We all love Agatha Christie’s Witness for Prosecution. While it has any graphic scenes of violence, the chill down the spine after exploring the twisty, well-conceived plot will not likely be cast away shortly in our memories. Thus, we are interested in improving the story’s plots, especially in making them more interactive.
Considering all the alternatives, we decided to remediate the story into a text-based video game using Twine. As a story belonging to the detective genre, Witness for Prosecution places greater emphasis on a persistent plot rather than “slowing down” to provide the readers a close-up of specific scenes. In other words, progression plays a great part in the detective story. A text-based game is thus most suitable since it has greater focus on the procedural aspects of the gaming experience. Furthermore, it retains some level of fidelity, and even achieves some sort of homage, to the original work, since its main medium is still textual.
While the original story can be roughly divided into three scenes, we decide to focus on the scene where the lawyer meets the “old woman”, which is the climax of the story. Many aspects of the scene provide an atmosphere of suspense. Taking place in a poor neighborhood where the lawyer would generally not frequent, it gives an unusual setting, conveying the unsettledness the lawyer would feel in an unfamiliar atmosphere. The woman’s peculiar language and erratic behaviors also add to the suspense, as we are made to wonder why she would do such things. Since we do not have a lot of time, we focus on it to yield a quality we would be most satisfied with. We also set the lawyer to be the playable character. In an ideal condition, we would like to remediate all three scenes of the story and have both the lawyer and the woman as playable characters.
First, we identify the main “conflict” in the story to be between the lawyer and the woman. The woman, marking herself in disguise as a much older woman, tries to make the lawyer accept the forged evidence she provides. The lawyer, on the other hand, is obsessed with finding the “truth” behind his client (the suspect), so that he can rest the case well. We remediate such conflicts in our rules. Clues possible to debunk the woman’s lies are hidden in the game, and the player should try the best in discovering as many of them as possible. When the player discovers a clue, a message—starting with “Evidence Received”—would notify such a partial success. With enough evidence, the player can unlock either a good end (clues gathered to show the woman is lying) or a bad end (fooled by the woman’s plots).
Our original draft sticks mostly to the original plot of the story. However, the original story does not give much “clues” to imply how the woman is lying, so we have to take a bit of creative license. A specific clue we considered was in the style of handwriting. We looked into how, according to the writer’s personal preferences, some letters could still look similar despite attempts of forgery. In general, we expand the number of clues by creating more small details the player can pick up. The player can choose to examine the bed, table, and some of the woman’s personal belongings.
Besides focusing on diversifying the clues, we have also enriched the plots to provide much more options than the story’s linear narrative. Freedom of choice is something we try to strengthen in the gameplay’s rules. Particularly, we give the player the possibilities of saying different things. For example, when inquiring from the housekeeper where the old woman lives, the player could choose to be either nice or rude to the housekeeper (the former earns the player one of the clues). The ending is also no longer a binary opposition of finding or not finding enough evidence, but more complex scenarios besides whether the lawyer succeeds/fails in his job. For example, the lawyer could gather enough clues but still receive a “bad ending” if he chooses to ignore them with a guilty conscience or his sympathy for the woman. In such ways, we used creative means to expand the linear narratives of the original story with many branches of possibilities.
Our work goes beyond the textual form. A lot of descriptions covering the lawyer’s thoughts were given in our original plan, but they—being words in large stanzas—lack the nervous immediacy the lawyer would likely feel. To make the player feel more immersed in the game, we look into adapting hypermediacy, finding many pictures to complement the story’s background. While words require the intensive workings of your own imaginations, images give the player a much more direct sense of the surroundings. For us modern people, it might be a bit difficult to imagine the decrepit neighborhoods in a 19th Century London, but the pictures convey such historical scenes in a clear fashion. Furthermore, we apply filters to some of the photos, making their overall tones suitable for conveying a variety of emotions. We have also looked into giving the game background music for different scenes, so that they subtly convey what the lawyer feels in such situations.
We learned the process of remediating a literary artwork to the platform of a computer form in this project. We not only familiarized ourselves with software available to make a game (Trello), but also paid a lot of attention to the process of remediation between artistic platforms. Most importantly, we enjoy the possibility of expanding and adapting the story’s thrilling plots to a new media. If we were to continue on and create a full game, we would not only remediate the whole story, but also allow players to play from multiple perspectives. For example, once you complete Mr. Mayherne’s storyline and unlock the right ending, you can play as Leonard Vole and try to get away with murder. Additionally, you could play as Romaine and try to pull off the disguise. Other than more endings and choices, we also would create more detailed evidence, such as designing handwriting for each character. However, overall we are proud of how we were able to turn “Witness for the Prosecution” into an interactive game and enjoyed the process.
Finally, this is a link to the html file which houses Group 8’s game. To view the game, just copy and paste this link into your browser:
The link to the Trailer:
Programming and digital work: Elizabeth
Story script: Avery, Jack, Qingyang, Zhixian
Finding Photos/Music: Avery, Jack, Qingyang, Richard
Document: Avery , Zhixian