Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within

Making of

The plot

Production of The Beast Within started in January 1994. Jane Jensen, the writer and designer of the Gabriel Knight series, actually originally intended to make the Beast Within the first part of the Gabriel Knight series. Her first idea of the character and story type started in 1989 when Jane lived in Germany for a while. But, as she thought about it a bit more, she figured she'd have to first work out the history of the character in detail. That why Sins of the Fathers became the first Gabriel Knight game.
Jane did not pick Ludwig II as a character for the werewolf story, she picked werewolves as a plot for the Ludwig story. In fact, Jane's first idea was to use Ludwig as a ghostly appearance. The Beast Within is more a story about Ludwig's inner conflict and how he relates to Gabriel, rather than a story about werewolves. Jane wanted to stress Gabriel's personality and duality in this game and, with the location being in Germany, Ludwig's character was an instant winner.

Ludwig created and lived in his own fantasy world because he was so rich. He was probably also a tormented soul who lived a very strict childhood and was isolated throughout his life. His fears, sensitivities and obsessions really suited the character of a werewolf, which is how the werewolf story came in at a later stage. Including Wagner was also an obvious factor. Ludwig and Wagner were friends after all, though most likely for different reasons. Ludwig loved Wagner because the composer's passion for German mythology reminded Ludwig of himself. Ludwig often gave large gifts to those he wanted to be friends with and Wagner, who was in financial difficulties, would not refuse the king's generosity. The actual friendship from Wagner towards Ludwig was questionable. There is of course no lost Wagner opera. Jane Jensen wrote the opera's libretto, while Robert Holmes composed the music.


Jane, Will Binder and Sabine Duvall have been looking at tapes for hours and hours to find suitable actors. They sent out certain scenes to soliciting actors and asked them to record themselves. Many were either not particularly good, didn't like the character, or both. The role of Gabriel was of course the toughest because his personality is so diverse. Due to the size of the cast and limited budget, Sierra could not cast big Hollywood stars. Also, Jane couldn't think of any actor to properly play Gabe. While Tim Curry did an excellent job voicing him in Sins of the Fathers, he didn't visually resemble Gabriel at all. They just had to look for the right person, and Will found him in L.A.: Dean Erickson.
When Jane saw him the first time, he was physically exactly as she imagined Gabriel. Also the rest matched the way she thought of Gabriel. The question was of course how he would act. At first Jane thought he was better as a mysterious, rather than a comic Gabe, but Dean turned out to have great comic talent. It was only when they were filming him on the set, that they knew they made the right choice.
Gabriel's character is different than in the first game though. He is now a better detective, better prepared and more secure of himself. In the first game he was more lazy and nonchalant, acting ignorant and reckless to find clues.
Finding a suitable actress for Grace was not so simple either. It had to be an Asiatic actress who radiates a lot of inner strength, self-confidence and conscience. All candidates were too boring or too soft, until Joanne Takahashi went on stage.


For Will Binder, the director of the movie scenes, making this game was the same as making a movie. His responsibility was the script (which was over 600 pages), the acting and the execution. Whatever happened with the footage afterward was no longer his duty. The Beast Within was his first commercial "movie". Prior to that, he made a few short movies and an independent production at the UCLA film school.
There are several differences in the way the scenes got recorded though. Each shot had to fit in the entire game, so continuity was very important. The actors wore the same clothes almost all the time, playing the same scenes with different executions. Considering the order of the scenes are mostly randomized by the game player, the actors had to implement a neutral acting style, since anything could have occurred just prior to it. There was no linear story progress, unlike with regular movies.
Another big difference was that most of the shots were filmed in around Sierra Studios in Oakhurst, instead of on location, using blue screen technology to add backgrounds later on. As a result, the camera had to be static since the backgrounds wouldn't move along otherwise. Will made it more cinematographic with close-up shots, shots over the shoulder, dialogue scenes and more. The backgrounds for the scenes are not computer made, but are actual pictures of existing locations, adding more realism.

