Funded! This project was successfully funded on January 10, 2013.

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Procedurally generated murder mystery evenings; unlimited homicidal fun for all your friends and family!

Updates:

Update #10 - reward selection
Update #8 - music excerpts from the soundtracks
Update #7 - different game modes and interview
Update #6 - concept art and the art book
Update #3 - example mystery from the Excel Generator
Update #2 - the new reward tiers
Update #1 - character sheet from the Excel Generator

What is it?

ET TU? is a piece of software that generates dynamic, customised Murder Mystery Evenings for parties, and can even be played on your own. It produces unique, narrative-driven stories with a strong emphasis on player demeanour, deception and deduction. It creates a PDF version of the mystery, along with stylised character sheets in the form of invitations. All of this can be printed out - or distributed electronically if you want to save some trees - by someone who can be trusted, or an independent adjudicator.

All of this is created from the user interface, which is a three dimensional room that has a machine against one wall. This machine, that looks sort of like a slot machine, is used to generate the murder mysteries, as well as to be tinkered with should you wish for more specific results. Nearby are a number of doors that lead to different rooms that, respectively, have different activities within them.

In the classic game mode for the generator, each player (in real life) will receive a character sheet containing information about their past, relationship with other players, their quirks and why they ended up where they are. One of you, naturally, will be the murderer. It’s up to those who are innocent to deduce who the killer is, and the murderer to do his or her very best to not get caught!

The classic mode operates on a round-based system, and depending on the settings, there’s a chance that players will be killed along the way. Revealing clues may, or may not, be found upon each round, with the ultimate objective of the players being able to hold up a case against the person they think is the killer in a court of law, in the form of a trial.

But it also does a lot more than that. Here are a few of the key features that will be available upon release:

  • Printable character sheets and story, with a twist on the classic murder mystery format so that everyone can play
  • Unique characters, with quirks, traits, background stories and motives 
  • Conjugated, grammatically accurate, randomly generated stories that offer maximum replay value
  • Thematic elements so that you can set your mystery wherever you wish and whenever you like - going as far back as BC!
  • A cool art deco UI with steampunk elements 
  • Other game motifs, including drinking games, modern versions of classic games like ‘wink murder’ and much more - heck, there'll even be a character-driven zombie survival evening!
  • It'll be available on PC, Mac and Linux, with a view to getting it on mobile devices later on

After the completion of the first release I will work to produce a more enhanced single player experience and a companion mobile app so that you don’t necessarily have to print out the mystery every time. All of which will become available to you guys when complete!

How does it work?

Unlike traditional murder mystery evenings, where one person is in charge and the players simply observe the goings on, Et Tu? is entirely based upon how the players interact with one another and their collective powers of deduction.

The Mystery: This is a procedurally generated storyline that is - in classic mode - divided into ten rounds; these rounds are on separate pieces of paper and are not to be read prior to the evening. 

When play begins and after having read the introduction to the story, one player turns over the first piece of paper and reads it out. It'll denote who has been murdered, what clues there are, and how the players should proceed. Rounds then continue in this fashion, being revealed one at a time, with more clues being found, and players letting slip information from their character sheets. The game speed is controlled by those at the evening, and is largely dependent on the number of people involved and consensus, because whenever a round is advanced there is a chance that someone will be killed, and move the murderer closer to victory!

Character Sheets: Each player receives a unique character sheet detailing who they are, where they're from, and what their involvement is in the whole thing. There will also be information that they may want to share with the group, and other bits and bobs that they may most definitely want to keep a secret (such as, if they're the murderer). When setting up the game the level of detail on these sheets will be adjustable, allowing for a completely immersive roleplaying experience to a relatively fast-paced game of wits.

Solving The Case: No matter the nature of the crime, the innocent players will want to solve the case so that they can win, and the murderer(s) will want to remain undetected and let the rounds play out so that they can achieve victory. With each game, there are a set number of 'deaths' that can occur before the murderer wins. Accusations must be used judiciously, because whenever someone is proven to be innocent it counts against the death toll. To this extent, during the rounds players must work together - in the spirit of cooperation - to build a case and reveal the identity of the murderer! 

