Eurogamer: Is it competitive?
Paul Woodbridge: It's however you want it. Yes it can be competitive. Say we're playing three-player, you'll get your turn and decided where you want to go to - let's say the train station. Everyone will watch the same cut-scene, so you all get the information, and then you'll end up finding the bag puzzle. If you want to, you can do that totally on your own - your friends can watch you and laugh at you and then they'll get their go on the next puzzle. Or, if you're feeling a bit friendlier, you all help each other out. You might have the controller, but the logic/lateral thinking puzzles can all be done by quite a few people, a bit Crystal Maze-like - "Quick, push the button on the right!"
Jade Tidy: We've done the first round of user testing on the first episode and I'd always felt quite strongly about the co-operative element because it's just more fun. Paul has left the design open so you can decide [whether to be competitive or not] yourselves. It will score you, but it depends if you're really bothered about that. Everybody that played multiplayer all naturally went towards the co-operative play and seemed to have a lot of fun with that. But when it got to the whodunit, they all suddenly went back to being competitive and choosing their own suspect. That worked really well and was quite natural to have that process going through.
You're set in this village of Little Riddle and you'll be there for the rest of the series. When you first come into the village, the first scene, you've come in on a train and a train has got stuck further down the line. So you're stuck in Little Riddle until they fix that. You go off into the village to see if you can get a drink while you wait, and then somebody is killed in front of you and you decide to stay on to solve the new murder. You move around the village and get to select a location and decide who you want to go see, and quite quickly you find our there are four suspects. So you'll go see those four suspects and listen to what they tell you - what is their alibi? If they mention someone else who can corroborate their story then you can go and see that other person and see if you believe them.
Eurogamer: At the end, then, you get points based on if you guessed the murderer correctly?
Paul Woodbridge: There's three ways to gain points. There's the middle puzzles - did you do them quickly, did you make any mistakes? There's also something we call QA. There's quite a few cut-scenes in the game, as it seems to be the best way to get information across. But rather than people not paying attention - this is not Metal Gear Solid, you can't hit a skip button, and it'll be the same as if you had watched it or not - we ask you questions like, "What did the Station Master want to build in the village?" Basically it's just questions on what you've seen to make sure you've been paying attention. The final way to gain points is at the end, obviously, when you get asked which of the suspects is the murderer.
Eurogamer: So, there's an hour of gameplay, but what happens after that? Is there any replayability?
Paul Woodbridge: We've got about 12 puzzles in each episode and those can be replayed. On your first play-through you can give up on them if you decide you're fed up with the puzzle and want to move on. Just click the "give up" button and move on, we're not going to hold you back. We've got the Puzzle Compendium where you can go back over those puzzles trying to get better times or complete them for the first time.
Eurogamer: Is there any punishment for failing a puzzle?
Paul Woodbridge: No no no. It's the same as if you had gotten it right.
Jade Tidy: Yeah, that was quite an important decision.
Eurogamer: Are you worried that by simplifying and casting the net too wide that you might turn off the core people that use PSN?
Paul Woodbridge: Potentially, and this is something that's come up. We are aiming for... when we did the usability testing it went down well with most of the groups. But the group that enjoyed it the most was the family, the mum and dad and the two younger kids.
There is a little concern - are the people we're aiming for the people who buy games from PSN? But having said that, I'm a core gamer, and maybe I'm not aiming this game at me, but it would be great if I could say to my wife - who's not a core gamer - I'm going to buy this game, let's play this rather than watch Dancing on Ice.
Jade Tidy: Maybe the ideal market we're aiming for might not be on PSN. But this is an area Sony will hopefully do more in to bring that market to PlayStation 3. I also think maybe we are a bit too stereotypical about what a core gamer is nowadays. Because I class myself as a core gamer and I don't want to play a first-person shooter every day of the week. I quite like sometimes just going online and playing a Flash game for five minutes. Games are becoming these days closer to what you expect from films - you like a variety, and don't want to see action ones or rom-coms, you want different ones to suit your mood that day. And this is one where people can go, "Oh, we've actually got some choice here." There's nothing else like it, and I think that's quite refreshing.
Blue Toad Murder Files is an offline-only multiplayer game for PlayStation 3, and the first episode is due out this December via PlayStation Network. Head over to our Blue Toad Murder Files gallery for the first screenshots.