When a game has no quest journal, no hint system, a playtime average of over 10 hours, and it requires players to trek over twelve locations, is there anyway to prevent people from getting lost? Hints are important in entertainment. A hint system is found in nearly all 'hidden object' games. In more modern games, important items either have a glowing aura around them, or the main characters have a heightened vision that makes the important items stand out from the background. Both of these are useful techniques and helps to ease the players' frustrations when they get stuck. However, we felt that the above methods would break the immersion of our game. But, even though we didn't want to break the immersion we still had to consider the following: how can we prevent players from simply getting stuck? Would the systems mentioned earlier cheapen the whole feel for everything? Would they ruin a detective game that attempts to mimic real life? What could we do that wouldn't be in-your-face? Could we use an in-game person?
Our original idea was an author who was researching the death of Vivian Roberts. Through him, players can uncover more of the town's backstory, material that would be awkward to deliver through the NPCs' diaries. Halfway through, we changed him into an NPC's younger brother who had visited Painscreek in the mid 80s. He was interested in interviewing people and collecting a great deal of his own notes. All he wanted was to get to the bottom of everything. But why would he want to know the truth? What was his purpose? By the time the game reached alpha testing we scrapped the idea. Still, we wanted someone from outside Painscreek, someone who could provide an outsider's perspective. Someone who could give us information that no normal citizen would just list off needlessly.
These two people, and their sole purposes, eventually evolved into the P.I. Steven Moss. He was a private investigator hired to find the truth behind the murder of Vivian Roberts. His role was to guide Janet at certain points in the game, as a unique form of giving hints. In a way, Steven Moss' progress sets the path that Janet will tread.
|(Players who do not know what to do can use the hint system found on the left-hand corner of the screen.)|
|(PI Steven's notes about his investigation reveals the path that he went through.)|
|(This photo shows someone on top of a building. Where is this location? And who is on top of the roof? These are questions we hope will lead players to the location where they might find something important.)|
Although he serves as a unique hint system in the game, players don't have to rely solely on what he's left behind. The clues are, however, interesting because of the questions they'll lead the players to consider. Things to look into, places to revisit. Most of the time there will be a reward for pursuing that path, such as looking into the hospital after finding a unique photo.
So what happened to Steven Moss after he fulfilled his role? This was an open-ended question that we decided to leave in, believing that players could have fun with the various potentials. We only left enough for guesses and assumptions. However, we may step in and tie up as many loose ends as we can, possibly with a DLC somewhere down the road.