First posted on 01 March 2007. Last updated on 31 December 2012.
About the author
Brad Newsom is the founder of Vigilant Entertainment Company and the project leader and designer of The Journeyman Chronicles, a remake of Presto Studios' The Journeyman Project trilogy.
For more information, visit The Journeyman Chronicles.
All images on The Journeyman Project are courtesy of Presto Studios © 1995-1998.
The Journeyman Project series has garnered a loyalty that is rarely seen among adventure game fans. Developed by Presto Studios between 1993 and 1998, The Journeyman Project series, which includes a trilogy of games and a couple of remakes, has received both critical acclaims and industry accolades for its inventive gameplay and creative game design. Part of the success of this series owes to Tommy Yune, who has worked as a project creative director as well as in the conceptual design and special effects for The Journeyman Project. Today, Yune no longer works in the game industry but is now a director at Harmony Gold that develops film and television anime such as Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. Yune is also a comic writer whose past credits include Buster the Amazing Bear, Speed Racer, and Danger Girl: Kamikaze. We are privileged to have this interview with Yune. In this interview, Yune speaks of his past with Presto Studios, the development of The Journeyman Project series, his opinion on fangame development related to The Journeyman Project, his current works in comic and anime, and what holds for him in the near future.
Check out our gallery of production photos and concept art from The Journeyman Project series!
- When did you join Presto Studios?
- It started out with just helping some friends out by designing the robots and the Pegasus Device for a nameless prototype on a Hypercard stack (like Myst) back in 1991. I didn't join Presto Studios full time until 1994 because I was still working at GTE Entertainment where I did the character design for FX Fighter.
- What were your responsibilities at Presto Studios?
- I was the lead conceptual designer on The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime and the acting creative director on The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time and The Journeyman Project 4.
- What was the inspiration in the creation of The Journeyman Project? How did the story's theme evolve to its final form during the game's initial development?
- I remember the team being fascinated by Make Saenz' early work on Spaceship Warlock and wanting to take this to the next level. The initial concept went through many iterations before it became The Journeyman Project. Caldoria was fleshed out first. Then came the Pegasus device, which was loosely inspired by Princeton's Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor. At one point there were as many as 8 proposed worlds, but I don't recall there was more to the unused ones beyond a name scribbled on a white board as they were being weeded down to the final game design. Then Phil Saunders came aboard from Nissan's design studio and took the look of the worlds to the next level.
- Was The Journeyman Project originally envisioned to be a trilogy series?
- Nobody had any idea this would become a trilogy. Everyone was making everything up as the series progressed and we didn't want to limit ourselves. However, with Legacy of Time, added steps were taken to link the story elements of the series to heighten that epic feel. With Journeyman Project 4 (don't worry, no spoilers), we would have gone a step further to deftly tie everything together and Arthur would have been the key.
- The Journeyman Project series centers on the story of the game's main protagonist Gage Blackwood, an agent of the Temporal Security Agency. What elements of this character did you find most appealing? How had this character evolved over time between sequels?
- Gage went from a non-character in the first game to getting a name in Buried in Time to finally getting some character development in Legacy of Time. The character itself was originally not meant to be defined at all as we wanted the player to envision themselves in the role. Gage evolved into the square jawed actor in Legacy of Time as elaborate cinematics started becoming more important in the marketing of games. We originally sought out Adrian Paul (who looked like a hunkier version of Gage with a ponytail) from the Highlander television series, but he was busy. However, we were very pleased with Jerry Rector's performance in the end.
- Both The Journeyman Project and The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time were published by Sanctuary Woods, whereas The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time was published by Red Orb Entertainment. What were the circumstances that led to a change in the publisher? How did this change affect the company and the production of the series?
- Sanctuary Woods simply fell behind the ruthless competition of game publishers and no longer exists today. This also happened to Quadra Interactive, who had briefly distributed the first Journeyman Project. While Legacy of Time was in development, Broderbund, along with its Red Orb subsidiary, was the reigning leader of adventure games with Myst and Riven. Eventually, the shrinking band of publishers made it more difficult for developers to survive. Some of the talented staff moved to Ubisoft and Cyan when they took over development of the Myst sequels after Exile. Presto's partners decided to formulate an exit strategy while the company was still financially ahead.
