Venice Under Glass: What Might Have Been
at teddy bear lovers from 8 to 80, Venice Under Glass featured Basil Baker, amateur sleuth and
teddy bear, on a 5-day mission to Venice to help his Uncle Clive solve a series of mysterious thefts
of antique Venetian glass.
Or at least it would have if it hadn't sunk beneath the canals it was meant to be navigating.
This is what the Vice President of the company said at the time (circa 1999):
"But this is to be no children's game in the 'traditional' sense of the word. Our goal was to design
a game that would appeal to both audiences. There are many, many Teddy Bear lovers who are now adults and
we wanted them to be able to enjoy a great adventure game. So we're designing a game that talks up to
children - challenging them. And we think their parents will definitely want to visit this Venice after
their kids go to bed!"
got as far as a short trailer, a very short demo and screen-saver, released with the intent of drumming
up future sales. Then the company closed down.
The adventure game world is littered with games that got canned despite the fact that they were well advanced,
and Venice Under Glass is yet another. A small demo is not indicative of an advanced project. Whether
teddy bears in Venice would have worked for adults is an interesting speculation. Damp might have been a
problem. Certainly Venice is an exotic setting, and it is probably surprising that it hasn't featured as a
backdrop to other games. I suspect that it would have been appealing to the bear fanatics, captured a few
others because of its location, and remained under the radar for everyone else.
Kids though might well have adored it. The animated bears are certainly quite attractive when looked at
through 8-year old eyes (I asked one). And the demo suggests it would not have been difficult.
animation was quite good, and the detail in the bears rather excellent. Basil was built as a model,
given a posable skeleton and then animated. The fur was more difficult – anyone who saw the "making of"
either the animated movie Final Fantasy or Stuart Little will know how much technical work went
into getting the hair and fur to look real. The end result for Basil's fur was not too bad at all. The 3-D
rendered game world was also nicely and accurately detailed and coloured.
Informative snippets would also have been present, based on the demo. Click on the gondola and you get a
pop-up window with voice over containing various facts about gondolas and their place in Venice life.
Basil actually has a life outside this effort, and you can read the story of Venice Under Glass
on-line. A game would have taken Basil to many notable places and events in Venice, including the Grand Canal,
Piazza San Marco, the Bridge of Sighs, Carnevale, and of course, given the importance of glass, the island of
Basil had had to find a humble dwelling in Venice, the setting could also have appeased all those maze
lovers. As any tourist who has had to find their flat will attest, maze-like is certainly an apt description
of the streets and lanes.
This is not a game, but an interesting snippet of adventure game history. You can (or at least you could)
read a lot more about the project at a website called JSquare Design,
and it is interesting to see how much can go into a project before the plug is pulled. You can find the demo
disc around the game trading traps, and if you are a teddy bear fan or collector (of teddys or adventure
games) you might want to seek it out.
Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2008.
All rights reserved.
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