Why Am I Dead At Sea is a murder mystery game in which you play the part of the detective and the victim simultaneously. As a ghost, you are tasked with finding out the truth behind your murder and investigating the chain of events that led to your untimely demise.
The game is currently going through Greenlight and is shaping up to be a unique take on the murder mystery genre with an interesting mix of storytelling through its possession mechanic. We caught up with the game’s developer Patrick McGrath to chat about the game in more depth, and also to discuss the Greenlight process in further detail.
Adam Lloyd: Thanks for joining us today, Patrick. Could you describe the game in your own words?
Patrick McGrath: Why Am I Dead At Sea is a game where you are solving the mystery of your own death. You play as a ghost, and your main action in the game is to fly around and possess other people. You can use their bodies, and subsequently, their personalities to talk to other people; using them as proxies to figure out why you died. There are 9 possessable characters in the game and there are unique conversations between each pair of speakers. This means there’s a large amount of potential dialogue, which contains loads of information about the characters, and the person that you were before you died, and the challenge that you have is to work through all of this; try to understand what people know, figure them out, and find the relevant information that will progress the story.
AL: So you’ve mentioned the possession aspect of the game. Once you’ve possessed a few people and you begin to build a picture as to what’s happened, what steps would you take at that point to complete the game?
PM: In previous versions of the game you were able to exhaust all of the conversations available from the moment you load the game. On the version that I’m working on right now, as there’s much more dialogue and a longer progression to the story, I figured that might be too overwhelming for the player. So, the structure for the first half of the game is that you only have a limit pool of people you can possess, and as you learn more about the other people, you start to unlock them for possession. The game is still linear in that sense, but the dialogue options in the game exponentially increase as you go. The second half of the game is more event-based, so once you’ve learned enough, something will happen that will trigger more options and events.
AL: Are you planning for the game to be dynamic with each playthrough, with procedural events or differing dialogue?
PM: People have mistakenly thought that the game is procedurally generated with a different murderer each time, and that’s really interesting, but it’s also a different direction. That’s something I would really like to explore as much as possible – having divergent gameplay – but with the format of the game, something like that would be very difficult to manage. I’m going for a more focussed experience and characters that will be more developed as a result.
AL: So would you say that the narrative and story are one of the main aspects of Why Am I Dead At Sea?
PM: Yes, I would say that is the most important aspect to it. I think that the way in which you uncover the narrative is what makes it special.
AL: So the game initially started life as a Flash game on Newgrounds. Since then, have you managed to build a large enough community to support a larger release on Steam?
PM: I suppose that’s still debatable. I guess we won’t know until it passes Greenlight.
AL: Could you describe a little bit about the Greenlight process? Have you had to campaign to get it on there, or are Steam a little more relaxed on that front?
PM: Honestly, the self-promotion side is more difficult than I anticipated. I’ve released several things using Flash, which is a more direct process. You host it somewhere and people will come across it. When I put up the Greenlight page, I decided to put out a remake of the original game to try to cross-promote the new game, and I wasn’t extremely optimistic, but I hoped that the audience who enjoyed the original would see this and vote for it.
AL: Is there a total number of backers before the game gets approved?
PM: Greenlight gives you average statistics, which seem to have come down a lot lately. When you look at stats from a year or so ago, games that got approved were getting around 60,000 votes and you’re thinking “that’s insane”, but now the standard has shifted and the average seems to be around 8,000.
AL: Have you found that the community has started to find you now that you have this visibility through a Greenlight page?
PM: A little bit, yeah. It’s still a learning process and it isn’t as easy as just putting the page up, but I’ve shown the game and people are coming. I’m optimistic that it will all come together. I like to read retrospective and post-mortems on Greenlight and Kickstarter and try to learn lessons from other developers, especially indies; it’s really helpful. The best advice is to be as confident as possible, be everywhere, engage with people as much as possible, and that’s something that I need to work on. There’s still that voice in the back of my head that says “You need to do more work before you can show it”.
AL: I think that’s just the human psyche more than anything. So, provided that the game gets Greenlit, what’s the next step?
PM: I definitely want to put together some preview builds, but I’m not sure about Early Access. I feel like Early Access might work for other types of games, whereas this game I feel like, although you can play it multiple times and get different experiences, the variables are still controllable, so I don’t think Early Access would work for that. I do want to find ways to let people play earlier, though – perhaps through demos.
AL: Do you have a particular release date in mind?
PM: I’ve been saying early 2015, so I’m trying my best to stick to that.
AL: Sounds like you’ve got a few busy months ahead, then! Good luck and thanks very much for your time. You can check out the Steam Greenlight page for more information on the game and to follow its progress.