Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express Interview
Strategy Informer: Firstly, could you introduce yourself to our humble readers and explain your role?
Scott Nixon: My name is Scott Nixon and I am the project director for Murder on the Orient Express (MOTOE). I don’t think there’s a standard definition of that role, but for me it means overseeing all aspects of development, from concept sketches to engine changes.
Byron Gaum: Hi, I’m Byron Gaum and I am the Global Product Marketing Manager at DreamCatcher. My job consists of coordinating and driving all phases of a product’s marketing, including: print and online advertising, public relations, trade and consumer promotions and packaging.
Mike Adams: My name is Mike Adams and I am the Producer for Murder On The Orient Express. My role is to oversee the entire project through the development cycle, making sure that everything is on schedule and at a level of quality suitable for our consumers.
Strategy Informer: When did you decide it would be a good idea to create a game based on the Agatha Christie series?
Mike Adams: There are millions of Agatha Christie fans around the globe, so what a great idea it was to actually begin transforming the novels into adventure games. DreamCatcher Inc. acquired the license to do so about 2 years ago, and we are all looking forward to continuing the series for years to come!
Strategy Informer: We've read about some of the features for Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express, are there any which you've not told us about or that you've yet to speak about which might be of interest to our readers?
Scott Nixon: Well, the improvements from a technical side, are numerous and above and beyond And Then There Were None (ATTWN). Most of the improvements have been dedicated to the characters. They are more detailed, their animations are more reactive, and they can do more complicated things. We’ve introduced animation layers, which ATTWN did not have, so we can control parts of the model independently of others, which allows us to use the same animations whether the character is sitting or standing or lying down, for instance. This also gives us greater head and upper body control. For instance, in ATTWN, characters would rotate their entire bodies to talk to each other and hope the eyelines matched. In MOTOE, we can simply turn the character’s head so that it lines up with another character’s head exactly. A lot of these subtle changes will, we think, make the characters seem more alive and realistic. From a design standpoint, we think Lee (Sheldon, game designer) has overcome the feeling of aimless wandering waiting to trigger the next section of gameplay as was experienced by some in ATTWN. It was such a great fit to have Poirot be this oracle of sorts, where if you are stuck or unsure of what to do next, you can go to him and he will steer you in the right direction. In implementation this is working wonderfully.
Strategy Informer: What can you tell us about the graphical and physics features?
Scott Nixon: Well, there are no physics features, but the graphical look has been improved by the increase in screen resolution, more detailed backgrounds, and higher poly count characters. This enriches the players experience because characters and environments appear more vibrant and detailed.
Strategy Informer: What are the current system requirements for Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express?
Mike Adams: Right now we are looking at Windows® 2000/XP, Pentium® 3 1.4 GHz CPU, 256 MB of RAM and a 64MB DirectX® 9.0 compatible video card. The specs are a bit higher than And Then There Were None, but we have added so much more visually that it warranted slightly raising the requirements.
Strategy Informer: What kind of support do you plan to give once the game is released? Will there be any patches released for bugs that users will report or anything like that?
Mike Adams: We offer Technical Support at our website www.AdventureCompanyGames.com.
We are not anticipating that we will need a patch for Murder on the
Orient Express. However, in the event that a patch is needed it will be
posted on our support pages at the above web address.
Strategy Informer: There has been a recent increase on the amount of adventure games that are being released in the gaming industry, do you feel Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express will be able to sell well within the industry, how has interest been for this title so far?
Byron Gaum: Yes, there have been quite a few adventure games on the market as of late – and many of them have been from us! Why? Because we truly love the adventure genre and adventure fans keep on buying them! The Agatha Christie games are the pinnacle of our adventure game line-up. We have done, and continue to do, extremely well with our initial Agatha Christie game, And Then There Were None and have therefore agreed to do subsequent novel adaptations. What’s great about the Agatha Christie license is that we are able to alter and modify the mysteries somewhat by adding unique twists-and-turns to the plots that will shock both Agatha Christie and casual game fans alike. Fans of the books can expect a whole new experience when they play one of our games. Interest in the new game has been phenomenal and we have a big party planned for the release. Needless to say, our expectations for this game are very high!
