Jan 27

Weekly Update #180: Writing Investigation Segments

It’s been a week now since we have released an early beta version of GENBA no Kizuna’s demo on our Patreon page and we have already received some very helpful feedback for it! So I wanted to start today’s blog post by once again expressing my gratitude to everyone who has tried it out and taken the time to give us their impressions! Thank you so much!

We will soon release an updated version of the demo which will not only have the feedback taken into account, but also feature the beginning of the first actual chapter: a short investigation segment that will let you examine the lobby of the Kaseki Residence.

I have been hard at work over this past week in order to get everything done for it. Like designing choice windows, for example, or the investigation menu, which I’ve posted a preview of on my private Twitter account.

But first and foremost, I naturally focused on finishing the actual writing, which is the main topic I wanted to talk about today.

In a sense, writing these investigation segments is even more difficult than writing the actual story sections of a game like this.
With the story sections, I usually know where things are headed and what needs to be said. It’s not as clear with the investigation segments, though. I mean, of course there are some guidelines I have as orientation. Pieces of evidence, for example, that need to be discovered in order to solve the case. With those, I always have a list of key facts I need to provide the player with.
But outside of that, literally anything is possible.

Something that needs to be kept in mind here is that the writing for the investigation segments goes very much hand in hand with drawing the actual background images. Before I start drawing, I always make a list of things that definitely need to be featured on the image. Everything that is important to the crime, for instance, whether it’s a result of it (like blood splatters on the floor) or part of the cause (like the murder weapon).

I consider everything that has happened. Did the culprit escape through a window? If so, the window might be open. Was there a struggle with the victim? If so, maybe a clue could be some sort of object that got broken in the process. A vase, a lamp, whatever. Did the culprit try to get rid of evidence, but was in a hurry to do so? In that case, they might not have been that thorough and overlooked a shard in a corner of the room.

By thinking about these kinds of things I know what has to be on the background. But outside of that, I’m free to add whatever I feel like. How’s the room decorated? Are there plants? Pictures on the walls? What about furniture? I can draw whatever I want.
But this is where the tough part begins. Because I still need to consider what of these things can later be examined. Not everything has to be related to the case, after all.

When we take a look at the background image for the lobby (preview linked above), for example, I knew what the general design was supposed to be. But then I started to wonder… okay, what else can I add and what kinda stuff should you be able to examine? All the plants? Some of the plants? Only one? None? Can you examine the entire table? Each individual thing on it? Only some of them?

Once I have decided which things can be examined based on what I think might be most interesting, or what the player most likely would want to click on, I then have to do the actual writing. And once again, I can literally do anything here.

I’ve put an incubator on the table, for example. It initially was just a Jurassic Park reference (the incubator is actually based on a toy from The Lost World, which I still have in my possession). This is one of the objects I immediately thought would be interesting. Something the player might want to take a closer look at. But then the question was, what’s Keiichi actually going to say about it?
I could go about this from many different angles.

Naturally, these kinds of things are not necessary or relevant to the overall plot. What Keiichi thinks about a random chair in the corner of a room or how he interacts with it is pretty much irrelevant to the story/murder case. BUT! It gives me an opportunity to provide some additional information about the environment/location, or… some further characterization which can help a great deal in making the characters feel more real.

Maybe a certain object reminds the character of something that happened in their past. Maybe it’s just something they personally like. Maybe something they hate or are even scared of. In SHINRAI, for example, if you examine certain things like the plush bat hanging from the ceiling in the dining hall, or the plush cat sitting on the closet in the guest room, Raiko will eventually lament the fact that she’d like to get them but is unable to, due to her height.

It’s just a random bit of information with no consequence to the story, but these instances let us learn two things about her:
She thinks the bat and the cat are cute enough that she’d like to have them, and she is very much aware of how short she is.
Something which seems to bother her a lot.

Now the player knows a little more about Raiko. As random as they are, they show a different side of her and help draw a better picture of what kind of person she is (she may seem rather mature for her age and appear rather grumpy most of the time, but she’s still a 14-year-old girl).

Investigations are generally a good way to showcase unexpected sides of a character. In GENBA, when you examine the metal closet in the lobby, for example, you will learn something about Nobuhiko which might surprise you.

Sometimes I also try to include a little bit of foreshadowing. Like Nobara being afraid of someone using the gasoline canister in the basement to burn down the entire resort.

Again, I can literally do anything here and that’s why it’s so difficult. I always wonder… what’s the most interesting thing I can do? What’s the most unexpected? What helps to convey a bit more about the location? What portrays the relationship between interacting characters a little better? What’s just plain funny? What can be used to provide a little bit of trivia? I mean, you can bet your butt that there’s gonna be dino trivia littered all throughout this game, haha.

I’m very curious to see how players will like the investigation segments. I hope they will be very enjoyable and interesting.
I’m definitely doing my best to achieve that goal. Ideally, I want players to have enough fun that they always want to examine everything, even if they can immediately tell that it probably has nothing to do with the case and could be easily ignored.

But yeah, guess it’s time to wrap this up and get back to work! Still need to finish a few more assets after all. I can’t give an exact date as to when the updated demo will be available, but it won’t take too much longer. In the meantime, if you’re a patron, please don’t forget to vote in this month’s art poll! Less than a week to go for you to decide who will be featured in our Valentine’s artwork (and we’re once again at a tie)!

As always, please enjoy the rest of your weekend and, until next Saturday, take care! :3