Interview with David Marsh About His Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective Kickstarter Project

I’m a big fan of Kickstarter. In the year that I’ve been using it, I’ve been put money towards forty-six different projects like the Wrestling Revolution Project, an incredible brand of mustard and the new Vampire: The Masquerade Companion. Of course as the Editor-in-Chief of Diehard GameFAN I’ve also back some video games. As a big adventure game fan and 80s PC Gamer, I’ve backed both Double Fine Adventure and Wasteland 2, but I’ve also backed the Wizardry and Working Designs tribute in Class of Heroes II for the PSP. The latest game I’ve backed on Kickstarter is perhaps the one I’m most excited about, if only because David Marsh’s games have been some of my favorites since I was a single digit aged gamer in the days where the 8-bit NES was innovative and amazing.

Currently over on Kickstarter, David Marsh (Creator of Shadowgate, Uninvited, Déjà Vu and Dracula Unleashed is trying to get funding for the re-mastering and re-release of the Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective video games. I loved these as a kid and I owned all three volumes of the game. I even remember the game being so popular that Sega replaced Sewer Shark with it as the Sega-CD pack-in. Mark B. and I are big fans of the game and if you read us regularly, you’ll notice us both occasionally waxing nostalgically about them. As well, the entire staff here at Diehard GameFAN adores Shadowgate and Uninvited. We even did full day features on both games back around Halloween of 2008. Clearly this was a Kickstarter I instantly cared about and wanted to see fully funded.

So much like what I did with Phoenix Online Studios and their successfully Kickstarted game, Cognition, I wanted to plug the hell out of this thing to ensure it meets its goal. So I got in contact with David Marsh and he happily agreed to do this interview with me about his Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective Kickstarter project. Here’s hoping that after you read this, you’ll be throwing money at him.

Diehard GameFAN: Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is roughly twenty-one years old now, having been first released in 1991. What made you decide to re-release the games now in 2012?

David Marsh: Well, I reacquired the rights in January for many of the games I had a hand in working on I had to decide what to tackle first. I am working on the Sherlock games first for three reasons: 1) I always felt that the mysteries never got their due. With the exception of rereleasing the first three mysteries on DVD in 1999, players never really got to see the video any larger than something like 160×100 pixel doubled. 2) I wanted to make a game that I could get others involved in, get their names into or help write the papers and the Sherlock games were a perfect fit for that. 3) Although each mystery has different video and game play, the nine games all use the same engine. I figured that having nine titles would help get Zojoi off the ground.

DHGF: I still have my Turbo-Grafx and Sega CD versions of the game. When I play those, the video footage really shows its age, with noticeable digitization and pixilation. What all will you have to do to update the FMV for today’s audience that is used to at least 480i and often expects full high definition visuals?

DM: Right. I thought a ton about that but because I won’t release these games for interactive television until that platform takes off, the resolution that they were shot at will work perfectly for phones, tablets and still holds its own on PC’s and Macs. Believe it or not, I helped rescue the original BetaSP and Sony 1″ tapes in 1997 from the endless warehouse 13 and when I reacquired the rights from Infinite Ventures, the tapes were waiting for me.

DHGF: The nine adventures that are being released were originally spread out over three different video games between 1991 and 1993. What made you choose those cases for the game(s)?

DM: All nine of those mysteries came from the first Consulting Detective board game and reworked to play well electronically. There were certainly other board game expansions (Mansion Murders, Queen Park Affair, etc.) but we just decided that these nine were perfect for what we wanted to do – which was create fun mystery adventures that didn’t feature Dana Plato.

DHGF: How hard was it to convert a board game into a Full Motion Video (FMV) game?

DM: The producer of those projects was Ken Tarolla and I worked as the art director. I remember that Ken hired a few writers to flesh out the scenes and worked with Sleuth Productions to nail down which clues we would include and which ones we would omit and still keep the essence of the board game (where the mysteries were ultimately more difficult.) It really came down to how many scenes we could shoot with the budget and then compress onto these new fangled magic discs called CD-ROM. In the end, we were all very happy with the result!

DHGF: What made you decide to start with Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective instead of one of your other games like Shadowgate, Déjà Vu and Uninvited?

DM: See #1 :) Seriously, these games are very dear to me and never seemed to get the exposure they deserved. With newer devices, these are perfect for anyone who loves mysteries and games in general and it certainly doesn’t hurt that Sherlock Holmes in general has made a resurgence these days!

DHGF: What was the decision behind re-releasing/remaking the games for iOS and Android operating systems? Here’s hoping I’ll eventually get to play these on my Kindle Fire!

