Murder, She Wrote – Developer Diary #2: Making Jessica Fletcher

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks here at Legacy Interactive.  It’s sort of like life imitating art – now that we’re deep in the development of the Murder, She Wrote game, we’re practically tripping over the bodies all over the office around here.  

After figuring out who did in my production assistant last month (killed by: the doorman), I got a little side tracked solving the murder of our company lawyer (killed by: the paperboy).  The real shock came when Bronwyn, our lead artist, mysteriously disappeared during a tragic photocopier mishap.  Luckily it turned out that she had only faked her own death for the insurance money and was found living in Europe under an assumed identity as a Swiss border guard.

My art lead being "dead" for a few days definitely threw a wrench in the schedule.  But, the most demanding part of making a hidden object game is creating the huge amount of art that is required, and Murder, She Wrote is no exception.  With 30 unique environments and over 75 scenes in the game, Murder, She Wrote has been a huge undertaking.  When making a game based on one of the most beloved series ever made for American television, though, not just any art would do.  The visuals need to capture not only the look of the show, but one of the best-known actresses ever to grace stage, screen or television: Angela Lansbury.

Murder, She Wrote ran for 12 seasons.  Though Angela Lansbury stubbornly refused to age much during the entire run of the series, the look of the Jessica Fletcher character needed to be updated.  Clothing, make-up and hairstyles of the mid-80s were quite different from the styles of the mid-90s, or so my lead character designer told me before she was found deceased after a tragic coffee accident (killer: the water delivery guy).  Which version of Jessica would we settle on?  Which hairstyle and color? Which clothes? How about those jackets with shoulder pads and lapels you could hang-glide with?

We went through many possible looks and fashions for Jessica, even including a few concepts that didn’t look enough like Angela Lansbury.  Don’t worry, those were discarded early in the process as soon as we heard that Angela Lansbury herself was onboard and would be approving her own image for inclusion in the game.  With that in mind, we focused our attention on trying to make a more ageless, non-decade specific look.  By avoiding making her look any specific age, we hoped to achieve a timeless feel throughout the game – not have it set in the 80s or 90s, or even necessarily now. 

For the first time ever, I’m happy to show the new look of Jessica Fletcher!

Jessica’s looking pretty good, considering the amount of time that’s gone by since the series’ debut, huh?

As for the look of the game, it’s been important to us to make sure that we catch the basic look of the show while translating it into an art style that would work well for a hidden object game.  Even though Murder, She Wrote was a murder mystery show, the design elements were never dark or dingy – it had a bright color scheme, even though it was set in the solid earth tones and whites of New England. 

In short, it was the most colorful, brightly lit series of murders ever made and perfect for our purposes.  A co-worker of mine, Ryan (killed by: local TV weatherman), mentioned that when his team was developing the CSI:NY game, he found that matching the show’s use of shadow and gritty-looking environments can potentially make for frustrating game play.  In Murder, She Wrote it often looks like you could host a picnic at the murder scene.

Murder, She Wrote is shaping up to be a fantastic-looking game, with top notch-art, sound effects and music.  I’m just hoping that the majority of the office survives through to its completion.  We’re planning a surprise birthday party for my boss next week.  Going by the current track record, we’re bound to find an intern face down in the punch bowl (killed by: ???). Hopefully I can channel Jessica Fletcher’s sleuthing skills to help me track down the perp before my next Murder, She Wrote producer’s blog…

Chat about Murder, She Wrote in our forum.

Previous developer diaries in this series:
Murder, She Wrote – Developer Diary #1

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