Hope Valley never got off the ground, but Volrath and I had put together an outline for the first episode. The story was going to be presented in a Visual Novel format from Rick’s perspective. Like Phoenix Wright, you would be able to travel to different locations and talk to different NPCs and gather clues in an ongoing investigation.
Events kick off right away in the first episode. We revised the opening sequence so it was no longer in Rick’s labyrinthine dreamworld. Instead, the opening cutscene would show two hikers at night being attacked by an unseen assailant. There would be an animation of a bloody claw mark and screaming.
It would then cut to Rick in his cabin looking into a bathroom mirror. He is suffering from insomnia, which he reveals is a regular occurrence. We’d get a short introduction to Rick, but not much would be revealed yet.
His internal monologue would be interrupted when he gets a knock on his door. The game would then transition to the main cabin room. The player would gain control. The player can interact with objects around the cabin, but the only one that progresses the scene is selecting the cabin door with the cursor.
The door would open and Rick’s boss, Foret, would appear in full park ranger outfit. Forget quickly tells him there’s been an incident in the park and they both need to investigate. She tells him to meet her outside once he gets dressed. The player can then select Rick’s park ranger outfit and gear. He might have some default tools which will appear in the inventory menu like a flashlight. The player would then click on the door to progress to the next scene.
Rick and Foret would arrive at the campsite where the attack happened. The campers are already being wheeled off to an ambulance. Rick and Foret would begin investigating the scene. Hovering your cursor over a point of interest (POI) would change it to a magnifying glass. When examining a POI, Rick would make an observation. These observations would be tracked for later.
I had played all the Ace Attorney Investigations games by this point. I wanted to use a Logic mechanic similar to the one Edgeworth uses to make logical connections between facts surrounding the case. For example, there would be a claw mark on one of the trees. Rick could connect the claw mark, with the fact that both campers had been attacked, to make a logical conclusion that there was an animal attack. These conclusions would not always hold up over the course of an episode, as new information would be presented.
Rick was formerly a private investigator in X-Noir, with a background in law, so he would be naturally be looking at the scene like a detective would. The police sergeant on duty, Lou Stegman, would arrive on the scene and tell Rick to stand down. He doesn’t trust Rick since Rick is an outsider, and would kick him out of the crime scene. By now Rick would have collected enough information to begin his own investigation.
Rick and Foret, both exhausted from losing a night of sleep, would both drive down to the Royal Diner. After all, what’s a small town without a greasy diner? Even though I didn’t have one in my small town growing up, I love them as a location for residents to congregate over burnt coffee and eggs. A few new key characters would be introduced, including the cute waitress, Karen, which Rick would flirt with, and the town benefactor, Charles David. David and Rick would bump heads many times in later episodes, but for now he would be introduced as the richest and most powerful person in Hope Valley.
Rick and Foret would review what they learned at the crime scene. Foret tells Rick to drop it and let the police handle it, but Rick found enough clues that don’t add up. He decides to continue his own investigation. After the diner sequence, the player would be presented with a map of the area, with locations that can be traveled to. For now, the player can only select the next location to progress the plot.
Rick would travel to the hospital to check in on the wounded campers. One of them is in critical condition, but the other has recovered. Rick bumps into Sgt. Lou again. Lou informs Rick that the case is closed. The conscious victim had informed the Sgt. that they were camping in the park when they were attacked by a wild animal. The Sgt. leaves satisfied and tells Rick to do the same. Rick decides to interrogate the camper himself.
The interrogation would play similar to the court cross examination sequences in Phoenix Wright, where Rick can present facts or evidence surrounding the attack that conflict with the camper’s statements. Of course, this isn’t in a court of law, so Rick can only push the camper so much. If he makes too many mistakes, then he would have to repeat the sequence.
If Rick is successful in his interrogation, he would eventually reveal the camper was lying about the reason he was in the park. He was actually a surveyor, hired by Charles David, to resurvey the park land. It’s revealed that David’s family owns the land want to turn it into a resort and golf course. This revelation triggers a memory of something Rick read in a news article a few weeks ago.
At the time, I had been reading about “memory places” and wanted to use the memory technique as a mechanic in the game. If we used the mechanic, this is where it would be introduced. There would be a big payoff to the memory palace mechanic later in the game.
The episode would continue like this, with Rick traveling between locations, getting a bigger picture of what is actually going on in the town, and ending in a heated pursuit with the true perpetrator of the attack.
Volrath and I discussed ideas for the following episodes, which include plenty of small town drama with a hint of the supernatural. After the first episode, the game would be much more non-linear in how you explore the town and investigate cases. We really wanted to build a sense of place with quirky characters that were all interconnected in some way. Rick, being the outsider, is the only one who can unravel the mysterious events surrounding the town
Hope Valley is still a project I’m excited about. Over the years, the game setting changed from the Maritimes to a tropical setting based on my experiences living in Florida. Most of the original story elements and characters still remained the same. With the change in setting, the working title was changed to Cape Hope.
Cape Hope has not begun production yet, but it is something Volrath and I have begun discussing again. I have a lot of ideas for it that I would like to explore now that I’ve played more visual novels and adventure games. If this sounds like a project you’d like to see, please let us know in the comments!