Interview | Crime Lab: Body of Evidence (Nintendo DS)

By Adam Riley 30.12.2010 1

City Interactive started off on the Nintendo DS with a bang last year as Chronicles of Mystery: Curse of the Ancient Temple proved to be a massive retail success, despite being a less than stellar title in terms of overall quality. In 2010 the team has followed this up with three increasingly impressive efforts, Jewels of the Tropical Lost Island, Vampire Moon: Mystery of the Hidden Sun, and, last but not least, the superb Crime Lab: Body of Evidence. With Chronicles of Mystery 2: The Secret Tree of Life, and subsequent interview, coming in early 2011, Cubed3 decided to catch up with the Project Leader, Jakub Duda, to talk more about Crime Lab’s development and its future on Nintendo formats.

Image for Interview | Crime Lab: Body of Evidence (Nintendo DS)

Adam Riley, Senior Editor at Cubed3: Is this the first Crime Lab game? If not, does the story relate to any of the previous games?

Jakub Duda, Project Leader at City Interactive: This is the first Crime Lab game for DS/DSi (and first game from our studio that has additional features dedicated to the DSi camera), but it is loosely based on PC adventure game Art of Murder. If fact DS version is sold as an Art of Murder title in some countries.

AR: Why did you choose to call the game Crime Lab in some countries and Art of Murder in others?

JD: Working with our marketing team we decided that in some countries it is more important to stress that this game is in terms of gameplay very different from its PC counterpart, while in the others (especially in Germany, where Art of Murder is very popular), we wanted to stress the link to the original game.

AR: Where did the idea of Nicole and her story come from, and why make her an FBI operative?

JD: We started working with a story told in Art of Murder 3: Cards of Destiny, but decided to take it in a completely different direction as the game itself is completely different. Both games start at the same moment - when Nicole Bonnet rests after solving a difficult case in Paris, where she had to disobey her orders to get to the villain. But at this point our story goes in a different direction. A few weeks after coming back to US Nicole is requested to investigate what seems to be a deadly accident of a psychiatrist who worked for the FBI. What started as a routine check quickly turns into a dangerous duel, with Nicole's own life at stake. The serial killer drags her into a "game" testing her skills and wits leaving sparse clues leading to his next victims.

I do not want to spoil the game, so I will just say that even if you finished Cards of Destiny it does not mean you will not have fun playing Crime Lab.

Image for Interview | Crime Lab: Body of Evidence (Nintendo DS)

AR: Why did you decide to mix so many different styles of gameplay into the game, rather than focusing solely on the 'Hidden Object' or 'Puzzle' genre?

JD: Personally I think this is where the fun lies. We decided do mix several genres to use strong ideas from each style and avoid their weaknesses - together with an intriguing and story full of twists, this allows us to offer player a game that is both new and familiar to people who prefer rather to tease their brains that to practice thumb reflex when playing. Of course there are some, let's say, arcade minigames among the puzzles.

We do it to offer players a variety, stopping them from getting bored to easily. We want this game to be interesting both for hardcore adventure fans and players accustomed to more casual games, involving hidden objects and puzzles.

AR: When did development start, and did you always plan to include DSi-specific features? Does the game make use of the extra hardware power of the DSi as well?

JD: We started working on Crime Lab right after Chronicles of Mystery: Curse of the Ancient Temple was finished. Yes, we had planned to use the DSi from the very beginning; it was an important part of the design to use the DSi camera in some parts of the game in a natural way. On the other hand, we did not want to spoil the fun by forcing camera use or to deliver a worse experience to DS owners. This simply means that some puzzles are different depending on whether you play on DS or DSi, but there is no specifically "better version."

Talking about hardware power, fortunately or not, this is not an FPS game that would happily consume each additional Mhz of processor speed or megabyte of RAM *smiles*

AR: Was the team that worked on this as big as the one that created Chronicles of Mystery, and what role(s) did you have on the project?