And what about the single player game?

The initial concept behind the single player experience was to test the mysteries being generated, but I quickly realised that it'd be a cool feature for people to play. In the first release of Et Tu? it will appear much like a game of poker, with the participants being seated around a table and rounds being revealed as they would in the real game. A later version (which will, of course, be available in updates) will be made after the initial release of the game that will greatly improve this experience and make it a whole game in its own right, with the possibility of multiplayer being added too.

What's all this talk of doors?

I'll post updates about these as the campaign progresses, but they'll basically be 'rooms' within the 3D environment that can be explored for a variety of reasons.

What’s the background of the whole thing?

When my friends and I wanted to play a murder mystery evening for New Year’s 2010 we scoured the web for pre-fabricated versions that we could play. However, we were disappointed with the offerings. Most of them were dull, and nearly always relied upon one person taking on the role of gamesmaster and managing the entire affair. Plus, if we wanted to attend one, it generally seemed expensive and in the middle of nowhere.

I got to work putting together a - frankly ridiculous - Excel spreadsheet that generated a PDF document containing a randomly generated story, a ten round mystery, enough characters for everyone to play, and a set of rules. We played it and had a great time!

A month-or-so into 2011 I decided to make a more advanced spreadsheet and revamp the generator (then, inspirationally, entitled MurderMysteryEeveningGenerator). I spent some time reworking the backend, coming up with new dependencies and variables to tighten up the story elements, and even expanded upon the characters that people could play. I soon realised, though, that I was using a very limited toolset for something that was, in essence, unlimited.

And so I spent the next year and a half teaching myself to code. I’d already become familiar with Visual Basic, but really fell in love with C# when I began using it. I put together a few test games, mainly ones involving robots in people's brains (wait, what?), and eventually reached a level competent enough to begin work on my grand design - my ultimate challenge - a software release of the Murder Mystery Evening Generator: Et Tu?

What are the rewards all about?

I think it’s really important to show who helped to make the game possible and so all backer names will be included in the credits. And backers can, if they wish, have their name included as a random static element within the game engine.

So, who are you?

My background’s in literature, so my main passion is in storytelling. I’ve always been interested in game metrics, game theory and the concept of randomly generating game elements to allow for unlimited replay value. This concept, in part, grew from the desire to create a detective video game with randomly generated crimes.

In case you hadn’t already guessed, I’m also a massive gamer (figuratively - I’m average literally). The kind of games I enjoy and respect are ones that engross me in the story - the gameplay isn’t even necessarily that important to me, just a solid, intriguing, compelling plot.

Lop on top of this the fact that I also enjoy roleplaying, and my desire to create a software-based, story-driven live-action game engine becomes obvious.

Can you get it done?

Yes! I've already created a working version of the game, so the work I'll be doing will be expanding it, translating it fully to Unity3D and producing the best possible game I can!

What will it be built in?

The software will be constructed in Unity3D. It’s an environment that I’m familiar with, offering incredible flexibility and scope, and - more to the point - it will allow me to create a wonderful looking user interface and single player experience.

Will backers be involved in the development?

You bet! Backer feedback is going to help shape the look and feel of the game, and may even add cool things to it that I hadn’t considered! I’ll be sending out surveys, showing concept art, and trying to get as much feedback as possible from you guys - the ones who made it possible.

And, finally, how does it work? Like, literally.

The software generates all of the necessary elements based upon each piece generated prior to it, and so on. Kind of like a massive row of dominoes. Within this are a large number of variables, with dependences and conjunctions. The software is a massive group of flow diagrams with many, many different paths to choose from. The user will be able to bottleneck some of these variables, or choose certain elements they may want to come up specifically. In this way, you can have a completely random mystery, or tailor it further to suit your needs and desires.

