Gaming Today Q&A: Bill Tiller on A Vampyre Story
Back in June, we reported on A Vampyre Story, which is Bill Tiller’s upcoming point-and-click adventure game. The game is currently being developed by Bill’s newly founded company, Autumn Moon Entertainment and is going to have the same style and humor from old-school LucasArts titles such as Monkey Island and Full Throttle.
Upon hearing about this game, I jumped at the chance to conduct an interview with Bill to learn more about A Vampyre Story, the inspiration that went behind creating this game, and to get his thoughts on the current lack of adventure games.
GT: First off, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. For those readers who may not know who Bill Tiller is and why we should be throwing fresh roses down at your feet anywhere you go, please introduce yourself.
Bill Tiller: Hi, all. I’m Bill Tiller and I am the founder of Autumn Moon Entertainment and I worked 9 years at LucasArts on a bunch of games as a background artist and art director, and occasionally doing some game design. The big games were The Dig, Rebel Assault, Curse of
GT: Word is on the street that you are working on A Vampyre Story. What role do you play in the development of A Vampyre Story?
Bill Tiller: The street would be correct. AVS is my baby, so to speak. I doodled up some characters one day back in 1995; one a female vampire and the other a bat I dubbed, “Froderick”. I liked the idea of a naive vampire who didn’t want to be one and did her best to ignore her condition. So I started thinking of a story that went along with the character and that is how I came up with the idea for A Vampyre Story. I was thinking about doing an animated movie about her, but then I thought it might make a good game too. I was tempted to pitch it to LucasArts but decided not to because they would then own the idea. So I held on to it till I quit and started working on it then.
GT: What is A Vampyre Story about?
Bill Tiller: Back in 1895, at the Parisian Institute for the Operatic Arts, a lonely and psychotic vampire named Shrowdy Von Kiefer was looking for a companion. He had recently lost his mother, under mysterious circumstances, and was sort of looking for a replacement. He suffered from a serious Oedipus Complex. He went to see the young students sing at a public performance and fell in love with the heroine of A Vampyre Story, Mona De Lafitte. He tried to seduce her and entice her with gifts in order to convince her to run away with him and live in his dreary castle in Draxsylvania. But Mona was not interested. Her heart’s desire was to become a famous opera starlet and live the high life in the city of light. Being impatient and a vampire, Shrowdy kidnapped her, bit her neck and drained her of blood, thus transforming her into a vampire. He spirited her back to his castle and kept her locked up, unable to escape, feeding her a special salty-tasting merlot every night to sustain her. To keep control over her, Shrowdy kept Mona in the dark about her newly undead condition, thus Mona has almost no idea about being a vampire. While Shrowdy went out every night hunti…er… looking for a wine shop open after sunset, Mona was left alone in the spooky, enchanted castle. To help ease her loneliness, she befriends a cantankerous and wise-cracking bat named Froderick. One night Shrowdy is hunted down and killed by two professional vampire hunters, thus inadvertently freeing Mona of Shrowdy’s control. The game begins with Mona attempting to escape the castle so she can travel back to
GT: A long time ago, you worked on the legendary
Bill Tiller: I am a big fan of the late, great Edward Gorey. Go take a look at his stuff right here http://www.goreyography.com/west/west.htm He drew these humorous and macabre scenes with aristocratic people from the Edwardian era. I loved his morbid sense of humor and pen and ink art style. Being a huge consumer of scary movies and anything horror related, his subject matter was right up my alley. I was born the day after Halloween – missed it by an hour! When I started drawing the sketch of Mona I was trying to draw cartoon version of an Edward Gorey character. Don’t get me wrong, I like pirates, and hope to do a pirate game some day, but I like other genres too. So that is why I went with vampires.
GT: The art style reminds me of something out of an animated Tim Burton movie. Was that on purpose and why did you decide to go with that art style?
Bill Tiller: Nightmare Before Christmas was one of my influences, but not really a big one, if you can believe that. Like I said, I am a huge Edward Gorey fan. Coincidentally, so is Tim Burton. He and I are very much alike, except I like computers and games more than he does, I imagine. But I am also heavily influenced by the Hildebrandt Brothers too. So if you combine Edward Gorey, Universal and Hammer Studios horror movies, the Hildebrandt Brothers art,
GT: There’s been a huge drought in point-n-click adventure games, is that one of the reasons why you decided to work on A Vampyre Story?
Bill Tiller: You betcha. I loved making them more than other type of game I have made. They are the most like an animated feature film. But they combine the two things I love, animated movies and games. So that is why. Plus, LucasArts wasn’t making them. So I saw a need and am trying to fill it. Hopefully it will be a win-win for all: developers, publishers and the game player. I’m crossing my fingers.
GT: If you could choose your absolute favorite adventure game, whether it be a game you worked on or not, which would it be?
Bill Tiller: It would be a toss up between The Secret of
GT: LucasArts was very popular in the 90’s for their adventure games. Nowadays, it seems LucasArts has abandoned its roots and are focusing mostly on Star Wars games. Do you think they should try to dabble in the adventure games business once again, or are they doing the right thing by sticking to the cash cow that is Star Wars?
Bill Tiller: I think there’s room for both. Even if they lost money on adventure games I think they should still do them. Then they could do animated movies and an amusement park based on the game and make a ton of money off of Guybrush and Le Chuck plush toys, night lights, and pajamas. I wish them the best of luck, but I’m sad not to see Guybrush for another five years.
GT: What are your thoughts on the recent revival and popularity of Sam & Max, which originally was a game developed by LucasArts?
Bill Tiller: I think it is great! I am very happy for Steve Purcell and Dan Connors and the rest of the team at Tell Tale. If that game sells well, it is good news for me and other adventure game developers and publishers. Plus, I want to see the Sam N Max movie ASAP. Hear me Disney/Pixar?
GT: How far in production is A Vampyre Story and when is the expected release date?
Bill Tiller: Our production plan says that we have just a couple of more months of development time in front of us. So we are in the home stretch on AVS1. The game will be out in Early 2008 in most countries, so get ready!