Even though Secrets Can Kill ended with a teaser for an investigation of death threats on the set of Detective Beach, we decided to have the 2nd Nancy Drew game take place on the set of a soap opera. We also set it in New York to explain why Nancy’s Aunt Eloise was in Florida and no longer New York city.
It was during the design of the game that I came up with the character of the puzzlemeister or the source of the puzzles that the player encounters in an adventure game. So often puzzles are thrown into a game without thought about its origin which can break suspension of belief. This was particularly odd in Secrets Can Kill with the omniscient riddles strewn about the bulletin boards. Puzzles should be organic to the narrative and flow naturally within the context of the plot, location and/or character.
Our production crew was bare bones and in addition to managing accounting, scheduling, design and scripting I also wrote the conversation script. While I still cringe at hearing how wordy some of the conversations were, I still laugh at some of the silly lines, especially smarmy Rick Arlen telling Nancy to Stay beautiful.
One innovation that I was excited to develop with our lead programmer, Wayne Sikes, was the cel animation library. We devised a system whereby the animators created a library of head movements and body movements that could be reused to create an animation. This enabled us to reduce the footprint of the game install and keep the game on 1 CD-ROM.
The image is an overhead map of Dwayne’s office which I scripted. The numbers are scene numbers that refer to a specific script file.
Secrets Can Kill was my first ‘real’ game that I worked on. I had been working for Her Interactive’s parent company as an accountant, studying for my MBA and was given the opportunity to be the program manager for the project which was about halfway into production.
The process was a complete trial by fire, especially since there was very little documentation and many processes and standards were developed ad hoc. I still remember creating a primitive flow chart with post-it notes and discovering a major flaw in the logic. Because most of the assets such as animation, art, music and voice over had already been created, the production staff had limited abilities to fix bugs. My favorite bug was found by our then 3D artist, Tim Burke. At the end of the game, the villain says, “You’re through Jake!” but Jake was the student that had already been murdered. To fix it, we had to record Lani Minella, the voice of Nancy Drew, to imitate the actor to call out to the correct character.
Despite the challenges, it was incredibly rewarding to put together seemingly disparate pieces of a game and create a cohesive product. My favorite memory was sitting around recording funny voice messages for the different phone numbers the player encountered in the game. My rendition of Nancy’s Aunt Eloise was the inspiration and prototype of Prudence Rutherford, an eccentric phone character that appears in later games.
Attached is an AVI that seems to be a proof of concept for the game, featuring snippets from the original sound track. Take some dramamine before viewing as the camera moves around a lot.
Original Secrets Can Kill Video