EMPLOYER

Smoking Car Productions. Jordan Mechner Game Designer
Broderbund Software Publisher

TYPE

A real-time adventure multi-media Adventure Game on 3 CDROMs. App UI design and rotoscope character animation design. Art Director for a team of 19 animators, Film to Digital Rotoscope Co-Designer patent designer, Special Effects Animator and Storyboard Animatic Director.

ROLE

App UI designer. Rotoscope character animation co-designer.
Art Director for a team of 19 animators, Film to Digital Rotoscope Co-Designer patent designer, Special Effects Motion Graphics Animator and Storyboard Director.

RESULTS:

A 4 year project shipping a 6 million dollar game that MacWorld voted as “Amongst the top 10 all time adventure games.” The game has been re-released on IOS in 2012.

Awards: (partial selection)

Best Adventure Game of the Year – Family PC
Best Adventure Game of the Year – Games Magazine
Best Role Playing Game of the Year – MacWorld
Finalist, Adventure Game of the Year – Computer Gaming World
Golden Fez Award – Fast Forward/Washington Post
Gold Award – Games Domain Review
Editor’s Choice – PC Gamer
CG Choice – Computer Gaming World
Stamp of Approval – Computer Games & Strategy Plus

Employee of Smoking Car Productions from 1993-1997
Jordan Mechner and Tomi Pierce
Publisher: Broderbund Software
tletleapp

I animated the majority of exterior train animation and the scrolling background motion graphics in the game. It was a challenge to limit the animation frames so as not to max out the processing time restrictions.

last-express-interface-800

Interactive Interface:

Step aboard the 1914 Orient Express in this award-winning mystery adventure from Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner. Described as one of the best adventure games of all time, The Last Express is an intrigue-filled adventure set aboard the luxurious Orient Express.

I was brought in by Jordan Mechner as Art Director to help start the epic Last Express game in 1993. I was also the Rotoscope Character designer and interface designer and animated many of the action/special effects scenes including the opening sequence.  I lead a team of 19 animators and artists during the course of 4 years. Right after completion, the game was well received but soon got lost in Broderbund’s many company buyouts and transitions.  The marketing never really got off the ground and the game was lost in history until it was re-released again by DotEmu and is now available on a variety of mobile platform such as Steam Gold Edition, Android App, iOS App and Mac App.

Published by Brøderbund in 1997 on three CD-ROM disks, The Last Express was an immersive adventure game that put the player on board the Orient Express in July 1914, crossing Europe on the eve of World War I. It pushed the boundaries of interactive narrative in ways that no game has done before or since. Game technology has advanced, but The Last Express story, characters, and design have stood the test of time and won the loyalty of an exceptionally passionate and committed fan base. I am extremely proud of this game and look back at that time working at Smoking Car Productions with fond memories.

Smoking Car Productions started with Jordan Mechner,  Tomi Pierce, Robert Cook, Donald Grahame, Patrick Ladislav, Noel Marrero, Mark Moran, Mark Netter,  Justin Gardner and myself.  In four years,Smoking Car Productions grew to 60 people!

To create the art nouveau-inspired animation for The Last Express, I helped developed – and patented – a digital rotoscoping process to transform live-action footage into hand-drawn animation. Digital cartoon and animation process: US 6061462 A

In order to make our portrayal of the 1914 Orient Express as historically accurate as possible, the Smoking Car team tracked down the original pre-war blueprints, train timetables, and even the last remaining sleeping car, derelict and abandoned in an Athens train yard. Artistically and technically, it was an immensely ambitious undertaking, that only artists and designers will understand.

Making of Documentary about the Last Express

 

“I would say that The Last Express is one of the most revolutionary games I have ever played.”

 

Adventure Gamers’ The Last Express Review by Heidi Fournier

 


Gamespot’s Review – The Last Express

“…The Last Express could be among the best adventure games ever.”


“A mix of Indiana Jones and Alfred Hitchcock… A winner.”
CNN


“Exquisite design and a literary story… A trilling ride.”
Newsweek


“Intelligent writing, complex characters, unpredictable plot twists and some of the most convincing voice acting ever heard in a game… Remains intriguing all the way to the spectacular ending.”
Gamespot


Reviews

by Kurt Kalata – January 29, 2011

http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/lastexpress/lastexpress.htm

The Last Express might be one of the most fascinating games ever made. Developed by a studio called Smoking Car Productions, it was helmed by Jordan Mechner, who was mostly known for the classic computer gamesKarateka and Prince of Persia. While these were action side-scrollers, both had a stronger cinematic bent that most other similar games, particular Karateka, where the camera would focus on an approaching enemy before your hero would fight him. Mechner’s heart was clearly in storytelling, which inspired him to create an adventure game. But the problem with most adventure games is that they rarely embrace their one big asset – their interactivity. They are often static and linear, with your character’s only real role being to listen to dialogue and move the plot forward. In the past, a handful other games have tried to give the player a more active role in shaping the story, yet nearly all have failed in one or another, simply because they’re too hard to develop. The Last Express attempts this admirably, and while it has its share of flaws, it succeeds more than all that have come before it, and probably most since.

The events of The Last Express begin on July 14th, 1914. Tensions are mounting all over Europe as the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary had been assassinated by Serbian terrorists just weeks before. The Orient Express is setting out on its two-and-a-half day run from Paris to Constantinople, and while no one knows it yet, it’s the last time the journey will made – the line is decommissioned after the beginning of World War I, hence the title. It also wears its inspirations on its sleeve, obviously drawing from Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.


More  Reviews:

For more reading about The Last Express, you might check out this amazing piece by Veronika Zýková in her article  “The Last Express: Video Game as Art” originally posted on the web site 25fps.

http://www.nickitostevin.com/the-last-express-video-game-as-art/