secondary bi-product of a real cinematic movie experience. In actual fact it was the opposite. What the games really became were highly detailed, technologically brilliant, engaging adventure games with a truly engrossing real cinematic atmosphere.

Under a Killing Moon

Hello Handsome

After the huge success Under a Killing Moon was, Access Software would follow it with two more award winning titles: The Pandora Directive in 1996 (often regarded as the finest game in the series), and Overseer in 1998, the first ever adventure game to ship on the very new (at least it was back then) DVD-Rom technology. Each of these games broke ground in their own respect, and maintained the cinematic gaming experience and atmosphere made famous by their predecessor. However, shortly after the release of Overseer, a series of events would seal the fate of the Tex Murphy series and spell the end of a gaming era.

Access software would be bought by Microsoft’s gaming division, and over the next few years the prospect of continuing the Tex Murphy saga diminished into the same nothingness that saw the ultimate demise of the adventure gaming genre. The rise of consoles, first person shooters, RPGs and other instant-fix games were now at the forefront of the industry, leaving behind what should be considered as some of the founding fathers and genres of the industry, and the abandonment of the cinematic gaming experience.

 

So where does that leave the cinematic experience in today’s games?

I’ve been gaming since the early 90s. I played through the demise of the adventure genre, but would like to think I have never lost touch with the every-evolving industry and it’s trends. Speaking of today’s games and it’s most recent generation of gamers however, I have seen a distinct push to make the gaming experience far more cinematic for players… which has left a lot of modern game publishers scratching their heads. You can see the influence this push has had in some of the most recent game trailers, where you’d swear you were watching a trailer for the next Hollywood action flick, rather than a game. Could this be because the modern industry is making a return to it’s roots? Probably not. This can most likely be attributed to the fact that the game industry has become far more lucrative than the film industry. But has the industry nailed it? Not by a long shot, in my not so humble opinion.

What developers and designers achieved in the games of yesterday (including, but not limited to, the Tex Murphy series) was almost the perfect recipe for the marriage of gaming and cinema. In fact, they nailed it! So why are modern game publishers who are trying to pull off the same thing failing so miserably in a time where today’s technology should provide far more opportunity to succeed? I see it as a combination of two things: lack of effort, and an almost blood thirsty desire for financial gain.

The Pandora Directive

Real live action is a dangerous game

Lets exemplify this: You watch a trailer for a modern game. It’s cinematic, is beautiful, and the production values rival some of the best Hollywood films out there. In fact, you may even notice it was filmed with live action talent. So this is cinematic gaming right? Wrong. It’s borrowing on the cinematic feel strictly for the purpose of marketing… deceptive marketing. At the end of the day, these trailers might deliver a potentially academy award winning performance and lead you to believe that you are going to experience the same cinematic feel when you play the game, but the minute you actually buy it and boot it up, your cinematic experience is pretty much over. Replaced by a tried and true, yet mundane formula of typical, mindless and often unintelligent gameplay.

Let me stop here and take the opportunity to say that I don’t believe EVERY game falls victim to this fate, as there are a handful to really engrossing and atmospheric titles out there which I have enjoyed immensely. But for the most part, this experience is never going to be the forefront of the modern publisher’s mind.

So why do these modern publishers seem to be doing their absolute best to try and avoid doing exactly what the gaming community is really looking for in a game? Simple: there is more money in “borrowing” the cinematic feel to suck gamers in, get them excited, encourage them to purchase the “special editions”, spend their hard-earned on useless merchandise, and then hope to hell their loyalty to the franchise (coupled with the money they have spent) is enough to keep then satisfied with an otherwise average game that is in no way reflective of the “cinematic” experience they were promised.

Lets now imagine the game publisher hero. The one that’s going to rescue us from the monotony and marketing cash-cow that gaming has become, and not only promise the true cinematic experience throughout the ENTIRE game, but deliver it above and beyond our wildest imaginations. Does such a publisher exist? Yes! Where are they? They were left behind in the 90s! My point here is: no modern publisher would even know where to start in order to pull off the true cinematic gaming experience, either that or the ones that once did have long forgotten how. But if we look back to what companies like Access Software achieved in the mid to late 1990s, we can see it was not an impossible utopia but a genuine reality. So what’s the solution to genuinely satisfying the demands of the modern gamer, and the push towards true cinematic gaming? Bring back the guys who were not only the only ones with the experience, guts and know-how to pull it off, but who actually pulled if off with flying colours!

 

Fedora

Guess who's back?

Which brings us to Project Fedora…

Seems like the gamers are not the only ones fed up of the absence of good games like the Tex Murphy series. The old Access Software team (now publishing under the name Big Finish Games) want to see Tex Murphy return, and with it the return of the cinematic gaming experience. For years, this was considered an impossibility, with money being one of the key factors. But thanks to group funding sites such as KickStarter, people from all industries in the same financial predicament are now reaching their goals, and getting things done.

When a project is pitched to the KickStarter community, a funding goal is determined and the general public can view the idea (or pitch) and decide whether or not they want to contribute. Certain degrees of contribution carry certain rewards, and the more money you pledge, the better the reward (such as signed copies, additional merchandise, and sometimes even direct involvement in the project). If the funding goal is reached, the project can go ahead! Project Fedora is Big Finish Games’ KickStarter project due for commencement on May 15 2012, and their last dig attempt to resurrect the Tex Murphy series and produce a new game.

I hope by this stage of the article you’ve understood the importance of such a fantastic project. In light of the experience from the folks of Big Finish Games (formerly Access Software), their long standing devotion to the industry, and today’s push towards cinematic gaming (what these guys were famous for in the 90s), I hope you can understand how much of an opportune time it is to see this series resurrected. You may even be a long-standing fan of the Tex Murphy series and want to see our hero continue the saga, especially after the cliffhanger we all endured in 1998, and have kept reliving over and over for the past 14 years! Being part of the latter but also both to a degree, I am certainly doing my part.

Many fans of the series have banded together to help Big Finish Games in any way possible, with video testimonials being one of the hot items. I myself created a Tex Murphy testimonial for the purpose of ensuring the gaming community knows just how influential the series has been, and the potential is has to reach new heights. There are a good handful of testimonial videos from fans all over the world sharing their experiences and views on why a new Tex Murphy game is a really, really good idea.

 

So how can I help?

Simple… Get involved!

For more information on the Kickstarter project, visit: http://www.bigfinishgames.com/games/project-fedora

To watch some fan-made Tex Murphy Video Testimonials, visit this YouTube playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL89DD6E54FFFBE651

Keep an eye on the KickStarter page for Project Fedora, which will be launching May 15, 2012: http://www.kickstarter.com

And below is my offering so far. A very special Tex Murphy video testimonial with a very nice surprise re-mastering of the Under a Killing Moon intro at the end, as a way of exemplifying just what might be achieved if a new Tex Murphy game were to be made with today’s technology. Enjoy, and long live Tex Murphy!

 

UPDATE!

The Kickstarter campaign has launched!

Visit: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/texmurphy/tex-murphy-project-fedora to pledge your support!

Remember folks, even if you donate $5 it will help the cause… so get your friends, you family, and even your enemies to visit the page, check it out, read this article and do their bit to help resurrect one of the gretest PC game series’ of all time!