Latest News

Murder and Music 

I'm so glad that my crowd funding campaign will be kicked off with a concert from Microbat! Ethan Kimberly, the drummer of Microbat, has been working closely with me to produce the themes, motifs and sounds of the game. It is going to be a killer show where they'll play the songs from the game as well as there own pop-jazz selections. We've teamed up with Humble Monk Brewing Co. to host this event. If you have the desire to drink some good beer and listen to some good music, we'd love to see you! If you can't make it we are going to be live-streaming the event. Sign up for my newsletter if you want to get the link straight to your email when we go live!

Check out the event here:

(Recommended donation is $10)


Listen to some of the game music: Music

The Humble Monk:

Crowdfunding is Back On! 


I'm so excited! Mark your calendars for April 29th, crowdfunding is back on! 

On the 30th, I am teaming up with Microbat to play the music of the game and more. 
If you’re here in Cincinnati, come swing by the Humble Monk Brewery in Northside. If you aren’t in Cincinnati, we are going to be setting up a livestream. Hope you stop on by!

Of course, you should sign up for my newsletter if you want to receive a notification for when the campaign goes live!


Bad News! Crowdfunding Postponed! 

This will sound familiar to the people on my mailing list but...

I have bad news. As of last Thursday Instagram deactivated my hemlockmurder account. I am currently trying to appeal and get access to my account back but it is up in the air at this point. Instagram is a notoriously hard company to get a hold of. 

So what does that mean? 

I was planning on launching a crowdfunding campaign on my birthday, December 13th. This campaign was to raise $7000 to commission a few local Cincinnati artists to complete the final illustrations, animations and music needed for the game. Instagram happened to be the platform where I had the most fans and I don't feel comfortable launching the campaign without that base. I want the give the campaign the highest chance of success, so I am going to postpone it to a later date. Hopefully my appeal goes through and I can get access to my account again soon but either way y'all will be the first to know when the campaign is rescheduled. 

If you would still like to donate to the game completion effort you can go to the page for my demo, hit the red "Download Now" button and donate however much you want to. It would be much appreciated and would really help in getting this game closer to completion. 

The link is: 

As for the game, I am going to continue working on fleshing out the story and a few mechanics here and there to make it the best it can be. I've got some cool ideas that I want to test out! And I'll be posting my updates on Twitter and Facebook in the meantime while I am waiting for my instagram appeal.

The Trait of Charisma 

We are now at the final article in the “Introduction to the Traits” series. If you have not read the others, you can check them out here: first, second, third

Charisma is the final character trait that the game is built around. To me, a charismatic detective would be the kind that everyone may like but not everyone would take seriously. Think of a Nancy Drew or the Scooby gang who get underestimated because of their age. Or Blanche White, from the Barbara Neely series of the same name, who gets underestimated because of her class and race. These characters have the strength of know how to listen and that sometimes you have to do something for someone before they will do something for you. Like in the Nancy Drew story, The Scarlet Slipper Mystery, our protagonist takes over the management of her clients’ dance studio while they are in hiding from individuals that want to do them harm. Doing this Nancy not only gained the trust of her clients but she also gave herself a strategic position within the mystery that allowed her to gain more information.

However, the weaknesses of the charismatic detective are that people and institutions (like the police) won’t find you credible and not tell you everything they know. And, just like the Scooby gang, you might be able to find some clues by looking around but you aren’t as observant to see the obvious animation cell that you are about to walk on. 

Scooby brushing his teeth with a bar of soap with a painted background on his right and an animation frame at his back. You can see by the lack of detail. Hope nothing bad happens to him...  (Ep: A Night Fright is No Delight)

In the game, this is exemplified in the charismatic detective receiving more quests as well as utilizing the “give item” mechanic. Items will be sprinkled throughout the game that you can use as gifts, bargaining chips, and bribes that’ll allow you to open someone up for more information. Combining this skill with your secondary skills will open up a lot more ways to solve the mystery. This can be seen in the demo. If the player chooses to be charismatic, the player has the ability to converse with greater ease. Choosing the right options and helping out the traveler will see you to progressing to the next scene. 

