- There are many games out there that deserve more than a footnote in history, despite having disappeared from the radar somewhat, and the 1995 PC/Mac CD-ROM title Johnny Mnemonic, published by Sony Imagesoft, is just one of those.

I've been fascinated with the FMV-centric title for some time for a variety of reasons - in fact, the ones I'm about to list. Firstly, it's one of the relatively few filmed adaptations of William Gibson's work. (Here's an interview with Gibson revealing the filmed part of the game cost $3 million, plus the tech development.)

Secondly, despite being released at the same time as the Keanu Reeves-starring movie of the same name, it's actually got a significantly different script, actors, and plot - with Isaac Hayes instead of Ice-T, and Julie Strain coming along for the ride - as well as Christopher Russel Gartin as Johnny.

As well as all that, the title deliberately minimized the interface, making it one of the oddest of things - a no-HUD cyberpunk FMV game that was a clear symbol of the Siliwood convergence era, but was swallowed up all the same. And the game's director, Douglas Gayeton, is back in the news recently because HBO has picked up his Second Life documentary, and intends to submit it for Oscar consideration.

So I'm pleased that Gayeton was understanding of someone wanting to ask him about a CD-ROM he made more than 10 years ago, despite the fact that he's CCO of online world building firm Millions Of Us right now, and presumably has better things to be doing. For those who haven't seen the game, someone has uploaded the intro FMV to YouTube, which is a good starting-point. [Thanks to MobyGames for the media displayed here, too.]

Firstly, how did the idea of filming a separately cast and plotted version of the short story originally take hold? This was essentially the 'tie-in game' concept, only both the game and the film used heavy filming, right?

The original concept was to create an interactive movie shot on the same sets as the film, but a number of realities quickly emerged. First, contractual issues between the actors and the Canadian film production company made it impractical to work with the film because nobody's deal required them to also shoot an entirely different script for a different film, albeit an interactive one. Second, because the film's director, Robert Longo was very inexperienced and had gone way over budget and fallen behind in his shooting of the film. To tie ourselves to his schedule would have been suicide. Third, in an action film of this type, when you are finished with a set it is unusable, so it would have been impossible to reconstruct everything after they had wrapped out of one set and moved onto the next.

Finally, as a director myself, I had a different vision for Gibson's story. I tracked down the production designer of a French Film called Delicatessen and brought him to America to design our project. I also used Devo to do the music. And in terms of casting choices, they went with Ice-T while I chose Isaac Hayes. Draw your own conclusions.

The irony is that when Gibson saw the finished work, he told me it was much closer to his vision of the story than the bloated version that resulted with Longo.

- At this point, I presume that Sega CD titles and games such as Myst and 7th Guest were some of the antecedents that this kind of project was cuing off. What kind of influences were you trying to bring to the project in terms of gameplay?

To be honest, while i was aware of all the games out there, I wasn't that interested in making a game myself. I have since been involved in a number of video games for publishers as diverse as EA and Ubisoft, but my original attraction to the project was to create an interactive science fiction film. In fact, I don't think it says "game" anywhere on the Mnemonic packaging. Sony was very nervous about this, so we brought in a videogame producer named John Platen to alleviate some of their concerns.

Was Gibson involved much in this version of his narrative, or was it pretty much 'get story and go'?

I was really interested in being as faithful to his work as possible, so I involved him from the very outset. That isn't always the case in films. At times directors want to have their vision undisturbed by outside influences, but at the time of this project no one understand the concept of dystopian retro-futures better than Gibson. And he was really a joy to work with.

Did technical problems end up making some of the things you wanted to do difficult, given the relatively early stage of CD-ROM technology and the slow processors of PCs and Macs at that time? The tech in the game seems fairly advanced for the title, nonetheless.

Mnemonic remains the only interactive movie ever made. It was a full screen experience, with no on screen interface, and the movie NEVER stopped moving from the moment it began. As for the technical side of things, I was fortunate enough to know Peter Marx, who had been involved with the original Quicktime team. He later went on to become the CTO of Universal, but even back then he was a visionary guy. The fact that he took Quicktime 1.0 and used it to create a full screen interactive experience on Macs and PCs back in 1994 strikes me as amazing even now.

Seems like the game was intended to aggressively remove HUD items, something that has been tried with varying degrees of success through the history of games. How do you think it worked this time?

Well, since I never considered it a game, the absence of a HUD didn't strike me as that radical of an idea. I was really interested in the idea of an intuitive experience, so anything that got between the viewer and the story was jettisoned from the first day of concepting the project.

- Can you talk a little bit about Propaganda Code, which was the division of Propaganda Films that worked on this? Did they do much else that you were involved in (or not) before or after this?

At its time, Propaganda was the most forward thinking production company in the States. Twin Peaks was made there, and a it was home to some of the most visionary directors today, from David Fincher to Antoine Fuqua to Michael Bay to Spike Jonze. The company was partially owned by Philips, which at the time had released a platform called CD-I. Propaganda Code was initially created to produce content for that platform, but whatever perceived synergies people assumed would take place didn't. After I made Mnemonic I left Propaganda to work on a blur of projects both in the US and in Europe. Sadly, Code never made another project and folded soon afterward.

How do you think the performances and actors ended up working out? There's a really interesting mix of talent in there, from Julie Strain to Isaac Hayes!

We had a lot of fun. Everyone involved knew the project was going to be difficult, so it was important to have the right chemistry on set and we were very fortunate. I was perhaps most impressed by the performance of Kurt Rambis, formerly of the LA Lakers. He had always been my hero as a basketball player and he did a fantastic job on the film.

What were your overall impression of the project - what were the good takeaway and bad takeaways?

I am surprised that so many people still remember the title. I am often asked about the project. In its time it captured Hollywood's attention mainly because is showed something interactive which was made in a format the studios could understand. However, so many of the principles introduced by the film--intuitive interface, seamless narrative experience, user-augmented storylines, etc.--were dependent on technology that didn't really exist. It is only now that I am finally getting the chance to take many of these ideas and put them to use.