The Gabriel Knight story
Gabriel Knight – Sins of the Fathers, the first game of the Gabriel Knight series, was conceived in 1993 when Jane Jensen, emerging from her major co-designing experience on Sierra's King's Quest VI, was given the chance to design a game completely on her own. The result was Sins of the Fathers – a game destined to be written in the annals of adventure gaming for the innovative blast it gave, not only to the genre, but also to all categories of computer games.
Sins of the Fathers was a traditional point-and-click adventure which exploited the interface developed by Sierra for other games, enriched with a consistent amount of hand-made artistic graphics which played a consistent role also in the cut-scenes, organised as slides of comic book frames. The interface was a 2D one, with pre-rendered backgrounds on which the illusion of depth was achieved through the rich 256-colour palette and a shrewd use of perspective.
The main innovation GK brought, though, was realism. What differentiated the game plot from anything seen until that time was the way it interweaved fiction and reality, history and supernatural elements – a quality which was to have been peculiar to all the games of the series. The first solo effort of Jane Jensen told the story of an impoverished mystery writer from New Orleans stumbling upon an evil Voodoo cult and discovering that his own family history was connected to what was occurring in the now. As the plot unfolded, more information from history, mythology and various religious elements joined the big picture, in a climax exploding with a classic tragic resolution.
World-famous Hollywood actors such as Tim Curry, Mark Hamill and Michael Dorn performed the voice-overs for the CD version of the game; there was also a version dedicated for the newly released Microsoft Windows OS.
Such a game could not be ignored by gamers and reviewers: it received excellent critical review and an even better market response. Many gaming magazines did not hesitate to lavish awards upon GK.
Meanwhile, riding the wave of success with Sins of the Fathers, Jane Jensen had started working on a second instalment of what was beginning to shape as one of the most memorable game series ever. The next adventure of Gabriel Knight was titled The Beast Within. Sierra pressed heavily on the technological side of the game, starting a high-budget production which was meant to exploit the most up-to-date FMV technologies used in the Phantasmagoria series. A full cast of actors was hired by the production team to play the roles of the various characters, and while most of the action, except some cut-scenes, took place in studio on blue screen, part of the crew went to Germany to the real game locations and took pictures of what were to become the pre-rendered photographic backgrounds on which the characters moved. Since the plot involved a fictional opera supposedly written by Richard Wagner for mad Bavarian king Ludwig II, Robert Holmes, the lead composer, had to write a whole set of operatic pieces to be performed by professional musicians and opera singers.
The game was released in 1995, and received from the very beginning excellent reviews and a great public response. It resulted in immediate high volume sales. In fact, GK2 managed to regain soon all the money invested, despite the fact that FMV was still eyed suspiciously by gamers, who proved not to have appreciated the Phantasmagoria experiment.