Currently, I’m having fun creating the second section of Act 1 where the player learns how to combine these mechanics to get the best results! 

As always, follow me on instagram @hemlockmurder, facebook and on twitter @hemlockmurder!    

And don't forget to sign up for my newsletter. It comes out every month and I try and release special behind the scenes info. I’m trying to get 600 instagram followers and 500 twitter followers so if you could share this with a friend you think would be interested, that would be great. Everything helps! 

The Trait of Class 

Welcome to the third article in the “Introduction to the Traits” series. (If you haven’t read the others, consider checking the first one out here and the second one out here.) Class is the second character trait that the puzzles in the game are built around. As a classy individual, you are stepping into the pages of an Agatha Christie novel as a Hercule Poirot or a Miss Marple. This trait gives your character more privilege when interacting with other characters, allowing you to extract more information from people who consider themselves a higher class as well as institutions like the police. However, your higher class restricts which characters will be forthcoming with information. 

Illustration: Saurabh Singh

I wanted to make the Classy character unique from the Intelligent or Charismatic characters, so I looked at the novels from the queen of Mysteries herself for inspiration. 

One of the early Poirot novels, Murder on the Links, by Agatha Christie, has Hercule Poirot facing off against Monsieur Giraud to solve the murder of Paul Renauld. Giraud was a Sherlock Holmes stand in who used only forensic evidence. Poirot on the other hand believed that crimes could only be solved through psychology.  Of course, Poirot solves the murder correctly and in the process separates him from his predecessors, like Holmes. In the same way, I wanted the Classy character separate from the Intelligent character by reducing the amount of exploration and increasing the amount of conversations. 

A flaws in Poirot’s character is his conceded nature. In the novel, The Labors of Hercules, Poirot almost fails a case because he misjudges the intelligence of Amy Carnaby, the put-upon female companion to the wealthy Lady Hoggin. I wanted to bring this aura of concededness to the Classy character which would separate it from the Charismatic character. The classy individual will be pre-disposed to thinking that people below their station aren’t important. 

With the general structure for the Classy character in mind, the main mechanic that it was built for it was risk. You have to be careful of what you say in high society, offending the wrong people will get you ostracized. However, knowing when to push people will often reveal pertinent information you need to progress. In the demo, Class is by far the shortest run by design. It shows off the fact that you character has the privilege to walk to the end and get what they want immediately. However, this can come at a tradeoff to the amount of information the character has gathered. 

As always, follow me on instagram @hemlockmurder, facebook and on twitter @hemlockmurder!   

And don't forget to sign up for my newsletter. It comes out every month and I try and release special behind the scenes info. I’m trying to get 500 instagram followers and 400 twitter followers so if you could share this with a friend you think would be interested, that would be great. Everything helps! 

Using Grim Fandango to Influence my Puzzle Design 

Last week, I completed a playthrough of the classic adventure game Grim Fandango. For those who haven’t played, Grim Fandango takes place in the land of the dead, where departed souls must traverse before reaching the afterlife. You play as a travel agent Manuel “Manny” Calavera and try to save Mercedes “Meche”, a virtuous soul, on her trip through the land, as well as uncover the corruption in the Department of the Dead.

Image Source: Wikipedia

One of the locations that you visit is a port town called Rubacava. All souls must pass through Rubacava if they want to cross the Sea of Lament to make it through to the afterlife.  After Manny’s one year wait, Meche finally arrives but is being held hostage by one of Manny’s ex-coworkers, Domino. They escape on a boat causing Manny to need to acquire passage on a boat to chase after them. However, the only ship left is a cargo ship and he’s going to need a union card, one of the sailors to drop off and a set of mechanic tools if he wants to board. 

