We talked to Hiding Buffalo’s Iwan Roberts about the first year of ‚Gumshoe Online‘, future aims and the game’s potential.
Iwan, about a year has passed since the start of Gumshoe Online. Are you pleased with what you have achieved so far?
We’re really pleased with the way things have gone so far; when we started Gumshoe Online we weren’t sure anyone would want to play a detective game but every day more players sign up to Gumshoe and there’s a constant stream of emails asking about the next mystery.
At the beginning of the project we had a simple list of design goals:
– Can be played on any PC, straight off the shelf.<br />
– Contain all the elements of a point and click adventure.<br />
– Deduction will be the corner-stone of gameplay.<br />
– Episodic content.
While I’m happy we’ve achieved what we set out to do, there’s always room for improvement and we keep Gumshoe Online evolving with new content and functionality.
How many of the players came back for another case after playing one?
Almost 70% of people who bought a mystery bought a second case.
Until today only four cases are available, a fifth is said to be released soon. Do you think that’s enough? Even if the first four cases lasted about twenty hours altogether, that’s not pretty much over a year.
Gumshoe Online has always been a long term project and we’ve a number of cases written and waiting to be implemented. Once the fifth case is released, there’ll be almost 30 hours of sleuthing gameplay available at Gumshoe Online. This should be enough mystery for any budding detective.
How has the game changed from case to case?
With every new case we’ve manage to push the system just that little bit further; adding more objects, more animations and ever more complex puzzles.
I also think we’ve improved Gumshoe Online’s gameplay over the past 12 months, making longer and more involving cases that really test a player’s powers of deduction.
Do you have any plans regarding new features for Gumshoe Online?
There aren’t any major changes planned but we do have a slight alteration to the “detective notepad” in development. We’re adding a status bar that’ll show how far a player has progressed through a case.
If anyone does want to suggest a new feature for Gumshoe Online we’re always happy to hear from them. Many of the changes we’ve made to the game were originally player suggestions starting out as discussions on the game’s forum.
What do you think is the main reason why someone plays Gumshoe Online? Is it the exciting stories, the classic adventure gameplay, the easy handling via a browser?
Most of our players fall into one of two categories, they’re either gamers longing for a classic “point-and-click” adventure or non-gamers who don’t see Gumshoe Online as a game but a kind of Cluedo/Clue for the 21st century. Whatever the reason for initially playing Gumshoe Online, it’s the challenge of solving complex crimes that keeps people coming back to the game.
Because the only requirement to playing Gumshoe Online is a compatible web browser the game has true mass market appeal and doesn’t force people into owning the latest gaming hardware.
An important part of Gumshoe’s Online appeal is the game’s user community; the forum has become a great place to ask for help and give advice to other players.
Can you imagine porting Gumshoe Online sometime to, say, the Nintendo DS, for example?
It’s an interesting idea and the DS’s dual screen would be perfect for showing the Gumshoe game environment and notepad at the same time but personally if we were converting the game to the DS, I’d be looking forward to using the console’s touch screen to create some innovative new puzzles.
Because Gumshoe Online is a game that focuses on content rather than technology, it could be converted to almost any platform.
Gumshoe Online started as a 3D game in 2002, I believe. Is the 3D concept dead or might we see a 3D Gumshoe sometime in the future?
It’d be nice to make a 3D version of the game and if Gumshoe Online continues to be a success then I’m sure we’ll get the chance but it won’t be happening in the foreseeable future. If we were to make a big-budget, 3D version of the game, it’d be nice to look at ways of turning Gumshoe into a networked multiplayer experience.
Selling games online seems to become a lot more common these days – think of Steam, for example. What are the advantages of this new distribution model? Can it help getting a wider variety of games?
The Internet allows developers to sell and distribute games directly to their customers and more companies are taking the opportunity to break with the traditional publisher/developer business model. While this certainly means more original titles can be made available the amount of time and effort required to create a traditional pc or console game can stifle unusual development projects.
What are the drawbacks of selling a game online instead of having it in a box and putting it onto the shelves?
Although selling online allows you to contact customers anywhere in the world; there are plenty of other people trying to do exactly the same thing and it’s easy for an independent game to be overlooked. That’s why episodic content is so important to the future of Gumshoe Online; through releasing additional cases we hope current players will keep returning to the game and that new players will be attracted to Gumshoe by subsequent press releases and word of mouth.
Iwan, thanks for your time!