CHARACTER DESIGNS

Even before I started working on Pageturner 2, I knew that the original game's designs needed to be updated with more detail. Once again, I used Flash to create the sprites, and then rendered them out as vector images.


The challenge was to add detail without changing too much. After all, this game takes place almost right after the last one ended.


All things said and done, I had to design over ten characters for this game, which is a far cry from the original game's four.
 

Benedict Lexman
Benedict Lexman

With Benedict's design, I wanted him to seem a little older. I added a backpack, since he didn't have any luggage with him when he left with May. I figured he'd have brought it to carry books, but maybe there was still a toothbrush and a spare change of clothes left over from the move.

May Roeca
May Roeca

May's design changed quite a bit from the original. I made her skin less yellow-y and paid extra attention to her boots, since someone had commented that the original game's sprite's boots looked odd. Luckily, there was already a lot of detail in the design, so adding more wasn't as much of a problem. I'm happy with how the new sprite has better form to it -- the pouches look more like 3d objects and the shapes are more rounded and interesting. Gotta love those hat rings!

Ms. Sparks
Ms. Sparks

Originally I wanted to have Ms. Sparks crouching on the floor in distress when you enter the basement. To save time I scrapped that idea. Her character design is one of the most unique in the game.

Benedict Lexman
Benedict Lexman

With Benedict's design, I wanted him to seem a little older. I added a backpack, since he didn't have any luggage with him when he left with May. I figured he'd have brought it to carry books, but maybe there was still a toothbrush and a spare change of clothes left over from the move.

1/8

GAMEPLAY

 

Ever since I began the project, I wanted to do more with gameplay. The first Pageturner was essentially a cutscene with a few interactive multiple choice questions. I wanted to avoid that.


The induction game is, thankfully, the final instance of that multiple choice mentality. I hope it isn't too hard — the idea was to give a kind of meaningless challenge to people who wanted it.


The idea is that May's inductive abilities come more from guesswork and gut feelings than logic and reason, the epitome of which is the final question, which offers two "logical" choices and a "feeling" choice... though in actually all of them are guesses. I was hoping that players would get the pattern and choose the right answer that way. In way, that makes this game less about May and more about tests in general.

 

 

I'm incredibly proud of the mystery game mechanic I came up with for this game. I've never liked how in mystery games often all the logic and deduction is left to a cutscene. I wanted to give players tools to figure it out on their own. I hope to use this mechanic again in another game someday, I think it's really cool.


I came up with the idea while 3D modeling, actually.
I was astounded at how simple and yet complex the idea of "nodes" with plugs that could plug into sockets on other nodes was... and at how puzzles could easily be formed from it. The idea to use the same sort of system as a game mechanic for solving a mystery came to me pretty early.


My only regret is how the game practically requires you to run it in Scratch's Turbo Mode to look any good. You can blame the pen tool for that. Originally, I had a really good system going, but Scratch doesn't allow multiple sprites to create multiple pen lines. Since showing the connection between nodes was extremely necessary, I worked out a sort of cheat. The only problem is that Scratch doesn't normally run fast enough to allow for it.


Another problem that I thankfully was able to solve was the sheer amount of information you needed to know to play the game in the first place. You needed to know which plug icons did what, and the names of the cards so that you wouldn't confuse, say, the guestbook with Keller's book. That's when I implemented the Card Viewer feature, which nicely solved all of these problems.

 

The nodes went through quite a few changes. Originally, I was going to have a whole new section of the game where you would interview everybody and get different "QUOTE" nodes. The idea would be to use the QUOTE nodes to back up other quotes or logics, contridict them, or relate to them in other ways. Unfortunately, it proved difficult to represent which quote each card stood for, and that combined with how much more complicated everything would be made me ultimately decide to can the idea.

 

Another change was the ability to drag node cards around. When it came time to code the correct answers into the game, the variations of each possible combination of node made implementing draggable nodes too difficult. If you look in the project, you can still see some of the code that lets you do that, though.

 

This is what the QUOTE cards were going to look like. The four plugs were going to be motive, alibi, contridict and support.

SOUND DESIGN

I wanted to do more with sound as well. There is now ambient noise — rain outside the mansion, the sounds of a car interior, spooky night sounds, and other sounds that weren't in the first game.


Another important thing for me was making the sounds more unique to the game. In the first game, I downloaded sounds of books to use for the use interface button clicks. For this game I recorded them myself.
The music also plays a much larger role here. I tripled the number of tracks and added guitar to the sound environment. It's kind of Keller's motif.

Rain Sounds - LockedOn
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Car Ride - LockedOn
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BACKGROUNDS

I had a blast creating the backgrounds for this game. Obviously, a murder in a mansion is well-worn territory for mystery games and stories, so it was important for me to set this one apart. I tried to make each background distinctive and memorable. The best way to do that is, of course, through backstory, atmosphere and character through the design.

 

For this feature, I'll be focusing on the kitchen. It's a cold-looking environment that contrasts the warmer-toned rooms in the house. We learn in the game that it was designed by Mindy, the cook. She has a practical personality, so I eliminated anything that wasn't practical from the design.
 

Blank Box
Blank Box

I start with what is essentially just a box with a hole in the side and the top for the camera to see through and the light to shine through. I reused doorways from room to room so that they would all match up size-wise. As for the lightswitches and sockets you see throughout the rooms, they are part of a special asset kit I created a while back and I reuse them all the time.

