I was lucky enough to be chosen to produce the game based on the classic TV series "Muder, She Wrote" because I’m from a town just like Jessica Fletcher’s. Like Jessica, I know what it’s like to live in a lovely, sleepy little town in New England: to be part of a close knit community that cares for each other; to feel so safe that you never need to lock your doors at night; to constantly keep finding murder victim after murder victim in every garden, behind each white picket fence and at each ice cream social you attend.
Those of you who are fans of Jessica Fletcher’s exploits have a good grasp of what life in a small town New England is like. Yes, I come from the mean streets of New England, and as a survivor I feel I have the proper perspective on how to convey the quaint pastimes New Englanders enjoy, such as trying to avoid a violent end.
My name’s Donald E. Marshall, Sr. Producer here at Legacy Interactive and one of the mad little elves in Santa’s workshop busily putting together one of our upcoming games "Murder, She Wrote" (affectionately known as "MSW" around here). While most gamers raise their eyebrows when I mention MSW, it’s not hard to see how this property can be very successfully adapted into over a casual game.
The name is still highly recognizable among just about anyone 30 and up and is one of the most successful television murder mysteries series of all time. Its stories are compact, memorable, well written and thrilling without being horrifying. The heroine (Jessica Fletcher, played by the amazing Angela Lansbury) is female, older, clever and very, very attractive – a good descriptor of most of the people who purchase the games I design. Or people who read articles I write, I should mention. Well, not OLDER, of course. Just…mature. By the way…did I mention those pants look great on you?
I’ve just been informed by Gamezebo that I’m no longer allowed to blatantly suck up to their readers. I’ve promised to be good.
When translating a movie or television series into a game you have to be very careful to try capture and maintain the original feel of the licensed property. MSW had a very unique blend of comfort and murder, a quality that set it apart from most of the other murder mystery shows that came before it. This will translate into lush hidden object scenes rich with clues and New England charm as well as dozens of fun puzzles with a homespun feel.
Our stories had to cover a variety of subjects that kept the feel of the case somewhat "homey" and small town. We wanted to avoid evidence that needs high-tech equipment to analyze it – Jessica Fletcher isn’t part of the CSI team, and doesn’t generally have access to microscopes, blood splatter analysts or that sort of thing. Evidence will need to be observational, noticeable to the naked eye and something that tells a story to someone who is clever enough to put it all together.
Most important to the mood of the game, though, was the story and tone of each mystery. If it didn’t feel like a MSW story, if Jessica didn’t speak in her signature folksy-yet-straightforward tone, then there was no hope that the game would feel like a natural evolution of a show that just about everyone I know watched when they were younger.
Luckily we quickly met up with Anne De Borgo, one of the best Murder She Wrote fiction writers around. Not only did she manage to capture the voice of Jessica but the supporting cast of characters who found their way into our game at her urging: Sheriff Mort Metzger, the local law enforcement officer that often enlisted her help, Seth Hazlitt, the town doctor, and even Emma McGill, Jessica’s nearly identical looking British cousin.
Even better, Anne has created a collection of five all-new fantastic mysteries that capture the feel of this amazing series, written just for our game. Three of the cases bring us to Cabot Cove, the murder-prone Maine township where world-renowned mystery novelist Jessica called home. Here we get to dig in to some great mysteries in homey, small-town Americana that were the trademark of the show: a garden competition that turns neighbors into bitter rivals, a lobster fishing industry that’s fallen on hard times and a missing person case involving star-crossed lovers.
The other two cases take us outside of Jessica’s home town: to Vermont where a surprising death at a maple syrup factory reveals a struggle to control the maple syrup industry and to England for a Shakespearean murder on the London stage complete with espionage and international intrigue.
My goal for MSW is a game that will bring back the warm memories of the television show while being strong enough to be enjoyed by those without any prior knowledge of the series. While we’ll add to an American classic for those who fondly remember the show the game will stand on its own as a new classic casual game. We have some large shoes to fill, as the TV series has won dozens of awards, but we’re certainly up to the task.
Well, maybe not. I just found my production assistant dead under my desk. This’ll set my schedule back. Gotta find my magnifying glass….