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Game Idea A Week: The Curious Case of the Tree in the Living Room

Week Thirty-Four (30/05/2010)

In the idea for this week, is a comedic mystery. You play Jane Doe, who wakes up after a bender of a night with a strange dog lying on her bed, a tree in the living room, half a tattoo on her arm and a note to meet "Mr Right" at 6pm with no address. You must piece together what happened last night in order to find Mr Right before it's too late.

A tree in the middle of the living room





Why it needs to be made:

Although murder mysteries are common enough in both games and television, more commonplace mysteries are often ignored. This game uses all the aspects of a standard mystery game, with strange objects and people, yet on a much lighter topic by combining with comedy and outlandish mysteries and solutions.


The player is Jane Doe, a woman who wakes up with no memory of what happened last night, other than the bar she started drinking at. The player is presented with series of initial mysteries: there is a dog on her bed that isn't hers, there is a tree in the living room, a sore arm (which reveals half of a tattoo on closer inspection) and a note to meet "Mr Right" at 6pm. As the game progresses some of the mysteries are solved quickly and some, such as who is Mr Right and where you are supposed to meet him, unfold over the entire game. An example of a quickly solved mystery is the dog. You call up the number marked on the dog tag and find out it was someone you met last night who you offered to help out by minding their dog. The dog's owner saw you with your Mr Right at a late night food outlet.

There are a number of other mysteries that you encounter along the way and you meet both friends and strangers who know something of what happened last night and will help point you in the right direction. For example, you go to the bar where you started the night: the bartender knows something about where to meet Mr Right, but will only help you out if you remember what the ingredients were of a drink you invented last night. To solve this you'll need to remember that your housemate said you have a blue tongue, as well as talk to every person who you saw last night. Each person will give you a clue to one of the ingredients, and may also solve another mystery or give you a new mystery to solve.

The core gameplay is similar to an adventure game where you must point and click objects and people to interact with them. The game will take place in a small number of locations such as your house, the bar you started at, a late-night food joint, a nightclub, the tattoo palour and, of course, the final location where you meet Mr Right. Although there is the 6pm deadline, the gameplay will not be fully time dependent, so players can take as long as they need to solve each mystery.

Some mysteries are stand-alone and do not require any other mysteries to be solved. However, many mysteries require other mysteries to be solved first and will in turn help you solve future mysteries. Players have a clear goal in mind, which is working out who Mr Right is and where to meet him. Players will also be able to access a list of the current mysteries they are trying to solve, so that they can keep track of what they should be doing, or to give them options to pursue in case they get stuck on one particular problem.

Why it will be a compelling game:

The core mystery of where to find "Mr Right" will only be solved at the end of the game, so players will want to continue until they can solve this. However, the player will be constantly solving minor mysteries that help them solve the major mystery, giving them a sense of progress towards their goal and satisfaction at completing some mysteries.

Other thoughts:

Some of the themes and characters from this original idea have been put into a small implemented demo for my gameplay mechanic a month project. To implemented game is an interactive story called "The Tree Mysteries Part One: Marie's Mr Right" and uses an observation mechanic to get players to solve the mystery themselves. For more details or to play the game, see the observation mechanic details.

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