Counter
Counter

I crafted the centerpiece of the kitchen first: the counter. The counter creates depth while still keeping everything pointed towards the camera. A real house probably wouldn't be laid out in this fashion.

Rebuilding the Hall
Rebuilding the Hall

The last thing I did was to recreate a bit of the hall so that you could see it through the door. Since most of the rooms use different floor textures, it creates a sense of continuity between the rooms. All-in-all, it took around four days to create all the backgrounds for the mansion. I'm glad I put in the effort because it really shows in the final product.

Blank Box
Blank Box

I start with what is essentially just a box with a hole in the side and the top for the camera to see through and the light to shine through. I reused doorways from room to room so that they would all match up size-wise. As for the lightswitches and sockets you see throughout the rooms, they are part of a special asset kit I created a while back and I reuse them all the time.

1/6


The first thing you see when you press the green flag is the "RATED PG" content warning. That warning really freed up the story creatively, because I knew I could do certain things like a horror-themed nightmare sequence and a murder as the focus of the plot without being worried that it would be too frightening or too gruesome.


It's kind of a loose rating, as I'm sure plenty of people under ten have already seen worse things than this game offers. I also think the tone makes up for a lot. Even though alcohol is an adult subject, the perspective this game has on it is pretty innocent and I only use it to flesh out Keller's character.


Throughout production, my main focus was that this is a game that you play while sitting next to a fire, drinking a hot beverage and listening to the rain. I think that helped steer the game in the right direction.


The game begins with a car cutscene, which ties back to the ending of the first game. I had a rule, which was that I could only reference the first game once, so that people playing the second game first wouldn't get confused.


One of the more disappointing aspects of the original Pageturner for me were the cutscenes. Though they were extremely easy to make, and had a certain handmade charm, I was never really happy with how obviously sketchy and incomplete-looking they were. For this game, I used the Professor Layton games as an inspiration for the look of the cutscenes. The dynamic in those games is similar, yet reversed. Instead of the older logical detective and younger, plucky sidekick-apprentice-type, it's an older, plucky detective and a logical sidekick-apprentice-type.


And so, our heroes arrive at Keller's mansion. I was extremely sorry to plunge players into what was essentially another cutscene, but I wanted to orchestrate Keller's arrival, as he was a very important character in the game.


It was also important to me to let players explore the mansion as soon as possible. There are a lot of rooms and being familiar with the layout was a must if I wanted anyone to understand the mystery.


That led to the "Meet the Staff" section, which was originally going to come later in the game. Since you already met the butler, it made sense that he was the key to progressing further. This leads to one of my favorite sections of the game.


One of the better choices I made when coming up with the story was to put more focus on May. As a result of that choice, we get to go into May's mind for a brief moment to solve some very creepy puzzles.
I liked the idea of emphasizing how much May feared and despised Keller by distorting and exaggerating it through her nightmare. The children are, of course, her classmates, but they provided an opportunity for me to exploit the much-beloved creepy children horror trope.


In her dream, people are replaced by children's drawings and everything's much more colorful, with greater depth than the "real world" as represented in the game.


I wanted the puzzles in this part of the game to reflect the out-of-reality nature of the sequence. For instance, why is the order you place backpacks in relevant at all? One of the mechanics of this section of the game that I think might be too subtle is that what you're doing is assembling the class in the morning, before the teacher arrives, but when she arrives it turns out to be Keller and not the teacher. As you complete each puzzle, more children arrive and fill up the chairs in the classroom.


Another one of my favorite scenes is with Mindy and May in the kitchen. I figured that it wouldn't be hard to guess she was the killer, after all, she carries a bunch of knives with her practically everywhere, so I let the story spend some time on May developing a bit of a friendship with Mindy, so it would be harder for her to suspect her.
The breakfast the next day was something I was always working towards. I wanted to show how controlling and weird Keller was, which ramps up the horror of discovering the murder.


Originally, I wanted the crime scenes to rotate in 3D, which I would do by rendering multiple frames. However, this of course ended up being too much for Scratch's megabyte limit.

 

After the intensive mystery game section, everyone confronts Mindy and the mystery is wrapped up. I wanted to do some sort of big explaining moment to go over the mystery again, but I didn't get a chance to.

 

Basically what happened was: The killer saw Keller's hand signals reflected in the tray in the mirror, telling the butler to "stand by for further orders". The killer plugged in the lamp, which had been fitted with a flickering bulb, and then when the butler dropped his tray the killer hurled the knife at the mirror, breaking it and letting it fall among the glass under the butler.

 

There are a few plotholes, for instance why did they mistake a mirror for pieces of glass? But overall I'm proud of the mystery. It's definitely more complicated than the last game's.

 

The game ends on an odd note: the suggestion that Mindy could be forgiven for her crime. The way I wrote to be interpreted was that Mindy isn't really a bad person, despite using despicable means to her ends, whereas Keller was a bad person despite not doing anything bad. The message is to forgive inherently good people no matter what, because in the end they will always try harder to own up to their mistakes than bad people.

 

I'll leave the ethical interpretations of that to you.

THE STORY

Coming up with the look
Coming up with the look

Originally I had more of a silhouette look in mind, but eventually settled on creepy children's drawings.

More designs
More designs

Once I decided on children's drawings, the question was how far to go.

The cage puzzle
The cage puzzle

The most inventive puzzle I came up with for the dream section was this cage puzzle, where you assign different nameplates to the cages.

Coming up with the look
Coming up with the look

Originally I had more of a silhouette look in mind, but eventually settled on creepy children's drawings.

1/8

THE END.