I’ve always loved detective films. It’s so satisfying, how a detective can string together a bunch of tiny clues and use them to find a hidden conclusion. Unfortunately game portrayals of detectives have often been lacking.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great detective games, like Ace Attorney, which I’ve been playing recently. Okay it’s a lawyer game, but the main objective is to string together tiny pieces of evidence to prove a crime, so it’s kinda the same thing.
In Ace Attorney, you need to collect evidence before trials, which is done by moving to different locations and examining areas / talking to people. Unfortunately it quickly becomes a ‘check every drawer’ kind of scenario. You just kind of exhaust all options until the game is satisfied and allows you to progress the story.
What Ace Attorney does well is spotting discrepancies in testimonies. You prove the discrepancy by presenting evidence at the correct time during the testimony. But the game doesn’t let you figure it out all by yourself. When you’re just getting to the bombshell, the game puts up a couple of options and you just pick one. Sometimes, I’m not sure, so I just pick the most appropriate sounding one, and Ace does all the thinking for me…
A lot of my grievances with detective games are beautifully explained in this video:
What I want to do is make a detective game, all about drawing conclusions and connecting evidence, without the game handing you the answers. You decide, which evidence is relevant, you connect it together and then you make the accusation.
How does it work?
Firstly, the basis of the game, is a board, on which you’ll place all your evidence. This is mostly because I love the look of overcrowded evidence boards in movies, but also, because it’s a great way to arrange a lot of stuff and make connections.
How will you get all this evidence, if the games characters aren’t coughing it up, though? Well what if EVERYTHING is potential evidence. You’ll be able to take a note of any piece of dialogue, to use on your pin-board. Here’s my mock-up for the interviews:
Then once you have your evidence, you’ll have to find contradictions, connect information to people and find links. Of course you do, this with pins and thread:
My progress so far
You can interview suspects and connect words to other words. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the foundation for everything. Next step, is to actually compare the connected words to figure out what the player is trying to see.
Connecting contradictory statements; “nurse” > “construction worker”. This will spawn a new note detailing the contradiction, which can then be used to press the suspect.
Connecting a suspect to a piece of information; “Mister Doggo” > “Borf (I’m 4 years old)”. This will add “Age: 4” to the suspect.
Connecting suspects to eachother; “Mister Doggo” > “Ryan Magee”. This will add a relation-line between them. You then decide the nature of their relationship; married, family, enemies, etc.
The hardest thing code-wise, will be deciding context, like a note from Mister Doggo, saying; “Ryan is my Owner”, how will we know, that owner is referring to the Ryan suspect.
-Hjalte Tagmose (@hjaltetagmose)
Indie Game Developer, Real Fast