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Subject: Designer Diary #1: The Mystery of the Missing Mystery rss

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dan schnake
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The idea of a creating a mystery game with “real” cases came from a gaming podcast, of all things. A couple years ago, I listened to some Spiel podcasts hosted by Stephen Conway and Dave Coleson and enjoyed them. So I went into their back catalog a ways and found podcast #8 on mystery games.

I love a good mystery. Film noir, with The Big Sleep or Double Indemnity, those old movies are right up my alley. I loved the Sherlock Holmes stories from childhood. In my misspent youth, I used to listen to short radio mysteries called “Ellery Queen’s Minute Mystery” on AM radio in the morning and call in with my solution (I won a couple times, too. I’d like to think that our rotary phone held me back on a couple victories, those touch toners had a tech advantage!) When I was really young, the Encyclopedia Brown short stories were faves. And the Three Investigators series with intros by Alfred Hitchcock!

I especially liked what are termed “fair play” mysteries, where the reader/viewer gets all of the evidence and can theoretically solved it right along with the protagonist. Most Sherlock Holmes stories are not fair play, but “The Red Headed League” is an exception. It may be the very first fair play mystery. Some of the old Ellery Queen short stories even had a “STOP HERE! YOU HAVE RECEIVED ALL OF THE CLUES FOR THIS CASE!” page, where you were supposed to make your guesses before Ellery exposed the truth.

Games, too, from the golden 1980’s. The deduction logic games, like Clue or Mystery in the Abbey were fine, but back in the day – and Adam West and I go way back --we had Consulting Detective, 221B Baker St, and Gumshoe. Not just deduction games, they had real cases (though 221B could by cloying with some “the Last name of the culprit is S _ _ L _ _ _ “ type clues). We’ve also played our fair share of costumed mystery party games, though most of those are more about theater with your friends than sleuthing. Good times.

As I listened to Spiel #8, I was hoping to hear about a recent incarnation of a real mystery game. Surely someone had come up with a modernized take on the detective game, with real clues, interesting gameplay, something for game night.

I listened in vain. As it turns out, it wasn’t Stephen and Dave’s fault at all. Though there have been a number of branches on the “Clue” tree of logical deduction, the “Consulting Detective” tree was somewhat barren. In fact, Consulting Detective itself remained the standard bearer and was reissued a while ago.

Intolerable. Disappointing, as both Adam and I wanted to play my imagined game, but exciting, as it felt like a wide open vista for a new game. Adam was psyched about the opportunity.

In the next diary, we’ll discuss the beginnings of Deadline itself.

Mentions:

Spiel Podcast 8
http://thespiel.net/?q=node/15

Ellery Queen Minute Mysteries https://archive.org/details/Ellery_Queen_Minute_Mysteries

Three Investigators Cover
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Greg R.
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Im not sure if you play video games but have you heard of L.A. Noire? If you have the chance to play it yourself, do so. If you have no desire or means to do so, YouTube videos of playthroughs are fun to watch. Here's a list of the case titles.
http://lanoire.wikia.com/wiki/Cases

The Homicide cases were the most fun. If you do watch them please know that is graphic content.
 
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dan schnake
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L.A. Noire does look interesting. LA in the late forties is "late noire" if you will, but it's interesting to see LA before the sprawl.

Haven't played it. It looks like it focuses on the advantages of video games, which is to its credit -- driving, shooting, boxing, and interestingly, discerning whether a witness is telling the truth or not. Though most reviewers say that the latter is rather simple.

The part that I can't see from the previews is how much the player actually figures out, in the sense of a classic detective story. Though you gather evidence, it doesn't seem like there's much deduction.

Which... may be better for a solo video game experience. Still, though, I will try it some day.
 
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A. B. West
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My daughter played the heck out of L.A. Noir. It was quite good.
 
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