Interview – Olga Ryzhko – Frogwares – Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments

Sherlock Holmes, Crimes & Punishments is an adventure game, developed by Frogwares. It places players in the shoes of the great detective Sherlock Holmes, solving six independent cases, using all the deductive tools in his arsenal.

Recently, before playing the game for our review. We contacted Olga Ryzhko, Frogwares’ Marketing and Business Development Manager, to ask her a few things about the game and its design and development. Below are her replies. Enjoy!

First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
My pleasure!

Where does Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments fit in the series’ chronology? Sherlock certainly looks younger than he does in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes.
One of my most favourite questions. I always have a hard time answering it 🙂 So here we go:
1888 – Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper
1894 – The Awakened
1895 – Sherlock Holmes vs. Arsène Lupin
1897 – Secret of the Silver Earring
1898 – Testament of Sherlock Holmes
1899 – The Mystery of the Mummy
Crimes & Punishments takes place definitely before The Testament, Black Peter case is set in 1895, so it’s in between.

Previous titles in the series had one large case that made up the plot, with the investigation (and puzzle solving) revealing more aspects of it, but Crimes & Punishments focuses on smaller investigations instead. What made you decide to shift to a collection of shorter stories instead of a larger one?
Smaller cases in Crimes & Punishments are now similar to the novelettes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. On the other hand, one of the biggest things in the game is your ability to make your own decisions during the investigation. Remember, every decision in the game has its own impact?  I tend to believe those choices play greater role in the smaller cases rather than in one big story.

Early gameplay trailers show there are decision points in the game, on accusing the different subjects and how the arrest and punishment should be handled. Can you tell us more about this ‘morality’ system?
Right, there are two types of choices to make.
First, decides on the guilty party, as there are several suspects in each case and all of them seem to have their own reasons to commit the crime. So there are plenty of chances to accuse the wrong suspect if interpreting the clues in the wrong way or making the wrong deductions.
Second, once you are confident on the culprit you can choose to condemn or absolve them. It’s not about approving the murder but you might justify their reasons of why they did it. Our morality system doesn’t judge if you are good or bad, there is no black and white here. We only communicate your decisions and we respect them.

With the focus shifting to criminal investigations and clues, will there still be logic puzzles like those found in previous titles, such as the puzzle boxes found in Testament?
Crimes & Punishments is not that heavy on the puzzles as our previous instalments but there is a big variety of puzzles to solve including logic, detective and others.

Aside from Sherlock and Watson, are there any other familiar characters coming back for Crimes & Punishments?
Sure! You will meet Mycroft Holmes, Mrs Hudson, Baker Street Irregulars, Inspector Lestrade.

On design: the Sherlock Holmes series has always had very intriguing puzzles (the number sequence ones being my kryptonite), what goes into designing them? Do you revise the puzzles as they go along, tweaking the difficulty and clues?
Thank you! Indeed puzzles play rather big role in Sherlock Holmes game and it is difficult to satisfy all the players. There is a delicate balance in puzzles difficulty and we continue our experiments with every game we develop. Our biggest challenge with Crimes & Punishments was to insert puzzles into the story and to make sure they do not distract you from the actual gameplay. We discussed our puzzles in the devblog here.

Have there been puzzles you’ve had to scrap? Do you forget about them or do you shelve them to use in a future title?
It’s a usual thing – sometimes you need to keep the designers grounded otherwise they have no limits. Some puzzles didn’t fit the game, we physically were not able to make others, we omitted all 2Ds and focused on 3D puzzles instead, some were not possible due to technical restrictions, etc. Do we forget any of them? – Never.

Speaking of scrapping, were there any features you had to remove from the final version of the game, for time or budget reasons? If so, will they be made available at some point via DLC?
We do not plan DLC for Crimes & Punishments; it’s our first ‘episodic’ game and we never made any for the previous games.
Speaking of the features – it’s similar to puzzles: some didn’t fit, others were technically impossible. Do we forget any of them? – Never.

Sherlock relaxing after a job well done!

Sherlock relaxing after a job well done!

For the team: What’s the most fun part of the game (case, puzzle, character, dialogue, etc.) for you and why?
I will list them from the funniest to less fun (according to the team interview): developers themselves, deduction space, characters, and cases.

For the team: How do you prefer to play the game: First or Third Person Perspective?
So I’ve made a poll on Frogwares internal website asking to explain my colleagues’ preferences; as expected, there is no single answer, voices split into 50/50. Some prefer 3rd person camera, others enjoy 1st. Arguments relate to seeing Sherlock Holmes himself and feeling being him, making fun of his wardrobe (you can’t see it with 1st person camera) or paying more attention to the Victorian setting instead to the character; there are those who switch depending on the locations. So we are happy to have both cameras in the game.

On the development side: how large was the Crimes & Punishments development team? Was there an overlap with the Call of Cthulhu team or does each title have its own staff?
Rather large, especially for Frogwares. I’d say around 50 with peaks of 80 people.
Both games have their own teams. The development of Crimes & Punishments and the one of Call of Cthulhu do not match in time – when we started CoC, we were finishing Sherlock Holmes game. So it’s pretty easy to switch people if needed; thankfully it’s not very often to happen.

The next big thing for Frogwares!

The next big thing for Frogwares!

Were there any challenges with using the Unreal Engine 3? Also, with the release of the UE4, are there plans on using this engine in future titles or remake previous ones?
Crimes & Punishments is our second game built with UE3, so it was easier for the tech team.

Do you have any advice on adventure game design for independent developers?
I’d advice to create what they want, not what they expect people to want.

What’s next for Frogwares after Crimes & Punishments? Is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming Call of Cthulhu or future Sherlock plans?
I’d be happy to share our future plans but it is too early now. So I suggest we talk some time in future.

Once again, thank you for your time.
Thanks for your interest and thank you for letting me share this with you.

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