So I’ve just spent twelve hours at work on a holiday weekend, and I’m vaguely ill. When better than now to post game design musings? :)
The big problem with the “randomly generated murder mystery” idea I mentioned in an earlier post is that it’s too big and nebulous; as a brief pitch it’s fine, but I need to actually start to work out a real design.
As such, I’m going to start with the most important things: the target market, and the gameplay duration. The murder mystery game will be a casual game aimed squarely at the casual gaming market (at its core, it’ll be a puzzle solving exercise, so I don’t want to try to target hardcore twitch-gamers), and a single standard game session should have a duration of between ten and twenty minutes (an “easy” mode may be much shorter).
With that in mind, we also need our core gameplay mechanic; the thing that we’ll be doing the most during the game. In this case, the core gameplay mechanic will be interviewing suspects as to what they did before and after the crime, and then comparing the information they give you compared against the information other suspects have given you, so you can figure out which suspects are telling the truth, and which are lying.
I’m imagining the interface for this as being a schematic view of the building, with a timeline that you can scrub forward and backward through, to see where the current suspect claims to have been and what they claim to have seen. The player will have their own working area which acts as an overlay on top of this, where they can accumulate information about what others have told them, make notes for themselves, etc.
I’m currently leaning toward a Phoenix Wright-style “find conflicts between what different people remember, and present those disagreements to jog their memories” approach. That seems like it’d provide a nice level of involvement for the player.
In fact, the player should probably be one of the guests himself, so he’ll have his own memories which he can use as a starting point for figuring out who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. In terms of game mechanics, he could “interview himself” exactly like anyone else, but just know that he’s definitely not lying to himself, whereas any other character might be trustworthy or not at any given moment. Having an objective “this much, at least, is True” point would probably make the game more accessible (much like how having more starting points in a game of Sudoku can make the puzzle much easier to solve)
Anyway, that’s enough for one evening. This is just trying to get some broad brush strokes out about the direction the murder mystery game might be going; I’ll start thinking about more gritty details tomorrow.