Silent Streets

The path to the truth is in a dead man's footsteps...

London, 1867. The telegram arrived last week. You almost threw it into the fire. Whatever right Thomas Horgan had to contact you, he gave it up long before he left London. One more bridge torched in his wake. One more former friend cursing his name. But you read it anyway. Three words the Great Detective would never have said. “Help me. Please.”

Silent Streets is an iPhone detective/mystery game for Russian based Fun Bakers, combining pedometer features with some investigation elements and visual novel style storytelling. Fun Bakers hired me to handle the narrative side of things, creating an interesting Victorian setting and cast of characters, as well as planning and writing cases that could be experienced in bite-size chunks, but still feel like the player had solved a satisfying detective story once complete.

The world I came up with was Snowport, a small but dangerous Victorian town on the very corner of the Empire. The player is a former student/friend/rival (you pick) of a disgraced Holmesian style detective, though with more of a Marlowe status. You come to town in response to a desperate message only to find his throat cut and a mysterious alchemical symbol sewn into his mouth. The policeman investigating, Inspector Gage, needs to arrest someone, and you’re the only one around. Proving your innocence is one thing. Finding the truth is another. But Horgan’s lodgings are paid up. You have his tools. You know his methods. And Snowport desperately needs a new Detective walking its silent streets.

The city’s big gimmick though is presenting a slight alternative history, in which the Royal Society chose to embrace the growing world of spiritualism instead of rejecting it. This doesn’t mean everyone believes, but it led to a few key changes, including the establishment of Snowport itself in a part of the Empire that allowed for ice-harvesting instead of relying on foreign sources, and has acted as a retreat for a number of scientists. Pressed to work on weapons for instance, Faraday instead took a trip to Snowport, where his quick advances led to the invention of ‘Faraday Coils’ - as seen in the first case. Many of the others borrow from science and magic in similar ways. It’s not steampunk, it’s not super-advanced technology. It’s just a little bit ahead, and often in the hands of people who don’t quite understand their toys.

The nature of the game made for an interesting structural challenge, due to having to carefully balance the player’s likely mental bandwidth as they dipped in and out of the story, coming up with mysteries that allowed for lots of movement and interesting reveals that didn’t waste their valuable time, while still keeping the interactive element of being the one to solve the cases and complete bonus challenges to discover more than just the raw solution. Contacts for instance both allow the player to ask about the various things they’ve found, and act as touchpoints led by representatives of the different factions - the press, the police, the underworld.

Cases

I. The Boy With The Flower Skin

A disgraced detective lies dead in a cold city of mystery and corruption. Now, only the former associate arrested from his murder can discover the truth, if they can buy themselves some time to investigate.

II. The Mockingbird’s Last Dive

The Detective is drawn into the bloody, anarchic world of Snowport’s dockland boxing scene. All’s fair in the ring, but when it spills out into the rest of the city, nobody involved can afford to just sit by.

III. The Short Cold Life Of Jenny Thricewise

Snowport’s underworld prepares for war when one of crime-lord Mr. Demalion’s most trusted messenger urchins is found murdered. Only the Detective can calm the situation and see street-justice done.

IV. The Devil’s Zoetrope

The Carnival comes to town, and the scientists of the Royal Society must reluctantly greet their colleagues in the world of spirituality. When mysterious murders start plaguing the city, can either help?

More cases coming…