- Both The Journeyman Project Turbo! and The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime were a remake of the original The Journeyman Project. Why did Presto Studios decide to remake the game twice? What were the major enhancements in each remake compared to the original?
- Turbo was more of a game engine upgrade rather than a remake. The game was originally going to be released as a "2.0" performance and stability upgrade to the original release of the Journeyman Project which was plagued with bugs and performance problems because it was based on a very old version of Macromedia Director and a hodge podge of XCMD extensions. Otherwise, the gameplay was virtually unchanged. I suggested the "Turbo" moniker as a joke because Street Fighter II Turbo was popular at the time, but the marketing department at Sanctuary Woods liked it and ran with it. Interestingly, GTE Entertainment also ended up using the "Turbo" name for its follow up to FX Fighter.
Pegasus Prime was a more thorough remake of The Journeyman Project. It was originally envisioned by producer Jack H. Davis to be a "director's cut" to take advantage of advancing technology and include various elements that did not make it into the original release. However, as Buried in Time became a success, we retroactively added a lot of elements such as motion video walkthroughs and actors to tie the universe more consistently together. From a business standpoint, the greatest misstep with Pegasus Prime was not making a PC version. Programmer Bob Bell and I did put together a DVD-ROM version of Pegasus Prime, but this was never published because the format was still too new in 1997.
- The Journeyman Project series oversaw the boom and demise of the use of Full Motion Video in adventure games. In retrospect, how did you feel about the mixture live action scenes with actors and computer generated imagery in either enhancing or limiting the gameplay? What were the challenges incorporating Full Motion Video into the games?
- We were ahead of our time in video compositing and behind the curve in technology. This is because Presto was initially founded by a group of artisans. We had great engineers later, but they were mainly working to exploit Presto's strengths by displaying pretty pictures which were too complex to render in real-time with hardware platforms at that time. Today, this would be moot.
Unfortunately, part of the gameplay experience back then was struggling past the processor lag. Today, these games play much more quickly, leaving much of the gameplay time around the puzzles, but only if the games still run at all on current operating systems. The actors succeeded in bringing an extra element of drama to the backstory of the gameplay and we used a lot of tricks to push the limitations of Betacam SP, the best video capture format that was available to us at the time.
- Among the most memorable characters in The Journeyman Project series was Arthur, an artificial intelligence and companion living inside the time travel JumpSuit worn by the game's protagonist. Some fans had even drawn a parallelism between Arthur and Marvin the Paranoid Android from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Was this parallelism intentional or accidental? What was your purpose for creating Arthur, as a literary device or otherwise?
- The creative team included fans of offbeat pop culture such as Douglas Adams, Monty Python, and Buckaroo Banzai, so it's fun to see fans pick up some of the references, but I don't think it was deliberate. Matt Weinhold was simply ad libbing a lot of the humor and essentially became Arthur himself in the recording booth.
- Which game of The Journeyman Project series was your most favorite? Why?
- Legacy of Time is my favorite because it has the best narrative, but I think Buried in Time is still the best game. If it had been completed, The Journeyman Project 4 would have been my favorite game.
- What elements of the series did you feel were most underdeveloped in retrospect?
- There are countless elements that I would have liked to have seen in the shipping games, usually having to do with making the worlds larger. This is the consequence of working on a deadline. You can't have everything you want and the finished product is simply a snapshot of what the production team could accomplish given the time and resources of that day.
- What were your most memorable moments (both good and bad) while working at Presto Studios?
- The most memorable moments (both good and bad) revolved around resolving creative differences. There was such a wealth of talent in the company and there was only so much room to put it all coherently into a game. It was a powerful learning experience for everyone, because we were all so young and so idealistic. We would get into big fistfights over story details and yet remain the best of friends. Sometimes the outcome would be a clever solution that none of us would have come up with on our own.
- With whom did you enjoy most working on The Journeyman Project series?
