May 5, 2017
When I first started working on the Christmas Sleuthhounds computer game, I started with the design. The game is the sixth one I’m building using the same adventure game engine I developed. Being the sixth game means that I have a pretty good idea of how much work is involved and how long it takes to implement various sequences into the game. This takes into account all the production aspects of art, sound, coding, story, and so on. With this in mind, I was able to look at the scope of the game and make some cuts to it early on to ensure it will be ready for a Christmas 2017 release.
Each game in the Sleuthhounds series has pushed the experience in some way, bringing in some new gameplay elements to keep said experience interesting. In the most recent games – The Valentine’s Vendetta and The Halloween Deception – players get to control two characters on their adventures. That holds true with the Christmas game as well. However, I wanted to take advantage of the dual characters in a way I hadn’t in the previous games.
In the previous games I’ve included several puzzle sequences where the player has to use both characters together to overcome the challenge presented. With the Christmas game, I wanted to put a new spin on these sequences. While previously you had to use both characters together within the same room, I thought it would be interesting to create a puzzle where the two characters were separated into different rooms where things one character did in one room would affect the situation in the other room.
In the Christmas game, the Sleuthhounds are exploring a rundown manor house. At one point, in the original design, they come across a pantry with a rickety, hole-ridden floor. As the characters begin exploring the room, the floor gives way and Jane Ampson falls into a cavern beneath the manor house.
The cavern was hollowed out by a natural hot springs, with the manor built specifically above it to provide easy access to hot water. When Ampson falls through into the cavern, she drops into the heated spring and then has to swim around. Working with Pureluck Homes in the room above, the two have to get Ampson out of the pool, solving a couple of other puzzles along the way.
While it’s certainly an interesting sequence, and one I was really looking forward to implementing, it’s also one that would have required a lot of production effort. From an animation standpoint you need the floor to collapse in one room, you need to show Ampson falling out of view, you need to animate Ampson swimming and diving in the other room, and that’s just to get into the scenario. And of course you need the programming to also handle being able to swim instead of walking regularly.
In looking at the overall schedule for developing the game, I came to the conclusion that while the pantry/hot springs sequence would be a lot of fun to have in the game, it just wasn’t feasible on the timetable I’m working to. It’s always easier to cut things out than add things in. While I would have loved to get the hot springs into the game, for the good of the production I made the decision to cut it.
All of that doesn’t mean that the Christmas game will be lacking a sequence where the two characters are in different rooms. In point of fact, the game design included two such sequences, one in the pantry/hot springs and one in the…Ah, but that would be telling. We wouldn’t want to spoil the game too much, now would we?