For example, if the game was to randomly select, let's say, 'firearm' as the murder weapon, it would be then limited to the number of weapons it could choose from. The same process works for the game grammar, i.e. indefinite and definite articles are defined based upon the context of the subject or object in the sentence. "A jailor of Corfax Penitentiary locked a door" is grammatically correct, but totally passive. The game grammar engine, deciding that this isn't quite what we were after based upon the fact that the jailor and the door were both predefined, would actually generate "the jailor of Corfax Penitentiary locked the door".

I'll be posting loads of information about the coding process and excerpts of what I'll be writing to keep anyone interested in grammar or code entertained, and for feedback, so don't worry!

Thank you all so much for your support!

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Development of games and software is always a time consuming process. For my endeavour, the translation of a broad dataset to a completely different coding language is a vast task, but not insurmountable. Data integrity will be key to quality assurance with the final product, and this has all been factored into a conservative and achievable time estimate.

The trust that backers on Kickstarter put into these projects is immeasurable, and in the majority of cases more of a motivation than the financial renumeration itself. The desire to produce the best possible finished piece for the people who made it possible is the most inspiring - and daunting - part of the process.

With the amount I’m asking for, and the time I’ve indicated, I can achieve the goals that I have set out and will be able to deliver a finished, polished product. Development of the software will continue beyond the completion date, and backers can enjoy clear and frequent communication, which is what I believe to be one of the best ways to ensure accountability to you - the backer!

FAQ

  • If you would like to order more than one copy of Et Tu?, add incremental £10 amounts based one the number of additional copies that you would like. This can work on any reward tier. I will send a survey out to backers (closer to release) to confirm their request.

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    10 backers

    Generous Bystander: Eternal gratitude and your name (if desired) gets included in the game engine as a randomly generated static character name.

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    Eye Witness: Early bird special! Copy of the digital game upon release, as well as having your name in the game too!

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    164 backers

    Material Witness: The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese! A copy of the digital game upon release, as well as having your name in the game.

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    Killer Art: Digital copy of the game, name in game engine and digital download of art book, containing all concept art relating to the development of the game (newly included in all subsequent tiers).

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    Key Witness: Digital copy of the game, name in game engine and a choice of the three soundtracks for digital download.

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    Accessory before the fact: Early bird special! Digital copy of the game, name in game engine, plus all three soundtracks as downloads.

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    Accessory after the fact: Digital copy of the game, name in game engine, plus all three soundtracks as downloads.

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    Well Read Psychopath: Digital copy of the game, name in game engine, art book and choice of handbook (Detective or Murderer).

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    Comic Book Violence: Digital copy of the game, name in game engine, art book and graphic novella inspired by a murder mystery generated from 'Et Tu?'.

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    6 backers

    Eccentric Detective: Digital copy of the game, all the previous rewards and an electronic copy of the 'Occasional Detective’s Handbook', a guide on how to become a great detective (in your spare time or upon unfortunate circumstance), OR the Occasional Murderer’s Handbook, a guide on how to become a surreptitiously successful murderer and how to pin the blame on innocent bystanders!

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    Interesting Serial Killer: Early bird special! Digital copy of the game, name put into game engine, all three soundtracks and electronic copies of both handbooks.

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    Complex Detective: Digital copy of the game, name put into game engine, all three soundtracks and electronic copies of both handbooks.

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    Suspect: Digital copy of the game, name in the game engine, all three soundtracks, both handbooks for digital download, and a digital graphic novella created from a mystery generated from Et Tu?!

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    Mysterious benefactor: Digital copy of the game, name in game engine, all three soundtracks, both handbooks (digital), digital graphic novella and hand-drawn likeness of you in Super Sleuth Gallery, immortalising you within the game.

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    Prime Suspect: Digital copy of the game, name in game engine, all three soundtracks, both handbooks (digital), graphic novella, hand-drawn likeness of you in super sleuth gallery and you become a character archetype - I'll work with you to create your ideal stock character, and it'll be included in the game.

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    Criminal Mastermind: You get it all, and - as a special treat - if you live in the UK I can visit you and play a generated murder evening! If you want me to.

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Funding period

- (28 days)