- I don't want to pick and choose because we're still good friends and I keep in touch with many of them. However, I do have to credit Phil Saunders with helping me meet my wife.
- How far ahead did you know about the impending closure of Presto Studios?
- A few months ahead. Although I have a tiny chunk of the company, I found out with the rest of the rank and file because I had moved on to work at Harmony Gold USA in Hollywood. The company isn't gone, it still exists on paper, but doesn't keep a full-time staff anymore.
- At the time when cofounder Michel Kripalani announced the closure of Presto Studios in November 2002, how far along was the development of The Journeyman Project 4?
- The Journeyman Project 4 was actually shelved in 1998 and most of the team ended up working on Myst III: Exile, which was without a doubt a much bigger franchise. The design document of TJP4 was pretty far along; we knew what worlds we wanted and started prototyping them. The improvements in processors and graphics cards allowed for full-screen playback but we were at a crossroads. We were trying out a full-screen variant of the pre-rendered motion video used in Legacy of Time. However, the real promise was in the real-time 3D playback of the Sprint Engine, which Presto would later use for Whacked! Walking freely around these worlds for the first time felt amazing, but there was so much engineering left to do before it was all put on hiatus.
- What were the tentative titles for this sequel? What were some of the possible storylines being considered?
- There were a few names still being tossed around, but I liked the word "Resurrection" because it illustrated one of the potentially dangerous outcomes of time travel technology. What if things that were meant to have passed into the ages, don't?
- How do you feel about fangame development of a new sequel for The Journeyman Project, from both a legal standpoint and an artistic standpoint? What advice can you give to these dedicated fans wanting to make a sequel?
- I think it's exciting because it shows there's still a fanbase after all these years. I see no problem in fans putting out non-commercial works as that generally falls under the realm of fair use, which is the underpinning of creative diversity on the internet. However, these would all be derivatives of a copyright that remains valid theoretically until 2087, according to the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. Therefore, I surmise if they would like to cross the bridge of packaging the endeavor for commercial sale, we'd have to get a formal publisher and the relevant founders of Presto Studios involved.
- After the closure of Presto Studios, where did all the original concept art, 3D models, source codes, and basic game materials for The Journeyman Project series go? Have they been destroyed or archived?
- These have all been archived at an undisclosed location only accessible through Global Transport (I'm kidding about that last part). Some of the artists also kept copies of their favorite work for their portfolios. If you're wondering, the design document of The Journeyman Project 4 is quite safe.
- Since 2004 you had maintained an archive of the original Presto Studios (http://presto.tommyyune.com) and The Journeyman Project Trilogy (www.thejourneymanproject.com) websites, solely for the benefit of the community of fans of the series. What surprised you the most among the fan responses? Why did you think that there would be such an enduring loyalty from the fans for so many years?
- I was always confident that there were adventure gamers out there as crazy as me, but what surprises me is the ingenuity that some fans go through to get some of the older games to play under conditions we never foresaw. I'm sure all the former Presto staff are gratified by the ongoing loyalty.
- After Presto Studios shut down, you left the game industry entirely and went into the comic and anime industries where you had since developed a very successful career. How had your past work at Presto Studios influenced your work today?
- I had learned a lot about problem solving and digital video while at Presto Studios, but the staff were always aware of my anime leanings. The robotic designs of the first Journeyman Project were loosely inspired by the works of Japanese designer Shinji Aramaki and I still look to his influence while working on Robotech. I regret I was not very familiar with Gundam at that time and was not available to help work on Gundam 0079.
- What can we look forward from you over the next 5 years? What may it take for you to consider returning to adventure game development?
- I'm mainly focused on Robotech now. We had produced some Robotech games over the past few years, but I do miss being more engaged in the game development process, especially now as modern game platforms make more intricate storytelling possible. Who knows? Perhaps it will all come together as games and other media continue to overlap through technology. Many of the artists who worked on Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles also worked on games.
- Thank you so much, Tommy, for this rare opportunity to share with us your thoughts on The Journeyman Project series and Presto Studios.
- You're welcome.