Then there are the walker scenes, which are only made for the 2 main actors. Both of them had to walk on a treadmill and were filmed from 16 different angles, covering every possible direction. Then, before executing any action during game play, one of the walker shots would be used to make the actor go towards the activated object or person in question.
Certain opera scenes were the last ones to be recorded since it was done on location, in a theater in Seattle. The preparation for it was far from easy. They had to fill up the upper and lower part of the room with some 500 people. They usually filmed 3 people at a time, executing different actions, and then the programmers inserted them in all the chairs. They also filmed the part where a stuntman jumped from the Mitteloge to the lower part of the room. They had to record the scene in multiples cuts.

Creative Directing

Nathan Gams, the creative director of The Beast Within, was responsible for the backgrounds and decors. In the first Gabriel Knight movie, all characters were hand drawn and backgrounds were painted, which was not the case with this game. Sierra had already worked with 3D decors, computer decors and real actors, namely with Roberta Williams' Phantasmagoria, but it all had a hyper-realistic dimension. With the Beast Within, they decided to work with pictures. Every picture in the game was taken by Nathan, who went to Germany three times to get them all. The first time, they made some random pictures of different locations, the second time they went for the more specific and difficult locations, and the third time they had to go back for the castles and such. Sabine Duvall, the producer of the game who is German, assisted Nathan with the locations.
Many pictures were taken between 5 and 6 in the morning, so the locations were still mostly empty from pedestrians or cars. The people which did end up on the pictures, were removed with the computer. Many other alterations on the pictures were made with the computer, including color enhancements and such.


Jerry Shaw was the lead programmer of The Beast Within. Even though the Beast Within is immensely different from Sins of the Fathers, it is astounding how much of the programming code and underlying system is still identical. The first thing the programmer does, is studying similar games, to see which programming code is still usable in order to save a bunch of time. Phantasmagoria had just been released, and much of what was developed for that game, could be used for the Beast Within. In addition the programmers could iron out the glitches of Phantasmagoria. As a result it took less time to program the Beast Within.
The game was made with Sierra's SCI engine. SCI was first developed in the late eighties and then renewed over and over again. It is a combination of C++, RISP and Smalltalk, entirely object oriented. Each action triggers another, such as the playing of a cut-scene, the walking from point A to B and so on.
The game comes on six disks, but there is little repetition on each CD. Each CD basically has its own chapter and own scenes. Also countless "flags" have been inserted in the game, so it remembers which actions the player has already completed.

Costume designing

What do Keanu Reeves, Michelle Pfeifer and The Beast Within have in common? Costumes! With a story spanning over 2 centuries, a full-blown opera, 19th century royal clothing, and 20th century German outfits, getting the costumes for the Beast Within was not an easy task. Marcelle Gravel, the costume designer, was responsible for this. Several costumes were hired, since it would have cost a fortune to design them. From the 1992 movie "Bram Stoker's Dracula", the cape of Dracula and hats of Anthony Hopkins were used. Also some clothing of Keanu Reeves was hired. Some dresses, worn by Michelle Pfeifer in "the Age of Innocence" were hired as well. These costumes were mainly used in Grace's dream scene with the midnight sleigh ride. Of course Marcelle made a few changes to the costumes not to make them look too similar to those of the movies. For the opera scenes, Marcelle used also masks and more daring costumes.

The fact that blue screen was used to record the scenes, gave many limitations in the use of color of the costumes. They couldn't use colors which even remotely resembled blue. White usually had too much reflection, and black could be too shiny. Like in Sins of the Fathers, Gabriel was supposed to wear a black jacket, white shirt and a blue jeans. None of those could be used due to the blue screen recording. In the end he wore green throughout the game, and red during the opera. In the third installment, Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned", Gabriel got his original outfit again.

Gabriel Knight 2 on Bad Influence, series 4, episode 10 (starts at 5:10)