E3 2013

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Murdered: Soul Suspect

11 - 13 June 2013 | Patrick Eason, foreword by Maxxum

Murdered: Soul Suspect is an upcoming neo-noir murder mystery adaptation set in Salem, Massachusetts, currently being produced by Square Enix and Airtight Games. Though still in development, for our presentation we were provided a game full of striking visuals, and an even mix of story driven character movement. I hesitate to write "action", because from what we saw during the short presentation, "Murdered" appears to require purposeful decision making, rather than from the hip quick responses. Patrick spoke with Doug Van Horne, lead writer on the game:

Patrick: We saw a little bit of the combat, how much is that going to be a part of the game in terms of story telling?

Doug: Well, in terms of the entire experience, investigation is the largest percentage of game-play. Combat and traversal, side quests, and exploration takes up the other two-thirds of the game. Combat is kind of ancillary to the story, the demons do play a big part in Ronin's experience, and kind of understanding how they link to the story is unveiled... it's hinted at early, and unveiled late in the story, but there are links to the story, but the main thing is ... they're starting to get in the way of Ronin's investigation because they have their own reason to.

I noticed when they were successfully completing the investigation segments, you were earning badges which translated into experience points - does that mean there will be different abilities you'll be able to unlock as he levels up?

Exactly, you hit the nail on the head. And, those abilities impact investigation traversal, and pretty much every aspect of the game, and combat of course.

Did you want to go with Salem from the beginning?

We did have some debates as to where we can hold this, where is the best setting for this. We debated about a few locations throughout the US, most of them were on the East Coast, there were some short discussions about other places in Europe, other parts of the world, but I do clearly remember a meeting where we were kind of very early onward trying to figure out, well what would be the best place to hold this if we were going to hold this in the US. And, one of the producers said, "Well, why don't we just do Salem." And, like instantly I was sitting there in that meeting and I kind of zoned out a little a bit and went into story-craft mode in my chair and the story just kind of ... I saw how it all pieced together - how this is where the story would have to be, this makes the most sense.

A lot of the story, just kind of falls together really quickly when you think, oh my gosh, Salem's history of the supernatural, and all the things related to witch trials, and being a town that takes pride in the fact that they consider themselves the most haunted small town in America ... that's, that is exactly why we chose it, and the story was being developed on its own, in parallel, so when that Salem piece came in, it all came together really, really well, and pretty quickly.

A lot of games talk about how "open world" they are; the ability to walk through walls, did that make it more challenging for your world design?

Oh yeah, it definitely did. We're consistently pushing our engine in a direction that no engine is really expecting. And, even from a design standpoint, the designers are really coming to the challenge beautifully, but there are all these expectations that you have this great set of blockers, and you can funnel people around things or towards certain directions if we really want the player to see something, or go a certain direction. But, for the most part you have the interior of a building is all pass-through, and we have to rely on other tools to guide the player if we want them, or to find hiding spots, or things like that. Development teams kind of love that challenge, but it has been, y'know, it's a challenge.

Did a team go to Salem and photograph the real world locations to bring into the game?

We spent a lot of time photographing parts of New England for reference. Actually, early on the first iteration of this game was going to take place in Boston, and we kind of took gigs and gigs of photos all around New England, and ultimately we decided was for the freedom we wanted to create in this game, the Salem that we're talking about from a layout standpoint is more fictitious, it's not a literal GoogleMaps representation of Salem. When we could borrow something from reality that we wanted to use we did, so it's a fictitious version for our purposes.

Journalist Comments:

There was more to the interview than you see here, however there were a few spoilers that were inadvertently discussed, so we're leaving those out for the sake of the plot, and anyone who plans on buying the game. There's a video trailer on the 'Murdered' site here.

Photos by Maxxum