An exciting new crowdfunding campaign in support of the murder mystery video game “The Murder on Hemlock Drive” is about to launch, and we caught up with the game’s creator, Mitchell Clifford, to find out more.
Mairi: Hey Mitchell, it’s great to meet you! Please introduce yourself.
Mitchell: Hi! My name is Mitchell Clifford. I am a multimedia artist from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Mairi: And is this the first video game you’ve created?
Mitchell: Yeah, this is my first video game. So my, my background is in electrical engineering, but I’ve always had an interest in the stories that people tell each other and how do you can use technology to enhance those stories.
Back when I was in high school I was really into animatronics, things like the Dark Crystal and Jim Henson stuff. So when I went through college my main focus was electrical engineering. I mean, you’ve gotta make money somehow, right? But I focused on getting into a school with a great art program. This let me do both.
From here, I’m self-taught. I have some background in coding from the engineering, but learning video game engines, that part is all new to me. I really got into game design when I started attending conferences for VFX, they often showcase a lot of video games and art installations. I’m fascinated with how people tell engaging stories through multimedia and non-traditional formats. Interactive technology is great.
Mairi: Totally! But what about you, what are some of your favourite games?
Mitchell: From an early age I started out with the Pokemon games. I played Pokemon Yellow and I couldn’t for the life of me beat it. Like, I raised a Level 70 Pikachu and always ran out of money. The funny part is, I finally beat the game years later in college. Haha!
More recently my favourite genre has become puzzle games. I’ve loved playing Gris, Superliminal, Monument Valley… Games like that!
Mairi: How about murder mystery games?
Mitchell: Well, the murder mystery genre is very interesting because my writing a mystery into The Murder on Hemlock Drive came from the storytelling point of view. My first job out of college was really boring, but it let me listen to audio books for hours and hours. At first, I was reading through all of the new Nancy Drew Chronicles because they were all at my all free on my app. Then I got into Agatha Christie, went back to Sherlock Holmes – I read everything I could!
They were such an important part of my life I wanted to make one of myself. I’m not going to compete in the literary field- haha no. But I did want to bring fun and interactivity into stories like this with a video game.
Mairi: And so The Murder on Hemlock Drive was born! How did you go about writing the story?
Mitchell: Sure, so when it came to writing the story, I was inspired by an Agatha Christie book called Towards Zero. It’s such a great way to write these stories. The murder is 0.0 and then everything branches out from there. So I’ve kind of started from there: Here’s the murder! Then working the story back, like how did all these people get here? And then once I have that, I can be like, well how do you solve that? How do you like untangle the mess that happened back here and then have a conclusion?
Mairi: Will the game just be on PC, or Consoles too?
Mitchell: To begin with, it’ll be on itch.io and steam. The goal there’ll be PC Linux and potentially Mac too. The whole time I’ve been working on the game I’ve actually been imagining it as a tablet or mobile game, so that’s the next step for me. It depends on the interest.
Right now there’s technical demo available on itch.io. It’s got your basic mechanics, the look, the feel, and the music too. I’d definitely encourage people to try it out if they’re interested! It gives you a real feel of the game. I’ve been using local Cincinnati based artists for the illustrations – Evan Verrilli makes the illustrations, and Ethan Kimberley and Katie Carson produce our music.
Mairi: And if the crowdfunding is successful, what’s next?
Mitchell: We have some stretch goals too. If it does really well, we’ll be expanding our team – I’d love to bring on someone to do more animations for the game, and we can add more levels and expand the look and the feel. It’s been quite hard as a solo game developer. Right now I’m not a full-time designer, my time is split between lots of activities. So even one more person would give us twice the capacity to make the game even better for launch. Expansion stories would also be really fun if the crowdfunding goes really well, there’s so many different stories I want to tell.
Mairi: And finally, what are you hoping the game will achieve once it’s launched?
Mitchell: Haha, well I don’t want to like put too much on it, but I’m hoping that it will be an interesting experience. There’s different character traits and different ways to solve it. So once you solved it, you really feel like you figured it out on your own.
I built in a couple of newer elements, like this risk system, you have to push people for answers, but if you push people too much then it’ll come back to bite you. Perhaps the killer will be alerted you’re on their track, or perhaps people will just feel like you’re an asshole and won’t want to talk to you anymore.
But yeah, I’m really just hoping it’s fun. Even if small amount of people play and really enjoy it, that’ll be good!
We thank Mitchell Clifford for taking the time to be a part of this interview!
If you want to keep up with The Murder on Hemlock Drive, check out the website hemlockmurder.com and Mitchell’s Itch.io page here.