DM: I just thought the games would work perfectly on mobile devices. The video has to be compressed a bit so the download is manageable (I think the first mystery, “The Case of the Mummy’s Curse” is around 100meg.) but it looks really, really good. Also, I decided that I would subtitle them so they can be played with or without sound for the hearing impaired or someone who is on a loud subway. And yes, they will be released on the Kindle Fire at the same time!

DHGF: Currently, you’re trying to raise $55,000 on Kickstarter for the remastering of the games. What made you decide to go that route for your funding?

DM: I have been following Kickstarter for a bit and saw that some games were funded quickly while others never reached their goal. Fore Sherlock, I thought it would be fun to get people involved, becoming characters in Holmes’ directory or writing for the times. I knew going in that these are not hardcore games and that the average gamer may not know about Kickstarter. However, since I had never tried one of the campaigns, I said “Why not?” I hope that the campaign works but will have no regrets if it doesn’t. I have met some amazing people and it’s been (and continues to be) a great experience.

DHGF: The Kickstarter funds need to be raised by April 28th, 2012 at 11:50 EDT. Currently you’re about 1/8th of the way there. What about these games will appeal to the new generation of gamers that weren’t even alive where Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective first came out? As well, what new surprises will there be (if any) for those of us who played the heck out of all three versions back in the day?

DM: I think for the new generation they will get a chance to play nine Sherlock Holmes mysteries and solve them on handheld devices that feature over 30 minutes of video each. I don’t think there is anything out there on the iOS or Android stores that is similar and I didn’t want Zojoi coming out of the gate making a bubble popping game. I think these are perfect games for any type of gamer and actually remind me of when Shadowgate came out on NES. It had been around long before that machine came out but suddenly there was a game that wasn’t a sidescroller. For the veterans, I think it will be fun because of the ability to actually see what is going on in the video as well as a ton of storytelling we are writing for moving between clues.

DHGF: I have to ask about the $600 pledge. How on earth did you find/get not only unopened MIB versions of the original Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective board game but also the West End Adventures expansion? I used to own the original as a kid and loved it. That’s a great reward I hope people take full advantage of.

DM: Ha. Yeah. In order to ensure that I was covering all my bases, I tracked down Suzanne Goldberg – the original designer of the game. Her husband Gary sadly passed away a number of years ago but she was still just as excited about these mysteries as ever. When I thought of things I might be able to offer, I asked her how many board games she still had shrink-wrapped. She asked me how many I wanted. After my jaw was reattached to my face, she offered another 20 of the West End Adventures which virtually doesn’t exist out there as Sleuth Productions went under right when it was released.

DHGF I know that there has been talk on the Kickstarter page that, if goals are not only met but surpassed, there might even be a all-new tenth case made. Will you be using all new actors or will you try and “get the band back together” so to speak to film a case in Holmes’ twilight years? Any indication on what case you’d want to do?

DM: There is a mystery called “The Death of Sherlock Holmes” from one of the expansions that I would like to do but there are also another 15 or so that are available. We talked about doing another Sherlock Mystery with the same (or different actors) but then also realized that many of these mysteries would work with other characters completely – like Holmes’ daughter or even a young Van Helsing.

DHGF: If your Kickstarter attempt is successful, which of your old games would you next like to revisit?

DM: Well, Shadowgate is just getting off the ground this week but I won’t Kickstart it. I think if I decide to Kickstart another game, it would be a new 1st person adventure like Beyond Shadowgate – a game that I have the design complete for. For that one, it would be a full blown box deal as the game is roughly 3 times the size of Shadowgate.

DHGF: Finally, if all goes well, is there a chance of Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective and any of your other games eventually making it back into the land of consoles?

DM: The last time I worked on a console machine was the Game Boy color (if you could call it a console I guess) and ported Shadowgate and Déjà Vu to it. I imagine I might go back to it one day but publishing on those consoles is tough compared to getting a game out and self publishing on today’s mobile devices.

So there you go. This is your chance to bring back one of the most popular adventure games of all time (as well as arguably the best FMV game ever made) to portable devices,, remastered and retooled for the current generation of gaming. This is huge and any adventure game fan worth their salt should be putting money down to get these, especially when you can get all nine episodes for as little as NINE DOLLARS. That’s a dollar a game! Currently it stands at 15 percent funded with a little over eight thousand dollars. David needs to get $55,000 in another thirty days and it definitely looks doable. Here’s your chance to join over two hundred gamers in preserving one of the most memorable games of the early nineties. Don’t delay. go help fund this thing!



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