How NEXT Studios developed a detective game for audiophiles

Developers NEXT Studios give insight into their inspiration for using sound as the primary focus in their upcoming narratively driven detective game Unheard. Featuring a varied cast of characters for players to discover as they delve deeper into each crime, Unheard balances new exploration mechanics while keeping the sense of sound at its core.

Unheard is being showcased this week and the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco at the Bilibili booth N2811. Attendees will get a first glimpse into Unheard’s audio-centric design.

In most detective dramas, players rely on more than one sense in order to unearth clues and the motives of the crimes they are attempting to unfurl, in most cases it is the visual clues in games of the genre that players rely heavily upon. In Unheard, however, players will take the perspective of a fly on the wall listening to conversations between characters to discover who they are, what moves they have made and what motives they may have. Take a look or rather, listen to the trailer below to get a glimpse into the soundscape of Unheard.

In deciding to focus on audio over visual evidence, developers NEXT Studios set out to bring players an all-new narrative experience. The creation of bringing the story of Unheard to life relied heavily on the performance of voice actors.

Game designer Nick Zhang discusses the unique production of Unheard“Since there aren’t any pictures in the game, the characters are largely shaped by sound. This left a lot of room for the voice actors to perform and create their own inflections in the lines. We wanted the audio to be as realistic as possible, so the actors weren’t told ahead of time if their characters had actually committed the murders or not.”

NEXT Studios will be bringing the immersive experience of Unheard to players on March 29th. Fans of classic radio dramas, audiophiles and detective buffs alike will find the non-linear narrative of Unheard to be a refreshing gameplay experience.

A full list of features include:

  • Open-Ended Narrative Mystery Game: Multiple events, different suspects and characters, all happening at the same time. Players must piece together evidence, clues and experience events in a non-linear fashion. Control time and go back and forth to experiences different events and uncover the truth.
  • A Unique Case-Solving Experience: Step through time as you use our device to eavesdrop on conversations from past crime scenes. Every clue, every move, and every motive will be presented in the form of audio. Rather than controlling any one character, you only need listen to their conversations, following along as the story evolves. Use the information you hear to match names to voices and determine how everything (and everyone) is related. Can you discover the truth?
  • Immersive Theater: All characters in Unheard have their own storylines; however, each of these storylines will become interwoven in the same space, and at the same time, resulting in complicated cases that force you to meticulously search for and track clues. You can choose to follow one character or move around between multiple characters. You can also replay the audio as many times as you want until you reach a conclusion.
  • Detective Fiction In Unheard, all the clues in a case will be presented to players. There’s no hidden information, nor rooms that require a key to enter. Players will be privy to the same information as everyone present at the crime scenes.
  • Radio Drama: Unheard is, in a way, an interactive radio drama. By combining aural narrative techniques with the type of exploration elements present in video games, Unheard offers a brand-new, non-linear radio drama experience.
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