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Tex Murphy's familiar faces and the appeal of FMV in a CG age


The Tex Murphy: Project Fedora Kickstarter is fully funded, and even looks in reach of surpassing its $450,000 goal by a solid $100,000 when the campaign expires on Saturday, June 16. Then the real work begins.

Project Fedora will be shot in Tex Murphy's classic full-motion video, with series creator Chris Jones returning as the man in the hat. Not that it's the same hat.

"Unfortunately, the original fedora has been crushed so many times it makes me look like Jed Clampett about to go to his favorite fishing hole," Jones tells Joystiq. Never fear, keepers of continuity: Project Fedora's trench coat is the same one from the previous Tex Murphy titles. Germophobes, maybe ignore that bit of insider information.

Along with a slightly updated wardrobe, Project Fedora is taking advantage of technological advances in FMV that weren't accessible 20 years ago. "CG is used in action movies more often than not these days and I have no doubt that FMV could be integrated much more effectively – and with less effort – than back in the day," Jones says. "Today, with fewer restrictions and limitations, we can do it even better."

Part of Tex Murphy's charm stems from its use of FMV, a tool rarely used in the game-development industry based on its "reputation for bad acting and the inherent incongruence with the game world," Jones says. While that may be the rule, he likes to think Tex Murphy is the exception.

"Although not every FMV game suffered from these setbacks, enough did to stigmatize the style," Jones says. "We always felt we did FMV right but unfortunately the industry threw the baby out with the bathwater.

"One of the great benefits of FMV is the emotional resonance actors bring to a project. CG characters still aren't related to as real people. With human beings, there is more of an emotional connection and that's probably why Tex has remained an endearing character to people over the years. "

Project Fedora will use CG to create its dystopian, future-San Francisco setting, placing actors – and players – directly into a 3D world. "There can be a great blend between the live film and the CG backgrounds – more and more movies are doing so with people readily accepting the blend," according to Jones.

Within this world, detective Tex Murphy will encounter a few familiar tropes, such as branching story lines throughout the game featuring "nice guy/tough guy" options, and with paths dependent on the emotional responses and relationships players develop with other characters.

In 2001, Jones and Aaron Conners launched Radio Theater, a six-episode online narrative that fills in some story after 1998's Tex Murphy: Overseer title. Elements from Radio Theater will make an appearance in Project Fedora, but the game does "take place years after Overseer and the Radio Theater," Jones says. "It will not be necessary to play the previous games or listen to the Radio Theater to catch up – however, if you have done so, it will provide deeper context to the story in Project Fedora."

One more familiar facet that could make its way into Project Fedora is the voice of James Earl Jones as The Big PI in the Sky – but only if the Kickstarter raises 30 percent more than its goal, which places the bar at $585,000. If that happens, Jones and Conners will approach James Earl Jones about reprising his role. "We'd love to have him," Jones (the higher-pitched one) says.

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