Three Cards To Midnight

By John Walker on September 11th, 2008 at 2:16 am.

A front room, yesterday.

Here’s some news that should enhappy a decent number of people, and just confuse the rest. The two-man driving force behind the Tex Murphy games – Chris Jones and Aaron Conners – have reunited, and are revealing details of their first story-driven game to be released by their new studio, Big Finish Games.

IGN has a nice piece, interviewing the pair, and discussing their recently announced game, Three Cards To Midnight.

Big Finish make some big claims. Everyone’s trying to reinvent the adventure game at the moment, and while I’m delighted to hear that they are focusing on combining the puzzles and the story in a more meaningful way, it’s a claim I’ve heard a lot. However, I loved Tex Murphy, and I want to trust these guys. I really, really do. In the IGN interview they say,

“One big thing we’d like to emphasize is the connection between gameplay and story. A lot of adventure games had almost no connection between the two. Our game has what we consider the perfect balance between story and gameplay, which will keep players locked into the illusion.”

The RPS Orbiting Station has a lovely games room.

The game’s story revolves around using tarot cards to help someone gradually recover their memories… Erk. Gaming’s most strained plot device rearing its head, but perhaps, for once, in a reasonable way. Rather than having your character conveniently forget everything in order to simulate your ignorance of their past as a player, this is to be a game that’s actively about recovering memories piece by piece. It is the plot, rather than used to excuse the plot. More unfairly, I’ve noticed that including tarot cards in a game doesn’t bode well. The number of pisspoor adventures I’ve played that have had an animated Death card swoop onto screen, or used the cards as menu buttons, or otherwise involved the woo-woo nonsense in some dreadful way has become disturbing. Big Finish: break that trend!

An odd thing: there’s no plans to involve humour. In fact, they’re positively against it.

“For this game, our objective was to create an atmosphere of suspense and danger and, frankly, humor can detract from that pretty quickly.”

That’s a strange claim. I’d suggest that a horror lacking humour is in terrible danger of becoming po-faced. If you’re laughing with, it’s very hard to be laughing at, never mind the potential for being disarmed before they lay on the fear.

This looks about as trad a puzzle as you can get. These guys are going old skool.

My guess, from reading the interview and looking at the screenshots, is that this will be a mix of old-school adventure-as-radio (with static backgrounds), and more modern casual gaming themes. The trailer shows no graphics at all, but rather focuses on the voices. In fact, in many ways I keep thinking of The Fool’s Errand, which was of course the Tarot Card Exception.

Of course, right now, no one knows how it will be. Like I keep saying, I really enjoyed the Tex Murphy games, and these guys know how to tell a decent story. They’ve created a development studio with the sole intent of telling decent stories. So consider me excited and hopeful. The game is due to come out in November, and will apparently be priced under $25.

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17 Comments »

  1. Razerious says:

    I remember playing Under a Killing Moon and Pandora Directive when I was a kid. Loved it back then

    Fingers crossed!

  2. Zeus says:

    Huzzah! That’s grea –

    Wait, “gradually recover their memories”? No humor? Screenshots that make it look more like Myst than Under A Killing Moon?

    Yikes.

  3. Konky Dong XVIII: The Happy Days Reunion Massacre says:

    I dunno, looks like orc mischief to me. It’s also troubling that they think humor has no place in horror.

  4. Rath says:

    That second image looks an awful lot like there will be “rotate to align” puzzles. This does not fill me with enthusiasm.

  5. MeestaNob! says:

    I enjoyed Under a Killing Moon, even though it was a bit much for my young teen brain to get to grips with, especially with the games merciless real time moments of killing you for being thick.

    Still, James Earl Jones was god.

    I’m… excited by this news.

  6. MacBeth says:

    BTW the answer is ASTROLOGICAL, unsurprisingly…

    (Aquarius, Pisces, Sagittarius, Taurus, Scorpio, Leo, Virgo, Gemini, Aries, Capricorn, Cancer, Libra)

  7. Optimaximal says:

    I wonder if Big Finish will have anything to say about the name…

  8. Ozzie says:

    Did they ever play Gabriel Knight?
    You know, humor is something that many people naturally bring into conversations. When you cut that out the drama may feel artificial.

    I never played a Tex Murphy game, but heard good things about them.
    Well, let’s see how it turns out!!

  9. John Walker says:

    Zeus, you describe exactly my reaction to the game. “Hooray! Oh wait. Uh oh. Well, maybe.”

  10. Esha says:

    This leaves me very excited, I was a huge fan of the Tex Murphy characters back in the day. Golden days when many development houses weren’t absolutely convinced that well developed characters scare and confuse their potential audience, and that such characters should be replaced by a one-dimensional personality that’s entirely written around the person’s moniker (yes Crisis, I’m talking about you).

    So, Tex Murphy.

    Those games were grand, and surprisingly they weren’t “funny” per se, either. The funny was there because Tex himself was a very funny person, he made us laugh. At least the “us” who played those games. The games themselves though did have more serious undertones, and at some points they were actually very touching. The Tex Murphy games had this… distinct slice of life nature about them, and the people within the game’s World were very much alive. And the Tex Murphy games were always pretty much centered around the cast.

    So I can see that their new game might not be entirely for yuks either, it’s probably going to be a tale about the human equation, and that’s not such a bad thing if it’s done right. In fact, it tickles my transhumanist tendencies, which is always nice. If it can tickle them as much as A Moment of Silence did though, I’ll be impressed.

    Still… excited! I see potential. Potential is good. I’m surprised that I don’t feel at all jaded about this proposition. But then again, these are the Tex Murphy chaps, and much as Mr. Walker does – I trust them. I trust them to do this right.

  11. CdrJameson says:

    If omitting humour made you Poe-faced, that’d be fine though.

  12. LionsPhil says:

    Zeus (and Ozzie—GK struck the serious/funny balance perfectly) nailed it.

    Here’s to hopin’. Under a Killing Moon was good.

  13. Mo says:

    Re: tarot cards
    Don’t forget Curse of Monkey Island and the awesome Madame Xema …
    “It says: Madame Exema”
    “Madame Zeema. MADAME ZEEMA! MADAME ZEEMA! MADAME ZEEMA!”
    I love that game. :)

  14. Andrew Farrell says:

    The sequel to Fool’s Errand is due soon, too!

    Wait, what’d I say? Why’s everyone laughing?

  15. salty-horse says:

    Mo, “five death cards.. I wonder what that means.”

    Andrew, maybe everyone’s laughing because it’s always “due soon” :D

  16. Pseudonym says:

    Aww, I was hoping for a conclusion to the cliffhanger ending of Overseer.

    Also, I’d like to add QFG IV and GK II to the list of games that used tarot but did not suck.

  17. FLUKE says:

    im so dam happy that they went away from microsoft and continued to make another company!! i know it isnt going to be anything like the tex murphy series but i think that these guys are so creative that this game will rock!
    Im also hoping that they make so much dam money off this that they may be able to buy back tex murphy from microsoft (cause god knows why they have it since they arnt making another game) and continue the series where the tex murphy radio series finishes!!

    please support this game no matter what and tell all of your friends and even punch those people in the face who burn this game and tex may continue!!