Strategy Informer: Do you enjoy reading the books of Agatha Christie or the series which has been shown on TV a few times?
Byron Gaum: Yes, I’ve read a few of the books, have seen the television shows and have also seen a few of the old movies. Her stories truly are terrific and have definitely stood the test of time!
Scott Nixon: The Poirot series is shown where I live (Florida) constantly, on weekends there are 2 or three episodes a night. It’s a moot point though, I have all the DVDs of Suchet’s Poirot and Hickson’s Miss Marple and have watched them all countless times. I have read most of the books as well, although there are a few that I have yet to read, and in particular, I’m afraid to read The Curtain because of the well-known death that occurs in it. I’ve also seen and enjoyed Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express and the Ustinov version of Evil Under the Sun, but I must say, for my money, no one does Poirot like Suchet.
Mike Adams: I am also quite proud of the fact that we have the great talent of Actor David Suchet in the vocal role of Hercule Poirot. Suchet is known for his portrayals of the character in an array of television movie appearances. This adds tremendous excitement and authenticity to the game.
Strategy Informer: How difficult will this title be for those people who are new to adventure games? Are you going to make sure it's both challenging to experienced fans of Adventure games and at the same time friendly to people that don't have much experience at puzzle solving?
Scott Nixon: Another element introduced in this game is Poirot’s challenge. Early in the game Poirot will make a deal with you whereby you will either try and outwit him, or you will bow to his undeniable superiority and allow him to guide you through the game. Depending on how adventurous you feel, or how comfortable you are with adventure games, you will choose accordingly. If you accept his challenge, his help will be less specific and in some cases will not exist at all, and if you decline, he will be much more forthcoming with information. As anyone familiar with Agatha Christie knows, Poirot pretty much knows the solution within an hour of learning of the crime, and he doesn’t even need any evidence to deduce it!
Strategy Informer: For people that have already read the novel of Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient, so they don't find this game easy as they know the plot, you've made it so the game can have different endings. Could you tell us about this very interesting feature?
Byron Gaum: We definitely want our games to appeal to Agatha Christie fans and because many of them have already read the books, we don’t want to offer the exact same experience that they previously had with the novels. It really wouldn’t be that much fun knowing the ins-and-outs of the plot and the murder – so we bend it a bit by offering a different, unique experience. In Murder on the Orient Express, players can expect to meet new characters and experience an astonishing ending that is different than the original story.
Strategy Informer: The team has been busy working on Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient for awhile now, what has been the hardest and most annoying part of development for the team?
Scott Nixon: The sheer number of characters and the convoluted possibilities of what a character could do before an event or after an event. About mid-way through the game, the environment really opens up and you can do things in just about any order. Accounting for all these possibilities is daunting.
Strategy Informer: As a gamer, what's your favorite part of Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express, what makes you proud to have helped create it and why is it a game adventure fans will like?
Scott Nixon: I am still in awe at being a part of this endeavor. I have always loved Agatha Christie and felt that her stories were akin to the best comfort food. My favorite part of Murder on the Orient Express is definitely the feeling of isolation and the growing tension as you come to realize that something much larger than a simple murder is afoot.
Mike Adams: I think my favorite part of Murder on the Orient Express is the fact that although the game does remain true to the novel, the fact that new characters are introduced, and very subtle changes are made, makes it exciting for those who have and have not read the novel.
Strategy Informer: What's the currently release date and is it possible we may see some changes in the future?
Byron Gaum: The U.S. release date is scheduled for November 14, 2006. We’re all very excited here at DreamCatcher and we hope that you all enjoy this terrific murder mystery!