Category Archives: Tales from Cypress Knee

[KNEE DEEP] Stop the presses: Meet Dan Osborne

Dan Osborne plays Jack Bellet in Knee Deep.

Dan Osborne of Indianapolis, Ind., provides the voice of cranky newspaper reporter Jack Bellet in the swamp noir adventure Knee Deep. He shared with us some answers to questions about his career and his experiences working on the project.

Q: How’d you get started in voice acting?

A: I was in radio for over 20 years and decided to take coaching/acting lessons and expand my knowledge of the business.

Q: Favorite VO project, aside from Knee Deep?

A: Character voices of some old games like the hunter on Deer Hunter 5 and Outback Jack on Alaska Outback. Walmart grapes commercial, the voice of the 2015 Aruba tourism campaign, and Colts and Jets narration projects. I also narrated a documentary on the Whiskey Runners of Templeton, Iowa.

Q: Most important thing for an aspiring voice actor to remember?

A: Stay current, accept advice, get a coach. Leave your ego at the studio door.

Q: What made Knee Deep different?

A: It’s always tough doing characters when you are unaware of the reaction of the characters you are interacting with in the game, but that’s how a lot of games get done. You have to rely heavily on the director to understand the other parts and trust that he/she knows exactly how you want your character to respond to that particular moment.

Q: What appealed to you about Jack Bellet?

A: The acting was not a stretch. It called for a smart ass with sardonic wit and attitude – ME ME ME!

[KNEE DEEP] Official Fiction No. 2: The Long Haul

Act 3 Screenshot - The Murk FinalAs a reward for our players posting 75 Steam reviews about the game, we’re sharing a bit of Knee Deep fiction. The next official fiction piece will be released after we hit 100 reviews on Steam. Enjoy!

The agent sitting across from K.C. Gaddis sips his coffee. He sets the cup down next to a manila folder. His partner, the woman with the no-nonsense ponytail and short-clipped fingernails, presses her hands on the table in the interrogation room.

“Tell us more about your father’s dealings with the Church of Us,” she says.

Gaddis doesn’t look at her. Keeps his eyes on the gray porkpie hat resting on the table in front of him. “No,” he says.

“C’mon, Mr. Gaddis,” the male agent says. The cup’s got a motto on it: WORLD’S BEST WAFFLES. “It’s relevant to our investigation.”

“Is it?” The private investigator gives a dark chuckle. “Dad’s dead. Been dead a long time.”

The female agent stands straight, crosses her arms, and paces behind the detective’s chair. “Motive, Mr. Gaddis.”

Gaddis rolls his eyes. He sees her in the mirror on the wall behind her partner. She’s stopped now, scowling down at him. “Oh, give me a break. I didn’t kill the guy. Certainly not over Dad.”

The manila folder opens. Slender fingers pluck out a photocopied page. The male agent says, “We’ve got the incident report from 1980, when he killed himself.” He slides the paper across the table to Gaddis. “You talked to Cypress Knee’s police chief at the time.”

“Chief Groves,” Gaddis replies. He moves the porkpie so it’s on top of the paper. “So what?”

The male agent shrugs. “Your father sank a lot of cash into the Church of Us. Nearly cost your mother the house. You’d taken, what, two part-time jobs to help the family survive?”

“Three if you count the paper route for the Notice,” the detective says. “But that was decades ago. A long time before I met the vic. As far as I know, the church reps who got their claws into Dad are still out there, scamming people left and right with their crazy cult religion.”

“Still,” the female agent says, “you’ve clashed with him before. Maybe he just made a convenient target for a lot of pent-up rage.”

Gaddis shakes his head, letting out a sigh as he laces his fingers together. “You’re fishing, lady. Maybe it makes a convincing story for you two, but I don’t have much stomach for killing, even in anger. I just want to do my job and get paid.”

“So you must really be mad about your gig going south,” the guy with the waffle cup says.

“How does that go to motive?” Gaddis asks. “That was after our pal died. Donovan Miller delivered that news. Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to shoot the messenger?”

The woman rounds the corner to the other side of the table to stand next to her partner. “Crimes of passion don’t always make sense. You’re an ex-cop. You know that.”

“Wrong,” Gaddis says. “They’re usually pretty clear, unless the perp’s a nut. She left me. No one else can have her. He called me a chicken. He cut me off in traffic. Everybody’s got their reasons. And even if the killer’s a lunatic, they’ve got some kind of twisted logic at work. So let’s cut through the bullshit, all right?” He slides the chair back, stands, and picks his hat up off the table. “I’m done answering questions. I’m done listening to you accuse me of a murder I didn’t commit. It’s been a long goddamned couple of days. I doubt I’ll ever get this swamp stink out. I want a shower. I want a lawyer. I’m done here.”

The man clears his throat. He rests a palm on the folder. Looks toward his partner. She shrugs. He says, “That’s the thing, Mr. Gaddis. You’re not done here. Not by a sight.”

“Excuse me?” Gaddis frowns. He jabs a finger at the agent. “I know my rights.”

The woman offers a thin smile. Crosses her arms again. “They don’t apply here,” she says.

“That’s kidnapping,” Gaddis replies.

“More like protective custody,” the man says.

“Bullshit. I don’t need your protection.”

“We’re not protecting you,” the woman says, her smile fading.

“So you might as well get comfortable, Mr. Gaddis,” the man suggests. He raises the waffle tribute cup in a grim salute. “We’re in this for the long haul.”

