The Trace: Relentless Software’s Murder Mystery Game Hits iOS [Interview]

The game challenges players to solve a murder by inspecting their environments to find clues and unravel the truth.

The Trace

Relentless Software, the British award-winning game developer behind the Murder Files franchise, has announced the release of The Trace on iOS devices. The murder mystery puzzle adventure game places players in the shoes of Detective Sam Pearce, joined by his forensic lab technician partner, Alex, as they’re challenged to solve a three-part case using plenty of environmental investigation and observation.

The Trace begins simply, with an apparent suicide in a mechanic’s garage, which turns into a complicated “whodunit” as players quickly realize things aren’t as they initially appear. To explore the game’s multiple environments, gamers simply tap where they wish to move, and the camera changes to highlight new scenes or key items.

From there, players tap again to bring up new leads or clues, where available. For instance, they may tap on the deceased’s hand to bring up a separate clue interface, where they’ll tap and hold on a finger to scan the victim’s fingerprint. Some key objects contain multiple clues, which the game tracks in real-time, so users always know if there’s something more to find.

The Trace

As players find clues, Pearce creates a web of questions, which players must fill in with the proper answers (represented by evidence). This web further helps players understand when they’ve found every key item in an environment, as they can’t complete the web, and therefore solve the case, without the right amount of evidence. When gamers answer specific questions, slideshow cutscenes explain more of the case. If gamers are stuck, they can post to social media, and are assured they will receive a reply from Relentless to help them along.

We had a chance to chat with Andrew Eades, CEO of Relentless Software, about The Trace, which is now available to download for $4.99 on the iTunes App Store. The game is coming soon to Android.

The Trace

SocialTimes: What has Relentless learned from the success of the Murder Files franchise, which helped craft The Trace?

Andrew Eades: Murder Files was originally designed for PlayStation 3 with a DualShock controller. Although, it translated really well to a touch interface and in many ways, it’s better as a touch game, and it suits the more casual audience who love games on their iPad. After Apple featured the game, we briefly hit the No 1. app spot on iPad, which showed us that there was an appetite for puzzle adventure murder mystery games on mobile.

The cartoony style of Murder Files is loved by many, including us, but we felt this tone and style was a difficult match for a more gritty and dramatic murder mystery game. Blue Toad Murder Files was inspired by the Cluedo board game, and was aimed at a family audience, but we wanted to make something a bit more adult as well, so we split the franchise into two – Enigma Express and The Trace. The Trace’s origins can be found in a prototype from 2010 called Blue Toad Crime Scenes, so we were still thinking of using Blue Toad, which became Murder Files at that point.

ST: When users need help answering a question, they can post the content out to social media and ask their friends for help. Can you explain why this route was chosen, over a traditional in-game help feature?

AE: It came from being dissatisfied with other hint systems. They either make it too easy, or the hint doesn’t help because it is too left-field and leaves the player still scratching their head. We also thought about hints as a monetizable point, but again, I didn’t like that idea. So we thought we could combine a social feature with hints. Rather than try to predict the pain points and craft hints that are not too easy and not too hard, we thought we’d do it live on social media. If you get stuck, you can tweet and you will get a reply. It’s a bit of an experiment, but it means we can engage with the players as they play.

The Trace

ST: The Trace offers three chapters, tying into one overall story. Could you see Relentless releasing DLC for the game, starring Sam and Alex, but perhaps solving different cases? Or, taking that idea one step further, do you see The Trace being a new franchise for Relentless, or is it a one-and-done endeavor?

AE: I always look to create something that can be a franchise. We still have plans for Season 2 of Murder Files, for example. With Sam and Alex, we’d like to see some DLC or even a sequel. That all depends on the success of the first one, though. We’ve certainly built The Trace engine with that in mind.

ST: What’s next for Relentless? Are more mobile titles currently in the works?

AE: The Trace is obviously our main focus at the moment, as it’s a big game for us. We are always working on what’s next, and there will be some announcements later in the year on new games.