Dexter, the video game

(today’s post: 906 words)

Not much is known about the upcoming video game based on the Jeff Lindsay Dexter books other than that NJ’s Marc Ecko is working with Showtime on it and it’s assumed to be released for the Xbox 360 and the PS3 – though details have recently come out about the iPhone version being developed by a partner group, Icarus Studios. That game has you working as a blood-spatter expert using the information you gather on crime scenes to decide if it meets Harry’s code.

Sounds kind of lame.

But coupled with no details on the feature title it got me thinking about what I would do for a PS360 version of Dexter if I were in charge.

I decided that my first step would be to look to other games for inspiration. I wanted to see if there were any games out there that I could use as a template, or a starting point. I thought of stuff like Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto IV and nothing worked in my mind even remotely – until Fahrenheit popped into my head (a.k.a. Indigo Prophecy).

Fahrenheit is a game that started amazingly (and then fell off at the end but let’s ignore that), putting you in a bathroom with a dead body, blood everywhere, and no clue how you got there. Depending on where you moved, and when, different options might pop up. How you handled that situation determined a lot about the rest of the game.

I think that style of play is a good start for a game based on the Dexter property.

The next thing I decided was that we’d need to simplify the Dexter universe to its core components. I figured that Dexter is managing three elements in his life: his desire for murder; his friends/family; and his job with Miami Metro. That brought me right back to Fahrenheit. In that game, you had a meter that measured your sanity/insanity – based off decisions you made during the story. In this game, I’d use two meters – with one measuring Dexter’s bloodlust and the other people’s suspicions. The more involved in work and family, the less suspicious. The more involved in killing, the less the lust. Of course, if you break the code of Harry I’d have to make it much more difficult for you to keep appearances.

As for the game, I’d start you in your house and you could either use your laptop to do research on potential victims, do some killing, get stuff done for Miami Metro, or call Rita and the kids to set up pizza night. There’d be some element of freedom in what you wanted to do and when, which of your bars (murder/suspicion) you wanted to manage, but I’d probably want to keep things somewhat linear and directed to move the game more in a scene-to-scene fashion.

I like Fahrenheit’s conversation system and think that would work with Dexter well, too. In this game, you’d need to come up with the most natural-sounding, friendly conversation lines to keep people at bay (with a timer ticking away, so don’t take too long to respond) but you’d also have to figure out when to show a little depth and sincerity to keep people from thinking you’re too robotic. I like that Dexter has to juggle that in the show and I think it would work well in the game, so I’d definitely throw several social interactions at you.

From there, I’d weave a simple story through the game to give it pacing – something like Dexter’s Showtime season one – which also works well with what Fahrenheit offers. Maybe you decide you want to go pick up Rita for a date and the ITK races by and you decide to follow. How you respond would close or open other options throughout the game.

I haven’t decided what I’d want to happen if you went on a date or decided to go write up a blood-spatter report. Obviously, you have to keep it as a game and you don’t want to inundate with cutscenes that steal control from the player. So do those things come out like mini-games? Move through a conversation smoothly enough and you get to play the Rita sex-mini-game? Execute a flawless QTE and Dexter writes up a brilliant report? And what about those options? Would there be situations where you do a report on someone you killed and have to deal with discovered-evidence that you missed during the murder scene (kind of like Fahrenheit)? Would you regret that you weren’t thorough enough to find that evidence in the first place and think about how to cover it up next time you replay the game?

The more options and replay you add to a game, by nature the shorter it has to be. I’m all right with that. I’d rather Dexter to be a brilliant 8-10 hour game filled with all sorts of reasons why you’d want to re-play it repeatedly.

That’s my idea for a Dexter game. Again, I have no idea which direction the actual title will take but I think my idea is pretty good. Hey Marc Ecko, if you like my ideas you may feel free to take them. I just want a good game. And if there’s anyone else out there with, say, a Dexter IP and $10 million dollars to front me – I’ll get started on this today.