To me, this was the most fun section of the game. It was one solid chapter broken into three sections.  (Yes, technically there was a forth puzzle where you had to get your club shut down, but I found that section confusing and detrimental to the pacing). I thought it would be interesting break this section down to see how it was paced and how all of the locations were used. I was especially interested in how many items per puzzle existed in the environment verse how many were obtained through puzzles. 

Note, these puzzles can be done in just about any order, however, I liked the flow that IGN used in their streamlined walkthrough. To break down the game, I labeled locations as the player arrives to see where Items were being found and used: 



Items Found

Item Obtained through Puzzle

Items Used

Locations Traveled

Areas Opened

Union Card Puzzle






Job Opening Puzzle






Get Tools Puzzle







Furthermore, I broke the game locations into thirds and took a look at how many items a character got in those locations and how many items they used in those locations: 


Items Obtained

Items Found in Environment

Items Used

First Third of locations

10 - 11



Second Third of locations

5 - 6



Last Third of locations





The interesting aspects that I see is that Items found in the natural environment are fairly consistent per puzzle, you’ll need to find 2 -3 objects. However, these objects are only found in the first 3rd of the stage locations. This breakdown leads me to believe that that the designers needed to front-load all of the environment items to the first 3rd of locations because that opens the puzzles up to be solved in any order. I feel like this can be a pro and a con because it will allow the player to work on a different puzzle if they get stuck on one but it makes exploring later environments less rewarding. As for the pacing, it seems to follow a general interest curve: In puzzle one, a relatively low amount of items unlock most of the environment while you explore and gather materials, which feels great. In puzzle two, there is a slight ramp up in complexity as you use more of your items. In puzzle three, you are given a chain of item uses and a new area to punctuate the stage. 

Doing this process has been interesting and I am interested in breaking down other puzzle games to see how they work! 

As always, follow me on instagram @hemlockmurder, facebook and on twitter @hemlockmurder!   

And don't forget to sign up for my newsletter. It comes out every month and I try and release special behind the scenes info. I’m trying to get 400 instagram followers and 200 twitter followers so everything helps. 

The Trait of Intelligence 

As I mentioned in my previous blog article, “Introduction to the Traits”, I wanted to break up the games puzzles into three major categories: Intelligence, Charisma and Class. The “Intelligence” based puzzles, inspired by the stories of Sherlock Holmes, would have the player explore the world, observe and manipulate the environment.

Image source: Wikipedia 

One of the short stories that inspired me was “A Scandal in Bohemia”. In this story, Dr. Watson meets his friend Sherlock Holmes after some time of separation and quickly gets involved in his most recent case. The King of Bohemia (today’s Czech Republic) has contracted Holmes to retrieve a sensitive photograph of the King and the Opera singer Irene Adler from Adler because its existence is a threat to the King’s marriage prospects. After a bout of Holmes’s trademark deductions, he proceeds to follow the woman while in disguise to learn about her and her habits. Once comfortable with the knowledge that he’s gained, he stages a scene that gets him, disguised as a priest, inside her house. After a signal from Holmes, Dr. Watson throws a smoke bomb in. Thinking the house was on fire, Adler rushes to the picture’s hiding place at which point Holmes tells here that it was a false alarm. Holmes then leaves the house with the knowledge of the picture’s hiding place with the intention of going back and stealing it. However, when he returns, all he finds is a note from Adler saying that she’s left the country but she won’t be using the photo against the King. However, she has taken the photo with her as a form of protection against him. (I’ll let you read the story to learn how she found out the plot against her 😜 ) This story is interesting because it is the only time that Holmes has ever been beaten and it contains an interesting proto-feminist character which was rare in that time period. 

