Augmented Reality (AR) games have the ability to transform real world settings into unique, interactive gaming experiences. One such game that captivated our attention recently is called Eastern Market Murder.
Developed by a small team at True Crime Games, Eastern Market Murder gives you the opportunity to learn about a real event that took place over 120 years ago. If you live in Melbourne, Australia, the “onsite” version of the game walks you through 2.5km of real heritage sites and laneways.
If you don’t live in Melbourne, you can play “offsite” from the comfort of your own home. Both the “onsite” and “offsite” versions are a blast to play and are well worth experiencing, especially if you’re a fan of true crime stories.
After going down the rabbit hole playing Eastern Market Murder and True Crime Games’ other title Misadventure in Little Lon, we found ourselves curious about the development process behind these games.
Specifically, why the team chose to create AR games based around fascinating true crime stories, and the sort of work and research involved in recreating everything in an accurate, yet engaging way.
Speaking to Emma Ramsay of True Crime Games, we were given answers to all of our most burning questions. Join us as we learn more about True Crime Games, Eastern Market Murder, and bringing a fascinating true story to life with Augmented Reality (AR) technology!
Eastern Market Murder | Interview With True Crime Games
What first inspired you to create AR games based around true crime mysteries?
My partner and I are fans of murder-mystery, adventure type games. We’re also into true crime and bizarre history, so we set about making a game that we wanted to play (but didn’t seem to exist anywhere).
We've done a lot of AR work for clients and knew, when used creatively, it would be a great medium for interactive storytelling.
How many people are working on developing these games, and how did the team first come together? Did you know each other prior to the game’s development?
We’re a core team of three, my husband Andy Yong, our programmer Jared Pierce and myself (Emma Ramsay). We brought in various other people at different stages of the project.
Namely Historical Researcher and Co-writer Carly Godden, Game Design Consultant Heath Smith, Artists Mark Warhurst and Callum Stone, and Musician Sianna Lee. Plus a whole host of very talented voice actors as well.
Andy and I have been together for over 20 years and worked together for 7 of those years, so I guess you could say we know each other quite well. We met the others along the way and they were keen to be involved.
They're all super talented in their own specialties so we were thrilled to have them join our little team.
How do games like Misadventure in Little Lon and Eastern Market Murder use AR tech to convey the events of a true crime story, and were there any challenges in combining AR tech with stories of this nature?
You have the option of playing the games at home from anywhere in the world, or where the actual events happened in Melbourne, Australia. The AR functionality enables you to explore the crime scenes, question witnesses and inspect evidence to solve the crime.
It's also a great way to bring characters to life, from lighting Ernest Gunter’s cigarette to pouring a cup of tea for an ailing Mr Freedman, the AR enables you to interact with them as if they were still here today (120 odd years after their death – which can be a bit freaky if you think about it for too long).
Our games appeal to a really diverse audience, from gamers to true crime fans and historians. So the challenge with using AR, was that it needed to be intuitive enough that anyone could play. There is a growing list, but not every device is AR capable either.
Speaking of which, can you give us a quick rundown of the story the latest release covers, Eastern Market Murder?
In 1899 at the vibrant Eastern Market, a sudden attack on a popular fortune-teller left her husband violently murdered. The culprit? A phrenologist and business rival with a steadfast defence, who will get away with the grisly murder if not proved wrong. As a private detective you’ll need to question the witnesses and find evidence to incriminate the killer.
What about this particular case stood out to the team as being a great true crime mystery for people interested in the genre to explore?
We’ve always been drawn to stories of injustice and this one is particularly heart-wrenching. This horrific crime caught the attention of the public in 1899, and after being buried for 120 years, we’re challenging players to put their detective skills to the test and ask the questions that have always surrounded the event.
How does the “onsite” version of the game unfold, and what has the feedback been like so far in regards to the onsite version of the game?
In the “onsite” version, players explore heritage locations and laneways that are significant to the crime. Including confronting the killer at the Little Bourke Street Watch House where he was held in 1899. The original building still stands and it is now a really cool wine bar.
The feedback from our launch events a few weeks ago is that it’s a great way of uncovering the bones of Melbourne and discovering the hidden gems that are there now, all while investigating a fascinating crime along the way.
How did the team put the onsite version together, and were there any challenges in visiting these locations due to the pandemic?
Luckily, we did our initial research and had decided on the locations early on in the project before the pandemic hit. We were in lockdown for many months here in Melbourne so the overall project was slower than anticipated, but we were able to do our final on site testing once lockdown had lifted.
For those who don’t live in or around Melbourne, how does playing from home using the game’s “offsite” mode work?
The “off-site” mode is basically the same experience, but played from home. We’ve had really positive feedback about both versions as there are benefits to playing from home and not having the distractions of playing on the street.
It’s a multi-layered crime that spans a few years so it’s good to have the head-space to take it all in. The majority of the script was derived from the Coroner’s Inquest, newspaper articles and letters written by the victim and the killer.
The 3D characters were based off original photographs and we’ve faithfully recreated entire shopfronts that you can wander around inside of. There are historical photos and maps of the locations visited too. So if you’re into bizarre true crimes and Victorian era history playing “off-site” has its advantages too.
Are there other true crime mysteries in Australia that you’d like to explore more in the future?
We have a few things cooking but nothing concrete yet.
Adding to that, would you like to create AR games based on true crime mysteries in other countries and locations?
Yes, we are already talking with someone in LA and there are fantastic stories in NY which we have our eye on too. At this stage we’re very open to going wherever the most fascinating true crimes take us (either remotely or in person when COVID has subsided). We’ve had a few requests for a non-AR true crime game too so that’s on the cards as well.
A lot of people, ourselves included, are fascinated by true crime stories. Why do you think true crime stories are so popular, and do you think we’ll see more game adaptations of these stories in the future?
Speaking for ourselves, it’s the psychology behind the crimes, what drives people to commit these heinous deeds? We also love a good court case and seeking justice for both the victims and those wrongfully imprisoned are the most compelling stories for us.
We often talk about why there aren’t more true crime adaptations in video games and we think maybe the answer is because it’s really hard to do well! There’s all sorts of legal considerations and we’re super mindful of being respectful of those involved in the crime and their living relatives.
For both of our games it was a highlight for us to work with the descendants and it’s something we’d like to continue to do if possible.
Finally, where can gamers play Misadventure in Little Lon and Eastern Market Murder, and where can they follow and support the development team at True Crime Games?
We want to thank Emma Ramsay and the rest of the team at True Crime Games for speaking with us. We highly recommend checking out games including Misadventure in Little Lon and Eastern Market Murder, both of which are available on the App Store and Google Play.
As mentioned above, you can follow the team on social media to stay up-to-date with their current future projects.
You can also check out the official trailer for Eastern Market Murder below!