JD: We started working with almost the same team as on the Chronicles of Mystery project. We learned a lot about crafting good puzzles and riddles while working on Chronicles of Mystery, and decided to use this experience in other games, but set in a completely different mood, hence the similarities between Crime Lab and Chronicles of Mystery in terms of puzzles, yet set against alternate backdrops. We have also learned a lot from Chronicles' reviews and worked hard to improve all the aspects that players were less happy about. The result is a much longer game with a more intense story with lots of twists, much improved dialogue, as well as better puzzles and riddles. We have also put a lot of effort into improving the adventuring and hidden object elements of the game. I hope players will see the extra effort in both Crime Lab: Body of Evidence and the upcoming Chronicles of Mystery: The Secret Tree of Life.

As for me, I was involved in this project both as Project Manager, responsible for keeping everything up and running (together with my colleague, Wojciech Borczyk), and Lead Designer, responsible for the creative part of the game, which was fun!

Image for Interview | Crime Lab: Body of Evidence (Nintendo DS)AR: What aspect of the game are you most proud of, and looking back at the project, are there any things you would change now?

JD: I think we have succeeded in telling a good tale, with lots of twists that fuels the fun factor. It is good to play game that has a good balance of adventure, puzzles, minigames and hidden object elements. It's too early to talk about changes, though. Of course we have all learned a few lessons with this project and are looking at the players’ and reviewers’ responses right now. I can also say that in my personal opinion Chronicles of Mystery: The Secret Tree of Life will be even better! *laughs*

AR: How well is the DS game selling in the US and Europe? Has it met your > expectations? Also, what has the feedback been like from both players and reviewers?

JD: We’re very satisfied with how it is selling in both the US and Europe. Up to now this is our best selling Nintendo DS game of all time. Still, we hope that Crime Lab can continue to sell even better than it currently is doing. As usual, we receive both positive sets of feedback and criticism from certain corners. We are happy with the former, and try to learn from the latter.

AR: Will there be a Japanese release as well for this or any of your other games?

JD: We are currently in the process of negotiations regarding any releases in the Japanese market. It’s hard to say now what the end result will be. The Japanese market is completely different to the US/Europe ones. There are totally different gaming habits among gamers and a different approach when it comes to defining genres. If we ever decide to enter Japan, we need to be sure that we know what local gamers are expecting from us.

AR: Are there plans for a second DS or DSi Crime Lab?

JD: Time will tell; it all depends on whether players will like our game *smiles*

Image for Interview | Crime Lab: Body of Evidence (Nintendo DS)

AR: Can you please tell us some details about the Wii version that is reportedly in development?

JD: There are no plans for a Wii version to be released as of now. If this changes, though, Cubed3’s readers will be the first to learn of it.

AR: Telltale has had massive success with episodic releases on WiiWare. Would you also consider this option, with an entire game like Crime Lab broken into a few chapters?

JD: Crime Lab is a boxed, retail game, while Telltale games (which I like a lot!) are specifically designed for electronic distribution. We have internally discussed splitting the game into smaller parts, but finally decided to keep it as a whole. But who knows - in the future we may consider the episodic approach again.

AR: Are you already thinking of the potential for extremely clever puzzles on the 3DS?

JD: Of course... *winks*

AR: City Interactive now has a London office - can you tell us more about this new setup? Will it be working alongside your Head Office on projects, or creating its own new ideas?

JD: The London studio will work on a completely new project. We want this to be a story-driven WWII FPS shooter for PS3 and X360. The studio will be led by Stuart Black (of ‘Black’ fame), so we really hope that his passion and vision will help to create an absolutely fantastic game. They will mostly focus on design issues. The London studio is, of course, part of the larger family of City Interactive’s studios, so it will definitely work alongside of our HQ and other studios.

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It's a shame that the Wii version may never see the light of day. I'd have loved to see what they could do on the system. Ah well, perhaps we'll indeed get Crime Lab 3DS at some point Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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