I wanted to take many of these characteristics that Holmes displays and make it a part of my game. For example, the more points that a player puts into their intelligence trait, the more there character will be able to observe other people and the environment and make deductions about who they are and what they’ve been doing. These will often give clues to the player to solve the puzzles that are set before them. As for the puzzles themselves, the Holmes stories translated well to a videogame. For example, this story has Holmes actively completing linear goals that open up the next “level” for him. Level one: use disguise to get info; Level two: use disguise, and level one info to get into house, so on and so on.  While I can’t confirm that there are going to be any disguise options in the game… “Intelligence” will offer the player puzzles that will keep them looking at everything to try and find the solution. 

As always, follow me on instagram @hemlockmurder, facebook and on twitter @hemlockmurder!  

And don't forget to sign up for my newsletter. It comes out every month and I try and release special behind the scenes info. I’m trying to get 300 instagram followers and 100 twitter followers so everything helps. 

PS. To me, the funniest tidbit about Holmes characterization is that he has devoted all of his time to the methods and tools for solving crimes. So much so that he is unaware of common knowledge like the fact that the earth moves about the sun. I don’t know if that aspect will make it into the game, but when I think of Benedict Cumberbatch from BBC’s “Sherlock” being unaware of how planets work, I chuckle.

Now on Twitter Birds Application 

Quick update! 

A couple weeks ago, I had a dream where I was sitting in a coffee shop sipping a cappuccino in a plush chair and staring into the void when Lil Nas X came in. After ordering a drink and picking it up from the bar, he sat across from me and said, "If you want to follow your dreams, you have to start a twitter." 

So I started a twitter! I'll be posting devlogs, quick updates, blog posts and more. 

Come follow me @hemlockmurder

As for the game, I am working towards completing the game environment tweaks and starting to prototype Act 1. I am hoping to have that done in the next 3 weeks so that I can get testing underway. 

I am still looking for someone to do 2D animations for the game. If that sounds interesting to you. Hit me up. 

Follow me on instagram @hemlockmurder, facebook and now twitter @hemlockmurder

And don't forget to sign up for my newsletter. It comes out every month and I try and release special behind the scenes info when I can.

Introduction to the Traits 

The idea for this game came into my head while I was watching a play though of Danganronpa, a near future dystopian game set in a high school that only accepts the best and brightest. In the story, an evil mastermind traps the incoming class inside the school and assures them if one manages to commit a murder without the rest of the students finding out, that student gets to leave the school. The game plays out as a series of murder mysteries that contains clues that lead you closer and closer to finding out who the mastermind is and how can you and the rest of the students can escape. 

image source: superjump magazine

The strong suit of this game was its story line and characters. The game came out in November 2010, and 11 years later the series is still running strong. There have been TV and print adaptations, and fans routinely dress up as their favorite characters. There is a lot to learn from this game on how to build a world and characters. 

The part that I felt non-plussed about was the gameplay. The mysteries tended to be fairly straight forward to solve; just click through a few multiple choice questions, and if you were paying attention, it wouldn’t be too difficult. Furthermore, the outcome of each trial was decided on how well you completed a variety of mini-games. These elements took me out of the fantasy. 

For my game, I wanted to make a game that could have an engaging story, interesting characters, and puzzles focused around solving the mystery. A fun and consistent fantasy. I took a look at the stories that I have been reading, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie’s bibliography, and I tried to distill some traits. The three that I settled on were: 

Exploration - observing and manipulating the environment 

Social - getting to know the characters that are involved 

Privilege - being able to be trusted by and have a certain amount of power over the people around you 

These traits were molded into the characteristics of intelligence, charisma and class. When you start the game you will pick a dominant, neutral and recessive characteristic which will shape the way you see the story as well as change the puzzles you will have to solve in order to solve the murder!

Thanks for Downloading the Demo! 

Thank you to everyone who has played my demo! I have had some useful feedback that I can use heading forward. 

If you have not yet tried out my game. You can find it at: 

If you have any feedback, I’d love if you’d fill out my survey: 

I am continuing game production by completing a few story and mechanics prototypes and working on getting some concept art for the remaining characters. Follow me at @HemlockMurder on Instagram to see update snapshots and sign up for my newsletter for updates and behind the scenes content.