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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperDesignThe appeal of a procedural detective game
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nights007
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« on: February 21, 2020, 03:51:16 AM »

I'm pursuing the idea of making a global detective game of some sort, a lot of people have played Carmen Sandiego but while I've been romanticizing it as a part of my childhood my true feelings is that I find it rather bland. It's a solid idea, but it leaves you thinking that it could have been a lot more interesting. I made a small test where you can fly around and visit cities and countries, but as an investigator it feels like your life is pretty simple, unlimited money and no real stakes, maybe it would be more interesting to be the suspect fleeing justice?  Noir

I'm also not sure about the art style, but since a lot of environments will have to be produced I'm thinking of a photo -> pixel art process to make for a coherent aesthetics.

What do you think? Would a game like this, if well-crafted, appeal at all?

If I can develop my test a bit further I will be happy to share what I have so far!
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Thaumaturge
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2020, 09:38:12 AM »

... but as an investigator it feels like your life is pretty simple, unlimited money and no real stakes, maybe it would be more interesting to be the suspect fleeing justice?  Noir

While a suspect in flight could well be interesting, I feel like the problems that you listed on the investigator side might be fixable.

For example, the player might have limited resources: perhaps their agency only has the budget for <X> airline tickets, giving the player a limited number of hops in which to gather all clues and capture the suspect.

As to stakes, if the suspect escapes, there might have feedback from the injured parties. Furthermore, the suspect may commit further crimes while on the loose, leaving the player with a bigger mess to fix the longer they take (but more clues to lead them aright, perhaps). And perhaps most dramatically, there might be an <X>-strike system, in which losing too many suspects results in demotion and game-over for the player.
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Foxwarrior
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2020, 09:50:58 AM »

There have been newer procedural detective games, like Noir Syndrome and Night Call, that you might want to take a look at.
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michaelplzno
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2020, 04:11:24 PM »

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders has a more difficult travel system that you might want to explore as a reference. Its very difficult to know where you are supposed to go and each flight costs money which is limited. Furthermore, you could also add time as a limited resource too as Thaumaturge is suggesting.

Its usually not too hard to make games more complicated if that is what your design needs. I'd be curious to play your prototype, I do feedback videos on the good ol' tube if you want to hear my open thoughts.

Also, on the real photos to pixels, I did real photos to pixels for my game Strategery and it was really helpful because I don't know how to pixel. But there are other options. I know of some games that take short loops of real video and add text and characters over them that look quite interesting.

However, the visual styling is usually a secondary thing to my personal design process: I'll have fun playing a game with stick figures and bad art if the play is fun and then I can bring on more art if it passes the fun test.
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nights007
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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2020, 03:55:56 AM »


While a suspect in flight could well be interesting, I feel like the problems that you listed on the investigator side might be fixable.

For example, the player might have limited resources: perhaps their agency only has the budget for <X> airline tickets, giving the player a limited number of hops in which to gather all clues and capture the suspect.

As to stakes, if the suspect escapes, there might have feedback from the injured parties. Furthermore, the suspect may commit further crimes while on the loose, leaving the player with a bigger mess to fix the longer they take (but more clues to lead them aright, perhaps). And perhaps most dramatically, there might be an <X>-strike system, in which losing too many suspects results in demotion and game-over for the player.

Thanks for the feedback. I'm still on the fence whether to go with playing the role of the investigator or the art smuggler. Both have their pros/cons, the strong points for investigator is that visiting places and talking to people have real purpose while not so much if you are an art smuggler. Art smuggling hasnt been done much and is interesting, but the more i think about  the more it feels like it will boil down to a import/export trading game, i'm not sure how the illicit part about the goods will impact the mechanics in a meaningful and fun way. Any ideas here? One idea I have is that you must be careful not to buy fakes when you buy your loot. I'm really struggling to find fun core mechanics that will make this whole effort worth while.
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nights007
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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2020, 03:56:38 AM »

There have been newer procedural detective games, like Noir Syndrome and Night Call, that you might want to take a look at.

Thanks, i had a look at them and they have some interesting concepts for sure!
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nights007
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« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2020, 04:02:53 AM »

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders has a more difficult travel system that you might want to explore as a reference. Its very difficult to know where you are supposed to go and each flight costs money which is limited. Furthermore, you could also add time as a limited resource too as Thaumaturge is suggesting.

Its usually not too hard to make games more complicated if that is what your design needs. I'd be curious to play your prototype, I do feedback videos on the good ol' tube if you want to hear my open thoughts.

Also, on the real photos to pixels, I did real photos to pixels for my game Strategery and it was really helpful because I don't know how to pixel. But there are other options. I know of some games that take short loops of real video and add text and characters over them that look quite interesting.

However, the visual styling is usually a secondary thing to my personal design process: I'll have fun playing a game with stick figures and bad art if the play is fun and then I can bring on more art if it passes the fun test.

Thanks! These are great points, yeah, i've found that photos to pixels works quite well as filler but doesnt quite have the charm that real pixel art have yet. I agree with you about mechanics being much more important and i'm trying to spend absolute minimum amount on the graphics at this point. I'd love to have you play test my prototype as soon as I get a little bit further, right now I still cannot decide whether to go with the investigator or thief for the main theme. Either side seem to carry their own limitations..
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