A road thriller
Code 42 is a mobile crime-adventure game, designed and developed as a Bachelor Project at the Hochschule Bremen by 20 students, under supervision of Barbara Grüter. The results of the project are the concept of the game, as well as a trailer and a playable prototype which has been tested.
The problems that there were to be addressed were of different kinds. The first was, that the project was thought to be loosely based on PC games like the Grand Theft Auto series, Red Dead Redemption and most of all L.A. Noire. The problem here is, that the mechanics that were designed for the PC and, to a lesser extent, the PlayStation had to be converted to a format, that would fit the restrictions and use the advantages of a mobile phone as a game platform. That was the first problem.
The second problem that needed solving was the creation of game atmosphere and immersion. Noire is a genre that is very much depending on the atmosphere that the game or movie is building up, but when this genre is converted to mobile game, there are two major drawbacks the mobile phone has to avoid that the PC or gaming consoles do not need to care about. The first is the inferior technique, especially regarding the output. The screen is smaller and the speakers or headset tend to be of worse quality then the ones most people use for stationary gaming platforms.
The third problem is of a similar kind, also regarding the immersion. The problem is that the programmer of a mobile game can control his game, but not the surrounding of a player who is most likely moving around while playing the game. This means that the player could become distracted while playing because he needs to cross a street, switch trains or something like that. This is normally a huge blow to the immersion of the game, especially if it is set in another setting, time- or place wise. It literally rips the player out of the game world and the designer of a mobile game needs to find ways to work around it - or at least minimize the consequences.
The basic idea of the project - formerly titled HB Noire - was to create a location-based mobile game, allowing the user to solve crimes in Bremen.
The player takes on the role of a private investigator, closely working together with the police of Bremen to solve murders, aggravated assaults and other crimes. In the process, the player will slowly grasp the existence of an ever-present evil, little early victories quickly vanishing as the evil comes back strengthened. But in the end the player will surely be victorious. Or will he?
Gameplay-wise, a couple of core mechanics were chosen as the basis of the game, namely the panorama view, BCD dialogue, the chase and the notebook.
The panorama view is the first of our basic concepts. It is the view that the user reaches, when he investigates a crime scene. This view uses wide panorama screens to allow the user to turn around and view the crime scene as a whole scenery and search for clues, which can be picked up and stored for later use.
The BCD dialogue is the modus operandi for interrogations of suspects and witnesses. After the person the player is talking to says something, he can react in three different ways, depending on his feeling about the NPC and his honesty. He can either Believe him, Confront him with clues from the Notebook (more on that later) or Disbelieve. With this system, the player has a wide array of possibilities in a dialogue with suspects and witnesses, but not every conversation is a BCD dialogue, some are simply scripted speeches in which the player cannot interact, but simply listen.
The Chase is another core mechanic, it happens when the player has proven a suspect that he has enough clues to get him sentenced by the court. Some suspects will then start to run away and the player's job is it, to catch them. Therefore the suspect will appear as a red dot on a map of the surrounding terrain, and will try to bring distance between himself and the player. The player now has to follow the suspect. Should he manage to catch it, he has finished the chase with varying positive consequences, sometimes netting clues or hints, sometimes solving the whole case and getting the chased person to jail.
The Notebook is the last core mechanic and a little different to the others. It is not a kind of gameplay mode like the other core mechanics, but rather a mix of a questlog, a diary, a journal and a map. The found clues are stored in the notebook, just like a shortened log of all dialogues with witnesses and other NPCs. Additionally the player can access a map from here, on which locations may show up, where the player knows that important things or persons wait. All in all the Notebook is the most important tool for the player to always keep an overview over his progress in the story and the momentary status of investigation in crimes.