Novel Games – Simon R. Green’s Nightside

With the release of The Witcher 3 I decided to revisit this little idea I had a few months ago, about writing down the basic design for a game based on a novel. If you’re wondering what that has to do with The Witcher, then you might be surprised to learn that the games are inspired by the works of Andrzej Sapkowski—a Polish fantasy author.

But the trilogy isn’t the only one based on novels. From the Sherlock Holmes adventure games to Amercian McGeee’s Alice, the video game industry has looked to published work for inspiration for at least a decade now and it will continue to do so in the future.

So, let me take a shot at it and see what kind of game I can design based on Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. Do note that this is a simple design, just stating genre and main mechanics.

  • Genre: Point & Click Adventure
    • Reason: The Nightside series follows John Taylor, a private investigator with the unique ability to find anything. As such, while there is action, the stories are highly investigative and conversation driven. When it comes to confrontations, John resorts to wit, intimidation, bluffing and downright cheating.
      These elements combined fit the Point & Click Adventure genre the most, where every situation is a puzzle.
  • Puzzle Types: Inventory, Logic & Conversations.
    • Due to Harrowing (read below) and John’s many enemies, some situations are Time-Based.
  • Similar Games: The Blackwell Series, Sam & Max Season The Devil’s Playhouse, Cognition: The Erica Reed Thriller.
    • The three games presented above all have protagonists with supernatural powers with the puzzles built around their use.
  • Main Mechanics:
    • Private Eye: John Taylor’s special ability is his Third Eye, his private eye, one he opens in the recesses of his mind and lets him see everything, the entire Nightside. At the start of the novel, using the eye would lead his enemies to him. “I shine too brightly, when I use my gift,” he often commented, as he became a metaphysical beacon they could use to get to him.
      • Reveal Hotspots: By using Taylor’s eye, the player can show all Hotspots in the current scene.
      • If used on an item, it can reveal secret hotspots, new locations to travel to and open conversation topics.
      • The Eye can be used to start logic puzzles to dismantle magic, technology and other special effects. Taylor often uses the eye against his enemies to leave them powerless.
      • Harrowing: Depending on where in the timeline the game fits, using the power too much can bring forth the Harrowing, forcing John to leave the scene and having to return at a later time.
      • Hint System: If used, it will trigger the Harrowing invasion much quicker, to balance out the use of the Private Eye to bypass a puzzle
    • Trenchcoat: John’s trusty Trenchcoat holds all the items he needs, has several layers of magical protection and Taylor often warns others that the trenchcoat bites or has a bad disposition.
      • Salt & Pepper are always in the inventory. Never leave home without condiments.
      • Random Items: John will often pull items from some deep pocket in the Trenchcoat. These can be used as part of the Help System in lower difficulties, using one such item to bypass a puzzle.
      • John knows a variety of simple spells, such as the party trick to teleport all bullets from his opponents’ guns to his hand. These spells are part of the inventory as well.
      • The Private Eye also appears in the inventory as an item.
    • Conversations: John Taylorhas a reputation in the Nightside, a bad one, a really bad one. He often uses it to his advantage and never confirms nor denies anything they say about him. His conversation options fall into one of three categories:
      • Sincere: John attempts to be diplomatic and sincere, trying to use reason to convince other parties.
      • Threaten: Using the worst of his reputation, John will often attempt to intimidate people into doing things his way.
      • Bluff: Lying to others is almost second nature to Taylor and he will often exaggerate the truth and make it up outright if it suits him.
  • Important Locations and Characters: The following appear in almost every book in the series and as such would appear in the game.
    • Locations:
      • Strangefellows: The Oldest pub in the world, run by Alex Morrisey, the last descendant of Merlin Satanspawn.
      • John’s Office: He’s rarely there. He lets his secretary, Cathy, take care of the business for him.
      • Street of the Gods: A long street filled with temples for new and old gods alike.
      • Hawks Wind Bar and Grille: The ghost bar, burned down in the 60s but refused to stay down. The last place where you can get a proper Coca-Cola.
    • Characters: Those marked with A are allies, and those with B can be both allies and enemies. Allies will offer information and/or items.
      • Walker (B): the ‘caretaker’ of the Nightside, answering to the Powers that Be and perhaps the only true authority in the Nightside.
      • Shotgun Suzie (A): John’s closest friend and sometimes more. She shoots first and then might bother to ask questions.
      • Cathy (A): John saved her in his first case back in the Nightside. She handles the business side of his private detective agency.
      • Razor Eddie (A): The Punk God of the Straight Razor. He looks like a hobo and smells worse than a dead one, but he’s the force of vengeance in the Nightside, and thankfully on John’s side most of the time.
      • Alex Morrisey (A): Alex has a grim outlook on life, but you’d have one too if you were bound by blood to run Strangefellows. He will often be possessed by his ancestor, Merlin.
      • Merlin Satanspawn (B): The Devil’s misbegotten child. Could’ve inherited the throne but decided to follow Arthur instead, renouncing his origin. Doesn’t make him less evil though.
  • Saving: The game will autosave on entering a new location and after solving every puzzle. On time-out in a time-based sequence, the game will auto load to the nearest autosave.
    • The player can still manually save and load.
  • Difficulty Levels: Initiate (Easy) and Private Eye (Hard). Hard disables hint and help systems and escaping the Harrowing is now a timed-puzzle.

The above design notes are just barebones and don’t come even close to an actual game design document. I will revisit this concept in the future and flesh it out more.

Let me know your thoughts on the design in the comments. Did I miss something crucial about the Nightside? And if you want me to do the same for another novel, let me know as well!


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I love everything readable, writeable, playable and of course, edible! I search for happiness, or Pizza, because it's pretty much the same thing! I write and ramble on The Mental Attic and broadcast on my Twitch channel, TheLawfulGeek

4 thoughts on “Novel Games – Simon R. Green’s Nightside”

  1. I love this idea. Playing Witcher 3 also got me thinking about what a great game the Nightside series would make, and wondering if anyone else thought so is how I found your post.

    Don’t forget to include Lilith; she was an ally in the second (? – it’s been a while) book, at least until her reveal.

    1. True, but it’s best not to reveal everything. We don’t want to spoil too much for those who haven’t read the novels.

      But yes, Lilith would be there and she’s one hell of an adventure puzzle-boss

      Thanks for popping by and commenting.

  2. Funny, I was thinking about this yesterday. I really like the “adventure in a city” aspect of Dragon Age II (my favorite of the series) and think that would be a great structure to the game layout. I like your idea of lots of puzzles. Rather than have you play John, I was thinking you could play as a clone of John created by the Collector; he’s hoping to use your powers to find some artifact, you bust out of his hidden lab on the moon and hop a portal to the Nightside. With some of John’s memories you step into the role of Nightside PI… and, and John is now missing, too!

    1. I like that idea, though I would leave it for the second game in the series, use the first one to introduce characters to the gaming audience. But your idea is awesome

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