An outcropping of the ENGLISH 190: Introduction to Shakespeare course (Prof. Katherine Acheson), Who Killed Romeo and Juliet? is a point-and-click murder-mystery game in which the player, taking on the role of a detective within the world of Verona who has been commissioned by Prince Escalus, must determine through the discovery of various forms of evidence (objects, paper fragments, etc.), which characters of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are most culpable in the suicide deaths of the titular characters.
Within the game, players are situated within locations (settings from the play, e.g. the tomb in which Romeo and Juliet’s bodies lie), and each location possesses four views (front, left, right, back). Each view harbours a finite number of items/places that may contain or hide clues (e.g. a chest or a jacket might contain clues, while the sheets on the bed might just hide a clue). The locations of each clue are randomized at the outset, such that in one playthrough the chest might contain the desired clue while in another playthrough the sheets may hide the same clue. Some locations also contain a character, of whom the player may ask one of several randomly selected questions drawn from a database.
Once the player has finished with a particular location (whether all clues are discovered or no), he or she can transport instantly to a different location via their Map. Doing so, however, uses up game time, the total of which directly impacts the player’s final score at the end of the game. In addition, travelling to a different location demands the completion of one of a series of mini-games designed to: A) Add entertainment value and interactivity to the game; B) Add difficulty to the game, reflected in points and game time; and C) To tell parts of the narrative of the play, that are otherwise missed in this non-sequential examination of the characters.
Upon interviewing all of the potential characters, the player meets with Prince Escalus and levies accusations. In order to determine a character’s culpability, Prince Escalus uses the current character rankings in the player’s Notebook, which the player is able to manipulate throughout the game, assigning different levels of culpability to different characters as the game progresses.
Prince Escalus then reviews the player’s finalized list, and reveals the correct answers. The player is then given the option to have each clue they’ve encountered explained, so that he or she can better understand where errors were made in their reasoning.
As mentioned above, Who Killed Romeo and Juliet? was the result of coursework within the ENGLISH 190: Introduction to Shakespeare course. Within this course, students were split into groups and tasked with creating mini-game adaptations of Shakespeare’s text, each of which focused on the central question of culpability within the world of Romeo and Juliet. Which characters and what actions led to the tragic suicide of Romeo and Juliet? The result was a variety of games, including: a “Feed the Ego” game in which players feed Lord Capulet meals that are to his liking, with each food item labelled something akin to “Victory over the Montagues”, in order to ascertain information/clues; a “Crack the Safe” game in which the player must pick a safe lock in order to retrieve the clue(s) stashed within; and a “Face the Facts” game similar in style to L.A. Noire wherein the player must interrogate different characters, gauging their facial expressions in order to determine their guilt.
Who Killed Romeo and Juliet? was designed to be but one part of a now-dormant Stratford Interactive App. The intentions of this app were akin to those guiding the designs of both Staging Shakespeare and Places, Please, and, as such, the pedagogical yield of this game design has been similar as well. For example, here to we run up against the problematic issue of metrics when it comes to such design goals as “building an audience for the Stratford Festival”. To reiterate a few of our fundamental questions: How does one accurately gauge the causal or correlative impact of the game on Stratford Festival attendance? How does the inclusion of mini-games, each with a mode of interactivity distinct from the main game proper, reinforce or undermine the design goals of the game as a whole? And how does the experience of playing a simple mobile game at one’s leisure (designed in this case to take up ten to thirty minutes of time) translate to the experience of attending a Stratford Festival production, which demands a seven to eight hour commitment (four to five hours of travel from Toronto, there and back, in addition to a three hour production)?
At present, there are no plans to continue development on the game.