[KNEE DEEP] Official Fiction No. 1: A Man with Many Plans

As a reward for our players posting 50 Steam reviews about the game, I wrote a bit of Knee Deep fiction.

(A note, scrawled in pencil on the back of a twice-folded Hungry Chief’s paper placemat. The handwriting appears jerky, as if written while on a bouncing knee:)


June 5

Mr. Silloway,

I’m developing a recipe for hickory-smoked salted head cheese. Sounds tasty, yeah? You know it! I think this would help shake up our rather mundane menu – a nice change of pace from the usual Scout Burgers and Dervish Dogs. We’d probably get coverage on one of the big food networks or maybe a write-up in the Cypress Knee Notice. How’s that sound?

Eager to hear your thoughts.

Remy Dixon
Assistant Manager of Retail and Cuisine
Chief Roadside’s Wonderland

(The memo returns two days later, hand-delivered by janitor Jim Larman, crumpled into a sloppy ball. Larman’s not thrilled playing courier. Not like he can complain much, though. Not a lot of decent jobs out there for disgraced college professors who mix drugs with underage girls. A new message, written in black ink, appears below the original commentary on the menu:)




(Next time, the message comes to Rutledge Silloway on a Mohawk Inn postcard clutched in the fangs of a plastic Gator Chomp toy. The toys cost about 15 cents each to produce in China. They sell for $5 in the Fun N’ Fuel at Chief Roadside’s Wonderland. The message is in pencil again:)


June 6

Mr. Silloway,

Maybe candy-coated anchovies? A treat for children of all ages!

Enthralled for further discourse.

Remy Dixon
Indeterminate Title With Indefinite Authority
Chief Roadside’s Wonderland

(Larman brings the card back an hour later, with red ink block letters covering Remy’s writing:)





(Another memo arrives in Silloway’s motel office scrawled in permanent ink marker on the back of a diaper:)


June 7

Mr. Silloway,

I’d like to suggest dollar-movie days in the old Digital Smoke arcade at the base of the Wonderland tower. We could show classic movies from my DVD collection. I’ve got both Clerks movies, Pineapple Express, and Requiem for a Dream. We’d pull in movie buffs from miles around!

Curious to hear your viewpoint.

Remy Dixon
Director of Entertainment for Chief Roadside’s Wonderland

(The diaper’s used by the time Larman delivers it to Remy in a tall kitchen trash bag.)


(One more memo. Back to pencil, written on a faded yellow page from a Mohawk Inn motel room notepad:)


June 8

Mr. Silloway,

I’m disappointed by the swift dismissal of my ideas. What gives? I just want to do my part to bring more visibility and notoriety to our little gem along Interstate 95. Sad to think you don’t share my enthusiasm for the future of Chief Roadside’s Wonderland.

Now, what if we host trivia night at Hungry Chief’s every other Thursday?

Undoubtedly devoted to the cause.

Remy Dixon
Loyal Patriot of Chief Roadside’s Wonderland

(The reply doesn’t come back for a week. When it does, Silloway’s bloody red scrawl reads:)



Knee Deep’s play is the protagonist

Act 3 Screenshot - Rattlesnake FinalMeg Jayanth – lead writer on the amazing globe-trotting adventure 80 Days – gave a talk during the Game Developers Conference about the critical role NPCs can play in shaping a story and how they can subvert the usual expectations people have about a game’s protagonists.

Specifically, she wants to undermine the idea of an “entitlement simulator,” where the player’s inhabiting the role of a character that’s destined to win – whether it’s fame, fortune, or romance.

The protagonist doesn’t always have to be a winner. They don’t always have to get their way. They don’t always have to be a hero.

Sam Barlow, creator of Her Story, said at Wordplay in Toronto last year that he keeps a sign in his office that reads “The player is not the protagonist.” In that game, he subverts the idea of the player’s protagonism by occasionally showing the reflection of the investigator in the monitor.

These subversions found in 80 Days and Her Story are why those games deserve so much acclaim.

As Knee Deep progressed from one act to the next, we sought to subvert player expectations by at least partially sidelining the established main characters and letting the narrative unfold through player interactions with secondary characters. Instead of every scene focusing on either Romana, Bellet, or Gaddis, the final act touches on them for significant moments but mostly turns attention to characters such as Monroe, Woodstep, and Gallant.

None of the characters in Knee Deep are perfect. Well, except for Monroe. He can do no wrong, even when he’s impossibly driving a complicated piece of construction equipment. The three so-called “heroes” – blogger, detective, and newspaper reporter – all are deeply flawed and scarred. In the end, it’s up for interpretation what happens to them.

We want players to relate to all the characters they control during the course of Knee Deep, but – perhaps more important – we want them to feel free to shape the evolving story of the play. By shifting the narrative viewpoints, we sought (not so subtly) to make the player feel more connected to the story of Cypress Knee and the dramatic events during this crisis than any one character.

In Knee Deep, the play is the protagonist. The game’s about theatricality in politics, on the stage, and even in the news we watch on TV or read on blogs. You learn about the town through the central characters interacting with NPCs in the first two acts. In the third and final act, some of those NPCs turn to central characters and help drive the story to its over-the-top conclusion.

It’s not a game for everybody. That’s OK. It’s a game for people who want to shake up the status quo of the hero protagonist, who don’t mind shifting viewpoints, and who treasure experiences that don’t always end happily.