By Marty Mulrooney
The Slaughter is a noir style point-and-click adventure game created by Brainchild, a one-man studio operated by published author Alex Francois. Alex hopes to raise £8,000 via Kickstarter to fund the game by the 13th December 2013. Set in Victorian London in the shadow of a string of serial killings, The Slaughter looks very promising indeed and it is therefore with great pleasure that AMO presents an exclusive online interview with Alex Francois!
Hi Alex, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO!
It’s great to be here, thanks you for having me! I haven’t used that phrase for years, remember when you’d leave your friend’s house and have to awkwardly say that to their parents? Those were the days.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I’m a writer and games designer from South-East London. I’ve lived in London all my life, apart from four years at university where I originally studied games design, before changing to English literature. I felt the best route would be to brush up on my literary skills at university, and attend to the technical side in my own time. After uni I worked as a creative writer, before going solo to form Brainchild and create The Slaughter.
You recently announced The Slaughter via Kickstarter, ‘a noir style point-and-click adventure game set in Victorian London.’ What’s the game all about?
On the surface it’s a story about a down-and-out detective on the trail of a serial killer who has murdered his client’s sister, and his search for clues through the highs and lows of Victorian London. The real story is a lot simpler though. It’s about being human, making mistakes, saying stupid things, meeting people, and experiences which have a lasting effect on you.
Players will take control of private investigator Sydney Emerson – how would describe him as a character?
I guess he’s an everyman by today’s standards. Sydney is a 30-year-old private detective in the Victorian era, but with a very modern affliction in many ways. He feels his life is going nowhere as he scrapes together enough money to keep a roof over his head. He’s not some kind of amazing detective whose one goal is to stop a serial killer, he just finds himself in strange situations through pure luck, and is always on the verge of giving up and heading to the pub instead.
What kind of supporting characters will Sydney meet?
Sydney encounters a lot of people from all walks of life, it’s not all criminals, killers and grubby-kneed urchins, though admittedly there are plenty of those! I wanted the characters to capture the social diversity of Victorian London, from the very poor to the very rich. This allows for a lot of variance in conversations and a mix of fun and sombre dialogue.
Was there much research involved to get the time period feeling right? What locations will the player be able to explore?
I have to admit, I’m quite obsessive and often find myself researching the smallest of elements to ensure historical accuracy. This usually results in hours looking-up strange things, like whether the surgical rib spreader was invented by the late Victorian age, or what date a certain type of lamppost came into use on the Thames Southbank. They’re things no one will notice, but for some reason I can’t let myself get away with historical inaccuracies! I’ve also read a lot about the aspects of daily life to get the atmosphere and conversation topics right.
There are quite a lot of locations in the game. Working alone provides a lot of freedom location wise and my motto is; as long as I can draw it and it adds to the experience, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be in the game. Some locations so far include Syd’s local pub ‘The Crimson King’, Bethlehem Royal Hospital (Bedlam), Regent’s Park, an opium den, a graveyard and Sydney’s many dream landscapes.
Is the gameplay going to be traditional pointing-and-clicking, or do you have some new tricks up your sleeve?
For the most part of the game player will use a traditional two-click system, as perfected by Broken Sword. Sydney enters a dream world whenever he sleeps, which sees the inventory removed in favour of a more instinctive system where interactions cause chain reactions, if you’ll excuse the rhyme. There are other points in the game where I play with the audience’s expectations of a point-and-click system. I’m looking forward to seeing the reactions to these sections!
The subject matter (and indeed the name ‘The Slaughter’) seems rather serious – will there be plenty of humour to balance out the darker aspects of the game?
Most definitely, I don’t think I could make a completely serious game if I tried. All it takes is for me to think ‘Ok, what should I have this guy say?’ and the first response is always something stupid. The game can be very dark at times, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be very funny at other times. I can laugh like a maniac at something, then an hour later be having a terrifying nightmare. It’s all in a day of being a human being.
How important is humour to you?
I love nothing more than laughing, and I’ve always loved making others laugh. I’m also a bit obsessive when it comes to comedy and actively seek out comedian’s back catalogues, listening to everything they’ve ever created in search of hidden gems. I love everything from Brass Eye and Spaced to The Simpsons and Stir Crazy. I’m also a big stand-up fan with favourites including Stewart Lee, Bill Hicks and Dave Chappelle.
Is Brainchild really just you? The progress of the game so far is already looking very impressive!
Yep, just me on my lonesome. Thanks, it’s really great to hear the opinion of others, when you’re working alone you have no one to tell you when something is terrible! I’ve been working non-stop since June, jumping between all aspects of game design and it’s nice to see it all coming together.
What engine are you using to create the game?
I’m using Construct 2, it’s a HTML5 game maker with great export possibilities, plus very regular and significant updates.
Why did you avoid the more conventional engines for creating games of this type, such as Adventure Game Studio?
I used to dabble with used Adventure Game Studio many years ago and I love it. It’s such a classic, but unfortunately that means it isn’t the most up to date piece of software, especially when it comes to exporting. I wanted the freedom to release the game on all desktop systems and on iOS and Android, which Construct 2 easily allows. However, this meant I had to create the point-and-click and inventory system from scratch, but I love a challenge!
What rewards can backers look forward to?
Aside from digital copies of The Slaughter, there’s a lot of fun to be had with the physical rewards. The classic box tier was one I knew I wanted from the start. Me and my eldest sister would always find great games in charity shops, which is where we first discovered The Secret of Monkey Island on floppy disc in a beautifully illustrated cardboard box. You really felt like you had something special with one of the old boxed games. I want to recreate that feeling of excitement in others, which is why I chose to include a boxed version of the game as a reward. Other rewards include immortalisation as an NPC in the game and so far I’ve had a great response from this one so the streets of London should be bustling!
Who will be composing the game’s soundtrack?
That’s me again! In my stubbornness I’ve created a really distinctive idea of how I want the game to sound, and I’m not sure I’d be able to convey this to someone else. Music is such a big part of the writing process for me, I’ve even created locations based on the feel of songs, rather than the other way around. I’ll usually start whistling a tune in the kitchen, and then record it on my phone. Later I’ll come back to it and work it out on a midi keyboard or on guitar, and keep building until it sounds nice!
Will there be any voice acting?
Not at the moment, though it’s something I’m considering for a stretch goal. If it came down to it though, I’d rather spend additional money translating the game into other languages to reach more people. I know voice acting is kind of expected nowadays, but I still think back to Final Fantasy VII and the lasting effect it had on my life, and not a single syllable was uttered.
What do you think makes the adventure genre so appealing and special?
There are so many things for me; the level of control over the character, yet lack of control at the same time, the voyeuristic nature of the viewpoint, and the insight into the protagonist’s way of thinking. I think the main appeal for me is the freedom to explore in your own time and find fun bits of unnecessary dialogue and interactions. They’re the only kind of game where you can happily be in one room for half an hour, rather than rushing through and gunning down everything in your path. Having time really allows you to soak in the atmosphere, to sit back and relax in the Blue Casket while listening to some jazzy poetry. Man, now I can’t stop thinking about Grim Fandango, it’s been too long!
Thank you for your time – I can’t wait to play The Slaughter, good luck with the final stretch of the Kickstarter campaign!
It was my pleasure, I could talk about adventure games until the cows come home! Let’s hope the next time we speak The Slaughter is well on its way to being finished!
For more information about The Slaughter – and to pledge your support – please visit: