Private Dick is a point and click murder mystery set aboard a gay cruise. Delight in puzzles, dark comedy and surprisingly poignant moments as you guide Detective Otto to solve who killed the influencer Ivoree Blush before this zany cruise lands in Bermuda!

Private Dick Development Journey 2022 - Present

Concept

In December of 2020, two artist friends and a student of game programming came together with the desire to start a new project.  

We spent a month considering various genres and stories before settling on this idea and the point and click genre.

The concept itself had been languishing in an old folder as an outline for a film script. At the time, we figured this plan could leverage our strengths in narrative, art and character design and limit the amount of programming power we needed up front in order to suit our team’s strengths.

Eventually, our team lost our programmer so we shifted towards making a strong concept trailer to help us recruit a team and move forward.

From inception, the core appeal of this game was the specificity of its world.

The key phrase is dilapidated decadence. We wanted the cruise to feel kitschy, colorful and lost in time. The world would be populated by self-indulgent, self-absorbed and over the top characters making the most of their boozy vacation.

This choice seemed particularly perfect for the point and click genre where objects you collect and their lore create a crucial part of the player’s experience.

Gameplay

One of the biggest challenges came from a seemingly simple game mechanic we changed.

Knowing that the game was a mystery, we decided to have our puzzles be based on clues rather than utilizing physical objects as is typical for a point and click.

As has been the humbling lesson of… everything we’ve tried to accomplish, it turned out this seemingly small change would instantly break everything about the genre. 

Initial backround sketches

Final background

We had studied iconic point and clicks from the 90s like King’s Quest and the Monkey Island series to start to figure out the types of puzzles that existed, but physical objects and information have drastically different qualities.

Physical objects can be handed off and broken or disposed of in a way that information doesn’t when used. If we had the player’s clues just disappear after use, the narrative would break as suddenly Otto, our main character, wouldn’t remember some piece of information the player had used earlier.

Furthermore, if the clues weren’t disposed of/used up, the player would quickly accrue way too much information to be sorted through or used for figuring out puzzles. We spent a while trying out different systems until we found a solution we believed in.

↑ Initially the clues would be stored in a journal and the main gameplay mechanic was a dialogue system about pleasing or offending passengers

Finally we settled on our idea palace system, wherein the player allocates hunches that Otto found to a dedicated inventory in his head.

Otto can find these hunches by observing the environment or talking to people aboard the ship. As players correctly allocate these hunches, new interactions are enabled in the general world.

The gameplay-narrative metaphor is that the player is participating directly in helping Otto to better understand his world.

We also loved this idea because it makes Otto feel endearingly curious. He’s constantly noticing little things everywhere that he’s not even sure are useful.

The narrative possibility of Otto constructing his thoughts about the world versus the persona he puts on when talking to people on the cruise was also extremely satisfying.

 The idea palace interface

Characters

As we developed the concept for the overall plot, Otto quickly came into focus as the main character.

Otto will play “straight man” to a world of absurd characters and we plan to use that to maximum comedic effect.

Having come out recently in his late 50s, Otto has a lot of fear and self-repression to overcome and this mad world will poke and prod him at every turn. Additionally, Otto comes from a blue collar, hyper masculine, small town background and finds himself in a world of failed opulence and decadence, which only heightens the contrast.

We started off playing with the idea of him as a lovable dad type but quickly realized he had to be… kind of hot. He was always named after and inspired by walruses though.

↑ Otto character design evolution

In order to make the whole world cohesive, we wanted to carry the whimsical time lost quality into Otto’s animation and reflect the eventual soundtrack.

Here you can see how we tweaked his walk to be dancier inspired by Bob Fosse’s Sweet Charity

The villains were the next biggest piece of the plot and our goals were a few: 

Villains people would love to hate

A diversity of types of queer people each with their own nefarious alignment to power and corrupt agendas

Memorable enough individual styles that they could each be dressed in multiple outfits for the various themed parties that will happen over the course of the narrative.

We’ll keep other facets of these characters a mystery for now, but like all mystery stories, each and every one of them has a great reason to have offed influencer Ivoree Blush.

First villain sketches

The villains were the next biggest piece of the plot and our goals were a few: 

Villains people would love to hate

A diversity of types of queer people each with their own nefarious alignment to power and corrupt agendas

Memorable enough individual styles that they could each be dressed in multiple outfits for the various themed parties that will happen over the course of the narrative.

We’ll keep other facets of these characters a mystery for now, but like all mystery stories, each and every one of them has a great reason to have offed influencer Ivoree Blush.

 ← Possible Sepia outfits

↑ Otto and the villains

Logo and Design Considerations

Our game’s title, logo and some of its design language came relatively recently in the process, but followed the overall visual logic we’d built thus far.

The game will be bawdy, adult and have dark comedic elements, but also be sweet and filled with heart.

Its cartoony whimsical presentation softens some of the sharper edges of Otto’s emotional journey or the villains’ darker instincts.

We also wanted to throw an effete twist on some of the masculine tropes of the detective genre.

Colors are slightly off and too saturated. Everything is maximalist and visually abrasive.

Brochure for the cruise

We have a big journey ahead of us and we hope you’ll come along!

We’re looking for collaborators and especially a programmer that sees themselves in this vision.

Reach out and say hello if interested!

info@superposepress.com