Tangent alert!

@cgrajko What this makes me wonder is which game to date has actually done the best job of simulating the sleuthing experience. Before LA Noire we had Police Quest, which I only played a little of but which I recall as simulating the bureaucratic aspects of police work to a mildly annoying degree (“It’s a 3.414…”) and of course the Laura Bow games, the second of which is notable for the amusing primness of its narrator (“Don’t touch it! You don’t know where it’s been!”) and for the rather merciless way the game will punish you for failing – not just to correctly identify the culprit but also to gather every single shred of evidence along the way. It is perfectly possible to have reached the right answer in your head but fail to be able to back it up, as the game determines “backing it up.”

Phoenix Wright did a reasonable job with getting you to work your way through the solution in the order the writers had in mind, though it falls a tiny bit foul of that old trick of the Pointedly Pointless Detail one often sees in older mystery shows like Murder, She Wrote. A savvy viewer can learn quickly to spot that one little thing that is being carefully shown to you; even if it doesn’t make sense at the time you see it, once you learn to recognize the style of its presentation you’ll know you’ve just been offered the crux of the “right” answer. Happily, in this series they’ve just gone ahead and made it a gameplay element – those “contradictions” we’re told about in the first few moments after loading up the game. Do you know why a contradiction is important? Not necessarily, no – but you know what you’re looking for even if you may not have worked out what it means. (I actually often had the opposite problem in Ace Attorney games – getting “ahead” of the plot and pointing out things before it was time.)

LA Noire does it moderately well, I think, as far as the crime scene portions of the investigations are concerned; but I remember wishing repeatedly that in interrogations I could actually have some indication of the tack Cole was going to take if I chose a particular option. If I meant when I selected “Doubt” that I wanted to raise the question of whether he was really SURE he saw X at Y place and time, and Cole instead said something belligerent that was entirely unrelated to what I had in mind, it was really jarring to my play experience. And this happened VERY often while we were playing. Perhaps it just means that I don’t think enough like the developers do. 🙂

I felt a lot during LA Noire that I was getting Cole’s sleuthing experience…but that it didn’t necessarily jive with MY sleuthing experience, if you know what I mean.

But that’s kind of the trouble with attempting to tell a mystery story in any interactive medium, isn’t it? Scenario writers for RPGs have the same problem: they know the answer, and they know the route they intend the players to go to GET to that answer, but players are unpredictable creatures and may come up with something entirely outside a writer’s planned scenario.

I don’t know – Squad, what do you think? Who’s done mystery the best so far, and what should an aspirant to that crown be doing to ensure their supremacy?