The Adventure Company today released a Q&A for Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

The Adventure Company today released a Q&A
for “Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None” from the Project Director Scott
Nixon of AWE Games.

“And Then There Were None,” the renowned #1
Best-Selling Mystery of all-time, brings Agatha Christie’s thrilling
storytelling to audiences in a new medium with the first video game ever based
on a novel by the Queen of Crime.

The storyline follows 10 strangers who are
invited to Shipwreck Island only to be accused of murder in a recording from
their absent host. Players take on the role of a new 11th character, Patrick
Narracott, the boatman who takes the guests to the island, and ends up trapped
there himself. Players must solve the mystery and find the killer before they
become the next victim.

Scott Nixon is a gaming industry veteran of
12 years working for game publishers such as Capstone and Microprose and working
on titles such as "Civilization II" and "Danger Girl" before joining AWE Games.

AGATHA CHRISTIE: And Then There Were None

Exclusive Interview with Scott Nixon –
(Project Director at AWE Games Productions, Inc.) Agatha Christie Newsletter

1. When you got the storyline from Lee
Sheldon what was your next step?

Scott Nixon> The very first step we took was
creating a blueprint of the island and house. We wanted to see if the locations
flowed properly, where we could split up load times, and reassure ourselves that
everything was spatially balanced. This turned out to be almost unnecessary, Lee
has a very good spatial sense and his plan needed very little tweaking. Then we
sketched out versions of every character and location to get a general feel of
how the game would look, start the approval process, and nip any early apparent
design problems in the bud. The next step was to begin building a very simple
version of the island and house, one from which we could derive camera angles
and blocking. Once we had done this and ran it by Lee for his input, we began
building the actual sets for each scene.

2. What is the most difficult aspect of
your work?

Scott Nixon> It’s difficult to narrow it down
to one thing. I think striking a balance between exposition and player action is
probably the biggest challenge.

3. How do you construct a scene e.g. the
arrival of the 10 characters on the island?

Scott Nixon> We basically storyboard out the
entire thing as you would in a movie. The storyboard gets approved, and then
goes to the animators, who set up everything from the cameras to the lighting to
the characters themselves.

4. Were some characters/actions
easier/more difficult than others to visualize/animate ?

Scott Nixon> The most difficult character to
visualize was the new character, Patrick Narracott. Agatha Christie was pretty
specific about her descriptions of her own characters, so we had plenty to go on
for them. To introduce an interloper, as it were, was difficult because he had
to be up to her high standards (or at least as close as we could get) in terms
of characterization.

5. Do you play the game through and try to
pick holes in it?

Scott Nixon> Absolutely. That’s the only way
to find the holes in a storyline this complex.

6. Do the technical people have any input
into the storyline or is that sacrosanct?

Scott Nixon> Everybody has input, technical
people included. Sometimes the technology dictates the options you have, and in
those instances, it is the technical people who define what can or can not

7. What influences the design of e.g. the
house, the island, Vera?

Scott Nixon> The house is modeled as an
‘alternate take’ of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. It is art deco, with
lots of angular lines – quite minimalist. The island was designed in contrast to
the house. It is craggy, deserted, and rather spooky. The house, by nature of
its design, isn’t spooky on its own. What makes the player anxious in this game
is definitely psychology based rather than visually based.

8. Is designing a detective game very
different to e.g. a fantasy/SF game?

Scott Nixon> It is more difficult. You have
less deus ex machina recourse. Things have to make sense. You can’t just explain
away something incongruous as magic or future tech. When an inconsistency is
found, you have to figure out a logical way to get around it – and that can be
incredibly frustrating!

9. Please could you explain for us
technophobes what goes into making a game so that our readers understand a bit
better what is and what is not possible with developing games.

Scott Nixon> There is an age old debate in
games about linearity vs. depth of story. In general, the less linear a game is,
the less depth the story can have. It’s an issue of finite resources. The more
paths you can take and things you can change, the thinner you spread your
resources, and as a result, the story suffers. In a perfect world, game
developers would have all the time and manpower they needed to make a game that
was both completely non-linear and had countless story branches that could each
stand on their own. In reality such a game would be exponentially more difficult
to develop than a game that does just one or the other. The key is to strike a
balance, and that is what we – and what (I think) all game developers – try to
do. They want to give the player enough freedom to feel as if he or she is not
on rails, but enough gentle nudging in the right direction to advance the story
in the way it needs to advance. In our case, we are dealing with a book, so
there is a definite linear path that the game follows. Where we give the player
freedom is in areas of discovery and exploration, as well as having multiple
concurrent story threads. The player will still need to accomplish X before the
story advances to Y. But that doesn’t mean the player can’t go do things on
other parts of the island or in other parts of the house to advance concurrent
threads of the story before coming back to X.

“Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None”
will be released on the PC on November 8, 2005

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