E3 2013: Murdered: Soul Suspect Interview – Yosuke Shiokawa Journeys With Us into the Afterlife

Richard Walker

What happens when you die? Does your soul shoot up to heaven? Do you come back as a butterfly? (No one ever suspects 'the butterfly!') Or do you get chucked in a hole in the ground and become worm's meat? Or do you become a ghost and have a chance to wander around 'The Dusk', a limbo-like realm in which you can see everything but touch nothing?

If Murdered: Soul Suspect is to be believed, this is exactly what happens when you die, as the game's protagonist Detective Ronan O'Connor soon discovers when he's killed by a mysterious hooded assailant. Using his detective ingenuity, he'll need to piece together what happened and ultimately discover the identity of his killer.

It's a pretty original concept for a game, but where did it come from? We engaged our extra sensory perception to track down Murdered's Creative Director Yosuke Shiokawa to find out more about Soul Suspect, where the idea sprung from and more.

What were the key goals the team had for Murdered: Soul Suspect?

Well basically we tried to create a unique, novel, new game that's in the triple-A genre, but innovative like an indie or something you'd find on a mobile platform. I believe that games can still be really inventive, so that was the major goal that came with the concept for this game, so solving your own murder as a ghost detective is our core concept, and we hope people will enjoy that.

Which games have you been inspired by?

The main inspiration came mainly from movies and TV shows like... When I started this project, the game was pitched as Die Hard with John McClane as a ghost, and that was the very beginning of this concept. Then after that I added a more mysterious atmosphere; something like a JJ Abrams programme like Fringe, Lost and Alias. His shows have a lot of mystery and surprising moments, and also his shows have twists. I really love that aspect, and so I put a lot of that essence into our game.

So we can expect a lot of twists and turns as Murdered's plot unfolds?

Yes! Obviously I can't say much about that at this moment.

How about the game's protagonist, Ronan O'Connor? Can you tell us more about his chequered past?

He's not a good cop. As a detective he did a lot of bad things, so he had a very dirty background, but when he met his wife he tried to become as good a detective as he could be. Eventually he becomes a great detective, but then he gets killed, so he's actually a really unlucky guy!

Is Murdered: Soul Suspect something of a journey of redemption for O'Connor then, as well as an exploration of his own murder?

Well, we started with the concept of solving your own murder case, but like I said, there's a lot of twists, surprising moments and mystery, so the story has more depth and other elements that include redemption and revenge. The core theme is Ronan's journey, his story.

During the demo we saw of Murdered, we were shown the opening moments of the game with puzzles comprised of two or three parts. Will these have more parts and become more complicated as you progress?

Yeah, exactly. This presentation is at the beginning of the game, so it's kind of a tutorial with relatively basic missions because gamers might not necessarily know what ghosts can do. We teach that carefully, but after these moments it does become more complicated, more challenging and we have more variety as well.

Was it a difficult development challenge to allow Ronan to be able to pass through every wall and to be able to possess every character in the game?

Yes. When the team pitched this 'pass through' idea, I initially refused because it's a huge risk, and I was wondering if we could even do it. I had a bunch of questions, but when we started prototyping and implementing the gameplay, it was just such a fun experience. So while it's hard to do, on the other hand we can make a unique gameplay experience out of it, which is why we strived to ensure we have it.

Was it ever part of the plan to develop Murdered: Soul Suspect for next-generation platforms or to port the game in the future?

I don't know about the future, but for now we are concentrating on creating a current-gen experience, so basically I want to create a great game and focus our resources on making a great game instead of heavily investing in hard console research, R&D, and building new pipelines. To me that is a massive risk that could prevent us from making a great game.

How expansive is Murdered's town of Salem and its surroundings?

It's more a point A to point B kind of game, and it's also not a huge sandbox game like GTA or Saints Row, so we have a hub and spoke structure like Batman: Arkham Asylum or Deus Ex: Human Revolution or BioShock. Those games are of a similar size and structure to Murdered: Soul Suspect. It's not huge, but we have some freedom for exploration.

Finally, if you were a ghost and you could do anything or haunt anyone, what would you do?

(Laughs) Wow, that's a good question. (Laughs) I'd like to do a couple of things. Haunting as many people as possible mainly.

Anyone in particular you'd like to haunt?

(Laughs) No, everyone!

Murdered: Soul Suspect is out in early 2014. You can read our first look preview here.

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