Gamezebo recently sat down with the team of talented game designers at I-Play to chat about the making of Women’s Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey, the second game in what has turned out to be a very successful hidden object series based on the crime novels of James Patterson.
The subject matter of the Women’s Murder Club books can be quite gruesome. How did you balance staying true to the source material with not alienating casual gamers who aren’t used to seeing gore on the screen?
We made a decision early on to write original stories for the games in part because the stories in the books would have been very compromised if we modified them. We’ve tried to stay true to the spirit and intrigue of the WMC series but yet have stories which do not include as much graphic content.
Claire’s forensic mini-games have undergone a transformation from logic puzzles in the first game to a conveyor belt-style puzzle in A Darker Shade of Grey. Why the change?
Just for something new. You had to do that puzzle so many times in WMC1, people got sick of it. We changed the microfiche puzzle that Cindy does for the same reason.
Are there any other changes or refinements from A Death in Scarlet to A Darker Shade of Grey that you can comment on? What did you learn about designing the first game that you were able to apply to the second?
One big change was going from completely random hidden object to hidden object items that blend in with the story and puzzles. For example, in one scene you collect pieces of a shredded fax and then have a jigsaw type puzzle to put the pieces together. Another change was in the style of the cut scenes which are more cinematic and less comic page style in WMC2. We always try to improve from one game to the next. We felt the random hidden object in WMC1 felt a bit tacked on. We’ve already received feedback on WMC2 that we will take into account for WMC3.
How involved was James Patterson in the development process? What was it like to work with him?
He’s a very smart and successful author with a lot of irons in the fire. He’s quite an inspiration. He was involved in approving the general direction of the game series in the beginning and has reviewed each story and offered feedback to make sure we stay true to the series vibe and the characters. It’s been a great experience — couldn’t ask for better.
One thing that I find very impressive about A Darker Shade of Grey is the care taken with the hidden object scenes. Objects almost always make sense in the context of the scene and the story. How difficult is this to do, and why was it so important to you to do it this way?
After WMC1 we felt like the random hidden object was the one thing in the first game that felt out of context with the story. And yet, we really like to play hidden object. So for WMC2 we put more thought into creating hidden object searches that didn’t take you out of the context of what a detective (or reporter or medical examiner) would do.
How would you describe the development process overall? Smooth? Difficult?
This same team has done a number of games together – Agatha Christie Death on the Nile and Peril at End House, Dr Lynch: Grave Secrets and Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet. So the process is familiar one. The most challenging thing was the cut scenes because they were done in a new way and took much longer than anticipated.
Can you share any funny or interesting stories about the game’s development?
Hmm, let’s see. Here’s a "behind the scenes" tidbit. In the story’s first draft, the military academy was an all-male school. We were going after a "Lord of the Flies" feel. James Patterson’s feedback was that at least one victim should be female. So the story was revised and the academy became co-ed. Hence the character of Rebecca Davis was born. We think the school feels more contemporary and realistic with female students.
Can you give us any hints about Women’s Murder Club 3?
It’s set in San Francisco and involves a serial killer. There are a number of twists and red herrings. I’d say it’s probably the darkest and grittiest of the three – closest to the books in flavor and lots of fun to work on.
Any last words for your fans?
We would love to hear any feedback you might have on the Agatha Christie, Dr. Lynch or Women’s Murder Club games. Thanks for playing Oberon games!