Murder in the mansion: how The Sexy Brutale was created


Interpretation problems and minor changes that can affect everything.

The Sexy Brutale is hard to describe. Her basic mechanics resembles Groundhog Day: a player must re-live the same day in a mansion filled with colorful characters who ideally follow their daily routine. The schedules of these NPCs involve murder, so users are instructed to prevent bloodshed by studying the actions of each of the inhabitants of the estate.

Jam Alexander, author of the MCV publication, published a text on the history of the development of the The Sexy Brutale puzzle. He spoke with Cavalier Games ’lead designer Charles Griffiths, who talked about creating interconnected puzzles and how making just one small change to a polished system can break everything. We chose from the main material.

Initially, Charles Griffiths, co-founder and lead designer of Cavalier Games, founded the studio with his brother James Griffiths and Lionhead colleague Tom Lansdale.

Tom and I worked at Lionhead, and James worked at Mediatonic in London. We in passing worked out the idea of ​​our own game, but in order to take on it, it was necessary to free the rest of the time. Therefore, in 2013, Tom and I left Lionhead and began to create prototypes of what became The Sexy Brutale.

Charles Griffithsco-founder and lead designer of Cavalier Games

The idea of ​​the game was originally to create a simulator with characters whose day is completely painted. This idea draws inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask . Initially, the project was supposed to be more than it came out in the end, but when the team explored the idea of ​​simulating a routine, it found that a little “groundhog day” brings more pleasure.

From the very beginning these were little people with their own timetable. We were inspired in many ways by Japanese titles: Gregory Horror Show , Moon: Remix RPGand Majora’s Mask. The idea that the game has its own timeline was important. But only at the beginning of 2014, we decided to make it so that it had the least amount of random elements. This is a complete prescription of each individual moment.

We thought a lot about it, but it always seemed that we could not recreate a full-fledged “Groundhog Day”. Because then each piece of music had to correspond to a specific action, and any movement of the character had to follow the script. All this was very difficult, but exciting.

Charles Griffithsco-founder and lead designer of Cavalier Games

The team decided not to give up their ideas. Therefore, at first she had to create most of the game, and only then add music and a visual component.

While working on AAA-taytla was a terrible feeling that you’re on a treadmill, which you can not get off. It’s just a terrible place because wrong decisions are often made there. For example, someone is about to say: “Oh, Ben Kingsley next week, and we need to record all his dialogues” in Fable, and you still don’t even know how this character speaks.

Charles Griffithsco-founder and lead designer of Cavalier Games

First, we made the whole game in draft form without a visual part. It was ugly, there was no music in it, all the wonderful sound effects and so on. But in this version, the entire movement of the characters around the house was completed. And at that time it was the most important.

For example, such an approach helped a lot when working on music, as the performers could focus on the existing result and adjust to it. For them, it was more like making a movie soundtrack.

Charles Griffithsco-founder and lead designer of Cavalier Games

However, this approach was associated with complex tasks, even with small changes that affect the entire gameplay.

One of the most nervous changes was adding about two hours to the schedule of one character. This is a person whose body at one moment falls in a certain place, which greatly affects other NPCs. It was bad because it was like an operation on the open heart of the game itself. But we tried to find the safest way to put in two hours and put everything back, and then change the music to reflect that. It is very difficult to make changes to this game in the later stages.

Charles Griffithsco-founder and lead designer of Cavalier Games

Another difficulty associated with creating the entire game in draft form was that it did not take into account the volume of all assets. Cavalier Games collaborated with the Spanish studio Tequila Works, which created the visual component.

From a technical point of view, we became too comfortable with light assets. But this was the problem: heavy assets could significantly affect the download speed of the game. And we could not foresee this moment.

Charles Griffithsco-founder and lead designer of Cavalier Games

With The Sexy Brutale, Cavalier Games has opened up new possibilities in a non-linear storytelling. The team drew inspiration from the immersive theater created by Punchdrunk, where the story takes place around the player who penetrates it and acts on it from the inside.

What is interesting in our story is that we tell two stories at the same time. You have the events of the day itself and all the movements of the character around the house. This is one big story.

In addition, the player has one more story due to a certain order of scenes. For example, you can put all the scenes of “Pulp Fiction” in one straight line. Nevertheless, the film is good precisely because the director guided the audience through all the scenes in a certain order. Because of this, the film is revealed differently. We tried to get the same effect.

Charles Griffithsco-founder and lead designer of Cavalier Games

For the narrative designer James Griffiths, the most difficult thing during development was the question of giving meaning to what is happening, completing the story and explaining all of this.

Some games actively encourage users to try to interpret events on their own. I do not always support this. I think this is a matter of faith. Did the people making this game really do it consciously? Did they really omit some details so that the audience interpreted everything in its own way, or is it just a hoax?

This is something like Jonathan Blow’s The Witness : he has enough authority and skills to make it clear that interpretation is appropriate. But there are other games where everything is wrong. There is no feeling in them that there is any answer. More like, the developers at some point simply gave up and left it at that.

We did not want to do it this way because we do not feel that this is a good way to tell a story. And it became for us the motivation to create something good and fit into the framework of our game.

Charles Griffithsco-founder and lead designer of Cavalier Games


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